September 2006

Blogpoll Roundtable

You may have noticed that I like college football a lot. I think about it a lot. And that goes doubly when I’m not spending 9 hours a day at the baseball stadium. So, although uninvited, I’m going to start throwing my hat in at the BlogPoll Roundtable. BlogPoll rocks anyway, so why not?

This week’s questions are offered up by Maize N Brew. For those of you annoyed, I’ll make it up to you with plenty of baseball over the coming days. After all, I may be wearing shabby clothes in anticipation of a champagne shower one day before the weekend is out.

Anyway.

1. It’s only the third week of the seasonand we’ve already seen some highly ranked favorites drop out of
national championship contention. Preseason favorite Cal dropped to #21
after a loss and a pair of underwhelming victories. Who’s your pick as
the next NC contender to take a fall?

Tough question — depends how you look at it. You can eyeball the schedule and pick the soonest potential upset. That would point to Ohio State at Iowa, though I can’t shake the thought that Iowa is going to be badly exposed sooner than later. Or you can frame it another way, essentially what’s the team that I’m most confident will be out of it by some undetermined date before mid-November. And I’d have to say that team is Florida, which has the gauntlet of **** coming up — Alabama, LSU, at Auburn, Georgia. Ouch. And then there’s the way I think this was intended, which is, which contender is most likely to lay an unexpected egg? With apologies to Adam Wainwright and Joe Strauss, I say it’s Georgia. They do a lot of things well, but it’s easy for me to see them falling behind a decent team and never being able to catch up.

2. By that same token there are several
schools hanging around without a loss that all of a sudden look like
surprise contenders. There are also a few one loss teams with a legit
shot at getting back into it. Looking at the rankings who’s
the team no one’s talking about with the best shot at crashing the party?

I know VaTech always finds some game to lose that it shouldn’t lose. I know this. But I also know that they can move the ball, they can defend and of course that whole special teams thing. No idea why they were ranked so low at the start of the year, and I can easily see them being favored in every game from here on out. Good team, favorites in the ACC. Take them seriously. Until they lose to somebody like Wake.

3. Every team has their quicksand away
game. You know. That place you should win but somehow find ways to
snatch defeat from the jaws of victory or at least scare the &*%^
out of you every year. Did you know that over the last 21 years
Kentucky wasn’t won once in Knoxville? Where is your team’s yearly
sandtrap?

Well, that may not be the best example, since, you know, Tennessee is always better than Kentucky. But I understand. For FSU, the obvious one is the Orange Bowl. Last year’s win over Miami was incredibly sweet, but still didn’t really feel like validation. Beating them in their house, that was huge. That was validation.

But among places where they SHOULD win, it’s anywhere in the ACC on a Thursday night, especially Charlottesville and Raleigh. Thursday night in C’ville just terrifies me. FSU tends to have a harder time with teams than with locations. NCSU always gives them fits. It seems to be the reason Amato still has a job. And don’t think I’m not petrified of them again this year.

4. Now that you’ve looked into the
darkest place in your football soul, free Escalades aside, turn and
look into your crystal ball. Conference play is either just starting or
a single game in. Based on what you’ve seen so far, give the order of
finish in your conference, and if you’ve got a Conference Championship
game tell us who the winner will be. Independents must predict the
remainder of their schedule. The results your predictions will be held
against you at the end of the season.

Atlantic: 1. Clemson. 2. FSU. 3. Boston College. 4. Wake. 5. Maryland. 6. NCSU.
Coastal: 1. VaTech. 2. Miami. 3. GaTech. 4. UNC. 5. UVa. 6. Duke.

VaTech wins the conference championship, but on a neutral site that’d be a fun matchup.

5. In keeping with the spirit of Maize n Brew,
name your beverage of choice on game days and why. It need not be
alcoholic, as there are some of us who choose not to imbibe on game
day. Further, it need not be limited to a single brand/type/category.
If you enjoy drinking PBR and Kraft Turkey Gravy at the same time
(which I have personally witnessed), please, elaborate. Finally, if you
should feel so inclined, and this is not a requirement, add an
anecdote   involving said beverage choice.

On the days I’m lucky enough to attend a game, which isn’t often enough, inexpensive (but not awful) beer. Bud Select, say, or Mich Light. A big ol’ Co-Cola once I’m in the stadium.

Sitting on the couch, better beer — but still something light-ish. Sam Adams Light is a fine, fine choice for watching a game at home.

Currently playing on the computer: Counting Crows, This Desert Life (hi, Erin!).

-M.

Just get there

As you may or may not have noticed, I didn’t make the trip to Milwaukee, so I’m following from a distance like many of you for these three days. Back on the horse at Minute Maid Park. In the meantime, I’m reading the coverage.

And in Joe Strauss’ game story, he tangentially touched on something I’ve thought about a good bit regarding the postseason. Aside from Carpenter and Suppan, I think TLR/Dunc should plan to have an exceedingly quick hook with the starters in the playoffs. Whoever gets the remaining starts in the DS or a potential LCS or World Series, get ‘em out quick if there’s any trouble at all.

The reason this came to mind was the acknowledgement by the staff that it’s not necessarily a negative if Anthony Reyes is a 5-6 inning guy in the playoffs. Personally, I think Marquis and Weaver should be 5-6 inning guys if it comes to that. If they’re rolling, and can get you into the 7th or 8th, great. But if not, don’t hesitate. If any of those three pitchers gets you through five, get him out and go to the pen at the first sign of trouble.

This bullpen has three very competent right-handers in Wainwright, Looper and Hancock, and maybe Brad Thompson as well. You have plenty of days off in the playoffs. Use those guys aggressively. I think handing tight games to the pen from as early as the sixth will be one key to this team going a long way in October.

Your thoughts?

-M.

Leach's Top-10

(Note — this is one of two posts that went up at virtually the same time. Please see the one below this as well. -M.)

Here’s my top-10 following Footballpocalypse.

1. Ohio State. They still have the best win of the year.
2. USC. Still steamrolling. Looking like a 12-0 team right now.
3. Auburn. Good win, but they shouldn’t get another real test for quite a while.
4. Florida. Winning in Knoxville is very, very hard.
5. Michigan. I never was sold on ND, but that was a thrashing.
6. Louisville. Miami ain’t what they used to be, but still a great win.
7. Georgia. Much better showing against UAB than Oklahoma had.
8. LSU. How much can you dock a team for that loss?
9. Virginia Tech. I predict they’ll win about six different games by roughly the same score (35-0).
10. Texas. Still no read on this team.

Teams to watch: Arizona State, BC, Oregon, UCLA, Alabama

Game of the Week: Man, what a comedowb after last week. Quite a few decent in-conference matchups, but nothing earth-shattering. Let’s say ASU-Cal, and I’ll predict that ASU goes into Berkeley and beats them.

-M.

(now playing on the computer speakers: The Very Best of Otis Redding)

Lucky Seven answers

Two posts today, since I was delinquent in putting up Lucky Seven answers.

1. Honestly, I’m still not sure. If Reyes shows he’s sharp over his last three starts, I’d go with him. Unfortunately for the Cards, nearly every team they could face features some prominent LHH, which makes it tough to go with Weaver. But if Game 3 is on the road, and you’re comfortable with being able to manage the LHHs, Weaver would be my next choice.

2. Hard, hard call, which is why I asked the question. I think I’d go with Hanley Ramirez by a nose over Josh Johnson, with Dan Uggla and Ryan Zimmerman both great candidates as well. Amazingly tough choice.

3. Competent, which is all you can really ask. I wouldn’t want to go with him there for longer than a few weeks, but if he’s the backup again next year, I think that’d be fine.

4. I’d try to get him at least a couple more days off, but not an extended stint.

5. Yankees. Terrifying lineup, excellent front of the rotation, and that Rivera guy.

6. Too late. But I did have Michigan in my pick ‘em.

7. I’m guessing I don’t need to tell y’all.

-M.

Let them play?

There is almost no chance that today’s game will be made up. Here is how the scenario was presented to me:

If the game actually is needed to determine who makes the playoffs, then the game will be played. That is priority one. If it determines whether or not the Cardinals or the Giants are actually in the postseason, then it will be played on Monday, Oct. 2.

However, if the game is only needed to determine seeding and/or home field, that’s another matter. The way it was presented to me is that it comes down somewhat to tiebreaker scenarios. The tiebreaker between the Cardinals and Dodgers, or the Cardinals and Padres, for home-field in the first round would be head-to-head.

So if the Cardinals finish on Sunday, Oct. 1 with a 1/2-game lead over the Dodgers, and the Dodgers are the NL West champions, the game would not be played. That’s because the Cardinals swept the season series with LA, so even if the Cardinals were to lose game 162, they would still have the advantage. IF, however, the Cardinals TRAILED the Dodgers by 1/2-game, it was presented to me that they would essentially have the OPTION of playing the game or not. I assume they would not in that case — too many things that could go wrong.

In the case of a 1/2-game difference with the Padres, it remains to be seen, since the Cards and Padres are not done with the season series. I suppose it is possible that if the Cards end up losing the season series to the Padres, but they are 1/2-game AHEAD of San Diego, then they might be required to play the game. That would be the one sticky wicket of a situation.

-M.

Izzy done for the year

It was revealed after the game today that Jason Isringhausen is done for the year. I’ll have a story coming soon, with comment from Dave Duncan, TLR and George Paletta. Izzy himself was not around to talk after the game.

Here are Duncan’s comments from the postgame in case you missed them:

"I know Izzy does not feel good about the way he threw in thebullpen yesterday.

 "I don’t expect that Izzy is going to pitch anymore (this year). I think
it’s just determining what to do."

-M.

Today's updates – UPDATED

Lots of news at the park today. Here’s the rundown, and as always, I’ll have many more details when my notebook goes up.

1. Jason Schmidt will NOT start for the Giants, after all. Brad Hennessey will take his place.

2. Anthony Reyes threw a bullpen today and is scheduled to start Monday against the Brewers at Miller Park, with Marquis going Tuesday.

3. Izzy threw an extensive bullpen this afternoon and said it was mostly good, but his hip still gives way on pitches sometimes. His decision should be made in the next day or two, after he consults with Jocketty, TLR, Duncan, etc. He said he’s not really any more optimistic than he was before throwing.

4. Eckstein continues to work out and get closer, but he’s not listed on the lineup card and from what I can tell, has not been activated from the DL. He’ll likely play in Milwaukee. Correction — shortly before the game, it was announced that Eckstein is off the DL. He could pinch-hit.

5. Danny Sheaffer will not be back as the manager at Memphis.

-M.

Lucky Seven, The Revenge!

This week’s off-day Lucky Seven, with the New Pornographers’ Electric Version playing on the speakers…

1. Who should get the Game 3 playoff start?

2. Who is the National League rookie of the year? Why?

3. How would you rate Aaron Miles’ defense at shortstop since Eckstein has been out?

4. How should the Cardinals handle Scott Rolen for the rest of the year? Just like normal, give him maybe one or two days off? Give him a breather of more than a day or two? Give him as many ABs as possible so he can get rolling?

5. What team is the favorite to win the American League pennant? Why?

6. Give me a fearless prediction on at least one of this weekend’s big college football games — LSU-Auburn, UF-Tennessee, ND-UMich, USC-Nebraska, Oklahoma-Oregon, Louisville-Miami.

7. What’s your favorite comedy movie of all time?

-M.

Strange scene

Very odd situation after this afternoon’s game.

You may have noticed a dearth of quotes in my late game story, including none from the manager, pitching coach or anyone who batted in the starting lineup. There was a reason for that.

We knew ahead of time that TLR wouldn’t be speaking postgame. He apparently had someplace to be very quickly after the game, and got out of the stadium immediately when it ended. Dave Duncan similarly was gone almost instantly. Nonetheless there was a postgame news conference, so duties fell on bench coach Joe Pettini, who gave a game effort in what I’m sure wasn’t much of a fun situation.

Still, by the time Pettini was finished with us, it was more than 20 minutes after the game. And until that time, the clubhouse remained entirely closed to all media. So by the time we got there, many of the more prominent players from the game were long gone. To Jason Marquis’ credit, he didn’t bolt. And some of the relievers stuck around to talk, as did Preston Wilson, who made the last out of the game. For the most part, though, there weren’t many guys available whose comments would have added to the story of the game — which was 1, Marquis’ outing, and 2, Oswalt’s dominance.

Anyway. You may not care about this in the slightest. And I know you don’t want to hear griping from us in the press box, given that we admittedly have a great job. But I did figure you were owed the explanation as to why there weren’t a lot of voices in today’s game story, and why you probably won’t see many big names in tonight’s TV recaps either.

Currently playing on the iPod: Vinyl, by Dramarama

-M.

He's a good man, Jeffrey. And thorough.

Mark Mulder underwent shoulder surgery with Dr. David Altchek today. According to his agent, everything went right according to plan and Mulder should be ready to start getting ready for ’07 on schedule. More info in my notes later this evening.

-M.

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