Friday, November 29, 2019

The Big Bang Theory

Just following the Glass City APBA Baseball Tournament, my friend Ron Emch sent an email to the guys who all attended the tournament, spreading the word about my blog. He also spread the word about The APBA Blog, which was created by my friend Thomas Nelshoppen.

It was Nelsphoppen's The APBA Blog that inspired me to do my blog, The Boys of Summer. It was Nelshoppen's word of mouth with his blog, that helped promote the 2nd Chicagoland APBA Baseball Tournament, along with an interview with co-created Doug Schuyler.

Recently, Tom shared pictures of that tournament from 6 years ago, and I repeated what I repeated in that email to Ron & the Toledo gang, that I felt the 2013 (Fall Edition) of the Chicagoland tournament really was APBA's big bang that kicked off the APBA Tournament movement.

This was the email, I sent back to Ron & the Toledo gang, a few months back.

For those that don't know, I just really love blogging about all the APBA projects in my life, and sharing my love for the game. I also write about Out of the Park Baseball, and of course, MLB Baseball, as well as Hall of Fame debates, and all the interesting aspects of the game itself.

I believe it was late 2012, I was not happy with my job, and I was frustrated with all the politics (election year) that summer, and that's when I fell upon Thomas Nelshoppen's 'The APBA Blog' and Kenneth Heard's 'Love, Life and APBA Baseball'. I was happy to see that there was a big APBA community out there, bigger than I could have ever imagined. Their blogs are what inspired 'The Boys of Summer'.

I also found the APBA Facebook Group late that year, or at about the turn of the calendar to 2013. Through that group, I developed friendships with numerous APBA junkies such as myself. One of the friends that I met through that group, was Pastor Rich Zawadzki. We would both sign up for our very first APBA Baseball Tournament during November 2013 -- The APBA Chicagoland Tournament. I rode down to Kalamazoo on a bus, stayed the Friday night in the hotel. The next following morning (early hours, maybe 4 am), Rich (coming from Jackson, out east) came by the hotel in Kalamazoo, picked me up, and we were off to Chicago.

That particular tournament, I feel may have been the spark that fueled the APBA community. At that time, we didn't realize it, but a big bang reaction was taking place. This was the 2nd Chicagoland tournament, but really in many ways was the first one. The first actual one, happened the summer prior with 11 contestants, and it was through the APBA Facebook GroupThe APBA Blog & I want to say, Jim's APBA Barn (another great blog, by the way) that helped advertise the fall edition that Rich and I would go to. 

The tournament took place in a gathering room, located a small library in the cozy town of Woodstock, Illinois (the same town that Bill Murray's Groundhog Day was filmed). There was about 24 of us, we played 6 games in our brackets, 2 games against the 3 teams, in each division.

I had the 1912 New York Giants, and had to battle the 1931 Philadelphia Athletics1976 Cincinnati Reds & the 1998 New York Yankees. I believe for all of us, we can all look at any one of those games, and wonder if a play here or there bounced this way, it would be me, or him or so-and-so moving on to the playoffs. I got swept by Cincy, then won the first game against then-Chicagoland Tourney runner Doug Schuyler's 1998 Yankees... It was the 2nd game of that series, that really decided my team's fate. He had Shane Spencer coming up to the plate, he had a runner on, and I want to say it was the 7th inning (it was definitely late into the game), I was leading by a couple runs.... So I decided to do the logical thing, intentionally walk that monster card, and take my chances with Homer Bush (who, yes batted .340 or something, but had no pop).... Homer Bush, of course, hit a three-run homer to give the Yanks the lead & eventually the game. Doug won our division with a 4-2 record, I was 3-3 along with Tom Johnson's Reds, and Gary Lindley's 31' A's finished 2-4 (I swept him).

The experience was amazing, the first tournament always stands out, win or lose. The experience had me craving for more, while it inspired Rich to start up the Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament in March 2015. The Schulz brothers (Ken & Darren) would go to the GMABT and Chicagoland Tournaments in the future, which then created the Pittsburgh tournament, the Linda B. Schulz APBA Baseball Tournament (LBS), named after their late mother.

It should be noted that Johnson would return years later to win a Chicagoland Tournament, while Lindley I believe either won the next summer tournament (or summer after that). I would go on to win the 2016 Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament with the 1993 Atlanta Braves, which of course, is an interesting experience in itself.

It was through the Greater Michigan APBA Tournaments, that I met Ron Emch, our gracious host to the Glass City APBA Baseballl Tournament. I had the 1917 Chicago White Sox, and I want to say that he had the 1954 New York Giants (I could have it wrong, we had the 1962 Giants in our bracket as well), and I believe we split 1-1. Ron would go onto the playoffs, and although neither one of us won it that day, it was a start of our friendship. As some of you might know, Rich and his son draw the names of the teams out of a hat for the division matchups.... Ron and I, would have the privilege of playing each other in opening division play for the first 3 years of the tournament's existence, which was pretty cool. We were just chatting in Toledo, about our two teams (the 1993 Braves & 1998 Braves) in GMABT II, going head-to-head with each of us pitching Greg Maddux against one another. 

I am just glad I finally got to make it to my friend's tournament finally, and now that I have, I plan to come to this one year-after-year. I also plan to eventually make it to the Twin Cities & the Pittsburgh tourneys as well.

It's things like that, and through these tournaments that we build memories on top of the older memories. It only gets better as friendships build up, while you get to meet new people through these tournaments as well, while I now look forward to building on these friendships as well. I really do think we have a great APBA community, and I really love writing about this game, and the people that I meet along the way.

It was a pleasure meeting everyone, and to many more tournaments ahead.

Shawn Baier
Traverse City, Michigan

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Big Cat, Tiny Cat

We are in month #2 of the 2019 UAL (Ultimate APBA League) Season, and my Traverse City Fighting Tigers played worst than they did in October. The Fighting Tigers went 9-21 for the month of October, while they just went 4-11 at home for me in November. We also got the results back from their road series against the North Georgia Bravos, in which they went 1-4... So of all the reported games, Traverse City is 14-36 (.280), while on pace for 45 wins.

We knew it would be bad, we feel we can play better than the .280 clip. We play with games limits for position players, so I am getting the rest time in early in the season, so the lineups should be doing better as the season goes on.

So I knew going into the season that I was going to take my lumps. We lost two B starters from last season, who have no-cards for this season (due to injury) in Jimmy Nelson & Taijuan Walker. We had a couple starters also downgraded a grade from last season, while the bullpen went from plenty of B's & A's to all D's and a couple C's. Plus my two team captains in Jose Altuve and Buster Posey missed a good handful of games due to 2018 MLB season injuries as well.

So knowing all that, I didn't expect to have my dice go ice-cold for my favorite hitter in the game in Jose 'Gigante' Altuve. I knew he didn't have a great 1st series playing the Ohio Cougars, players slump from time to time, but I didn't expect things to get worse.

After batting .133 against Ohio, Altuve batted only .109 with a .333 OPS against the Massillon Big Cats. To make matters worse, Massillon's catcher Austin Romine out-played him, not only that series, but Romine's series totals dwarfed Altuve's offensive home numbers for the month of November.

Romine accomplished more in 5 games than Altuve did in 15 games, here are the numbers...

  • Romine: 10-for-19 (.526), HR, 7 RBI (.571 OBP / 1.414 OPS) - Romine had a game that he went 5-for-5, all singles with 3 RBI.
  • Altuve: 8-for-52 (.154), 0 HR & 6 RBI - Altuve recorded 4 of those 6 RBI, his last 2 games of the month, while collecting 4 hits that series. His best OPS output was .611 against N.G.

The troubling thing is, Altuve didn't do absolutely great in his 1st month of home games with me as well, I believe he batted .273 for me, with a .767 OPS. 

Last season, Altuve batted .423 for me at home, with a .476 OBP & 1.083 OPS. He led the league in batting (.352), hits (221), runs (221) & stolen bases (48), while posting a .946 OPS.

We all know through APBA Season Replays, League Play, APBA Tournaments, or in real life, how little players like Austin Romine can come up big, while big players such as Jose Altuve can come up short...

That's one of the beauties of baseball.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

2020 Preseason (OOTP 20)

  • The Yankees acquired SP-Robbie Erlin and minor league CF-Jawuan Harris from the Padres in exchange for top prospect CF-Estevan Florial and minor league 2B-Kyle Gray.
  • Red Sox signed RP-Alex Colome to a 1-year deal worth $2.6 million.
  • The Tigers sign SS-Jose Iglesias to a 6-year deal worth $42.6 million ($7,100,000 per year).
  • The Twins reacquired SP-Lance Lynn from the Rangers in exchange for IF-Ehire Adrianza and prospect RHP-Brusdar Graterol.
  • The Reds signed 2B-Brian Dozier to a 3-year deal worth $31.4 million.
  • Cole Hamels signed a 3-year deal with the Angels for $8,333,333 per season.
  • Long-time Yankee Brett Gardner signs with the Giants for $25.4 million over 2 years.
  • Phillies pay hefty on a one-year rental in 3B-David Freese for $17.4 million.
  • As predicted, Brian McCann retired with the Atlanta Braves.
  • The Blue Jays signed 1B/3B-Matt Carpenter to a 4-year deal worth $41.2 million.
  • Milwaukee resigned 3B-Mike Moustakas in a 6-year deal worth $102.4 million ($17.1 million per year).
  • Craig Kimbrel wants to get the Athletics over the playoff hump, signing a 2-year deal worth $8.08 million.
  • Edwin Encarnacion will be perching the parrot in Boston at $36.9 million over 3 years.
  • The Rays traded SP-Ryan Yarbrough to the Mariners in exchange for C-Tom Murphy, who is coming off a career year in which he hit 18 home runs. Not a bad deal for Tampa considering they plan on plugging both Jose De Leon and Brent Honeywell (who are both healthy) in this upcoming 2020 MLB season... making it one of the youngest dynamic rotations with Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell & headed by veteran Charlie Morton.
  • The Twins traded OF-Max Kepler to the Angels in exchange for 2B-David Fletcher and 19 year-old minor league RHP Jack Kochanowicz
  • Angels signed 3B-Todd Frazier to a 2-year deal worth $17.4 million.
  • Tigers claimed P-Albert Abreu from the Yankees, named #54 top prospect in baseball.
  • Baltimore Orioles mourned the passing of owner Peter Angelos.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers came out with new logos and new uniforms for upcoming 2020 MLB Season. 
Hall of Fame News
  • Derek Jeter (93.4% / 1st year) and Curt Schilling (81.6% / 8th year) will be the newest members of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. 
  • The most shocking news may be Larry Walker being dropped from the ballot (10th year), while coming so close at 65.6% of the ballots. Barry Bonds (71.3%) and Roger Clemens (68.4%) are sniffing the Hall from the outside (both at 8 years).
Top Prospects
  • Houston's SP-Forrest Whitley tops the list, while Chicago's Andrew Vaughn (#2 overall) was tops among hitters.

Things to come... We'll switch gears soon, we'll be talking about Hall of Fame stuff, the great APBA community, the Houston Astros' legacy & how bad are those Traverse City Fighting Tigers?!?!

Friday, November 15, 2019

2019 Winter Meetings (OOTP 20)

The alternate reality off-season of 2019 in my Out of the Park Baseball 20 continues, let's take a look at more signings and trades involving Major League Baseball.

  • The Braves sign 31 year-old catcher Yasmani Grandal to a lengthy 6-year deal deal worth $130,800,000. Grandal is coming off career highs in HR (27) & RBI (77).
  • The Cubs make a move in the right direction involving their starting pitching by signing Hyun-Jin Ryu to a 4-year deal worth $112 million ($28 mill per year). 
  • The Mariners acquire RP-Kirby Yates from the Padres in exchange for prospects CF-Jarred Kelenic, 1B-Evan White & minor league LF-Keegan McGovern.
  • J.D. Martinez who opted out of his contract with Boston, settles on the Yankees for 4 years & $68,000,000. Martinez in real life, shocked everyone by not opting out of Boston as expected.
  • The Cardinals made a huge splash by signing 3B-Josh Donaldson to a 5-year deal worth $103 million.
  • SP-Dallas Keuchel signed a 4-year deal with the Rockies for $35.6 million.
  • The Yankees who did not offer arbitration to SS-Didi Gregorius, signed him to a new deal worth $17.7 million over 3 years.
  • The Angels take a huge gamble on Madison Bumgarner, considering his recent injuries in recent years, signing him to a 7-year deal worth $104.3 million ($14.9 million per year).
  • The Giants acquired SP-Trevor Bauer from the Reds, in exchange for top prospect OF-Heliot Ramos. The Reds also acquired prospect OF-Kyle Lewis and minor league RP-Freddy Villarreal from Seattle, in exchange for SP-Alex Wood.
  • Boston inks SP-Michael Pineda to 2-year worth $23.8 million.
  • The Angels reacquired SP-Garrett Richards from the Padres for two minor leaguers.
  • The Red Sox acquire 1B Jose A. Martinez from the Cardinals in exchange for RP-Marcus Walden.
  • The Red Sox also paid out a pricey one-year rental on Howie Kendrick ($15.4 million).
  • Catcher Robinson Chirinos returns to the Rangers on a 3-year deal worth $33.9 million.
  • The Rays acquired OF-Starling Marte from the Pirates in exchange for top prospect SP-Shane Baz and minor league 2B-Ford Proctor.
  • The Pirates acquired C/3B-Victor Caratini from the Cubs in exchange for RP-Keone Kela and LHP-Blake Weiman.
  • The Yankees acquired RP-Matt Andriese from the Diamondbacks in exchange for OF-Cameron Maybin.

Monday, November 11, 2019

A-P-B-A or APP-Bah?

I recently posted a meme that I created, using the trending 'Woman Yelling at the Cat' meme, and it of course created plenty of buzz on the APBA Facebook Group. Generating just under 175 likes & 75+ comments at the time of this post, I decided to also break down through the comments, the percentage of what is pronounced more.

Not surprisingly, the majority pronounce it APP-Bah, 68% of the time. I was thinking from the get-go that it had to be at least 2-1 in favor of APP-Bah, and to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if it's closer to 75% if we were to do an overall poll from the 3,000+ members of the APBA Facebook Group.

Even the Wikipedia page for APBA Baseball, mentions the fact that it is pronounced "APP-Bah"...

I was also surprised to find out from one of my good APBA friends, Rob Spatz, who was from the Chicago area, that most of the Chicago APBA crowd, actually pronounces it A-P-B-A, or at least the Chicagoans that he knows.

So with that news, I joked that it is official then, Michigan has to be the capital of APP-Bah Baseball... Just kidding. I do know many in the Michigan thumb that have played, and my dad was part of a 20+ member league, and knew of a couple of the guys from his same school area that had leagues of their own. I know that it was definitely one of the grass roots states that got the company rolling at least in the 1950's that is.

I believe the company sold primarily to the Midwest market, it's pretty obvious when APBA Hall of Famer Dominick Provisiero does his APBA Roll-Call on the site, that an overwhelming amount of us from the Midwest plays the game. Michigan & Illinois leading the charge, and then Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana & Minnesota fall into place. The Midwest has also dominated the sites for the most APBA tournaments being hosted...

  • Greater Michigan APBA Baseball Tournament (Jackson, MI)
  • Chicagoland APBA Baseball Tournament (Chicago, IL)
  • Twin Cities APBA Baseball Tournament (Minnesota)
  • Glass City APBA Baseball Tournament (Toledo/Maumee, OH)
  • Wisconsin APBA Baseball Tournament (Milwaukee area, WI)
  • Praireland APBA Baseball Tournament (Urbana, IL)
  • Furniture City APBA Baceball Tournament (Grand Rapids, MI)
  • Bath City APBA Baseball Tournament (Mt.Clemons, MI)
  • Indy 500 APBA Baseball Tournament (Evansville, IN)

Other APBA hot spots include Pennsylvania (of course, being APBA's birthplace in Lancaster), plus Florida, California, New York... and Virginia. The rest of the country combined prove to be in the minority, with APBA fans sprinkled around outside of the APBA hot zone.

Recently, another APBA friend Shawn Kaufman and I were speaking of local markets that we have actually purchased the game. He mentioned Kay-Bee, I mentioned Toys R' Us (both companies went bankrupt & no longer exist). My brother Chris bought the 1995 Playoff / All-Star APBA Baseball Set off the shelves at the Traverse City Toys R' Us, while I saw that same set & maybe a current season set at a Wal-Mart in Augusta, GA while being stationed down there back in 1997.

The company now resides in Alpharetta, Georgia, the same state the National APBA Convention takes place.

Friday, November 8, 2019

2019 & Beyond (OOTP 20)

I decided to finally do the new Live Feed option for Out of the Park Baseball 20, with up-to-the-date rosters. I should say that I gave it a go after some glitches, and so far it seems to be working properly.

The only thing is that OOTP had the wild card games not done, so I had to simulate them, and the results came up differently with the Milwaukee Brewers defeating the Washington Nationals.

The Tampa Bay Rays would go on to lose their series against the Houston Astros, while the New York Yankees defeated the Minnesota Twins (again, poor Minnesota), 3-2. The Los Angeles Dodgers made sure that Milwaukee didn't keep screwing up reality, by sweeping them 3-0. The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Atlanta Braves, 3-1, which I can see happening with the way both Jack Flaherty and Dakato Hudson have been pitching this second half.

In the League Championship Series, Astros swept the Yankees on the A.L. side, while the Dodgers were challenged by St. Louis, but would come out triumphant, 4-2, in the National League.

The Houston Astros would go on to win their 2nd World Series in 3 years, defeating the Dodgers in a quick series, 4-1. I have Houston over Dodgers in 6 games.

The reality of the situation is that the Washington Nationals did win their wild card against Milwaukee, came back and defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers & Houston Astros. OOTP 20 almost got their overall company simulation of the Astros over Nationals, but the computer doesn't take in strange things like an all-road victories World Series, LOL!

Well, lucky for you, I will share my alternate future with you.

2019 Off-Season News
  • Adam Wainwright (STL) who has been out of action since October 11th with shoulder inflammation is heading to the injured list & will be out for 7 months of action.
  • Zack Greinke (HOU) will be out for 4 months, suffering from arthritic elbow. 
  • Curtis Granderson announced his retirement. 
  • The Detroit Tigers fired manager Ron Gardenhire. An anonymous team source told BNN, "The Tigers have been a rudderless ship for awhile now. Ron didn't seem fully focused on the job, seemed distracted. Something was going on there. We need a guy to step in and really take charge."
Early Transactions
  • The White Sox traded 1B-Jose Abreu to the Nationals, along with minor league LHP-Hector Acosta, in exchange for four minor leaguers in RHP-Sterling Sharp, LHP-Seth Romero, 3B-Gilbert Lara & C-Jakson Reetz
  • The Dodgers traded OF/SS-Chris Taylor to Tampa Bay in exchange for 2B-Brandon Lowe and minor league 1B-Russ Olive.
  • Sounding pretty true to form -- The Tigers traded SP-Michael Fulmer and prospect SP-Alex Faedo to the Astros in exchange for two minor league catchers in Jaime Ritchie and Cesar Salazar
  • The Mariners traded RP-Arodys Vizcaino to the Nationals in exchange for three minor leaguers: RHP-Jake Irvin, RHP-Chandler Day & 3B-Omar Meregildo
  • The Giants trade 'Kung Fu Panda' Pablo Sandoval to the Blue Jays in exchange for minor league RHP Jon Harris and minor league 2B Kevin Smith.
  • The White Sox traded SP-Reynaldo Lopez to the Angels in exchange for SP-Jaime Barria.
  • The Indians acquired CF-Franchy Cordero from the Padres in exchange for minor league 2B- Aaron Bracho and minor league C-Brandon Benavente.
  • The Reds traded C-Curt Casali to the Angels in exchange for CF-Brian Goodwin.
  • The Reds also acquired minor leaguers 2B-Ricardo De La Torre & 2B-Travis Blankenhorn from the Twins, in exchange for RP-Kevin Shackelford.
  • Maybe Shay is right, the "Tankers" (Tigers) trade SP-Daniel Norris to the Giants in exchange for OF-Austin Slater and minor league C-Braden Frankfort... because you know, you can never have enough minor league catchers.
  • The Yankees acquire SS-Aledmys Diaz from the Astros, in exchange for backup catcher Austin Romine and $80,000 in cash.
Award Winners
  • OF-Yordan Alvarez (HOU) wins the A.L. Rookie of the Year Award, while 1B-Pete Alonso wins the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award.
  • Justin Verlander (HOU) won the A.L. Cy Young Award over teammate Gerrit Cole, while Jacob deGrom (NYM) also wins his 2nd Cy Young, by winning the award in the N.L.
  • The Houston sweep continues with Alex Bregman named the A.L. Most Valuable Player.
  • The Brewers' Christian Yelich wins back-to-back N.L. MVP Awards, becoming the 1st N.L. player to win back-to-back awards since Albert Pujols did it with the Cardinals ten years ago.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Early Home Run Paces (1978 A.L. Replay)

We all love playing season replays or team replays or single-player replays, so with that we are quite aware that through APBA, especially early in a season, we can see some alarming home run rates, and other players under-performing as well.

Below is a list of the players that are playing above pace & below pace...

I posted an APBA post recently on the APBA Facebook Group on how in one of the games, Boston elected to pitch around Doug DeCinces by intentionally walking him, and facing Lee May instead. I also mentioned in that same post that DeCinces was currently tied with Oakland's Gary Alexander for the team lead in home runs with 11....That of course, got some heads turning.

The reality of the situation, is that in real life Alexander actually had a great April as well in 1978, even gracing the cover of The Sporting News. Once May came he slowed down, and he's doing the same in my 1978 A.L. Replay. Alexander had 11 HR in the month of April for my replay, but has been quiet since, while his batting average has gone down, while the strikeouts has picked up. Alexander currently leads the A.L. in whiffs at the plate, with 40 in only 100 at-bats!

Another thing that may have caught your eye on the charts above is Cleveland's backup rookie catcher Ron Hassey with 3 home runs, when he only hit 2 HR through 25 games & 74 at-bats. He has only played 4 games & 15 at-bats, but has had luck on his side in the early going, with a 2 home run game against the Seattle Mariners on May 9th. I put 18 with an asterisk in the 'On Pace' column, but obviously he will not hit anything near that, but another HR or maybe two, could happen since the ungodly HR rolls came early for him.

Oakland's Alexander is not the only Athletic enjoying some early success, his teammate Dave Revering has already hit 6 HR, while on pace for 34 HR. Also Gary Thomasson (not shown above on chart) is batting .405 (32-for-79) through 21 games played, with 3 HR & 14 RBI; Thomasson has already over-exceeded his real-life 31 hits with Oakland through 47 games & 154 at-bats (Thomasson will be traded June 15th to the Yankees).

A few Boston stars made the under-performing side of the above chart, in Carlton Fisk & Dwight Evans, while Kansas City's Darrell Porter has done nothing but struggle, with only one dinger, while batting .161 with an OPS barely over .500 early in the season.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Stranger Things

This post was originally supposed to be titled "Called It!", but as the World Series played out, it went from a strange series to even stranger by series end.

For all my readers, it may come as no secret that my favorite player in the game of baseball is Houston starting pitcher Justin Verlander. My favorite hitter in the game happens to be Jose Altuve. It was amazing to watch these two get put together in 2017 on their way to a World Series title.

So it should come as no surprise who I am rooting for to win the World Series in 2019.

I have been very vocal in who I want to win the World Series, and why not? Verlander is my favorite player, and I want the very best for him, and I want to see more of his great pitching in 2019 -- So rooting for him is a no-brainer.

I have been confident all year that they would end up representing the American League with a shot at their 2nd World Title in 3 seasons. I was confident that they would beat the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series, I knew they would win, and I knew once again (like 2017) that it would be a dog fight.

So when they went down 2-0, I was hearing it from casual fans and haters, that the Astros were done, toast! I'm not going to lie, I felt a little sick to my stomach looking at the 0-2 deficit. This is a team that had been hitting poorly in the postseason, slumping, especially with runners in scoring position. So there was plenty of reason for most baseball fans to say that it was over....

but not me...

Here is a picture of my Facebook post, in the early morning hours of the Astros facing an 0-2 deficit...

My facebook post in early hours, just after Houston being in the series hole, 0-2.

... and for awhile, especially after the Astros won all three in Washington, outscoring them 19-3, I momentarily looked like a genius. I have made great predictions in the past, and just had so much faith in this Astros team that they would pull it off. 

This series has been strange on so many levels, I knew Houston could answer back, it was a matter of time, they have been overall lousy at the plate, and even worse with runners in scoring position... but they were bound to wake up. 

Now defeating Washington, 19-3 over three games?! I would never have expected that, and to be fair most of those runs probably came off the bullpen as the games slipped out of reach, because all those games were fairly close early on & even later.

So when the Astros knotted it up, I posted this meme I made (It only took 2 seconds to make, nothing special) ...

That was in response to what I was hearing after Game 2, but then they evened the series up. 

After Game 5, I couldn't believe all of the whining over the strike zone. It went both ways, although you would never have guessed that with all the Nats fans and Astros haters in full force. 

Here is the thing, I personally don't care for the square on my TV screen, let the umpires ump, it is never going to go to electronic home plate umpires -- so keep dreaming. I am with Mark DeRosa, a former hitter I might add, mentioned "You want the game to go faster, expand the strike zone." That's a good point, although I say let's also start the postseason games no later than 6-6:30 pm E.T. -- like the Super Bowl...

Just saying, you wonder why football is winning & why an entire generation not growing up with your sport. That would definitely be a start in the right direction...

but back to the strike zone, people were making a big deal that Gerrit Cole was benefiting more than Joe Ross from the strike zone. In a lot of ways, he was, because that's what the great, experienced veterans do, they adjust, they keep making the right pitch later, even if they don't get it earlier. Cole's nasty stuff will be harder to call, while Ross' stuff is plain in comparison. 

Another example, although he pitched it down main street is Mark Langston. The San Diego Padres' Langston pitched a ball down the middle to Tino Martinez in the 1998 World Series, and it wasn't called a strike (it definitely should have, but it wasn't), Langston still has a chance to make the adjustment, has a chance to make the right pitch, but then Tino clobbered it to right, and the rest is history.

There is winners such as Gerrit Cole, and then there are losers like Mark Langston. The difference between a winner & loser, is making the right pitch, and the timely pitch. Joe Ross put on a good face, knew he wasn't the first choice going out to the mound that day (due to Max Scherzer being scratched from the start), his fans gave him the support he needed....

but he was at a huge mismatch from the start, he was up against Cole. The sad truth is that you could add Joe's brother Tyson to the equation, and you might, might have a decent starting pitcher... I know that's harsh, but just trying to make people understand how much Ross was in over his head, and to be honest I thought he did as great as job as he possibly could.

Cole put Houston up 3-2, but his number would not be called again.
I also want to be on record that balls and strikes have never decided a series. Miscalls at first base (Jorge Orta safe at first, 1985)? Definitely. First basemen physically pulling off baserunners (Kent Hrbek & Ron Gant)? Sure... and managers pulling pitchers (Matt Williams pulling Jordan Zimmermann) too early? Well, of course! Back in the day, I blamed an expanded strike zone for Livan Hernandez as the sole reason for the Braves' demise in 1997... but truth be told, the Braves had other opportunities to finish the Marlins.

Like Ryan Zimmerman mentioned after the game, "Lance (Barksdale) didn't cost us the game", mentioning that Cole defeated them. 

Luckily, for the Nationals & their fans, they didn't dwell on Game 5 and powered forward.

When they won Game 6, I will admit my confidence in the Astros winning it, actually was at a postseason low. I had a feeling that they missed their chance, and Game 7 would play out the same way....

Early runs, then nothing, and late-game heroics. 

It was the same broken record the Astros have been playing all postseason long. It was odd, if Houston was able to play their game, they would be the World Champs today, but many of their hitters were cold. Jose Altuve completely disappeared, Alex Bregman was taking way too many pitches, being too selective & Carlos Correa was feast or famine.

When the Nationals won Game 6, it was the 6th time that the road team won during the series, before that, it never happened before in the major sports leagues. So for me, who was rooting for Houston, thought that the laws of averages certainly had to balance out...

In this series? Nothing has been normal about it.

Game 7 was bizarre in its own right. I think heading into the game, people believed that Max Scherzer will certainly out-pitch Zack Greinke... but Greinke came in dealing, which to be honest, I sensed he was starting to do better as the postseason moved on, he did have a good outing in New York against the Yankees and that Yankees' aura.

But the shocker came when A.J. Hinch took Zack out for Will Harris, who Hinch said prior to the game that Harris was probably looking at a night off, that Harris was beyond tired. Plus not to mention, Cole was available in the pen. Now I hope in the long run, that Houston fans don't blame Harris, he was having an excellent postseason prior to Game 6, and the Astros may not have got past the Yankees if it were not for some solid timely outs by Harris himself. But a long delay in Game 6 over the controversial Trea Turner interference play and over-usage would be his downfall.

Some people might say, well Greinke did give up a home run, to cut the game down from 2-0 to 2-1, but the overall reaction and the gut feeling I had was Greinke made a simple mistake and was very likely going to get out of it. He had 68 pitches or something like that? Had a couple single digit innings in pitch counts?! Who does that? I don't think Cole or Verlander recorded an inning that series with less than 10 pitches (maybe I'm wrong).

Anthony Rendon, a Houston native, who grew up loving the Astros -- not to mention local college hero, leading Rice to a College World Series championship, would be one of the daggers to Houston's chance at declaring themselves a dynasty. The other was Howie Kendrick, when that ball hit the right field pole, I knew at that moment the whole entire game was over... it mind as well have been a walk-off, you could literally hear the heartbreaks of millions of Houston fans. 

Strasburg was solid in Game 6 & series, earning MVP honors.
Stephen Strasburg becomes the 3rd pitcher to win 5 games in a single postseason, while the city of Washington got to celebrate their first world title in 95 years. Montreal Expos' faithful fans get to finally celebrate in their own strange way, but with this series, strange is the new norm, and now for the first time and possibly the only time (or at least in our foreseeable future, because we'll all be dead), a road team has now won all 7 road games.

After this series, I am not sure if stranger things can happen.

Scherzer & Sanchez finally get a ring after falling short in together in Detroit.

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