Posts Tagged ‘Alex Rodriguez’

The Playoff Push: Where the Phillies make me poop myself

The Yankees are pretty assured of a playoff spot. This much has been certain for a while. They will either win the AL East or win the wild card. The Rangers, Twins and Rays also will be in the playoffs. All of these teams are great. Probably not as good as the Yankees, but who is?

I’ll tell you who is. The Phillies is. The Phillies most definitely is. I wrote them off a few weeks ago

Do you really need more reasons to hate the Phillies than this?

because they were losing in the division race to the Braves. Since then, the Phillies have reeled off a record so terrifying I don’t even want to look it up. Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt form a pitching trio deadlier than any in recent memory – I think all of them have sub-3 ERAs since August, which is just…I hate it.

Roy Oswalt ‘s career has been on the schneid for like 5 years. All of a sudden, he gets traded to an already good team in a hitter’s park and turns into 2005 Roy Oswalt? Roy Halladay is who we thought he is, having just gotten win number 20 last night. Cole Hamels is my boi, has been for a long time, and finds himself on both of my fantasy team. He might be their best pitcher right now. In his last six starts, he has an ERA of 0.82, 45 strikeouts and five wins in 43.2 innings pitched. Needless to say (but I’m saying it anyway), he’s regained his 2008 form and then some.

Then, you have the Phillies offense. Jimmy Rollins is hurt, but at this point, that hardly matters. Ryan Howard is mashing, and Jayson Werth, Chase Utley, Shane Victorino and Raul Ibanez combine to form by far the best lineup in the NL, and they and the Yankees are neck and neck for the best in the bigs.

Which of course brings me back to the Bronx Bombers. The Phillies may be frighteningly hot right now and devastatingly talented, but does that mean they’re better than the Yankees? I mean, Alex Rodriguez is now clutch, Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada are one hell of an offensive core. Derek Jeter isn’t even one of our 5 best hitters, but that doesn’t mean he’s no longer Derek Jeter. Brett Gardner is faster than any Phillie, which counts for something, and Curtis Granderson is (FINALLY) hitting this month.

Don’t forget, we still have the single greatest playoff weapon of all time at the back of the bullpen, CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and…well there’s the rub. The only reason the Phillies do scare me is I don’t know who comes after Andrew Eugene. Phil Hughes was dominant in the beginning of the year but has completely reversed course and become a mediocre-at-best SP since the break. A.J. Burnett might as well carry around his own personal Heimlich maneuver technician (which is my guess as to what one would be called) he’s such a choke artist and Javier Vazquez is allergic to pinstripes/expectations.

Granted, none of this may matter when the calender flips to October. These are the Yankees we’re talking about. Say what you want about this current manifestation, but they now know what it takes to hoist that multi-flagged trophy. The Phillies do too, but they have a different sort of aura. The Yankees’ is tradition, professionalism, nostalgia and The Memory of The Boss. The Phillies’ is tasers, Riot Punch, and of course, this guy:

A-Rod, Now Have You Heard of Dallas Braden?

By now, you’ve probably all heard the best Mother’s Day story in recent memory.  Dallas Braden first pitched the 19th perfect game in the modern era.  We’re talking about since Cy Young was a guy and not an award.  We’re talking about over a century.  19.  Dallas Braden has done something only 18 other guys EVER have done.  Ridiculous.

Dallas Braden shares an emotional moment with his grandmother after the greatest game of his career. He was perfect, after all.

But the chills for many viewers didn’t come when he recorded the final out, but several minutes after.  Braden hugged his grandmother on the field.  It would be touching to see any player hug his grandmother on the baseball field, but Branden’s hug had a story behind it, a story that makes the chills run a little bit deeper.  Braden’s mother died of skin cancer when the pitcher was a senior in high school.  Braden’s grandmother was the predominant female influence in his life after this.

Dallas Braden is also a card-carrying member of the Providence Grays.  (Side note: The second perfect game ever was pitched by John Montgomery Ward, of the Providence Grays who remains the youngest player ever to pitch a perfect game at age 20) I began to realize I was in love with Braden after his spat with Alex Rodriguez over the unwritten (and mostly unknown) rule that players should not walk across the pitcher’s mound.  A-Rod could have ignored the cocky comment by a young player, but instead said he didn’t know who Braden was.  A-Rod’s never been the portrait of class and dignity though.

Fantasy baseball is not a game of emotion.  We must put aside our sadness for Braden’s background and the touching feeling in our hearts about the story and the love of a player who can stand up to the ultimate villain of baseball (I swear, it’s A-Rod, not me).  Instead, we must evaluate the cold hard numbers.  It feels awful, but it must be done to win.  So, should you sell high on Braden or keep him until further notice?

HOLD HIM!  This guy has an opportunity to be great, not good, but great.  The list of guys who have thrown perfect games is a prestigious one, including guys like Randy Johnson, David Wells, Sandy Koufax, Catfish Hunter, Jim Bunning (who pitched his on Father’s Day), and the trophy himself: Mr. Cy Young.  Not bad company.  Even more impressive is the company Braden has surpassed.  Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana, Pedro Martinez, Roger Clemens, Nolan Ryan and Bob Gibson have never thrown a perfect game.

A perfect game is a sign of great things to come.  Santana has been one of the great pitchers over the last few years and Braden has a similar repertoire with a low 90s fastball and ridiculous changeup.  Buehrle has also made a great career out of changing speeds as a lefty and has a perfect game on his resume as well.  Braden has similar style to each of these one-time fantasy stalwarts.  He clearly has the makeup and confidence to be great.  He has broken out of anonymity yet again and is now playing in a fishbowl.

The eyes of the real world and fantasy world have shifted to Mr. Dallas Braden.

I’m pumped to have him on my team for the ride.

Here’s what started the A-Rod Braden fight of 2010: