April 2012

Can the Pirates End Futility With Records Like This?

In case you missed it, the Pittsburgh Pirates set a record earlier this week that you just don’t see every year.  Through 18 games, they have not scored more than, nor allowed more than five runs in a single game this season.   Not surprisingly, their record is 8 wins and 10 losses.   In an age of both mindless and meaningless stats, these numbers are actually kind of fun.  Still, this is not the kind of record the Bucs had in mind as they seek to end their string of 19 consecutive losing seasons.  Since this streak is bound to be broken, perhaps as early as this weekend, maybe it is time to guess which path Pittsburgh takes into the rest of 2012:  the solid pitching or the futile hitting?

This optimistic writer says the hitting will pick up and the pitching will continue its solid, if unspectacular results.  The Pirates have enough talent starting with Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker to be an average to above average offensive team.   The patience the organization has shown with Pedro Alvarez can finally be starting to pay off.  The average is a frightening .156 at the moment but he does have four home runs.   Alex Presley has developed into a capable leadoff hitter.  They will score their fair share of runs and probably strikeout more than you would like but as the weather warms up so will the bats.

On the pitching side, the starters have enough guts and guile to get the team over the magic .500 mark.  The staff of  Erik Bedard, Charlie Morton, AJ Burnett, James McDonald and Kevin Corriea (along with the injured Jeff Karstens) are not dominators but as evidenced by the first 10% of the season, will keep the Pirates in every game.  There is no reason why as a group they can’t win at a minimum of 60 games.  Joel Hanrahan is a rock-solid closer and Juan Cruz and Evan Meek are steady setup men.  The pitchers will do their part to keep the team competitive.

While this is hardly the year of the Bucs, they will break their sub-.500 slide in 2012.  Baseball fans of all stripes will celebrate the return to respectability of one of the game’s most storied franchises.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Don’t Mess with Texas; Rangers Will Find Out Third Time is the Charm

Yes, I know the Yankees just finished  beating up the Rangers 7-4 in Arlington, the first of three games in the Lone Star State between two of the American League favorites.  I don’t care if New York  sweeps this series, it is Texas who is the better team.  They are after all, 13-4 having just defeated the Tigers three out of four in Detroit.  And it is my belief that after two straight World Series defeats, the Rangers will bring home the first Championship in club history.

My favorite moment of this season took place this past Saturday.  My youngest was having nap issues so I decided to rock him a little bit around 1:15 that afternoon.  The 1 PM games had just started; the first game I spotted was Tigers-Rangers.  At that point it was 4-0 Texas, still batting with the bases loaded and nobody out in the first inning.  Yes, that is how good this Rangers ballclub is.  If they don’t club you to death, it’s their pitchers working quickly and efficiently and before you know it, you lose 6-2.  Before tonight’s game, the pitching staff had surrendered five runs in a game only once.  Meanwhile, the offense has reached double digits four times already. 

The Rangers also seem to be a team that has been slighted despite their accomplishments since the beginning of 2010.  After they lost that season’s World Series, people wondered if they had the toughness to get back.  They proved it the next year coming within one strike of the Championship.  The media then swooned as other clubs made splashier offseason headlines, most notably the Angels, Marlins and Tigers.  Coming out of Spring Training, the question centered around Texas’s ability to bounce back after such a crushing defeat in the World Series.  I think we know how that was answered.  It is about time people stop doubting them and believe that this is one of the best (if not the best) organizations in the game.

Wake up people.  The center of the baseball universe is not in New York and Boston.   While those teams may be good, the track record of the Rangers over the past two seasons and change indicates they are the class of the American League.  Come November, these Resilient Rangers will have one more name to be called:  Champions. 

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Farewell to This Week in Baseball

When something that you grew up with suddenly ceases to exist, it feels as though a part of your childhood dies with it.  Such is the case with “This Week in Baseball” which  after 34 years on the air, is gone for good.  Slow ratings had doomed the program which has been replaced by something called MLB Player Poll.  I know one thing, this new show will not be able to live up to the legacy of TWIB.

There wasn’t a weekend afternoon in the Summer that did not go by without me turning on WPIX Channel 11 and finding the great Mel Allen start each broadcast with a quick recap of what was happening in the world of Major League Baseball.   The show’s opening and closing melodies are iconic tunes that will live forever.  Each week I looked forward to those spectacular plays in the field as well as the hilarious bloopers that showed us kids that even the pros do silly thing during a game. 

And now it is gone.  Probably the reason for low ratings is that there was neither a consistent time slot nor a weekly guaranteed viewing.  In the later years, I recall that it was shown before the FOX Game of the Week.  The time that game started yo-yoed from season to season.  Also, for two weeks we would get TWIB and then maybe it wouldn’t be shown for another month.  No program could survive a schedule like that.  I am sure kids enjoyed it just as much as I did when I first saw it 30 years ago.  The format changed and there was no Mel Allen but it was still a quality show. 

TWIB and “The Baseball Bunch” hosted by Johnny Bench were awesome shows for young, impressionable fans like me.  I would love to see a network start a similar weekly program so that future fans can have the enjoyment I had.  As Mel might say, “How about that”!


Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

The Mets Still Can’t Score for Johan Santana

Well, the more things change, the more things stay the same.  So far, the New York Mets have scored a grand total of 0 runs in the 10 innings that Johan Santana has pitched this season.  Ever since he became a Met in 2008, it seems as though they have scored no more than three runs in any of his starts.   How frustrating it must be for the lefty knowing that he has to pitch a shutout every time out in order to pad his win total.

Some other random thoughts regarding the first week in Major League Baseball:

Tim Lincecum:  Yikes.  While it is too early to say if “The Freak” is on the way down (he is only 27) his first two starts of this season coupled with some dismal final 2011 outings should be caused for concern.  He was roughed up again last night in Colorado and now sports an ERA over 15.00 for 2012.  His numbers against the Arizona Diamondbacks since 2011 are ghastly, a big problem considering the Giants will be trying to beat out Arizona for the NL West title.

Reds lock up cornerstones.  Cincinnati gave generous extensions to Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, committing over $300 million dollars to the pair.  There will be stability and fan favorites on the right side of the diamond through at least 2017.  This is an important step to show fans in the Queen City that ownership plans  to be competitive for the rest of this decade.

Blue Skies Again.  After winning their first two series of the young season,  perhaps this is the year the Blue Jays finally return to the upper portion of the American League East.  The offense is not the issue and neither is staff ace Ricky Romero.  If  Kyle Drabek  and Brandon Morrow can give the team between 25 and 30 wins, Toronto could find themselves in the playoffs. 

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com








MLB Extra Innings Worth Every Penny

For the 2012 season, I am going to make a first time purchase, something I probably should have done years ago.  For the low price of $179, I am going to order MLB Extra Innings which will allow me to see as many baseball games as humanly possible for the next seven months.   

Since I have been able to watch the New York Yankees and the New York Mets, Sunday night games on ESPN and since 2009 games on MLB Network, I really didn’t feel as though there was a need to get the Extra Innings package.  However, since I now write a blog about the Arizona Diamondbacks at www.venomstrikes.com, I feel I should watch (at least three or four innings given the time difference) the team I cover.

Another great reason to order Extra Innings can be summed up in two words:  Vin Scully.  Now entering his 62nd year covering the Los Angeles Dodgers,  Scully remains a national treasure and a joy to listen to even if he only broadcasts games west of the Rockies.   Dick Enberg announcing games for the San Diego Padres is also a treat for baseball fans.  I look forward to catching a glimpse of every team every night of the week from now until October.

Hopefully, I have done good job of selling you on the merits of ordering Extra Innings.  I have already convinced my pal Anthony M. to pick it up for another season.  He was on the fence but after I told him how much I was going to enjoy it for the first time, he got it for 2012.  I’ll check back periodically to give an opinion on other teams’ television announcers as well as my overall satisfaction with Extra Innings.  Until then, enjoy Opening Night.


Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and at www.venomstrikes.com


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