Posted on: October 6, 2009 11:53 am
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National League Division Series Predictions

Last year, I went four-for-four in predicting the American League and National League division series. I thought they were some of the easiest matchups to predict in quite some time.

This year? Not so much.

This year's matchups are pretty tough. But after playing out some scenarios in my mind for the last week, I am pretty confident in my division series picks.

Here are my predictions for the NLDS. I will give my ALDS predictions once the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers decide their fate tonight.

* means if necessary.

Colorado Rockies vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Game 1: Wednesday, October 7th 2:37 ET. Ubaldo Jimenez vs Cole Hamels

Game 2: Thursday, October 8th 2:37 ET. Aaron Cook vs Cliff Lee

Game 3: Saturday, October 10 9:37 ET. Joe Blanton vs TBD

Game 4*: Sunday, October 11 TBD. TBD vs TBD

Game 5*: Tuesday, October 13 TBD. TBD vs TBD

Prediction: This is a rematch of the 2007 NLDS where the Rockies wiped the floor with the Phillies. Do I think the Rockies are going to wipe the floor with the Phillies again? No I don't.

But that doesn't mean I don't think they won't win the series.

I think the Rockies are the most complete team in the NL. If you can find a weakness on this team, I would love to hear it because right now I can't find one.

Their starting rotation goes five deep (depending on the health of Jorge De La Rosa), they have a solid bullpen, one of the best lineups in the NL, and they are one of the better defensive teams in baseball.

The best thing about Rockies however, might be their bench. They by far and away have the best bench of any team in the playoffs. Look at possible bench against the righty Joe Blanton in Game Three - Seth Smith, Jason Giambi, Ryan Spilborghs, Chris Iannetta, and Garrett Atkins.

That is one sick bench.

The Phillies are the defending champs, have one of the best lineups in baseball, and have a great one-two punch in Hamels and Lee. While this is all great, their bullpen is a clown show.

They won't have JC Romero and Chan Ho Park in this series and JA Happ may or may not start Game Four. Charlie Manuel is in a tough spot with Happ.

If he starts Happ in Game Four then Manuel takes away from his bullpen. I think Happ should close for the Phillies in the playoffs. If Manuel puts Happ in the pen, then he will have to start a fried Pedro Martinez in Game Four.

Tough, tough call for Manuel.

Here is how I think the series goes. The Rockies and Phillies will split games one and two and then the Rockies will torch Blanton and Pedro in Games Three and Four

The Phillies need to win the first two games at home and I don't think they will.

Rockies in Four

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Game 1: Wednesday, October 7 9:37 ET. Chris Carpenter vs Randy Wolf

Game 2: Thursday, October 8 TBD. Adam Wainwright vs Clayton Kershaw

Game 3: Saturday, October 10 6:07 ET. TBD vs Joel Pineiro

Game 4*: Sunday, October 11 TBD. TBD vs TBD

Game 5* Tuesday, October 13 TBD. TBD vs TBD

Prediction: I have the same feeling towards this series as I did for the Chicago Cubs and Dodgers series last year. The Cubs had the best record in the NL last year and started Ryan Dempster in Game One.

I kept thinking to myself the best team in the league is starting Ryan Dempster in Game One? No thanks. I thought the Dodgers would win the series and they did.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the shoe is on the other foot this year. Is the team with the best record in the NL really starting Randy Wolf in Game One?

Pitchers like Dempster and Wolf are like those silly Miller Lite commercials. You know the ones where they talk what greatness tastes like and what amazing hops are in Miller Lite.

I always think to myself watching those commercials -- at the end of the day, it's just Miller Lite. College kids drink it because it's cheap. Who ever drank Miller Lite at a frat party and said "Wow those hops are awesome!!!"

That's Randy Wolf. You can give me all the stats in the world and tell me how great he is, but at the end of the day he is just Randy Wolf.

The biggest concern for the Cardinals in this series will be the bullpen. Ryan Franklin was awful in September and they don't have a dominant eighth inning guy, which is key in the postseason.

However, I think LaRussa will push Carpenter and Wainwright as far as he can to cover up for the lack of power arms in the pen.

Cardinals in Four.


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Posted on: October 6, 2009 11:48 am
 

Looking Back On Some Baseball Bets

Before the regular season started, I gave some predictions on some prop bets for the baseball season. Now that the regular season is almost over, I thought it would be a good time today to look back at some of those predictions I made.

All lines were curtesy of Bodoglife.com

Player Bets

Aubrey Huff. Over/Under 23 1/2 Hr's - I like the Over Huff had 15 Hr's

Dustin Pedroia. Over/Under 40 1/2 Doubles - I like the Over Pedroia had 48 doubles

Josh Beckett. Over/Under 14 1/2 Wins - I like the Over* Beckett won 17 games

Joba Chamberlain. Over/Under 13 1/2 Wins - I like the Under Chamberlain won 9 games

Derek Jeter. Over/Under .303 average - I like the Over Jeter hit .334

Evan Longoria. Over/Under 107 1/2 RBI - I like the Over Longoria had 113 RBI

BJ Ryan. Over/Under 34 1/2 Saves - I like the Under* Ryan had two saves

Zack Greinke. Over/Under 13 1/2 Wins - I like the Over Greinke had 16 wins

Miguel Cabrera. Over/Under 34 1/2 Hr's - I like the Over Cabrera has 33 Hr's

Gary Sheffield. Over/Under 18 1/2 Hr's - I like the Under Sheffield had 10 Hr's

Bobby Abreu. Over/Under 99 1/2 RBI - I like the Under Abreu had 103 RBI

Brian Fuentes. Over/Under 32 1/2 Saves - I like the Under Fuentes had 48 saves

Ken Griffey Jr. Over/Under 18 1/2 Hr's - I like the Under Griffey Jr. had 19 Hr's

Brett Myers. Over/Under 11 1/2 Wins - I like the Over Myers had four wins

Albert Pujols. Over/Under 117 1/2 RBI - I like the Over Pujols had 135 RBI

Adrian Gonzalez. Over/Under 29 1/2 Hr's - I like the Over Gonzalez had 40 Hr's

Randy Johnson. Over/Under 10 1/2 Wins - I like the Under Johnson had eight wins

Team Bets

Tigers. Over/Under 81 1/2 Wins - I like the Under* Tigers will have 86 0r 87 wins

Twins. Over/Under 83 1/2 Wins. I like the Over Twins will have 86 or 87 wins

Braves. Over/Under 84 1/2 Wins. I like the Over Braves won 86

Dodgers. Over/Under 84 1/2 Wins. I like the Over Dodgers won 95

Mets. Over/Under 89 1/2 Wins. I like the Under Mets won 70

Cardinals. Over/Under 82 1/2 Wins. I like the Over* Cards won 91

Giants. Over/Under 80 1/2 Wins. I like the Under Giants won 88

Royals. Over/Under 75 1/2 Wins. I like the Over Royals won 65

* indicates Best Bet

Not bad. I went three out of four on my "best bets." I was really surprised the Tigers had the year they did. I definitely didn't see it coming.

Overall, I went 16 for 25. That's 64 percent for those of you scoring at home. If Cabrera can hit two Hr's on Tuesday night, I can get up to 68 percent.

I think if you went to Las Vegas and won 64 percent of the time you would take it.

I will revisit the rest of my predictions after the season ends.


You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Posted on: October 3, 2009 1:14 pm
 

JP Ricciardi Out As Toronto Blue Jays GM

Yesterday, I wrote that the Toronto Blue Jays had "massive team blow up" in the offseason written all over it. Well, the Blue Jays offseason blow up started this morning.

According to Ed Price of AOL Fanhouse, JP Ricciardi was fired as Toronto Blue Jays' GM. Assistant GM Alex Anthopoulos will take over on an interim basis.

"This was a tough decision and a difficult one for me personally as I have enjoyed J.P.'s friendship and his perspective on the game," Jays acting president and CEO Paul Beeston said in a prepared statement. "J.P. has put an incredible amount of effort into improving the team and he has brought along a number of great young players. However, I feel that it is time for a change and accordingly we have decided to move on."

Ricciardi was hired as GM in 2001 in hopes of restoring the Blue Jays to their glory years in the early-90's. It never happened under Ricciardi's watch.

The Blue Jays never won more than 87 games and only finished above third once with Ricciardi as the GM. Ricciardi will probably be remembered for three things as Blue Jays' GM.

First, Ricciardi handed out some awful long-term contracts that became albatrosses as time went on. BJ Ryan - five years, $47 million. Alex Rios - six years, $64 million. And perhaps the most famous of all, Vernon Wells - seven years, $126 million.

Second, Ricciardi made some ill-advised comments towards OF Adam Dunn, who, at the time was playing for the Cincinnati Reds. Ricciardi appeared on Toronto sports radio show The Fan 590 and had this to say about Dunn.

"Do you know the guy doesn’t really like baseball that much? Do you know the guy doesn’t have a passion to play the game that much? How much do you know about the player? There’s a reason why you’re attracted to some players and there’s a reason why you’re not attracted to some players.

"I don’t think you’d be very happy if we brought Adam Dunn here … We’ve done our homework on guys like Adam Dunn and there’s a reason why we don’t want Adam Dunn. I don’t want to get into specifics."

It's one thing for a GM to talk about his players, but for a GM to talk about another team's player -- that's unacceptable. Ricciardi said he later apologized to Dunn, but Dunn refuted that claim.

The third and perhaps the lasting memory Blue Jay fans will have of Ricciardi, was his decision not to trade Roy Halladay at the July 31st trading deadline.

There were a lot of rumors in regards to the offers Ricciardi received for his prized pitcher. At the end of the day, Ricciardi rejected them all and decided to hold on to Halladay.

At the time, Halladay's value was at his highest. Now, with Halladay a free agent after the 2010 season, the longer Halladay remains in a Blue Jay uniform, the less the Blue Jays are going to get for him.

Whoever replaces Ricciardi on a full-term basis will have their work cut out for them. It looks like the massive offseason blow up is underway.


You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Posted on: October 3, 2009 10:12 am
 

Baltimore Orioles To Retain Manager Dave Trembley

In a move that comes as a little bit of a surprise, the Baltimore Orioles will pick up manager Dave Trembley's option for 2010. This means Trembley will be back to manager the Orioles.

I say the move is a little suprising because the Orioles have played so bad down the stretch (they have 13 out of 15), there would be pressure on GM Andy MacPhail to replace Trembley.

But according to Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com, Trembley hasn't lost the clubhouse and has the respect of his players such as Jeremy Guthrie.

"Every manager is a leader and someone that sets a tone," Guthrie said. "He gets a team through the tough times. He's done a tremendous job, Dave cares about us and first and foremost, as a player, that's what you have to have."

I think managers in the American League and the National League should be judged differently. In the AL, because of the DH a manager is judged on how he manages the clubhouse, not so much on X's and O's.

Let's face it, in an AL game how many tough decisions does a manager have to make? One? Maybe two? And even those decisions, the average baseball fan could probably make.

In the NL, not only do you have to manage the clubhouse, but because of the pitcher hitting, you have to manage the X's and the O's as well. If you can't manage the X's and O's of the game, you will be exposed very quickly.

That being said,  if Trembley still has the clubhouse, then he deserves another shot to manage the Orioles again. However, he is going to have to start winning some games.

With a great young offensive core of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and Brian Matusz -- expectations will be up in Baltimore in 2010.

If the Orioles don't have a respectable record in 2010, it won't matter how much the players like Trembley -- he won't be back in 2011.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Posted on: October 2, 2009 10:34 am
 

Mutiny On The Canadian Border?

According to FoxSports.com's Ken Rosenthal, Toronto Blue Jays players are fed up with manager Cito Gaston and don't want him to return in 2010.

"It's nearly a mutiny right now," one source says. "He has lost the entire team."

The players' primary complaints are Gaston's lack of communication, old-school approach and negativism, sources say.

It seems to me there is a perfect storm making it's way into Toronto and it's coming to a head real soon. GM JP Ricciardi's job is in jeopardy, the players want their manager out, and the Blue Jays will have their first losing season in 2009 since 2005.

The Blue Jays have "massive team blow-up" written all over it in the offseason.

But let's go back to the Gaston situation for a bit. I have two takes on this.

My first take is the Blue Jays have had a disappointing season and that brings discontent in the clubhouse. I have never heard of a losing team having a happy clubhouse. Somebody is always pointing the finger at somebody.

It's either the coaches pointing the fingers at the players or the players pointing the finger at the coaches. It's happened on every losing team in the history of sports. I am not surprised it's happening in Toronto.

My other take on this is that maybe Gaston, despite his impressive past success with the Blue Jays organization (back-to-back World Series titles in 1992 & 1993) wasn't the right person for this particular job.

Here is what I know about Gaston -- every former player who played for him in Toronto in the 90's raves about him. They can't stop talking about what a great manager he was to play for. He is often referred to as the classic "players coach."

Here is the thing though. All those players -- they were superstars. Joe Carter, David Cone, Dave Winfield, Roberto Alomar -- they were stars. Outside of Roy Halladay and fringe stars like Aaron Hill and Adam Lind, this Blue Jay team was made up of mostly young and under achieving players (Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, etc...).

Perhaps Gaston is a "Phil Jackson" type manager. Meaning Jackson can clearly manage superstars, but if you asked him to manage the Charlotte Bobcats he probably couldn't work with all those young players. I am guessing Gaston would be great with a team like the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox.

This should be a fascinating offseason in Toronto. My guess is the entire operation gets blown up and the Blue Jays start from scratch in 2010.

The Blue Jays were in first place on May 23rd this year. How quickly things change.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Posted on: October 1, 2009 5:12 pm
 

New York Mets To Cut Ticket Prices In 2010

The New York Mets have officially announced that they will cut season ticket prices at Citi Field for the 2010 season.

The average ticket price on a full-season basis will drop by more than 10 percent, with reductions in select locations of more than 20 percent. Every season-ticket holder will see a decrease in their invoice next season.

Stop the presses, the Mets have actually made a smart PR move.

Mets Executive VP, Dave Howard gives the reason for the decreased ticket sales...

"The Mets are sensitive to the economic realities facing our fans, and we have lowered our ticket prices in response to these challenging conditions."

"This move underscores our appreciation of our fans’ ongoing loyalty and support. We are committed to delivering exceptional service and value to our customers at Citi Field in 2010."

This was a move the Mets had to make and not because of the economy. I feel the economy had little to do with this move, but it's a great and logical excuse.

Unless I missed something, the economy was in the crapper last year and the Mets had no problems charging fans a premium for tickets.

The reason the Mets had to make this move is because the product they put on the field this year was so disgusting and hideous that they had to make up for it somehow.

You can't charge a premium for tickets after you put out the product you did the year before. You just can't. Even the Mets are smart enough to realize this.

Mets fans are angry and embarrassed about this season. And quite frankly they should be. It's one thing to lose if you are not good enough. I think Mets fans would have accepted that based on the ridiculous amount of injuries they have suffered this year.

What Mets fans and the majority of baseball fans can't tolerate for that matter, is the poor baserunning, the overall lack of fundamentals, and the clown show that surrounded this team all year.

This move also tells me they aren't going to make a big splash in the offseason. They might sign a player or two because they have to. But I don't see them going over the $149 million Opening Day payroll they had in 2009.

The Mets did the right thing by cutting ticket prices in 2010. It just had more to do with the play on the field rather than the economy.

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 1, 2009 5:09 pm
 

10 Things We Learned About Baseball In September

The best season of the year is here kids -- Spring. Crisp air, leaves turning, temperatures in the 60's (unless you live in Detroit, then they are in the 30's) and of course pennant race baseball.

Are we going to get the classic pennant race that goes down to the last day of the season like we saw in 2007 and 2008? Probably not. But the NL Wild Card race between the Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies and the AL Central race between the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins gave us plenty to be excited about.

September was a great month for baseball fans. Here are the top-10 things we learned about baseball in September...

10. Ichiro can flat-out hit. On September 13th, Ichiro became the first player in major league history to record 200 hits nine straight seasons.

Ichiro is easily in the top-five of the best pure hitters that I have ever seen (last 25 years). He is right up there with Tony Gwynn, Wade Boggs, Edgar Martinez, and Paul Molitor.

Ichiro is unquestionably a first-ballot Hall of Famer. The only question that remains is when it is all said and done, is Ichiro the greatest hitter of all-time?

Speaking guys who get base hits...

9. Chris Coghlan is hitting his way to NL ROY.Guess who lead baseball in hits in September? Derek Jeter? Nope. Ichiro? Nope. Joe Mauer? Nope. It was Florida Marlins rookie Chris Coghlan.

Coghlan had 47 hits in September with a .382 avg. and a .925 OPS. Coghlan is making a strong push for NL Rookie of the Year.

While Ichiro and Coghlan can hit the baseball...

8. Mark Reynolds has a hard time making contact. Arizona Diamondbacks 3B Mark Reynolds broke his own record for strikeouts in a single season when he struck out three times against the San Francisco Giants giving him 205 K's.

Reynolds' previous mark for strikeouts was 204, which he set last season.

I, for one, thought this was no big deal. Reynolds is having a phenomenal season. Reynolds has 44 homeruns, 101 RBI, 24 SB's, a .552 slugging percentage, and a .902 OPS.

Reynolds plays on the Diamondbacks, who are having a terrible season. But not as bad as this team...

7. The Washington Nationals will have the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. The Nationals will finish the 2009 season with the worst record in baseball. There reward? They will have the first pick in the 2010 draft.

All signs point to Bryce Harper being the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.

The Nationals fired manager Manny Acta earlier in the season. These two teams fired their managers in September...

6. Cecil Cooper and Eric Wedge were handed their walking papers. The Houston Astros fired Cooper with 13 games left in the regular season. When Cooper was fired by the Astros, the Astros were in fourth place and 16.5 games behind the first place St. Louis Cardinals.

Yesterday, the Cleveland Indians fired Wedge with just six games to go. Wedge was 560-568 with one playoff appearance in seven seasons with the Indians. Wedge will finish out the season with the Indians, but him and his staff will not be retained after the season ends.

Staying with Central Division news...

5. The Chicago Cubs suspend Milton Bradley. Is it me or did everyone on the planet see this coming except for Cubs' GM Jim Hendry? Bradley has been awful with the Cubs in 2009.

The Cubs suspended Bradley because of negative comments he made about the fans in Chicago.

Despite having a .378 OBP, Bradley only hit .257 and had a pathetic .397 slugging percentage.

So much for adding some left-handed pop to the lineup.

While the Cubs floundered in 2009...

4. The Atlanta Braves surged in September. Somebody forget to tell the Braves they were out of it in September. In a 19-game stretch they went 15-4 and pulled within two games of the Wild Card leading Rockies.

Many Braves fans envisioned the Braves doing to the Rockies what the Rockies did to the San Diego Padres in 2007. However, the Braves playoff chances are on life support after losing back-to-back games against the Marlins.

On the subject of playoff races...

3. The AL Central race heated up. Despite losing MVP candidate Justin Morneau, the Twins have been able to hang with the Tigers neck and neck throughout September.

The Twins entered this weeks HUGE four-game series just two games behind the Tigers. After winning the first game in 10 innings 3-2, the Twins have dropped two in a row to the Tigers -- putting their season on life support.

The Tigers can clinch the AL Central crown with a win today over the Twins.

If the Tigers win the AL Central, they will have to face these two in the first-round of the playoffs...

2. Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano each record 200 hits. With over 200 hits apiece, Jeter and Cano became the first middle infield duo to each collect 200 hits in a season.

I am not surprised this has never been done before considering that I would say before 1995 -- shortstops and second baseman weren't considered offensive players. Sure you had your Eddie Collins', Roberto Alomar's, Charlie Gehringer's, and Cal Ripken's of the world, but they were rarely paired up with anyone who could hit.

That is what made Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker so special for their era. They were two middle infielders who could hit and field.

Speaking of Yankees, the No.1 thing we learned about baseball in September was...

1. Six teams punched their ticket to October. The New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies will all be battling it out for a World Series title.

I thought last year's playoff matchups were pretty easy to predict. This year? The way the matchups are shaping up, I have no clue who is going to win.

Here is what I do know. When I write my October recap, we will have a World Series champion and all the questions we have had since March will be answered.

I will be writing my first-round preview with predictions next Tuesday.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg

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Posted on: September 30, 2009 7:24 pm
 

Cleveland Indians Fire Eric Wedge

According to ESPN.com, with just six games left in the 2009 regular season, the Cleveland Indians have fired Manager Eric Wedge. Wedge will finish out the season with the Indians, but Wedge and his staff will not be retained after the season.

Wedge was 560-568 with one playoff appearance (2007) in seven seasons with the Indians.

I have the same question for Indians management as I did for the Houston Astros when they fired Cecil Cooper -- why now? I really don't get the point of firing a manager with just six games left in the regular season. Why was it so important to fire him today rather than six days from now?

It just doesn't make sense to me.

While I will admit I haven't sat down and watched the majority of Indians games this year, so I can't tell you what kind of X's and O's manager Wedge is. But here is what I do know -- teams who have a managerial opening would be foolish not to look at Wedge in 2010.

Wedge won 90 games twice with the Indians, in 2007 he was one game away from the World Series, and won the AL Manager of the Year award in 2007 as well. I am pretty confident in saying Wedge had the respect of the players he managed and can manage at the big league level.

The Indians' rebuilding plan came to a head in 2007. That was their year. When a small market team has their plan come to a head and they don't win it all, they have to start over again.

Starting over again, usually means losing. That is not the managers fault.

You can follow The Ghost of Moonlight Graham on Twitter @ theghostofmlg 

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Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com