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.
How about Jacoby Ellsbury last year? Did anyone see that coming – besides Theo Epstein and the Red Sox brass?
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.
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.
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.
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:
How about Yadier Molina? Do you recall what he did two years ago in New York?
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.:
And here’s another one in Boston, sizzling at the right time.
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.
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.
Any baseball fan knows that when you get to October, you throw everything out the window because you know crazy things are bound to happen.
And this year? Turns out crazy stuff is happening all over the place ALREADY.
Who would have thought that it would be late August and the Tampa Bay Rays would still be in first place in the American League East … over the Red Sox AND Yankees? Not me, but here they are.
If you told me in April that CC Sabathia would be leading Milwaukee’s rotation on a serious Postseason run, I would have flat-out spilled coffee all over my keyboard in a fit of laughter. But, again, here’s CC, dealing for the Brew Crew when it counts the most.
I think I could have believed that the Angels would be in first place, but I NEVER could have predicted them trading for Mark Teixeira in the heat of a pennant race. That’s what I call serious October commitment.
And Manny Being Manny, Hollywood style? Now that’s just too much.
And that’s the point. As the calendar inches ever closer to October, you gotta get ready for crazy, because once the Postseason starts, it just gets crazier.
Countdown to the pennant
There’s five days left in August, which means there’s five days to September, a.k.a. official crunch time in the big leagues — and the time when my fingers start sweating just a little bit more as I type away at this blog. The heat hasn’t just been turned up on my desk. It’s all around the Majors, and I can’t decide which is the craziest pennant race.
You can’t tell me you’re not checking out in the National League East every night. The Mets and Phillies are duking it out for the second straight year, and the boys from Queens are looking to reverse the September slide that knocked them out last year. Guys like Mike Pelfrey are stepping up big-time at the right time, which means Shea might stay open for an extra month — October.
Out West, the Diamondbacks and Dodgers are in a serious scuffle, and I’m telling you, this one ain’t over by a longshot, but the D-backs have pulled ahead a little bit in the last week, and it doesn’t hurt when guys like my man Chris Young are getting their groove on at the right time.
Flip a coin in the AL Central. For real. This one is off the hook. The White Sox have been there most of the year because of guys like Carlos Quentin going off, but man, those Twins are tough to shake! You’ve got to give it to an organization that keeps the talent flowing in from the farm system year in and year out. Check out their new guy Denard Span – beating the Angels last week – how do they keep finding these guys?!
Who’s going to win these races? I have no clue. No idea. But that’s the great thing.
I’ve got all of September to figure it out, and it starts in five days.
Go yard, young man
When I’m watching a game and step away from my computer just for a minute, something always brings me right back. And it’s not just the crack of the bat. It’s that special sound of wood against horsehide where you know the guy got all of it. You know he went yard.
In other words, chicks aren’t the only people who dig the long ball — bloggers named October Gonzo love it, too. And right now I’m especially fired up because so many exciting young players are coming of age and putting up monster homer numbers. You know that summer slugging will turn into October drama.
My man David Wright in New York has hit some seriously dramatic homers for the Mets, who have had their issues but are back on top.
Who doesn’t like watching Hanley Ramirez rake in South Florida?
Who could have predicted that Ryan Ludwick would be front and center in the hunt for the Major League homer lead?
And there are a lot more.
Milwaukee teammates Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, Braves catcher Brian McCann, Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, Twins first baseman Justin Morneau, D-backs outfielder Adam Dunn, White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin … seems like someone new pops up every day.
That’s what October is all about.
Check your watch or your BlackBerry or your computer or just rip down the old-school calendar from the fridge. We’re officially in late August, and you know what that means: Less than 40 games until the postseason. Now check the standings. Do a few things surprise you as much as they surprise me?
Tampa Bay is not only still there in the American League East, but they’re still there over the Red Sox AND the Yankees. They’re banged up but a good team’s a good team. Still plenty of September games in the division that will give them the ultimate test, but who would have thought they’d be this good this late in the season? It’s the story of 2008 in my book, and with sluggers like Carlos Pena starting to heat up, who knows how far they could go?
There are serious pennant power plays brewing in the National League West and American League Central. Toss a coin to separate the Diamondbacks and Dodgers in the NL and the Twins and White Sox in the AL.
There are lots of things to like about all four teams and lots of reasons to watch all of their games down the stretch, but since we’re talking surprises, man, how about those Twins? They trade Johan to the Mets, Silva leaves for the Mariners, Torii goes to the Angels, and there they are, still contending. And now they have Francisco Liriano back? That’s just filthy.
Yup, everywhere I look, there are surprises, like in L.A., for example. Joe Torre’s Dodgers were looking like a solid team for most of the year, but all of a sudden Manny Magic starts spreading like wildfire throughout the Ravine and everyone’s thinking World Series. Just ask Andre Ethier if he can feel it like I do.
Big moments and bigger plays, and it only gets more intense by the day. Get comfy on that sofa. We’ve still got a quarter of the season to go …
Armed for October
Everyone knows that pitching gets the job done in the postseason, and I’m here to tell you that you can bank on it playing out that way again this season.
Just check out all the pennant races cooking right now in the middle of August. Everywhere you look, the teams on top have the arms to get the job done. And once you’re in a best-of-five or a best-of-seven series? Forget it. Pitching is EVERYTHING.
So who’s going to be this year’s Bob Gibson or Jack Morris or Dave Stewart?
Who’s this year’s El Duque, John Smoltz, Fernando Valenzuela or Curt Schilling?
Maybe it’ll be Big Z in Chicago.
Maybe it’ll be K-Rod in Anaheim, just like in 2002.
Maybe it’ll be CC Sabathia, the new ace of the Brew Crew.
Or maybe it’ll be Josh Beckett, just like last year.
The bottom line is this: Someone is going to step up on the mound in a key situation, take that ball in his right or left hand, and use every single one of its 216 stitches to do something in October that nobody will ever forget.
And I can’t wait to see who that someone is.
I’m loving how the trades keep heating things up. Take the National League West, for example. The Dodgers get Manny, so the D-backs turn around and snag Adam Dunn from Cincinnati. Take that, L.A.!
It’s all in the spirit of October, people. Seriously, if you want to rock on to the World Series, you have to make things happen on the field AND with the cell phones.
So what does Arizona get in this Dunn deal? The power, on-base percentage and ability to change a game in a hurry, like Dunn did here.
Here are some other pieces of my blogging brain, spinning dizzy with the postseason possibilities:
*Tough break — literally — for super-stud Evan Longoria and his Tampa Bay Rays. Dude’s a Rookie of the Year shoo-in and now he’s got a fractured wrist? And now he’s got to join Carl Crawford on the DL? It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s the big leagues. Here’s what happened:
*I’ve been trying to figure out how the whole National League East picture is going to shake out, but the only thing shaking is my head. If the Mets’ bullpen doesn’t get better in a hurry, the Fighting Fish from South Florida can swim right by them. But if that’s going to go down, my boy Hanley Ramirez needs to break out of his slump and start hitting like this again:
*Did anyone see the Twins coming? Not me, but take a look at the AL Central. There they are, right at the top! Pretty cool the way this organization keeps bringing it, and now that they’ve got Francisco Liriano back, healthy and dealing, who’s to say Minnesota won’t be a major factor in October?
Too many things to think about right now, and we’re not even in late August yet.
Time to relax… and watch more baseball!
Here’s a trio of random O.G. blog-servations from the heat of early August… only seven weeks from October, but who’s counting?
*Have you been watching the Cubs? Signs throughout Wrigley say “It Will Happen,” and I can’t really argue when I watch these guys play. Sweet Lou has them feeling it, Ryan Dempster’s out of his mind, and Kerry Wood’s coming back, too. They’ve pulled away from the Brewers a little bit and might be ready to finally give the North Side some World Series championship love for the first time in exactly 100 years.
*No matter how you feel about the Yankees (and I think I know how a lot of you outside New York feel), it’s a bummer that Joba’s hurt. The Yanks already don’t have Chien-Ming Wang and Phil Hughes right now, so now we’ll see what this kid Ian Kennedy is made of. We might also get a Carl Pavano sighting soon. Who knows? Maybe the fresh arms will get the Bombers back on top. Stranger things have happened in October.
*I’ve got one more for you and it’s got three words: Tampa Bay Rays. OK, two more words: Still there. These guys keep winning games in crazy fashion, they’re absolutely ridiculous at home, and their manager, Joe Maddon, has them believing there’s nothing they can’t do. I’m here to tell you that when you have a little confidence, you can rule the postseason — even if you’ve never been there before. Joe saw it close up when he was the bench coach of the ’02 Angels. And now he’s got Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena. That doesn’t hurt, either.
More coming soon as we march toward October memories… are you getting fired up?