Monthly Archives: October 2012

The President That Never Could

It was a mysterious phenomenon slowly becoming buried in conspiracy cries and stale reruns.

Neither the fans, or the players, or even the president of the United States, could quite understand it.

533 straight losses.

To the 2008 Detroit Lions, who lost 16 straight games: Quit your whining.

To the Charlotte Bobcats, who lost 23 straight games to end the 2011-12 season: It could be worse… 

Up until last Wednesday, Teddy had lost all 533 President’s Races.

What Can’t George Washington Do?

For those who haven’t heard, the President’s Race, featured at every Washington Nationals home game in the fourth inning, is a race between four famous presidents – George “George” Washington, Thomas “Tom” Jefferson, Abraham “Abe” Jefferson, and Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt – dressed in 10-ft foam costumes.

Cheesy? Probably.

Entertaining to drunk baseball fans? You bet.

But the promotional event slowly evolved into one that drew almost as much interest as the Nationals’ baseball home games themselves.

All the Presidents, except Teddy, were winning.

At first, Teddy’s losses were blamed on his lack of speed, or inability to balance himself inside the heavy, unevenly distributed costume.

Then Teddy started losing, even when it seemed like wins were so close he could literally touch the finish line tape.

In a race on June 28, 2008, Teddy was primed for victory when Orioles mascot, “The Bird”, stepped in in the waning moments to tackle him short of the finish line and his first win.

On June 4, 2012, in a SportsNation special “President’s Race”, Teddy built a sizeable lead over the other Presidents, but stopped short of the finish line to celebrate. In the middle of the celebration, George rode by on a van, clubbed Teddy with a baseball bat, and rolled into another victory.

Teddy who used a motor scooter on July 26, 2009 to finish in first place, was disqualified in that race for gaining an advantage.

Meanwhile the losses for Teddy, typical and bizarre alike, were mounting.

Teddy’s Brilliance…Denied

Like Teddy, the Nationals, the “Clippers” of baseball, kept losing. Going back to their Montreal Expos days, the Washington Nationals hadn’t made the playoffs since 1933.

2012 though proved to be different. An upstart Nationals team won 98 games, the division and the best record in baseball.

Like the Nationals, Teddy too turned it around. On the last day of the 2012 regular season, Teddy won his first race. The Phillies Mascot, “Phillie Phanatic”, tackled the other three presidents, as Teddy secured his first victory to the standing ovation of the crowd.

Also, the next Nationals hitter after Teddy won hit a home run.

But did Teddy’s losing streak end then?

Was it a symbolic feat of the Nationals’ turnaround as a franchise? The start of something new?

Was it the sign of something greater to come?

That “greater” though will need to come right now as the Nationals face a 2-1 deficit to the Cardinals, and elimination tomorrow.

Like Teddy, who’s now 1-533, the Nationals are heading in the right direction, even if loss 534 is just around the corner.

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The A’s Contend for a World Series Title Without Breaking the Bank

If money could buy everything, then the Los Angeles Angels, Philadelphia Phillies and Boston Red Sox would be popping champagne in preparation for postseason play.

As this wild 2012 Major League Baseball season has shown, however, general managers around the league should be tossing out their checkbooks and looking for young talent capable of carrying a team through the dog days of August into the pennant races of September.

Unfortunately for MLB scouts, heart doesn’t appear in box scores.  Instead it is usually read in the eyes of a few newbies who had been told by baseball pundits that they didn’t have a chance of making the playoffs with intra-division superpowers Texas and Los Angeles to contend with.

The Phillies, Angels, Red Sox, Marlins and Brewers all rank in the top ten for total payroll for the 2012 season.  None of these teams clinched a playoff berth and only the Angels and Brewers came remotely close down the stretch.

The Oakland Athletics, on the other hand, defied all odds, clinching a playoff berth despite doling out the least money of any team in the big leagues in 2012 at $49,137,500.  The New York Yankees also will be seeing postseason action, but have a payroll nearly four times that of Oakland’s at $195,998,004.

After a slow start to the season, the A’s were the MLB’s hottest second half team, earning a huge role in the playoff discussion as the result of posting a 19-5 record in July.

Headed to the postseason for the first time since 2006 in which they lost to the Tigers 4-1 in the ALCS, Oakland now finds itself tied with the Texas Rangers atop the AL West standings.  A win by rookie phenom A.J. Griffin on Wednesday means the A’s will forgo having to play in the one-game Wild Card round, which will be against the second-place finisher in the dangerous AL East.

Many wonder why Oakland, a team that sticks to a strict system of sabermetrics, an intricate series of statistical algorithms used to evaluate on-field performance and player values, to dictate personnel decisions and keep costs down, is even close to playoff caliber.

What has benefited Oakland so much this season has been a lack of funds to overpay free agents; in other words, the A’s have been blessed to be without a prima donna for the 2012 season.

Hitting .289 with 23 homers, Cespedes has proved to be one of the best free-agent pickups of the year.

No player on the team currently makes more than $8 million and the biggest “splurge” of theirs this past offseason was a contract for Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes, who has been well worth the $6,500,000 paycheck he has earned this season, garnering a decent amount the AL Rookie of the Year talk behind Mike Trout’s lion’s share.

There are even 11 players on the 25-man roster who make under a million dollars.  Would these players like to play for more money?  Certainly–they are human after all.  But the lack of big names and big bucks to assemble the 2012 squad left the A’s with a very important advantage: the ability to have a talented team that can win games in the shadow of big-spending teams that take a great deal of criticism for underperforming.

Even watching a ballgame in Oakland makes it perfectly clear that the A’s have never been about playing big-money baseball.  The O.co Coliseum is arguably the least flashy stadium in the MLB, consisting mostly of concrete and chalk lines for Raiders games.  Despite increases in attendance during their impressive year, much of the upper-deck has remained covered in tarps.

Humble abodes aside, the A’s showed the rest of the majors this season that the phrase “on paper” means relatively little compared to things like a strong farm system and player compatibility.

As the Athletics now look to compete for their first World Series title since the McGwire era, Brad Pitt will still be asking Jonah Hill, “Can these guys get on base?”

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The Depressing Futures of Baseball’s Worst Teams

The MLB playoffs are nigh on hand, and while it is a time where several teams are celebrating their clinched spots or fighting vigorously to earn a spot in their final games, many others haven’t seen the spotlight for months. Here’s a look at how bright or dull a future some of baseball’s worst teams have.

Houston Astros

Houston wins the honor of worst team in baseball for the second straight year and it was their fourth straight season below .500. A lot will be different next season in Houston, but wins may not be part of that. The Astros will be switching to the American League in 2013, and after trading some of their best players (Hunter Pence, Wandy Rodriguez, Carlos Lee) over the past two season, there isn’t a lot left in Houston to build around. Jose Altuve is the lone bright spot on the team and he’s basically nothing more than a solid leadoff hitter. He’s also not tall enough to go on half the rides at Disneyland. Unless the Astros dig up some savior prospect from their farm system, it could be a while until this team is relevant.

These uniforms are worse than the Astros themselves.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have a bit more reason for optimism than the Astros. With some decent young pieces in Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney and Anthony Rizzo, Chicago has some flexibility to trade for some big name players. And if they choose to keep that young core, the trio may develop into a strong group. But the Cubs still have a long way to go. Their pitching staff is beyond lackluster and their best power hitter, Alfonso Soriano, is getting up there in years.

Colorado Rockies

Playing the majority of their season without their best player, Troy Tulowitzki, the Rockies’ season was basically over the moment he was injured. But if he is able to return to form next season, this team may not be all that bad. Carlos Gonzalez continues to hit well and the emergence of Dexter Fowler and Jordan Pecheco gave Colorado three players who hit above .300. Pitching remains a problem, however. The Rockies tried to work with a four man rotation and a strict 75 pitch limit for their starters. This caused them to burn through their bullpen pretty quickly and pretty clearly did not work at all. If they can figure out how to give up less than 5 runs every game, the Rockies have the offense to be a decent club.

Miami Marlins

The beautiful mug of the man riding the Marlins into the ground.

All the hype the Marlins built with their offseason spending pretty much disappeared the moment the season started. How Ozzie Guillen still has his job is beyond me. Within the first week of the season, he mentioned his support for Fidel Castro. For a team whose fan base consists of a large number of Cubans, that’s kind of a stupid thing to say, especially since it has nothing to do with baseball whatsoever. Furthermore, he has bashed his players continually, most recently Heath Bell, saying he doesn’t respect him. His players have quit on him and its shown, as most of the Marlins are having some of the worst years of their careers. With Hanley Ramirez traded and a significant portion of the salary cap invested in their offseason signings, Miami doesn’t have a lot of tradeable assets or flexibility to rebuild. Their first step should be finding a new manager.

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