Tag Archives: MLB All-Star game

MLB17 Chin-Music: Derby Downtime Induces Cubs Late Season Delivery

1 Aug

Say hello to the new new Chicago Cubs! That’s no typo, I’ll explain.

The new Cubs were 2016 MLB champions. The new new Bruins are the current version that seems to have shaken off the malaise that had permeated their clubhouse from May into early July. When they needed runs on the board they couldn’t score ’em, when they sought to stop their opponents from crossing home plate they couldn‘t shut ’em down.

But the Northsiders recent run of winning ball (13-3) has seen them bounce the Brewers, season-long NL Central stalwarts, from the top perch last week, a change in divisional standing reinforced this past weekend when Chicago took 2 of 3 closely fought contests at Miller Park.

The change from enigmatic defending champs into a club with clout can be traced back to the 3-day Derby layoff in mid-July.

So begins the separation process where the eventual division champ comes into focus (some flag-grabbers have been crystal clear since springtime) and the also-rans start to fade in the dog-days of late summer.

Notice I didn’t write All-Star game layoff.

MLB’s mid-season shindig hasn’t been about its best ball-players for many moons now, not since Bud Selig & Sponsors decided at the height of the steriod surge (90s) to highlight the home run, putting muscle over what really matters, League rivalry and showcasing the variety of baseball skills from mound to mitt to making contact with the bat, be it single or space-shot.

Coming off their excruciatingly long awaited (1908) World Series win that had much the nation applauding, in relief more than anything, and Chicago’s worthy opponents, the Indians, shaking their heads (were up 3-1), the Cubs actually began their trophy season in fine enough form, going 13-11 in April.

But starting in early May and going to Derby time the Cubs looked downright pedestrian in a group not exactly brimming over with contenders.

Besides Milwaukee there hasn’t been much to crow about in either Midwestern bracket, be it Senior or Junior circuit, although Indians and Royals have, like the Cubs, fought their ways back into respectability at or near 10-games over (.500). All of which means this state of parity will ensure that the wild-card and half the division races will go down to the September wire.

The Bruins, like most clubs in 2017, have had their share of injuries. Blame, however, for their inconsistency lay in untimely hitting (7th in both runs (477) and RBI (454) (NL)) and dead bats (.244 BA (13) / 877 SO (9)). The champs can, as in 2016, still generally generate the 4-bagger (141 (5)).

Team pitching’s been better than average (4.00 ERA (4 / 4.35 MLB)) even as staff stars Jon Lester (8-6) and Jake Arrieta (10-7) have regularly struggled. Encouraging signs as stretch-run nears are, 1) KC closer pick-up, tall Wade Davis (6’5 / 20sv / 2.12) is nearly always closing when given the chance which ain’t often this season; 2) middle-relief in Duensing (L), Edwards, Rondon & Strop has been effective with most ERAs around 2.50 (Hector 4.31 / 5hr) with fine ratios (BB-to-SO / H-&-R), and 3) team run-stoppage (401 (12)), a rank 4th best (Numerical ordering of league ranks around the web confuses and needs clarity) that lags behind League darlings the Dodgers (317) yet shows understanding of its necessity, especially come post-season.

The champs have been feeding off their new title like a baby feeds off its Mama. That’s good for awhile but now it’s time for the Wrigleyites to get onto solids, stand on their own two 2017 feet and take seriously the task of doing what their famous tough-as-nails forefathers did in 1908: Win their third pennant and 2d consecutive World Series championship (v. DET (4-1)).

Will today’s Central standings hold for the duration? Chicago has the edge over Suds City in experience so it’s certainly within realm of possibility that they’ll have the mental wherewithal to hold on the rest of the way. All one need do is get their playoff ticket punched for, once you’re in, regular season records mean little. That Pennant flag is up for grabs and ANYTHING can happen.

And ‘anything’ these days usually means the Los Angeles Dodgers fold-up their title-hunting tent pretty early (See; 1988). Senators (Nats) haven’t faired much better since they reconfigured in the nation’s Capital.

National League contenders Arizona (60-45 (3 games)) and Washington (62-41 (3)) are in the City of Big Shoulders to start the August slate and should prove a good test of the Cubs re-discovered moxie: Real or transitory?

But Milwaukee’s a feisty crew, appearing equal to the task of unseating their I-94 rival to the South. They’ve given up the lead but that mark of contendership does not wear-off easily. And if any ball-club knows how to stop a separation process (See; beer) it should be a team from Milwaukee tagged the Brewers.

Steven Keys
Can of Corn
Photo credit: JoeMaddon, wc.cca, A.PardavilaIII, 10.20.16; AnthonyRizzo, wc.cca, B.Grey, 8.1.12; Bryant-Machado-Reyburn, wc.cca, MD, 7.15.17, K.Allison; Cubs, 1908, G.Lawrence, wc.cca
Posted: 8.1.17 @ 4:22pE, edit 9.2 (“board”); Copyright © 2017

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NFL16: Putting the ‘Pro’ Back in the Bowl

13 Jan

Athletic exhibitions: They’ve always been a bit fragile. ¿Por qué?

.....ProBowl.Rudolph.2.17.13.USMC.D.CottonAll Star games, Pro Bowls, Harlem Globetrotters, dunk contests, whatever they’re doing in hockey this year, they’re all born of the coupling of profit & play where the action is most often measured with the result, fun as it can be, pure ephemeralia.

The win-loss won’t go towards a championship tally and then the statistics don’t figure in a team or player’s official totals. That’s not all bad if the particular player tends to wilt under the brighter lights.

Baseball’s version has always been the best. Today that’s only by default.

Former Commissioner and Hall of Famer, Allan “Bud” Selig threw it open to the marketing madmen & women who’ve turned it into a kid’s carnival of sorts, where the muscled Home Run Derby, vestige of the high steroid era (1988-2012), has supplanted the exhibition-game itself as the main event of the 5-day affair.

But it’s long history (1933) does shine with some memorable moments.

....ProBowl.2.17.13.DR.Cotton.thm.USMC.FeltonThe most notable All-Star moments being Carl “King” Hubbell’s (NYG) famous set-down (SO) of five consecutive American League stalwarts in 1934’s edition (Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Simmons & Cronin), Pete Rose’s home-plate “(collision) heard round the (baseball) world” with off-field friend Ray Fosse in the 1970 classic and Bo Jackson’s all-around MVP performance in the ‘89 July jamboree.

The NFL’s version, the Pro Bowl (1.31.16, Honolulu, ESPN, 3pm EST), while having displayed it’s share of memorable battles and terrific individual outputs over the decades has a somewhat less colorful catalog.

That state was predictable from the get-go in that the game is held post regular season when fans and players alike have had their fill of football and baseball is beginning to warm-up in southern climes.

The contest had muddled along, giving players, coaches and families a fun winter get-away and fans a casual Sunday afternoon of viewing. Expectations real.

....ProBowl.Fargo.Gonzalez.Vitale..2.13.5.USN.McGinley.thmBut that wasn’t enough for today’s non-sporting market executive who will squeeze dimes like Mr. Whipple used to lovingly squeeze Charmin® toilet rolls.

Through the fiddling of NFL office and Player Assoc‘n personnel, the exhibition has devolved into a spiritless, poorly organized walk-through that has little meaning for anybody, except a handful of dime collectors.

If it continues down this dreary pathway where former players (Rice – Irvin) choose up sides like an ego-laden pick-up game, it might just as well die a certain death with a modicum of dignity rather than continue along brain-dead, as it were, on rickety life-support. In its present state, if the Pro Bowl were to vanish tomorrow the news would barely make a ripple in the media pond.

To halt the Pro Bowl‘s steady decline, 3 restoration points are key:

1) Post-Super Bowl play-date

....ProBowl.Samuels.Albright.Keating.USDD.J.Foehl.thm.2.10.8For most of this decade the game has been sandwiched in that 2-week period between Conference championships and the Super Bowl. Doing so of course excludes any reps from the two best teams. This has to change. Fans & marketers both want to celebrate in the champion’s victory and the Pro Bowl is (was) a highlighter.

While neither of the Super squads may include the regular MVP or DPOY, both are certain to be laden with All-Pro players & celebs whose championship status is sorely missed at the big exhibition, making it’s substance ebb lower.

2) Restore official status: AFC v. NFC

As it stood, exhibitions didn’t factor into stat lines or W-L but they were official exhibitions. That’s something. Goes to substance and quality of product.

Now it’s just a muscled sandlot set-up (no conferences) with low loyalty and potential player cliques that fans will unlikely ever warm to. A degree of serious-ness must be restored or the few fans still watching will seriously stop.

3) Restore uniform continuity

Designs by Nike that change with the wind don’t build the NFL brand. Even the kids, their target-market, tire of too much trend while their big brothers and the neighborhoods only snicker at the mindless consumerism.

Logos & uniforms never top the list of League issues, but maybe they should this year, or somewhere near. It’s the merchandise that fans purchase and uniforms identified-with on TV that bind them to their teams and to the sport during and after the season’s play has ended.

.....macroecono.lamcasinoroyal.2011.wcSteven Keys
Macro Sport
Photo credit: ProBowl, wc, Rudolph, 1.27.13, USAF, M.Holzworth; ProBowl, Rudolph, wc, 2.17.13, D.Cotton, USMC; ProBowl, wc, Felton, 2.17.13, D.Cotton; ProBowl, wc, Fargo-Gonzalez-Vitale, 2.13.5, USN, McGinley; ProBowl, wc, Samuels-Albright-Keating, J.Foehl, DoD, 2.10.8; macroecono, lamcasinoroyal, 2011, wc.cca.
Posted: 1.13.16 @ 2:35pm, edit 4:21 EST; Copyright © 2016