Replays, earned runs and shortstops at second base: Rangers-Astros 23 May 2009

May 30, 2009

Last weekend saw the first instalment of Interleague play during the 2009 MLB season.  There are plenty of reasons to dislike the now traditional sight of AL and NL teams coming together outside of the World Series, but it does at least give fans in two-team cities and states the chance to gain bragging rights for a few weeks. 

The Lone Star Series is one such example.  The Houston Astros and Texas Rangers come together to try to gain Major League wins and to capture the ‘Silver Boot’ trophy.

(Click here to read more, including a completed scorecard of the game).


MLB.tv, Google Books and Awards

January 5, 2009
  • Cartoons by Rex Phillips added to Project Cobb site
  • MLB.com – 2008 review and looking ahead – Assessing the multimedia content provided by MLB.com during 2008 and what 2009 may hold in store,
  • Game Time: A Baseball Companion by Roger Angell – a review of this collection,
  • Baseball on Google Books – From copies of Baseball Digest to an interesting find in a 1928 edition of  ‘Popular Mechanics’, Google Books offers baseball fans lots of material to read,
  • BaseballGB 2008 Awards – Part One – looking back at the 2008 MLB season,
  • BaseballGB 2008 Awards – Part Two .

  • U.S. Time change

    March 10, 2007

    Just a quick reminder for British fans that Daylight Saving Time (DST) in America and Canada takes effect from midnight tonight. Previously this has started on the first Sunday of April, but it will now be the second Sunday of March. This means that for the next two weeks (until we shift to British Summer Time on Sunday 25 March), the time difference will be reduced by an hour.

    So from tomorrow (Sunday) to get the British start time for games listed with a Eastern Time (ET) start add 4 hours, add 5 hours for a start time listed on Central Time (CT), and 7 hours for Pacific Time (PT).  For example:

    Eastern/Central/Pacific/GMT

    13:00/12:00/10:00/17:00

    We will then revert back to the 5 hour/6 hour/ 8 hour difference when we put our clocks forward an hour in time for games on Sunday 25 March.  From this date you can refer to a time list in my previous post, “Tales of Time Conversion”, from April last year.


    More North American sport coming our way

    March 1, 2007

    When it comes to North American sports, I’m pretty much a straight ahead baseball fan. I don’t mind watching some NFL action occasionally and I’ve been known to catch a NHL game on Five every once in a while, but baseball is the only sport from across the pond that really captures my imagination.

    For those of you who do like other North American sports, there is plenty to be excited about in 2007 though. The NFL announced in the week leading up to the Superbowl that Wembley would host a regular season game between the Dolphins and the Giants later this year. That promises to be an amazing event (as Zara Phillips would say).

    If that wasn’t enough, the NHL has confirmed today that their 2007-08 season will kick-off in “merry old England”. The Anaheim Ducks will face the L.A. Kings in two regular season games at the O2 Arena, formerly known as the Millennium Dome. This has been brought about by the owners of the O2 Arena who happen to be the parent company of the Kings. It’s exciting news that, like the NFL, the NHL are not just staging an exhibition match over here but are actually giving British fans a taste of the real competitive action.

    As I quickly scoured for British reaction to this news, I came across a report on the BBC website that also casually mentions that the O2 Arena will be staging a pre-season NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the Minnesota Timberwolves. I missed the initial announcement of this news, largely because I’ve never been much of a basketball fan. It just seems too easy to score points to me, something I struggle with having been brought up on 0-0 football matches and five day Cricket Tests that end in a draw. Still, I know there are lots of people who enjoy playing basketball over here so they will be happy.

    All of this is fantastic news for British fans of North American sports, but it does make me wish even more that MLB could play a game or two over here. The trouble is, baseball is a more difficult sport to stage. You can mark out an NFL pitch on a decent sized football/rugby pitch, and many arenas can be converted to stage ice hockey and/or basketball games, but a baseball diamond and outfield is a bit more specialist. The timing would be difficult as well. I don’t see the groundskeeper at the Oval being too keen on some Yanks digging up his pristine turf in March!

    There may also be a few political obstacles in staging a baseball game in London as it would bring the International Olympics Committee’s decision to scrap baseball from the 2012 Olympics back under the microscope again. That wouldn’t be a bad thing in my view of course (and MLB’s no doubt) but London needs to keep the IOC on-side in their attempts to make sure the Olympics is not a complete financial disaster (“we should have let the bloody French win the bid” is my Dad’s opinion every time another billion gets added on to the projected bill!).

    I hope the NFL, NHL and NBA games are all a big success as that will only increase the possibility of a Major League Baseball game being played here one day. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that the fact that these events are taking place in the two biggest examples of our “waste of money” uselessness isn’t a bad omen!


    USA and GB – in perfect sporting harmony?

    February 6, 2007

    The “special relationship” between Britain and America has been in full view in recent days, particularly in the sporting arena. So many similarities, yet so many differences. Sometimes that’s what makes the best relationships work.

    Liverpool staged a press conference this afternoon announcing the proposed sale of the club to Americans George Gillett and Tom Hicks, the latter known among baseball fans as the owner of the Texas Rangers. There were a few “franchise” and “goaltender” gaffes, but by and large it was as smooth a P.R. exercise as you would expect. Not least, Gillett and Hicks followed Randy Lerner’s lead by learning from the Glazer family’s mistake: treating people like idiots. Strolling into a proud city claiming to be long-term fans of the club is the sure-fire way to anger the locals. Gillett and Hicks readily admitted that they were relative newcomers, but stressed their general love of sports and previous/current involvement in major sports teams.

    So with three Americans controlling three Premiership clubs, are the United States warming to football at long last? Mmmm, is David Beckham really on a crusade to get more American kids playing “soccer”?! The Premiership is big business and there’s plenty of money to be made.

    That’s not to say there cannot be some genuine sporting relationships between the two nations. The Superbowl has just been and gone and the event gets decent coverage over here, much better than the World Series. The Superbowl is significantly easier to market to other countries though, primarily because it is a single-night affair (maybe the 2007 World Series can be marketed over here in a “more than just a one-night stand” campaign?!). Many newspapers carried NFL-related stories in the week leading up to the game and it went out live on Sky Sports and on ITV. Striking the right balance between providing the basics for beginners while not annoying established fans is always difficult. Both stations leaned towards assuming most viewers already had a basic knowledge of the game and that’s the best way to go. ITV played a good card by once again involving Martin Johnson in the coverage. Johnson is a long-time fan (definitely not in the Glazer sense) of the NFL and carries a massive amount of respect among your average British sports fan (possibly grudging respect from the Scots, Welsh and Irish!). His presence and genuine love of the game brings some extra credibility to an event that can all to easily be dismissed as “a bunch of pansies wearing helmets and shoulder pads” by a cynical audience.

    Gaining the support of the equivalent British sport is a great way to market a U.S. game over here. Whether cricket can (or wants to) do this for baseball is debatable. Certainly cricket is being influenced by its American cousin. The odd baseball term has started to slip into cricket coverage, particularly during the various shortened versions of the game (“pinch-hitter” is a favourite on Sky Sports, used to describe a batter who comes in to inject some pace into an innings by smacking the ball into the stands). And it’s not just the coverage that has been affected. Australia for example employ Mike Young, a former baseball coach, as their fielding consultant. The results suggest his input is proving beneficial.

    The NFL has a very active UK office and their commitment to furthering the sport in Britain was exemplified last week when it was confirmed that a regular season NFL game between the Miami Dolphins and the New York Giants will be played at the new Wembley Stadium in October (if it’s finished by then, of course). It promises to be a fantastic event not least because, however briefly, it will throw the NFL into the nation’s consciousness. London Mayor Ken “drone, drone, drone” Livingstone placed the NFL’s announcement in the context of London’s growing sporting influence, referencing the Tour de France (which will start in our capital city this year) and of course the 2012 Olympics.

    What a massive shame it is that baseball/softball will not be a part of it. Every now and then the odd rumour of plans to play a MLB game over here crops up (generally citing the Oval as the possible venue), but the odds of it happening any time soon are slim to none. Had baseball/softball kept its Olympic status it would have been an excellent chance to introduce people to the sport, as well as providing some excellent new facilities for us to use. None of that will happen though thanks to the International Olympic Committee.

    Still, let’s not finish on a negative note. The British-American sporting link is thriving and that can only be a good thing for baseball in the long-term. Maybe Tom Hicks will convert Anfield into a baseball arena when Liverpool move to their Stanley Park complex. What would Bill Shankly make of that?!

     


    Winter meetings

    December 6, 2006

    With the Winter Meetings in full swing, it’s no surprise that we are starting to see a few big moves being announced. The Red Sox started the ball rolling by signing J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo.

    Much as I have had a go at Just Dollars Drew, he is undoubtedly a good player and you have to grudgingly admit that his agent his done a great job for his client (yet again). Putting him in the five spot behind Ortiz and Manny makes for a very intimidating batting core. Of course, whether this plays out depends on whether Ramirez is still in Boston come April. While Manny does come with some bulky baggage, he is quite simply one of the very best hitters in the game. His fielding can be “interesting” at best, but with Ortiz locked in the DH spot you have to weigh it up and say that what he gives up on defense he more than makes up for on offense. The one other knock against Manny has been his contract yet there seems little point in trading him now when, compared to the current market, Boston almost have him on the cheap.

    If the Red Sox can couple that lineup with an improved rotation then they will really be in business. Much will depend on the Matsuzaka saga currently being played out. Scott Boras (who must be making a tidy commission off Boston this winter) came out yesterday and started rambling about elephants:

    “I think it’s going to take a cooperative effort from three parties to get something done on this,” Boras said. “The elephant in the room always is the principle of allocation. [That’s] something that we don’t normally have to deal with. We’re all trying to create the saddle to ride the elephant, so we’ll see.”

    I’m guessing he followed this quote with something about seagulls following trawlers or such like. Anyway, all of the parties concerned have a vested interest in agreeing to a deal so I’m still expecting this to happen. If it does, Yankees fans might regret any crowing about the Red Sox’s third place finish in 2006.

    And while the Red Sox are trying to shake things up in the AL East, the Dodgers are making some noise in the NL West. The breaking news today is that Jason Schmidt has agreed to a three year deal worth $47 million (about £153k per week). That’s a fair chunk of change, but $15.5m per year isn’t exactly outrageous in the current market and the key with any deal is to guard against uncertainty. Schmidt is 33, but I wouldn’t have been surprised to see someone offer him a five year deal just to win the race to sign him. Three years is a fairly safe time period for a team to commit to.

    So a few deals are now starting to surface and I’m sure there will be plenty more over the next couple of days.


    2006 World Series Game One

    October 22, 2006

    Well there you go. Write off the Cardinals at your peril. Detroit may have the better all round team on paper, but some so-called experts have been writing about this series as though St Louis are a group of scrubs. Far from it.

    Two factors loom large over the result of game one, one big difference between the two teams heading into the game and one similarity.

    I mentioned in my previous two posts that the Tigers’ long lay-off may leave them undercooked and there seemed to be signs of this last night. Guillen and Monroe were the only two Tigers to get a hit off Anthony Reyes (two apiece) while the rest of the lineup struggled. Verlander and Brandon Inge made crucial errors in the sixth. They may have just been unfortunate mistakes, but they provide further ammo for people to claim that the Tigers are suffering from some rust. The Cardinals meanwhile looked like a well-drilled team.

    The game can also be looked at as a battle between two rookie starting pitchers and it was the Cardinals who came out on top. It’s hard to overstate how impressive Anthony Reyes’ start was. He hasn’t had the easiest of rookie seasons and starting game one of the World Series at Comerica Park is a tall task to face. He started slowly, giving up two hits, one walk and a run in the opening frame, and it would have been easy to panic; however he regained his composure and pitched brilliantly. It was a textbook example of how to pitch without overpowering stuff; first pitch strikes to get ahead of the hitter and not giving up free bases with walks. Just like Josh on Five, I think Rick Sutcliffe was a bit harsh on Justin Verlander. He made a few mistakes but certainly didn’t pitch badly. The problem for Detroit was their inability to provide much run support.

    Combining those two factors is important when looking ahead to the rest of this series. Tony La Russa didn’t have many other choices for his game one starter due to the way the NLCS panned out; however the Tigers were virtually able to set-up their starters in whatever fashion they liked. This makes game two even more crucial for the Tigers. Losing the opening two games of the series would put them in a massive hole heading out to St Louis in any case; yet Detroit will also have to face the Cardinals’ two best pitchers in games three and four. Before last night’s game no one would have seriously considered a St Louis sweep, but if they win game two it would certainly be a distinct possibility.

    Kenny Rogers will be looking to continue his excellent post-season form tonight as he tries to level the series against Jeff Weaver.  It’s a match-up that undoubtedly favours Detroit, but the Cardinals won’t care about that.  It should be another exciting night of baseball action.

    Finally, I cannot let the moment pass without expressing my disappointment with Jonny Gould!  Six out of ten for Bob Seeger’s woeful warbling is indefensible; whatever the poor excuses he came up with.  Even Josh’s three was a bit kind in my opinion.  Great coverage as always though (no doubt Erik and Dave are having a good time despite the weather!).  You can’t beat those World Series tuxedos and it was nice to know that Jonny learned something at drama school apart from how to be a tree.