September 2008

One more before October

Seven teams are waiting.

October is waiting.

And tonight, everybody will be watching as the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox fight it out for the eighth and final spot in this year’s postseason.

Nothing gets me more excited than a tiebreaker.  We’ve only seen four one-game tiebreakers in American League history, and, at this point, it’s tough to say which team is going to come out on top.

Tonight’s game is not just a battle for the playoffs.  It’s a battle of two of the American League’s best young guns — Chicago lefty John Danks and Twins right-hander Nick Blackburn.

Isn’t it amazing the way two teams can be so close to one another all year, playing each other 18 times during the regular season, but we still need to see one more as the rest of baseball watches?

That’s called excitement.

And these two franchises have proven over the last several years that they’re worthy contenders for the World Series.  The Twins seem like they’re always in it, despite a low payroll.  And the White Sox won it all just three years ago.  

Tonight’s game also features two of the craftiest managers in baseball going head-to-head.  I’m sure Minnesota’s Ron Gardenhire and Chicago’s Ozzie Guillen will make their mark on this one in the strategy department.

Seven teams are waiting.

October is waiting.

Play ball.

O.G.

Intensity

The tight pennant races are getting tighter, and I’m feeling the intensity every night as the Twins and White Sox battle it out for the last Postseason spots in the American League. I’m sure you are, too.

Meanwhile, as the Mets and Brewers try to keep the pace in the National League, the Mets are set on prolonging the life of that charming 44-year-old ballpark in Queens called Shea Stadium that’s going to make way for the new Citi Field next year.

What does it all mean? It means we’ve got less than a week to go until October, and the first five teams that have clinched as I write this are waiting along with the rest of us to see how it’s all going to shake out.

And those teams still have so many unanswered questions, too.

Can the Dodgers keep up the excitement and ride the hot bat of their newest star all the way through October?

http://freevideocoding.com/flvplayer.swf?file=http://mediadownloads.mlb.com/mlbam/2008/09/24/mlbtv_sdnlan_1380762_800K.flv&autoStart=false

Can a healthy Evan Longoria help the Rays continue to prove the doubters wrong?

http://freevideocoding.com/flvplayer.swf?file=http://mediadownloads.mlb.com/mlbam/2008/09/25/mlbtv_tbadet_1382733_800K.flv&autoStart=false

Do the Red Sox have another magical run in them?

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Is it THE year on the North Side?

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Or will the team with the best record in baseball live up to its billing?

http://freevideocoding.com/flvplayer.swf?file=http://mediadownloads.mlb.com/mlbam/2008/09/22/mlbtv_anasea_1364158_800K.flv&autoStart=false

Vote in the poll and let me know how you think it will all play out. The good news is we won’t have to wait very long to see what happens.

O.G.

New beginnings

The Cubs and their Nation of fans are partying like it’s 1908, and can you blame them? They officially joined the October dance over the weekend, making it two postseason appearances in a row.

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Now comes the fun part — seeing if the team from the North Side of Chicago can take 100 years of close calls, disappointments and heartbreakers and turn it all into one World Series title. And why not? Their South-Side neighbors did it in 2005 and the Boston Red Sox did it in 2004. It’s the decade to end all “curses.”

Or maybe it’s just the year of the underdog.

http://freevideocoding.com/flvplayer.swf?file=http://mediadownloads.mlb.com/mlbam/2008/09/23/mlbtv_1365122_800K.flv&autoStart=false

NOBODY, and I mean NOBODY, thought the Tampa Bay Rays could go from the worst record in the Major Leagues to an October clinch with a week to go in the regular season. But when you’ve got young talent all over the field, veteran role players, a great bullpen and defense and an optimistic manager who gets you to click from Day 1 in Spring Training … well, I’ll say it again. Why not?

But before we all say hello to October, we had to say goodbye to Yankee Stadium on Sunday night. I’m a grown man, but I’ll admit that my eyes watered a bit, especially when the Captain delivered the final speech.

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That’s what baseball is all about. And October’s what baseball’s all about, too.

One more week and we’re there.

O.G

A Wild Finish

There’s almost too much excitement around the big leagues to blog about these days with only two weeks until October, but things are getting Wild in the Wild Card races, and everyone knows all you have to do is get in it to win it.

The Red Sox look good at the top of the American League Wild Card standings for the AL’s fourth berth in the Postseason, but the Twins are still kicking after their dramatic win Thursday over Tampa Bay.

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In the National League, it’s a different story. The Mets have fallen out of the lead in the NL East, but they’re still holding a tight lead on the Milwaukee Brewers for the Wild Card, and a big effort by their big horse, Johan Santana, kept them in charge Thursday.

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Things aren’t looking so good for the Yankees, and the last time Major League Baseball had a postseason without them was 1993. I can’t believe it, and I’m sure a lot of you can’t either, but that’s baseball, right?

Added to that stunning fact is the reality that baseball’s Cathedral is closing down at the end of the season to make way for the shiny, new ballpark across the street.

So I would like to give an official O.G. shout-out to all the majestic moments we’ve witnessed at that big ballyard in the Bronx, with a big nod to my personal favorite, Aaron Boone’s 11th-inning walk-off piece off Tim Wakefield in that epic Game 7 of the 2003 AL Championship Series to beat the Red Sox.

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Then again, there are about 100 others that come to mind, too. I’d be blogging all night if I was going to list them all. I don’t have that much time, but you all can help me out by voting in the poll and commenting.

So bring it: What are your favorite Yankee Stadium moments?

I want to hear all about them.

O.G.

A big week

Are you sweating yet? September is getting tight and the pennant races are heating up even more, but three prime-time players made big-time statements that can carry all the way into the Postseason, and I’ve got to give them some October Gonzo blog love.

First up is Big Z, better known as Carlos Zambrano. He hadn’t pitched in 12 days but he served a whole lot of National League notice that he’s ready now and ready for October by no-hitting the Astros in Milwaukee.

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Then there’s Big Papi, better known as David Ortiz. He’s been injured for the Red Sox, but he lives for this time of year and he showed the Tampa Bay Rays a thing or two about that Monday in St. Petersburg.

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And let’s not forget the Phillies, who are right in the thick of it again. Sunday saw Brett Myers continue his resurgence to the top of his game, throwing a two-hitter against the Brewers and showing he might just be the October ace they always thought he’d be.

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A quick shout-out to the thousands of you who voted in the last poll and kept our conversations going. I want to keep hearing all your thoughts about October and who you think will win it all and make the next Postseason memories. It was also good to see that we’re up to sixth in the rankings of the Latest Leaders at MLBlogs. Who knows? Maybe we’ll make it all the way to the top.

But on the field, you can be sure that more history will be made soon, which is why I don’t plan to miss many games between now and the end of the World Series. Only two weeks until October, and I can’t wait.

O.G.

A long time coming

October’s all about making the most of opportunities, and four teams this year have the opportunity to make some serious history and give their fans a long-awaited party.
 
It’s been 100 years since the Cubs last won it all, but they’re looking good for the Postseason and could make the North Side as happy as the South Side was three years ago when this happened.
 
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The Milwaukee Brewers only got one shot at the Fall Classic, when they were Harvey’s Wallbangers in 1982, but this year’s model has Wild Card written all over it, and we know what Wild Card teams can do with everything on the line.
 
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Then there are the Tampa Bay Rays. They’d never even had a winning season until this year, and they’re still holding on to the American League East lead. The Tropicana Field faithful have to be saying, “Why not us?” And a recent series win in Fenway Park shows the Rays can get it done on the road when it counts.
 
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And don’t forget the Houston Astros. They’ve been counted out before only to shock the world with a sizzling September. They made it to the World Series in 2005 and the NL Championship Series in 2006 and are getting huge pitching performances — led by Roy Oswalt — at the right time.
 
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In other words, don’t be surprised if one of these four prospective drought-busters ends up parading through their city with a trophy. And don’t be surprised if baseball crowns yet another champion that’s been waiting a long, long time to celebrate.
 
O.G.

Rookies Rule

Sitting here at my computer all the time, I’m thinking when I’m not blogging. And lately I’ve been thinking about rookies and how these first-year phenoms can make things happen for teams in September and then all the way through October.

You don’t even have to be on the 25-man roster in the first three months of the season to make your presence felt when it counts.

Frankie Rodriguez did it almost every night for the Angels in 2002 at the age of 20 after making his Major League debut in late September! Six years later, K-Rod’s team is a lock for October and he’s closing in on the all-time single-season saves record.

http://mfile.akamai.com/10869/wmv/mlb.download.akamai.com/10869/2008/open/mlbam/2008/09/07/mlbtv_anacha_1257137_400K.wmv

How about Jacoby Ellsbury last year? Did anyone see that coming – besides Theo Epstein and the Red Sox brass?

http://mfile.akamai.com/10869/wmv/mlb.download.akamai.com/10869/2008/open/mlbam/2008/09/08/mlbtv_boscol_1260714_400K.wmv

I can’t wait to find out which rookies will rile things up in this year’s Postseason, and I’ve got two in mind that I think might just etch their own names into the October history books.

One of them hits a ton and plays the hot corner like a veteran even though he zoomed through the Minors.

http://mfile.akamai.com/10869/wmv/mlb.download.akamai.com/10869/2008/open/mlbam/2008/08/01/mlbtv_dettba_977419_400K.wmv

One of them crouches behind the plate, calls the games for a top pitching staff, and does just fine with the bat, thank you very much.

http://mfile.akamai.com/10869/wmv/mlb.download.akamai.com/10869/2008/open/mlbam/2008/07/25/mlbtv_flochn_916374_400K.wmv

Both of these young stars have been in their leagues’ Rookie of the Year conversations all season, and they’re the favorites for that hardware.

But something tells me it’s not the only hardware they want.

Now you tell me: Which rookies will make the biggest impact this month and through October.

Let me know.

O.G.

Unsung heroes: An October tradition

Does anybody remember Francisco Cabrera? I know you do if you live in Atlanta, and I bet you do if you’re from Pittsburgh, too. Here’s a quick reminder of who he is, in case you forgot:

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How about Yadier Molina? Do you recall what he did two years ago in New York?

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See what I’m getting at? Every Postseason has guys just like these: hard-working players who raise their game when everything is on the line in October.

For every Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Kirby Puckett and Big Papi, there are a bunch of scrappy role players like Bernie Carbo, Bucky Dent, Lenny Dykstra, Dan Gladden, Otis Nixon, Craig Counsell, Juan Uribe and David Eckstein who are instrumental in flat-out getting the job done.

Who’s it going to be this year? Well, we’ve got most of September to ponder that question.

I know I’ve got a few in mind already.

Here’s one who plies his trade just outside L.A.:

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And here’s another one in Boston, sizzling at the right time.

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There are almost too many to choose from, but the beauty of October is that the right players will choose the moments for all of us.

So who’s it going to be? Comment below and let’s talk about it.

O.G.

Your turn

September is upon us.

It’s show-up or go-home time for the teams in the pennant races all over the Major Leagues, and it’s countdown time until the first pitch of October. I’ve got to say that you all must be feeling the drama the way I am, because you’ve been voting like mad in the October Gonzo polls every week.

The last one, which asked you to name the team that has most surprised you this year, wasn’t exactly a surprise in the end. Of course it was the Tampa Bay Rays, who continue to shock the baseball world by controlling the American League East.

But what surprised me? The thousands upon thousands of responses! You people are passionate about the Postseason, just like I am, and you deserve to be heard.

So here are a few more questions you can respond to in the comment section below. We can keep the discussion going until the lights come out in October!

* What teams that won’t make the Postseason are in the perfect spot to become legendary pennant-race spoilers?

* Which bench players are going to come up huge and make September statements to help get their teams in?

* Who’s going to be the September horse, the starting pitcher who has the biggest month for his October-bound club?

These are just three of hundreds of questions we can all talk about. Now let’s hear thoughts, questions and comments from YOU.

O.G.

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