As I watch what actually has turned out to be an interesting season opener between the Yanks and the Sox (in the Michael Wilbon voice), I guess there’s no better time than the present to give you my 2010 MLB season preview. Here are 10 storylines to watch as America’s pastime opens 2010 in earnest tomorrow.
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It’s been another busy winter for the Yankees, though this time with a tighter grip on the purse strings. The 27-time World Champs signed former farmhand Nick Johnson as their DH and added journeyman Randy Winn to provide a capable outfielder off the bench. But the other additions came through trades. Curtis Granderson, fresh off a career-high 30 home runs with the Tigers (written as he takes Josh Beckett deep with two outs in the second inning), was brought in for pitchers Phil Coke, Ian Kennedy, and top prospect Austin Jackson. The rotation was strengthened by the acquisition of Javier Vasquez (another former Yankee returning to the Bronx) for misfit Melky Cabrera. Vazquez and the reintroduction of Phil Hughes to the rotation stabilizes the back-end of one of the best starting fives in the AL, while Chan Ho Park and Joba Chamberlain’s return to the bullpen gives them depth there. Despite playing in baseball’s toughest division, the Yanks are still a front-runner to take home another World Series Title.
Phil me up again? Continue reading
A little bit of holiday hangover has the first edition of Hot Reads of the new year behind schedule, but it’ll be well worth the wait.
The sporting landscape is dominated by two major events this week, the first and most prominent being the BCS National Championship Game between Alabama and Texas on Thursday night. And while the coverage is far to ubiquitous for us to even begin to encapsulate, some of the most engrossing attention has focused, and deservedly so, on the Crimson Tide’s Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. His charisma has won over even the staunchest of Toby Gerhart supporters in the LA Times Bill Plaschke, and the relationship with his incarcerated father and former NFL-er Mark, Sr. gives Lenn Robbins of the New York Post a view of what’s going on inside the helmet.
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While Heisman finalists Ingram and Colt McCoy of Texas are dominating the hoopla, Ivan Maisel points out that Alabama’s quarterback Greg McElroy is not to be forgotten in the equation.
Whether you live in Glenside, Lansdale, Kensington, Mayfair, Rittenhouse Square, South Jersey, North Jersey, New York, Boston, LA or anywhere else…. There is absolutely no question about the passion and dedication of Philadelphia fans.
Philadelphia sports fans are some of the most loyal sports fans in all of sports.
The Philadelphia Phillies have more losses than any other franchise in any other sport. No other franchise has ever lost 10,000 games and the Phillies managed to do it by 2007. Despite this fact, the Phillies, over the past two seasons, have managed to draw over 7 million fans and 3.6 million fans in 2009. Phillies fans always have been supportive and passionate. The Phillies sold out 73 of 81 home games in 2009 and EVERY home game between May and October. Yes, the losingest franchise in all of sports selling out over 90% of its home games. Continue reading
Heading into the National League Championship Series, the buzz around Philadelphia is about the nerves on the mend from the Phillies-Rockies NLDS. And those nerves don’t look like they are going to have an easy road ahead. The Los Angeles Dodgers enter the NLCS boasting the best record in the NL with a 95-67 record, finishing two games ahead of the Phillies.
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Game 1 is slated for 8:07 p.m. on Thursday. That’s about the only thing set in stone right now for the Dodgers. With starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda returning after taking a line drive to the cheek bone in August, the Dodgers have six starting pitchers vying for four spots. Two of the starters, Vicente Padilla and Randy Wolf, anchored the Phillies pitching staff during the early 2000s, when people started looking ahead to “next season” by mid-May. The other four, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, Jon Garland, and Kuroda, are all solid pitchers who could make a big impact on the series. The Dodgers come into the NLCS with a stronger bullpen than the 2008 squad, but more or less a similar lineup with just another year under theirs belts.
Coming into this postseason, there were many concerns about the world champion Phillies’ chances of repeating this year: their bullpen was in question, their new ace was struggling, and their offense was in a funk in almost the entirety of September. With game one of the NLDS now over, the Phillies responded to two of the three concerns with style in their 5-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
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The questions surrounding the new staff ace were answered with four words: Cliff Lee is back. After setting a torrid pace in his first five starts with the Phillies, Lee had slumped as of late, causing a bit of concern for fans when he was named Game 1 starter. In his playoff debut, Lee dazzled, throwing a complete game, allowing only one run while striking out five in 113 pitches. Looking like the pitcher who won 2008 Cy Young award, Lee took command of the game, escaping some tough jams in the early innings and allowing the solitary run to the Rockies in the bottom of the ninth inning. If Lee continues this pace and Cole Hamels is able to emerge from the dugout tomorrow in 2008 World Series MVP form, then the Phillies may in fact have the scariest 1-2 punch in the postseason. Continue reading
For the Philadelphia Phillies, the first step on the way to a repeat as world champions will be a five-game series against the Colorado Rockies in the NLDS. Last time these two met in the postseason, the Rockies swept the Phillies in three games during the NLDS as they went on to take their first National League pennant. These two meet once again in 2009, with the memories of 2007 fresh in their minds.
The Rockies win if: Their pitching can keep the Phillies’ bats cool. The Phils come into the postseason with four days of rest since their last truly meaningful game, which could mean a slow offensive start for the defending world champs, especially with legitimate ace Ubaldo Jimenez ready to go in game one. This task is made more difficult with the recent loss of starter Jorge De La Rosa for the series, but a return to All-Star form by Aaron Cook may make up for that. If Colorado can keep the likes of Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth off the bases, then Rocktober will be extended through at least next week.
The Phillies win if: Their bullpen can hold up their end of the bargain. The final nine outs of the ballgame have been one giant puzzle for Charlie Manuel this season, and he will have the rough job of piecing together a save each night of the playoffs when the stakes are raised. The combination of Brad Lidge, Scott Eyre, Ryan Madson, and possible either J.A. Happ or Pedro Martinez will have to regain the confidence of the 2008 edition to ensure that the Phillies don’t look more like the 2007 team.
The X-factor: The ballparks. Coors Field and Citizens Bank Park are not known for their famous pitching duels. Both parks, in fact, are considered to be more of a launching pad than Cape Canaveral, which means the long ball will probably make its appearance early and often in this series. When you add the power-hitters on both sides of the series, you may end up seeing more crooked scores than usual in a playoff series.
The Verdict: While they are not the bullpen of last year, the Phillies relievers know what it takes to play late into October. Despite the possibility of hiccups from the relief corps, Colorado has noted struggles against left-handed pitchers, and the Phillies are loaded with southpaws. Both Eyre and Happ get a workout while Howard and Werth take advantage of the friendly dimensions of both home stadiums. Despite putting up some tough competition, the Rockies will ultimately miss the talented arm of De La Rosa and lose the series in four games.
-Tom Hagan, ’11
How do you liven up a boring game against the Washington Nationals? Try cute little kids.
That’s the recipe the Phillies used on Tuesday, and it’s landed the little girl and her family on NBC’s Today Show tomorrow morning.
The father, Steve Monforto of Laurel Springs, N.J., is a lifelong Phillies fan and season-ticket holder. But through all the games he’s seen, it was the first foul ball he had ever caught. And as quickly as he reached over the railing to snag the fly ball off the bat of Jayson Werth, he was watching fly right back toward the field of play out of the hand of his three-year-old daughter, Emily.
After the ball flew off, Monforto quickly hugged his daughter to reassure her everything was ok. As far as the ball, there were a host of Phillies’ executives, seated a few sections over in the 300 level and including General Manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., who quickly came over to replace it.
-Matthew De George ’10