Oh, They Met Before


In the crazy, strike shortened season of 1981, two teams battled it out for the NL Division Series. The Houston Astros met the Los Angeles Dodgers in the best of five. And it was a terrific series.

Game one lineups are familiar with fans today as most are coaches or team execs. Some are even Hall of Famers.

The lineup for Game #1 for the Astros looked like this:

1 Terry Puhl RF
2 Phil Garner 2B
3 Tony Scott CF
4 Jose Cruz LF
5 Cesar Cedeno 1B
6 Art Howe 3B
7 Kiko Garcia SS
8 Alan Ashby C
9 Nolan Ryan P

The lineup for the Dodgers was this:

1 Davey Lopes 2B
2 Ken Landreaux CF
3 Dusty Baker LF
4 Steve Garvey 1B
5 Rick Monday RF
6 Pedro Guerrero 3B
7 Mike Scioscia C
8 Bill Russell SS
9 Fernando Valenzuela P

In the bottom of the 6th, Terry Puhl singled to RF. Phil Garner walked. Then Tony Scott singled and drove in Puhl for a 1-0 Astro lead.

But in the top of the 7th, Steve Garvey hit a home run off of Nolan Ryan to tie the score.

Then in the bottom of the 9th, in this pitching dual, Craig Reynolds singled to CF then Alan Ashby provided the legendary moment in the Astrodome smashing a walk off home run to RF as the Astros won 3-1.

Nolan Ryan had 7 Ks, the victory and a complete game.

Last night, behind the plate in the first row sat Nolan Ryan, along with his wife, watching the Astros win the American League pennant. As the executive advisor to the owner of the Houston Astros, he still has his fingers on the game. After the game, he was on the field and noticeably was seen talking with Justin Verlander of the Astros. It was an interesting picture…the all-time strikeout leader talking with the MVP of the ALCS.

Perhaps they were talking about game one of the 2017 World Series. Could it be Verlander against Kershaw?

Stay tuned.

This should be a terrific series as both teams won over 100 games this season which is the first time in 40 years two teams with century wins are facing each other for the top prize in The Show.

Play Ball!

Advertisements

The Strange Case Of Pauly


The Twin Cites is an unusual place. It is surrounded by water, so much so, roads have to go around rivers, lakes, streams and ponds in order for people to get to where they are going. It is so cold in the winter, you have to plug in your car to keep the engine warm enough to turn over the next morning. It is so Norwegian in one part that you have to love the smell of lutefisk cooking at the next door neighbor’s house and learn how to smile when waving to them, acknowledge friendliness and not the aroma. On the other it is so Catholic, hunting season is reason for a Mass to bless the international day-glo orange vested parishioners on opening day.

Then there is the ‘Purple’ thing.

In baseball, the tradition of the sport goes back a long way. It had the legendary Minneapolis Millers where the wonderful Willy Mays played. There was the St. Paul Saints, where they played at Lexington Park and won the American Association pennant 9 times. Today, the Saints are the legendary independent team that is not part of the new American Association, playing just 10 miles from the Major League Twins. What other town has a big time minor league franchise next door to a Major League team?

Baseball is part of the fabric of this unique community. Some of the biggest stars in the game have come from here. David Winfield, from St. Paul and a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, was so good, he was drafted professionally in baseball, basketball and football. He also played hockey. Paul Molitor, another native of St. Paul and a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, was a 7 time All-Star, 4 time Silver Slugger, 3 time batting champion and a member of MLB All-Time Team. Jack Morris, a native of Highland Park, was a 5 time All Star, 4 time World Series champion and the 1991 World Series MVP and threw a no hitter. Joe Mauer, an a native of St. Paul, still playing for the Twins, has a .328 lifetime batting average as a caters is it is the all-time mark. Kent Hrbek, a Bloomington native, All-Star and 2 time World Series champion, played for 14 years in the Show. But that isn’t all: Johnny Blanchard, Dan Johnson, Josh Johnson, Tom Johnson, Mike Mason, Walt Moryn, Robb Quinlan, Larry Rosenthal, Dick Siebert, Terry Steinbach, Brand Hand, Jack Hannahan, Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins among others.

This is a baseball community.

That is why it is so disconcerting about how they handled one of their very best. Paul Molitor, not only played for them, but has been their Manager for the past three seasons. In his first year, he took the Twins and won 83 games, a 13 game improvement over the preceding season and was in contention for an AL Wild Card until the last weekend of the 2015 season. Then in 2016, the team collapsed, with a horrible April and eventually lost 103 games. But this past season, the roared back with a 26 game improvement, the best in the Majors and won 85 games and the second AL Wild Card spot. In his three years, he has a 227-259 record. And now, after the season has ended, he did not have a contract to manage the team going forward.

He is ‘new school’ baseball. Upon his arrival in Minnesota, the team played a much more aggressive placement in defensive shifting. And this season, in Fort Myers spring training camp, he made sure his team would be at the top of their tame defensively. And he told them so. In other words, if you can play defense, you can’t play baseball. Defense makes every pitcher better. And that means, games are won, not lost. What Minnesota has now is a leader who not only understands the game more than most, he leads. And that is the main difference between his teams and the Twins of the past.

Former General Manager, Terry Ryan, hired Molitor but was fired last season after the disaster. Now Thad Levine, the present General Manager and the Chief Baseball Officer of the Twins, Derek Falvey, are thought to want to bring in someone they want. So their mediocre solution is to offer Molitor a one year contract. For Molitor, it put him in a no-win situation. If he accepted, he had to prove to the new controllers of the team he can do the job, year after year, and go on one year contracts forever. He is loyal to the Twin Cities. He is a native legend in the Twin Cities. Should he have said no and demand a multi-year contract, it would look as though he was not in step with the way Minnesotan’s do things. If he simply said ‘No’, then he would remain with all of the respect everyone in the Twin Cities believes he has.

The Twins front office should not have made this an issue at all. They should have re-signed him by extending his contract before the season ended. This was an exciting team which was a true reflection of ‘The Ignitor’ throughout his career. He is the Hall of Famer…Falvey and Levine are not.

The deal finally got done last Monday and the frightful Twins management signed Pauly for three years at $4 million per.

What we need in this world is less tension, not more. And we need to honor those who do a great job. Paul Molitor did a great job.

Play Ball!

Choke City!


It is something to see those players who can perform under pressure and those who cannot. When it comes to post-season play, in the time when everything speeds up and the fastball explodes, it is amazing to see, time and time again, the failure of those who are not real honest-to-goodness stars of the game.

First, this who did. After all, baseball is all about handling pressure when the chips are on the line. Hats off to Clayton Kershaw, Turner. They won. Hats off to Altuva. He hit the cover off the ball and they won…twice. Hats off to Bauer, Bruce and Lindor. They won twice. Bryant, Lester & Rizzo. They won once. Adam Lind, Harper & Zimmerman. They won once. Goldschmidt, with no help from anyone, they lost…twice.

Who didn’t? Grey, Girardi, Judge & Sanchez. They lost twice. Bogaerts, Sale & Pomeranz. They lost twice. Madden, Edwards and Montgomery. They blew one. All of the D’Backs except Goldie.

For those who did not, most of them were young to the game. They weren’t the veterans. So, there is an excuse. Nerves have to be tested. Thinking ahead has to be in peak form. Pressure has to be held under control.

For some, the strike zone became larger and for others, it was smaller. It depended on the umpire behind the plate, always an issue. But for the veterans, not so much. Sure, they didn’t like some of the calls. But they understood the flow of the game. You have to perform under pressure regardless who is calling the balls and strikes.

For the pitchers, there were some stunning performances. Strasberg’s first 12 batters, seven were K’d. Kershaw’s fastball was just electric. And VerLander was no slouch, nor was Hendricks.

But what happened to Greinke? What happened to the poise of this veteran?

There is a school of thought that outside of his early success in Kanas City and Milwaukee, something happened being #2 in Los Angeles. Fact of the matter is that he was #2 in Milwaukee. So, maybe it is a problem with the pressure being the #1 on the staff to perform in post season.

Whatever, there was ‘Choke City’ everywhere except in Houston and Cleveland so far in the playoffs.

Play Ball!

And They Die


It was like a death in the family. So unexpected. So hurting. So frustrating. It was like they were saying, ‘I just talked to him the other day and he seemed fine.’ After 161 games, with a six run lead in the third, the unexpected Milwaukee Brewers died. But unlike that relative whom you talked to the other day, they will be back next year to break our hearts all over again.

Sure there will be optimism and assuredly there will be the Bill Schroeder platitudes about what a great season it was to finish second when the team was not expected to finish above the cellar. The announcers will tell everyone how great Counsell was in managing this season. Not sure that is entirely true. Why would the manager of the year take out Hader and put in Sxzxczcvz slightly out of position? Why didn’t he remove Jeffries when he could have saved the the bottom of the 8th?

There will be arguments on how great this team finished according to projections. And they will praise the new general manager for the great moves he made. But in this second to the last game of the year, 4/9ths of the team on the field in the 7th was put there by his predecessor and that does not include the manager whom he also placed in charge.

There will be praise for having three players hit 30 or more home runs in the season, just like the ’82 Brewers did. There will be platitudes abound about how bright the future looks. But all of that talk is for teams who have lost.

The cheering happened in Denver on this Saturday evening, who wrapped up the last playoff spot in the National League for this year.

The 2017 Milwaukee Brewers were good, above average in many respects and finished way above expectations. That still doesn’t mend the heart which has been ripped open on the second to last day of the year. Bobby Unser once said, ‘Nobody remembers who finished second but the guy who finished second.’ Perhaps Mr Unser got into one too many crackups. Because it is not just the extended Brewer team who swelled in September with call ups from the minors, but to the millions of fans who thought this just might be the team that takes us to Dyersville.

So farewell 2017 Brewers. Today we are not feeling so good.

14 To Go


There are two weeks to go from today. And there are 14 games to be played. Between now and then, we will find out who can pitch in the clutch; who can hit in the clutch; who can throw in the clutch and who can pop a clutch to get their car started when the battery is dead.

Right now we know that in the American League, the Boston Red Sox, the Cleveland Indians and the Houston Astros will be in the big dance with a 100% guarantee. In the National League, the Washington Nationals, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks will join them, also with a 100% guarantee.

To join them, here are the odds:

    AL

New York Yankees 99.9%
Minnesota Twins 68.9%
Los Angeles Angels 20.6%
Seattle Mariners 4.9%
Kansas City Royals 2.6%
Texas Rangers 1.7%

    NL

Colorado Rockies 83.8%
Chicago Cubs 82.5%
Milwaukee Brewers 20.1%
St. Louis Cardinals 13.6%

What is remarkable about this season, and for that matter, the real essence of baseball is how ‘hope’ becomes realized. For instance look at the Minnesota Twins. Last season they were blown out of any chance of having a good season due to an unbelievably bad April. This season, they are going to make it into the playoffs unless they have a total collapse.

Then look at the Milwaukee Brewers. They have come out of a lifelong coma, a hiatus from obscurity if you will, waking up only a few times in their history. And this season with a skinny kid who looks like a college freshman leading the league in wins; a catcher who is on his third chance in his career to hit it big and is; a first baseman from Korea; a second baseman from the Mets; a 2nd year shortstop who is brilliant; a third baseman from Boston; a right fielder from Santana Domingo; a center fielder…who is the center fielder? And the pro’s pro in left, along with arguably one of the strongest and strangest bullpens in baseball, led by a kid who throws the ball through a door and made the All Star team in his second year. Oh, then there is the home town kid who is managing all of this, along with his college coach and a GM who is younger then the young coach. Got that. This is the miracle of a season. This is why baseball is the game of games. This is why you fall in love with it as a kid and become more attached to it as life goes on.

Can they make it into the playoffs?

That brings us back to that magic word…hope.

The Pigsville Nine is making us all proud this season. Oh, an alum is managing the Twinkies, and another is managing the Royals. Their old shortstop is up in Seattle. Their HR leader in the NL last season is with the Yankees, we think. Their former second string catcher is the backstop for the Angels, and there have been a rafter full of the Crew passing through the Rangers clubhouse. There’s one in Denver and hopefully none with the Northsiders nor the Redbirds.

OK #watchingattansio⚾️

Thanks for bringing hope back to us for so long this season.

Play ball!

20 To Go


Now it is getting serious. During the past two weeks there has been some separation.

Here are the odds on the teams in contention making the playoffs:

    American League

Houston Astros 100.0%
Cleveland Indians 100.0%
Boston Red Sox 100.0%
New York Yankees 87.8%
Minnesota Twins 51.5%
Los Angeles Angels 20.5%
Texas Rangers 9.9%
Seattle Mariners 8.1%
Kansas City Royals 7.5%
Baltimore Orioles 5.9%
Tampa Bay Rays 3.3%

    National League

LA Dodgers 100.0%
Washington Nats 100.0%
Arizona D’Backs 99.8%
Chicago Cubs 89.3%
Colorado Rockies 76.8%
St. Louis Cardinals 11.4%
Milwaukee Brewers 7.2%
Miami Marlins 0.1%

The Central Divisions in MLB have taken a big turn in the past two weeks. In the American League, Cleveland, with a remarkable 17 game winning streak through Saturday, broke out of a close situation and now has a 100% chance of making the playoffs. The Yankees and Twins appear to be the two other teams that will make the wild card. In the National League, the D’Back’s have virtually secured a spot in the playoffs. And while it appears the Rockies at this point are the favorite for the final spot, the Cards and Brewers are technically still in the hunt. And the reason is that the Brewers still play the Cubs 5 more games and the Cards in a season final three game series. And, the Cards still have seven games against the Cubs plus that final 3 games series against the Brewers.

If, and that is a huge word, the Cards and Brewers sweep the Cubs, the last series of the season will be one for the ages.

What is the worst team to make the playoffs?

There is little question that the Los Angeles Dodgers are one awful, painstaking mental drop, losing 16 out of the past 17 games. They are losing to everybody as the Brewers began the slide and the D’Backs and Rockies continued the slide. Can this team regroup mentally? Or will that spook of a thought, (are we good enough to do this?), sneak into their brains. Frankly, it does not appear as though they have either the pitching or the hitting to go far in the playoffs.

Now there are only 20 to go. How will you team fare?

#watchingattanasio⚾️

For Milwaukee Brewers game-by-game for the entire season, go to:https://www.facebook.com/Overtheshouldermlb/

32 To Go


Milwaukee, St. Louis, Arizona, Colorado and Miami are battling for two playoff spots in the National League.
New York Yankees, Minnesota, Kansas City, Seattle, Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers are slugging it out for two playoff spots in the American League. Thus, 17 teams are in the race for the World Series Championship in 2017.

Bud Selig’s master plan to get more cities involved in the excitement of September is working, with over half the teams still in the hunt with less then 20% of the season remaining.

In the next 32 games, which one of all of these teams will win 21+ games, and will be able to reach the big dance in The Show?

The Yankees, with the best record among all of these chasing teams has a 94.4% chance of making it into the playoffs.
The Twins have a 28.7% of making it…from the outhouse to the penthouse in one season.
The Royals have an 18.7% chance.
The Mariners have an 18.2% chance of making it.
While the Angeles have a 17.1% chance.
The Rangers have a 14.4% chance of finishing in the play offs.

The Marlins have an 11.0% chance in the National League.
The Cardinals have a 25.2% chance.
The Brewers, as inconceivable as it seems, has a 14.7% chance of making it into the playoffs.
The Diamondbacks have an 89.4% chance of getting back into the playoffs.
While the odds of the Rockies making it is 70.4% chance.

As for the Brewers, they play these teams that are in the hund:the Dodgers (1), Cardinals (5), Nationals (4), Cubs (7) and Marlins (3) in the remaining 32. That is 20 out of 32.

It could be a bumpy ride. Then again, miracles do happen.

#watchingattanasio⚾️