Archive for Rays

It’s More Than Turning Left

Posted in 1 with tags , , , , , , , on November 10, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

Well, I’m back. (Sighs of relief echo throughout the TwoNateShow faithful). Some of you probably wondered if I was in hiding due to my insightful prediction that the Rays would win the World Series in 7 games.

Oops.

Yes, I’m sure the last two weeks have been filled with sleepless nights as you’ve wondered where the Second Nate was. Well, I’ll tell you.  The last 12 days have seen me visit 4 cities. Both Nates went to North Carolina to visit Joe Gibbs Racing.  More on that in a bit.  Then I was in Baton Rouge to witness my beloved Dawgs defeat the LSU Tigers.  Then I was in Chicago where I took a self guided Dark Knight scenic tour and also watched my previously mentioned Dawgs have just a little bit of a tough game against those freakin’ Gators.  Then I closed out my “tour” with a trip to Colorado Springs where I had the opportunity to see the greatest band ever give an amazing performance. 

A little while ago I wrote a post on how the NHL is a very unappreciated sport. It’s fans are die hard, but those that don’t follow it don’t appreciate the skill that it requires.  I’d like to put NASCAR in that category as well. 

Seriously. 

We know about the drivers, and we give the occasional shout out to the pit crews that can gas a car and change it’s tires in a matter of seconds.  But we very much take for granted the engineering and skill that is displayed behind the scenes. 

When we toured the shop, we hung out with the 400+ employees it takes to give 3 drivers a chance to win.  They make each car part themselves.  They build the cars from scratch.  They test the engines, shocks, and aerodynamics in state of the art simulators.  They have 45 cars for each driver, not including the numerous quarter scale models that they use for additional testing. 

So racing may not be your can of beer….er…cup of tea, but I can say for a fact that it’s way more than fast cars and corporate sponsorship.  It’s a sport of tremendous skill and intellect, and I’ve got a newfound respect for it.

On To the Classic

Posted in MLB with tags , , , on October 20, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

So I guess that’s why they play the games.  

I liked the Rays chances in game 6, but Josh Beckett bounced back from a rough postseason to pitch the way we all know he can and get the Red Sox even in the series.  Once that happened I thought Boston would probably take gave 7 since the Rays were having to face Lester a second time.  But he was outpitched by Matt Garza, and the Rays are in their first World Series.  

It’s almost like what I think will happen has no bearing on the actual outcome.  Weird. 

Anyways, congratulations to the Tampa Bay Rays.  Apparently it was the word “devil” that was holding them back all this time.  Suddenly they drop that and they’re one of the best teams in baseball. 

That sets up a less than ideal matchup from Fox’s point of view.  But I think it should be a good series.  We’ve got two teams who have a lot of young talent (excluding Jamie Moyer), and they were both in the thick of things all season long.  It’s the first time in a few years where one of the World Series teams didn’t come out of nowhere and make the playoffs via a torrid run at the end of the season.  

Tampa Bay was a surprise because no one was picking them to win in Spring Training, but they’re not in it because they got hot at the right time.  They’re in it because they got clutch performances all year.

Philly battled the Mets all season and came from behind again to take the division.  They’re one of the best offensive teams in baseball, and the rejuvenated Lidge has solidified the back of the bullpen.  Throw a solid starting staff in there and they’re a well-rounded team.  

If I have to pick a winner (which I do as a responsible blogger), I’m going with the Rays.  At first I was going to say the Phillies because they have the experience, but then I remembered that the Rays just made it through a very experienced and talented Red Sox team.  And they did that the entire season.  They didn’t make it this far by a fluke.  They haven’t just gotten lucky and they haven’t looked overmatched.  

So I think the Rays will win, but I don’t think Philly will suffer the same fate that the first LSC victor has experienced the last couple of years.  Colorado and Detroit both had long layoffs after they clinched the LCS, and both teams played like it once the World Series started.  I think this will be a tough series, and I think it will take the Rays 7 games to win it.  

And speaking of 7 games, congrats to the Red Sox for almost completing the improbable comeback.  An exciting series is something we need to start expecting from that team now.  After some quick research, I discovered that since 2003, there have been 7 LCS series to go the full 7 games.  The Boston Red Sox, have been involved in 4 of them.

I’m Not Dead Yet

Posted in MLB with tags , , , , , , , on October 17, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

Just when baseball fans across the country were figuratively walking through the streets of Boston crying, “Bring out your dead,” the Red Sox responded by letting everyone know that they’re not dead yet.  

The Sox made an improbable comeback last night, winning the game after being down 7-0 at one point.  Could this comeback lead to a comeback in the series?  

This team has shown several times in recent years that they apparently work best under pressure in the first two rounds of the playoffs.  After all, why make things easier by winning a couple games early on in the series when you just have more fun by winning after you’re on the brink of elimination?  

Game 6 has a lot of promise to it for either team with Boston sending Beckett to the mound and Tampa responding with James Shields.  If this were the Josh Beckett of 2007, you’d think the Sox would have the edge, even with Shields’ impressive season.  But Beckett hasn’t been the same this year and especially in these playoffs.  

I think the Rays have to treat this next game as a must win.  They don’t want to take this to 7 games and have the series come down to a win against Lester.  He may have gotten rocked in his first start in the series, but the chances of him doing that again don’t seem likely.  

Do the Rays still have the advantage? Of course.  But Boston’s win last night changed the look of this series dramatically.

Good Time to Lose?

Posted in MLB with tags , , , , , , on October 15, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

The Tamba Bay Rays beat up on the Red Sox last, winning by a score of 13-4.  Both of the LCS series now have the leading teams up 3 games to 1.  So assuming both teams close out the series and move on, what can we expect?

Probably the lowest rated World Series of all time.  

But, as I’ve said here before, while it may not get the ratings (especially from the casual fan), I believe it will certainly still pique the interest of most of them.  They may not watch it on TV, but they’ll follow the headlines and talk about it around the proverbial water cooler at work.  

And I continue to think that it will inject even more energy into the sport.  But I can save that diatribe for a post during the World Series. Of course now that I’ve said it there’s not much more for me to expand on, so I’ve kind of stolen my own thunder.  Dang it!

But for you hurting Red Sox and Dodgers fans out there, I have a question to throw out there: if your team is going to lose in the playoffs, would you rather your team lose in the LCS or the World Series?

In thinking through that, I’m not sure what I would prefer. Having seen the Braves lose in both, I’m trying to think back to how it felt.  

I suppose the argument for the LCS is that your team was still several wins away from a World Series title, so the sting of being knocked out isn’t quite as bad.  You could envision a victory but not quite taste it yet, so the disappointment isn’t as powerful.  

The argument for the WS is that even if you lose, you’re still going home with a League Title.  You made it through all of the teams in your league and came within 4 wins of the Championship.  For those few games, the entire focus is just on you and one other team.  So while the loss is hard, the mere appearance brings a lot of satisfaction. 

My opinion?  Losing kind of just sucks all around.  So while I’m inclined to lean towards the “losing in the World Series is less painful” answer, neither one is particularly pleasant.  And don’t get me started on losing in the Division Series….

What do you all think? Is one better than the other?

New Blood

Posted in MLB with tags , , , , , , , on October 8, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

The Yankees haven’t missed the postseason since 1993.  Until 2006, the Braves hadn’t missed a post-season since 1990.

Which means for 11 seasons, we knew at least 2 of the 8 teams that were going to make the playoffs.  We knew 3 for some of those years because of the Red Sox.  That tends to take away a little from the anticipation.

The only prediction we probably could have made about this year’s LCS teams is the Red Sox.  The Phillies had a shot, as did the Dodgers, but they weren’t a given.  And none of us saw the Rays coming.  Well if you did, please write me and let me know because I would like you to pick out some lottery numbers for me.

So as we look at the final four teams, only the Red Sox have made it to the LCS recently. As I mentioned the other day, the Phillies haven’t been there since 2003.  The Dodgers haven’t been there since 1988, and the Rays were so far removed from the playoffs most of their players probably thought LCS was something that could only be examined with an MRI.

Which means the new blood has assured MLB of some great ratings this year right? Ok, maybe not.  According to TBS, the Divion Series ratings were down 20% from last year.  But they attribute it to a perfect storm of factors: the quick series, the presidential debate, and the lack of  New York team.

Well, the New Yorkers may not be watching, but regardless of what the ratings do I think the infusion of new teams is great for the game.  It gives more exposure to other teams, and in the process gives them something to build on for next year.

A lot of the fans may be disappointed that there won’t be a millionth chapter of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry.  But seeing as Fox and ESPN show us every single match-up between them during the year, I’m ok with not seeing it in October.  To me, it’s more exciting to see a classic franchise like the Dodgers get another shot.  It’s more fun to see the Rays finally put it together after 10 years of misery.  And it’s more entertaining to see the Phillies push through after a few years of always being right on the cusp.

This year’s final four may not grow the ratings, but it will grow the game.  The more fans that are able to watch their team contend, the better the game will do.

So good luck to all four!

Breezing Through the Division Series?

Posted in MLB with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2008 by nathanjzacharias

Hey everyone, I’m back from a week of travels and ready to tackle the heavy hitting issues with the vicious wit and side splitting humor you’ve come to know and love.  Ok…well….I’m back at least.

So over the weekend we saw the MLB playoff picture continue to take shape.  The Cubbies were swept by the Dodgers.  Apparently this year it was the fault of one of the stadium hot dot vendors.  He delivered cold hot dogs to some of the Cubs players, which therefore distracted them so much that they couldn’t win a game.

In other news, the Phillies knocked out the Brewers to move on to the NLCS for the first time since 1993.  That’s about the only thing they have in common with that year’s team.  The 2008 Phils have less hair, smaller waists, and fewer tobbacco stains on their jerseys.

In the other two series, the White Sox stayed alive by defeating the Rays in game 3, and the Angels are trying to fight off elimination by the Red Sox.  I may have to wrap this up before that game concludes, so my apologies for the lack of an up to date post.

Is it just me, or have the Division Series been slightly anti-climactic the last few years?  I don’t mean that the teams involved haven’t been interesting, it’s just that there haven’t been a lot of nail-biting match-ups in recent memory.

Consider this: in 2007, three of the division series were sweeps and the fourth only went to 4 games. In 2006, two were sweeps, and the other two went 4 games.  In 2005, two were sweeps, one went 4, and one went the full 5. Put that all together and in the three years of playoffs prior to this year, the winning teams in the Division Series were 36-6.  How is there so much imbalance when the top teams in the game are playing each other? Is it luck? Is it more? Or both perhaps?

I’ve heard players mention before that there is a world of a difference between a 5 game series and a 7.  At first I didn’t quite get it, as I didn’t see the difference in just 2 extra games.  But the more we’ve seen of division play I can see what they mean.  When it’s best of 5, the importance of every play, hit, and pitch is magnified even more.  Bottom line is, there is almost no room for error.  It’s much harder to come back from a mistake in a short series, and the concept of “getting hot at the right time” comes into play even more.

The last couple of years, the idea has been floated that perhaps the season should be shortened by a couple of games so that the Division Series should be lengthened to 7 games, and I think that would be a good decision.

It’s not that I think the outcome of the playoffs has been drastically altered due to the short first round.  I mean let’s face it, if a team loses the first 3 games, it’s unlikely they would be able to come back even if it were best of 7.

However, I do think the short series changes the feel of the series.  It feels more rushed and you almost feel like that first game determines the whole outcome.  And as I stated above, the last three years of Division Series haven’t provided the kind of back and forth outcome that we had seen prior to that.

Perhaps it’s just a weird phase the game is going through. After all, the imbalance hasn’t stopped there: the last four champions have won the World Series with a combined record of 16-1.

But I believe the Division Series has a bit of a different tone to it, and because of that I think it would be a good move to change it to 7 games.  I think it would allow for even greater competition and energy.

Plus, it would give the Cubs a chance to lose one more playoff game each year.