Tag Archives: Texas

The Sensational Six

Brett Lawrie capped off an epic, rollercoaster game on Tuesday night against the Texas Rangers with a ninth inning walk-off home run. The Sensational Six loved it.
John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

LIVINGSTONE: They heckled the drunk frat boys in our section. They gambled on who would get the first hit. They mused about whether or not the bunt Colby Rasmus laid down was a call from the dugout or his own decision.

They are the Sensational Six.

Sitting in two groups of three, one row in front of the other, the six elderly women – and if I’m guessing all in their early sixties – make it out to a dozen games a year as a group. During the early innings of Tuesday’s game  against the Texas Rangers – somewhere in the inning when pitcher Drew Hutchison gave up five runs, I noticed the woman sitting in front of me keeping an official score sheet, marking down every hit, out, walk, run and strikeout. The fact she was keeping the card made me smile. It’s always nice to see people coming out to enjoy the game rather than drink beer and take their shirts off in the seventh inning during the stretch (more on that later).

When Kelly Johnson hit the three-run shot in the bottom of three, followed by a towering shot from a struggling Jose Bautista, I noticed another sheet two rows down with the other trio of women, who I later found out are all from the area and have been coming to games since the early days of professional baseball in Toronto. The sheet, with The Sensational Six neatly scrawled along the top of the page – had a series of columns with players names penciled in for first hit of the game, first homerun, first double, etc. The sensational six was betting on game stats to make it a game within a game. The betting wasn’t for money, but for large gummies they had in a container with them. Sure, minor in nature, but the fact it brought a feeling of competitiveness and excitement to their experience – one of what is about a dozen a year.

While the game was surely one of the most exciting of the season – Lawrie’s laser beam walk-off in the bottom of nine was incredible to watch – it was watching these women analyze the game, talk about the sloppy play of Yunel Escobar as of late, Kelly Johnson’s love-hate relationship at the plate and in the field – at times – and the inability of the Jays bullpen to close out games (blown save number 56 last night). They truly loved the game and were there to take in the beauty of the sport.

Oh, the frat party. Speckled in the crowd – I swear we somehow got every drunk 19-year-old in the stadium in our section – groups of guys, and one lone idiot with his embarrassed girlfriend, were loud, obnoxious and obscene. It takes a lot to offend me, but these guys and the language used toward the Rangers players could have easily spoiled the night. I understand people come to the games to have fun, drink beers, experience the game the way they want to, but sometimes it goes too far.

Last night reminded me of opening night and the debauchery that went on, especially when a group of five guys sitting three rows in front of us to the right took off their shirts and began waving them like towels. I could smell them from my seat, no joke. It wasn’t pleasant. When the game was getting on into the ninth, one of the ladies started telling a couple extremely loud fans to shut up. I admired the women for their love of the game. Young and old alike, the game makes us all feel like a kid in the school yard, playing for the World Series championship. They wanted to enjoy the game and not put up with the sauced fans. Fair enough.

When Francisco Cordero blew the game with two outs in the ninth by giving up three straight singles to centerfield, I asked the women who bet on the Jays blowing the save opportunity. One of the sensational six chimed in and said, ‘hell we all would’ve picked it’. When Lind hit into a double play with none out early in the game, a sense of frustration bellowed from the women, one yelling ‘why didn’t you bunt? You can’t hit the ball!’ She wasn’t saying anything we already didn’t know, but it sure made me laugh.

So, Brett Lawrie. Kid has energy. You could sense it all over the stadium after he made the last out in the ninth to take it to the bottom, you could feel it. He wanted to end the game. And he did it in the classic, soon-to-be legendary Brett Lawrie way. When the ball hit the top of the outfield wall to end the game, the ladies were jumping for joy. It was like the World Series trophy was coming back to Canada for the first time in two decades. While the drunken buffoons jumped for joy – more likely because they were hammered – the ladies reveled in an exciting, likely to be one of the best games of the young Jays season.

I hope I’m lucky enough to have the sensational six sitting in front of me at a future game. Maybe I’ll get in on the betting with them. I do love gummies.

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Josh Hamilton’s hot start: will Texas re-sign him?

Josh Hamilton, if he stays healthy, will put up a mammoth year going into a contract off-season. Question is: will the Rangers spend money to keep him?

LIVINGSTONE: We’re just about an eighth of the way through the season and the American League doesn’t look like the league preseason analysis expected it to be. Add Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, New York picked up Michael Pineda to solidify their pitching staff, Pujols and co. looked like the perennial favourite to win the AL and the World Series, and the AL East had the look of a four-team race.

Well, that, to this point, is all out the window. But what I really want to get at is Josh Hamilton. His story is well-known to everyone, how he rose from the darkness of drug and alcohol addiction to come back to professional baseball and become the elite hitter he was expected to be when drafted first overall in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Rays.

He never played a game for them and it wasn’t until 2007 that he made his debut for the Reds. It’s been all history from there. When healthy, Hamilton has been a force at the plate in four seasons with the Rangers (Cincy traded him for Edison Voloquez after the 2007 season – wonder who won that deal). He’s helped lead the team to back-to-back World Series appearances, and if all continues the way the season has started for the Rangers, it could be a third appearance.

Hamilton is in the last year of his contract and it’s unclear whether or not the Rangers will even attempt to sign him in the off-season. With big contracts just doled out to second baseman Ian Kinsler (five years, $75-million), catcher Mike Napoli (one year, $9.5 million, likely to turn into a multi-year if he continues to mash the ball like he has this season), Yu Darvish (six years, $60 milion, on top of the $50 million-plus they paid to negotiate with him), Nelson Cruz (2-years, $16 million) and Elvis Andrus (three years, $14.4 million) and third baseman Adrian Beltre (six years, $96 million) – you can obviously see it, is there even any money left to sign Hamilton?

The team seemingly has spent a lot of cash to lock up everyone but Hamilton. Sure, his health is always a question and has only played 133 games maximum in the last three seasons (121 in 2011 and a mere 89 in 2009). The off-field problem involving drinking this past off-season seems to have scared the Rangers a bit in their willingness to sign up to a long-term deal. To be able to become the player he has become, Hamilton has to work three, maybe even four times as hard as everyone else. Staying sober is no easy task, especially coming off the life he lived for four or five years.

So let’s look at why the Rangers would be insane to not re-sign this guy to a long-term deal.

2012 stats: 82 AB, 31 Hits, 3 doubles, 9 HRs, 22 RBI, .378 AVG, .418 OBP, .744 SLG and a sickly OPS of 1.161.

This is only 20 games into the season. While he’s on-pace to hit 75 HR and 180 RBI, it’s not likely he will keep it up to that impossible expectation – but if he stays healthy he could put up 45/140/.350 – a definite AL MVP season. The Rangers would be crazy not to re-sign him if he puts up a big year like he is on pace to do. However, they might not be able to afford what he’ll be asking for. It’s going to be one of the more intriguing story lines as the season progresses. If Hamilton continues to lead the red hot Rangers atop the American League, and he stays healthy, will he stay in Arlington, or will he move on to another team?

Nolan Ryan, don’t be crazy. Get that man a contract.

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A look at the first week of baseball: Infante, D’backs and Ozzie Castro, er, Guillen

Miami Marlins second baseman Omar Infante is off to a good start - his manager, however, is struggling to remove his foot from his mouth.

LIVINGSTONE: It’s a week into the season for the boys of summer. It’s nice to get back into the routine of checking daily baseball stats, deciding the ole fantasy line-up for the day and catching whatever games I can on the tube – especially the late games. It’s my first full summer in Toronto and in addition to all things baseball from my years past, I now get to engage with the Fan590, the great crew of baseball nuts and the spot-on and absolutely moronic baseball fanatics – aka Jays fans – out there.

The anxiety and curiosity that comes with the start of the season is always at it’s worst. Everything is so up in the air. How will so-and-so perform? What pitchers are going to throw gems? Who is going to surprise and rip it up the first week and are they legit? Who is going to tank? When do we worry they may not get out of the funk?

And so on and so on.

So, in honour of the first week of the season, the biggest surprises and whatnots of the week.

1. The first-series sweeps of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

For the first time since 1966 (correct me if I’m wrong people) the two powerhouses of the last 20 years in the American League lost their opening series’ in not-so-classy fashion. Four blown saves (Boston had three, including two in one game; Rivera, surprisingly, blew a ninth inning lead to the Tampa Bay Rays). I know it’s early, but it’s surprising. Since then the Yanks have managed some wins against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, while the Sox lost two of three to the Blue Jays and sit at 1-4. No blown saves though, so that’s a positive.

That said – Boston has a nine-game homestand starting Friday. Rays (four), Rangers (two), Yankees (three). If they can’t pull it together at home against these three equals/better thans, it’s going to be a long, long season for Sox Nation.

2. Omar Infante

It’s early, but he’s tied for the league lead in dingers. I know, it’s only three, but still, it’s shocking. The guy hit seven total last season in 640 plate appearances (his 162-game average is nine). In seven seasons (2005-2011) Infante hit 35 home runs in about 2,000 at-bats (note: he hit 16 in 2004 for the Tigers). It’s very likely he won’t hit more than his 2004 total this year, his tenth, but the hot start has to be exciting for the Marlins, who rely on him to get on base and provide quality defense at second.

3. Ozzie Guillen

I’m not going to get into his love for Fidel Castro too much, nor the five-game suspension that followed – but holy lord. In the span of a week he told reporters he gets drunk at the hotel after every game and passes out, followed by bro-love for the longest standing dictator in the world in Castro. Well done Ozzie. Thing is, it’s not surprising – he has no filter.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

This team is potent. They’re deep on the bench and can field a solid one-thru-eight, loaded with solid hitters who can do damage if given the opportunity. Pitching? Yep, they have it. The addition of Trevor Cahill to the duo of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. The comeback against the Giants Saturday shows they can scrape back. Down six runs early, they chipped away and stole the win 7-6 from their division rivals – and biggest opponent for the division title.

5. Minnesota Twins

Six runs in four games – three of those games against the Baltimore Orioles. Enough said.

6. The week of blown saves

Sweet mercy, I don’t know what to think of all the blown saves, walk-off/extra inning wins in the first week. There were enough that it’s cause conversation among the three of us here at Out of Write Field. The AL East is particularly disturbing: Rivera (1), Jays Sergio Santos (2), Red Sox Aceves and Melancon (3) have had it rough in the first week. Watch for Matthew Strader’s piece on the closer issues going on across the majors – blown saves, injuries and everything going wrong in the ninth. As I write this Jonathan Broxton, Royals closer-of-the-day, just blew what feels like the 30th save opportunity in the first week of the season (I think it’s actually 17 at this point of the day with Broxton – but still…17!!? late addition note: Make it 18. Joe Nathan blew the game for the Rangers last night in the ninth to the Seattle Mariners)

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Going the depth route on draft day

One Write Fielder took a strategic position depth approach to his draft. Will it pay off?

STRADER: Napoli in the fifth round?

“First one off the board for Strader…”

Actually, no boys, that one was right on the board, and you can suck on my Napoli/Avila duo all the way until September.

You see, more than any other sport, fantasy baseball is about organizational depth. (I will be using this very thing to shred my colleague’s diatribe about how the Sox/Yanks/Rays are still ahead in the east soon) Think about it this way.

If I have a starting catcher who can put 30 out of the park, and 100 on the board, how much is that worth?

What if I have two? Starter and backup?

How deep is this position around the major leagues? How many catchers can do that?

So, I say to my buddies who are struggling with Yadier and Miguel as their starters, and on the constant hunt for a backup that will give them a competitive 10 and 50, good fuckin’ luck. I’m takin’ Napoli early and making sure my catchers outscore the rest in the league by 30 per cent.

I rank my fantasy baseball team picks by position as much as overall ability. Second base is another great place for a falloff. You have your Dan Uggla’s, Dustin Pedroia’s, and the king, Robinson Cano.  Phillips tantalizes people every year, Ackley has people wondering, Asdrubal, are you for real? (‘Cause I can still play you at second?)

And Utley, will you be healthy?

There are so many question marks in this position, there are so many inconsistencies, that finding consistency can put you leaps and bounds ahead of the next guy. If you sacrifice a star outfielder who’s a consistent 25 and 90 to get a second basemen who’s a consistent 20 and 80, who’s going to be harder to duplicate?

Do you take Adam Jones early, to keep that strength in your outfield, or do you realize that outfielders are a dime a dozen, and guaranteeing yourself a strong second base platoon will be way harder to do off the waiver wire.

Besides, somebody always comes out of nowhere (Luis Gonzalez, ahem….) in the outfield. Watch the waiver wire there, not at second.

Catcher, second, short stop, relievers and third base. They’re the most difficult positions to ensure strength from top to bottom.

Use your first or second overall pick to secure your ace, and throw in another quality starter between rounds 3 and 5, and then focus on your depth chart.

Trust me.

You’ll take a bunch of crap from your pool buddies for drafting Napoli in the fifth round, and then rub it in their faces in September.

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