It’s that time of year. The leaves are turning. Our jackets emerge from their summer naps. Everything is¬†pumpkin spiced. Most importantly, though,¬†the marathon Major League Baseball¬†season ends in an all-out October sprint. It’s a baseball writer’s¬†Christmas. This year, we’ve collectively picked 7 of the 10 MLB Playoff teams to win it all. And, perhaps counter to intuition, none of us liked¬†MLB’s best regular-season team to advance past the Championship Series.¬†Go figure, right? Baseball can be crazy like that sometimes.
So, to explain the mind behind the madness, we present the Bugs & Cranks 2014 MLB Playoff Predictions:
Oakland over Kansas City – Everything’s up-to-date in Kansas City! Now they get to feel crushing playoff defeats like the rest of us.
Pittsburgh over San Francisco – The one-game play-in play-off is no good very bad, because this would be a fun series. Pirates because they won in 1971, and I like playing the ’71 Pirates in Diamond Mind.
Los Angeles over St. Louis – By Grathbar’s Hammer, Niedenfuer will be avenged!
Baltimore over Detroit – Neither team trips my trigger as an elite squad. However, the Tigers are relying on Joe Nathan to close out games. I don’t think a AAA team would want Nathan as their closer in the playoffs.
Oakland over the LA Angels – You know, the baseball sharps and pundits and narrative writers will say a lot about momentum and crap. Screw them and their pre-made stories and lazy analysis. Team Oakland!
Pittsburgh over Washington – Again with the narrative. Buster Olney’s already insufferable about how well Washington has pitched over the past month. Dude, it won’t be September anymore. Baseball is fickle. Stop with the narrative!
Oakland over Baltimore – I can see the Oakland team, with their elite pitching, win playoff games because they’ll shut people down. Yes, actual baseball analysis here.
Los Angeles over Pittsburgh – Kershaw and Greinke will make Pittsburgh all cranky. Sorry…
Oakland over Los Angeles – Again, just to tell the narrative writers and Beane haters to stuff it!
OAK @ KC – Oakland’s not used to playing the overachiever. And the role doesn’t suit them. The Royals will win this and the ghost of Dick Howser will rise from the fountains and barbecue sauce will flow in the streets. Sticky.
SF @ PIT – The Giants, surprised to learn that Pittsburgh still has a team, will fly across the country and stay at the TraveLodge near the Monroeville Mall, made famous in¬†Dawn of the Dead. Raise the Jolly Rancher! Bucs win.
DET @ BAL – Everyone in baseball is terrified of the Tigers, but it took them all year to shake Kansas City off their backs. Nobody should ever pick against Detroit. But for absolutely no good reason, I am. O’s win.
KC @ ANA – You know who was from Anaheim? Richard Nixon. Well, maybe not Anaheim proper. He was from Yorba Linda, right next door. And you know what President Nixon knew how to do? 1) win. 2) kick people’s asses. I didn’t like Nixon and I don’t like Mike Scioscia. But the good guys don’t always win. My pick: the Angels.
STL @ LA – The Cardinals are the handsome, polite guest who tips the maitre’d. The Dodgers don’t wear a dinner jacket and have to borrow one. The Cards order the red snapper Livornese. The Dodgers bring a bag of Carl’s Jr., into the restaurant. Winner: Dodgers.
PIT @ WAS – Hahahahaha! Nats.
BAL @ ANA – If the Angels borrow Oakland’s uniforms, they might beat Baltimore. But¬†Scioscia can’t squeeze his XXL ass into Bob Melvin’s M pants. O’s win the pennant.
LA @ WAS – Hahahahaha! Nats again.
WAS @ BAL – 38 miles separate Nats Park and Camden Yards. But since there’s no subway between DC and Baltimore, let’s call this the Above-Ground Commuter Train Series. Or the Gladys¬†Noon¬†Spellman Parkway Series. Or the Liveable City With Affordable Housing versus the Ridiculously Expensive and Congested City Series. Or the Decades-Old Heroin Problem Series. Whatever you want. Orioles.
Pittsburgh over the G-Men in the wild card game.
LA over St. Louis 3-2 in the LDS. Can’t beat Kershaw twice in a five-game set.
Washington over Pittsburgh 3-1.
NLCS — LA 4-3. Again, Kershaw the difference.
KC over Oakland in the wild card. It’s been 29 years since there was a playoff game in Kansas City, the players will feed off of that energy.
Detroit over Baltimore in the LDS, 3-2. The Tigers have superior starting pitching, and the big boys will earn their money while the bullpen watches.
KC over the Angels 3-2. The Royals have better pitching and defense and are a very good road team.
ALCS — KC over Detroit, 4-3 setting up what would have been a hell of a Fall Classic in 1977.
World Series — Pitching and defense win championships. And I just have a feeling the likes of Billy Butler and Omar Infante are going to take it to another level in October. KC 4-2.
Series MVP — Norichika Aoki.
AL Wild Card: Oakland
NL Wild Card: San Francisco
NLDS: St. Louis
NLCS: San Francisco
Final: San Francisco
I always go with my doppleganger, Tim Lincecum, when making playoff predictions. Lincecum, if you’re reading this, please cut your frigging hair. I had this coif first. It’s getting to the point that when I go the salon for a trim my stylist asks, “Do you want the Big Time Timmy Jim?” Enough is enough, dude. It’s my hairstyle and I want it back. Or, if your team wins the World Series, gimme your ring. It’s only fair.
ALWC:¬†Hard to tell which smelled worse in September, the Oakland Coliseum or the team occupying it. KC wins
NLWC:¬†I’ll take the Pirates¬†to beat San Francisco.
ALDS 1: Every year, Detroit walks into the playoffs high and mighty and I think to myself, ‚Äúcertainly they‚Äôll fustigate all comers!‚ÄĚ And every year, they fall flat on their high-priced, MVP-stealing faces. I’M NOT GOING TO LET YOU FOOL ME AGAIN THIS YEAR, DETROIT! I’ll take Baltimore¬†to win.
ALDS 2: I would really love to say KC is going to walk up to Los Angeles de Los Angeles de Anheheim (as my espanol amigos say)¬†and punch them on the nose. I would really love to say it… but I won’t. Halos win.
NLDS 1: I’m torn here, because St. Louis just seems to win in the playoffs against all dictates of logic and reason. Kersh is just too damn good, though, to let the redbirds steal another series. I’ll go with the Dodgers.
NLDS 2: I feel I owe it to Anthony Rendon, after the numbers he put up for me in fantasy this year, to take Washington over Pittsburgh.
ALCS: Call me stupid, but I got a hunch Los Angeles peaked just a tad too early. Baltimore in 6.
NLCS: Kershaw, Kershaw, Kershaw! Dodgers take the pennant.
World Series: The Dodgers’ top-shelf pitchers are better than Baltimore’s top-shelf pitchers. So are their top sluggers. I really would love for Baltimore to win, but I just can’t see it, especially depleted as they are. The Dodgers win it all.
NL Wild Card: Pirates beat Giants
NLDS: Nationals beat Pirates; Dodgers beat Cardinals
NLCS: Nationals beat Dodgers
AL Wild Card: Royals beat A‚Äôs
ALDS: Royals beat Angels; Orioles beat Tigers
ALCS: Orioles beat Royals
World Series: Nationals beat Orioles, damn it
Kansas City over Oakland
San Fran over Pittsburgh
Kansas City over Angels (5)
Detroit over Baltimore (5)
San Fran over Washington (4)
Dodgers over Cardinals (5)
Detroit over Kansas City (5)
Dodgers over San Fran (4)
Dodgers over Detroit (6)
MVP – Kershaw
ALWC – Royals edge A’s
ALDS – Angels over Royals
ALDS – Orioles over Tigers
NLWC – Giants over Pirates
NLDS – Dodgers beat Cardinals
NLDS – Nationals over Giants
World Series: Nationals over Orioles
Wild Cards: SF & OAK
Divisional Series:¬†STL. SF, DET & LAA
Championship Series, STL & DET
World Series: DET over¬†STL
It’s the usual, here. Teams that clinch early lose early. After that its experience and pitching and most of all bullshit luck.
Last night’s game at AT&T Park was the annual Jerry Garcia Tribute Night, complete with appearances by some surviving members of the Grateful Dead and Bill Walton.¬† But Robin Williams,¬†barely 24 hours¬†after news of his suicide broke, was all over the giant centerfield video board.
Just after a Dead tribute band finished their pre-game set around home plate, with no introduction or segue, there’s Robin Williams doing Robin Williams voices in some movie clip booming out of centerfield.¬† For just a sec, you had to wonder if it was a tribute, or just someone really screwed up their pregame planning.
But after a minute or so, the PA announcer made some appropriate-ish announcement and the giant video screen had a repeating slideshow of Robin Williams at AT&T Park pics — Robin Williams and Billy Crystal with Barry Bonds and Willie Mays, Robin Williams and Billy Crystal with mascot Lou Seal, Robin Williams in a Giants cap.¬† There was a moment of silence for Williams with the slideshow still repeating in center field, and then the only female member of Further sang a lovely rendition of¬†our National Anthem.
That already felt awkward and too much to me, but even before the first pitch, there was Robin Williams again before Ryan Vogelsong threw the game’s first pitch — in a pretty long clip from either the 2010 NLDS or NLCS,¬† bearded Robin¬†Williams leading the pre-game cheers from beyond the grave¬†for the 2010 National League West Champs, ending with bearded Robin Williams screaming Play Ball!
A few innings later, a fan on the Jumbotron competed for a $50 Sports Authority gift card in a Family Feud style game of name Giants fans favorite Robin Williams movies.¬† Down to his last strike after getting 1) Mrs. Doubtfire, 3) Good Will Hunting and 5) Good Morning Vietnam, the lucky fan won that gift card with Aladdin and probably Jumanji.
The Giants also found time between remaining innings to have a Jerry Garcia themed standup paddle board race in McCovey Cove and the Monterey Bay Aquarium kiss cam, but around the sixth or seventh, just in case anyone had forgotten¬†the tragic events of the day before,¬†there was Robin Williams in centerfield again, telling Matt Damon all about some Red Sox game.
So I’ve actually been watching and following soccer way more than baseball lately.¬† Not just since the World Cup started either — in May I was drinking Magner’s over ice at 9 AM at a bar in the Richmond so I could simultaneously watch the FA Cup Final and the La Liga regular season finale between Barca and Atletico.
Generally, I’m fine with that and I don’t think it necessarily negatively¬†impacts my American-ness anymore than half rooting against the US soccer team because of their German coach.¬† But something in all that soccer watching has deeply offended me as an American.
Apparently in the rest of the English-speaking world, The Wave is known as “The Mexican Wave.”
This bothered me for weeks before I did some extremely thorough Wikipedia research, which confirmed that The Wave is probably American in origin, although possibly Canadian.¬† The earliest annotated (American!) Wave in Wikipedia was at the Oakland Coliseum on October¬†15, 1981,¬†in the third and final game of the ALCS.¬† The guy who claims to have created that wave, Krazy George¬†Henderson, also¬†claims he sort of accidentally created something that was like the wave¬†at an Edmonton¬†Oilers home game late¬†in 1980. Krazy George apparently got around.
And so it seems did The Wave, spreading in an unrelenting wave-like way, all the way to Mexico for the 1986 World Cup of Soccer, which is when the rest of the English-speaking world discovered¬†the erroneously named Mexican Wave, since¬†no one outside of the United States watches¬†baseball¬†or real football.¬† And apparently¬†English-speaking Mexicans¬†never bothered to¬†admit that they were taking credit for something that was really from Oakland, and Americans never discovered this until they started caring about soccer¬†enough this¬†year to actually watch the World Cup in English instead of Spanish,¬†a language which it still generally sounds a lot better in.
Happy Fourth of July.
¬†The New York Mets sent me a birthday email on my birthday, along with an extremely generous birthday offer of 50% on up to eight tickets*! (*Select areas and select games Password is: BDLX44J)
Exactly 61 minutes later, the New York Yankees sent a similar but stingier birthday “gift.” 50 percent off the advance ticket price for select games (Passcode is: NHB57V2). There is a four ticket limit.
Mets 8, Yankees 4
Do the Mets think I have more friends than the Yankees think I do?¬† Are the Mets just more generous or just have more seats to fill?¬† And don’t either of them realize I haven’t bought tickets from either of them since I left Manhattan at the start of 2010?¬† I only went to shitty Citi Field twice, I think — and I never made it to the New Replica Dump In The Bronx.
I kept checking my email for birthday greetings from the other 28 MLB clubs, but none came.¬† Even though I’ve more recently bought tickets from the official sites of the Baltimore Orioles,¬†Oakland A’s and San Francisco Giants, none thought enough of me to send me a birthday discount code.¬† It’s especially hurtful from the Giants, considering they definitely have my DOB since they sent me W2’s in 2010 and 2011 from my 10-month stint on their payroll.
It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since once of the pinnacles of my internet professional baseball writing career — the time I¬† had a post on the main Yahoo! sports page¬† comparing Barry Bonds to Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Barrack Obama.
There have been highs and low over the past four years, two Giants World Series title squads trying their best to make up for fake champions like the Yankees and the Cardinals, not quite a complete legal vindication for the viciously persecuted G-POPE but no jail time.
Barry Bonds may not yet have his rightful place in Cooperstown yet, but he is still enshrined in the hearts of all people who love freedom, justice and equality.
Last month I tried dropping by the World Series parade on my lunch break, but apparently about 1,300,000 other people were already there, so I didn’t see much other than a big screen and people watching the parade.¬† I did see a nice Panda Republic t-shirt, a subtle play on the bear in the California state flag, but I decided to keep walking around and didn’t even ask how much it was.
I later looked for that shirt on the internets, but this was the closest thing I could find:
Which is really not close at all.¬† And I’m torn between whether I think that other shirt is hilarious or¬†if thinking¬†it might be hilarious makes me a bad, misogynist and/or homophobic person.¬† Slightly more so after reading some Gawker thinkpiece on “Butthurt” that Smitty linked to on his facebook.
Part of me does want to see similar shirts for previous Fall Classics.
In case you were wondering, I also missed the entirety of the 2010 Giants parade because I was stuck working at AT&T Park.
The San Francisco Giants completed their World Series sweep of the Detroit Tigers on Sunday night and became the first team in the Bugs&Cranks era to win the World Series twice. It took all of five days and was close to predicted by yours truly — “If the Giants can steal Game 1, they might be able to sweep.”
I’m looking forward to trying to get to some of the parade on Wednesday, but what I’ve been thinking about most tonight is 1) how amazingly similar this postseason was to 2010’s, and b) how amazingly different the 2012 Giants roster is from the 2010 Giants team.
The only Giants position player to play a significant role in both World Series is Buster Posey.¬† Only two pitchers started games for the Giants in both Fall Classics, with Tim Lincecum, Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt the only other pitchers to contribute in both 2010 and 2012.¬† That’s only six guys out of 25.
In 2010, the Giants lose Game Two of the NLDS to the Braves and then won two straight in Atlanta to take the series. In 2012, they made things more dramatic by losing the first two at home, but then came back to win three straight in Cincinnati. In both 2010 and 2012, the Giants faced the defending NL champs in the NLCS. The Giants were huge underdogs in the 2010 NLCS, but never trailed in the series against the Phillies. This year, the Giants were probably favorites going in, but fell behind 3-1 and won three straight for the second straight series.¬† Both years, I didn’t really expect them to go deep into the playoffs, but once they got to the World Series, I was quietly confident.
In 2010, the Giants outslugged the Rangers the first two games in SF, winning 11-7 and 9-0, then dropped Game 3 in Texas before closing out the series with close, low-scoring wins, 4-2 and 3-1.¬† That Texas squad had two big bats and a seemingly invincible pitcher much like these Tigers. The Giants were even more dominant in every facet in the 2012 World Series, with the Tigers not having a lead — or even scoring a run when they were down fewer than five runs — until the third inning of Game Four.
Over nine days, the Giants won seven straight games in about as dominant a fashion as you could imagine. Game Fivve in St. Louis, a four-run fourth inning leads to a 5-0 win. Game Six of the NLCS in San Francisco last Sunday, a four-run second inning and a 6-1 win. Game Seven in SF on Monday, a five-run third and a 9-0 win.¬† Two days laters, Game One of the World Series in SF, a three-run third, a 6-0 lead by the fifth inning en route to an¬† 8-3 win. The next night, the Giants don’t score until the bottom of the 7th, but win 2-0. Game Three on Saturday night, a two-run second leads to another 2-0 win.¬† Then Sunday, they trail 2-1 for a few innings, then grind out a win in 10 innings.
Did you know that the City of San Francisco is seven miles wide by seven miles long?¬† That’s how come there’s¬†a local magazine called 7×7, and they¬†put this¬†LOL-able funny pic¬†up on the Facebook:
Maybe not as amusing as Miguel Cabrera calling his team’s closer du jour “a horsecrap pitcher,” but still worth a chuckle, no?
SF.FunCheap.com has a roundup of San Francisco bars with World Series drink specials and the like.¬† One Giant-inspired concoction sounds so awful that I couldn’t keep it to myself, and it’s a fairly nice small-ish Irish pub on Haight Street.
Check out this Black and Orange monstrosity of a drink menu:
- The Lookout in the Castro: $7 ‚ÄúOrange October‚ÄĚ a concoction with orange soda and vodka in a giant pint glass
- Jake’s Steaks in the Marina district: complimentary orange jello shots every time the Giants score
- Elixir in the Mission: the Gigantes Caipirinha cocktail (Leblon Cachaca, Cointreau, Lime Juice, Simple Syrup, Dale Degroff‚Äôs Allspice Bitters and Valencia Orange) $7
- Danny Coyle’s in the Lower Haight: $8 Giant Bombs (Jager & orange soda)
Jager and Fanta, the breakfast of champions!¬†
Why not just ask for a Guinness with a nice SF in the head, or if you have to get really festive, maybe they could drop a little orange food coloring in the head?¬† A Guinness with an orange wedge garnish could be classy, right?
Who could have foreseen Mr. MVP/Cy Young Justin Verlander crapping the bed in Game 1 of the World Series?
“Let‚Äôs see how Verlander does on the big stage against the Giants. Roy ‚ÄúBillie‚ÄĚ Halladay and Cliff Lee couldn‚Äôt live up to their hype in 2010, so maybe we could just hold off on the hagiography of JV for another week or two?”
I suppose I did write that just the day before.¬† And actually, I’m more surprised about how the Giants beat Verlander than that they beat him.¬† How amazing is it that the Giants have now essentially played the same game four times in a row?¬† Starting in St. Louis last Friday, four times in a row they’ve built big early leads with big innings, then tacked on and almost shut out their opposition?
But what most people are amazed by is how could Verlander lose at all — and I have an answer for that.
Folks revel in the hype of a dominant pitcher.¬† But I don’t believe there’s really that much of a gap between the best five pitchers in the majors and, say, the 56th-60th best pitchers.¬† A lot of what feeds into dominant pitchers putting up great numbers is a combination of their teammates and their opponents buying into the dominance myth.¬† When a top pitcher gets on a run, his teammates are more confident and play better; most of his opponents — especially in the regular season — buy in and expect to get dominated.
So how do the Giants —¬† a¬† streaky but usually not-that-great hitting team keep beating the likes of Halladay, Lee and now Verlander in the games that matter most?¬† By October, the confidence of the teams with the dominant pitchers has turned to over confidence; while the Giants get on a run and refuse to believe anyone can dominate them.¬† All those sluggers figure their invincible ace is on the mound and they won’t need to score more than a run or two, and before you know it Barry Zito has limited them to one garbage run over 5.2 innings.
If you really want to cling o the dominance myth, you might cry about how flukey/lucky Angel Pagan’s rally-starting double off the third base bag was.¬† But if Verlander was really the second coming of Sandy Koufax, he would have still found a way to limit the damage.¬† And he probably wouldn’t have given up a two-out RBI single to Zito the next inning to put his team in a 5-0 hole.
The Phillies never really got back in the 2010 NLCS after the Giants beat Halladay, nor did the Rangers after the Giants beat Lee in the World Series. Maybe the Tigers can bounce back, but I’d be surprised.
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