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Bull Penned

by admin October 27, 2009

Bull Penned

by admin October 13, 2009

We humans are a curious bunch. We love good fortune, but not when it is bestowed upon others. Wealth, fame, fortune? A curse! Unless, of course, we are the ones surrounded by it. I guess that is why we are all deeply wired to hate the New York Yankees. They have it all, seemingly, and we have nothing. Well, now we have nothing; but even when the Expos were in town, our floundering ball club was a cruel reminder of just how much we hate those damn Yanks. Well, prepare yourself, because the rich are about to get richer.
If you have any doubt in your mind that this season’s version of the Bronx Bombers are geared and tweaked to win their record 27th championship, I must interject. Before making any predictions, please purge any and all hate for the Evil Empire out of your body and let the light of logical thinking spread into your inner baseball core. The Yankees are stacked, and not just like every other year but for real. They are designed for a successful playoff run, and have the pitching necessary to effectively cruise to another world title.
Don’t believe me? Still skeptical? That’s ok, we all have our loyalties, even if they are irrational. Let me introduce exhibit a: C.C. Sabathia. This behemoth eats as many innings as he does ballpark hot dogs. He’s a genuine workhorse, and arguably the best pitcher in baseball. When you have a pitcher that can go eight solid innings, you can bypass your team’s only apparent weakness: the bullpen. Not that the Yankees are severely crippled in that domain, but the obvious way to beat the Yankees is to work their starters to a high pitch count to face their middle relievers. With Sabathia, you can kiss that strategy goodbye. A guy like him will take you to the ninth inning where step two of the Yankee World Series victory is forged.
Once your hulking starter takes you to the ninth inning, it is truly lights-out. Mariano Rivera, the legendary closer for New York, with a career postseason ERA of 0.71, will not make it easy for you to win games. He is the last guy you want to see when it’s the ninth inning and you’re down by a run or two. Trevor Hoffman, the all-time saves leader, said Rivera would “go down as the best reliever in the game in history.” Chances dictate that not only will you not score a run, but you most likely won’t get more than one guy on base. Better luck next time.
I can further dissect the New York pitching staff and tell you how A.J. Burnett will beat you, and how Joba Chamberlain is a great eighth inning set-up man for the impending slaughter by Rivera, but I’d rather tell you about the true reason to fear these Yankees: Alex Rodriguez. Yes, that Alex Rodriguez.
A-Rod has had a Madonna-sized monkey on his back ever since joining New York. They call him Mr. April, a taunt that pokes fun at his fantastic early season performances, but worthless statistics when the playoffs roll around. The once heralded “soon to be home run king” was shooting blanks, and the worst part was that with superb regular season numbers, any manager had no choice but to bat A-Rod in the clean-up spot and pray to Ruth that he’d swing his way out of the funk. With the addition of Mark Texeira, the stress has lifted, and A-Rod now has protection in the lineup, wherein he is seeing more pitches and has less pressure to produce. Result? Ka-boom. A-Rod has more home runs in this year’s playoffs than he had in all the previous years in pinstripes.
This year’s resurgence of A-Rod has given the Yankees a truly fearsome lineup. From top to bottom, you have 20-plus home run potential. This team is flawless at the plate. Average, speed, power and patience. They’ll get on base, and they’ll cross the plate. The Phillies might get a great game out of Cliff Lee, but look for the Yankees to dispose of the Phillies in five games. If not, you know the game is fixed.

Finally! Meaningful baseball has arrived. Sitting through 162 games was hardly a chore, but when an additional one-game playoff is needed, it makes you wonder about the true value of any baseball game before August. Regardless, if enduring a full season is what it takes to enjoy a true gem of a game like the win-or-go-home between Minnesota and Detroit, I’ll gladly take the pain. Unfortunately, it cost me a winning prediction percentage. Let’s review, shall we?
The American League East, the hotly contested cream of the crop in baseball, was barely a contest after all. Yours truly correctly predicted a Yankee division title, but little did I know that Boston would have fallen out of contention so early. Though Toronto had a brilliant start, I never wavered with my faith in complete Toronto suckage. While Toronto sprinted to the best record in baseball by May, smarter baseball minds realized that the record was skewed as the Jays had only played four games within their powerful division. Those four games were a sweep at the hands of Boston. An omen? Absolutely. Toronto failed worse than Clay Aiken in a testosterone contest. The only good news for Toronto is that they finally fired J.P. Ricciardi, the visionary who blew millions on B.J. Ryan, Frank Thomas, and Alex Rios &- all of whom don’t play for Toronto anymore &- let alone the Vernon Wells debacle that will utterly cripple the franchise for years to come. Oh well, it’s Toronto, and we here in Montreal love to see them stagger, right?
So where else was Mr. Bull Penned on the money? The Dodgers won their division without any real pressure. The Angels managed to win their division despite a feisty Texas team that made it interesting until mid August. Not bad so far. I’m a regular baseball Nostradamus.
I had some marginal victories, and now it is time for the severe crash-and-burns that make predictions so darn fun. Let’s get right to the point. Every year the National League East is about as unpredictable as its A.L. counterpart, but for a completely different reason. While the A.L. East is filled with skill, prestige, and tradition, the N.L. version is filled with poor management, major collapses, and empty seats. The Mets fell apart, and didn’t wait for September to do so. The Phillies were impressive, and once again, the Nationals set a benchmark for futility. You might as well make me an honorary Met, because I blew it big time.
The Cubs were a monumental disappointment for me. I had such hope in this team and they rewarded me with utter garbage. Their pitchers didn’t deliver, their hitters were not as advertised and between Rich Harden and Milton Bradley, there were enough off-field distractions to fill a tabloid. I’m not talking about the fun Yankee-style gossip about movie stars and club-hopping, I’m talking about dirty laundry, disputes and public bad-mouthing. Record aside, this was one campaign to forget for the spiralling Cubbies.
Now on to the nitty gritty – the little anomaly that was so exciting to watch, but threw my baseball integrity into a void of parity. Minnesota and Detroit decided that six months of fun wasn’t enough, so a thriller of a playoff ensued. Though the deserving team won, my prediction of a Detroit division title was tossed away like a Kevin Federline demo tape. The Twins won the game in extra innings and as such dropped my record to three for six. I prefer to call it a three for five point five, but I’ll be fair. Not bad, I guess, but as we all know, batting .500 is hall of fame worthy.
So with that we move on to the real deal, the big prize, the World Series. I won’t bore you with series by series predictions, but I will put my “winning” record on the line and tell you with an immense amount of confidence that the World Series will pit the New York Yankees against the Philadelphia Phillies. How confident am I? About three to six. I’ll let you ponder that. Enjoy the playoffs, ladies and gentlemen.