"Mike Scioscia, from Upper Darby, Pa., by way of Hell."

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You probably won’t be surprised to learn that, had the Red Sox beat the Angels in the division series, I was prepared to write an extended post about just how miserable another Yankees-Red Sox series stood to be for non-Yankee and non-Red Sox fans.  We’ve seen plenty of it over the years in the playoffs proper, and the over-hype their regular season matchups foment makes it seem like they’re playing playoff games multiple times a year anyway.  There just wouldn’t be any new angles to explore of such a matchup, rendering the whole thing a rather dreary affair.

If the early chatter from the New York tabloids is any judge, such is certainly not the case with the Angels involved.  How fun is this?

HE HAS been a menace to us for damn near 30 years now, the thorn in our side, the cloud in our coffee, the bee in our bonnet, the fly in our ointment, the clouds on our sunny day. He has been our nemesis, our arch-enemy, our tormentor, our antagonist and our antagonizer. He inflicts misery for sport. He is a serial baseball sadist.

He is Mike Scioscia, from Upper Darby, Pa., by way of Hell.

And he will soon be back on our doorstep, back within our borders, back with a mission to continue his reign of terror. He is one of the nightmares that keep coming back. There is the one where you are falling, with no floor in sight. There is the one where you show up for a final exam in a class you haven’t once attended all semester. And there is the one where Mike Scioscia walks into a New York baseball October.

The evidence cited: Scioscia beating the Mets with a homer in Game 4 of the 1988 NLCS, his presence on the 1981 Dodger team that effectively ended the Bronx Zoo-era New York Yankees, and his presence at the helm of the 2002 Angels which put a stop to the Yankees’ late-90s, early 2000s dominance of the American League.  Old beefs? Sure, but it’s not like you can’t find fans still ticked off about all of that stuff. 

I’ll grant that just about every prepackaged storyline like this is rather contrived, but at least this one is a fresh contrived storyline.  At the very least it will cause the writers and commentators and, above all else, the fans to talk about this series in new terms and ignore the usual autopilot we see when it’s the Yankees vs. the Sox.

Excited yet?

Check out Minute Maid Park without Tal’s Hill

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During the offseason, the Astros finally got rid of Tal’s Hill in center field. It was a throwback to older stadiums, some of which had uneven topography — Crosley Field, namely. As unique as it was in the age of cookie cutter sports stadiums, most of us were holding our collective breaths hoping no one ruptured an Achilles or suffered another brutal injury trying to navigate the hill while attempting to catch a fly ball.

We saw what it looked like during reconstruction:

And now, via Julia Morales of ROOT Sports, we see what it looks like after all the work has been done:

The Astros are allowing fans with Lexus Field Club tickets to stand on the new warning track to watch batting practice and shag fly balls as well, Morales notes. Lexus Field Club is where Tal’s Hill used to be.

Good riddance, Tal’s Hill.

Jhoulys Chacin will start Opening Day for the Padres

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Jhoulys Chacin will start on Opening Day, April 3 against the Dodgers in Los Angeles, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. It will be Chacin’s second Opening Day start, the other coming in 2013 with the Rockies against the Brewers. He’ll be the fifth different Padres pitcher in as many years to start on Opening Day.

Chacin, 29, inked a one-year, $1.75 million contract with the Padres in December. The right-hander spent the 2016 season with the Braves and Angels, compiling an aggregate 4.81 ERA with a 119/55 K/BB ratio in 144 innings.

Lin notes that Chacin will be followed in the rotation by Clayton Richard and Jered Weaver. It will be an interesting rotation, to say the least, as it will arguably be the worst in baseball.