Despite what I might have said in my previous post about the near certainty of a rematch of last year’s world series – albeit with a different outcome, I saw something last night which has changed my mind…
The Giants are really good and, with a bit of luck (and Troy Tulowitski cooling off*) could actually go all the way in the even-weaker-than-normal National League.
* It infuriates me that Carlos Gonzalez is getting all the hype and all the praise around baseball while Tulo is ignored. Cargo may have the gaudy, Coors Field inflated triple crown stats (even in this regard Pujols and Votto are miles ahead in the MVP as far as I’m concerned – Votto will win it just out of everyone’s desire to actually have a sense of variety to the Barry Bonds**/Albert Pujols award proceedings) but it is Tulo that powers the Rockies both offensively, defensively and in leadership. For that alone he is a much better MVP candidate than Gonzalez.
** Another Bonds thought after the post a few weeks ago. It seems almost a foregone conclusion that the BBWA will once again seek to moralise about steroids when the time comes to induct (or not induct) Bonds into the hall of fame. Fine, well actually it’s not fine but it’s expected. However, Bonds won 4 of his 7 MVP awards during the time period in which he is widely believed to have been cheating. Where were the blow-hards in the BBWA who feel it falls on them to prescribe morality to the professional athlete when the association was voting for these awards? Where was the protest votes when a Lawrence Taylor size Barry Bonds was hitting 73 bombs or walking a billion times a season? That’s right, nowhere. Barry Bonds is, whether we like it or not, a first ballot unanimous hall of famer. If his records are tainted (to my mind they are) then it is MLB’s fault and there is no moral nor legal grounds for anyone in the BBWA to exclude the greatest offensive player in baseball history from the hall of fame for deeds which are (technically) still unproven and (more importantly in terms of the ongoing Selig vs Bonds saga) not against the MLB rules at the time. If we can prove that Bonds took steroids after 2004 then fine, we can rip up the record book and give Bonds the Pete Rose*** treatment with at least a reasonably secure basis for doing so, until then he has to be inducted. Last time I checked the bat McGwire hit his tainted record breaking home run is in the hall of fame so Cooperstown can hardly be considered a steroid free zone now can it?
*** I think Pete’s near continuous coming clean is finally working. I caught a few games of the love-in that seemed to follow his reappearance at the Great American Ballpark during the Red’s series with Arizona and I think that Rose may be very close to getting his ban lifted and finally getting in the Hall. Ideally I’d like to see Bonds and Rose go in at the same induction, that would be amazing. No-one cares about the likes of Andre Dawson and Jim Rice limping into the hall 15 years or so after the face, this simply doesn’t generate enough drama. Bonds and Rose stood on the platform at Cooperstown smirking as they once and for all got their way over the baseball establishment would be beyond brilliant – ESPN could make movies about it.
But back to the Giants. I saw them destroy Milwaukee last night and they look mightily impressive. Buster Posey would be rookie of the year in any year other than this one. Andres Torres seems to have become a fantastic lead-off hitter. Pat Burrell and Jose Guillen are greatly improved and Aubrey Huff is being his usual under-rated, hugely productive self. Plus, on their day, that top of the rotation trio of Lincecum, Cain and Zito is as good as Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels (Ok, no is isn’t but Cole Hamels is very rarely on his day). The only disappointment for the Giants this year seems to be Pablo Sandoval who’s Vlad Guerrero-lite, swing at everything (figuratively rather than literally, no-one has ever accused Sandoval of being light) act seems to have caught up with him. Still, the Giants are able to peddle panda hats to all-comers so all is not lost.
Also Brian Wilson has a brilliant name is looks exactly how a closer should look.
I’m feeling disjointed in my thinking today so I’ll launch back into random, unconnected baseball musings…
Mark Grace may be the best thing about watching MLB. Since they traded Dan Haren I literally cannot think of any reason why anyone would watch the D’backs apart from Gracie. I estimate that I’ve watched more D’backs games this year than any other team (Red Sox excluded). The man is comedy gold. ESPN need to get Orel Hershiser off Sunday Night Baseball and get Gracie on there. It would be incredible. Think of the expression on John Miller’s face as he’s sandwiched between Joe Morgan’s endless wittering on about balance and Gracie proclaiming almost everything to be “Big League”. They should all be hired to do the Oscars next year. Fantastic.
Speaking of things Mark Grace thinks are ‘big league’ I really must express how completely unimpressed I am with Aroldis Chapman. Sure he throws unbelievable heat, but so does Daniel Bard and no one really wants him anywhere near a pitching mound. I’ve seen most of Chapman’s appearances so far and he really doesn’t look at that great. While commentators continuously point to the fact that he is yet to give up an earned run, he got well and truly lit up by the Rockies in one of his relief appearances, promptly allowing all 3 inherited runners to score. Essentially the guy just looks like a left-handed Kyle Farnsworth. If he was playing in the AL where plate discipline is regarded as a necessary element of success rather than a boring inconvenience (see Reynolds, Mark) then the hushed voices bigging up his dominance would be quickly silenced. Another valid Gracie point about Chapman is that he is sabotaging the closing career of Francisco Cordero. Cordero has looked very shaky recently and it is largely Dusty Baker’s fault. By insisting that Chapman act as a lefty set up man and have him throw wild 100+ mph heat at hitter all Baker is doing is making Cordero’s mid-90s stuff look like a welcome rest bite come the 9th. This is not the sort of thing one ought to be doing in the middle of a pennant race, especially when you are a team with a much poorer rotation than any of your likely postseason opponents. If the Reds are going to achieve anything come October it is going to be through their bull pen. This issue with having Chapman set up Cordero needs to be sorted out immediately. Also, this is a lousy way to repay Nick Massett for a fantastic season out of the pen.
Finally, just how bad are the Cubs? At the start of the season I optimistically predicted that the Pirates could become a .500 team. Clearly that proved to be way off the mark (this lack of success in previous predictions had led me to predict a Yankees-Phillies world series as I desperately hope to be proved wrong). However at least the Pirates have a lot of up and coming young talent and I’m certain that they will be nowhere near as bad next year. The Cubs however are a sinking ship. Ramirez and Soriano have been as poor as they are over-paid, Carlos Zambrano has lost his mind (again) and Carlos Marmol has no idea where the strike zone is. While Tyler Colvin and Starlin Castro do represent hope for the future (although Castro is an error machine as SS) the Cubs have precious little else to feel positive about – let’s face it, when your best player is Marlon Byrd you are in serious trouble. Ozzie Guillen is no doubt loving it.