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.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Playoff Like Atmosphere

Count how many times you hear that phrase said this weekend. There are some big baseball games slated for this weekend, well as big as games can be considering that it’s mid-April. Oh and there’s also, allegedly, playoff hockey and basketball too (I’ve only noticed as it interrupts ESPN’s baseball broadcasts – tonight’s double overtime hockey game brings us to the Padres and Dodgers already in progress in the fourth inning).

For this entire weekend we get to see arguably the two biggest powers in the American League face-off in what could be an ALCS preview (as division foes are forbidden from meeting in the Divisional round). One club will send three aces to the mound this weekend to face off against the other club’s offseason acquisitions, which include one of the biggest bats in the game.

And that’s just the Angels – A’s series. I haven’t even mentioned the little Red Sox – Yankees set.

In the National League, the highlight (in my possibly slightly biased opinion) is the Marlins – Braves matchup in Atlanta. While the Marlins have won two World Series in their now twelve year existence and have opened up strong, the Fish have never finished ahead of the Braves in the standings, although they have played well against the Braves head-to-head. Going into last weekend, I felt that the series against the Phillies could be a major test for the Marlins, particularly for their bullpen and new bats. The Marlins came through that test with flying colors. It was at home though, and this series against the Braves is their first real test on the road.

Much of the talk in Miami lately – at least on sports talk radio – has been about how the Marlins are not getting much respect, particularly nationally. If you follow the University of Miami much, like I do, you’ll know that this is a common theme in sports. Miami sports fans tend to think they’re being disrespected by default. Going into the season, prior to the Marlins 8 – 1 start, this was an easier argument to buy. Many prognosticators and pre-season publications picked the Marlins to finish third in the National League East, usually behind the Phillies and Braves. But that’s harder to say now. But what the media portrays doesn’t really matter anyway. Baseball is decided on the field, or as Kenny Mayne would say, by those little men who live inside your television.

The media may be coming around though on the Marlins. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing though as the Fish seem to have thrived as underdogs. Who knows how they might react as favorites, as implausible of a thought as that might seem. I read this account today on CNNSI in their power rankings (which at first glance appear to be upside down, but then you realize this is the first power poll of the season). The Marlins are rated at the top of the major leagues currently according to this source.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I was trading emails today with the proprietors of Dugout Dollars (a fine site for team and player payrolls if you haven’t been there already) and in the process of determining how much salary Ivan Rodriguez had deferred last year (which turned out to be $7 million of his $10 million contract), I found this little nugget from Rob Neyer (who I respect tremendously and who’s writing I thoroughly enjoy):

“In a specific sort of way, signing Pudge Rodriguez to a one-year contract -- with a no-trade clause -- for $10 million seems like something of a strange move for the Marlins. They apparently have designs on the National League East, and it's certainly true that stranger things have happened; after all, the Angels just won a World Series. But unless Florida's rotation suddenly emulates Oakland's rotation -- and Pudge has never been known for his brilliant work with pitchers -- the Marlins aren't going to win anything. Not with Alex Gonzalez at shortstop and one of the least productive outfields in the game.”

I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see it coming for the Marlins last year. I was excited about the potential of Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis, both of whom I had read about and seen in Spring Training. But I never imagined that they would step up and contribute all the way through the World Series last year. I also vehemently disagreed with the ownership’s decision to hire Jack McKeon last year. At the time I felt the team would be better served to bring in someone new who had not had an opportunity to manage before. But I was proven completely wrong about that.

So what’s the point here? Pre-season and early season predictions are all well and good. Trust me, I enjoy the debate and discussion as much as anyone else. But in the end, rarely if ever are even the experts amongst us right. That’s why they play the game and we all enjoy watching it so much. It’s not scripted and you never know what’s going to happen.

Enjoy the weekend!

Summer Topics
Awhile back I swore (even on this blog) that I would attend the 2004 College World Series in Omaha. While it still looks like the Canes have an excellent chance of making it there, I don’t think that I’ll be making the trip this season. I can’t find anyone willing to go with me for more than a week and I don’t feel like spending a full week’s vacation time to hang out by myself in Omaha. But I received an email today with details on how to buy general admission tickets to the games. You can buy a ten pack of tickets for only $50. That’s an outstanding deal for some outstanding baseball.

Instead of going to Omaha this year, I am going to go to the SABR convention in Cincinnati. I missed last year’s convention and regretted it all year. So this year I’m going (it will be my first). Many of the topics, particularly the discussion of the 1919 Black Sox scandal and Marvin Miller’s keynote address are of interest to me.

I wonder if many bloggers are SABR members who will be attending the session. If so, we should set up a side session to talk about blogging and other such things. If you’re a blogging SABR member, drop me a line and let me know. Maybe we can set something up.

For those of you who don’t know much about it, SABR is the Society for American Baseball Research. This year the convention in Cincinnati will take place from July 15th through 18th and will include presentations of research, panel discussions, Reds games, tours of Great American Ballpark, other ballpark tours and visits to a minor league game or too. Not for the faint of heart, but definitely for passionate baseball fans.


Post a Comment

<< Home