A Battle of Two Teams

For those of you who know me, you know that I follow 2 baseball teams very closely.  Several of you have been asking who & how I’ll be rooting for in this week’s Reds v Phillies 4 game series. So, here is my long answer.

When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, my introduction to the game of baseball was through the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies are ingrained in my brain, nearly from birth, as the very definition of baseball. Carlton, Maddox, Luzinski and all the rest, my team. My heroes. During that time in NJ, my father would often talk about the Cincinnati Reds, as he grew up in Dayton, Ohio. When the Reds and Phillies played, or if there happened to be a national broadcast of the Reds, it would turn into a history lesson. So there was always an affinity for the Reds in my home.

In 1983, my family moved from Cherry Hill, NJ to Dayton, Ohio. A homecoming for my father. There was cable back then, but not like today. There was no internet or MLB.TV and thus, no way to follow my beloved Phillies. Long story short, the Reds were becoming my defacto team, if for no other reason than geography. Around 2002, my fervor for baseball heated up, moreso than ever really. Within a couple of years, there’s MLB.TV, and suddenly, I can see my Phillies again! Not that I recognized them much. But I could listen to Harry Kalas (the best announcer that ever was, period) again!  Btw, I can do the best Harry Kalas you’ve ever heard, but that’s another story. So I found myself rooting for 2 teams as some put it, but in reality my love for baseball was simply doubling.

Back to the present: for whom, and how shall I be rooting during this 4 game Reds v Phillies series? Here’s how. The Phillies have had an abysmal season. Offense has been slim, with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard out for the predominance of the first half of the season. Roy Halladay has been injured and not performed well. Though, in is last 2 starts, one can see a glimpse of the elite pitcher he has been and can still be. Cliff Lee was winless for almost the first 4 months of the season, and has since collected only 2 wins on the season. Additionally, if he does not garner a win in a home start by Sept. 5, he will have gone a whole year with NO WINS AT HOME. This is a very odd year for Cliff Lee, indeed. Vance Worley, aka “Vanimal”, performed well last season and had a strong start to this season, but his last few outings have been losses, each of them containing at least one “blow up” inning that has resulted lately in Worley not pitching deep into games. Cole Hamels, on the other hand, is red-hot. He had a strong start to the season, and with the exception of his first 2 starts after his big contract signing, he has been exceptional, with a 20+ inning scoreless streak as well. He also pitches deep into (if not complete) games. Which brings us to the Phillies’ bullpen. Papalbon, though he has not had nearly as many save opportunities as the team would like, has performed solidly. But a big reason he’s had so few save opp’s is because of the inability of the rest of the bullpen to get the job done. A very weak link right now for the Phils.

The Reds, conversely, have performed solidly throughout the season. They have offense – Ludwick, Frazier, Bruce, Cozart, Hannigan, Rolen, and even some from Stubbs since his return from the DL. They have an amazing record over the last month plus with they’re All-Star 1st baseman, Joey Votto, has been on the DL. They have pitching – Cueto and Latos are killing it. Arroyo has been fairly solid, and some good recent outings by Leake. Bailey has struggled slightly lately, but has come into his own as a force on the Reds starting rotation. The bullpen has been amazing.And, of course, Chapman is simply lights out. An 8 inning game if the Reds have the lead. We’re talking a Mariano Rivera-class closer here. Yes, I said it. That’s what I believe, time will tell if (that!) I’m right.

So, who am I rooting for? Well, short answer, both teams. I expect the series to go 2-2. Here’s where the conflict starts: I fully expect Hamels to win his outing, but, I also fully expect Cueto to win his. That’s the game, game 4 in the series, that I can’t quite predict. I do know it’s going to be the best game of the series. I think Halladay has a shot at winning his outing, but I would not be at all surprised if he doesn’t. And Cliff Lee’s previously mentioned drought of wins at home makes his winning unlikely. And Worley could go either way. Bottom line, the Phills will likely win Hamels outing, and possibly Halladay or Lee, but the Phills winning both would surprise me. I only wish Mat Latos was pitching during the series! Slightly disappointing.

So, if there’s a sweep, how will I fell about it? Well, I don’t think for a minute that the Reds will be swept, not the way they’re going. And I don’t see the Phills getting swept, because I expect one of their star starters to win one for them. The Phills have had an incredible run for the last few seasons, winning it all in 2008, and appearing again in the WS again in 2009. The Reds haven’t had a championship since 1990, and back in 2010 their appearance was cut short by who else, but the Phillies. Especially that notable game that Halladay pitched. ‘Nuff said. But it does seem that both teams will have something to prove this series. The Reds will want some payback for the 2010 post-season, and they are hot enough to get it, as well as solidify their road to the post-sean this year. The Phillies aren’t out of the race mathematically (yet!) so they would love to take or sweep this series to keep them in the running. This is going to be a great 4 game series. Go, teams, go!

Dig it! What do you think??

My Thoughts on the Trade Deadline

Okay, so the trade deadline was yesterday at 4pm. I’m just getting around to writing this now, after a full night of actual games and a decent night’s sleep. It’s taken this long to collect my thoughts. So, let’s first address the Reds. They picked up reliever (formerly closer) Jonathan Broxton. In years past, in his years closing for the Dodgers, I have seen quite a bit of Brox, and have always been impressed. I think he will be an excellent 8th inning man, and he makes Cinci’s stellar bullpen that much more formidable. As last night went on, I got progressively more excited about Brox being a Red. That said, throughout the evening I heard some disconcerting points alleged. Firstly, it has been said that KC fans feel about Brox the way we felt about Coco Cordero. I sure hope not. I aslo read that he has pitched only twice in the last 17 days. Concerning, but could that be because The Royals have only had 2 save opps in the last 17 days? Maybe, but one would think they’d still be using him in non-save situations just to get him some work. So I need to know a little more about why he’s pitched to infrequently. SO, my overall feeling is that Walt made the right move by not messing with the chemistry of this “Red” hot team. Glad nobody got traded away. One interesting note: Since acquiring Broxton, the Reds are undefeated and average 7 runs per game. Just sayin…

Now, on to the Phillies. I know why they traded Victorino, and it kinda makes sense with his pending free agency, but I still hate it! Remember, I’m resistant to change. So many great memories of the Flyin Hawaiian, he’s been such an important core player. I will miss him, but I wish him all the best in sunny L.A. On the other hand, I have NO IDEA why Hunter Pence was traded. Just does not make sense to me. He’s been a great addition to this team, and again, I’m sad to see him go. On a side note, there was so much talk about Cliff Lee getting traded, and according to Ruben Amaro, Jr., he was never on the trading block. Yet even today, the “reporters” still talk of how a deal could not be reached with the Rangers for Lee. Somebody is misinformed, or worse yet, lying. I suppose it doesn’t matter really now, but the misinformation created a lot of additional stress on an already stressful day/week. Just sayin… The one move I really don’t understand is giving catcher Tuffy Goeswich (BEST name in baseball) to Toronto for NOTHING in return. By definition, that is NOT a trade. It’s a contribution, a gift, but it’s not a trade. Please explain, Phillies. SO, to sum up, saw 2 of my favorite players go, so I am a bit sad. But I will say, seeing tweets from Shane and Hunter thanking the Phillie fans and keeping us up to date on the travels makes it a bit more bearable. Nice to stay connected to them even after they move on. And, of course, the Phillies pull out a gem last night, winning 8-0 over the Strassburg-led Nats (just 3 games too late!), so that made things a bit more bearable. I am slowly adjusting to the changes, and it will likely take a while, but I will follow the Phillies every step of the way, win or lose.

Trade Deadline Is Killing Me

As the baseball trade deadline is roughly 23 hours away, I find myself quite depressed, fearful and anxious. Keeping in mind that I normally suffer for any or all of those symptoms all the time, it may not seem like such a big deal, but it is. Because this time, it’s not just all in my head, they are quite real, and arise from the fact that my team(s) could look quite different tomorrow. Having been a lifelong Phillies fan, their predicament has me quite knotted.  Five of my Phillies fav’s have been the subject of trade rumors, and while some are just plain rediculous, and not going to happen (Rollins, Utley, Howard), others seem quite possible if not likely (Victorino, Pence, Pierre, Blanton, Lee – wait, should Lee be on the other list? Quite likely…). I am resistant to change, so I wish none of them gone. That said, a case could be made that it’s smart to shift Victorino, which I might slightly agree with, but Pence  and Pierre I don’t at all think should be gone. As a Reds fan, living in Dayton, Ohio for the last 30 years, I am also concerned about the moves that Walt might make. I am not one to upset a winning club chemistry, but, that said, if the Reds end up with Victorino, Pence or Pierre, I’d be happier about that than if any of those for-now Phillies ended up on any other team. A lot of anxiety, and it’s compounded by the recent onset of my twitter addiction. Talk about rumors! I can’t quit checking the feed. But it’s tricky, too. It’s taken me a few days to get savvy, but now when I see 1000 re-tweets of a confirmed trade from “Ken RosenthaI” (that’s not an “L”, but a caps “i”!), I know better. Now I’m hip to the “i” for an “L” trick. Live and learn… Bottom line – sad to see Phillies players depart, but they probably will. BUT I DON’T WANT THEM TO. And Reds, DON’T CHANGE A THING, PLEASE. But they probably will. So, if I don’t survive the next 23 hours, at least you’ll know why. But I hope I do, so I can See HOF Marty shave his head this Friday. So go Reds, and OMG Phillies (night off tonight)! To all the Phillies today who won’t be tomorrow, I sincerely thank you for all the excitement. It’s been a great run, but please know I love you win or lose.