Friday, May 14, 2010

This One's for little Johnny

It was a Thursday night, 6pm; I was just coming off of another mundane 9 to 5. Typically, I would be at home dreading the next day at work, but that night I was looking forward to my weekly softball game! I know that sounds kind of corny or whatever, but by the time you read the end of this, you will understand.
Slow pitch softball is more than just a bunch of out of shape 20, 30, 40, even 50-something men reliving the glory days. It’s an escape, and a chance to live a small part of the shattered dream we all had as kids…to be a major league baseball player. It’s like a time warp for an hour or two where all of those worries, aches, and pains (bad knees, pulled muscles, gray hairs), are left behind and erased when you step between those lines. You are no longer thinking about that deadline at work, why your ex-wife or girlfriend hates you, or how you’re going to pay next month’s mortgage. You are just playing ball with the boys.
I play in a small town, in a small state, in a league that has no major significance, but I still run hard, slide, dive, and play as if I am trying to win a World Series; not because I am making it out to be bigger than what it is, but because I owe it to myself as the star reaching kid with the big dreams. It doesn’t matter how significant it is or who is watching.
This particular Thursday took softball night to a whole new level for me. It was the bottom of the last inning, one out, runners on second and third, the game was tied and it was my turn to hit. I knew I was going to swing as hard as I could at the first pitch before it left the pitchers hand. As I watched the pitch falling down from the sky towards me, I remember a quick flashback to me as a kid having the same love for the game. The only difference was when I was ten the world was mine to conquer, and I thought I could be a big leaguer; now I am twenty seven with a wrapped up leg, gray hair and no chance at any glory… so this was my moment. I swung all of my frustrations of an average life and crushed the ball to right field for a hit, and we won the game. I remember smiling from ear to ear as my teammates all celebrated by home plate and I felt vindicated, and for that moment, on that night, I lived the dream…and it doesn’t matter how small of a moment it was to the league, the town, the state, or anyone besides the ten of us right then and there, it was our moment and we cherished it. It’s more than just a slow pitch softball game to us; it’s a chance to step between those lines and escape the rigors of everyday normalcy and real life frustrations, take a trip down memory lane and live the dream one more time. So to that and for all of those reasons, as the field lights went down over us sending us back into our average lives, I raised my Busch Light and said cheers to our team….to Putnam House softball….to one more day in the sun.

- Johnny Crash

Monday, April 5, 2010

Opening Day! What Does it Really Tell Us???

On an unusually warm early April evening (a wet dream for Al Gore’s rants), baseball was officially back! The 2010 baseball season kicked off with a main event; out of the gate, pitting the World Champion New York Yankees against their storied rival the Boston Red Sox. The pitching match-up had us prepped for a duel of epic proportions as the big Texan, Josh Beckett faced off against the powerful workhorse and 2007 Cy Young award winner, CC Sabathia. Of course though, its baseball, and all predictions can be immediately thrown out the window. This turned into an old fashion boxing match, with both teams going back and forth, with runs like two heavyweights going punch for punch in the center of the ring. In the end however, it was the Red Sox that came out on top after finally getting to CC, and then tearing up the Yankee bullpen. Chan-Ho Park (aka soon to be on line at the unemployment office) was simply awful, and we didn’t see much better from the newly castrated Joba Chamberlain and lefty Damaso Marte. Sports radio will talk about this loss all day today and newspapers will flood the back cover pages with the most cheese infested play on words or phrases like “Posa-DUH”. We’ve seen them all. What does this all mean? It means there are 161 games left in the season and Yankee fans should relax.
Now that the season is put into perspective, here is what Yankee fans need to do to silence those annoying Red Sox fans. To start off, you simply first tell them to pop in a Mentos to get rid of the Clam Chowder breath because lets face the facts… it is the fresh-maker. Then get down to business, and remind them that last year the Yankees lost their first eight games against the Red Sox, then went on to win the next nine out of ten, and of course win the World Series. Every year, fans and sports media go into a frenzy after the first couple of games, and then when July rolls around and they realize the season isn’t even half over, they probably have already forgotten about what happened in week one. I’ve seen World Series winners start years off 11-19, and I’ve seen teams start off 14-4 and not make the playoffs so let’s all just calm down a bit!
One thing that last night does show us is that the AL East is undoubtedly the beast division in baseball. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Rays are arguably the best three teams in the sport and are all fighting in the same division. It was enjoyable to watch the Yankees and Red Sox duke it out last night because honestly, it is the showcase of the best talent in MLB. If you met someone who never heard of baseball, you would without a shadow of a doubt show them a game between the Yankees and Red Sox because you are always guaranteed a full fledged battle of the best talent in the sport, layered with plenty of moments of sheer excitement and drama. A perfect example of this is game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, when Aaron Boone hit a floating knuckleball off of Tim Wakefield into the left field seats at Yankee stadium to send them to the World Series. That moment literally knocked the wind out of me when it happened! So, does the first game of the year really tell us anything about who is going to win the World Series this year?…..Absolutely not. But it does tell us that we are in store for at least nineteen epic battles between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox, the greatest rivalry in the history of sports.

Friday, March 19, 2010

2010 MLB Season Projections

Talkin’ Baseball with Johnny Crash: 2010 MLB Season Outlook

The time has come. Spring is in the air, and baseball is finally back! America’s pastime! It’s the time of hope for all 30 Major League teams because everybody has the same record, 0 – 0. Each team has made their off-season moves, and currently shaping their rosters. After assessing a lot of the moves made by teams to improve (and sometimes steer their teams down the toilet) I am offering my outlook on how I see the 2010 MLB season shaking down. First I will start with what I like to call “the league with the extra chromosome” aka, the National League.

- National League East: Philadelphia Phillies
It would be blasphemous for me to not give the Phillies the best odds to run away with this division, and here is why. The New York Mets are like a Jenga set made out of round pieces, they just can’t keep it together. Their entire team is falling apart. Their most athletic player has an overactive thyroid. Is he a 70 year old woman? Did he star in “Murder She Wrote”? Jeez! Other than the Mets, I didn’t see any upgrades from the Braves, Nationals, or Marlins that will convince me they can take down the Phillies. Oh yeah and the Phils just acquired the best pitcher in baseball Roy “Doc” Halladay to put a cherry on their back-to-back pennant sundae.

- National League Central: St Louis Cardinals
Two words. ALBERT PUJOLS Yes, the Latino Babe Ruth (what would that be, El Ruth De Babe?) is probably the only reason you need to go with the Cardinals to take the Central considering he is the greatest player on the planet…but wait, there’s more! They re-signed one of the best hitting left fielders in the game in Matt Holliday, and have arguably two of the best pitchers in all of baseball (Carpenter and Wainwright). Betting against the Cardinals here is like betting against Michael Jackson in a boy touching contest. Look for the Wild Card probably coming out of this division this year though.

- National League West: Los Angeles Dodgers
Even though they have the biggest scumbag player on the planet Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers are stacked with a very potent, powerful young lineup, and pretty decent pitching anchored by stud closer Jonathan Braxton. Add to the fact that they are being run by Joe Torre (4 Rings, show respect) and a mustache-less Don Mattingly, they are taking this division. I need to add that seeing Don Mattingly in a non-Yankee jersey is sadder than the end of the Notebook, which I will admit, made me tear up. (Please return my balls when you are done with them).

NL WILD CARD: Chicago Cubs

…and now for the real show, the American League.

- American League East: New York Yankees
If you were even thinking about betting against the World Series Champs then close this browser. If you have a PC, go to Start, shut down. Once complete, take your monitor and smash yourself in the face. The Yankees have added starting pitching depth with Javier Vazquez who led the NL in strikeouts last year. They have also gotten younger by saying goodbye to Johnny “I negotiated myself out of the Bronx” Damon, and Hideki Matsui (can’t say anything bad, the dude slaughtered the ball in the World Series and made Pedro cry as if he just watched the Notebook…….dammit, again?). The Red Sox will undoubtedly take the Wild Card though, this is pretty much the AL standard over the last decade with both teams going to the postseason.

- American League Central: Minnesota Twins
I gotta go with the Twins to repeat as division champs. They have a new Stadium, a new fresh outlook, the best average hitter/Catcher in the sport, and a healthy Justin Morneau coming back. Sure closer Joe Nathan is probably done for the season, but I think the Tigers got worse, and the other teams in the division just can’t tread water right now in my opinion. Let’s face it, the last time the Indians won the World Series was in a movie (don’t think too hard, the answer is Major League), the Royals are a Royal joke for lack of a better play on words, and I don’t see the White Sox doing all that much.

- American League West: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners spent straight up cash this winter! They made some excellent moves and signings, most notably stealing Chone Figgins from the Angels, and trading for Cliff Lee (2008 AL Cy Young Award Winner). The Angels lost in the same way the Mariners gained, so it is time for them to finally be dethroned. The Athletics are too young, and the Rangers have a coked out manager (literally) and suspect pitching at best so either teams chances of winning the division are as good as Heidi Montag’s chances of not melting when standing next to a lit candle. Ken Griffey Jr. will finally get his chance to go back to the playoffs.

AL WILD CARD: Boston Red Sox

So there you have it folks, my picks for the 2010 MLB playoff teams. Who is going to win the World Series?…..well the Yankees of course! Number 28 is on its way. It will be fun to look back at the end of the year and see how I did anyway, Cheers!

Play ball!

- Johnny Crash

Friday, December 18, 2009

Yankees laying in the weeds until 2011

--A lot of fuss has been made about all of the "improvements" the Red Sox have made this offseason, and that the Yankees should be worried. Lets review them.

  • Marco Scutaro
  • Mike Cameron
  • John Lackey

- Marco Scutaro is a career .260 hitter. Sure he had a good OBP year but he will turn 35 next year and I don't think he is exactly coming into his own. This will go down as another log-jam regretful SS signing by the Sox haunted by losing Hanley Ramirez to the Marlins.

- Mike Cameron is a career .250 hitter who will be 37 years old next year, and is a career .220 hitter at Fenway Park. Not making headlines with this signing.

- John Lackey is 2 - 5 in his career in Fenway park with an ERA of 5.75 and a whip of 1.66. We'll see how this shakes out. Not a bad singing by any means, but he isn't Sandy Koufax people!

Yes its true the Yankees have made a couple of moves this offseason (trading for Curtis Granderson, signing Nick Johnson for a year, bringing Pettitte back) but the truth of the matter is they are waiting for 2011 as they did wait for 2009 to get CC, AJ Burnett, and Teixeira. The 2011 free agent class is far superior to this years, and that is when the Yankees will strike again. Look for them to resign Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and then go after guys like Carl Crawford, Cliff Lee, and Josh Beckett.

We'll find out in about 12 months if I am right on this, but my guess is they let Damon walk, so Crawford can stroll right into left for 2011. Thanks for comin' out!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

World Series

--The time has come for the battle of the two best teams in baseball. Even those rubes at ESPN were able to predict these two meeting at the top way back in Spring training. I am going to break down my prediction for this series as well as go over the X-Factors. Looking at the series overall, I see the Yankees winning in 6 games. First I will go over what I feel are the key X-Factors that can swing the series either way.

--Phillies X-Factors: Pedro Martinez, Brad Lidge/Ryan Madson, Ryan Howard

  • Pedro Martinez - The game 2 starter will likely not be called on short rest due to his fragility, so he will likely also be the game 6 starter on full rest (if needed). If Pedro Martinez finds the fountain of youth and pitches like he did against the Dodgers, the Yankees could be in serious trouble. However, if Pedro shows his age and the Yankees get to him, that can completely flip the script and mean serious trouble for Philadelphia, especially if it goes to a game 6 where Pedro will face off against the all time postseason wins leader Andy Pettitte at Yankee Stadium.
  • Brad Lidge - This has the makings of some serious excitement in the late innings, especially in the Bronx. The "Walk off Kids" versus the "Kings of the Blown Saves" (Madson and Lidge) spells disaster for the Phillies in a series where the Yankees have home field advantage. Lidge and Madson combined for 17 blown saves in 2009 as co-closers. The Yankees have had 16 walk off wins this year (one this post season). If the Yankee starters can even keep them close leading into the last couple of innings, someone better call SNL for an extra supply of "...oops I crapped my pants" for Lidge and Madson.
  • Ryan Howard is a no brainer. if the Yankees can keep him in the ballpark, and hone in on his strikeout ratio (just under one in every three at bats) it will strain the Phillies offense being that he is in the middle of the lineup. The Yankees have power pitchers in CC and AJ as well as the bullpen, so if they can keep him fishing, that will lean in the Yankees overall favor. If he is given pitches to drill, the Phillies can power themselves to another title, especially using the new Yankee Stadium.

--Yankees X-Factors: AJ Burnett, Jorge Posada, Bullpen

  • AJ Burnett was an X-Factor for the ALCS because if he is on, it makes it tough for any team to beat the Yankees when he and CC are pitching a minimum of 4 games in a series. It's simple if Burnett is on, the Yankees will win the series. If he is off, they better have a big offensive series or they will get beaten. Burnett may also get called on to pitch with 3 days rest, something which actually shows him to be a better performer in those situations. He is 4 - 0 with a 2.33 on three days rest in four starts in his career.
  • Jorge Posada ties into Burnett. Being that the Yankees will be playing in the Phillies ballpark with no DH, the Yankees will have no choice but to have Posada catch Burnett during game 5 (all under the condition that Sabathia has already pitched game 4). How these two got along has been a discussed issue all year, and the splits show Burnett clearly throws better to Molina so Posada's defense is a huge X-Factor in this series.
  • The bullpen, specifically the lefties Coke/Marte due to the power lefty hitters the Phillies throw at you, and of course Hughes and Chamberlain. It's simple if Marte and Coke can get lefties out in key spots late, and if Hughes and Chamberlain can throw strikes and regain their previous dominant form, it will compliment the Yankees pension for coming back late in games. If they show flashes of inconsistency as they have been known to do, this can single handedly kill the Yankees chance of winning the series.

All in all as I said I see the Yankees winning in six. Here's my quick game by game prediction.

  • Game 1: Yankees win behind Sabathia and bullpen, low scoring game, decided in late innings.
  • Game 2: Yankees win with an offensive onslaught against Pedro Martinez. Burnett wins with offensive support.
  • Game 3: Philly wins at home behind a good start by Cole Hamels.
  • Game 4: Sabathia stops the bleeding and shuts down the Phillies as he did to the Angels in their park, probably also fired up that he gets to hit in that one too.
  • Game 5: Phillies beat Burnett, I see the tandem of Burnett and Posada on the road just stacking up way to much against the Yankees here.
  • Game 6: Andy Pettitte pitches 6+ strong innings and the Yankees beat Pedro Martinez again to win their 27th World Series title. Carlie Manuel gets to keep his job though because it is not an issue of leaving Pedro in too long (google Grady Little)


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hairtrigger Joe, Heart vs. Handbook, and X-Factor Updates

--Hairtrigger Joe is what they would call him in the "Old West". That's right, Yankees manager Joe Girardi loves pulling his pitchers regardless of how they are performing. Imagine if you were a car salesman and you were on fire selling luxury sedans and sport coupes left and right, and then your manager taps you on the shoulder and says, "Hey Robertson, even though you are keeping our dealership alive here from the recession, I'm going to go ahead and let Aceves take over on the lot." You would probably take your plaid sports coat and throw it in his face and leave. That's probably what Dave Robertson (and every Yankees fan with half a brain) felt. There was absolutely no excuse for the pitching change there as Robertson burned through the first two batters with ease. If you watched the press conference with Girardi, his face was a lot different than his words. He knew he screwed up, and was "playing" manager a little too much last night. if you muted the press conference and just looked at his facial expression, you would think Girardi was on the verge of tears apologizing for being such a moron in that moment.

--There is a clear cut difference between Joe Girardi and his predecessor Joe Torre and it comes down to what I like to call "Heart vs. Handbook"

  • The "Heart" theory is a manager being close with his players and having a "gut" feeling or faith in them coming through, regardless of a statistical matchup. It's the classic "I can get him coach" approach that Joe Torre so excellently executed with his players. Granted, Torre was known for falling in love with using one or two guys to the point of blowing their arms out.

  • The "Handbook" approach is what I refer to as a manager relying too much on history, numbers, and matchups. This is the Girardi philosophy. It seems like every time a batter is coming up in the late innings, Girardi walks over to that Bible on steroids to see who does good against what. He probably checks how pitchers throw based on barometric pressure, dew point, dawn, dusk, rain, shine, or mood. This is what hurt Girardi in game 3 last night.

  • Because Girardi needs to be such a smart baseball mind, he didn't look at the situation last night from a simple point of view. A three year old (aka the intelligence level of Hank Steinbrenner) could have pointed out that the kid was pitching great, so you leave him in.

--We will see if this winds up dooming the Yankees in the end. But for now, let's see what CC Sabathia can do to the Angels tonight, and if the Yankees can stop being brainwashed at the thought that Scott "ouch ouch my elbow" Kazmir is Sandy Koufax (even though they have the same initials).

X-factor grades update:

Yankees: AJ Burnett: A -, Jorge Posada: C
Angels: Chone Figgins: C, Bobby Abreu: D -

based on my X-factor predictions, the Yankees should still win the series if these players keep on these grades, especially the "pie-man" AJ Burnett.

Monday, October 12, 2009

"How about the Yankees?"

-- "How about the Yankees?" That is the quote that defines the return of the swagger that carried the dynastic Yankees teams of the late 90s and 2000. After defeating the Twins last night, YES Network's Kim Jones asked another one of her vague, vapid personality inspired questions to the shoot from the hip, pie chef AJ Burnett. Jones asked a celebrating, beer/champagne drenched Burnett, "AJ, how about the Angels?", to which Burnett immediately replied, "How about the Yankees?......How about the Yankees?" That is not cockiness, that is giving his team credit for what it has done to this point, and it shows a true sense of confidence in their abilities going into the ALCS. This is the first Yankee team since 2003 that appears to be playing with a sense of calm, with a high level of confidence that they can win every game. They have the best bullpen since 1998, the best bench since 2000, a strong front three in their starting rotation, and a lineup whose eighth batter is a guy who hit almost thirty homeruns in the regular season (Nick Swisher).

-With all of that said however, there should be a level of concern surrounding the team's performance in the playoffs thus far. Everyone looks at the recent sweep of the Twins at face value and as an easy victory. However, aside from three players the Yankees offense was stifled by Blackburn and Pavano (not even close to Lackey and Weaver who they will see in the ALCS). Let's break it down shall we?

- Posada, Jeter, and Rodriguez combined went 13 for 32 (.406) with 3 doubles, 4 homeruns, and 10 RBI in the series. The rest of the Yankees starting lineup went a combined 10 for 69 (.149) with 1 double, 2 homeruns, and 5 RBI.

-The team that during the regular season played as a cohesive offensive juggernaut was held to a .225 batting average and an emaciated .288 on base percentage against a Twins team that many would argue wasn't even a playoff caliber team. This of course does not mean the team wont hit in the next series, but it should be acknowledged since in my opinion it was gravely overlooked as the corks popped Sunday night.

-This brings it all home to what is most important in the postseason, pitching. The rotation and bullpen for the Yankees won the ALDS hands down, so AJ Burnett cheers to you in saying "How about them Yankees?", but may I suggest changing that a bit to, "How about them Yankees pitchers?"

--ALCS X-factors
  • Yankees: AJ Burnett, Jorge Posada's defense.
  • Angels: Chone Figgins (keeping him off base), Bobby Abreu