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Links and Thoughts and Playoffs Roundup

I’ve got a few things that have been building up in the simmering kettle of my Sports Brain…now seems like a fine time to put them up for your consideration.

Before that, though, many thanks to T.J. for leaving his recent comment. If you all haven’t read it yet, please do. It’s interesting stuff for sure.

Moving on…

My latest piece for the Examiner is up, and you can read it here.

And speaking of published pieces, Marc Unger got in touch with his latest piece of work, and it’s good. Funny stuff and pretty much dead-on.

Regarding A.J. Burnett, I found this article very interesting. Money won’t be the main consideration, eh? Perhaps geography will hold some sway?

The Loss Column 2.0 is coming along nicely and should be ready maybe next week or the week after. I think you will love it, and I think it will help push us to the next level. Good times ahead.

As part of that, by the way, I’m going to be writing out an official comments policy. Basically nothing will change, I just want to put down in writing some of the things that most of us already understand. If anyone has any suggestions as far as that goes, let me know.

Finally, I’m very interested in tonight’s RaysPink Hats matchup. The 2-1 game is always my favorite in a seven-game series, and it’s actually the most important game besides the rare and mighty Game Seven itself. Consider this on open thread for that and fire away with whatever ‘ya got.

20 comments to Links and Thoughts and Playoffs Roundup

  • Andrew in Rochester

    I had read Dr. Thompson’s work on the Kentucky Derby 3 years ago or so and really enjoyed it more than most of his Hey Rube work from ESPN or Las Vegas (those being the only things of his I had read at that point…since then I’ve read his fiction autobiography The Rum Diary and Strange Rumblings in Atlazan), and really it’s probably his best piece of journalism he did. It’s short enough to not lose the reader in his sometimes superfluous ramblings, and it really gets to the gut of it. Also, having been in the infield of the Preakness once, I thought it was pretty spot on about the kinds of people you find at these horse races.

    I’m feeling pretty good about my World Series picks of Philly-Tampa, but my gut tells me Boston isn’t about to go down quietly. That series is going at least 6 games (I still like the Rays a lot, and really see no way Boston wins it anymore). And I agree, game 4 is the biggest game in the series. The difference between 2-2 or 3-1 is rather hard to overcome after this game.

    I was only too happy to laugh at all of the writers out there who picked Dodgers-Boston based on “playoff experience”. As we all should know by now, playoff experience is the equivalent of keeping lucky charms in your pocket. It might make you feel better, but it really doesn’t give you an edge. Who the fuck cares whether or not Joe Torre’s won the World Series before? That shit won’t help Greg Maddux throw strikes.

    I’m hurting because of the Ravens. I really am. Someone console me.

  • neal s

    I like seeing the Rays up early, although three runs to the Sox at Fenway isn’t much of a lead.

    Is there anything more hateable in baseball right now than Kevin Youkilis and his adoring masses?

    As to the Ravens, they’re going to be fine. While that was a particularly ugly loss at Indy, you had to know Flacco would have that game eventually. And, in fact, he might have a couple more of them this year. But it’s all happening in a year where the expectations were low anyway. The long-term curve is headed up.

  • neal s

    Oh, also, The Rum Diary is indeed a great book. If you haven’t read Hell’s Angels yet then you need to do that as soon as possible.

    His stuff for Page Two always made me sad. He had kind of become a parody of himself and I think he more or less knew it. He sounded a warning bell for all of us through most of his career and nobody listened, and that had to be a strange burden.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    It’s hard to read Hunter S. Thompson too much, and I think in a weekly column that sort of showed through. I still enjoyed his stuff then, especially his offhanded remarks about how lame baseball is and how excruciating it was to watch the 2000 Ravens. Defense wins championships, but it doesn’t do it sexy.

    I keep going back and forth on Youkilis. He has made himself into a very, very good ballplayer who plays the game hard…but his intensity can sort of tip into douchebaggery. All the same, if he were an Oriole we would be singing his praises and wondering why nobody ever gave him a second thought ala Nick Markakis.

    5-1 is a good start against the reeling Red Sox. The Boston players must be feeling a lot of pressure now. Luckily, Francona (who might be the most underrated manager out there) did the right thing and has his bullpen completely rested for tonight and Thursday.

  • neal s

    That’s a fair point about Youkilis…I guess. I don’t want to admit it but it’s probably true. At the same time, the team he’s on just seems like such a perfect fit, like he and that brewery guy from the Sam Adams commercials hang out after the games and compare beard notes. He’s just so damn Boston.

  • neal s

    I want to detour from sports for a moment to talk about something a bit more serious. If any of you have any connections to the South Carolina/Georgia area, please visit this link. There’s some good folks who could use your help. I don’t mean to bring the mood down or anything — we’ll go back to the playoffs in a minute — but I figured there’s a chance one of you might be able to pass this info along to someone who could use it.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    Hahaha, that guy from the commericals makes me not want to ever drink Sam Adams. That and how I can’t stand the way it tastes. I always say something akin to “Most cookie makers use 1 egg in their sugar cookies. We use a dozen” when I hear their hops-happy brewers.

    I feel very, very good about Tampa Bay now, don’t you? Playoff experience my ass. I’m also worried. How the heck can we deal with 3 juggernauts in our division in the next 5 years? The Orioles will get better, I believe/blindly hope, but man oh man, the Rays are freaking good – and they’ll be better next year, and better the year after that…

    Neal I don’t have much to say about your link, but I really hope things resolve themselves for the better for your associate…

  • neal s

    Yeah, man, thanks. You just never know who’s reading — or who they know — so I thought I’d throw it out there.

    What’s blowing my mind about this game is not that the Sox are losing but the fact that they look completely overmatched. Tampa Bay is putting on a Tom Emanski-style clinic and it’s a beautiful thing.

    Your point about the division is a good one, for sure. It kind of sucks to think about how good the Rays will be when the Sox are already good and the Yankees will be doing everything they can to get good again and fast. Then there are the Blue Jays, who may not be playoff contenders just yet but who certainly aren’t an easy win. Yikes.

    But, hey, fuck it. I really think the O’s are on the right track, and I think they’ll be good enough to fit somewhere into that equation within the next few years. I’m looking forward to seeing how AndyMac handles the hot stove season.

  • neal s

    That win for the Rays was completely satisfying. I’m on the Rays bandwagon for this year for sure. They’re showing the O’s — and all of baseball, really — how to build a winning team from the ground up.

    That said, I’ll need some more time to consider where the O’s are in relation to that idea. We know that contending in ’09 is a long-shot idea, right? Or do we? And if we do, are we looking at ’10 or ’13?

  • Andrew in Rochester

    Contending next year is a pipe dreamer’s miracle. It would require a perfect storm of getting rid of the right guys, somehow plucking 2 exceptional starting pitchers out of the hot stove, and then still having 3 or 4 guys have career years and a general lack of injuries all around. It ain’t going to happen. If I were the Orioles, I’d focus on just getting back to .500 first. And honestly, I think it’s doable next year but they absolutely need to fix the starting pitching. After you’re at .500 and you have Wieters and Matusz and Tillman and someone like Synder or whatever coming along then you can start to think about contending. But to say “We should think about contending” when we just lost 93 games is bit extreme, I guess.

    I think what the Orioles are doing is smart and is correct, but they certainly need to have a good winter to keep that going.

  • Joe the Guy

    That was pretty incredible to watch last night. Did they really start Wakefield? He probably felt like a kamikaze pilot in the locker room before the game.

    Sure, they had laid the smack down all season, but the Rays took 2 of 3 AT fenway in late september and apparently many of the players at that time realized “Hey…we can beat these guys”

    Maybe the word “Devil” was holding them back all these years with negative karma.

    Truth is, these guys are going to be a powerhouse for a while.

    What does “15-3” mean to You?

    Contending next year?

    Did you seriously post that? That’s like putting up the “Drew Signal” into the skies of Baltimore, just waiting for a rant. Or song lyrics.

    But I digress…

    Let’s hit .500 before we start talking about contending. Deal?

    We should probably just start a petition to move the O’s to the AL West.

    As for the Good Doctor, I’m coming off the glory of “Shark Hunt” and was well disappointed with “Generation of Swine” until I realized the articles originated in a weekly syndicated column. I think “Hey Rube” on ESPN was more or less the same.

    Try reading just 1 article every week and you may find it more enjoyable. Mahalo.

  • neal s

    I wasn’t serious about contending next year, just for the record. There is no chance of that. Sarcasm doesn’t always come through the way I want it to.

    But I do think we can start to sniff around .500 next year if the right moves are made this winter. I have to believe that.

  • Joe the Guy

    It just sucks.

    18 games vs. Tampa
    18 games vs. Boston
    18 games vs. Canada
    18 games vs. 200M New-Look Yankees

    Part of you wants to think “Hey if Tampa can do it, anyone can”

    And then the other part of you thinks that the O’s would be VERY lucky to go 40-40 vs the division…

    and if my math is correct…

    they would then need to go at least 55-35 in non-division games just to sniff at a wild card spot

    That just sucks.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    In 2008, the Orioles went 22-50 against the East and 46-43 against everyone else. If we kept our team as is (replacing Payton with Montanez as the fourth outfielder, not trading Huff, Sherrill, Roberts, or Hernandez, and resigning Millar and Cintron to play 1st and short) we would probably see roughly the same records, although perhaps with some improvement as the pitching “staff” (which would be, hypothetically, Guthrie/Liz/Olson/Penn or Patton or Albers/Cabrera I guess – yikes) matures – you’d hope to see Liz and Olson improve, at least, but we would probably be about a 70-92 team next year, with probably about the same splits. With that pitching staff, you absolutely have no chance to improve against the Yankees, Red Sox, or our new Overlords. Their lineups are just way too damn good. Even to hit .500 we would need a huge miracle, because while we can obviously compete well against everyone else, it’s those 4 teams (with the Blue Jays, who I just can’t bring myself to respect for some reason) that are going to decide if and when we ever hit .500 again.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    By the way, and I think the answer to both of these questions is “No”, but does anybody know 1) what the timetable for the road uniform announcement might be – I’m hoping it’s before Christmas but have no idea myself, and 2) What the payroll level for next year and the future is being aimed at? My guess is that MacPhail says “We can’t let our competitors know that, it gives away our strategy and bargaining position”. We were at about 70 million dollars in 2008 down from 95 million in 2007 if that’s right (Is that right? That doesn’t sound right. We cut Tejada, Bedard, some bullpen pieces and it was 20 million dollars? Ok maybe that does sound right…).

    Just wonderin’.

  • neal s

    I’m positive the road jersey announcement (er, the “official” announcement) will come before the holidays, and my guess would be it’ll happen shortly after the world series. No concrete info, but I’d bet on it.

    As far as payroll, AndyMac has already said he has the greenlight from Angelos to spend. Something tells me that doesn’t mean they’ll suddenly jump up to $150 million, but it’s safe to assume the payroll will go up in ’09.

    On your other post, I don’t completely buy that “those 4 teams…are going to decide if and when we ever hit .500 again.” They’ll have something to say about it, of course, but it seems pretty clear to me that an improvement in our starting pitching will result in some significant gains. If you replace, say, Olson with Burnett and Waters with Garland (I know, that’s a stretch, but bear with me) then you can’t tell me the record stays the same. Does that get us to .500 right away? Probably not, but it’ll help regardless of what the other teams do.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    I think an improvement in the starting staff is the ONLY way we improve enough to compete against those teams. I’m not sure any team is going to be able to handle the 2010 Rays staff unless something happens to one of their THREE aces in Price, Kazmir, and Shields (followed by Garza and Sonnanstine, not exactly chopped liver) not to mention the other numerous pitchers they have coming up in their system.

    Of course we need to improve the pitching, and of course if it’s improved we will play better. But I’m looking at our .511 winning percentage against everyone who wasn’t the AL East and the putrid record against the Rays, Jays, Yanks, and Sox and I’m saying we need to find some pitchers who can pitch effectively against those bastards.

    My end point? I’d try and sign A.J. Burnett, who when he isn’t injured is beating the crap out of the Red Sox and Yankees. And he’s young enough that he can anchor the staff but still be around in 2010 or whatever when we’re *supposed* to be ready to sit at the adult’s table again.

  • neal s

    Absolutely agreed. Burnett isn’t necessarily a “great” pitcher but he is a proven commodity who has expressed a willingness to play here. I can’t imagine a better move this offseason than giving him a 3-4 year contract, even if it costs a bit more than it seems like it should. Note that I said “a bit” more — no need to dramatically overpay anybody, much less a pitcher.

    If not him, we still need to bring in at least two solid veterans. That’s absolutely essential. So much so that I can’t even imagine what things will look like if it doesn’t happen. Not two aces, necessarily, but at least two solid guys.

  • Andrew in Rochester

    I, too, agree that we need 2 starting pitchers, a shortstop, and a first baseman this offseason. I heard someone somewhere make an interesting suggestion of call up Wieters and let him, Ramon, and Huff split catcher, first base, and DH. We still need a shortstop though, and we aren’t getting him from anywhere.

  • As juvenile as it was, I bumped into a guy on my way to work who happened to be rocking his Pink Sux shirt today, and couldn’t resist saying “You know they’re going to lose tonight, don’t you?”

    Amazingly, there was no boisterous, blustery, bellicose Boston response. He just said: “I know,” in a very resigned and sad manner, and kept on walking. I almost felt bad for the guy.

    Now I hope the Rays blow the Sux out 31-3.