Balls, Sticks, & Stuff
8/31/2004
 
Reasons to Watch Baseball
Phillies phans are feeling depressed, embarrassed, and even abused. They are wondering what happened, how did it go so wrong, and when they should turn their attention entirely to football. We'll have several months to decide upon the first two, but as for me, the answer to the last issue is "not just yet", for several reasons:

Ichiro - While playing on a horrible Seattle Mariners team, Ichiro Suzuki is chasing one of the longest standing records in baseball, George Sisler's most hits in a season (257 hits in 1920, hitting .407 that year). Ichiro has a great shot at it, he hits leadoff so he gets a lot of plate appearances. And, he doesn't walk much, putting a ball in play on just about every at-bat, often using his speed to turn outs into infield hits. I've seen many of today's best players - Greg Maddux, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey, Jr., Tony Gwynn, Pedro Martinez - but one player I have not seen, and would love to, is Ichiro. In the era of the longball, Ichiro is an entirely different player who uses an extraordinary combination of eye-hand coordination and speed to get on base.

Gavin Floyd - If the Phillies were in the hunt for a playoff spot, or if injuries have not continued to mount in the starting rotation, Gavin Floyd probably wouldn't see any action in the big leagues this year. The general consensus on this Untouchable is that he has been inconsistent at times this year, showing flashes of both brilliance and mediocrity while splitting time between AA Reading and AAA Scranton/WB. At the tender age of 21, he is quite young to be at the AAA level, much less the Bigs, and probably could use some more "seasoning". However, for those of us that have not seen him pitch this year, we can get a preview of the things in Floyd we have been hearing and reading so much about - intenstinal fortitude, a dazzling fastball, presence and poise - things that we will hopefully see for years to come.

AL West Crown and AL Wild Card - The A's, Angels, Rangers, and Red Sox will all face each other and compete with each other for two playoff spots during September, with all four teams entering the month on a high. The A's are doing it with pitching, the Rangers are doing it with the longball, the Red Sox are doing it with chemistry, and the Angels are doing it with a rejuvenated college punter. It's hard to root against any of these teams and its a shame that two of them will be sitting at home in October.

The Well-Oiled Machines A.K.A. Braves and Cardinals - Sure, phans wish the Phillies were the best team in the National League (instead of the Cardinals) and if not, we would settle for the best team in the NL East (instead of the Braves). But you have to admire the teams that actually do hold those positions. Both teams have used combinations of great hitting and pitching to achieve such lofty status this season, but probably the most interesting thing about the teams is that no one expected such performances from them. The Cardinals were expected to score a lot of runs, but were also expected to give up a lot of runs and finish third in the NL Central behind what we all thought would be the pitching rich Cubs and Astros. Instead, the Cubs and Astros have both faltered due to injuries, but is there anyone that can say they would have been able to keep pace with the Cardinals even without the injuries? As for the Braves, most pundits and bloggers and experts and everyone else picked them to finish second or third in the NL East, and the way the first two months of the season went, no one thought they had underestimated the Braves. But since then, particularly since the All-Star break the Braves have been a juggernaut with Bobby Cox and Leo Mazzone turning in one of their best coaching performances yet.

My fantasy football draft is Wednesday night and I'm starting to look forward to the West Coast offense - ala Andy Reid, the budding romance between Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens, and the emergence of Chris Leak as a star, but I'm not about to cancel my subscription to MLB.tv. Stay tuned.



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