CLOSE – BUT NO CIGAR!

The Texas Rangers have been a Major League franchise for 40 years, and until last year, the team has never even been to the World Series. This year they made their 2nd appearance in a row, but unlike last year, fans were not satisfied with making it to the “Fall Classic”. Expectations were high, nothing less than a championship would suffice.

Be careful for what you ask for.  After the stunning loss of game 6, the Rangers were a worn out bunch of rag muffins. Oh they talked a good game and even jumped out to a two run lead in the first inning of the final game 7…but the spark was not there.  You could sense it – they were running on empty.  They letSt. Louistie it in the bottom of the first and it was downhill from there.  Where was the gusto?  Where was the bravado?  Where was the brazen and unfailing confidence?

Unfortunately it was all left on the field in game 6.  Yes, I’m proud to have seen them in back to back World Series games; but it’s the long suffering, lifelong fans who deserve better.  The management decisions of game 6 were enough to wreck anyone’s psyche; not to mention the wild eyed players who had never been on a stage this grand.   No matter what excuses were offered – the game management and the player’s errors ruined the Rangers chances for the Grand Prize.  Sooner or later they have to obtain some good dependable pitching.  Sooner or later they have take responsibility for their errors, bad decisions and learn to be a winner.   It was in their grasp and they let it slip away.  This team has only achieved real post season success for the last two years, because in the late 90’s there were unfortunate first round exits. Many fans would hear the beleaguered taunts about this team; they said “the Rangers will never win it all; they can’t build a winner inTexas”. Guess what? They did it!  Unfortunately in game 7 the “old” Texas Rangers showed up to play.  And to put the icing on the cake, they crawled under a rock after the first inning and gave up the ghost.

I agree much improvement has been made since new management has taken over the team.  I realize there were many teams who would have traded places with them no matter what the outcome.  But we as fans deserve better.  First time shame on you, second time shame on me.  The first trip to The Big Show can be overlooked, but this year it can’t.  They continue to make the same mistakes over and over.  I’ve often heard the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same things over and over and expect a different result.

It’s going to be a long soul searching time until spring training rolls around again.  They don’t need to put this behind them…they need to fix it. Washingtonis a good manager, but he completely melted down in game 6 making awful baseball decisions.  He has too much loyalty to his players and won’t pull them when it is painfully obvious to everyone watching the game the player needs to come out of the game.  The players melted down and committed one stupid mistake after the other in game 6.  Someone needs to have them come to grips with their problems and work to change them.  The same ones keep doing the same things over and over.  Someone needs to have them learn from their mistakes and hold them accountable.

How many chances do you have to get to the World Series?  Think back about all of the Super Bowls the Buffalo Bills made and did not win a one.  If you get to the top of the mountain you need to stake the flag.

This is a team of players who either were cast offs or players nobody had much confidence in when they traded them toTexas.  Others came from the Rangers much improved farm system.  However this band of “vagabonds” proved to the Major Leagues’ it takes more than a superstar or a $120 Million payroll to win a championship…it takes a team effort.  I’m proud they made it to the show; just disgusted they gave it away – two years in a row.

Isolate the problems; address the sloppy play, errors and pitching.  HelpWashington. In huge game situations and have someone there for him to counsel with (who knows what they are doing) and teach him to make sound baseball decisions…not decisions from his gut or his heart.  We are on the cusp of forming a new dynasty.  This can be a team of destiny.  Don’t let it slip away.  Fix the problems.  We were close this time, but no cigar.

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Major League Baseball at the break

We have finally reached the mid way point of the 2011 season and while there have been some surprises and some standard things that happen every year. One of the biggest surprises that has come out of the first half of the season, is the fact that the Boston Red Sox are in 1st place after starting the season 2-10. Most teams would have lost any hope of being a division leader after than kind of start, especially in the dreaded AL East. But somehow the Red Sox found a way to keep it from ending their season before it began. Once again you have the usual back and forth with the Sox and Yanks, which will get more intense as we near October.

Another surprise out of the first half is the fact that the Cleveland Indians have been one of the best teams throughout the first half. They cooled off a little bit as it neared the All Star Break, but for a while they were running away with the central. Now that things have tight-end up, it should be interesting to see how a youthful team like the Indians handles the pressure cooker than can be September and October. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been a surprise team also with the leadership of new manager Clint Hurdle. They are in the hunt in the NL Central being only 1 game back from St. Louis and Milwaukee.

Unfortunately tragedy has struck fans in Major League Baseball this season with two deaths from fans falling out of their seats while trying to catch a foul ball. It happened in Colorado earlier and then more recently in Texas. This is something that has happened without any real casualty for years and  years, but this season two deaths has to make executives in the MLB wonder what needs to be changed. I am not going to sit here and blame MLB, or the teams themselves for some fans who went to an extreme to catch a foul ball. But at the same time, everybody needs to brainstorm and see if there is a possibility to find a new safety feature to add into ball parks to prevent this from happening. One thing I would suggest is do an announcement before the game and have a strict warning for fans who sit in the upper sections, that reaching over the railing could have dangerous or potentially fatal consequences. Will it stop someone from trying? I doubt it, but it will at least put it in the front of their mind and people may let the ball go if it isn’t easily accessible. Because a baseball isn’t worth a life.

While this is the mid point of the season, there is a lot of games to be played and there is a lot that could happen right now. Should be a fun run through the summer and into the early fall. But to me the All Star Game is slowly becoming a joke. The big name players get voted in regardless of their season and now you have some stars who have opted out of attending the game at all. This whole game is becoming a farce and I don’t think many fans really care to watch it. Can we just hurry up and get back to the games that matter. Last thing I want to say is a congratulations to Derek Jeter for reaching the Milestone of 3,000 hits. But in reality Jeter is nothing more than an over hyped player who gets a big spotlight for being in New York and playing for the Yankees. Place him on any other team and he would just be one of the nameless guys who is consistent. Now, lets strap in and prepare for the 2nd half of the season and enjoy the ride into October.

2011 Major League Baseball Preview

It is that time of year again, the start of the baseball season is coming up fast, and I have poured over hundreds of breakdowns and watched hours of expert analysis to come up with this outlook on how I think this season will go. Ok, maybe not…I haven’t really done a lot of research on this, but I do have a gut feeling about the teams and I am basing my picks on my gut feeling. There have been a lot of changes, and some teams have improved, but I think it will be a fun season. It better be to tolerate a 162 game season. So without further ado, here is my gut feeling on this season.

American League:

AL East:
The AL East is pretty much looking like a 3 team race(again) but the Rays look like they have fallen off from last season, so it may be up to the Red Sox and the Yankees to decide the fate of this division. But watch out for the Orioles, Buck Showalter is jawing and he could have this team be a surprise before the year is out.

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Baltimore Orioles
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Toronto Blue Jays

AL Central:
This division is pretty much cut and dry, the Twins and the White Sox hold the key to the penthouse. It will be a dog fight to see who is the tennant at the end of the year and gets that coveted playoff spot.

  1. Minnesota Twins
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Cleveland Indians
  4. Detroit Tigers
  5. Kansas City Royals

AL West:
Last season the Rangers came almost out of nowhere to surpise the entire league and win the division, which led to the American League Pennant. This season, the West almost looks even top to bottom. The only team that probably won’t be able to keep pace is Seattle, but the other three teams will be clawing for the division title and could even steal a wild card spot from one of the other division teams.

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem
  3. Oakland A’s
  4. Seattle Mariners

There you have it, the American league is very similar to last years final standings, but there will be a couple suprises this year and I wouldn’t be shocked to see a team come out of nowhere to steal a playoff spot. Now it is time to tackle the National League.

National League:

NL East:
This is the easiest NL division to decide, barring any major injuries, this division should belong to Philidelphia.

  1. Philidelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Florida Marlins
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. New York Mets

NL Central:
Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that this division will be the tightest division in all of baseball and it wouldn’t surprise me to see a loveable loser win the division and make a long playoff run out of the Central.

  1. Chicago Cubs
  2. St. Louis Cardinals
  3. Milwaukee Brewers
  4. Cincinati Reds
  5. Houston Astros
  6. Pittsburgh Pirates

NL West:
Once agian, this division is the Giants and I think the other teams will give them a run, but without any real offseason changes, this should be another west title for the bay area boys.

  1. San Francisco Giants
  2. San Diego Padres
  3. Colorado Rockies
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks
  5. Los Angeles Dodgers

There you have the NL breakdown, some what surprising but some what expected also. This should a be a fun season across the board, and I am looking forward to watching the season shape up and progress. Well, at least until Football season kicks off. Just remember, I took this off of gut instinct and didn’t do any long analysis of this. So if I am completly wrong, then I didn’t lose any sleep over researching this.

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Pujols wants big money, is he worth it?

In what has been a quiet but soon to be very contentious ordeal. Albert Pujols is entering his final year of a contract, and has requested a pay raise from the Cardinals, but has also requested a long term contract in the neighborhood of 10 years. Which if the Cardinals give him that deal would put him at 41 near the end of the contract. While being one of the best hitters in all of baseball, and one of the most consistent fielders, at this point of his career, it is tough to justify that length of contract. While he is worth any amount of money that he wants, asking for that length of contract is crazy. I understand that he is one of the best players in all of baseball, and is in his prime.

But the history of long term contracts is always a rocky one. Pujols could be one the best in the majors for 10 more years, or he could fall into a decline after this year. It is always a tightrope act to make that call. The Cardinals have to find where they are comfortable and offer him that. I am sure the money won’t be an issue, it will just be the length. The Cardinals and Pujols both want to see him finish his career in St. Louis. But if this deal doesn’t get done by Wednesday at noon, then this will be a cloud over the team all season long. This could be the type of deal to destroy a team and derail any post season aspirations. The main question to be answered will be is he worth the 10 years and how ever many millions?

Only the Cardinals management can make that decision. But knowing the history, I would say any term over 6 years could be a mistake.