The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Random Thoughts

It's put up or shut up time for Marlins fans. Buy your tickets, start showing up to games in May and August, and stop whining about everything. No - not all 25 guys will be back next year (seriously - how many of you "fans" could name more than 10 guys?), but they'll have a solid team. If the Marlins can't draw after this year, I think they will, but if they don't, this will probably doom major league baseball in South Florida for good.

It seems like everyone in town is a Marlins fan right now (there's enough teal to make you sick). Most of them will tell you they've been supporting the team "forever" (which means since at least mid-October). I'm a little frustrated with it already, but hopefully they'll buy tickets. It does make me a little sad though, because people like me will miss out on what made baseball in Miami so unique in the past - you could always walk up (except when Dontrelle started) right before the game and buy tickets whereever you wanted right then. If you just wanted to see the game, you could find something in the Outfield Reserve or the Fish Tank. If you wanted great seats, there were almost always Founders Club or Batters Box seats. Those days are probably over, but it is fun to see kids in the parks playing baseball (and not soccer or some other foul game that only serves to desecrate the field.

Check out Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT for a Roger Clemens - Josh Beckett piece. Of everything from this World Series, the most memorable thing for me was Clemens' last pitch and the ovation and curtain call he received coming off the mound. Of all the memorable sporting events I have personally witnessed, this was far and away the most memorable of all.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Still here

No - I didn't forget about the blog. Just got a little busy this week with work and being at games 3, 4, and 5. Since then I've either been resting, under the weather, or both. There will be a lot more to come this week to wrap up the series, preview the offseason, and talk about the Marlins' bandwagon (which is currently so bursting at the seams that there will be three celebratory parades in town on Tuesday (two in Miami and one boat parade in Fort Lauderdale).

Before I go, a few quick thoughts...

A lot was made about the Marlins eliminating the Yankees last night and how this was such a rare feat. However, it didn't strike me as such. The Yankees have appeared in the World Series 39 times - winning 26 and coming up short 13 times (a pretty impressive record, no doubt). Since I haven't looked it up, lets assume that Yankees have played half of their World Series games at home (I would imagine it would be close - in a good year, they might get 4 games at home, in a bad year they could have as few as two...). Assuming that it's pretty even, you would expect that about half of the time they Yankees were eliminated from the World Series, it would have happened at home. 13 World Series series losses times 50% equals 6.5. Last night's elimination at the hands of the Marlins was their seventh World Series elimination at Yankee Stadium. To me this sounds like another way to make more out of the Yankees mystique than really exists. Yes, you have to go all the way back to 1981 for the last time the Yankees were eliminated at home from the postseason (World Series and otherwise). But between 1981 and 1996 the Yankees weren't in the playoffs a whole lot, in fact they were pretty bad to average. It's tough to be eliminated from the playoffs when you're not even in them (ask the Marlins - who have never lost a postseason series in their eleven year history).

Also, more importantly, for those of you watching the post-game celebrations on your televisions outside of the South Florida area, please don't think we're all outside banging on pots and pans and riding around town in pickup trucks with giant roosters in the back. Yes, I have seen both of these things with my own eyes - both outside of my apartment and on local television broadcasts (my personal favorite was a man with a Corona and a newspaper headline in each hand and full catcher's gear adorning his body). We Floridians are not all like this. Yes, some of us screwed up the 2000 Presidential election, and yes, some of us celebrate World Series victories by driving around town banging whatever we could find in our kitchen with giant roosters following us along, but not all of us. In fact, most of us down here don't even get the pots and pans things (and frankly, I'm beginning to think I shouldn't assume that everyone in Morgantown, West Virginia lites fire to their couches after every night game the Mountaineers participate in just because the media makes it seem that way on television. Sure there are some wackos in Miami and Morgantown, but there are a few normal people who are extremely happy that the Marlins won, but that can contain themselves at the same time.

Monday, October 20, 2003

The World Series in Miami

Well, the Fish came up short in game 2. Pettitte pitched a gem and the Marlins returned to Miami with a 1 - 1 split. As you can see in my previous post, I don't think this bodes well for the team. However, it's about all you can ask for. And if anyone had said that the Marlins would have a 30% chance of winning the World Series after the first two games were played at the beginning of the season - even a week ago when they were down 3 games to one against the Cubs - everyone would have thought the person who said that was crazy. So I'm feeling pretty good.

Especially because I'm going to attend games 3, 4, and 5 of the 2003 World Series in person. I've never been to the World Series before, so I'm very excited. Particularly to see if the place feels different. I expect that it will, although I'll admit that even for playoff games (in 1997 and 2003) the stadium never really felt electric, like I've felt at other baseball playoff venues or basketball stadiums. I'm also excited to see what is likely Clemens' last start and a lot of other things.

For game 3 I'm sitting down the rightfield line in the lower deck, game 4 I'm 20 rows back right behind home plate (awesome work hookup - although we'll probably have to talk a little business), and for game 5 I'm in the centerfield upper deck (yikes!). All were for face value or less, so I'm happy.

Since I'll be attending all three games, blogging will be light or non-existent over the next few days - unfortunately. I'll be going straight to the stadium each night from work and I expect I'll need to crash afterwards if I have any hope of making it back to work the next day. But it will be worth it. And if anyone's interested, I'm sure I'll have a complete post game wrapup on Friday or Saturday.

Oh, and I broke down at the mall yesterday and bought a Marlins World Series hat and a Willis World Series jersey. I couldn't help myself - despite my post from early Sunday. I really like this team - particularly some of the players, like Willis, Cabrera, Pierre, et al. Yes, I know Juan Pierre and Dontrelle Willis are likely having career years, but they've been fun to watch. The ownership is another issue - but that will be the focus of the bulk of our offseason Marlins coverage, so I'll save it, particularly since it's the WORLD SERIES.

Oh, and if you'll be at the game(s), make sure to check out the "Everybody's doing the Fish" video (they broke it out a few times during the regular season). There are a few shots (despite everyone being in teal and it obviously having been filmed in 1997 - how does it already look dated?) that are definitely worth watching.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

The Importance of Game 2

Should the Marlins come up short in tonight's game with the Yankees, I'm sure that Marlins fans and the media will talk about how the Marlins are happy to bring the series back to Miami with a 1 - 1 split. However, World Series history tells us that losing game 2 is not something either team should take lightly.

Alan Abramowitz recently published an article in SABR's The National Pastime (included with your annual SABR membership) that analyzed the results of the 76 editions of the World Series that featured a 2 - 3 - 2 home road split. Teams hosting game two have won 58% of the matchups and a similar 59% of team's hosting game two that hosted and lost game one, won the second game. When the home team split the first two games (as the Yankees would this year with a win tonight), they went on to win the series 57% of the time.

The scariest number for Marlins fans is that 17 home teams lost game 1 of the World Series and came back to win game 2 (at home). Twelve (71%) of those home teams went on to win the series. This is not good for the Marlins, should they come home with the split. Well, at least not historically.

Abramowitz's article is interesting, but not being a history professor, I have to wonder how much, if any, conclusions we can draw from it. The data is based on history, none of which involves the Marlins facing the Yankees, let alone the 2003 Marlins facing the 2003 Yankees. But after 76 Series, if you believe in a home field advantage and that there is some correlation between the teams that appear in the Fall Classic each year, there might be something to it.

Regardless, if the Marlins can win game 2 tonight, they will (obviously) put themselves into a better position to win this series than if they come back to Miami tied with the Yankees at one game a piece.

D-Train Back on track

Dontrelle Willis pitched well out of the bullpen for the Marlins last night, in their exciting 3-2 game one win over the Yankees. However, when I made my series predictions, including that Dontrelle would win the Series MVP award, I assumed that Dontrelle would get a start or two in addition to a relief appearance. It now appears that Dontrelle might not get a start, thus making it very difficult for him to be the MVP of the Series (has a middle reliever ever won or deserved to be the series MVP? I doubt it).

It was a great start to what looks like could be a great series last night... we'll see how tonight goes...

Merchandising Mavens

After driving around town this morning in search of a World Series hat, I'm a little frustrated. In the Marlins seemingly endless attempts to turn people off of the franchise, I think they have reached a new low today.

I visited two malls and two surrounding Sports Authority franchises today in search of a fitted Marlins hat with the World Series logo. At the second Sports Authority one of the sales people told me that those hats have been selling out nearly instantly whenever they arrive (although I was hoping they'd be stuck with one or two to fit my oversized melon). This didn't surprise me, and was in fact, understandable. Marlins fever has reached a fever pitch here in the magic city, and it seems that if it says Marlins on it, it's selling.

On my way home though I stopped by the Marlins in Miami (Marlins en Miami for those of you scoring at home in Spanish) to see if they would have any of the hats. Now I learned long ago that the store is usually closed on Sunday, but since this is kind of a special occassion, I thought they might make an exception. When I arrived at the store, there was a crowd outside and the parking lot was nearly full. There were also three people inside plus a police officer. It looked like they were getting ready to open up - but they weren't. The Marlins store is staying closed today.

Why make it difficult for people? The store is open for a few hours on Saturday and during normal office hours during the week. This is about the first chance the Marlins have had since 1997 to get people behind the team and make a few bucks at the same time. But they're not capitalizing on it. Despite the fact that the store is staffed and there are people outside with money in hand.

So I'll save my $25 or $30 on a hat and save it for the Hurricanes or someone who at least pretends to care about me. Or maybe I'll buy some (probably) knock-off merchandise at a gas station. It seems that at about half of the gas stations in town someone's set up a tent in the corner and is selling all sorts of Marlins garb... most of it teal interestingly, which hasn't really been seen anywhere since it was phased out of the team's gear over the last few years.

Oh well. More on more opportunities that the Marlins have missed in a post-season wrap up... back to the World Series...

Series Preview

Check out Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT for an excellent and detailed preview of the World Series. Like with Aaron Gleeman's preview of the series, I think Rich made a slight typo on his series prediction, but we'll overlook that here.

Friday, October 17, 2003

Everyone remembered

It feels like a whole bunch of people in Miami remembered today that they're from New York and that, oh by the way, they're Yankees fans too. It feels again like much of the Marlins home field advantage for games 3, 4, and 5 will be lost because so many fans will be cheering for the Yankees. Time will tell...

Here's my quick overview of the World Series and prediction...

If you've found your way to this site on the web, I'm sure you're aware of who the key players are, so I won't get into that (it's getting late and I have to be up early tomorrow) here. Instead I'll review what I think the relative strenghts are for each team.

Depth and experience are the two biggies. How much of a factor this will play remains to be seen. The Yankees hold a humongous advantage over the Marlins in nearly every way you could measure experience. On the field and in the dugout nearly all of the Yankees have been here before. They're used to the big stage, the media attention, thre pressure, and the whole thing. I'm not sure how much that will matter though. The Diamondbacks and Angels came into the last two World Series without much World Series experience and they both walked away wtih titles.

The depth advantage for the Yankees extends to the bench, and that could be crucial, particulary for the games in Florida, where the importance of pinch-hitters and defensive replacements will likely be critical.

Speed and possibly fate are the big advantages in the Marlins favor. Some might argue that talent also favors the Yankees, but it's at best a stretch to say that any team could have more talent than a team with a $180 million payroll - 50% more than the second highest payroll in the Major Leagues this year (Red Sox at around $120 million).

The Marlins obviously have more speed than the Yankees - and at nearly every position. Like with the Yankees experience, I'm not sure that this will matter in the Series. If it does, the Marlins are likely to shock the world and win this series. As has been the case nearly all season, if Pierre and Castillo can get on base and run, or at least distract the pitcher, it should set up some nice opportunities for Rodriguez, Cabrera, Conine and crew to drive in some runs.

Although I'm sure our SABR readers and other analytical minds won't agree, since it's not measurable, the Marlins seem charmed. Will this continue in the World Series? We'll see. No one thought much of the Jack McKeon hiring in May (I know I was against it), but he's worked magic. Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera have been special too. No one knew - no one expected it, even the Marlins. If the front office really expected those two to contribute so much, they would have had both up for the entire season. Another key move for the Marlins this year was picking up Chad Fox. No, he wasn't an offseason free agent acquisition or even part of a deadline deal trade. He was picked up off of waivers. The Red Sox didn't want him anymore... the Red Sox didn't want him in their bullpen. Unbelievable! And Fox has been good for pretty much every big out the Marlins have asked of him since he was signed.

I'm sure many will think this is a homer pick, but I'm taking the Marlins in 7. I also think Dontrelle Willis will surprise the baseball community with two solid starts and a good appearance or two out of the pen and end up as the World Series MVP.

Dontrelle was at his best this year (when his arm was strong too) when team's saw him for the first time. Having watched Willis pitch a few times this year from right behind home plate, I'm sure it will take the Yankees batters a few turns through the lineup to pick up the ball well and then they'll still have to deal with his decent stuff. Plus Dontrelle should be tough on a lefty or two coming out of the bullpen (and if he's not, the Marlins are stuck with Tejera as their only other lefty out of the bullpen).

I realize that choosing Dontrelle as the series MVP is going out on a limb, especially since he's cooled off since the All-Star break, but I think someone else other than Cabrera, Rodriguez, Lowell, Conine, or Pierre will need to step up (along with those guys) in order for the Marlins to win four more games. Dontrelle could be that guy if he controls his emotions and stays focused on the mound.

Besides, there doesn't seem to be a guy in the world who's happier to be where he is, so I'd like to see him do it.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Aaron Gleeman

Great post today on Aaron's Baseball Blog about the Marlins. I have to say that I agree with Aaron in that not many (myself included, honestly) felt that the Marlins would make it to the World Series (sure David Samson will tell you that he thought they would - actually he would say that he knew they would - but he's a pompous, gloating, jerk of a guy) and it doesn't quite seem right that the Marlins will be playing in their second World Series in their short eleven year existence. Coming into this postseason the Giants, Braves, and as much as it pains me, the Cubs had more compelling stories to warrant our hearts to cheer for those clubs.

But the Marlins are in and at this point it's hard to not feel like it's their year. Too many weird things have happened to this team for them not to win the World Series. Can Juan Pierre, Miguel Cabrera, and Dontrelle Willis really keep it together well enough for this club to win four more games? I don't know why not. No one really thought they'd win 91 games in the regular season and 8 of their first 12 in the postseason.

I'm starting to believe.

Order is Restored to the Universe

Wow! Who would have thought? Oh wait – that’s right, I did. :-) Although I did write that I thought the Cubs would find some unbelievable way to squander both games 6 and 7 at home with their aces on the mound, I didn’t realistically think that would happen. But somehow it did. And even though I’m surprised, I’m not.

How ridiculous is this statement? The Florida Marlins, the only professional sports franchise currently in existence to have never lost a postseason series, will represent the National League in the 2003 World Series, giving the Marlins the chance to win their second championship in their eleventh season of existence.

The Florida Marlins – yes, a team that should have been contracted a few years ago if not for the players union, a greedy owner in Minnesota who wanted to cash out, and a greedy owner in Montreal who wanted to move his greed to Miami. What is Bud Selig saying now? Pretty much every team that he blacklisted (including, arguably the Devil Rays) has shown some sort of success since Selig’s Blue Ribbon Panel was established – including the Montreal/San Juan Expos, who made a strong run at the Wild Card this year, despite everything Major League Baseball did to make that impossible.

Now, we don’t want to start counting our chickens before they’re hatched since whoever the Marlins face in the World Series will provide more than an adequate challenge, but I fully expect the series to go six or seven games.

Should the Marlins pull of the seemingly impossible and win the Series from either the Red Sox or Yankees and win their second title, they will not only have won two more titles than the Cubs since 1908 and the Red Sox since 1918 (even more shocking when you realize that Miami wasn’t even really a city until the mid 1920s). They’ll also have won one more title than the Yankees since 2000. Most amazingly is that the Marlins would then have two titles in their history (1993 was their first season) compared to one world championship won by the Atlanta Braves (despite that the Braves have won twelve consecutive division titles). This would be true despite the fact that the Marlins have NEVER finished ahead of the Braves in the regular season standings. This is utterly amazing. And probably reason for many to note that the Wild Card may not be everything that some of us – particularly those of us on the bandwagon in South Florida – think that it is cracked up to be.

As you may have heard by now, tickets are very hard to come by in Miami. Rumors are that all three games sold out in less than 20 minutes this morning. If true, that’s pretty amazing considering that there are 65,000 seats (although you’d have to net out both of the season ticket holders and the MLB officials and corporate sponsors who surely have tickets blocked in advance). However, I think I may have tickets lined up for all three games already (although I am kicking myself for not having put down a deposit on a 2004 mini-plan which would have guaranteed me playoff tickets… I went to 20 games this year without a plan and figured that would be doable again next year – like it is every year – although 2004 may turn into the exception, pending the Fish’s pending fire sale).

I’ve spoken to friends and colleagues who purchased their tickets over the phone through Ticketmaster outlets in Utah and California, despite the fact that all of them live in South Florida. I only personally know one person – out of probably hundreds, including people in the office – who was able to buy tickets through Ticketmaster on the web. Rumors of upper deck tickets being sold on eBay for $300 each are already circulating. For those of you who have never attended a baseball game in a football stadium, $300 per person is a lot of money to pay to sit in the upper deck, even if it is the World Series. Honestly, I’m not sure if you’ll be able to tell the teams apart from up there (ok, it’s not that bad – you can see a football game up there), but many of the outfield seats are configured to view football or concerts, and not baseball, and thus the seats face very odd directions and in many places provide incomplete views of the field (which, by the way, is not noted anywhere on the tickets,, or in any Marlins merchandise). The moral of the story is to think before you shell out a paycheck for a ducat to this Series.

The 2003 NLCS was an unbelievable series that will surely be talked about for generations to come, as much for the Marlins – led by Ivan Rodriguez, Miguel Cabrera, and Josh Beckett – for winning the series as for the Cubs not winning the series. I’m sure that Cubs fans will point out the 8th inning of game 6 as when the series got away, but had the series turned out the other way – Marlins fans – both of us – would have pointed back to the pivotal game 3, which the Fish, arguably, should have won. This, my friends, is what makes baseball and especially the postseason so great.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003


Apparently the Chicago Sun-Times ran an article with the name of the guy who tried to catch the ball last night for Moises Alou (as read by me on Baseball Musings). To protect the not so innocent, I won't show his name here either like everyone else is apparently doing. But it's interesting that the Sun-Times ran this article right on the heels of getting duped by a Wayne Huizenga lookalike before game one of the series. You would think they would find more relavant things to write about.

Oops - FOX just posted the guys name on their broadcast.

Another Mike

Just a quick plug before the game starts for Mike's Baseball Rants. There's a good article from a day or two ago about small ball costing teams ball games in the playoffs.

And of course, no mention of Mike's Baseball Rants would be complete without a reference to the weekly Joe Morgan chat wraps. They are epic.

One more game until...

Thom Brenneman is silenced.

Regardless of who wins, I will be glad to enjoy the World Series without the pro-Cubs banter of Thom Brenneman (“Six more outs until the Cubs advance to the World Series…” Hold on Thommie… you spoke a little soon!).

Tim McCarver has never been one of my favorites (bring back Bob Uecker), but at least Tim doesn’t seem to be cheering for one of the teams. I’m sorry, and I realize I’m a little biased, but could everyone hear how giddy Brenneman was last night in the booth? I know that Thom (by the way, does anyone know anyone else who’s name is pronounced “Tom” that spells their name “Thom?” – yes, I know it’s just a shortened version of “Thomas” but puh-lease, get over your pompous self… or maybe I should start asking people to spell “Mike” as “Miche” when they refer to me) worked for the Cubs way back when, but he’s a broadcaster and is supposed to be unbiased.

Al Leiter played with Moises Alou, Luis Castillo, and a number of other players in this series (and literally against all of them), but he doesn’t seem to be playing favorites. Steve Lyons played with Sammy Sosa, but doesn’t seem to cut Sammy any extra slack.

In the Marlins’ previous series, I wasn’t even aware that Chris Berman (who’s also not near the top of my favorite baseball announcers list) is a life long Giants fan, despite the fact that he broadcast the Marlins – Giants series for ESPN, until it was written about in one of the local papers. And I doubt that many of you who watch ESPN’s Sunday Night baseball are aware that Jon Miller is the longtime voice of the Giants, because he is very impartial in his game calling.

Regardless of who’s announcing tonight, I hope that we get a great game. This has been a wonderful series to watch and I’ve really enjoyed it. No matter who wins, I’m glad that it has gone the full seven games (with some free baseball mixed in too – twice so far).

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

CUBS WIN - Oh wait...

Can you believe it? The Marlins somehow found a way to win game 6. What will everyone be talking about - why Dusty left Prior in for so long in his last start or why that fool down the left field line stole the second out in the 7th inning from Moises Alou or Alex Gonzalez struggling to come up with a tough ground ball?

My guess is the fool own the left field line. I'd also guess his name will appear in at least one paper and probably on the radio tomorrow morning. Please don't show up at his house or send him hate mail.

It seems quite fitting though that this year's Brant Brown or Leon Durham is a Cubs fan. Hopefully he isn't one of the loyal thousands who made the trek to Atlanta and/or Miami over the last few weeks. My guess is that he isn't. If he was, I'm sure he would have been into the game enough to realize that when you're in the front row and a player from your team is standing next to you, you shouldn't try to catch the ball.

Ironically, Cubs fans had been writing about this even before tonight's game.

I guess the 3-1 deficit the Marlins were in a few days ago doesn't matter anymore, does it? Oh wait, it's still Redman vs Wood tomorrow...

Monday, October 13, 2003


I didn't write anything about the fracas (fracases technically, I guess) in Boston during game 3 of the ALCS, but Aaron Gleeman has an interesting article about what happened as well as link to a home video of Zimmer approaching Martinez. Check it out and form your own opinion.

Thanks to Aaron and whoever filmed and posted this! I wasn't very happy with the single angle that FOX had (I know it's not exactly a shot they were planning on needing to get) because you couldn't really tell why Pedro reacted the way that he did.

David Pinto also had some good thoughts about the incident as well as links to other good commentary.

Weather Factor

It looks like the temperature will be in the 40s for tomorrow's game 6 at Wrigley. For those of us in Florida, that sounds very cold. To be honest, I'm not sure if I keep my freezer that cold. Unless some kind of a front moves in, I'm sure we'll hear a lot about this leading up to the game.

And I'm sure it will matter - it's cold. The players will notice. It was 90 degrees for the last game in Miami. I'm sure the buzz will be that this will work against the Marlins. Maybe it will - we'll see. But really, how is it any different for the Cubs than the Marlins?

Both teams are playing on the same field at the same time. And it's not like the Cubs were assembled from twenty-five Chicagoland natives who honed their skills playing baseball on snow covered sandlots wearing shorts and t-shirts. Sammy Sosa is from the Dominican. Moises Alou resides in Florida. Alex Gonzalez (the Chicago version) was raised in Miami. Mark Prior, Tuesday's pitcher, was raised in Southern California.

I could go on, but even I am getting a little bored with the illustrations. The point is that while the weather may be a factor tomorrow, it will likely impact both teams. It's been hot all summer - none of these guys are acclimated to the cold much more than each other. It certainly isn't like the Cubs played 30 games in the cold last October.

... but at the same time, if the temperature is in the 30s or 40s tomorrow, I sure wouldn't want to be the guy who gets jammed by a Prior fastball.

There's Always Next Year

Interviewed last night after the game, Cubs hitting coach Gary Matthews spoke about the Cubs history of blowing leads in playoff series. He was quoted (by the Miami Herald) as saying, "The Cubs lost in '84 and they lost in '89, but we're not dealing in the past. We're dealing with the future."

... um, Gary, slow down. Let's deal with what happens between the past and the future - it's called the present.

Another great quote came from the Marlins pinch hitter extraordinaire Lenny Harris. When asked about his teammates (also quoted from the Herald), Harris said, "These guys are like men at Toys R Us. They feel no pressure. It's surprising."

I honestly have no idea what Lenny is talking about. If you do, please email me. Needless to say, if Lenny gives quotes like these, I don't think we'll be hearing him as a 3rd announcer in the FOX booth anytime soon.

The Perfect Set Up

Yesterday, going into the game, I was pretty pessimistic about the Marlins chances. And while Beckett was in the middle of throwing his gem, it dawned on me – of course this is how it has to play out. The Marlins need some seemingly insurmountable odds (i.e. a 3 games to 1 deficit – mainly acquired at home, with two of the losses acquired via an extra inning heartbreaker and a straight up blowout) to overcome in order to help add to the aura and mystique that is Chicago Cubs baseball.

Think about it. For games 6 and 7 the Cubs are slated to have Kerry Wood and Mark Prior take the hill to face Carl Pavano (in his first ever post-season start) and Mark Redman (a nice pitcher indeed, but a random person in Miami is more likely to assume that Redman is the guy who appears on stage with Method Man than the guy the Marlins would put on the hill for the potential decisive game 7 of the National League Championship series).

The potential pitching matchups for games 6 and 7 are exactly how anyone associated with the Cubs would have drawn it up at the beginning of the year. If Fox posed a Sprint PCS question during the game, the best duo this year for any one team to have pitch in two such important games would be Prior and Wood.

And it’s exactly the opposite for the Marlins. Other than Pavano and Redman’s families, hardly anyone would have picked those two at the start of the year – or even at the start of the playoffs – to be the two to call on in potential elimination games. These are two guys who, not that long ago, the lowly Expos and Tigers didn’t really want to have around anymore.

This is a great set up. Cubs fans are sitting back, happy as can be. The Cubs came into Miami for the weekend, took two of three games from the Marlins, and flew back home to take the pennant in front of the home fans at the friendly confines. That’s what we’re all thinking right now – Cubs fans, Marlins fans, and everyone else who’s watching – that the Cubs will win this series easily, but that the Marlins put up a good fight.

Except that the classic ending, even more classic than the Cubs winning this series in 6 or 7 games and returning to the World Series for the first time since 1945 and possibly winning the Series for the first time since 1908, would be for the Marlins to steal games 6 and 7 from the Cubs. It would require beating Mark Prior and Kerry Wood in those two games and taking two from the beloved Cubs at Wrigley Field. Should that occur, my only problem with it will be that I wasn’t wise enough to predict it from the outset. If the Cubs are to be eliminated at this point, it couldn’t possibly happen in fewer than the minimum number of games.

A storybook ending to the tale of woe for Cubs fans it would not be. But it would be an unbelievable addition to Cubs lore. Imagine how hard it would be to utter “wait till next year” after game 7. This is next year. Can the Cubs close it out?

Yes, I know that they will. They pretty much have to. To win one of two games with those two aces on the hill is pretty much a given – even if you threw the 1927 Yankees, or whoever else, even in their prime, out there to hit against them. But as a lifelong White Sox fan and a Marlins fan since 1995 when I moved out here, I’m allowed to dream… at least until tomorrow night.

Random Thought

I suppose others have already thought of this and written about it (and feel free to insert your team's name in the place of the Marlins, Cubs, or Red Sox below), but...

If the Marlins do the impossible here and pull out the NLCS and win the World Series, they will have won their second title since 1997. One more than the Braves have won in their run of twelve consecutive division titles.

What the Braves have done is amazing and I don’t mean to diminish what they have accomplished by this observation. As a fan, which would you rather have – the run that the Braves have been on since 1991 or rollercoaster ride that has been the Marlins during that time?

Remember that there was no team in Miami back in 1991 (you could argue that there wasn’t in 1998 either). The inaugural year was the 1993 campaign. There was the steady climb up through 1997 (with a league wide dip in 1994) and a rapid descent beginning in the offseason between 1997 and 1998 immediately following the World Title. Sometime during the 2002 campaign it’s fair to say the Marlins were back on the upswing.

During that time the Braves have essentially been in first place every single day. They’ve reached the playoffs every year it was possible. The Braves appeared in the World Series five times and won it once.

I suppose it’s not much of a question. Nearly all of us would rather support a team that’s in it every year and seems to make the post-season with regularity. It’s much more enjoyable (although still twisted) to have your heart broken during playoff games in October than having it happen when your team is eliminated after losing to the Royals or Reds in August.

But nonetheless, the Marlins could end up one World Series title ahead of the Braves during this unbelievable run they’ve been on – a run that is arguably unmatched in pro sports history.

For that matter, if either the Cubs or Red Sox - allegedly the longtime losers of Major League Baseball – wins the World Series this year, they too will have won as many titles in the 90s and in the first part of this century as the Braves’ dynasty. That’s amazing.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Turn of Events

I'm back from Tallahassee and completely surprised at hot things have turned out over the last two days. First the Marlins lost an extra inning game against the Cubs, where it looked like the Marlins were poised to capitalize on chasing Kerry Wood.

Then, although I don't really want to talk about football on this site, the Miami Hurricanes pulled off a shocker (at least to me and I was glad to see it) in Tallahassee and won 22 - 14 in the rain (I have been less wet swimming in a pool than I was sitting in the stands at Doak Campbell Stadium yesterday).

Last night, Dontrelle Willis and the Fish came up short (putting it mildly) against the Cubs and Matt Clement. In the process, Jack McKeon benched slumping Juan Encarnacion in favor of returning Mike Lowell to third base and moving Miguel Cabrera to right field.

All of these factors are reasons why I do not bet on sports. Usually I think I have a pretty good idea of what is going on, what's happened, and what will happen in the near future. But then reality happens and you never really know.

Although Juan Encarnacion was a major factor in getting the Marlins to the playoffs this year, I support McKeon's decision to bench him in favor of the hotter bats between Cabrera, Lowell, and Conine. The Marlins are in a position where they have five solid players for their four corner infield and outfield positions. While you could argue that Derrick Lee could have been benched in lieu of Encarnacion, others would argue that Lee's defense is less replaceable than Encarnacion's (although Billy Beane and many others would probably say that defense, particularly at first base isn't anywhere near as important as offense, particulary for the Marlins right now as they are struggling to score enough runs).

Hopefully today's game five won't be the last of the year for the Marlins. Expecting the Fish to come back and win this series is too much to hope for, but winning a second game would at least make the results look more respectable. As was the case going into game 1, I like the Marlins chances with Beckett facing off against Zambrano. But a more important factor will be how the teams approach today's game. There is always the chance that the Marlins will come out flat, effectively having given up hope on winning this series. I doubt that will be the case because that has not been the personality of this team this year. But the lifeblood of their personality - Dontrelle Willis - was knocked around pretty good last night and his attitude, although he won't have any impact whatsoever on the field today, in the clubhouse could influence the team on the field.

My biggest concern about today's game is how many Cubs fans will be present at Pro Player Stadium. From the accounts I've read, the Cubs have been out in force at the two games so far, particularly last night's slaughter. Given that, and that the Marlins have lost some (all) momentum, it would not surprise me to see an even larger count of Cubs fans at today's game. Heck, it wouldn't even be surprising to hear that a number of Marlins "fans" - you know, those folks who ran out and bought their t-shirts and found out about the team this week - show up in Cubs gear and cheer for Sammy and the boys. Either that, or if you're a Cubs fan in the South Florida area today, I wouldn't be surprised if you could find yourself a nice seat to today's game from a disappointed Marlins fan for about face value.

If you're still reading at this point you're probably thinking something like "even the guy with the Marlins blog isn't going to support the Fish today." While that's true, my excuse is that I just got back from Tallahassee. When tickets were around last weekend I wasn't sure that we'd be back in time to make the game or that the game would be played (although realistically, we all knew at least a game 5 would happen). So I didn't get tickets. And since I didn't get to bed until 4 am this morning, I'm pretty tired. Hopefully I won't fall asleep during the game.

But nevertheless, I'll be supporting the Fish next year and in Spring Training - no matter how many players they trade, release, or non-tender. ... oh yeah, and I'll be doing the same for the rest of this year's playoff run. :-)

Friday, October 10, 2003

Killing the Momentum We've Built

I'm sure that the dozens of you out there who have been reading this blog everyday since it's inception (ok, so it's less than a week) will be disappointed to hear that I'm going out of town and will not have access to a computer until Sunday.

Yes, it's true. I'm leaving Miami for a quick weekend getaway and while I am away I will miss the two or three of the biggest Marlins games in the last six years. I'm not that happy about it, but I am happy that I'm going out of town to watch the Canes face off against the Noles in Tallahassee. Hopefully it will be a good game, but I'm just hoping that the Canes don't get blown out. This is the first time in the Larry Coker era that I've gone into the game expecting the Canes to lose. Oh well, it had to happen sometime.

This weekend should be a great weekend for baseball (although the college football slate is pretty strong too). The Clemens - Martinez matchup on Saturday at Fenway sounds like the makings for an Instant Classic. Well, that's at least what I'm hoping, since I probably won't be able to see the game - although it will probably be on the radio in the car.

Miami is definitely buzzing with Marlins fever. Hopefully the Fish will be able to take two of three this weekend and go back to Chicago with an edge. A three game sweep is too much to hope for. My best guess - no analysis, just gut feel - is that the Cubs will win game 3 tonight, but that the Fish will come back to take Games 4 and 5. Eventually though, if the Marlins are to win this series, they will have to beat either Prior or Wood at least once.

Check out the Cub Reporter while I'm away (although I think most of you are coming from there anyway). If you're looking for interesting college football coverage, I'm becoming partial to However, sometime during the offseason and before the bowl games I'll write a little essay on why baseball is better than college and pro football, despite the fact that recent surveys show that football is more popular than baseball by a two-to-one margin or more.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Wayne Update

I haven't seen it in writing yet, but WIOD (radio station) in Miami is reporting that Wayne Huizenga wasn't even in Chicago for game 1 or 2 (Wayne was heard saying that he hasn't been in Chicago for 8 months) and Wayne apparently has come out and stated that he is cheering for the Marlins and is not cheering for the Cubs.

Whatever - weird story. Apparently Huizenga is suing The Miami Herald for defamation of character or something like that. An interesting allegation for a man who's money comes from collecting garbage and renting videos. :-) Don't sue me Wayne. Going after the Herald is interesting. If the story is false, everything I read indicated that the Chicago Sun-Times had the story a full day before the Herald.

It should be interesting to see how this story plays out. In Miami, there are probably no two less credible sources than Wayne Huizenga and The Miami Herald.

Commentary by Others

Lots of great analysis of the NLCS to comment on, but unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of time to read it or write about it. Jon has an interesting take on the Marlins being over-achievers and wishes the same fate had befallen his Dodgers. I haven’t taken a lot at Pythagorean runs or anything to determine if the Marlins hot streak (although it’s at least more than that since they’ve effectively been on a run since May) has been driven by luck or just good baseball. The Marlins style – relying more on the stolen base and the dreaded “little things” more than the big bomb – runs counter to at least two-thirds of the teams in baseball, so I suppose that many teams would like to think (hope that the Marlins just got lucky this year. The Fish are fun to watch though… well, except when they get shelled like last night.

David Pinto talks about an article from the Miami Herald with some interesting commentary about the first “pitch” that Tejera through last night. I’m assuming it was just a case of nerves – although Tejera did seem to be struggling with breaking off his curveball last night. Luckily no Marlins were hurt in the dugout (did you see it? I’m serious) by the wildest of wild pitches (Dontrelle Willis – surprise – seemed to get a good laugh out of the whole thing).

The Cub Reporter has plenty of good analysis of the Series as well. That’s not to say that I necessarily agree with any of it, but it is well thought out and well written, which is more than you could say about what you’re reading right now. Eventually though I’ll have to dial the prose up a notch or two. It looks like most of the traffic we’re getting here is from Cubs sites, so unless the Marlins pull out this series and some Yankees or Red Sox traffic finds its way to this site, we could be looking at a long winter here at the Book of Mike, where I spend a lot of time talking to myself. But I suppose that wouldn’t be anything new – except that it would be published on the web now.

Calm Down Red Sox nation

We’ll soon have a mailbag feature as I’m sure that some of you will find the email I receive from others to be as entertaining as I find it… here are some snippets from today’s inbox from Red Sox nation…

A prayer…
Our father who art at Fenway
Baseball be thy game
Thy kingdom come
World Series won
On Earth as it is at the Cask n' Flagon
Give us this day our Petie Martinez
And forgive us our losses as we forgive those
Like young Billy Buckner
And lead us not into depression
But deliver us from the curse and the Evil Empire


And I’m not sure if this one is a joke or a threat…

A Yankees fan, a Red Sox fan, a Cubs fan and a Marlins fan climb up to the top of a mountain talking about how loyal they are to their team (ok, so the Marlins fan is obviously going to lose this argument, but at least he’s along for the hike), and how they would do anything for them. Once they reach the top of the mountain the Cubs fan screams, "THIS IS FOR THE CUBS" and jumps off. The Marlins fan screams "THIS IS FOR THE MARLINS" and he too jumps off of the mountain. Finally the Red Sox fan screams, "THIS IS FOR EVERYONE" and pushes the Yankees fan off.
Sadly I have received no comments from anyone professing to be among the Marlins faithful. Everything is from another team. Maybe everyone’s jumping off the bandwagon now that the series is 1 -1 (the Fish still have home field though – if they win out… well, you know the rest).

Series Tied, who cares - it's what we wanted anyway - this is what we're talking about

While the mood in Fish land is much more somber today after last night’s 12-3 defeat, all is not lost. The team seemed to take the loss in stride and I think the Marlins faithful are happy to come home with a split.

The Cubs are likely in for a shock in terms of the environment that they’ll face this weekend, particularly for games 3 and 4 since they will be played at night. Pro Player Stadium is a football stadium. It looks like one, it feels like one, and the fans who attend games there generally act like they’re at a football game, regardless of what the actual event of the day is. Since the first two games are night games, that will mean that serious tailgating will take place in the parking lots surrounding the stadium before the game, and the 65,000 screaming “faithful” will be pretty well oiled up by the time the game begins.

I doubt that many of the Cub players have experienced an atmosphere like we’re likely to see this weekend. It will feel like a football game and there will be fans everywhere. But, honestly, with professional athletes at this stage of the season, I don’t know that it will matter. I’m sure that well a well focused Kerry Wood or Sammy Sosa might not hear a thing. And Moises Alou has been through this before (albeit on the other side) so he will be able to prepare his teammates if necessary.

I would expect the fans in the rightfield bleachers, who are amongst the Marlins only loyal fans, to ride Sammy hard when he’s in the field. That should be interesting. Jose Cruz Jr. got quite the ribbing in the last series, but I don’t think that was what affected his performance as he took the jeers quite well (although I don’t know what caused him to play below his usual standards defensively).

Other than that, I like the Marlins chances with Dontrelle on the hill, even if they’re down a game after Wood pitches Friday night. Hopefully the D-Train won’t tire himself out again stretching a double into a triple like he did against the Giants.

Honestly though, Marlins fans aren’t talking much about the upcoming games themselves, but about two things: Wayne Huizenga and what to do with Miguel Cabrera and Mike Lowell.

For those of you who don’t know, Wayne Huizenga, business magnate and Chicago native, used to own the Florida Marlins. He also owned the Florida Panthers and still owns the Miami Dolphins and Pro Player Stadium, home of the Dolphins and the Marlins. Wayne sold the Marlins shortly after the 1997 season, citing significant losses ($20 million or more per year), which arguably were paper losses more than real losses for a few reasons. One was that the Marlins have always had a bad lease at Pro Player and this is a source of their low revenue. However, when Wayne owned the team, this was really just taking money from one pocket and putting it into the other. Since none of the records are public, it’s difficult to establish if this was really a “loss” or not. Another biggie was that the Marlins television deal has never been big, particularly in the late 90s. However, Wayne owned the cable channel that carried a lot of Marlins games at the time (Sports Channel Florida). Again, the low rights fees that the Marlins received from Sports Channel were likely offset from the advertising revenue Wayne received for his network.

So what’s the point of this history lesson? Well, it’s just background to the fact that Wayne is in Chicago this week, in Cubs garb, openly telling reporters and fans that he’s cheering for the Cubs. “How could you not?” is his alleged quote from the Chicago Sun-Times. Well hello? You used to own the Marlins. You were their first owner. You owned them when they won the World Series six years ago (coincidentially in the Marlins 5th anniversary season, although they’re now celebrating their 10th anniversary six years later… but more on that later). You lobbied Major League Baseball to have a franchise brought to your new hometown.

But Wayne doesn’t care. It seems that Wayne has it in his heart to kill the sports interest in anything non-Dolphins in Miami. First he dismantled the Marlins and set them up for a string of very lean years (although former GM Dave Dombrowski should be credited for doing an extremely good job under very difficult circumstances – and for sticking it out for a long time when it would have been easy to up and leave). In addition, another expansion franchise that Wayne brought to town, the NHL’s Florida Panthers, has also been run into the ground, although Wayne (of course) no longer owns the team. You may also remember that the 1996 Panthers made a surprising run at the Stanley Cup, but have hardly been heard from since.

Wayne does get credit in town – somehow – for how the Dolphins are run. Yes, they are usually good and they usually make the playoffs and Wayne usually spends whatever money needs to be spent – be it on players, coaches, or whatever. But when was the last time that the Dolphins played in an AFC championship game? I don’t think it’s been since they moved into Pro Player/Joe Robbie Stadium. Somehow the Dolphins have managed to survive for 30-years on the reputation of the 1972 “Perfect” Team (although it’s funny that the Perfect team rarely makes an appearance on a list of the top 5 greatest teams in NFL history).

So suffice it to say that Wayne Huizenga, great friend of South Florida sports, has put another knife in the back of the fans that he at one time or another has stuck his hand into the pockets of. Thanks Wayne! I can’t wait to give you my $9 for parking at the next Marlins game (although I’m sure that price will be raised again sometime soon).

The other hot topic on the minds of Marlins fans is who to play at shortstop for the remainder of the series. Alex Gonzalez is playing well in the field, but is 1 for 24 at the plate in the playoffs. Alex would need to go 5 for his next 6 to reach the Mendoza line at the plate… but then there’s that glove that arguably won game 1 for the Marlins with two sparkling plays in the 7th and 8th innings.

However, Mike Lowell, Miguel Cabrera, and Jeff Conine appear to have brought their lumber to the postseason. Unfortunately, most of the permutations for these three players only involve leftfield, third base, and pinch hitter. Gonzalez’s quiet back has sparked speculation of putting Cabrera at short, his natural position, although he almost exclusively played third base and left field this year in the majors and minors until last night. It has been widely speculated that Cabrera would take over shortstop for the Fish as early as next year, but I don’t think that anyone expected the switch to come as early as the playoffs. But it may come as early as tomorrow night, when the Marlins look for as many bats as possible to put into the lineup against the Cubs’ Kerry Wood.

Personally, I’m very torn on the subject. The safer gamble would appear to be to start either Lowell or Cabrera at third and Conine and Gonzalez at their regular positions. If the game turns into a low scoring, pitcher’s duel (unlike the first two games), the Marlins will be happy to have Gonzalez’s glove in the field. Then if late – or even early – in the game the Marlins need a big at bat, they can use either Lowell of Cabrera off of the bench to hit for either Gonzalez or the pitcher.

I like having the option of bringing one of those players off of the bench since Hollandsworth, Harris, Mordecai, Redmond, et al don’t really strike fear into anyone (despite some of the mid-season heroics by Mordecai with a game winning home run here or there). With Gonzalez on the bench with the other stiffs, it would be much easier for Dusty and crew to manage their pitchers, since there would not be much risk of a big bat coming off the bench at any time.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

It's Obvious - Isn't it?

When Jack McKeon chose to use Todd Hollandsworth to pinch hit for Chad Fox in the eighth inning last night, my initial reaction was that it was a mistake. Hollandsworth (H’worth in your boxscore most likely) hasn’t been much at the plate this year, and frankly hasn’t looked like much of the player that many of us thought that he would be seemingly eons ago when he won the National League Rookie of the Year award with the Dodgers.

This move was surprising, because (as everyone later found out) Mike Lowell was available on the bench. Fortunately though, for the Fish, Hollandsworth came up with a double.

But Trader Jack obviously knew something. Jack has been pulling all of the right switches and pushing all the right buttons the entire year – well, for most of the year. The Marlins didn’t find Jack at his retirement home until the middle of May, but that’s another story all together.

I think what Jack knew is that he has a deal with the devil (and the devil may in fact be Marlins President David Samson – although I would expect in human form that the devil would take on a more imposing form than the Marlins diminutive dweeb) and that it didn’t matter who he used to pinch hit during the 8th inning (this I am sure of because if the devil has a deal with Jack McKeon, he surely has a deal with the people at Fox, who would bargain nearly anything for a dramatic ending and high ratings – thus everyone involved knew extra innings would be involved from the outset).

So Jack saved Mike Lowell, giving him precious more time to sit on the bench to let his broken hand heal. And heal it did – at least well enough to lift a fly ball just high enough and just hard enough to peak over the basket in centerfield and land just above Kenny Lofton’s head.

Hopefully for Jack and the Fish the magic will continue. I haven’t quite pieced together how this arrangement Jack has with the devil also involves the Cubs’ infamous Billy Goat and the Red Sox curse of the Bambino, but with the way things seem to be playing out this postseason, I’m sure they’re involved in the plot too (think about it – it’s entirely possible – Jack is old enough to have personally known all of the key contributors to the alleged curses). Eventually I the rest of this will become obvious to us all.

Quick Break from Baseball

I saw a very nice post from our friends over at The Cub Reporter today, but I wanted to clarify his statement on the Hurricanes being criminals. Yes, the University of Miami has had a somewhat checkered past in terms of the student-athletes they’ve admitted, but since being placed on probation in the mid-90s, the program has really been turned around. Not there really is such a thing, but if there were, Hurricane sports in many ways could be considered a model collegiate sports program (even if you don’t think that, please let me believe it since the athletic department receives a healthy chunk of change from me each year).

Besides, for all of you Chicago folks, the Hurricanes will be starting Jarrett Payton at running back this week against the Florida State Seminoles (a better place to look, by the way, if you’re looking for crime in college sports). Yes, that’s right – the son of the late, great Walter Payton of Bears fame.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Gleeman Came through... sort of

Check out Aaron's Baseball Blog for a solid preview of the NLCS. I think Aaron made a mistake on his prediction though... we'll see.

Pitching Wisdom

"You know you're having a bad day when the 5th inning rolls around and they drag the warning track" -- Mike Flanigan, Baltimore Orioles, April 20, 1992.

Hopefully Josh Beckett won't be saying the same thing in the locker room tonight after the game.

What's up with Beckett's delivery? He looks very deliberate tonight - he seems to be reaching back and keeping the ball below his waist for a very long time on each pitch.

NLCS Position Analysis

Well now I suppose I need something to back up my claims of the Marlins winning this thing in six games. Let’s do the traditional position-by-position rundown…

Catcher – Big Edge to the Marlins
Ivan Rodriguez was positively on fire in the NLDS against the Giants. Behind the plate and at bat he set the tone for the team. The Marlins will need Pudge’s hot bat to hold up through this series if the Fish expect to score many runs against the Cubs big bats.

The Cubs Damian Miller is probably a nice guy, but he’s also the Phil Jackson of major league catchers. Phil’s won a lot of NBA titles, but coincidentally he’s been surrounded by guys like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Horace Grant, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neal when the magic happened. Damian Miller is much the same way. Not many of you probably had followed Miller’s inglorious career (lifetime OBA of .329) before he was on the receiving end of Randy Johnson’s fastball. Catching staffs that include Curt Schilling, Kerry Wood, and Mark Prior doesn’t hurt your image either.

Infield – Slight edge to the Marlins
The Marlins are solid defensively. Heck, they’ll even tell you that they might be the best defensive unit of all time and McKeon has gone on record as saying that all four guys are legit Gold Glovers this year. Florida will need to count on offense from the corner men – Derrick Lee at first and either Miguel Cabrera or Mike Lowell at third – in order to get some runs. A resurgence by Alex Gonzalez at the plate (remember how hot he was at the start of the year) would be a huge bonus, but I’m not counting on it. Luis Castillo, almost assuredly, can be counted on for solid defense and offense, although he will probably have fewer stolen bases than many of you expect.

Aramis Ramirez played well in the NLDS against the Braves (can the Pirates still really be called the Pirates after what they allowed to happen around the trade deadline? Shouldn’t they be renamed the Pirateds or something?). Eric Karros provides some leadership and surprisingly to me at least, power in the NLDS.

Outfield – Push
These two clubs have very different outfields – with the strengths of the Marlins being speed and defense and the Cubs being power. The Marlins are solid defensively - particularly with Jeff Conine’s solid play of late, but the Fish do not offer the same power that the Cubs do (not that many clubs do. Juan Pierre is probably the key to this series. When JP gets on base, good things happen for the Fish. When he doesn’t, it’s usually a long night. Juan Encarnacion could be someone who surprises in this series. Encarnacion (recipient of the famous 4-3-2-Juan cheer at home) has a powerful bat and a powerful arm, although he didn’t show much of either against the Giants.

The Cubs outfield is of course led by Sammy Sosa, who although he struggled in the NLDS is always a threat to change the course of a game with one swing. His presence in the batter’s box and ability to change the game is exceeded by Bonds. Moises Alou, who should have won the 1997 World Series MVP for the Marlins, is no slouch either and he brings with a track record of playoff success. Kenny Lofton, in centerfield, is also a solid ballplayer, although not quite the speed with some pop combination that he once was. Kenny has also played for nearly every team in the league it seems like now, so he’s a probably a good guy to ask if you’re looking for a restaurant review. I believe this is the fourth team that Kenny has made the playoffs with (Indians, Braves, and Giants previously). Lofton has to be the only athlete to play in the NCAA Final Four (Arizona) and with four different major league baseball franchises in the playoffs.

Starting Pitching – Slight Edge to the Cubs
Both teams will have question marks going into this series as the staffs are young and relatively untested, particularly in post-season play. The edge here goes to the Cubs as they have two legitimate aces in Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, while the Marlins have four aces in waiting. Josh Beckett, Brad Penny, Dontrelle Willis, and Mark Redman are probably number two starters on most teams, at best, and some of them may be having career years this year. But, that’s what great post-season runs are made of.

Bullpens – Toss-up
One name for each club will give it’s fans heartburn and the opponents fans hope – Looper for the Fish and Alfonseca with the Cubs. Braden Looper was the Marlins closer all year and had an amazingly solid campaign. However, he faltered late in the year and it doesn’t appear that he has recovered. Maybe he was overused during the regular season, but the NLCS is no time to work out the kinks. Marlin fans are aware as anyone how “exciting” an Antonio Alfonseca inning can be. Sometimes you need to borrow Antonio’s six-fingered hand to tally the baserunners he surrenders.

A solid performance or a meltdown by either club’s bullpen could be the pivotal factor in this series.

Bench – Push
Neither bench really excites me – except that the Marlins will have a legit starter in Mike Lowell or Miguel Cabrera available off the bench each night.

Manager – Slight edge to the Cubs
Both managers are experienced, but Dusty Baker has more post-season experience than the Marlins’ Jack McKeon, as amazingly, in 50 years in baseball, Trader Jack has never experienced the post-season until this year. However, I think that speaks more to how difficult it was to make the postseason (i.e. straight to the World Series – one team per league) back in Jack’s day compared to today when eight teams per year make it. Weren’t there only eight teams in all of organized ball when Jack started?

Intangibles – Push
Cub fans will argue this to death I’m sure. The Curse of Billy Goat, no World Series wins since 1945. But the Marlins have Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera as key contributors. These guys were questionable to be key contributors for the Albuquerque Isotopes playoff run this year (both started the year in AA not AAA), let alone the big league club’s. And Jack McKeon seemingly has pushed all of the right buttons since coming aboard in May. This team is even picking up other team’s castoffs mid-year (Chad Fox) and turning them into studs.

The intangibles are only a push here because it seems to be so strong for both clubs.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Mark my words

No one is talking about it now, and I suppose it's not good form during the playoff run, but I'm already dreading the day when the Marlins not only fail to resign Ivan Rodriguez, but also cite his $7 million in deferred money as part of the reason why they can't go out and sign other free agents in an effort to make another playoff run.

I think there are about to be a lot more similarities between the 1997 Marlins and the 2003 Marlins. Aside from Juan Pierre and Jeff Conine, no one is signed for next year (other than Dontrelle and Cabrera who they can automatically renew).

To field the 2003 team again in 2004, it will cost the Marlins about $80 million in payroll, or $30 million more than the 2003 budget. I don't think the playoff run is going to fund that. Even a dramatic increase in season ticket holders and whatever windfalls befall the team probably won't be enough. I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think I am.

Clarification on MVP Pick

My instinct was to pick Juan Encarnacion for MVP of the NLCS, but if there's any justice in the world Juan Pierre will be the MVP because he's been the MVP of the whole year.

Fearless NLCS Predictions

Seriously, how could anyone go out and wager their hard earned money on this NLCS between the Giants and Braves... oh wait, I mean the Marlins and Cubs? Any team that's left standing at this point in the year is capable of going 4 - 3 or 8 - 6 and winning the whole thing.

Yes, I know you could run all sorts of numbers and come up with a fancy statistical analysis to say who's going to win. I do that sort of a thing for a living all day. But baseball isn't always like that. They don't play games on paper or on your computer (ok, maybe nowadays they do) - they play the games in your television... I mean actual people play the games in real life, and that introduces a lot of random effects to the mix, which means just about anything can happen in a best of seven series.

For that reason, I will go out on a limb and predict that Alex Gonzalez will win the NLCS MVP. Now you are probably saying that's a bit of a stretch and that you're surprised that I would think going into this thing that Alex Gonzalez and not Jeff Conine, Ivan Rodriguez, Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis or Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Moises Alou, or even Sammy Sosa. But c'mon - there's only one of each of those guys and there are TWO Alex Gonzalez's and there's one on each team. That's pretty good odds. I ran the numbers and 2 out of 50 just about doubles my odds versus if I'd picked any other name.

Ok, enough stupid stuff...

This series should be a very interesting one - and I'm hesitant to put my picks out there before I read what Gleeman has to say tomorrow - but that's ok, I'll put it out there anyway.

Games 1 and 2 are crucial to the Fish's chances. Hopefully for the Miami Nines chances the weather will cooperate. I don't think the Fish - or many of us from Miami for that matter - fare that well in the cold weather (and for those of you in Chicago that probably means the low 60s or colder).

The Marlins need to come back home with at least a split to have a chance in this series. And I think game one (with Beckett facing off against Zambrano) is their best chance.

If the Marlins can steal a game in Chicago this week, I'm fairly confident that can win two of three in Miami and send the series back to Chicago where they'll only need to win one of the last two games.

Prediction: Marlins over Cubs in 6. Real series MVP - Juan Pierre

Marlins Coverage

The intent of this blog was to cover my interests in baseball, but for the short term, the focus here will be the Florida Marlins. In terms of teams, the Marlins rank a distant third in my heart, behind the Chicago White Sox and University of Miam Hurricanes, but at this time, only the Marlins are playing.

Plus, there isn't a lot of Marlins coverage out there, so I'll try to do my share.

But against my normal tendencies, I think this site will be more qualitative than quantitative, at least until well into the offseason, but I'll provide plenty of links for you stat geeks, and I'm counting on Gleeman to give us a good, well thought out preview of the NLCS tomorrow. Plus we'll have plenty of links to Cubs sites (and hopefully those good fellows will drive some traffic to this site). :-) Hi Cubs! Please read! Send your friends.

Here are some Cubs blogs if you want to see what the other half is thinking (actually, as of this afternoon, a poll on CNNSI said that 80% of people were cheering for the Cubbies):

Cub's Rants
Clark and Addison - if you don't get this name, you at least need to rent Blues Brothers
The Uncouth Sloth - worth a read if only for the name

Welcome to the Magic City Cubs Fans

The Marlins announced today that games 3, 4, and 5 are all sold out already. A pretty impressive feat in my mind since the Marlins drew an average of about 15,000 fans per game this year (when Dontrelle wasn't starting at least) and for the playoffs they're selling more than 65,000 seats.

Since the Cubs faithful overtook Turner Field in Atlanta last week, I'm expecting that a number of them will overrun Pro Player Stadium (call it Joe Robbie Stadium while you're here - it drives people crazy) this weekend. And since if anyone's reading this blog, it's probably Cubs fans, since I doubt there are actually any Marlins fans out there reading this blog (since it doesn't involve drinking beer, screaming, or doing the wave - although if that's what you want to do while you read, by all means, go ahead).

So if you're in town and are a little surpised at how many Marlins "fans" you see, let me explain it to you. First of all, before I rip the baseball fans of Miami - of which I am one - there are a lot of good baseball fans in this area - from the Keys through the Palm Beaches. High school and college baseball are big and a lot of people religiously follow the team that's in their home town for Spring Training and/or their Florida State League team. The Marlins, however, are a different story.

Many will tell you that they had their hearts ripped out after the 1997 season and that's somewhat misleading. In 1997 the Marlins were in the middle of the league in attendance, despite winning the wild card, being in a good pennant race all year, and having some high profile players (Kevin Brown, Gary Sheffield, Alex Fernandez, Charles Johnson, Devon White, Al Leiter, Robb Nen, Jeff Conine and a host of others). After the 1994 strike, many Marlin fans abandoned the team.

There were a lot of good reasons. One, they weren't that good. Two, the stadium is centrally located between in the tri-county area - which is great for the 10 annual Dolphins games. For baseball, in my opinion, it's not so great. If you're planning on tailgating for a few hours before and after the game, it's a nice place to be. Everyone has room to spread out, there's highways everywhere - not much else you could want. But when it's a Tuesday night in August and you have to fight through traffic for an hour and a half or more on your way from work to the game and then face a long drive home afterwards, it seems like less of a good idea. Especially when parking in a relatively empty lot is outrageously expensive and your seats likely face the field at an angle that will force you to either experience neck pain, back pain, or both by the sixth inning. Again, the stadium was designed for football, and unless you're behind home plate, you will soon learn that this true.

So who are Marlins fans? Are there any? Who are they? I believe there are three kinds.

One is the kind that normally dresses in teal. You will see them at the games and around town in their teal shirts and teal Marlins hats. You're probably thinking "the Marlins still have teal hats?" Actually, they don't. They haven't worn them since 1997 or 1998 when the team woke up and finally realized they were lame. Someitmes these fans wear jerseys - which are either teal or have teal lettering - and they are very likely to be wearing 1997 post-season garb.

This group of fans is very likely to be mistaken for actual, loyal fans of the Florida Marlins. Most likely they are not. These are people who jumped on the Marlins bandwagon around this time in 1997 and have had their gear stored in their closet ever since.

If you're not sure if the person you're talking to in teal is an actual Marlins fan or someone who just jumped back onto the bandwagon, ask them who their favorite players are. If they can name someone other than Dontrelle Willis, Mike Lowell, Jeff Conine (aka "Mr. Marlin" to these people) or Ivan Rodriguez, they might actually be a fan of the team.

The second type of Marlins fan is kind of like the little brother of the 1997 fans. These are the people who have just gotten onto the Marlins bandwagon - or better yet, the D-Train. Don't get me wrong, I love Dontrelle Willis, but a lot of people who don't really follow the team have gotten into the team this year because of the D-Train (more on this later when I explain why Dontrelle deserves the Rookie of the Year award, even if Brandon Webb's numbers are better, since the D-Train may have saved the franchise in Miami). These fans are easy to spot because the gear they wear is usually black. The hats are always black. Many of them wear black jerseys with silver or white letters. There is no teal amongst this group. As with their older brothers, this year's generation of Marlins fans will not be likely to name a current member of the team for you other than Dontrelle Willis, Mike Lowell, or Ivan Rodriguez (Jeff Conine is iffy).

The third group of Marlins fans aren't actually Marlins fans at all. They're people like me. People who fill the time between college baseball season and spring training with the Marlins and Major League Baseball on TV and the internet. Many of us in South Florida are transplants - either from other parts of the US or other parts of the world. I for one, as will become more apparent in the offseason, am a lifelong White Sox fan. But the Marlins are here 81 times per year (and sometimes like this year, even more). The highlight of next season for me will surely be when the White Sox visit the Marlins in Miami for a mid-week set in June.

These people typically know the team pretty well and follow the game very closely. They're among the loyal 5 - 10,000 people who show up at the games all the time (yes, I'm sure there are some people who are actually Marlins fans only, but there aren't many).

The other thing you will probably hear a lot of while you're here is about how many people were behind the team all year and knew this was the year things would turn around. Pop raidio station Y100 is on the bandwagon, claiming responsibility for the team's turnaround... they started (admitting it on the radio this morning) supporting the team in mid-september. For most people in Miami, that consitutes "all year."

Scott Ferrall on WQAM 560 AM in the mornings from 8 - 10 is about the only person who believed in the team publicly all year. And honestly, I think he just got lucky. He seems to have adopted all of the local teams down here.

The Miami Herald (a paper which today honored late former Panthers Coach Roger Neilson as the first "coach" of the Florida Marlins... they got the expansion team thing right, but wrong league. A shameful tribute to honor a dead man) was at least honest when in their playoff preview (looking for the link) they highlighted the articles written throughout the early part of the year that talked about the team's lack of direction and apparent unwillingness to try to win (more on this later as I plan to compare the Marlins front office to the front office in the films "Major League" during the offseason).

Thanks for reading Cubs fans. Feel free to drop me a line if you have any questions.

C'mon Timmy

ESPN is reporting that Oakland Athletics starter Tim Hudson was involved in a fight in a Boston bar two nights before his Game 4 start against the Red Sox - which the A's lost after Hudson was forced to leave the game early because of a "muscle" injury.

Update - it looks like David Pinto at Baseball Musings has better sources than me. The Hudson fight was probably a non-event. Follow the link for details.

And I don't know how to permalink yet, so you'll have to scroll down to the "Hudson Fight" header to find it.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Game 1 Starters

Jack McKeon just announced on local television that Josh Beckett will start game one for the Marlins against the Cubs on Tuesday. I would expect that the Fish will use the same rotation they did against the Giants - Beckett, Penny, Redman, and Willis (with Pavano coming out of the pen).

I'm not sure who the Cubs will start in Game 1, but I would assume that Prior or Clement will start Game One and that the Cubs will try to get Wood back into the mix as soon as possible.

The Marlins have announced that games 3 and 4 (Friday and Saturday) are nearly sold out (sounds like more than 60,000 seats already. Tickets for game 5 are moving slightly slower. Capacity for each game will be slightly over 65,000.

In the two home games against the Giants, the Marlins drew over 120,000 "fans" - during the regular season, it took the Marlins their first 8 home games to draw that many people. Admittedly, some of these outfield seats that they're selling for the playoffs are not very attractive for a regular season baseball game (heck, they're not even good seats for Dolphin games), but it's good to see people in Miami/Ft. Lauderdale interested in baseball again. Hopefully the team will be able to hold onto their core during the offseason, but it may cost $30 million more to keep the same team together next year - and that doesn't even account for taking care of Willis and Cabrera with Pujols style contracts, which probably would be appropriate if the team was in better financial condition.

Earth to Thom?

What's up with Thom Brenneman? I thought that his time in Phoenix with the Diamondbacks would have caused him to stop being a Cubs homer, but I guess I was wrong. At the end of the Cubs-Braves game he kept saying that fans in Chicago have been waiting "95 years for this." Well they haven't. The Cubs have been to the LCS twice in my lifetime, and I'm not that old - they were there in 1984 and 1989. Getting to the NLCS against the Marlins isn't any guarantee of ending their drought.

Oh well, bring on the Cubs. Predictions will come tomorrow.

The next victims...

The Cubs are three outs away from winning the other spot in the NLCS, meaning that they're the team that will face the Fish. This should prove to be an interesting series. Maybe we'll be lucky (although it doesn't feel like the rotations will fall out this way) and get a Dontrelle Willis versus Matt Clement match-up. Now that it's turned out that those two pitchers were the key elements of last year's trade, it would be fun to see.

Sounds like the NLCS everyone predicted back in April... not. Actually, it's not even the NLCS that most people predicted a week ago, or even going into this weekend. A strange game this baseball is...

Hopefully the Marlins fans bought up all the tickets to the three games scheduled to take place in Miami so that we won't be subjected to an invasion like the folks in Atlanta have had for their "home" games. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I'm going to miss the Marlins three potential home games in the NLCS as I'll be in Tallahassee this weekend, (likely futilely) cheering on the Hurricanes as they take on the Seminoles on the gridiron.


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Softball Jerseys

Maybe I'm too much of a traditionalist (although I have warmed up to the Wild Card), but what is up with seemingly everyone (even the Cubs) wearing non-white or gray jerseys during the playoffs?

I completely understand the marketing aspects of this. Someone in the front office says, "we could get X thousand fans to shell out $50 or $150 for our new X color jerseys." But do the Marlins, A's, Cubs, and Twins have to wear them in every game?

I, for one, applaud the Braves, Yankees, Red Sox, and Giants (among the playoff teams) for sticking to a more traditional two uniform rotation.

Quote of the Series: Aurilia on Conine

After the Giants lost to the Marlins Rich Aurilia was quoted as saying, "If you had told me a week ago that Jeff Conine's defense would beat us I would have said you were crazy." I think we all would have agreed with Rich. Yes, Jeff made some great plays against the Phillies at the end of the regular season, but Conine is 38.

I'm glad for Jeff that things worked out the way they did. Conine could have been as much of a goat in this series as Jose Cruz, Jr. Yes, Cruz dropped Conine's fly ball in the 11th of game 3, but Conine was jogging to first (apparently thinking the ball was foul) and only ended up with a single. Had Conine been hustling, he would have ended up on second. Luckily for Conine and the Marlins, it was inconsequential, but that play could have been big had the rest of the inning not gone the way that it did.

Hopefully all of the kids watching at home learned two things on that fateful play: one, in the field, always catch the ball with two hands (unless you're the catcher, first baseman, or Andruw Jones), and two, when you're hitting, always run full speed - you never know what could happen.

Did Barry care?

As I mentioned in a previous post, I attended games 3 and 4 of the NLDS between the Giants and Braves. I must admit that I'm a big Barry Bonds fan. Although I live in Miami now, I grew up in Phoenix and had Giants "season" Spring Training tickets growing up, so I saw a lot of Bonds.

On Friday, I was able to get to the stadium a few hours early, in time to watch Giants batting practice. Like you would expect, Bonds put on a show. He hit a few balls into the rightfield bleachers that I worried would hurt the kids who were trying to catch them.

But at the same time, it was interesting to watch Barry and how he fit in with the team. Stories of Barry's special leather chair in the Giants locker room are legendary, as are his lack of interest in being a "good" teammate. Usually the end of the story is that it doesn't matter because Barry contributes so much on the field that whatever happens off of the field doesn't matter.

However, in this series, I have to wonder if it did matter. On Friday, during game three, the fans in the left field stands were riding Barry pretty hard when he was warming up. Fans had signs, creative things to say... you know, pretty much the usual. What surprised me was that the usually (allegedly) quiet Bonds interacted with the fans to some degree. I was too far away to hear what he was saying, but it was clear (through my binoculars) that he was looking at certain fans in the stands and talking to others. It seemed playful, but odd nonetheless. At the very least it would seem to be distracting, particularly in such crucial playoff games.

The most unusual thing that I saw in the whole series was during a pitching change late in Game Four, Bonds walked over towards the Giants bullpen, got a cup of water or Gatorade and sat down on the stool that was near the line for one of the stadium's security people. During other pitching changes, Barry walked over towards the bullpen and it usually looked like he was talking to teammates. While this seemed a little unusual (don't the outfielders usually congregate and talk with each other, if anything?) I didn't think much of it. But actually borrowing someone else's seat and grabbing a quick breather seemed pretty odd.

Barry also made some throws into second and third base where it looked like he might have been hurt. Actually, when it happened live I was starting to hope that he was a little hurt because otherwise the effort he was putting into running the ball down and getting it back into the infield made it seem like he just didn't care.

I hope that isn't the case because I really like Barry. I hope he's coming back next year. One of the articles I read in the paper this week (and I think it was by a San Francisco writer) was that with everything that went on this year and that Barry doesn't get pitched to, maybe he'll just retire. The point that the author was making was that it must be pretty frustrating to come into work everyday and to have someone prevent you from doing your job frequently (i.e. the intentional walk). It cna't be that exciting for Barry to have about one-third of his at bats be rendered meaningless (in terms of him being able to use his abilities to swing the bat) because he's intentionally walked or unintentionally intentionally walked.


Coming tomorrow, I hope to post some analysis of the Giants - Marlins series (which I was lucky to attend Games 3 and 4 of in Miami), including some on the field and off the field commentary. In addition, I'll give my picks for the LCSs (which hopefully will not include the Cubs).

Later in the week I'll also write why I think Dontrelle Willis should not only be the NL Rookie of the Year, but should also get credit for saving the Florida Marlins frachise - at least as it exists today in South Florida.

I also have some strong opinions on how the Marlins are being run (David Samson will be a popular - or better put, prevalent - figure on this page) and my thoughts on a baseball only facility for the team in South Florida.

So check back, tell your friends, and feel free to email me your thoughts, emails, and questions.

SABer-metric World Series

The SABer-metric World Series will come to spectacular conclusion tomorrow with Pedro Martinez facing off against Barry Zito at the Oakland Colesium. As a SABR member, it's been interesting to watch some of the SABRen debate whether they should cheer for the Theo Epstein led and Bill James influenced Red Sox or the Moneyball A's run by Billy Beane.

Personally, I'm torn. I'd hate to see the A's fail to get out of the first round again. Their run over the last three years has been amazing. But if they lose tomorrow's game, I'm sure they'll be beat up in the press like the Bills after losing four straight Super Bowls or how the Braves accomplishments are allegedly diminished since they have won only one title (to date - and they're losing to the Cubs right now) in their run of twelve (12!) consecutive division titles (and yes, I know they might have had the streak ended in 1994 if not for the strike, but even I, as an Expos sympathizer, don't think that does much to diminsh what they've accomplished.

I would also like to see Rich Harden get a chance for redemption in game 5. It would be a shame for this young phenom to spend the winter with his last on the mound recollection of his debut season being looking up to watch Trot Nixon's rocket soar over his head and into the seats at Fenway.

But at the same time, I'd also like to see the Red Sox win. Pedro seems intent on winning and a Red Sox - Yankees ALCS is about all that anyone could hope for (especially the folks at Fox who have to be happy they arne't going to get a Marlins - Twins matchup. While that might make for good baseball, it doesn't sound like it would generate the viewers that the Yankees, Red Sox, or Cubs would in the Series).

Regardless of who wins tomorrow's game, they'll be the team I cheer for in the ALCS (since my White Sox aren't in it, I need a team to cheer for). I was disappointed to see the Yankees knock out the Twins today, but at least it freed up the after-work game for A's - Red Sox, Zito - Martinez. It's hard to cheer for the Yankees. A team with a $180 million payroll... well, for that money you could just about buy yourself the Red Sox, Athletics, and Twins this season. That's amazing.

Now, I don't mean to say that I hold it against the Yankees. They run their business well and can afford to put an expensive team on the field. But that doesn't mean I have to root for them. I'd rather root for the "little guy" - if any team with athletes making an average of $1 or $2 million a year can really be considered a little guy...

Well, I'm rambling on all sorts of playoff topics now, so I'll stop. Hopefully this won't be a trend of this blog...

Why I decided to blog

Earlier this baseball season I learned about blogging from Rob Neyer's page on He had a link to David Pinto's Baseball Musings, which I found very interesting (and still read almost daily). From there, I found Aaron Gleeman's blog, which despite him being a Twins fan, I also really enjoy. Between the two of them, and a host of other sites, I found another one of my favorites - Mike's Baseball Rants which features weekly commentary on Joe Morgan's online chats. I like Joe, sometimes he's funny, sometimes he's educational - but does he really still think that Billy Beane wrote Moneyball?

So I've been reading those blogs throughout the 2003 season and now I figured it was time to start writing on my own. I think I have a lot to say and once in awhile I even have a solid, well thought out opinion... but I suppose you will be the judge of that, well, if there are any of you.

My plan right now is to use this blogger site for awhile and then if I get things up and running, branch out on my own. We'll see. I'll have to have enough to write about and enough of you to read it. Between a lot of things that have happened with the Florida Marlins this season (and my personal experiences at the stadium, etc) plus what will happen this offseason, there will be plenty to write of (will there be another post-season fire sale ala 1997?). Plus the normal hot-stove league discussions and the start of the 2004 College Baseball season is not that far away.
Well, this is my first post, and sadly, I don't have anything dramatic or historic to say, but I have a few things kicking around in my head that I'm sure will make their way to these pages in the coming weeks. Things such as a comparison between the 2003 Florida Marlins and the Cleveland Indians of "Major League" fame, ranting essays on the lack of baseball knowledge of Marlins team president David Samson, details of my first ever trip to Omaha in June for the College World Series (whether the Canes make it this year or not), and voodoo curses (if that's what it takes to make sure the Cubs don't win the World Series this month.

Thanks for reading... and tell your friends... :-)