Monday

10-19-09: Weekend Notes

Hello again everybody...

Time to crank up another week... sort of. I'm still trying to adjust to this new schedule. Working the weekend wasn't completely awful. But I can't exactly call it fun either. And now it's Monday, but for me it's Thursday, and that means there's still some serious discombobulation to deal with.

Is that even a word? “Discombobulation”?! Apparently it is since my spell checker isn't vomiting it back at me. Nice!

Personal struggles aside, there's plenty to talk about. NHL, ALCS and NLCS... oh my!

Let's get to it then, shall we?

Wait, first there's one more think I have to do...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARK!

That's right, today is my dear brother's 33rd birthday. But I swear, he doesn't look a day beyond 22 - well, okay, there's those gray patches on his temples... and that thinning patch in back that he doesn't admit is there... but other than that, 22 I say! 22! And, of course, I say that with love!

All the best to my brother on his special day!

”No one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it for a while you'll see why.”
Mignon McLaughlin (1913-1983), American journalist and author


I love a good snarky quote don't you? Especially since they all seem to contain a kernel of truth. Are you listening? Hello? Anybody?

Right... moving on.

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Weekend Notes...

It's way too early to panic... Wild fans, are you listening?

One of my favorite quotes from everybody's favorite Sports Take guest-columnist, the Hammer. And for Wild fans, it's quite timely.

No question, it was a disaster of a road trip as the Wild went 0-5 on their west coast swing.

0-5. Oof.

It hurts just to type it. Did they ever go 0-5 under Jacques Lemaire? I assume the did at some point, but it had to be a rarity.

And that's the whole problem. Wild fans have no other frame of reference than “under Jacques Lemaire”. Unfortunately, trying to compare what's happening now to what happened “under Jacques Lemaire” isn't fair.

New coach Todd Richards and GM Chuck Fletcher are trying to completely overhaul what was done here under the previous regime. Not that what Wild fans were used to was “bad” per se. But the new owner wants a new system, and what the Wild are going through now is the process that has to take place to get there.

I admit. I'm not enjoying it. Seeing your favorite team make multiple defensive mistakes and hang an All-Star goaltender out to dry isn't fun. Seeing your first line combine for a -17 is unpleasant. And trying to stay positive through an 0-5 road trip is downright headache-inducing.

But, as the Hammer would point out, it's way too early to panic.

Anyone who expected this process to occur without some growing pains wasn't being sensible. This was going to take time. And if you're going to go through a stretch like this, better to get it out of the way early on when you still have time to get on a roll and compete for a playoff spot.

I'm not saying the Wild will make the playoffs. Given the transition they're trying to make, the odds are against them. But I'm not saying they won't either.

And it's not like the front office is throwing in the towel. Beset by injuries to some of their best players, last night GM Chuck Fletcher completed a trade with the Boston Bruins for RW Chuck Kobasew.

In exchange they sent Craig Weller, the rights to last year's 4th round pick and a 2nd round pick in 2011 to Boston. Weller was buried in Houston and a virtual non-factor, and with the 2nd round pick coming in '11, that gives Fletcher time to replace it via another trade.

Kobasew's signed through next year, so it's not like it was a move made only for the present, but he's not a work in progress either. A 20-goal scorer three of the last four years, he's a guy who's being brought in to help right now as well.

Yes, 1-5 sucks. But there are 76 games left to be played. We've got to maintain some perspective here.

Next...

The Yankees are going to win it all... I wish I was kidding.

Look, I hate the Yankees as much as anybody else. Especially since they knocked my favorite team out of the playoffs.

But I'm also a fan of baseball, which means I'm not blinded by my loyalty. And as a fan of the game, I recognize that when you're winning games the way the Yankees are winning games, you've got a better than average chance to take home the big hunk o' hardware.

The Yankees have intimidated their opponents into making all kinds of mistakes they don't regularly make.

Witness Nick Punto making a base-running error he rarely makes in the Twins series. Or any number of pitchers making mistakes to Alex Rodriguez when they're ahead in the count. In the past, they could get away with that. This year? A-Roid's been as clutch as Yankee fans have a right to expect.

And then Saturday night, the usually reliable Cesar Izturis tries to do too much with a routine ground ball and commits an error leading to the winning run for New York.

Perhaps that's a better way to put it. The Yankees are so good right now that their opponents feel like they have to do more than they regularly would to win a game. That's a trap though. It's when you try to do to much, when you fail to stay within yourself, that you start making mistakes. And as we've seen, if you make mistakes against the Yankees, you're dead.

The Angels had every opportunity to win Game 2 and head home tied at one win apiece. Instead, they suffered a soul-crushing loss, and are heading home down 0-2 with the weight of the world on their shoulders. They know as well as anybody that if New York gets a win in Anaheim, the series is all but over.

It galls me to say it, but the Yankees are going to win this thing. I've spent the last two weeks trying to mollify myself with thoughts like, “David can't be David if Goliath doesn't win a few.”

It's not helping. Damned Yankees.

Finally...

Did you see the gem that Cliff Lee threw last night? I did. And if I could order up half-a-dozen more performances just like it between now and the end of the World Series, I'd be a happy baseball fan.

While I'm sure plenty of Phillies fans loved dropping 11 runs on the Dodgers and beating up their bullpen to take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS, baseball fans rejoiced to see as dominant a pitching performance as you're likely to see this post-season.

Lee threw 8 innings of 3-hit, shutout baseball, and if the bottom of the 8th hadn't gone so long, he'd have come back for the 9th to finish it off.

The term “chess match” has become all too much of a cliche in sports, but when you see the way a pitcher like Lee works over batters on a night like last night, it's apropos.

Each at-bat was a lesson in how the first pitch sets up the next, which sets up a third and so on and so forth. A pitcher approaching each hitter with a clear plan on how to attack him and executing it to near perfection.

When it works, it's a thing of beauty. When it doesn't, you get Dodger starter Hiroki Kuroda's line: 1.1 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 1 SO. In case you were wondering, that computes to a 40.50 ERA.

Yikes.

I'm not as certain who'll win this series as I am the ALCS, but after the way Dodger skipper Joe Torre has had to use his bullpen in the first three games, I think the Phills are at a decided advantage.

That's as close as I'm willing to get to a call, because I don't want to put the whammy on them.

Why was I so willing to do it with the Yankees? Because they're the freaking Yankees. If they can't survive a Sports Take whammy, then they're not the juggernaut I think they are.

Plus, are any of you going to complain if I turn out to be wrong on that?

I didn't think so.

So that's going to do it for today. I'll be back on Wednesday with all the college football you can stomach... and for those of you who kept track of my picks this past weekend, plenty you probably can't stomach as well.

Until then, thanks for reading!

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