Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Baseball ... and almost 'nothing but' baseball!

This post has been a while in the making. As you might imagine, I've spent many enjoyable hours recording results, making notes, etc., in preparation for this momentous event.

Earlier today I discovered that I had made an error. "Oh, no!" you say. "Yes," I confess. In this post, I actually wrote, There's just an inning or two to go in that game, I think. It could have been called. Wonder why it wasn't? Well, guess what? The reason it wasn't 'called' is that the game was tied, Goldenrod, oh ye of limited memory banks!!

We FInally finished the game this past Thursday. It preceded the first of four games here at home against the Washington Nationals. Completing that game took all of about five minutes. The game was resumed in the bottom of the 11th, with the Nationals batting - game tied - one out, and a man on first. The first pitch thrown was not towards home plate but to first base! It was a real stranger. There were so many weird statistics from that game, including players who are on the roster now who weren't then and vice versa. I did not take copious notes. The truth is, I had barely set my rear end down on a chair to listen and the game was over!

I wrote later, in this post, As an added plus, I was able to watch my Astros soundly defeat the Washington Nationals in the second of two games ... the first one of which was a carryover from an early May suspended game (in Washington) in the bottom of the 11th inning, I think it was, with the score tied at 10 apiece. The game was over within five minutes of its resumed start, when 'Pudge' Rodriguez (our catcher) made an errant throw of what probably would have been an almost 'automatic' double play to end the inning and send the game to the 12th. As it was, however, the 'bad guys' scored the winning run and the game was over. Oh, my!

All I can say, guys, is, "Watch out for those Nationals!" They might have the worst record in professional baseball - and they do, with a record of 26-61 - but let me tell you, they have some big-time bat swingers! Not only that, but they have a guy who, if he gets on base, is a real threat to steal - not unlike our Michael Bourne. (I want to say his last name is Morgan, but I'm not for sure on this one.)

It's their bullpen that is suspect. Sunday - bottom of the eighth, I think it was (we had runners at second and third) - one of their relief pitchers lost his balance and kind of 'fell off' the pitcher's mound while trying to issue an intentional walk to our next batter and load the bases. A balk was called and another run scored. Incredible. Just incredible!

And so, I guess the upshot of all this is ... if you can get to their bullpen, you can win the game! (It almost should go without saying that your 'good guys' have to be scoring some runs in the meantime, right? Right?!?)

Something a little bothersome about that whole Washington Nationals series. In the game that was resumed here last Thursday and in the game Friday night, I think it was, Roy Oswalt - who was our starting pitcher both times - had to leave the game in the seventh inning due to (what was it called - stiffness? [no], - soreness? [no], - numbness? [Yes, I think that was it!]) numbness in two fingers of his pitching hand.

In the first game (which had been suspended from May 5th, I believe the date was), Roy had incurred the injury while attempting a bunt. As far as last Friday is concerned, I don't know why he suddenly had to leave the game, and I'm such a coward that I haven't even begun to delve into all of the many things (I'm sure!) that have been written or said about the various reasons why that numbness might have re-occurred. I sincerely hope that this is something short-lived. He's our "Ace" and one of our really good guys.

Speaking of "Aces", what's this I hear about Roy Halladay, one of the Blue Jays' star pitchers being on the trading block? I posed the question, "Any truth to those rumors?" to Steven recently in the comments section of this post, but he didn't reply. (Probably because he didn't have a ready answer.)

Is anyone from 'our club' playing against the Nationals in the next couple of weeks? Let's see here. Well, yeah! A bunch of the teams from the National League's Central division are scheduled to play against the Nationals ... Chuck's Cubs will start the party after the All Star break with a four-game set in Washington ... a touch later on in these next 18 days or so, Tammy's Cardinals will make up a rainout from May (sound familiar?) in Washington ... following that, the Brewers will 'entertain' Washington in a four-game set at home and then the Pirates will close the frivolity.

[I realize that no one in 'our club' has a special interest in the Brewers or Pirates, but three of our members' teams are in the National League Central, and it's a division that Tammy, Chuck and I follow pretty closely. More a bit later about this division.]

The Reds and my Astros are out of this mix for a while. In fact, we won't see the Nationals again until 2010 (spring training), thank goodness. Watch out, guys! They're not the 'pushovers' you might think!!

The All Star game will be played tonight at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, and Roy Halladay has been named as the American League's starting pitcher. A nice honor. I'll be watching with interest. If the rumors are true and he is on the trading block, I'm sure that Drayton McLane (Astros' owner) will be among the bidders.

The game will be played in a National League ballpark, so the DH will not be in effect. (At least, I don't think it will be! Does anyone know something different?) A curious question here for Tammy ... ... Who will you be rooting for, Tammy? The American League? The National League? What say you? You have favorite teams in both leagues. See the problem you created for yourself? I find this hilarious, actually! (And what if both of your teams play against each other in the World Series? [Which is a theoretical possibility.] Then what?!?)

Steven's Blue Jays have been on a terrible downward slide since I last did an update, and have lost 10 of the 13 games they played ... all, except the Tampa Bay series at the very beginning, by a difference of only one or two runs and a few had to go to extra innings. Those are heartbreak-type losses, and Steven has probably found more positive and uplifting things to do with his time than watch his team fall so far from the top spot (the Jays are now 11.0 games back in the American League East).

My son-in-law's team, the Boston Red Sox, is currently enjoying the top spot in this division. In fact, they have the second best winning percentage in all of major league baseball (61.4%) ... only the Dodgers have a higher winning percentage. Tammy's Yankees are holding down second place in the American League East, just three games back. Both of these teams have won eight and lost five games since my last update. Both are 6-4 in their last ten games, whereas the Jays are 2-8. That's a huge difference. The Yankees and Red Sox did not face each other this past couple of weeks, nor will they these next couple, so there won't be any head-to-head confrontations that could result in dramatic changes in the top two places.

You have to beat the teams in your own division! That's a hard and fast rule. Within the American League East, the Red Sox beat the Orioles 2 out of their 3 games and will be playing 3 games each against the Jays and Orioles coming up after the All Star break. The Yankees swept all 3 games against the Jays and have 3 games each scheduled soon with the Orioles and Rays. If either (or both) the Red Sox or Yankees win the majority of their games against their lower-ranked division rivals, the distance between them will widen. Of all of the teams mentioned in this division, it would seem that the Orioles will have the most difficult task. Both they and the Jays must start winning some of these series to stay within even reasonable 'shouting distance' of the leaders.

Let's move on to the National League East, where Patrick's Braves have been in the mix ever since the beginning of the season. Remember the torrid start the Marlins had? How they led the majors with an almost-unheard-of winning percentage in the 90's? But then they fell on hard times and the Phillies strung together a whole bunch of wins, took over first place and then had their own hard fall?

Well, things have evened out somewhat in this division, altho the Phillies right now have the hottest streak going in baseball (winning 9 out of their last 10 games). As of today, the Braves are in third place - 6 games back. The Marlins have steadily crept back up to claim second - 4 games back, and the Mets are breathing hard on the Braves' heels at 6.5 games back. Let's see what happens after the break.

Between my last big recap and this one (which is even bigger!), the Braves swept the Phillies - helping out their own cause tremendously, lost two out of three to the Nationals (Remember them?), won two out of three against the Cubs and split a 4-game series in Colorado. What does Patrick's team have coming up? Well, let's see. Among the scheduled games, they have four against the Mets and three in Florida vs. the Marlins in their own division, three in Milwaukee against the Brewers, and then they'll host the Dodgers at home. Not an easy schedule at all. Good luck, Patrick! We'll be watching.

The National League's Central Division, as per usual, has my (almost) undivided attention. Boy, oh boy, has this ever been an interesting division to watch - at least for the first part of this year! The Brewers and Cardinals, for what seems like all year, have been jockeying back and forth for first place, while my Astros were the doormats for this division. Well, a whole lot has happened in the meantime.

The Astros, since my last recap, won 9 games ... nine! (The most of any team in our club. The Phillies equalled that number, but they're not in our club.) We're now at .500, which might not seem like a big deal to you guys, but it took us a long time to get back to that number! As of right this minute, we're tenuously enjoying occupying the 3rd spot in our division, statistically even at .500 with the Cubs, but we've won one more game than they have.

We've got some tough ones coming up after the All Star break, starting out with four against the Dodgers in LA. We took two out of three from them in a series earlier this year, but I haven't the vaguest idea how we did that! We follow that series with three each at home against the (1st place in our division) Cardinals and the Mets. Then, we travel to Chicago and St. Louis, where we'll scheduled to play 4 (one makeup game from a rainout in May) against the Cubs and 3 with the Cardinals. Now, if anyone thinks they have a tougher schedule than this one that the Astros have coming up, I'm listening. Let's hear it!

I've already talked about who all would be facing the Nationals soon so, instead, I'll focus primarily on those upcoming battles that will be within our own division. Except for the Pirates, who have fallen on hard times recently, the rest of the places in our division are really up for grabs ... I mean, the Reds are currently in fifth, but even they are only five games back!

OK, so who's playing whom? And does it matter? Well, yes, it does, particularly when you're playing against teams in your own division. Remember what I said earlier? You have to beat the teams in your own division! And boy, do we have some good matchups coming up!

Outside of my Astros, whom I've already talked about, let's start with Tammy's first place Cardinals. In addition to the one makeup game at Washington, they'll be playing 3 in Philadelphia, 6 against the Stros (3 at home and 3 here in Houston) and four at home against the major-league-leading Dodgers. Their other three are at home against the D'backs, who are presently below .500 but are 7-3 in their last 10 games. (Of those in our National League Central club, the Cardinals have - perhaps - the second 'easiest' schedule, and even it will not be easy!)

Moving on to Chuck's Cubs, who will they be facing? Theirs might be the easiest, but we'll see. They have the four in Washington that I already mentioned, in addition to three each against the Phillies and Marlins in their parks, along with seven at home vs. the Astros (a four-game set, including a makeup rained-out game from May ... sound familiar?) and Reds (three games).

This will definitely be the division to watch in the next couple of weeks!

I won't be doing another post until after the trading deadline which, I believe, is July 31st. Until then, I'm sure that the rumors will be flying fast and furious! I'll try and keep up with some of them, but no promises on this one. (It's not usually an area of interest for me, but I'll try.)

Just one more thing to report before I FInally hit the "Publish Post" button. Have you ever heard of a 'bee delay'? Well, we had one - and it lasted for 52 minutes - out in San Diego earlier this month. Did you hear about it? How strange! There was a swarm of articles written about it. Check out this one for more details about this bizarre event.


Tammy said...

Those Nationals...they have piqued my interest, I must admit. I am so curious how they will be playing in 3 years, 5 years, 10 years. They are quite a new team, are they not? Given some time to grow, I hope their team will rise to their potential.

So the Cardinals will be playing them soon...I'll have to keep my eye on that set of games.

My Yankees. :) :) :) I will not say more than that for fear of being banned from your blog. LOL!

This was a lot of fun to read. Thank you so much, Goldenrod, for pulling this all together. I know you are writing bridge articles, but lady...this was a nice baseball post!! Kudos to you!

Tammy said...

And yes, I've thought of the little predicament of Yankees vs. Cardinals. YIKES. lol

I suppose if I have to, I will root for the Yankees over the Cardinals. :)

Tammy said...

Ok, ONE more comment, lol!

You said something that turned on a lightbulb for me..."The Yankees swept all 3 games against the Jays and have 3 games each scheduled soon with the Orioles and Rays. If either (or both) the Red Sox or Yankees win the majority of their games against their lower-ranked division rivals, the distance between them will widen."

You know...I hadn't really thought of it that way. With a tight race between 2 teams in a division I am guessing that whomever the teams play right at the end could make quite a difference, right? ??? Meaning if one of the teams plays harder (to beat) teams and one of the teams plays easier (to beat) teams, that could really decide the fate of both teams. Hmmm...I'm not sure if I'm thinking this through correctly. I might have to take a look at my fave teams and who they play right at the end of the regular playing season.

Tammy said...

Oh sheesh...one more comment, actually 2 questions:

What exactly is a wild card and what does that mean if a team becomes a wild card team?

When 2 teams become the ones that play in the world series, how is it determined who has home team advantage?

Again, Goldenrod, this post is wonderful. My great grandfather would just love you and your enthusiasm for baseball...but shhhh...don't tell him I'd cheer for the Yankees over the Cardinals. ;)

Craig Peihopa said...

A BEE delay! How intriguing. Your posts are always so interesting.

Goldenrod said...

Oh, Tammy, I get such a kick out of you! The Nationals' owner fired his manager yesterday, so who knows who will be coming on board next as their manager? (He/she - has there ever been a 'she'? [don't think so!] - will be short-lived, I'm almost positive.) They're not a 'new' team - previously the Montreal Expos ... ... however, they have (at least, what would appear at first glance) to be a "young" team. You - as well as probably just about everybody else in the professional baseball-fandom world - are following this team and rooting for them as the underdog, and so you are definitely not all alone here! :)

As far as your next comment is concerned ... I want all of you to know, folks, that Tammy told me (in confidence, but I'm blabbing all!) over the telephone that - if push came to shove, she would root for the Yankees one year and for the Cardinals the next! I mean, does she hedge her bets, or what?!? Her great grandfather is roiling (no misspelling there!) over and over in his grave.

More later on in re the 'wild card' and what that term means for the playoffs, Tammy. (And, I hope that you've gotten a chance to read my latest post.) It sounds like you're getting a really good grasp on what it means to play within your own division.

steven said...

hi goldenrod, you see i called the blue jays right from the get go didn't i?!!! i told you we;d tank somewhere in mid-season when everyone was getting blue jays pennants and hats printed off!!! it would make me cry but i live in a town one hundred kilometres away from the big smoke and toronto hasn';t produced a winning team in any sport in some time so it's no great loss but really . . . . . from top to below 500. what the heck could have gone wrong?!!! see you! steven

Goldenrod said...

Well, Steven ... what COULD have 'gone wrong', as you ask? We're depending on you to tell us!

(Or should we just term you one of the greatest prognosticators of all time?)

Speak, Steven, speak, and tell all!! Into which crystal ball do you magically look and the whole season spreads out before you?

steven said...

well goldenrod, i think that they probably have a section of their contracts that allows them to enjoy as many ballpark 'dogs as they want, (and i'll tell you with some ketchup, mustard and hot peppers they are fantastic!!!) not to mention great buckets of free (eleven dollars to the working poor) beer and that it all went right to their heads and tummy's, thereby "tubbing" them up. i also think that there's something going on in the dressing room. some primadonna (no names mentioned) taking a bit too much limelight and attention away from the team. maybe they'll trade him!!!! ha!!! have a peaceful day steven

Goldenrod said...

I used to listen to the radio a LOT when I was driving a taxi, Steven, and the stories I heard! Man, oh man!! Now that I'm not in the car all of the time, I seldom listen to the radio and think I'm probably a whole lot better off.

I was more than a little disturbed yesterday to hear a national sports talk show host bad-mouth the All Star game. I thought it was a GREAT game! He seemed to think it was one of the worst games ever!! (Wonder if we were watching the same game? Or, perhaps he was just trying to drum up call-in business for his show? No doubt the latter.)

It always seems to be somewhat of a shock when we hear bad things about people we admire ... movie stars, statesmen, sports figures, astronauts, whatevers ... and we discover that they're just real people, after all, with the same proclivities as you and I. Our expectations are too great and somewhat unrealistic, I expect, but still ... ...

I'll be watching the next couple of weeks, and hoping that your Blue Jays can pull themselves out of their doldrums. We've had our own share of talk here in Houston about the Astros ... sky-high egos and prima donnas in the clubhouse, inept manager, trade/no trade, playing/not playing, etc. and blah ... sometimes it's almost enough to make one swear off the sport completely.

Btw, I loved your use of "The Big Smoke" to describe Toronto. Is that a local nickname, or is that a "Steven-ism"? I'll have to try and remember that one. Maybe I'll do a post on that kind of thing later on down the line. I'll start a list of all those I can remember from my many miles on the road with a CB radio in one hand and the steering wheel in the other.

steven said...

ha!! well goldenrod, i'm also a big soccer fan (born in england right) and houston has the top team in major league soccer in north america. did y'all know that?!!!!! so if baseball ever (and you know it won't) but if it ever got to the point you'd walk away from it, there's always soccer . . . ha!!!!! see you, steven

Goldenrod said...

I'm well aware of the fact that the Houston Dynamo* *'have'* dominated the world of professional soccer in North America, and have tried -- Lord knows, I've tried! -- to work up some sort of even tepid enthusiasm for this sport, but I grew up in Canuck (otherwise known as hockey) and football country ... ... always loved to PLAY baseball (still have my mitt!), but the season was too short up there ... ... knew soccer existed, but it was like it was a sport being played on the moon or Mars (or some such) for me - had almost NO relationship whatsoever to my personal life.

[*Dynamo = singular AND plural, according to the Dynamo! Blows my mind, Steven!!]

There's a huMONgous soccer presence here in Houston (a third or more of our population is Hispanic) - almost as big as football! (About the only thing that ties up the 610 'loop' worse than a monster truck rally - you reading this, Tammy? - is a soccer game.)

Baseball comes in a distant fourth, just barely edged out by basketball - and that only, imo, becuz the Rockets have won a couple or three 'world' championships. (You have to go to Indiana or some other part of our country to find basketball listed as #1!)

Last on Houston's list of professional sports? Hockey. Wild, huh? Not that long ago, when the Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup (is that the right term?) and the Houston Aeros won the -------- Cup (sorry, but the name has escaped me entirely!) in the same year, interest in hockey for this area was probably at an all-time high. In fact, many clamorings were heard for "We want our own stadium!" Sound familiar?

Very similar to what the Dynamo have been loudly shouting for the past several months, actually, and it looks like they will finally get one - and not that far from Minute Maid Park downtown, it appears!

Have been going back and forth from this "Leave your comment" section to what's happening in MLB, so my interest has been a bit scattered. As I write this, your Jays are being beaten up on - altho not badly - by the Sox in the 8th in your own park. Tsk, tsk!

One other comment of note for 'our club' about games currently in progress ... ... Patrick's team (the Braves) are WALLOPING the Mets. Go, guys, go!

We (the Astros) have the latest start this evening. We won last night, blanking the Dodgers. What a stranger THAT score was, but I'll take it - go, Astros, go!!