Sports: The World Series

The World Series starts tomorrow, with the Houston Astros hosting the Washington Nationals.  Since the middle of May,  they have been the two best teams in baseball.  The Astros go into the series as heavy favorites.  This is the biggest odds differential since the 2007 series, when the Red Sox were big favorites over the Colorado Rockies.  That series went according to plan, as the Red Sox swept the Rockies in 4 games.  The Rockies were red hot going into that series having an unbelievable finish to the season going 21 and 8 and sweeping both the division series and N.L.C.S. going 7 and 0.  The oddsmakers knew something, making the Red Sox big time favorites, and they came through just as predicted.   This Series has a similar feel, with the Nationals coming off a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, and upsetting the favorite L. A. Dodgers in the division series.  Yet again, the Astros are considered the overwhelming favorite.  Will the oddsmakers be right again?  I am not too sure.  There are some things in the Nationals favor, that says this should be a tight well played series, that will go 6 to 7 games.

You never know  how a team is going to perform from series to series in the playoffs but so far the Astros are just not hitting.  They have four players with an OPS under 600.  Alex Bregman has walked a lot out of respect but is hitting only .257 with one home run.  You have to wonder if Washington will challenge him more.  One reason the Astros beat the Yankees is that they hit worse.  Even the bullpen game did not produce a lot of runs between these so called offensive juggernauts.  I am not to sure a team can get hitting healthy against the Nationals starting rotation.   The Nationals have a good DH line up for a National league team.  Howie Kendrick seems like the perfect DH and the Nationals will be better defensively for the games in Houston.  The Nationals starting rotation stacks up well against the Houston big three.   If  Anabel Sanchez can continue to pitch the way he has, then it is certainly deeper.  For whatever reason the Astros seem to make things hard on themselves.  When they won in 2017, both the N.LC.S. with the Yankees and the World Series against the Dodgers  were hard fought and went 7 games.   As great as this  team always looks on paper, you could argue that if they had not acquired Justin Verlander on August 31st at 11:59 pm, they would not have been World Champions.

Will the Astros prevail?  Yes, I think they will, but just barely.  They have 2 advantages.  One is Garrit Cole.  He is has been the most dominant pitcher in baseball, not just for this post season, but for about the last 5 months. There are not too many sure things in life, but he looks like he will continue to be excellent  for the next 7 days.  There is more pressure on the Nationals starting pitchers to perform because of the weak bullpen of the Nationals. This could finally take its toll.  Even the bullpen members that have performed reasonably well, like Daniel Hudson and Sean Doolittle could easily wilt under the pressure. There is no question, the Achilleas heel of the Nationals is that darn bullpen, and  you have to wonder if they can manage to get through one more series against a quality opponent.   There is one interesting strategy situation  that might determine the final outcome.  Is Houston going to go with the 3 man rotation, with the starters then going on short rest, or will game 4 be a bullpen game again.   In my view, as good as the three starters for Houston are, trying to pitch them on short rest could be the big mistake of the Series. Cole has never pitched on short rest and the one time they did it with Verlander it was a failure.  Of course if they win the first 3 games it won’t make any difference.   However if Houston decides to go with that 3 man rotation, then I am really liking the Nationals.  Can’t wait to see what happens as another fall classic begins.

Sports: Baseball The Championship Series

We start the baseball championship series tonight with the St. Louis Cardinals hosting the Washington Nationals.  On the American League side we have the two so called super powers, the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees beginning tomorrow night.  Both the Cardinals and the Nationals are the surprise teams. The Nationals pulled the shocker by defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers in 5 games and sending the defending National League champs home very very early.  What did we learn from these division round games?

We learned that Dodger manager Dave Roberts, still cannot manage in the post season.  Trying to get 2 innings out of Joe Kelly was just what the doctor ordered for the Nationals and they took advantage in the 10th inning by scoring 4 runs.  You are eliminated from the playoffs with your best reliever looking through a fence.  They just gave Roberts a nice extension so here is what I propose.   As soon as the regular season ends just send Dave Roberts home and let Brian Kenny manage the team during the playoffs.  I am sure he would do it for nothing, so no extra expense for the Dodgers.   We learned that Garrit Cole  is just starting his post season resume, which could develop into one of the best of all time.  We will just have to wait and see.  One thing for sure, the Astros would have been the other super power to fall if it were not for Cole.  What a pitching performance in his last 2 games.  We learned that the Cardinals still have some of that post season magic left. From little bloops, to playing small ball better than anybody, the Cards may become the shocker of them all.

I am not a prognosticator, but there are some things that I do know will happen.  The winner of the Houston-New York series will be heavy favorites to win the World Series. If the Yankees do not go to and win the World Series, there will be  massive  fan disappointment  and backlash.   Both series should be extremely entertaining and fun to watch.  How super are the two super powers of the American League.  I am not too sure they are all that super. My view is both teams beat up on a lot of bad teams that are in the American League. The media mentions this from time to time, but mostly glosses over this point.  I admit, the most amazing of the two teams are the Yankees, who ran away with the Eastern Division, despite having more injuries than you would think possible.  I think the Astros and the Yankees are very good teams but I do not think that either one of them would have won 100 games if they played in the more balanced National League. I still feel the best team in baseball is gone. The Los Angeles Dodgers  needed a post season manager.  Maybe they will get one next year.  As they say on the airplane, it’s now time to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride.  The semi-finals are ready to begin.

Sports: Pittsburgh Pirates

Yesterday, the season mercifully ended for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  It ended with Steve Blass being honored for 60 years of service, and Clint Hurdle being fired. Leave it to Pirate ownership to even screw that up.   It was two seasons, one before the all star break, and one after the all star break.  Before the All Star break, this seemed to be a gritty team, that seemed to be overcoming devastating injuries and was only 2.5 games out of first place, and only 1 game below .500 at 44-45.  Even though the all star game is considered the half way point, it is slightly beyond the half way point. There were only 73 games left in the season.  It was like a switch was flipped after the break.  The Pirates went on a total collapse and lost 24 of the next 28 games and the season was quickly over shortly after August first.  They went from this gritty battling team to a team that fought among themselves, got arrested, and simply could not play the game anymore. I feel that it was this stretch of games and the depth of the collapse that led to Clint Hurdle being fired.  What the hell the happened?

First the cold hard facts.   They were one of the worst pitching and fielding teams, in the National League.   One of the  three most important pitching stats are ERA+, FIP, and Whip.  The Pirate staff ranked Last in ERA+, 11th in FIP, and next to last in Whip.  Their strike out to walk ratio was 13th.   They went from a little above average in 2018 to one of the worst staffs in the National League. Going into this year, this was supposed to be their strength.  On defense they were even worse.   Defensive Efficiency Rating, they were last. Defensive Runs Saved, they were next to last.   Total Zone Defense, they were last.  They went from a below average fielding team to one of the worst in the National League.  They had the worst fielding 3rd baseman in all of baseball this year and maybe in this century.  They had only one player who fielded his position at above average,2ond baseman Adam Frazier.  Even Starling Marte was way below league average this year.  This could not be offset by having  only an average run producing team. Runs scored the Pirates ranked 10th in the league.   Their OPS+ was 7th and OBP was 9th.   However, this team was able to stay in the race for 89 games.  Let’s move on to some subjective things and things that were not done that could have helped this team.

Injuries were a big part of this season for the Pirates, when in other years they have been very fortunate in keeping players healthy.  But not all injuries were a bad thing. If it were not for injuries, Kevin Newman and Brian Reynolds would not have had the opportunities to have the good years they had, with Reynolds being the WAR leader at 3.9. It was the pitching injuries, that were the most devastating, in more ways than one.  Jamison Talion won’t be pitching until 2021 and he was the ace of the staff.  Every member of the starting pitching rotation spent some time on the IL.  When they came off the IL they still did not seem to be back to 100%.  Trevor Williams and Chris Archer never seemed to regain their form once they returned from being injured.  Despite the bad fielding the  team collapse can be tied to the total pitching collapse. During the 28 game stretch the Pirate pitching staff gave up an average of 6.3 runs per game. The four games they won they gave up 2.5 runs per game and the 24 they lost they gave up 6.9 per game.   It was just horrible and they had worse stretches than that, later in the year.   Then, there was the clubhouse tensions. Even though most of the fighting that was reported was after the 4-24 collapse you had to know that this was not a happy clubhouse from  the start of the season.  Usually clubhouse harmony is not an essential part of winning, but I think it is more important when the teams talent level is middle of the road.  I think you have to have a bit of mutual respect and loyalty on the team to get the most out of the unit.  I have always felt in years past that this  was the case with the Pirates.  They seemed to be a close knit bunch. That was not the case this year.   Management did next to nothing to help the team combat the injuries.  They could have gotten pitching help that was desperately needed and some defensive help.  It was like they knew this was coming and that the team was going to take the plunge.  In the end it cost Clint Hurdle his job and the future is looking bleak.   The pitching staff has to be almost completely rebuilt.  This will cost money and this ownership has not done this in the past.  As the GM likes to say they will look to improve internally.  Don’t look now but your innards are pretty well diseased.   Naturally they will look for a new manager.  Who they choose under the current situation won’t make any difference.    It’s going to take some bold moves to get this organization back to contend. Don’t hold your breath.

 

Golf

Golf, the game for the masses, that everyone can play and enjoy. You can play the game of golf until the day you die. People are playing golf in their nineties, and kids can start playing when they are five years old. It is the game for everyone, but is it. For what ever reason golf has always had some kind of unwritten caste system. There is really never an exclamation on why this wonderful game became this way. Even within the game, there was this elitist attitude with the general public, when it came to golf. The golf professional was looked upon as a lower class citizen, during the first third of the 20th century. During tournaments that were held at country clubs the golf professional was not allowed access to the clubhouse facilities. Speaking of the golf professional, their organization, the Professional Golfers Association of America, had in its  by laws until 1961, that in order to be a member you had to be Caucasian. Let that sink in for awhile.

Country clubs are the last bastion of I want to play with my own kind, philosophy. The unwritten rule that many clubs would not allow minorities and people of the Jewish religion is still going on, but there has been some change recently. In the last 10 years there are more  country clubs allowing in their first African American members. There are still many all male golf clubs. There are many rules at most country clubs. Women can only tee off at certain times on the weekend, usually after 11am. The clubs try to make up for this my giving women a day like on Tuesday from 8 to 11 when they have the priority. WOW. There’s the men’s grill, and other rules and regulations that do not exist in what I would call the real world. The justification for these attitudes are we paid a whole lot of money to belong to this club and we will make the rules and play with who we want to play and associate with. If this has been the policy  for years to exclude minorities in country clubs and treat women as second class citizens, why has there been this gradual change to begin to open up the doors to a more diverse group of people. We all know it has nothing to do with a change in social consciousness or attitudes. It has to with $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Yeah, no kidding. The country club world is hurting, and now needs more members to enjoy all those restricted amenities. This is all well and good. If this leads to more minorities being able to play and enjoy some of the finer golf courses that this country has to offer, great. If this leads  to better treatment of the female golfer, wonderful.   I am sure we may see more  of these positive changes as the golf economic crunch continues.  

This has been going on in golf for years and years, and I am not going to make judgements, or go on about golf’s apparent lack of social conscience.  My question here is, how did this simple game of knocking a little ball around to put it into a hole, develop  this elitist attitude. I am not sure, but here is what I think.  As golf became more popular over the years there was one thing discovered about golf when compared with other sporting endeavors.  Golf could humiliate you like no other sport could.   It’s so simple and looks so easy.   But when you miss that first 15 inch putt, make your first whiff, or take 10 shots to try and get out of a sand trap, before just picking up your ball and walking sheepishly to the next tee, you know that there is something wrong with this game or maybe it’s you. Now it’s bad enough to do this in front of your friends, but to do this in front of strangers, or in front of people that you perceive is  below your so called social standing, is even worse, and adds to the humiliation.  The solution is to simple keep them away, and play with your own kind, to suffer the shame with your dear friends, who know what you are going through. Let’s face it, humility is not one of the traits of captains of business. Golf is simply that game that brings out the worst and the best, out of everyone.  It is too mystifying to be believed, and impossible to explain to someone who has not been through it.  It is this lack of understanding of golf, that has led this great game to develop this caste system. See you on links.  I will be the one walking with my head down while shaking it from side to side.    

100% Mental Golf Rounds 95 to 102

I played 8 rounds since September 1,with a Grand Canyon vacation in the middle from the 9th to the 16th. The rounds were the normal with a lot of ups and downs. The scores were in chronological order, 76,77, 81,75,8,74,80, and 80. The last two 80’s were really disappointing coming off a nice 74. The last round yesterday was in a tournament format, where I imploded on the last 6 holes. This will be a 100% Mental Golf wrap up, as this will be the last blog with this title. The rest of my exploits on the golf course will be under the heading of Golf.

Did I learn anything this year and do I still believe that for a low handicapper golf is 100% mental. You always learn something every time you play a round of golf, even if it you should take up bowling. The game continues to mystify me in so many ways, that I can not write about it in such a small format. I have discussed some of this in previous blogs but I am still lost at times on how to play this game most effectively. One of the things I did learn this year is that it is hard to define 100 % Mental. You would think it would be easy but the thought processes during the round can lead to confusion. You have to play physically. There are times when playing golf your body seems so dysfunctional. This happened to me yesterday. I said I imploded on the last 6 holes but in reality I imploded for almost the entire round. Amazingly I putted very well yesterday. Many times when you are playing tournament golf, that is what costs you the most is poor putting. It was a combination of good luck and some very good putting that got me to two over par after 12 holes. Then I played 6 over for the last 6 holes and many of these holes are not very difficult. I am not going through the gruesome details here but one thing I felt was good during this collapse was my thought process at the time. It was my ball striking for the day that let me down. Going in the day I did not shoot a good round on Friday but that did not bother me. This tournament was a synopsis of how my year has gone. I had 34 full swing shots. I rated them as such: Excellent shots 13, Good shots 6, Average shots 5, and Poor shots 10. On four holes where I made poor shots I was able to scramble for a par. I one putted one time for a bogey. I hit 24 shots that were average or above, it was those 10 poor shots that led to my demise. Now current thinking would have you believe that there may be a flaw in my technique which can only take me so fare. When the pressure builds then the flaw rears its ugly head and bad shots ensue. I do not buy that but I also can not give an answer either. I will see what the rest of the season brings and ” enlighten you in future blogs.

The most interesting thing to happen over this time frame is I think I have stumbled on a working solution to control the yips. I have written blogs in past on the yips. This solution is for the putting yips and the chipping yips. I may elaborate if this proves to be a successful endeavor. I can guarantee you that the yips will have another article in the coming months. But for the overall golf game it is back to the drawing board for now.

Food

Food should be such a simple thing. We need to eat to survive, but most of us really enjoy eating. A lot of that enjoyment is taken away from us by so many food rules, developed by God knows who. Foodist have written more things about food, and the things they have written about over the years have, at times, changed dramatically. Let’s go through just a few, which is just the tip of the iceberg. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or not. Eat complex carbohydrates, or not. Do not eat after 7pm, or go ahead its no big deal. Eggs are good for you, or not. Drink or don’t drink water during a meal. Stay away from red meat, or not. You can eat too much fruit, or not. Dairy products are bad because you are older than 6 months, well maybe. Eat your biggest meal in the middle of the day, or not. Sugar is bad for you, but it still not as bad as artificial sweeteners, which does not get enough publicity. Do you think money has anything to do with that. I could go on and on about this, but you get the picture.

The big advice out there, is you should listen to your body. Eat when you are hungry, and stop when you are full. I don’t know about you, but I could say that I never feel hungry when I eat. The dictionary defines hungry as feeling an uneasy or painful sensation, from a lack of food. However, another definition is the desire or need to eat food. Now I have felt that baby, every day. So when are you supposed to listen to your body. Are you supposed to wait until you feel pain to eat. I hope not. Forget about all that nonsense about waiting until your hungry to eat. When you feel like eating, then eat and if you don’t feel like eating then don’t. Don’t feel like you have to eat at a certain time. I skip breakfast more than I eat breakfast. I think it is more important to listen to your body, after you eat. I am not talking about the full thing either. Who knows when your “full” and who cares. I am talking about how you generally feel after you eat. Without a doubt you should feel better. I think there are many idiosyncrasies that people can have to one particular food. I do not care what kind of food it is supposed to be, like really good for you, if you do not feel right after you eat it, then stay away from it. This could be a subtle feeling, like you just don’t feel right, or it could be more distinct like abdominal pain. You never want to get into the trap of eating something because this is what you should eat. Broccoli may be considered a super food but if every time you eat it, you double over in pain, then stay away from it. Always eat things that you like, and that make you feel good, after you eat them. It almost should be a form of relaxation.

Now I know there are proven intolerances to Lactose and Gluten, but being tested for a lot of other food issues, to me, is unnecessary. Your body will tell you if a food is not agreeing with you and when it speaks just listen and avoid that food. I think a lot of health issues regarding food are related to not listening to your body after you eat and stressing over what you should eat. Just remember there is no bad food. So enjoy the food that makes you feel better and stop trying to get it right.

Sports

Following sports, or participation in one or more sports, makes life more fun and entertaining. Sports and games have always played a big part in the American Culture. I do not think sports is as important as meditation in making life work, but it does help ease the frustrations, and disappointments that life can bring. This blog will discuss the sports that I follow and why. From the top, here is what I like to watch, and what I do not follow as much, or not at all.

College Football. This is my favorite thing to watch and enjoy. I love the pageantry and enthusiasm of the crowd, and it seems that every game has some kind of importance. The game is much more entertaining than pro football. It is fast paced and the offenses are more diversified. Football is one of those sports that is more fun to watch even though the quality of play is just a notch below professional football. I do not care who is playing, if I have some down time I will watch a college football game. I am an Ohio State grad so I have a strong rooting interest in the Ohio State Buckeyes but there are other teams I follow like the Pitt Panthers.

Ladies Professional Golf. I really enjoy watching the women on the LPGA tour. Their tournaments seem to be more exciting and their swings are easier on the eye. Their coverage is better now that the Golf Channel shows all their events. If the women could only putt, then I think they could challenge the men on certain venues. It is an odd thing that statistically speaking the women’s game is pretty much even with the men’s except for the putting stats, where they lag way behind.

Baseball and the Pittsburgh Pirates. Baseball is almost second but the game has lost some touch with modern society. It is oh so slooooooooooooow, and the powers to be do next to nothing to speed up the game. If you are a long time Pittsburgh Pirate fan you will always remember what you were doing when Bill Mazeroski hit the home run to win the 7th game of the 1960 World Series. Even though the Pirates have had their struggles in recent times, I have been fortunate to follow a team that has had a rich and glorious history especially from 1958 to 1992.

The Pittsburgh Steelers. Talk about a rich and glorious history, this is one of the all time great professional franchises in any sport. It was not always that way. The Steelers of the late 50′ and the decade of the 1960’s were quite a cast of characters, that played some hard nosed football but with variable, but mostly bad, results. But it was those vagabond Steelers, that captured my heart and soul, and made me a life long Steeler fan. Again, all Steeler fans know what they were doing when Franco made the immaculate reception against the Oakland Raider in the 1974 playoffs. Other than the Steelers I really don’t follow other aspects of Pro Football. I find the game boring and do not get to excited by final scores of 12 to 9 , yawn.

The PGA tour. Since I play golf often, I naturally follow the PGA tour. The way I am putting these sports in order, translates into if all 5 of these sports were on TV at the same time, this would be my preference to watch them. As you can see the PGA tour is fifth, which is still better than my next list of sports, that I hardly watch at all. I like to see the outcomes of the events and watch the players perform. There is a certain sameness to the players. There are no more characters or personalities on the tour. Now the PGA tour does not like hearing this, but if you ever see a presidential poll taken of tour players, 98% of them vote for the same guy.

Sports I follow a little bit, is hockey because of the Penguins. I watch the NCAA basketball tournament but do not follow the regular season at all. Pro Basketball I rarely watch, except for an occasional play off game. There are various reasons I don’t watch these sports as much. Hockey, it is the fighting, College Basketball I feel there are too many games and not a lot of significance to them. With Pro Basketball I lost interest in, when they stopped running the fast break. So there you have the sports I follow and like, and thanks to the modern DVR, I can follow them in less time than ever now. Bless the DVR especially when it comes to Baseball. Get into sports, your life will work better.