Author: Bob Harkins

World series vote

Vote: Who will win the World Series?


By now we’re sure you’ve read Craig’s breakdown on the World Series matchup between the Rangers and Cardinals.

You’re caught up on all the news, such as the Cardinals’ roster additions, the possibility of Nelson Cruz moving higher in the batting order, and the Game 2 starters for both teams.

Now it’s your turn to decide which team will take home the glittering gold trophy.

Vote below, then argue with each other in the comments section. Just keep it civil and don’t make me sick Ozzie on you. He’s a little cranky.

Red Sox, Braves let month full of chances slip away


The collapses of the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves might have seemed sudden during Wednesday night’s wild action, but in reality they were a long time coming.

Red Sox fans might be tempted to blame Joe Girardi for subbing out his starters early against the Rays, or for leaving Mariano Rivera on the shelf while a host of guys like Boone Logan, Cory Wade and Scott Proctor served the AL wild-card berth to the Rays on a platter.

Maybe blame Terry Francona for failing to inspire his players or for inserting a hint of desperation into his late-season lineup selections.

Braves fans might blame the schedule-makers for allowing the Cardinals to finish in Houston while Atlanta drew the powerful Phillies. Blame the umpires or the managing or Hunter Pence’s dumb luck.

But both teams had a month to wrap things up, and they couldn’t get it done.

As Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia said after Wednesday’s final insult: “I’m devastated. I’m heartbroken. To play hard for 161 games like we have and have it end like this. … It should not have gone down to the last game of the season to decide if we were going to the postseason.”

And from Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel: “It was tough to be so close and then have the feeling like it was falling out of your hands. And that’s the feeling I have now.”

Both are right. For as well as the Tampa Bay Rays and St. Louis Cardinals finished the season, it wouldn’t have taken much to end their dreams. It’s not easy to blow a nine-game lead in the final month, as Boston did, or an 8 ½-game edge like Atlanta did. Otherwise it would have happened before.

A couple more wins in the last 30 days. One less mound meltdown. One less injury. One more lucky bounce. That’s all the Red Sox and Braves needed. They had a month to tuck away those playoff berths, and they couldn’t grab them by the throat.

For the Red Sox, it was all about pitching and injuries – and naturally, injuries to pitchers. Yes, Carl Crawford underperformed, but it was the guys on the mound who ultimately caused this collapse.

Clay Buchholz and Daisuke Matsuzaka went down. Josh Beckett tweaked his ankle and wasn’t the same when he returned. Jon Lester lost his touch, Daniel Bard lost his control and John Lackey lost his poise.

Tim Wakefield was thrust into a role he was no longer fit for, and Andrew Miller for one he never should have had. Erik Bedard came in and was mostly … Erik Bedard – showing flashes of brilliance, maddening inconsistency, and a brittle body.

It all added up to a complete meltdown by the pitching staff, including a 5.90 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP during September. It was a collapse that was so complete it could not make up for a truly awesome offense that featured two MVP candidates and led all of baseball in scoring at 5.4 runs per game.

The Braves didn’t have as much trouble with their pitching staff, but the problems they did have – namely injuries to Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson — were devastating, and an offense that was inconsistent all season couldn’t compensate, hitting .235/.301/.359 over the final month.

The injuries also added pressure to a bullpen that has already been ridden hard by manager Fredi Gonzalez, and the seemingly untouchable duo of Kimbrel (4.22 ERA in Sept.), Jonny Venters (5.56), simply wore out.

It was a month full of chances going unclaimed, leading to a pair of historic collapses. Neither the Red Sox nor the Braves could find that one guy to come up with the key hit, or get the key out when they needed it most. The Red Sox finished the season 7-20 and were unable to put together even a two-game win streak in their final 28 games. The Braves went 9-18 in Sept. and lost their final five games.

Both teams missed the playoffs by a single game.

“This is tough,” Braves catcher Brian McCann said. “This is one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had coming off a baseball field.”

That feeling might not go away for a long time.

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Report: No winter ball for Manny Ramirez after all

Manny Ramirez

Earlier today, we found out that Manny Ramirez intends to follow through with his plans to play winter ball in his native Dominican Republic. Now we find out it’s probably not going to happen after all.

According to, Ramirez will have to drop his plans because of his suspension for failing a drug test earlier this year. Ramirez opted to retire from MLB rather than serve his 100-game suspension, but because the Dominican winter league is connected to MLB, he will not be allowed to play there.

An MLB official confirmed that since Ramirez has unresolved MLB drug-program violations and the Dominican winter league is affiliated with MLB, commissioner Bud Selig’s office considers him ineligible to play in the league.

According to the report, Ramirez could only play for an independent team unaffiliated with Major League Baseball. Long Island Ducks, anyone?

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Papi feels bad for troubled Manny, says he’s ‘a good dude’


David Ortiz hasn’t seen his friend and former Red Sox teammate Manny Ramirez since the spring, when Boston played Tampa Bay in a Grapefruit League contest.

But he is well aware of all that has been going on with Ramirez this season, and feels bad for the disgraced former star.

Ramirez, who retired abruptly in April after news surfaced that he faced a 100-game suspension for failing a drug test for the second time, was arrested on Monday on charges of domestic violence. He was accused of slapping his wife in the face, causing her to hit her head on a bed’s headboard. He was released on $2,500 bail on Tuesday.

Ortiz spoke to Joe McDonald of about Ramirez on Friday, and while he didn’t condone Ramirez’s actions, he did say that retirement can be hard on a player who is used to playing baseball every day, and that stopping so suddenly, as Ramirez did, could be difficult.

He also spoke of reaching out to Ramirez to see how he was doing.

“He had a wonderful career, and it didn’t end the way he wanted it to, but he still had a great career. You marry your wife one day because you think that’s the right person to be right next to. Now that you need her the most, you don’t want to be going through things like that. It’s easier said than done, but Manny’s a good dude. He’s not a bad person. I hope everything works out for him and his family.”

It’s a sad story, and whatever you think of Manny Ramirez, you have to hope that this isn’t the beginning of a story that turns even sadder. Let’s hope that Ortiz is right about Manny. Maybe he can help his former teammate.

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Kershaw won’t be suspended for plunking Parra


Los Angeles Dodgers left-handed ace Clayton Kershaw will not be suspended for hitting Arizona’s Gerardo Parra with a pitch on Wednesday night, according to Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.

Umpire Bill Welke ejected Kershaw quickly in the sixth inning after an inside fastball bounced off Parra’s elbow. Welke was clearly reacting to the previous night’s festivities, when Kershaw screamed at Diamondbacks players after Parra stood and watched a home run.

Welke’s reaction is not surprising. In a way, it would have been more surprising if Kershaw had not plunked Parra at some point. Even D-backs broadcaster Mark Grace expected some fireworks, saying excitedly on Tuesday night’s game broadcast that “Kershaw’s gonna drill somebody. Alright!”

The problem is, if Kershaw did in fact drill Parra on purpose, he did about as good a job as possible in making it subtle. Parra was hugging the plate, and Kershaw’s pitch was not that far off the plate. A fastball to the middle of the back or the ribs would be one thing, but the pitch in question simply wasn’t that obvious.

The lack of a suspension proves that. And that’s a good thing. Kershaw is a strong contender for the NL Cy Young award, and it would be a shame to see him miss any starts the rest of the way over a minor incident.

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