Major League Baseball Will Miss Drayton McLane

Major League Baseball will miss Drayton McLane, former owner of the Houston Astros. He was simply one of the good guys in the game and not enough can be said about how this game could use more men like him.

Too many times we read of an owner who is meddling with the team and doesn’t know when to step back and let others do their jobs. Or a team is owned by a huge corporation where there is no face of the franchise and thus little or no personality. Some are outspoken which can be good and bad. Some are only in it for the money to be made and not putting a winner on the field. But I never got this feeling about the Astros when they were owned by McLane.

I am not here to say that all owners in baseball are bad. Honestly I don’t know most of them. I don’t read a lot about them, nor do I really care too much about them. McLane was a little different though. He was from my home town of Temple, Texas.

I have never been a huge Astros fan but I have never been a huge Astros hater either. A large part of the later comes from the fact McLane owned the team for so many years.

McLane purchased the Astros in 1993 when I was in high school. It was a big deal in our small little town of about 50,000 people. The first year or two he owned the team they had a special day called “Temple Day in the Dome” where may of the people from my hometown went to a game and had a reception following the game. Busses of people went down to show their support, but I was never able to attend. Even before this, he was always a generous kind man.

During the summer of 1993 my Pony League baseball team needed money to travel to Dallas for a regional tournament. Who stepped up? Drayton McLane did. Even though we were not able to make the trip due to other circumstances, he was there donating the money we needed to make the trip. He always showed support for our high school baseball program, and even spoke at our awards banquet my senior year. It was a pleasure getting to know him even just a little.

McLane did a lot of good for Houston and the Astros. He built Minute Maid Park, took the Astros to their first ever World Series in 2005, and for a period of 13 seasons the Astros ranked 2nd in the National League in winning percentage at .543.

I have read a lot of articles and interviews where the press said he was always available. He always answered their questions and made time for them. He was a visible owner at all times but not so much in a Jerry Jones in your face way. Every time I turned on the Astros game, you could see him sitting behind home plate sometimes with the likes of former president George H. W. Bush.

Some have said he was too involved, especially these last few years when the Astros have been horrible. Even if that is true, which I don’t know for sure, he has done more good for the team and the city that he ever did harm.

MLB will miss Drayton McLane. Whatever he decides to do in the future I know everyone wishes him well and he will be successful. I will continue to root for the Astros, except when they play my favorite teams of course and most of that is simply because of Mr. McLane and what he has done.

So thank you Drayton McLane for all you have done. You will be missed. MLB was a better place with you in its ranks.

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2011 ALDS – Texas Rangers vs Tampa Bay Rays Recap

This was hands down one of the most exciting series played in recent memory. Whether you are a Rays fan (they do exist right?) or Rangers fan, you were given a lot of intense postseason baseball.

We saw the coming out party of the best young pitching prospect in the game in Matt Moore. Moore dominated the Rangers in Game 1 going 7 innings allowing only 2 hits while striking out 6. He was simply dominate. He even came back in Game 4 on 3 days rest to pitch 3 innings and only made one mistake that Adrian Beltre hit out in left, but this kid is for real.

I like the Rays, underdogs are always fun, but I don’t root for them against the Rangers. Regardless of Rays fan or not, you have to be excited about what Moore will do in the future. While I hope it doesn’t come true, I did find it funny seeing all the comments in the Twitterverse about how Moore will be the best Yankee soon. Sure he will have his ups and downs, but the AL East is going to be competitive when you put Moore alongside Price and the rest of that young Rays staff. Look for more of the same from them in the future making the playoffs.

Game 2 sung a different tune with the Rangers holding on to win 8-6. The Dutch Oven, Derek Holland, pitched well but not great throwing a lot of pitches in 5 innings. However, the Ranger’s bats showed up this time and pounded Rays starter James Shields for 7 runs. Perhaps the most surprising thing was they did it without the long ball. They scored 8 runs, but only 1 came on a long ball while Tampa continued to hit the long ball with 2 more.

Ogando showed how valuable he is coming in and shutting down the Rays in the 6th overpowering them. Koji Uehara had a rough outing allowing a 3-run bomb to Longoria in the 7th that cut the lead to only 1.

But like all year the Rangers responded. Darren Oliver came in to quiet the Rays hitters setting it up for Adams and Feliz in the 8th and 9th. And Mitch Moreland came up with a huge home run to give the Rangers a little cushion.

Game 3 was more of the same with the Rangers holding on late to win. Desmond Jennings put the Rays on top in the 4th with a solo home run which also turned out to be the only hit Colby Lewis would allow. Texas responded in the 7th with a great at bat and a huge home run by Mike Napoli to put the Rangers up 2-1 over David Price. Still in the 7th Roy Hobbs himself Josh Hamilton came up with a huge hit to extend the lead to 4-1.

From there it was a matter of holding off the Rays rallies. They got a run back in the 7th off of Oliver who couldn’t find his way, but was bailed out by Ogando once again. Mike Adams struggled in the 8th with perhaps his worst outing of his career which all started with Desmond Jennings 2nd home run of the game.

It took a 4 out save from Feliz to close the door and give Texas the 2-1 lead in the series. But what shouldn’t be overlooked is how good Lewis was from the get go. Colby once again had a great outing in the postseason. This time he went 6 innings allowing only 1 hit and striking out 6 along the way. He has really stepped up huge in playoff games the past 2 years.

Game 4 was the Adrian Beltre show. Heading into the game Beltre didn’t have an extra base hit in the playoffs. After the game he not only had 3 extra-base hits but 3 home runs. Beltre hit 3 solo shots to power the Rangers past the Rays and into the ALCS. Two of the home runs came off of Rays starter Hellickson who hadn’t given up 3 home runs in a game ever, until tonight. Ian Kinsler also got to him leading off the game with a solo shot. But even after Hellickson left and phenom Matt Moore entered, Beltre wasn’t done. He touched up Moore for a solo shot as well in the 7th which proved to be the difference in the end.

Matt Harrison had a good outing going 5 innings and striking out a season high 9. Derek Holland came in to through an inning and a third out of the pen, and after pitching in the 6th and 7th innings in the previous 2 games Ogando threw a perfect 8th inning setting it up for Feliz to close it out in the 9th.

With the win the Rangers will face the winner of the Detroit/New York series which goes to a game 5 on Thursday night. I don’t think the Rangers care who they play since they seem to just go about their own business and get to work. Regardless of who it is, it should make for some great baseball.

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And Then There Was One…..Game Left That Is

And we were down to one.  After 161 games, the Atlanta Braves and the hated (at least by this blogger) St. Louis Cardinals are tied with a single game to go.

So what will happen over the next 24-48 hours? Whatever it is, it will be fun to watch.

What looks good for Atlanta:

1. Tim Hudson is starting in game 162. Hudson has been the best pitcher for the Braves all year, and if the Braves could have 1 pitcher to throw in an important game it would be him.

2. Joe Blanton is starting for Philly. Not that Blanton is a pushover, but he isn’t exactly Cole Hamels (who was slated to start). Blanton is coming out of the bullpen to replace Hamels as the Phillies start to get their rotation in order.

3. Some Philly starters might get a rest. They may not get the entire game off, but there is a possibility that they are pulled early and/or some bullpen pitchers will not be used in order to give them a rest. This is all up in the air and may be game situation type moves, but they could go in the favor of the Braves.

What looks good for St. Louis:

1. First and maybe foremost, they are playing the Astros. Despite the fact the Astros could play spoilers to a division rival, they have still lost 100+ games.

2. The Cardinals have Chris Carpenter starting in a huge game. The numbers might not tell it, but Carpenter is a big game pitcher. His ERA and WHIP are a bit higher than normal maybe, but if I am a Cards fan I want him pitching in a big game.

Whatever happens tomorrow, the one thing I don’t want is a game 163. The Braves just don’t have the starting pitching, outside of Hudson, to really compete in a do-or-die situation. But in a game like that you never know what might happen.

I know I’ll be up early tomorrow to watch the games. The Braves start just after 8am local time for me. You can catch me on Twitter at @BaseballJourney talking baseball and either getting really excited or angry in the process. Say hey if you are on during the game.

 

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NL Wild Card Race Heating Up

The wild card race in the NL is heating up with just 3 games to go. Atlanta has played horribly over the past month, while St. Louis has really turned things on and put a lot of pressure on the Braves.

The Braves are fighting hard to stay in the lead for the NL Wild Card, but if the current trend continues, they will be on the outside looking in. They end the year against the best team in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies. However, out in St. Louis the Cardinals look like they will make the playoffs despite playing from behind. Why?

The Cardinals face off with the team with the worst record in baseball, the Houston Astros.

But don’t count the Astros as simply a push over. A few weeks ago they took 2-out-of-3 from Philly, and they have nothing to lose. That is always something to be considered. A team whose season ended long ago would love nothing better than to keep a rival out of the playoffs.

A look at the pitching match ups for the Phillies/Braves match up:

Game 1: Cliff Lee vs Randall Delgado

The Phillies have one of the best pitchers in baseball pitching the first game of the series in Cliff Lee. Lee is 16-8 and sporting a 2.38 ERA for the year. He is an ace on a team full of aces.

Randell Delgado has never pitched a bigger game in his career, and this will only be his 7th start in the Majors. But his first 6 have been good. He is coming off his career win against Florida, a game in which he went 5 shutout innings. He has pitched well, but he is young and doesn’t go deep into games.

Game 2: Roy Oswalt vs Derek Lowe

Roy Oswalt isn’t the 20 game winner of the past, but he is still a very good pitcher. His record sits at 8-10 with an ERA of 3.86. Two of his last 3 starts though he has gotten pounded by two of the worst teams in baseball (Washington and Houston). He sandwiched those bad outings with good starts against St. Louis and Atlanta.

Derek Lowe has been atrocious this year. His 9-16 record is the worst is his worst since 2010 when he went 5-10 for Boston. He has lost 4 games in a row and in only one of those did he have a “quality start”. He hasn’t pitched well of late at all.

Game 3: Cole Hamels vs Tim Hudson

Cole Hamels has been great this year. His 14-9 record might not look that impressive, but his 2.75 ERA and 0.98 WHIP sure do. He has had some good outings in the past weeks but mix in have been some not so good outings as well.

Tim Hudson has been the ace of the Braves staff again this year. So far he is 16-10 with a 3.23 ERA and a WHIP of 1.14. He has won 2 straight but the 2 before that weren’t so good and 1 was against Philly. But expect him to pitch a huge game on the final day of the season. You can bet it will matter in the end.

Prediction: This is hard because I really am a Braves homer. I freely admit they are my favorite team. But looking at this objectively, I think it could easily go 2-1 in favor of either squad. The Braves have a lot to play for and I think Chipper and the boys will be up for the challenge.

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I Miss Watching Baseball Regularly

I can’t remember a year where I watched less baseball than this year, and I don’t like it.

I miss being able to come home from work, relax, and catch a game on TV. Summer here in Korea is my busiest time of the year at work so I get to watch even less. When September rolls around I am needing a baseball fix and that’s when I usually get MLB.tv to catch some MLB action from back home.

It’s not a bad deal here since evening games back home come on here in the morning. I can get up at 8 or 9 am and watch a game before going to work. The only problem with that is I work late and tend to stay up late to wind down after work which makes it harder to get up in the morning. I have been watching more and more and I can tell my mood is  a little better when I get to watch baseball.

I have been busy with other endeavors as well and got sidetracked not watching very many KBO games here on weekends. I can’t remember a time when I watched so little baseball, but I plan to make up for that in September and October.

I am also looking forward to hopefully seeing a little bit of the ABL (Australian Baseball League) again this winter.

I have been wondering of late how much baseball I could watch next year if I change jobs. I wonder how many people watch 162 games a year, or get close, at least people who are not working games and just fans. I don’t know if I could do that much with my work schedule and traveling a bit, but I am going to figure out a goal to hit for next year.

I know one goal here is to write daily from now on. I miss writing about baseball, but with the small amount I have been watching it makes it harder to write.

So how much baseball do you watch in a year?

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Thoughts on September MLB Races

There are some good races heating up in the last bit of the season. While several teams have sewed up playoff spots, there are some really good races left.

Perhaps the best race is the AL West. The Rangers head into today action with only a 3.5 game lead over the LA Angels. This is going to be a great race, especially since the two teams meet to end the year with a 3 game set.

So who is going to win the West? My call is going to be the Rangers for one main reason – offense.

The Rangers may not have the 3 big horses that LA has, but they have the better offense and enough pitching to get the job done. The Rangers are getting some great seasons out of players like Michael Young, Mike Napoli, and despite what a lot of people are saying Ian Kinsler.

While the Rangers don’t have the front 3 in the rotation like the Angels do, they have a deeper starting staff and a better bullpen. This might be the difference in the race.

The only other races are for the wild cards. In the AL, Boston is battling Tampa Bay and LA for the wild card as well as the Yankees for the AL East Title.

Boston is only 3.5 games back of NY for the AL East with neither team playing well of late. If they can’t catch the Yankees, they are sitting in the wild card spot, but have two teams breathing down their necks.

Tampa Bay is only 4 games back and LA 5 games back in the wild card race. Both have picked up a lot of ground on Boston over the past 10 games.

The NL Wild Card race is heating up as well with St. Louis coming on of late trailing Atlanta by only 3.5 games. The Cardinals have picked up 4 games on the Braves in the past 10 as Atlanta has really struggled of late.

So who will come out on top?

AL East – I think NY will hold onto the top spot and win the division.

AL Wild Card – Boston will hold off Tampa Bay to get into the playoffs.

AL West – Texas

NL Wild Card – This is the hardest one to call. I am hoping the Braves can hold off the Cards, but I am a little worried about how they have played of late. However, I am going to go with the homer call and say the Braves.

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A Look at the Braves Season

As we near the trading deadline, the Braves lead the wildcard race by 5 games and trail the Phillies by only 4 games.  Now if you would have told me that at the beginning of the year, I would have thought 1 of two things happened. First, the Phillies hall of fame caliber pitching staff got dealt a lot of injuries. Or a lot of Braves hitters were having career years. Yet neither has happened. So how are the Braves staying in the playoff race?

Pitching and the long ball.

The Braves pitching staff has been great. They are staying with the Phillies staff which isn’t that big of a shock in itself because the Braves have compiled a very nice staff. The team ERAs stack up at Philly 3.12 and Atlanta 3.28. Philly has racked up only 3 more shutouts 13 to 10, but they have quite a few more complete games (11 to 3). However, the Braves have more saves (34 to 27).

The Braves have a lot of young talent on the staff with Jair Jurrjens leading the way. Since coming off the DL, Jurrjens has gone 12-3 with a 2.26 ERA in 17 starts. That is better than Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay. Tommy Hanson is also turning in a nice season. In 19 starts, Hanson is 11-5 with a 3.06 ERA. Even Brandon Beachy is turning in some quality starts at 3-2 with an ERA of 3.75.

The old guard for the Braves hasn’t done as well as the youngsters but they are still throwing out some quality starts. Tim Hudson is 9-6 with an ERA of 3.39. The only “disappointment” might be Derek Lowe at 6-7 and an ERA of 4.37. He is the only starter with an ERA over 4.

And that is just the starters.

Craig Kimbrel is having a great season in the bullpen. He is 3-2 with 30 saves and an ERA of only 2.20. He is definitely a power pitcher having struck out 77 batters in 49 innings. Throw in Eric O’Flaherty (0.99 ERA) and Jonny Venters (1.37 ERA) with 19 and 21 holds respectively and you have a solid back end of the pen.

That is where the pitching staffs differ. While the Phillies might have the slight edge  in starting pitching, the Braves have the edge in the bullpen.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Braves may not be getting as many hits, but they are using the long ball to their advantage.

Philly and Atlanta are 7 and 8 in runs scored (415 to 408), but despite Philly having the big boppers in Ryan Howard (18 HRs), Raul Ibanez (13 HRs), and Chase Utley (4 HRs) the Braves have hit 25 more dingers.

Despite hitting under .200, Dan Uggla leads the Braves with 17 home runs. He is trailed by the only Braves starter hitting over .300 in Brian McCann at 16 home runs. But the way the Braves win games is by the whole team contributing. Freddie Freeman has 15 home runs in a great rookie year. Jason Heyward has 10 despite an injury plagued sophomore year. No one else on the team is in double figures, but many are lurking just behind 10. Chipper Jones (8), Eric Hinske (9), Martin Prado (9), and Alex Gonzalez (8) all have contributed to the long ball totals.

It’s truly been a team effort this year and that is how Bobby Cox set this team up to play for the past decade. Sure they have had their stars, but this year in particular it has been good pitching and timely hitting. You don’t go 58-41 hitting .238 unless you have solid pitching depth and get some timely hitting.

Will this translate into postseason success? Only time will tell. They have the pitching to shut anyone down for a short series, but like last year their main problem might be scoring runs when it counts. Last season they ran into the buzz saw that was the San Francisco Giants but who is to say that this year that buzz saw might not be them?

It will be an interesting week ahead. Will they do anything to help out the offense? There isn’t much time left to pull off a deal. The problem might be who is out there and what do they have to give up to get the help they need.

What are your thoughts on their season so far this year and their prospects for October?

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Sign Stealing – Good or Bad?

I came across an interesting article in ESPN.com the other day. Yorvit Torrealba was complaining about the New York Yankees stealing signs.

In the 5th inning, Torrealba went to the mound and said something to Andruw Jones who was apparently stealing signs and notifying the hitter of locations from second base.

Now it should be said that this was happening during a losing streak for the Rangers and in a game that they would lose 12-4. So as much as I hate to say it, I am a Ranger fan and a Yankee hater, “lighten up Francis”.

If someone is stealing your signs, you aren’t doing a good enough job of protecting them. Don’t go throw a hissy fit on the mound and get upset because you are losing. Change your signs! Do something that makes it hard for the other team. Stealing signs is a part of the game, and a part that isn’t going away.

I think Torrealba was just frustrated and needed to vent. That isn’t a problem. When you are going through a losing streak you need some way to vent. But don’t do it on the field and in a way that makes you look bad. Turn that anger into something good in order to get you out of the losing streak. Don’t give the enemy more ammo for future games.

I support the stealing of signs. If you are able to decipher the opposing teams signs, then by all means use it to your advantage. Any time a team is lax enough to give away information, use it. Make them change the way they go about their business or let them face the consequences.

What are your thoughts on stealing signs?

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MLB to Expand Playoffs with Second Wild Card Team

So last week Uncle Bud announced that baseball will be adding another wild card to the playoffs after the new collective bargaining agreement is in place next season.

Some people are advocating the wild card versus wild card round should be a one-game play-in to the Division Series. There are concerns that an additional 3 game series will push the season later into November which means bad weather.

Bad weather isn’t really a valid argument though. They already play deep into October, so what’s the difference with playing in early November?

The excitement of the additional series should be good for the game. Additional TV revenue will be had, but perhaps the greatest benefit will be more teams will be in contention later in the season.

Right now, the Wild Card keeps several teams in contention late in the season. With the added round, the number of teams fighting for a playoff spot will increase greatly. This means more fans, better TV, and hopefully increased revenues for them to fight over at some future time.

I am really going to be open minded on this. I am what you might call a “traditionalist”. I understand the impact of this and the positives just like I did when they expanded the first time. Perhaps I am just a bit too nostalgic when it comes to baseball in that I like how things don’t change all that often. In the long run I know it is good for the game, and what is good for the game is the right thing to do.

What do you think about it all?

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How much of a lesh should mouthy fans of teams like KC be given if any?

Does not winning for a decade or two allow a team’s fans to have an outburst against another team’s fan with no recourse?

I got a sarcastic and ill meaning tweet from a Royals fan last week after I posted jokingly that all the Rangers needed for a slumpbuster was to see some KC pitching.

Now I have nothing against the Royals. I would love to see them competative again since it has been a long time. I am even a fan of many of their players, but after I got a “Welcome to 12 wins” tweet I responded.

After the Rangers swept the Royals, I tweeted back, “Welcome to the sweep – How are those 12 wins STILL working for you?” Sure maybe a little harsh but I certainly didn’t need some KC fan telling me off when I meant no harm. I would have said the same thing with any team since the Rangers had put up 11 runs after a hard series loss against LA.

His reply – The 26 year playoff drought rule clearly states “All boastful outbursts by Royals fan must not be met with malice or spite”

Now neither of us meant harm, and I am certainly not upset, but I wonder how much losing relieves a fan of being the target after a boastful outburst?

To me, if you can dish it out you need to be able to handle the backlash. So how much of a lesh should mouthy fans of teams like KC be given if any?

Thoughts?

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New Era (eFashion Solutions)

Quote of the Month

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

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