We’re going to have plenty of time between now and Wednesday night to break down the Rangers vs. the Giants. For now, some general impressions and observations, both of last night’s NLCS clincher and the upcoming World Series:
- Jonathan Sanchez’s third inning meltdown in which he walked Placido Polanco, plunked Chase Utley and then sparked the little pushing shoving thing may have been the best thing that happened to the Giants all night. Sanchez can be good, but when he’s bad, he’s really bad, and he looked bad last night. If he doesn’t lose his head like he did, maybe Bochy leaves him in. But he was obviously rattled, and replacing him with Affeldt, Bumgarner and Lopez ended up being the key to the game. The Phillies couldn’t touch ’em;
- Ryan Howard’s final strikeout is going to stick in Philly fans’ craws all winter. The fact that his $125 million extension doesn’t kick in until [gulp] 2012 is going to stick in it even longer;
- I didn’t have a strong rooting interest here, but as I watched each game of the NLCS I definitely found myself pulling for the Giants. As a result, I was happy that they won Game 6. The only real downside to it: no Game 7 tonight. Because remember, no matter who you’re rooting for, more baseball is always better than less baseball;
- The storylines to this World Series are many, but the one I like the best so far is that Bengie Molina may very well be in line to collect a World Series share no matter who wins. He was beloved by his Giants teammates before the trade, and it’s common for someone to get their postseason cut even if they left the team before the season ended. Maybe there’s a rule against it here. Maybe Molina will just give it to charity anyway. Still: very cool. Or at least it will be until Buck and McCarver start beating it into the ground once the Series starts;
- You’re going to hear a lot about the low TV ratings this World Series is going to bring in the coming days. And it may bring low ratings. I don’t care and if you care at all about baseball, neither should you. Warrant and Creed sold more albums than the Pixies and Pavement ever did and the popularity of the former doesn’t diminish the greatness of the latter in any way. This is an evenly matched series pitting two teams with a bevy of interesting and exciting players against one another, many of whom aren’t all that well-known by the general public. If people don’t watch, that’s their loss. Besides, many of the same people who will be wringing their hands over the ratings are the same people who wring their hands over the Yankees or the Red Sox being in it all the time. Some people complain about everything;
- As for the series — which, again, we’ll certainly be breaking it down more in the coming days — I’m left with a strong first impression that the Rangers are going to take it. They have the best pitcher going in Cliff Lee, the much, much better offense and the better defense as well. Predicting baseball is a sucker’s game so I won’t do it, but I think Texas looks decidedly stronger;
I guess the last question is whether I and other non-partisans will develop a rooting interest here. Like I said above, both teams are likable, so in some ways I’m just rooting hard for baseball here in a way I probably haven’t for several years. Really, I pick some reason to either love or hate a World Series team every year. For example, last year I rooted for the Phillies because I can’t bring myself to root for the Yankees in any situation. In 2007 it was the Rockies because to hell with Red Sox Nation. In 2006 it was the Tigers because of ancient Tigers DNA in the recesses of my body and my distaste for Tony La Russa. You get the idea.
Here, though, I can’t identify a strong reason to pull for either team over the other. I’m willing to take arguments in either direction.
Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.
Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”
Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.
Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.
Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.
Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?
Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?
Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic put on a tremendous show in Saturday night’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest up in Toronto, Canada. The stars were out to see it at the Air Canada Centre, and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had one of the very best views in the house. Check out this video he posted to Instagram of LaVine’s final dunk, a between-the-legs jam from just inside the free throw line …
That is Toronto’s very own Drake going wild in the pink jacket. Gordon probably had the best individual dunk of the night, though, if we’re being really real …
Back to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.
The 2016-18 All-Star Games are spoken for, but the Cubs could play host not long thereafter according to commissioner Rob Manfred, Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago reports.
The Padres are hosting at Petco Park this year, the Marlins will host at Marlins Park next season, and the Nationals will host in 2018 at Nationals Park. That will make four consecutive National League hosts and five if the Cubs get it in 2019. In the past, the National and American Leagues have alternated hosting privileges. That is sort of important now since the league that wins the All-Star Game gets home field advantage in the World Series.
The Cubs last hosted the All-Star Game in 1990 and have hosted a total of three times (1962 and 1947 being the other years) since its inception in 1933.
Wrigley Field has been undergoing renovations which are expected to be completed by the 2019 season. Manfred said that the Cubs hosting the All-Star Game “will provide the Cubs and Ricketts family a chance to showcase the unbelievable renovation they are in the midst of doing for Wrigley field.”
Update: Here’s a table showing the last time each team hosted the All-Star Game.
||Olympic Stadium (Expos)
||Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum
||Jack Murphy Stadium
||Oriole Park at Camden Yards
||The Ballpark in Arlington
||U.S. Cellular Field
||Minute Maid Park
||Angels Stadium of Anaheim
||Great American Ball Park
Expect Kyle Hendricks and Adam Warren to battle it out for the fifth spot in the Cubs’ starting rotation this spring, writes Gordon Wittenmyer for the Chicago Sun-Times. Clayton Richard could serve as a fallback option as well.
Hendricks, 26, pitched well in his first full season in 2015. He finished with a 3.95 ERA and a 167/43 K/BB ratio over 180 innings. That was a solid follow-up to his rookie campaign in 2014, when he posted a 2.46 ERA over 13 starts.
The Cubs acquired Warren, 28, from the Yankees in the Starlin Castro trade. He contributed both out of the rotation and the bullpen in the Bronx this past season, pitching 131 1/3 innings with a 3.29 ERA and a 104/39 K/BB ratio.
One through four, the Cubs’ rotation is solid with defending National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, John Lackey, and Jason Hammel.