Archive for October, 2011

I Don’t Believe What I Just Saw

Posted: October 28, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in Uncategorized

What happened last night?

Although I didn’t have even a corner of alcohol, I woke up today feeling like I had a wild ride last night that even Harold & Kumar would’ve been proud of. The St. Louis Cardinals have taken baseball out of just the realm of September magic, and turned it into a WrestleMania-level run of drama over the last month. However, it seems apparently that the best is being saved for nearly last. All I know is that I’m nearly spent, and there’s still 27 outs left before there is a king of the baseball hill for 2011.

Maybe I can’t really remember what happened because it was so unlikely. There’s no way that a guy that had struggled to even get 3 pitches deep into at-bats for most of the series (David Freese) would step up to the plate and not only live out one of the biggest backyard dreams that a kid can have (World Series…bottom of the 9th…two strikes…etc.), but then deliver on it, and come back two innings later AND DO IT AGAIN!!! No way, that didn’t happen.

Maybe it’s because the Cardinals as a team broke basically every rule you can in winning a game, yet still no only lived to fight another day, but have taken a definite swing to snatch control of not only the series, but the entire city of St. Louis. Over the course of about an hour, an entire fan base died slow and cancerous death sponsored in part by back-to-back Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz home runs, the joy of the Freese “Oh my God, did that really happen” triple & then a Kirk Gibson-like Josh Hamilton homer. The Hamilton homer snatch the life out of my chest like how I only imagine getting tapped on the shoulder and shot with a bazooka as soon as I woke up in the morning would. All of that before the shot that damn near had to get Busch Stadium’s wall rebuilt by Freese went down. This all happen in the course of one hour tops. Wow.

The Hometown hero Freese basically told every kid that has baseball's biggest dreams that they are possible last night...all at once.

Or maybe it’s the fact that a damn near knocked myself out cold celebrating the Freese hit. After the double by Albert Pujols in yet another of his now ritual “Last at-bats as a St. Louis Cardinal”, followed by Lance Berkman continuing to be greatest bargain in Cardinal history, I was about as nervous as I’d ever been watching anything. I was literally shaking when he hit that ball into right field and it crashed off the wall. I jumped up in my living room, yelled like the Ultimate Warrior and then it got interesting.

Next is the reason it’s always good to watch sports with other fans:

Due to the lack of anybody to high five, hug or just yell with in my house, I decided to party with the 8 foot wooden door that’s at the front of my house. For some reason, I decided to bash my head into it full speed as a way to get all of the

Me in my living room, last night. It was so worth it though.

“Hell Yeah” out of me that had just got created. I was so pumped up from this moment of pure, raw fanhood, that I didn’t even feel that fact I’d split my forehead up like Ric Flair from his NWA days. I sat there and watched the entire next at-bat before I realized I’d done this, and instead of getting up to look into it, I just tweeted the details of it because I couldn’t imagine missing a pitch. Good thing I was in a different room when the game winner was hit, because this wouldn’t be getting written I’d imagine if I’d tried that stunt again.

But things like this don’t happen right? Teams don’t go from 10.5 games out of being the last team in (and making me want to smack my head against a door for a completely different reason) to being 27 outs away from the most unbelievable feeling in the world? This is all a dream and it’s not real.

There’s a lot that’s going on. Chris Carpenter taking the hill mostly likely for the third time in the series, looking for a second masterful performance to close out a series this October. A charged up lineup, stadium and city taking on a Rangers club that is never out of it either. I would be remise to not acknowledge the continuing parade of “Pujols last at-bats”, so ceremonially & annoyingly introduced by Grand Marshall Joe Buck. The drama that is Allen Craig, Jason Motte and Freese and the other all or nothing nature of the young Redbirds. The struggle of Matt Holliday to make due in the field and at the plate could have another nine innings to grimace through as well. Me making sure I don’t randomly pass out…there’s a lot going on tonight.

But if I’m actually unconscious from last night right now, and none of this REALLY happened, let me chill for a while longer…at least until flag number 11 is on its way to the sky above Busch. That’s all I want…and an Aspirin.

For more on my moment-to-moment analysis of my struggle towards a Cardinals’ ‘Ship, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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YOU GOTTA STFU….Outta the Blue “Fans”

Posted: October 25, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB, Uncategorized

Welcome!

It seems that in the last week or so, my favorite sport of them all has received an amazing boost in popularity! It’s so awesome to see things that I care so deeply about be shared with so many other people. I would expect that with this new boost in interest that there would be a lot more insight, in-game discussion and should set the beginning of next year up as an even better season of baseball…especially out of Texas. Right?

Wrong.

No, somehow one of the greatest sporting events in the world has become a civic pride parade for an entire segment of society that didn’t give a damn about it for the other 7 months the season has been going on. Tell you what, if you want to come out the sports closet & show your “pride” for where you’re from, go vote for Rick Perry. Really put Texas on the map again. But leave the World Series to folks that have a real interest in what it’s really about: BASEBALL.

It would be different if this was about the game, or the folks putting on for Texas were actually doing it for the game. But these same rooters only pop up when something has happened that says the Rangers are really going to win. You’re completely ready to win for your state, but not ready to lose with them, because “you don’t really care about baseball” or “I’m just here to put on for Texas”. If this was the Miss America pageant or a rodeo, cool; let’s go state. But that’s not what this is, it’s a baseball game and there are real and committed fans on the other end that aren’t about hearing that. This is our team, at the highest level of competition in something that we’ve struggled and thrived with on a roller coaster for a while now, so new folks jumping into the fray at the last second to toss around some of the worst moments of the season in our face like it’s a literal victory for something they give a damn about is mad disrespectful.

There's been a lot of celebrating the Rangers....that has nothing to do with the Rangers. I call bullshit.

That brings it to what is the worst part of it all: it’s BASEBALL! I thought the agreed upon rhetoric is that NOBODY can possibly care about baseball. It’s so slow and boring and dreadful thing imaginable. Surely there are root canals better than watching baseball, so why show up and cheer for a victory in the dental surgery of sports? The Cowboys just beat the Rams to pull back to 3-3, cheer for that. However, as shocking as it may be, there are actually us who absolutely LOVE baseball’s root canal and willing go back for more six days a week, all summer. So get the hell out the way and let us enjoy our pain.

One of the great fallacies of sports is that there are fans of it. Do I expect everyone to know the entire history or even current roster of their favorite team? Nope. Do I expect you to recall every moment of every game all year? Of course not. Then I’d be expecting you to be me, and I’m better than that. But what I do expect is that if you’re going to throw your hat into the ring of cheering for a team, you know something about it that doesn’t require Google or Joe Buck to tell you about it. Otherwise, you’re about as equipped to come at us over our fanhood as George Bush was to run the country (thanks for that by the way).

The worst part about this is that I could substitute out the team & sport of this and reapply it to many different scenarios of immacutlate conceptions of “fanbases” when the stakes are the highest in the season. You’re terrorist bombers to the foundation of what makes sports great for fans: true allegiance to your team.

In the end, some of you don’t get it, and I shouldn’t expect you to. It’s not just limited to this series, but it’s an issue across board: non-fans don’t understand being one. Folks put their real emotions behind their teams. It’s bigger than putting on for where you’re from, because for as many people as big up Texas as the greatest country in the United States (and yes, I said that right), those same folks walk away from the mention of Tony Romo or the death penalty or the Astros. For real fans, it’s not like that. I take Albert Pujols and Nick Punto with the same grain of salt, because I have to because they both are Cardinals. Not Missouri, but Cardinals.

Fanhood isn’t something you just casually jump in and out of. We could give a damn less why you’re just showing up right now, but don’t have the audacity to say “we” like you have anything to do with the real Rangers fans that are a step away from legitimate joy of nearly a two year dream on the verge of coming true. And also, miss me with the “it’s just sports” claims. It’s never “just” anything when you really invest yourself in something and support it no matter what. If that’s how we’re playing it:

When your car gets broken into, it’s just a car. You’ll get another one.

Your boyfriend is knocking down your best friend? Ouch, go get a new one of each. Billions of people out here you know. Billions of people out here.

When you get fired, it’s just a job. There’s tons of them out here.

You flunked a class? Just take it again, they’ll keep teaching it.

Your dog got ran over by a tractor? Tough breaks, go buy another one that looks like it.

You see what that is? Those are things in your life you could care about that I just jumped in at the last second to let you know they don’t matter. And you know what? I’m happy it’s happening to. I hope somebody from Missouri is the reason it’s going down too, so I can “put on for Missouri”. I’ve got no problem losing, but I do have a problem with the tomb robbers celebrating like they earned their keep.

If I did that, it’d be bullshit and until you realize you’re doing the same thing…

You gotta STFU.

Follow me on Twitter for more on what the strive and struggle of a man who’s team is on Death Row at @CheapSeatFan.

NFL Week 7 FEARLESS PREDICTIONS

Posted: October 22, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NFL
Tags: , ,

Fearless Predictions didn’t make it to print last week here, which is a shame because it was a great week in the “crystal ball of football picks” business. However, have no fear, here’s the recap for those of you keeping score a home, before we get into this weekend’s business.

Winners: Falcons, Bengals, Packers, Giants, Steelers, Eagles, Raiders, Ravens, Patriots, Bears, Jets

Losers: Lions, Buccaneers

The Lions/49ers tilt was surprising on several levels, but it proved if there was any doubt about the Niners, it should be put to rest. And the post game Jim Harbaugh/Jim Schwartz antics made it even better. Wouldn’t mind those two team (and coaches) getting a second shot at each other, of either the figurative or literal variety.

Stafford and the Lions have to pick up the pieces and show they can comeback as good as they get ahead this week.

The Buccaneers are beginning to be a big time day and night club. After getting roasted by 45 on the road in week 5, they came back to Florida and stopped the Saints and many of Drew Brees best shots to pull off a win and move back to the top of the NFC South.

In review, last week’s picks went for an 11-2 mark, bringing the total season record to 55-22 (71%) on the year here in Fearless Predictions. Week 6’s correct picks were decided by a total of 132 points, while the losses by only 12.

Week 7 Premier Matchups

Game of the Week #1 – Atlanta Falcons (3-3) at Detroit Lions (5-1): The Lions were undeniable the first five weeks of the year, but got turned back in frustrating game against the 49ers for their first loss last week. On the other side of the ball, frustrating is the word of the year for the Falcons, as they have been unable to get any sort of consistency in any part of their game all year. They are still tough at home, but have looked like they don’t know what to do on the road. Ford Field has become one of the rowdiest fields in the NFL, and the Lions will come out fast to avenge their first setback of the year. Lions win.

Read more at Suite101: NFL Week 7 Fearless Predictions | Suite101.com http://matt-whitener.suite101.com/nfl-week-7-fearless-predictions-a394162#ixzz1bYcos0xb

To follow me following each game this Sunday and all the rest, catch me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Any award named after Willie Mays has to be something legit. In the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, the honors to each top rookie in each league is taken after him, and rightfully so. Long before he became arguably the greatest player to ever throw on a cap, he was a promising young talent in the New York Giants outfield, putting up a modest by his soon to be standard .274/20/68 season, with seven stolen bases and of course fine glove work tossed in.

All of the nominees this year had better starts to their tenure than the Say Hey Kid did. Now it’s up to them to take it from here and reach the stars, which is where Willie sits the highest now. However, this year, since both winners jobs is to miss bats rather than connect with them, preventing future Mays’ from taking over would be more up their modus operandi. So without further ado, the CHEAP SEATS presents the National & American League Rookies of the Year for the concluding 2011 season.

2011 NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Craig Kimbrel – Atlanta Braves

Kimbrel's 127 strikeouts led all relievers & were good for a 14 per nine innings average.

Kimbrel showed the promise last year, and delivered on it fully this time around. In a brief stop through Atlanta last fall, he blew away everything he faced to the tone of a 0.44 ERA in just over 20 innings. This was good enough for the Braves to both let potential Hall of Famer Billy Wagner to walk off into his retirement plans without much objection, as well as ignore the plethora of closers on the market last winter. Instead place the game ending fate of their season in the 23-year-old righty’s hands, and the investment paid off at a record-setting pace. His 46 saves set the Major League record for the most by a rookie, and he did so in a dominant fashion. His 127 strikeouts were good for tops in the MLB by a reliever and his 34 consecutive scoreless innings were the longest streak in baseball this season.

2011 AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Jeremy Hellickson – Tampa Bay Rays

Hellickson delivered on the promise he showed in his brief 4-0 call up last year over 29 2011 starts.

On the AL side, Hellickson began the year as a backend starter, which while having the standing as one of the best prospects in the game, was only to be counted on in a limited fashion. However, by the end of the season , he was taking the ball in an amazing pull from behind by his club and was instrumental in sending them to the Playoffs. In his first full year, his record broke even at 12-12, but in the brutal American League East, he kept his ERA under three runs a contest, at 2.95 which was the 8th best total in the league. It was a baptism under fire for the young hurler, and even in one of the league’s best rotations he stood shoulder to shoulder with them all.

LEFT ON DECK…

In the NL, Vance Worley had a late call up, but was just effective as his more celebrated rotation mates for a stretch of the season. He arguably became a major bonus to the Phillies league-best rotation, winning 11 games overall. At one point, the Phillies won 14 consecutive games started by Worley. In Atlanta, Freddie Freeman, became a much needed consistent bat in an up-and-down Braves lineup. He led all NL rookies in RBI and batting average, and rode a 20 game hit streak across July & August.

Eric Hosmer proved that he was everything he was touted to be after making his Major League debut as the Kansas City Royals first baseman. He led all Major League rookies in hits and batting average, including 19 homers and an impressive .293 lineup. It didn’t take him long to become the best hitter in the Royals lineup, and it’s a role he’ll inhabit for a long time to come. Ivan Nova became the much needed second starter the shaky Yankees rotation needed. He won 16 games on the year, and was especially crucial in making it possible for the Yanks to wrap up the East the way they did. After returning from a June injury, he five wins in August & a September ERA of 2.67.

2011 CSP MLB Awards Season Recap thus far

NL/AL Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson & Joe Maddon

NL/AL Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel & Jeremy Hellickson

Up Next: Reliever of the Year…

For more on this and the unbelievable MLB postseason taking off right now, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

NFL Week 5 FEARLESS PREDICTIONS

Posted: October 9, 2011 by The Cheap Seat Fan in NFL
Tags: , , ,

It’s a new week around the NFL, but before moving ahead, here’s a look at what was, and what a week it was in week 4. Statements were made around the League, of both the good and bad variety. The Champs flexed their muscles, the team that was crowned the kings to be got its imaginary crown knocked off its head both on the field and off and an early season juggernaut took the fight to Texas non-stop. Plus, it was a rebound week here in Fearless Predictions. After barely leaving with a winning record in week 3, several of these aforementioned games steady the ship and gave the crystal ball of football “knowledge” a much needed credibility boost.

The predicted winners included the Green Bay Packers, who showed why they are still the best team in the game a year after bringing the Lombardi Trophy home, behind five Aaron Rodgers touchdowns, including two running. Down in Dallas, the Detroit Lions proved they are the real deal without a doubt, making their second huge comeback in as many weeks when they hawked down the Cowboys after being behind 24 points at one point. In the not so positive column, the Philadelphia Eagles were knocked off by the San Francisco 49ers, and then pleaded to be held to a lower standard that reflects the 1-3 squad that they currently are.

Overall, 11 winners were picked last week, with the Ravens, Bears, Titans, Saints, Giants, Falcons, Chargers, Patriots and Buccaneers also pulling their weight.

The five losses joining the Cowboys and Eagles picks were the Bills taking their first loss of the year to the Bengals no less. The Vikings couldn’t outscore the league’s lowest scoring club in a loss in Kansas City, and the beat up Rams couldn’t hold off the Redskins.

Overall, last week’s forecasts ended up with an 11-5 mark that pulled the overall season record in Fearless Predictions to a 44-20 standing. Week 4’s 11 correct picks were decided by a combined 121 points, with the five losses totaling 20 points.

D-Jax and the Eagles have to find a way to get right soon or the critics (and soon their fans) will keep raining down on em.

Game of the Week #1 – Philadelphia Eagles (1-3) at Buffalo Bills (3-1): A month ago, you’d look at these records and say they were put on the wrong teams. But sure enough, the Bills, even after a setback in Cincinnati a week ago, sit among the league’s best, while the Eagles have lost three straight and are have even began writing themselves off. The Bills have already proven they can knock off one of the League’s most talented clubs in the Patriots, but this is a different challenge….

Read more at Suite101: NFL Week 5 Fearless Predictions | Suite101.com http://matt-whitener.suite101.com/nfl-week-5-fearless-predictions-a392414#ixzz1aIoE1Ksk

Welcome back to CSP’s MLB year-end Awards nod series. Here’s a quick review of where we are so far in my Baseball Bloggers Alliance year-end awards ballot so far:

NL Manager of the Year:  Kirk Gibson

The American League was a roller coaster of a League this year, with pennant races coming and going across the board. For most of the year, at the very least, two clubs could have taken the title in each division. In the end, a dark horse, perennial underrated club may have scored the biggest coup of the entire season, and despite having a nearly constantly uncertain situation around his club all year, Tampa Bay’s master strategist once again made overcoming the odds (and walls of money) in front of his club and reached the promised land of October baseball again.

 

2011 American League Manager of the Year: Joe Madden – Tampa Bay Rays

Mad Men: In a career that has been defined by being the underdog that made it, Maddon may have done more with less than ever in '11.

The nod for the AL edition of the Connie Mack Award goes to guy that is virtually the opposite of his award namesake. While Mack pushed some of the highest paid teams of his day with many of the brightest stars of the day, Madden’s Rays were the ultimate David’s in the double Goliath AL East. After an offseason where he had no choice but to watch many of his best players from his previous two postseason clubs either walk away (Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafeal Soriano) or be dealt (Matt Garza, Jason Bartlett). Overall, he was charged with rebuilding a team within the game’s most competitive division. Not an easy charge.

Early on it looked to be a loss cause too. Manny Ramirez was intended to be a stop-gap bat to add some experience to the young Rays. Instead he was suspended for the second time for performance enhancing drugs for 100 games, and retired. At the same time the team started 0-6, and had to battle through an injury to its best player in Evan Longoria at the same time. But by the end of the month, they pulled over .500 and that was the just the opening act of a season defined by perseverance.

The Rays entered September down nine games, but put the pressure on a collapsing Red Sox team and put themselves in position to make their year-long foe’s failure complete, nearly immediately. Longoria hit a walk off home run to cap Madden’s most remarkable managing job to date. In a season where he had to take the wheel of a nearly completely rebuilt team, pull off an almost immediate salvage job out the gates and still pulled them into the playoffs with the 29th ranked payroll in the game, Maddon is the class of the game for good reason.

LEFT ON DECK

This year the name of the Detroit Tigers has been synonymous to Justin Verlander, and for good reason. But there was a lot more to the AL Central champs than just him. Jim Leyland formed them into a team that was characterized by a steady, non-relenting approach, followed up by a killer instinct in the end. Leyland did a masterful job of not only tracking down the Cleveland Indians, who controlled the Central for much of the first half of the year, but also guiding the team into complete shutdown mode during a 14 game winning streak that sealed the deal for the team winning its first ever AL Central title.

The Texas Rangers followed up their run to the World Series with a tough start to the 2011 year. Injuries of all sorts plagued the team’s most critical members, and they were locked in an up and down fight with the Los Angeles Angels for control in the West. However, Ron Washington rallied his troops in the month’s final season to a 19-6 record, including picking up a crucial sweep in LA and the Rangers won their second straight West title.

 

For balloting purposes: 1) Joe Maddon, 2) Jim Leyland, 3) Ron Washington

 

For more on CSP’s award picks and constant descent into MLB Playoff madness, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

In a major move for what my main passion is in the sports writing game, I was accepted recently to the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. This means my articles will be featured with many of the most prominent baseball writers on the internet in a network of many, many sites around the country (Clap For ME!!!). A pretty decent move for a guy that started a blog as a way to drift away from a job I loathed, and have watched it grow into a network of sites that I write out my thoughts for now. The mission to end up with that Hall of Fame vote before I get out of here continues.

As for now, it’s about getting the info across, and recapping what we’ve seen from the all-inclusive baseball season. It’s time for awards season, and this year, with my inclusion in the BBA, my awards articles will serve as my ballots towards the whole Alliance’s year end awards.

Up first, is the best war general of the year from both sides of the game, which is honored with the Connie Mack Manager of the Year. We’ll start with the National League, where the best of the year all are guys just getting their cleats wet in new surroundings this year, but pulled off some impressive statements all around, with a couple of them building for the future at the same time.

Connie Mack won 3,731 times...lets just say we aren't requiring quite that much to win the award in his honor here.

In the end however, a guy that is very familiar with memorable and dramatic moments, adds yet another impressive hurdle to his record.

 

2011 National League Manager of the Year: Kirk Gibson – Arizona Diamondbacks

A year ago, the only thing the Diamondbacks led baseball in was swings and misses, and they whiffed their way into last place in a division that eventually produced the World Series champions in the San Francisco Giants. What a difference a year can make. While new General Manager Kevin Towers got much of the winter press for what he shipped out and brought back in, it took Kirk Gibson to push this club from the outhouse to the penthouse in the NL West, and bring the first division title to Arizona since 2007 in first year as a big league head honcho.

Gibson tightened his belt in the desert and brought a 29-game improvement & a division title as well.

The young D’Backs made their first major impact in May, winning 18 of 22 games from May 14 to June 4th, and sat only 3 games back of the Giants at the All-Star Break. Then they really shifted into gear on all cylinders. Justin Upton smacked 30 home runs in route to becoming a legit MVP candidate. Ian Kennedy led the NL in wins and the club eventually distanced itself out to 8 game margin of victory in the West. They did this displaying the toughness and fire that their manager played a full career with. Nobody was checking for the D’Backs in April (least of all here in CSP’s preview for the West). But they won out a division with the defending World Series champions in San Francisco, a Dodgers team with a Triple Crown candidate at the plate, and a Triple Crown winner on the mound, as well as scrappy and tough Rockies & Padres teams.

For rising up one of the biggest afterthoughts and rebuilding projects in the game from last to first in just one season, Gibson deserves to be the class of managers in the NL this year.

Left on Deck

For the rest of the contenders, Ron Roenicke also took to the bench for his first MLB year as a manager, and pushed an aggressive Brewers club to their first division title in 29 years, behind dual MVP candidates in Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, and one of the best overall rotations in the game. They were nearly invincible at home, with their 57-24 record being the best in the game. Not only did they separate from a close race throughout most of the first half, they ran away and hid and have a legit shot at the team’s first championship still.

In D.C., Davey Johnson took an injured Nationals squad that was missing it’s best hitter (Ryan Zimmerman), best pitcher (Steven Strasberg) and a big name signing that was largely M.I.A. (Jayson Werth), and pulled it to its best finish since its first year moving to the states. This was a team that was supposed to be terrible even at full strength, and somehow ended up being better than it had been in sometime. That’s coaching at it’s finest.

For balloting purposes: 1) Gibson, 2) Roenicke, 3) Johnson

 

Up next on the Award Tour: American League Connie Mack Award Winner…

 

Follow me on Twitter for more on everything around one of the most exciting finishes to baseball in recent memory at @CheapSeatFan.