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One Win Away: Texas Rangers, San Francisco Giants Suprise In LCS Series

At the start of the season, if someone said that the Rangers and Giants would each be one win from the World Series on October 21, would you have believed them? Would anybody have?

But that is the cold, hard truth. The Rangers have a 3-2 series lead, and though the Yankees could easily stage a comeback, Texas is still in control.

The Giants meanwhile, have found their way toward a 3-1 series lead against the mighty Phillies. Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels—so what? The Giants have Lincecum, Sanchez, and Cain.

Of course many people are still going with the Yankees and Phillies. They are the favorites. They made it last year. They have the offense. They are the popular teams. A re-match would ostensibly be good for Major League Baseball.

I beg to differ. Give other teams a chance. How long ago was it that the Rangers had bad pitching and were consistently mediocre? Not too long ago. But then they got Josh Hamilton, Cliff Lee, and now they’re on the brink of the World Series.

As for the Giants, they have finally overcome the Barry Bonds shadow. I actually don’t think of Bonds when I think of the Giants. And that is quite the accomplishment for this team.

Both teams are examples of building up from rock-bottom. Unlike the Phils and Yanks who are perennially good (and rich) teams, the Rangers and Giants have had their fair share of ups and downs. And now they are on an up-swing. Good timing.

They have young talent with a mix of veterans. They have caught New York and Philadelphia off guard. These teams are a feel-good story. No one wants to see the Phillies and Yankees win again. Boring, and annoying.

I for one hope that the World Series features both the Rangers and Giants. Maybe even just one of them. 

Baseball needs change to stay fresh. And it’s not like Texas or San Francisco are boring teams. They’re exciting. They deserve a shot at the Series. More than the you-know-who teams.

As long as the Phillies or Yankees don’t win it, I’m sure most of America will be content.

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Fans, Media Shouldn’t Bail on Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg Just Yet

Let’s not anoint Stephen Strasburg the next Mark Prior yet. There’s no need.

After the revelation that Strasburg needs Tommy John surgery, people are ready to compare him to busts just as quickly as they heaped praise upon him. When you are a pitcher of his magnitude, that is what happens.

Strasburg came into the major leagues with great fanfare. We all know that. Of course, when you have all this hype, you have the burden of living up to it. And for a short time this summer, he did.

Minus just one shaky outing, Strasburg pitched like an ace.

But now this.

Quite possibly the three most-dreaded words in baseball: Tommy John surgery. It’s like telling a singer they’re getting their vocal chords restructured.

But now that everyone’s had a few days to let this news settle in, a realization must be reached—it’s not the end of the world for Strasburg and the Nationals. Yet. We won’t really know for sure for at least a year.

As someone who’s been around both Syracuse and Washington when Strasburg was in town, I can attest that the media treats him like he’s the most important news in town. If he skipped a breath, it could make the front page of the paper.

So he will be closely followed; that’s an understatement.

But one thing that people aren’t thinking about is the fact that after all of this Strasburg hype, we won’t get to see him pitch for a year. That’s a long time.

Let’s think about Strasburg the person. He can’t do his job for one year. A year is a long time. Sure, a year from now, we’ll be looking back and thinking it went by quick. But it is 364 days. And he could be out for longer.

Luckily for the Nationals, they have another kid to put their spotlight and focus their marketing campaigns on—Bryce Harper. All 17 years of him.

You think Strasburg received a lot of hype? Harper was on the cover of Sports Illustrated long before Strasburg was declared a “national treasure.”

For the sake of baseball and the Nats, let’s hope that Strasburg stays a national treasure and doesn’t become buried treasure.

Because he is quite a talent. We know that. And hopefully, soon enough, he’ll have an arm that can completely support that talent.

If not, I heard that Prior is working to make it back to the majors. 


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The 10 Most Surprising MLB Teams of 2010

Every season, fans, writers, and anyone following baseball has an idea of how the season will play out. We know that Albert Pujols will always be great. We know that the Yankees will always have way more wins than losses.

But there are always individual and team performances that we can’t predict.

And this year, many teams have surprised, in both good and bad ways. There are many surprising division leaders and even a few surprising division cellar dwellers.

Here are the top 10 surprising teams of the season thus far, as we head into the stretch run of September.

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Mets’ Francisco Rodriguez, Despite Troubles, May Hold Key to the Season

Francisco Rodriguez’s recent altercation at Citi Field with his girlfriend’s father may have come as a surprise to many around baseball.

But his downhill spiral has not.

K-Rod’s most recent mess-up only sheds light on the fact that he has been disappointing this whole season. But that was just on the field. Now he’s decided to blow it off the field as well.

Throughout the season, K-Rod’s continued to blow save performances in what seemed to be a once-a-week affair. Unacceptable, especially from a closer who is supposed to be one of the best in the game. Just a couple of years back Rodriguez had the most saves in a season ever.

But that has not been the case this year. Now, K-Rod has been far from disastrous. But at the same time, he has been performing way below his capable level.

As Billy Wagner, who often had Mets fans holding their breath, collects save after save for hated rival Atlanta, K-Rod collects a save or two here and there, while somehow managing to blow one in between (it seems like he’s blown more than five games).

Is K-Rod the sole reason why the Mets are almost 10 games back in the division? No. And not every closer is perfect. That’s for sure. But had K-Rod saved just two or three more instead of blowing them, the Mets could be a little bit closer to the Wild Card.

But now, all of those on the field problems seem unimportant in light of his most recent mess-up that caused him to be arrested and suspended by the Mets for just two days.

With this issue likely looming over K-Rod’s head, do the Mets really want him saving precious games for them?

That issue is up for debate. On one hand, he may be out to strike out everyone out that he sees. Or he could be very distracted. Who knows. We’re not in his mind.

K-Rod’s run-in with the law presents the issue not just regarding his ability to perform, but also brings up the topic of the Mets’ bullpen woes. Not to mention their laundry list of other woes.

Since being just a half game out of first place in the NL East not so long ago, the Mets have taken a tumble similar to last season’s, when they finished the season on a not-so-good note. 

Fortunately for the Mets, they are still within reasonable reach of the wild card. All it takes is a winning streak to propel oneself back into the race.

But for a winning streak to occur, they have to get their offensive performances back on track (ditch the minor leaguers and put some real bats in there). They also need to have replicas of Johan Santana’s recent masterpiece. 

Of course it takes a lot for this to happen, but it is not out of the question. I mean, this was a pretty good team before they began their free fall.

And oddly enough, it may start with K-Rod. He, like the Mets, have fallen down. Way down. But if he can respond well to this and pitch like he is capable of, both him and the Mets can at least attempt to find their way back to the top.

And if both parties are lucky, then they may just find success. Maybe. This is the Mets we’re talking about.

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The Mets Are Having Fun Again (And Winning Too!)

Four years ago, the Mets went on a magical summer run in which they beat up on every team in baseball en route to winning the NL East and being the best National League team. 

In 2006 the Mets ended up losing in the NLCS to the eventual champion Cardinals, and since then, everything has been downhill.

There were the 2007 and 2008 final game heart breakers. Then there was last year’s disaster season.

But things are different in 2010. This year’s team is slowly beginning to remind me of the happy-go-lucky Met team of 2006.

There may not be superstars at every position like in years past. But there is chemistry, and that seems to be just as important for these Mets.

Gone are Carlos Delgado, Carlos Beltran (for now), Pedro Martinez, and Billy Wagner. In are Ike Davis, Jason Bay, Angel Pagan, and Mike Pelfrey.

Mainstay Jose Reyes is starting to get his groove back, as the Mets have won four straight and are creeping up on the equally surprising Braves for first place in the NL East.

These Mets were not supposed to be good this year. They haven’t been great, but despite the many ups and downs thus far, they have been solid.

Ike Davis has been fantastic. Jason Bay is starting to adjust to the city lights. Mike Pelfrey has been Cy Young-esque, and Angel Pagan has infused the team with his energy.

You can tell this team enjoys playing with one another, unlike seasons past when everyone seemed miserable.

I truly believe that the Mets are contenders this season. Sure, Jeff Francoeur may swing and miss a lot, but for everyone of those, he throws someone out at the plate.

And yeah, K-Rod may blow some saves, but for each of those, he will rescue the team in the eighth inning on another night.

But we know that this team is subject to disaster. They have already gone through many mini-slumps this season. 

But if they can uphold their winning streaks and consistently win or sweep series, then they will be in good shape.

And one thing is for sure—they’re having fun. Just ask Ike Davis, who got a nice pie in the face after his walk-off, extra inning home run against the Padres last night, the Mets’ fourth straight win.

Thanks for the pie, Angel Pagan.

Because these are the Mets we like.


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Armando Galarraga Loses Perfection: Ump Blows Call On Final Batter

Let me say this—I am not a Detroit Tigers fan, but I am a baseball fan. And that is why the game I just watched left an angry and deflated feeling inside of me.

Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga was throwing a perfect game. Keep in mind, Phillies pitcher Roy Halladay threw one just a few days ago.

So I tuned in to the ninth inning on ESPN. The first batter of the inning hit a deep fly ball that I thought would fall. It fell, but into the CF’s Austin Jackson’s glove. Whew. Then came the second batter of the inning—ground ball.

So here we are, one out from a perfect game. The fans in the stands are going crazy, I’m on the edge of my seat, and up comes Jason Donald, a relative unknown.

He hits a grounder that Miguel Cabrera, the first baseman, fields. Galarraga goes to first to cover the bag and taps the bag with his shoe way before the batter touches the base.

Galarraga and Cabrera start to celebrate.

But the umpire, Jim Joyce, calls the runner safe. Blown call. No perfect game. So gut-wrenching.

Not only did he lose the perfect game, but he lost it on the wrong call. It just sinks a deep pit inside of you. MLB needs to review that play and reverse the call. They won’t though, and even if they did, Joyce still took away the celebration. This is still bothering me, and I’m a Mets fan.

I can’t imagine how the Tiger players and their fans must feel like.

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Season in a Song: MLB Teams’ Seasons so Far by Song Title

This season has been one of many ups and downs for many teams in Major League Baseball. From winning streaks to losing streaks and from perfection to injuries, there are a multitude of story lines. Let’s see what songs best represent different teams throughout the league. Keep in mind, this is according to the title of the song, not the lyrics.

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Mets Whack Phillies in Every Possible Way During Three-Game Sweep

Sixteen to nothing. That is the combined score of the New York Mets’ sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies.

In their three game sweep, the Mets thoroughly dominated the defending National League Champion Phillies on all accounts.

The Phillies did not score a single run the whole series. Pretty impressive pitching for the Mets, who deserve credit for limiting Philly offensively.

Mike Pelfrey got the win in the final game of the series for the sweep, which cut the Phil’s division lead to a mere two games. Just five days ago, the Mets were seven games back.

Now, the Phillies can understand just how quickly a division lead can go up in flames, a la the Mets’ 2007 and 2008 seasons.

But just how did the Mets sweep the Phils and take two straight from the Yankees after losing so many in a row before?

For starters, they got great pitching from Japanese import Hinasori Takahashi, who held the Phils scoreless just one day after journeyman R.A. Dickey did the same.

Jose Reyes and Jason Bay have begun to find their offensive strokes. The Mets’ winning streak in April was a tease of what was to come. Sure, they hadn’t been playing great in May before their series wins against the Yanks and the Phils, but none of that really matters now.

What matters is they destroyed the supposed best team in the NL, while climbing within two games of the division lead.

Like I said before, these Mets are for real.

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Despite Ups and Downs, New York Mets Primed to Make a Run to the Top

The Mets are really beginning to confuse me. First, they start out 4-8. Then they manage to win nine straight home games. Now they just got swept by the Marlins.

In a four game series. Ouch.

Oh boy. Where to start. 

First, the bad.

Oliver Perez. Perez is probably responsible for half of the Mets’ losses. He was sent to the bullpen yesterday. About time!

Next-Francisco Rodriguez. Believe it or not, K-Rod has blown some major games for the Mets this season. He needs to get back on track, or else…oh yeah, he will still be the closer.

And the offense. Oh, the offensive ineptitude. Every day I look at the box score and see sub .300 batting averages. And at least half are under .250. In the major leagues, that is unacceptable. What makes it more unacceptable is the fact that this team has David Wright, Jason Bay, and Jose Reyes on it. Get it together guys, seriously.

But for all the bad, there may actually be more good. You now, the stuff that propelled the Mets to their winning streak earlier this season. 

Their pitching, minus Perez and a few other bad starts, has been great. And that includes their starting pitching and relief. Relievers I was worried about at the beginning of the season (like Hisanori Takahashi) have been fantastic. Mike Pelfrey has been a nice surprise too.

Now back to their offense. Despite their many struggles, they have managed to pop some more homers out of the park. New catcher Rod Barajas has been a big help, and David Wright has provided more than last year, though his batting average has taken a dip. And first baseman Ike Davis has been HUGE. What a breath of fresh air, both offensively and defensively.

With all of that being said, the season is young. First and last place in the NL East is separated by just 5.5 games. The Mets can get back on track and go from 18-20 to 22-20 in a span of just four days. Now I’m not saying that they will, but these Mets have shown some fight in them. For once, there are no expectations.

If Jerry Manuel can manage right and the Mets can get back on track, they can contend for a playoff spot. Yes, I’m completely serious.

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