Archives for: 2008, week 39

10/05/08

"100" Cursed Chicago Seasons. Cubs Swept By Dodgers!

Permalink 07:34:40 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

2008 was widely believed to be the year all Cubs curses were laid to rest. Chicago Cubs (97-64) were built for winning. Championship Manager. Feared 1-8 lineup. Powerful starting pitching. Lights out bullpen. Great defense. They moved into first place on May 11 and never looked back.

Everything seemed to be going right for the Cubs. They were doing what was expected all year. Winning. Winning big. Winning often. NL Central Division Champions.

Cubs brass even scheduled excorcisms at famed Wrigley Field attempting to dispell all curses (Curse of Fred Merkle, Curse of the Billy Goat, Curse of 1969, The Steve Bartman Incident).

Chicago fans jammed Wrigley all year. Once again, they were beginning to believe time had finally come for Cubs players to bury years of frustration and near misses. Fans and reporters often spoke phrases of hope highlighting how Boston finally dispelled the Curse of the Bambino by winning two World Series ('05, '07).

99 consecutive seasons without a World Series title. No National League Championships since 1945. The "Lovable Losers" from Chicago endured a century of heartbreaks. "Cursed Again!" was heard often after the Cubs found new and unbelievable ways to lose...

1969 Cubs owned a seven game August lead over the team soon to be named the Miracle Mets. During a pivotal head to head matchup in New York, a black cat ran in front of Chicago Cubs on deck hitter. Cubs eventually blew their 7 game lead and failed to qualify for the Playoffs.

1984 Cubs win first division title since 1945. Win 1st two games in best of 5 series vs San Diego (won first game 13-0). Game 3, Cubs up 3-0. Ahead by 3-2, 1B Leon Durham commits 2 errors in 7th inning leading to 4 runs. Cubs then swept in 3 straight, including blowing a another 3-0 lead in Game 5.

2003 National League Championship Series. Cubs own commanding 3 games to 1 lead (best of 7) over Florida Marlins. Game 6, Cubs own 3-0 lead (again). Marlins erupt for 8 runs in the 8th inning, highlighted by Bartman's blunder. Game 7 the Cubs had battled back to lead 5-3 only to blow another Series.

2008 Chicago had NL's best record (97-64). Everything was clicking. LA Dodgers won fewest of all Playoff teams (84-78). One problem... LA was hot and revitalized. Cubs jump to an early 2-0 Game 1 advantage... fail to score again until 7th inning of Game 2. Dodgers command series and sweep Cubs marking 100 consecutive years without a Championship.

So, how does a Cubbies fan get over this one? Good thing this wasn't another patented gutwrenching chokes which sent Chicago packing. Who knows how many fans would have ended up in psych wards? They were simply outclassed by Joe Torre's Dodgers. Back to the drawing board.

Recent times have found us in an era of new stadiums being built in many baseball cities. While I'm a fan of creating better ballparks replacing old bowl looking cookie cutter parks... I was dead set against tearing down historic Tiger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Wrigley Field when rumors first surfaced.

Tiger Stadium is gone.

Boston tinkered with a new venue until City and fan opposition interevened.

Yankee ownership will make a killing in their New Yankee Stadium. But, tearing down the current Stadium has many fans irked. Especially with the rich history and tradition associated within The House that Ruth Built. Superstitious fans remain uneasy... 26 World Championship Teams, 37 Pennants, 45 Playoff appearances.

Wrigley Field. Well, for the very first time I'm now of the opinion Wrigley Field should be rebuilt on another location. Clearly, no Cubs team can win a Championship in current Wrigley. The "curse" thing is buried too deeply inside minds of players, fans and owners. It would be great to see a replica stadium instead of a complete redesign. Either way, Cubs need a new home. 2008 proved it once again. Unlike Chicago fans, I had zero confidence in the Cubs getting past LA in the NLDS.

Cubs World Series hopes will always be doomed until they move. Sounds crazy to some, but 100 futile years provides enough proof it's time to find a new home.

AWAS NFL Week 5 Predictions

Permalink 12:00:00 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Week 4 was full of surprises and big scoring games. Week 5? Let's take a look while trying to rebound from last week's debacle of picking winners.

Atlanta @ Green Bay... Pack attack, 31-26
Seattle @ Giants...... Giants to dominate at home, 33-14
KC @ Carolina......... Panthers complete control, 28-3
Indy @ Houston........ Manning and Colts still trying to find rythm, 27-9
Chicago @ Detroit..... Bears defense is flying, 21-0
San Diego @ Miami..... Phins stunned NE last weekend. SD too tough. SD 31-20
Washington @ Philly... 'Skins are for real and ready to rumble. 33-31
Tennessee @ Baltimore. Defensive battle. Titans escape, 17-16
Cincinnati @ Dallas... Bengals free falling. Dallas rolling, 55-3
Tampa Bay @ Denver.... Broncos upset last week seek revenge, 23-20
Buffalo @ Arizona..... Buffalo continues magic act, 32-30
New England @ SF...... No running game in NE. SF 27-23
Minnesota @ NO (Monday) Vikes outclassed. Saints march, 42-24

10/01/08

Playoffs 2008: Who Will Win It All?

Permalink 05:39:40 pm, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Playoff baseball is back again! Tampa Bay represents this year's Cinderella team by posting their first winning season and American League East Division Title. Two teams from Chicago qualified for post-season play, including one on the final day. Two New York teams are sitting this one out, includig one disqualified on the final day. Two Los Angeles named teams made it too, including one skipper who managed both New York teams. Milwaukee and Philadelphia get in on New York action too. Both need to thank New York's team from Flushing for another September blowup.

Who will win it all? Cubs? Red Sox? Rays? Angels? Phillies? Dodgers? White Sox? Brewers?

It's time! MLB Division Series Playoff Breakdown.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Boston Red Sox (95-67) vs Los Angeles Angels (100-62)

Boston sent home banged up LA in last years' playoff matchup (and '05). It's a new year as LA dominated regular season play vs a banged up Boston squad. The World Champs aren't 100%. Ace starter Josh Beckett was scratched from opening the series. He's been pushed back to Game 3. Mike Lowell and JD Drew are dinged. Manny Ramirez was a late season trade. Jason Bay makes his playoff debut. 2B Pedroia was team hero this year piling it on after Manny was dealt. Manager Francona had these guys playing aggressive baseball all season long. To win, these Wild Card winners need to capitalize on every opportunity.

Angels have been on a mission since being eliminated by Boston last year. They dominated out of the gate winning the West by 21 games. Only team posting 100 wins. These guys play small ball better than most NL teams. LA picked up slugging 1B Mark Teixeira mid-season to solidify their well balanced lineup. Speed, defense, pitching and power. Francisco Rodriguez rewrote baseball's All Time Saves record (62). LA catches a break with Beckett's Game 1 scratch. Starting pitchers must tame BoSox lineup to survive round one. This will be a great series.

This one goes the distance. Angels prevail.

Chicago White Sox (89-74) vs Tampa Bay Rays (97-65)

Chicago has won three clutch games in a row, including a 1-0 one game playoff vs Minnesota to capture the American League Central crown. They enter this series flying high. It was a long season for Manager Guillen. Chicago had their share of key injuries. Sluggers Thome and Konerko struggled most of the year. They have to turn it on for the Sox to keep rolling. Key cog Quentin (.288, 36 HR, 100 RBI) is out of the playoffs. Traded for Ken Griffey, Jr who made an instrumental game saving throw from center to home helping Chicago advance in yesterday's one game playoff. Starting pitching must step it up vs an energized Rays attack.

Not enough can be said about Tampa Bay Rays' spectacular season. They came out of nowhere to beat out heavily favored Boston and New York for AL East honors. 2008 was their first ever winning season. Will the party continue? Manager Maddon's moves have all worked out. Young starting pitchers came thru vs top teams in regular season. They'll have to stay ahead of patient White Sox hitters. Lineup gets the job done. Corner infielders Longoria and Pena supply the power. Tampa needs to stay loose to win. Bullpen injuries could be worrisome vs clutch Chicago hitters. Worst possible series matchup for Rays.

Chicago continues to roll. White Sox in 4.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Milwaukee Brewers (90-72) vs Philadelphia Phillies (92-70)

Milwaukee won game 162 to secure NL Wild Card. Brewers can slug it out with any lineup. Free swinging club packs plenty of power hitters (5 with 20+ homers). Warning, six struck out over 100 times (1203 as team). Brewers must cut down on strike outs and advance baserunners vs Phillies. Biggest factor in Milwaukee's favor is playing in hitters parks. CC Sabathia dominated NL hitters (11-2, 1.65) after being acquired from Cleveland. CC and Sheets are a tough 1-2 but the latter has been roughed up lately. Rotation matchup out of whack since CC started final game. 3-4 starters might already be quaking in their cleats thinking of Phillies lineup. Brewers need to put their bats on baseballs and capitalize on every opportunity to prevail.

Phillies hitters strike fear into pitchers. Howard (48 HR, 146 RBI), Utley (33 HR, 104 RBI), Burrell (33 HR), Rollins (38 2B, 9 3B, 47 SB) pace their attack. If these guys all get hot, nobody will stop the Keystone Kids. Phils players believe. On the hill, Hamels has great stuff and could be the difference maker. Rotation matchup favors Philadelphia since CC pitched on seasons' final day and tosses his 3rd straight game on three days rest. Lidge has been perfect out of the pen (41 Saves). Phillies staff will average 12 strikeouts per game. Good luck Milwaukee. You'll need it.

Phillies beat up strike out artists in 4.

Los Angeles Dodgers (83-78) vs Chicago Cubs (97-64)

Dodgers Manager Joe Torre must be loving life in LA. Torre led the Yankees to twelve consecutive playoffs. His personal streak now stands at 13 while NY sits home. Dodgers 84 wins represents fewest of playoff teams. They play NL's top winning Cubs (97). Manny Ramirez revitalized an enemic Blue offense. He put this team on his back and carried them to the finish line. In 53 Dodger games, Manny hit .396, smoked 17 homers, drove in 53. Sports 24 career playoff homers in 95 contests. Casey Blake (3B) was another key late season pickup (58 games, 10 HR). Furcal (.357) returns after spending most of the year DL'd. LA staff posted NL best 3.68 ERA. Only two starters with double digit victories. Middle relievers could be games best... face Chicago's heralded bullpen. Other three NL playoff team lineups outclass Torre's crew. Dodgers lineup is finally clicking. Dodgers could be sleepers.

Lou Piniella managed his Cubs to NL's best 97 wins. Ryan Dempster (14-3 @ Wrigley) has been tabbed Game 1 starter. Cubs starters will need to keep Manny and Co. off balance. Cubs lineup featured seven with double digit homers. They all seem to hit in the clutch. Defense is very strong at all positions. Dempster, Zambrano and Lilly have been in control all season (combined 48-21). A trade deadline game of chess landed star Rich Harden on an already deep staff. Bullpen features flame throwers. Cubs look unbeatable. So what's wrong with this picture? They're the "CUBS". Somehow... someway... Cubs find a way to blow it when it counts most. 99 straight years without a World Series Championship. Cubs fans say there won't be 100. Don't trust anyone who's been wrong 99 consecutive times.

Cubs NL's most powerful team. Most heavily favored to win NLCS. Most NL Wins. Most NL Runs. Most pitching K's. Most consecutive non-playoff seasons of 99........ reaches 100. Dodgers in 5.

MLB Divisional Playoffs... the first leg on the path to determining 2008 World Series Champion.

Who will win it all?

Stay linked to ALL WORLD ALL SPORTS for all the latest Playoff action and sports news from around the world.

09/30/08

Permalink 04:48:59 am, Categories: All World All Sports Blogs  

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by Digger

Most teams had their share of underachievers who were showered with plenty of boos bellowed by jam packed crowds. Eric Bedard (injured) was one of baseball's coveted free agent starting pitchers last winter. Pedro Martinez was to help bring a title to Shea. Detroit's off season free agent frenzy had fortune tellers predicting post season play. Two New York teams bidding farewell to home stadiums rolled the dice ... and lost!. Seattle was to challenge Los Angeles in an AL West showdown. Major League Baseball's Office of the Commissioner was to hand out penalties arising from "The Mitchell Report". None of these things happened in '08.

Time to hand pick my favorite duds, underperfomers, underachievers, lame ducks, primadonna's, goats and blundering players of 2008.

TEAM CHOKE ARTISTS AWARD
New York Mets - Mets magic faded with Carlos Beltran's series ending Game 7 called strike three National League Championship Series at bat in 2006. Back to back September collapses doom Mets in 2007/08. Shea Stadium closes with Mets failing to make the Playoffs on season's final day.

KIDS WRECK PARENTS DYNASTY AWARD
Steinbrenner's (Yankees) - Boss George was arguably the most devoted owner in all of sports. He took control of the Yankees and molded Championship calibur teams. When his teams weren't playing up to snuff, he let them know. Sometimes famously in headlines read nationwide... prompting tales from the "Bronx Zoo". Prior to 2008 season, Boss George handed over the reigns. Hank and Hal Steinbrenner now control day to day operations. Their hands off style was noticeably absent when the Yankees needed a swift butt kicking. This season was to be a spectacular sendoff to Yankee Stadium. A monsterous payroll in excess of $200,000,000.00 was to bring another exciting Playoff appearance. Yankee Stadium hosted the All Star Game. New York's string of consecutive playoff appearances stood at 13. Frustrated with a lack of recent Series victories, Yanks and Joe Torre parted ways. Then, anything and everything went wrong for a team often looking lackadaisical, overweight, overmatched and out traded. The world's most famous Stadium has closed forever ... remaining silent during 2008 MLB Playoffs... for the first time in recent memory.

TOUGH LOVE AWARD
These players never voluntarily retired. Some were either released or became free agents with no offers. Many were just laid out to pasture after baseball owners changed tunes following the Mitchell Report. Barry Bonds, Kenny Lofton, Bernie Williams, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD AWARD
Seattle Mariners (61-101) - Retooled and ready to challenge Los Angeles for AL West division honors... so they thought. Seattle fired Manager John McLaren after the team flatlined (27-45). Players injured (Bedard, Putz), career worst seasons (Richie Sexson) and sloppy play highlighted 2008. Seattle is ready for another fresh start.

HOW DID WE LOSE? AWARD
Detroit Tigers (74-88) - Picked by many for a return trip to the World Series (lost in 2006). Detroit was relying on big years from maturing starting pitchers (Justin Verlander 11-17, 4.84; Nate Robertson 7-11, 6.35; Jeremy Bonderman 3-4, 4.29) anchored by rising star Dontrelle Willis (0-2, 9.38) and crafty veteran Kenny Rogers (9-13, 5.70). On offense, Tigers were to roar. Stars seemingly everywhere: Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, Pudge Rodriguez, Carlos Guillen, Edgar Renteria, Gary Sheffield and Curtis Granderson were the big names expected to light up scoreboards with crooked numbers game after game. Manager Jim Leyland was to piece it all together. Detroit was horrendous opening the season. Losers of their first seven (and 10 of 12) left this team searching for answers. Tigers clawed back to 3 games over .500 (55-52) before they lost their bite for good.

2008 ALL WORLD ALL SPORTS "NON-STARS" OF THE YEAR
C - Kenji Johjima (SEA). He stunk at the plate, both hitting (.227) and fielding (.988) while signal calling a 101 game losing team. Honorable Mention: Jason Varitek (BOS).
1B - Richie Sexson (SEA). What happened to this once feared hitter? Batting .218 got him jettisoned out of Seattle. Yankees gambled then folded after a weak 22 game tryout. This is a two time 45 HR season player quickly gone bust. Honorable Mention: Paul Konerko (CHW).
2B - Robinson Cano (NYY). Resigned to a 4 year $30,000,000.00 contract, Cano was goat-like this season. He finished the year with halfway respectable numbers (.270, 35 2B, 14 HR). Don't be fooled by numbers. He's two years removed from batting .342. Began 2008 hitting .151 in March/April. .246 before the All Star break. Manager Joe Girardi finally benched him for not hustling in the field. He was terrible with games on the line and looked like someone who couldn't be bothered trying to play hard. Honorable Mention: Luis Castillo (NYM)
3B - Mike Lamb (MIN). Lamb had spent years fighting for playing time as a fill-in extraordinaire. Minnesota gave Lamb his long awaited shot... choked (.233, 1 HR) before the Twins finally gave up. He'll be home watching Monday's one game winner take all Playoff game between Minnesota vs Chicago. Honorable Mention: Bill Hall (MIL).
SS - Tony Pena (KC). Pena quickly went from being the Royals shortstop of the future... to history. Overpowered by big league pitchers (.169 BA, .189 OBA) this kid may never get another shot at starting. His replacement took full advantage of an open door (Aviles, .325 BA, 27 2B, 10 HR). Honorable Mention: Khalil Greene (SD).
LF - Eric Byrnes (AZ). Byrnes had back to back years of showing great improvement as Arizona's catalyst before leg woes derailed this season. His mistake for trying to play thru it from early spring training instead of taking proper care of the problem. Self above team. Team missed post season. Bad move. Honorable Mention: Shannon Stewart (TOR).
CF - Andruw Jones (LAD). What happened to Andruw Jones????????? No one has fallen harder then Mr. Jones. This former Gold Glove All Star hit a combined 92 home runs in 2005/06. He dipped to .222 BA in '07. He never showed up in '08. An abismal .158 batting average, 3 home runs in 209 AB's. He was put out of misery by injury back in August. Returned to play just one game before Manager Joe Torre thought it best to demote him for reconditioning. Jones might be thru. Honorable Mention: Corey Patterson (CIN).
RF - Jeff Francoeur (ATL). Francoeur's star was on the rise. A cannon armed line drive hitting rightfielder who seemed destined for future stardom. Coming off of back to back 100 RBI seasons. Then came 2008. He slumped to .239 with only 71 RBI. Batted .236 or below in 4 of 6 months. Honorable Mention: Austin Kearns (WAS).
DH - Travis Hafner (CLE). Once a prominent and feared power hitter, Hafner looked completely lost at the plate before and after being injured. Career .289 hitter prior to '08, hit only .197 with career low .323 slugging. Completely off balance in the batters box. Honorable Mention: Jose Vidro (SEA).
STARTING PITCHER - Miguel Batista (SEA). Batista was counted on as M's #3 starter. His failures (4-14. 6.26) led directly to Seattle falling out of contention early. Walked (79) more than he struck out (73) in only 115 innings. Truly an ugly year. Honorable Mention: Carlos Silva (SEA), Justin Verlander (DET), Nate Robertson (DET), Greg Reynolds (COL).
CLOSER - C.J. Wilson (TEX). On the upside, Wilson was 24 of 28 in save conversions. However, the downside loomed large. Sporting a not so nifty 6.02 ERA, Wilson's 2008 season came to a close by way of injury and attitude. He'll be remembered for a slight tamtrum when being removed from a game by Manager Washington. Instead of handing the ball to Washington, Wilson flipped it which is a baseball no-no (sign of disrespect). Texas fans already had enough of their erratic closer and let him have it. Honorable Mention: Manuel Corpas (COL).
MANAGER - Willie Randolph (NYM). Randolph's Mets were set up to win NL East after a historic September collapse in 2007 (and gutwrenching loss in NLCS Game 7, 2006). New York signed one of baseball's best pitchers (Johann Santana). Young stars were supposed to have matured after recent events. Randolph was to be ready do duplicate successes learned under Joe Torre's tutelage. It never happened. Mets opened (34-35) looking sloppy and unmotivated. Randolph's failures made sportspage headlines. When Willie later accused media types of playing the race card, things really turned sour. He was finally fired after 69 games. Games lost in April are just as important as games lost in September... in the Mets case... equally important. Honorable Mention: Bud Black (SD), Joe Girardi (NYY).