Author: Craig Calcaterra

Joe West

Umpires for the Wild Card and Division Series announced

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Major League Baseball has announced the umpiring crews for the first two rounds of the playoffs. As follows:

  • NL Wild Card Game: Crew Chief Joe West, Doug Eddings, Paul Emmel, Andy Fletcher, Brian Gorman and Mark Wegner.
  • AL Wild Card Game: Crew Chief Gerry Davis, James Hoye, Dan Iassogna, Bill Miller, Todd Tichenor and Bill Welke.
  • ALDS in Anaheim: Crew Chief Ted Barrett, Lance Barksdale, Chris Guccione, Paul Nauert, Jeff Nelson and Jim Reynolds.
  • ALDS in Baltimore: Crew Chief Jeff Kellogg, Scott Barry, Dan Bellino, Fieldin Culbreth, Paul Schrieber and Jim Wolf.
  • NLDS in Washington: Crew Chief Mike Winters, Vic Carapazza, Laz Diaz, Tom Hallion, Brian Knight and Hunter Wendelstedt.
  • NLDS in Los Angeles: Crew Chief Dale Scott, Eric Cooper, Rob Drake, Jerry Layne, Jerry Meals and Alan Porter.

Also:

Umpires Phil Cuzzi and Tim Timmons have been assigned to work as Replay Officials during the Wild Card Games, while CB Bucknor, Chris Conroy, Ed Hickox and Brian O’Nora will serve in the Replay Center during the Division Series.

Viva la Men in Blue.

MLB has its seventh-best attendance total in history

old turnstile
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Just got the press release saying that Major League Baseball finished the 2014 regular season with 73,739,622 in attendance marking the seventh highest total of all-time.

Obviously “seventh best” is a tad misleading in that baseball has only had 30 teams for the past 16 years. Also, before 1993 the National League used to count actual butts in seats, not tickets sold, so there are some historical apples and oranges at play here. But it’s still pretty good attendance all the same. In all, baseball’s top ten season of attendance of all time have come in the past year.

The last weekend of the season featured the second best overall attendance of the year. Several games with playoff implications thanks to the addition of the second wild card can be thanked for that. As well as a lot of nice weather. Overall five teams topped the three million mark (New York Yankees; Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim; St. Louis Cardinals; San Francisco Giants; and Los Angeles Dodgers). Twelve drew over 2.5 million.  The Pirates set a single season attendance record of 2.44 million. The Giants have 332 straight sellouts.

We can quibble with the numbers and the trends. But parks are generally more full then they used to be, even if they’re just a tad off peak. As far as the gate goes, the game is pretty healthy.

REPORT: The Astros to name A.J. Hinch their new manager today

A.J. Hinch
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The Astros are going to announce their new manager today at 5:30. Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle says that man will be A.J. Hinch.

Hinch is a former catcher and managed the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009 and 2010. Since then he’s been in the Padres front office in a scouting and assist GM capacity. The Arizona stint ended badly — there were reports of a clubhouse revolt, and Hinch himself has said that the focus tended to be on his lack of experience and that it created hostility — but 2009 is a very different time than 2014 for managers. Then, a young, inexperienced skipper like Hinch was rather unheard. These days there are TONS of guys who fit the profile Hinch fit in 2009. Former players with little experience, being plugged in to the GM’s system.

And of course, Hinch has has last experience and whatever experience he has gained in the San Diego front office to aid him. The Cubs interviewed him last year when their job was vacant, so baseball has not decided he doesn’t get a second chance. And now, it seems, he’ll get that second chance.

Who to root for in the postseason — National League

Best Fans
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We did the American League, now it’s the National’s turn. Same deal: if your favorite team is out, who do you root for and why? Same caveats:

1. You are totally excused from picking a division rival to your actual rooting interest. You can if you want to of course, but intra-division hatred is likely to trump all of the pros and cons listed below and you need not apologize for that.

2. You are totally free to go back to hating your postseason rooting interest next spring when the new year starts.

The options:

Washington Nationals

  • Why To Root For Them: I’d say Bryce Harper, but he hasn’t been a big factor this year. Same deal as Mike Trout in the AL, though: because it’d be good for a young superstar to break out in the postseason to erase all of the Jeter Mourning. Other reasons: There are certain types of people who like to root for the best team and, though there was no 100-win team in baseball this year, the Nats are arguably the best team going right now. They may have that 1990s Yankees thing about them too. No, they’re not as good as those teams, but they have the same sort of “hardly any weaknesses in the lineup” thing working right now, making them hard to pitch to. Again, if you’re in to that sort of “anyone can be a hero any given night” kind of vibe.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: You’re from Quebec and still hold grudges? You root for the Barves (this is a limited sub-category, I realize). You don’t like bandwagony fans. I mean, yes, the Nats have grown the fanbase since they’ve been there and been winning, but there is a still pretty healthy contingent of Washington fans who are newbies or who already shifted their allegiance to the Nats in recent years and perhaps you’re the type who thinks a fan base needs to endure more before they experience success. I think that’s a tad bitter, but I know a lot of you roll that way.

St. Louis Cardinals

  • Why To Root For Them:  I know this will be interpreted as hate, because all Cardinals fans interpret everything short of “GO CARDS!” as hate. But really, it’s hard to find a good reason to adopt the Cards if they’re not already your team. They’ve won a lot in recent years and they have the same fatigue factors working for them Detroit does. I guess you can appreciate how good Adam Wainwright is. I spent the World Series in St. Louis last season and I had a lot of fun and enjoyed my time there, so if you have something similar I suppose that’s something. But really, it’s hard to gravitate to a team that has been such a postseason fixture in recent years. Their struggles this year notwithstanding, if you adopt the Cardinals you’re an overdog lover in some ways, and that’s never a good look.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: No matter what you think of the whole Best Fans In Baseball thing (Cards fans tell you that’s a myth perpetrated by haters, even though that is clearly not the case) they really don’t need anyone else’s help.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  • Why To Root For Them: Andrew McCutchen is another in that “amazing young stars” group with Harper and Trout who can be baseball’s next big face, and we need that, just to shut everyone up. It helps that he’s amazing to watch play too. If you’re the analytical type, the Pirates have just as good a claim to being the next sabermtric darling team as anyone. Baseball isn’t random enough, so why not root for a team who has Edinson Volquez lined up as its number one playoff starter right now?
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Remember in the late 80s through the mid 90s when Steelers fans were confined to Pennsylvania and you didn’t think much about them? Yeah, those were good times. Know a lot of Steelers fans now? Aren’t they awful and insufferable? Do you really want that to happen in baseball too?

Los Angeles Dodgers

  • Why To Root For Them: If you can’t appreciate Clayton Kershaw there is no helping you. Puig is simultaneously another candidate for the young breakout star thing AND a guy you have to love if you love seeing crusty people who don’t enjoy flamboyant players and amazing fun get all bent out of shape. Indeed, you’re not just rooting for the Dodgers and Puig to win it in that case, you’re rooting for Puig to hit the go-ahead homer in Game 7 of the World Series, flip his bat and run the bases backwards, then ending the game in the bottom of the ninth on an off-balance, airmailed, miss-the-cutoff throw that still somehow nails the would-be tying run at home plate. After which he ascends into heaven with his tongue sticking out and the old double freed0m rockets aimed at the press box where Bill Plaschke sits, gasping for air.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: I don’t subscribe to anti-Los Angeles/Hollywood sentiment — I rather like L.A. for some reason — but I understand it, and if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t like L.A. and all it stands for, I can see not liking the Dodgers. I can also see someone being that un-fun, Play The Game The Right Way person who allows their Puig Derangement Syndrome to get the best of them. There’s at least an outside chance that Brian Wilson has a big moment in a playoff game, and we’re all still trying to recover from 2010 and 2012, so I can totally see not wanting to see that.

San Francisco Giants

  • Why To Root For Them: Hunter Pence is just plain weird, and I mean that in the best way possible. If you can’t watch him hack at the plate and play defense and not smile at least a little bit you’re dead inside. Pablo Sandoval is on a nice streak of showing us, every other postseason, that you can love arepas and still be a world class athlete. Personally, I’m covering the World Series again this year and I would like to go back to that doctor who gave me the amazing drugs the last time I was in San Francisco.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Two World Series titles in the previous four years puts them in the Cardinals-Tigers fatigue category. Non-trivial chance that the existence of Buster Posey in the playoffs and the new plate collision rule will lead to multiple replays of the play that injured him back a few years ago and who the heck wants to see that.

 

So there you have it. You have until tomorrow evening to make your choice. Choose wisely.

Who to root for in the postseason — American League

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 3.04.32 PM
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If, like most of us, your preferred rooting interest is not in the playoffs, you have two choices: tune out totally and throw yourself into another sport or pick a surrogate rooting interest for the post season.

I mean, sure, maybe you can just “watch for the love of baseball” and not root for anyone, but then who would you took smack about? Man, you GOTTA pick a postseason rooting interest.

 

A couple of universal rules however:

1. You are totally excused from picking a division rival to your actual rooting interest. You can if you want to of course, but intra-division hatred is likely to trump all of the pros and cons listed below and you need not apologize for that.

2. You are totally free to go back to hating your postseason rooting interest next spring when the new year starts. Indeed, you probably should. I know a lot of people have “second favorite teams” but that’s not a good look for anyone over 12. I sorta like the Dodgers, for example, but I’m never gonna describe them as “my second favorite team,” ever, and when they play the Barves next year, I am going to hope they get beat 20-0 every game because they ain’t my team, get me?

OK, with that aside, let’s break them down. First with the AL. The NL will follow in a bit.

Baltimore Orioles

  • Why To Root For Them: They overcame big injuries — Weiters, Machado — and big disappointments — Chris Davis, the Ubaldo Jimenez signing — and cruised to the division title. That’s pretty cool. Adam Jones is a fun guy who is hard to hate. They hit a lot of home runs, and that’s about as rare these days as a profitable unicorn farm. Buck Showalter has, inexplicably, transformed from something an uptight killjoy back in the 90s to one of the more loose, “I don’t give a crap” quote-giving managers around, and that can be refreshing.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Peter Angelos is pretty awful. Based on their comments at this blog, Orioles fans may get on your case if you don’t root for then in EXACTLY the right way. Non-trivial chance that Ray Lewis may be featured in the commentary somehow, and that’s too unimaginable to contemplate.

Detroit Tigers

  • Why To Root For Them: Man, if you’re not from Detroit I am having a hard time thinking about why you’d adopt them. Nothing personal, but they’ve been in the playoffs a lot and if you’re an AL fan already you are probably too used to rooting against them. Plus the fatigue factor. I’d say Victor Martinez is a good reason to root for them. He seems cool. Brad Asumus is Baseball’s Most Handsome Manager, and that probably counts for something. I also feel like it’s a good time to buy low on Joba Chamberlain. He actually had a bit of a bounceback year, but it still widely loathed, I feel. But now he looks like Steve Earle or a Duck Dynasty dude and if he gets a key out in a big moment, it will drive Yankees fans totally nuts, and that’s what it’s all about, you guys.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: The aforementioned fatigue factor. The fact that, no matter how valid a point it is that Detroit has had hard times and loves its Tigers — it has and they do — the whole “you gotta pull for the Tigers because they represent a city that has had tough times” thing is both old and pretty condescending to Detroit. If you want to support Detroit, go visit there and help the economy — there’s actually cool things to do there besides take pictures of ruin porn — don’t shallowly adopt the Tigers for three weeks.

Kansas City Royals

  • Why To Root For Them: The underdog factor, which is hard to resist, I appreciate. If you dig pitching, they have good pitching and almost all of their pitchers are (a) fun to watch; and (b) have been given way less exposure than most great players this year. Also: they have Ned Yost on their side, so they’ll need all the help they can get.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: That bandwagon could get AWFULLY crowded. Every person who had a layover in Kansas City and ate some watered down airport version of their good BBQ once is going to inflate their ties to and love for the place, and God that can be exhausting. Did I mention Ned Yost? Anti-statheads are gonna pound that “all of the calculator lovers in their mom’s basement thought the James Shields-Wil Myers trade was gonna be a bust for the Royals, and boy aren’t they DUMB!” until we’re all numb, and who needs that noise.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

  • Why To Root For Them: Mike Trout is awesome, and if we’re ever going to get out from under the dumb “oh noes, what will we do without Jeter?” panicking, we’re going to need a new superstar to shine in the postseason for a bit. That’s kind of all I got for them.
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols storylines have been pretty much beaten into the ground for the past decade and those 40 minute World Series postgame shows are going to be even more unbearable if we have to endure more of them. Since Tony La Russa retired, there has been a dearth of “[Manager] is a genius” talk, and don’t think for a minute that the commentators aren’t going to remember that they used to say that about Mike Scioscia back in the day. Do you really want more Mike Scioscia in your life?

Oakland Athletics

  • Why To Root For Them: Because you finally want to shut up “Moneyball” critics, even if their criticisms were outdated eight years ago. Less negatively, because they friggin’ went for it this year with the Jon Lester trade, and it’s about time they did that. Because the longer the ballpark is hosting sellout crowds in October, the more likely it is that they’ll have another disaster with the plumbing, forcing Bud Selig and the rest of the Lords of Baseball into uncomfortable situations on national television. Because Adam Dunn plays for them and if you are a right-thinking person you realize how awesome Adam Dunn is and you want nothing more than to see him taking a champagne and beer shower at the end of the month, announcing his retirement and then walking the Earth like Caine from “Kung Fu.”
  • Why Not To Root For Them: Because they traded a top prospect for Jon Lester  Jeff Samardzija thereby betraying their “Moneyball” roots. Hahaha, just kidding. No one cares about that crap. If you do, man, reevaluate. Really, the biggest reason not to root for them is that they wear white cleats and white cleats are awful.

There is the information. Make your choice wisely. The National League is next.

HERE’S THE NATIONAL LEAGUE