Boston Strong

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The Cover 4.com presents you with Boston Strong! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

The last time the Boston Red Sox won the World Series at home was in 1918. Babe Ruth was pitching on that team. He was later traded, and created the Curse of the Bambino. This all changed after the 2013 World Series. Boston had many things to be happy about. When the World Series began, I believed that the Red Sox had the better players and the Cardinals had the better team. I was wrong. It wasn’t the prettiest World Series or the most exciting, but the storyline was poignant and fitting. After April’s Boston Marathon bombing, the Red Sox devoted the rest of the season to overcoming this disaster.  And the Red Sox overcame adversity in this World Series as well to come back and win three consecutive games to bring a championship title back to Boston.

Going into this matchup, the Red Sox were slight favorites to win it all, but everyone knew how capable the Cardinals team was. Both teams boasted clutch hitting and solid pitching all year, and this set up to be a pretty even and contested series. The pitchers were lined up, hitters rested and coaches prepared. The Cardinals and Red Sox had each won two World Series in the past  Decade. But Tony La Russa was not coaching against Terry Francona. A new generational rivalry was born with Mike Matheny and John Farrell as managers.

Game 1 ended shortly after it started. Adam Wainwright faced off against Jon Lester, a battle of aces.. This was supposed to be the tasty appetizer for an amazing entrée. However, the Cardinals came out flat and seemed scared. They committed two errors in the first two innings, including  botching a potential double play. This allowed the Red Sox to take a 5-0 lead after two innings and they cruised to a 8-1 victory. Mike Napoli had the big three-run double in the first and the tasty appetizer did not even make it around the table to serve everyone. It was a disappointing start from a competitive standpoint but a good omen for Boston supporters.

Game 2 featured Michael Wacha, Big Papi and some unusual plays. These three things would end up playing a huge role for the rest of the series.  Wacha was dealing like a used car salesman. Up 1-0 in the sixth, Big Papi David Ortiz belted a two-run homer to give the Sox the lead. However, the lead would evaporate in the next inning on a sacrifice fly. This bases loaded, one out sacrifice fly had the ball flying from right field, to the catcher and then into the stands past third base. Two runs scored on the play and one more came across when clutch Carlos Beltran singled in the next at-bat to make it 4-2 Cardinals. This was the final score.  An ugly series of events to give the Cardinals the game, but as they say, a win is a win is a win. The series all tied up like boy scout knot. Heading back to St. Louis for three games, the Cardinals seemed to have momentum.

The unusual plays did not stop there. In Game 3, the Cardinals jumped to a 2-0 lead against Jake Peavy in the first. The game was on cruise control until the fifth. The Red Sox tied the game with one run in the fifth and sixth. The see-saw battle continued when the Cardinals took a 4-2 lead on Matt Holliday’s double in the seventh..  However, the Red Sox quickly answered with clutch hitting by Xander Bogaerts to tie it at 4 in the eighth. Whew! I just felt my heart palpitate thinking about that game again. And I have not even got to the climax yet. Or the anticlimax.

In the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals had runners on second and third with one out. Jon Jay hit a sharp grounder to second, but Dustin Pedroia alertly threw out Yadier Molina at home for the second out of the inning. This is where normal leaves the ballpark and drama dons a whole new wardrobe, or more appropriate, uniform. After Molina made the out, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia tried to throw out Allen Craig who went from second to third on the play. And similar to Game 2, the throw went wide and into the outfield. Craig broke for home like Forrest Gump in Vietnam while Daniel Nava fielded the ball in the outfield. Nava threw a bullet and Craig was tagged out at home. Extra innings, right? Wrong. Umpire Jim Joyce ruled obstruction on third baseman Will Middlebrooks and Craig was awarded home and the game ended in one of the most bizarre endings in World Series history. Both teams stormed home plate. The Red Sox were yelling at the umpire crew. The Cardinals were reluctant to embrace victory. The crowd was confused. The television audience waited for an explanation. Utter chaos. All in all, the correct call was made by the letter of the law, and the Cardinals had a 2-1 edge in the Series.

After an unusual ending to Game 3, the Red Sox found themselves with their backs against the wall in a pretty much must-win situation. The Red Sox had grown out their beards the entire season and a bearded man came to the rescue for Game 4. Jonny Gomes blasted a three-run homer to break a 1-1 tie in the sixth and that was all she wrote. The Red Sox won 4-2 and another abnormal play occurred to end the game. Kolten Wong was pinch-running in the bottom of the ninth and Beltran was up representing the tying run with two outs. However before he could get a crack at a good pitch, Koji Uehara picked off Wong at first to end the game. Wong made his appearance one to forget, and the theme of errors, great pitching and bizarre plays continued.  World Series tied 2-2. The plot was thickening. Announcers John Buck and Tim McCarver had clever stories to tell.

Game 5 was the most crucial game in the Series. Typically, the winner of this game takes it all and this trend did not disappoint. The aces were back on the mound and Lester continued where he left off. After Big Papi doubled in Pedroia in the first, Lester dominated on the mound. His only mistake was a mammoth of a home run surrendered to Matt Holliday in the fourth. He hit it so far that Bud Selig was able to grow a full beard before the ball landed. Knotted at one, the Sox had something brewing in the seventh. With Saltalamacchia’s throwing woes, veteran David Ross had gotten the nod as catcher in games four, five and six. And he and his beard delivered a game-winning double in the top of the seventh. The Sox tacked on one more on Jacoby Ellsbury’s single. With Lester and Uehara baffling the Cardinals’ bats, the Red Sox won 3-1 and the usually energetic St. Louis fans were dead silent. Those fans are baseball smart, and they knew that their Cardinal team had blown two huge opportunities to take control in the series.

Heading back to Boston, Wacha was due to take the mound in Game 6. Despite Wainwright being the team’s ace, it was Wacha who had been the Cardinals’ best pitcher in the playoffs. John Lackey was the starter for the Sox, the same Lackey that started and won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series for the Angels. The weather was cold and the Bostonians were anxious to win. The game creeped into the bottom of the third scoreless with 2 outs, when Shane Victorino came to bat with the bases loaded. The “Flying Hawaiian” proved Wacha’s mortality by lacing a double off the Green Monster in left to clear the bases. The Red Sox took a 3-0 lead and never looked back. They never had to. Stephen Drew smacked a home run and the Cardinals for the third consecutive game could not deliver the clutch hits. They continually set the table, but nobody wanted to eat. Lackey gave up only run and Uehara fittingly recorded the final out as the Red Sox won 6-1 and became the 2013 World Series champions. Babe Ruth somewhere smoked a cigar in tribute. Boston won in more ways than one.

The St. Louis Cardinals led the major leagues with a .330 batting average with runners in scoring position during the year but batted just a puny .214 during the World Series. Some would say it was because of great Boston pitching. Some would say the Cardinals bats picked a bad time to go into hibernation. Who knows  the real reason. Ortiz won the World Series MVP boasting a videogame-like .688 batting average. Given the events of the bombing during the Boston Marathon, this World Series had much more meaning than baseball for the city of Boston. Especially the way the Red Sox overcame a deficit, unprecedented events and an intimidating opposing ballpark. Just like their city during the crisis, the Red Sox were resilient, galvanized and determined.

This World Series might not be as celebrated as the one that broke the Curse of the Bambino in 2004, but its importance to the city is invaluable. The St. Louis Cardinals are young and will be back for many years to come. They ran into the beards of the Sox. Was it inopportune hitting? Great pitching? Or could it be fate?  Maybe it just was not in the Cards. I do know that this World Series was an amazing one to cap off one of the best baseball playoffs I can remember. The better teams won. In the end, the best team won. Congratulations Red Sox. Boston has a lot to be proud of.

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Pitching Reigns in October

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The Cover 4.com presents you with Pitching Reigns in October! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

The World Series matchup is set. The Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. Two storied franchises competing against each other. The ratings will be high, well higher than usual.  It’s a rematch of the 2004 World Series where the Red Sox swept and broke the Curse of the Bambino. Truth be told, this World Series is a real treat, and on paper one of the best ones in recent memory. Both teams have big-time hitters, but it was the pitchers that dominated the League Championship Series. The adage, “good pitching beats good hitting,” came to fruition and showed who reigns supreme on a baseball diamond.

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We had two phenomenal matchups in the League Championship Series with the Dodgers-Cardinals and Red Sox-Tigers. At a glance, many experts agreed that the Dodgers had a better pitching staff than the Cards with Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke against Adam Wainwright and a bevy of young pitchers. Many experts picked the Tigers to win it all with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez over veterans Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey and Jake Peavy. Well the experts were right that the better pitching staff won, but it just was not the ones they thought were better.

Game 1 in the Cardinals-Dodgers series shaped the tone for the entire series. Greinke faced rookie Joe Kelly in one of many pitchers duels in the LCS. The Dodgers and Cardinals each scored twice in the third inning. Zeroes hung on the scoreboard the rest of the way like Christmas tree ornaments. The Dodgers did what they did for many parts of the season. They got runners on, they got them over, but could not get them in. They even had a runner thrown out at home in the top of the 10th by Carlos Beltran, whose big two-run double tied the game at 2. And to seal the deal, Beltran roped a double down the line for the game-winning hit to win 3-2 and commence a great set of LCS games. The lead in the series was up for grabs and the Cardinals took it and never looked back.

In Game 2, the Dodgers put out their best pitcher, maybe the best pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, but it was another pitcher who made a name for himself. Michael Wacha, another rookie for the Cardinals, outpitched Kershaw in a 1-0 ballgame. This was not a soccer game, but it felt like it when the Cardinals scored their only goal, I mean run. The Cardinals had all the momentum heading to Los Angeles, but they got blanked by the rookie this time for Game 3. Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched beautifully and beat the Cardinals 3-0. Are you sensing a theme with these recaps yet?

Michael-Wacha

A big hit actually took place in Game 4 when Matt Holliday hit a mammoth two-run homer to help the Cardinals beat the Dodgers 4-2. A two-run lead felt like a blowout given the circumstances. The Cardinals’ World Series berth was put on hold when Greinke dealt and the Dodgers finally got some big hits, taking Game 5, 6-4. Going back to St. Louis with the Cardinals up 3-2, everyone felt Game 7 was inevitable with Kershaw on the mound again. However, people forgot about the real ace of this series, Wacha.

Yes, his last name sounds like a Russian’s favorite liquor, but the only thing strong about Wacha is his arm and his pitches. He continued to dominate the Dodger lineup while Kershaw had an inning to forget. The Cardinals batted around in the fourth, tallying four runs, and in essence, punching their ticket to the 2013 World Series. They won 9-0. In six games, the Dodgers scored 13 runs and pretty much half of them came in Game 5. Not even the antics and over-the-top emotions of Yasiel Puig could carry the Dodgers. His flaws were exposed by a gritty Cardinals team, and so were the rest of the Dodgers. Wacha, a pitcher, was named NLCS MVP, and we might just be seeing the tip of the iceberg with this young stud.

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The Dodgers made one of the most amazing turnarounds during the regular season and brought baseball excitement back to L.A. However, in the end, the Cardinals reminded us that baseball is a team sport and the team that spends the most money is not usually the one who wins. The Cardinals proved to have the best pitching, and consequently, they are now in great position to win the 2013 World Series.

In the ALCS, The Tigers and Red Sox boasted two of the most potent offenses in baseball. What a joke! The only crooked numbers seen in this series were strikeouts and number of beards, and there were many of them on both sides. There were two 1-0 games. This is mind boggling to a guy who has watched the Tigers and Red Sox score at will like an Oregon football team playing Arkansas State all year. But it still happened.  Good pitching happened. The Red Sox lost Game 1 1-0. Enough said. Those are the highlights. In all seriousness,  Sanchez pitched effectively wild and did not allow a hit in six innings pitched. In fact, the Red Sox got their first hit in the bottom of the 9th to break up the no hitter.

Game 2 will go down as one of the gems of this postseason. Down 5-0 in the bottom of the 6th, the Red Sox again got their first hit late in the ballgame  when Shane Victorino broke up Scherzer’s no hit bid. This led to their first run of the series. Trailing 5-1 in the bottom of the 8th, the Red Sox loaded the bases for David Ortiz. And the Red Sox version of Beltran did it again. On the first pitch, he cracked a line drive over the right field wall to dramatically tie the game with a grand slam. Torii Hunter missed the catch and flipped over the short wall like a gymnast. It was electric. Even Stephen King got scared in attendance with the eeriness in the air. Jarrod Saltalamacchia had the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 9th to win 6-5 and in hindsight, win the series for the Red Sox.

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Returning to Detroit, momentum was up in the air, but the Tigers felt confident throwing their ace Verlander out on the bump. The Red Sox countered with Lackey. Verlander was dominant, surrendering only one mistake to Mike Napoli in the 7th. a home run that barely cleared the fence in left. And that led to another 1-0 game. Lackey ousted the ace, like Wacha did. The Tigers could not deliver the clutch hits, like the Dodgers. The Tigers did tie up the series by roughing up Peavy in Game 4. They won 7-3, the only non-competitive game in the series, and it led to a pivotal Game 5. The Red Sox jumped to an early 4-0 lead and grinded out a 4-3 win. Closer Koji Uehara got five outs for the save and halted any chances of a Tiger comeback.

Down 3-2 in the series heading back to Boston, the Tigers still felt optimistic with Scherzer and Verlander lined up to pitch. Game 6 featured another grand performance from an unlikely hero. Pitching dominated again.  Through six innings, the Tigers led 2-1. In the bottom of the 7th, the Red Sox fans found the bases juiced with Victorino up to bat and then the unthinkable happened.  No he did not shave his beard before his at bat, but he smacked another Red Sox grand slam, this time over the Green Monster in left. Uehara closed the deal again for his third save in the series. Not to mention, he won the other game when the Red Sox walked off in Game 2. The Red Sox won in 6 games advancing to the World Series and Uehara, a closer, yet alone a pitcher, was named MVP of the ALCS.

Jon Lester

The Red Sox and the Cardinals batted poorly throughout the LCS, but they got the hits when they counted. It was their pitching that carried them to the World Series. Each team featured emerging stars winning MVPs. Wacha on the front end. He beat Kershaw and shutout the Dodgers twice.  Those two feats alone in one series are reason enough to retire. And Uehara impacted every single game the Red Sox won against the Tigers, winning one and saving three games. The entire country of Japan has new requested membership to Red Sox Nation.

It is usually the hitters that get the awards. Hitters get the highlights. The home runs and game-winning hits. Hitters are the ones that play every game and provide the most impact. However, the only thing the bats have been touching these playoffs are the racks after recording outs, and lots of them. The final four teams had the best pitchers in baseball. The Cardinals and Red Sox might not have better pitchers than the Tigers or Dodgers, but they pitched better in the LCS, when it mattered most. Their bullpens were better. Their closers were better. And now we, as fans, are better off with this fantastic matchup for this year’s World Series. Two respected and admirable teams facing off in late October.  What could be better than this? Seven games would be a nice early Christmas gift. Will the pitching dominance continue to trend or will the hitters get the last laugh? This baseball fan is eager to watch and see. Stay tuned.

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Paul Culley
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Figuring out the Final Four

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The Cover 4.com presents you with Figuring out the Final Four! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @thecover4 or facebook at theCo VerFour

Well, it looks like Major League Baseball is in for a treat. For the longest time in a while, baseball has a final four that is box office gold. The Dodgers, Cardinals, Tigers and Red Sox. West Coast to East Coast, we have four storied franchises that are filled with superstars. Maybe MLB thought they would give Bud Selig a nice going away present, since he’s retiring following the 2014 season.  If that’s the case, I am super excited about next season. Let me curb my enthusiasm about the two championship series and take a look at how we got there. The Braves, Pirates, Rays and A’s all fell in the Division Series. Can anybody sense a theme? All squads are small to mid-market teams, lacking big names, with very little postseason experience.

Matt-Kemp-NL-West-ChampsCould this just be a coincidence? It might be. Maybe the other teams were just better. Three out of the four teams with home field advantage won out, with the Tigers being the only team that outlasted this disadvantage. No real shocker there. So maybe we can just chalk it up to the best teams are left, which is the way it should be. Let’s break down the series.

The Dodgers’ return to the postseason matched them up against the Braves and Clayton Kershaw reminded us why he is the best pitcher in baseball. He dealt in Game 1 in Atlanta and the Dodgers got timely hitting from the usual suspects in Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig to cruise to a victory. The Braves responded in Game 2 by getting some clutch two-out hitting from Andrelton Simmons and Chris Johnson to squeak out a 4-3 victory over Zack Greinke. Heading back to Los Angeles, the series still seemed up in the air.

​The Dodgers quickly reminded us that this team can not just pitch, but they are capable of putting on an offensive display. In a matchup of two international rookie starting pitchers, the slugfest finished with a football score as Juan Uribe struck the big two-run homer in the fourth inning. The game was out of reach after that. The Braves scored a late safety to make the final score 13-6. Game 4 was the best game in he series. The Dodgers opted to move Kerhsaw up a day to pitch against Freddy Garcia. Yes I said Sweaty Freddy Garcia. How can the Braves be serious about winning by doing this? I laughed when I saw this matchup. And the Braves almost had the last laugh.

After trailing 2-0, the Braves answered by taking a 3-2 lead going into the bottom of the 8th. Puig led off the inning with a double and shortly thereafter, Uribe did it again. Just like he did for the Giants when he was the unsung hero of the 2010 playoffs, Uribe belted another two-run homer to give the Dodgers the lead and the series. Sorry Braves, another great regular season and division title were all for not. For the Dodgers, there are a lot of things to be excited about moving forward. Hearing Vin Scully announce on the road brought tears to my eyes.

a916f1fa16b6fc213e0f6a706700a437The other matchup in the National League showcased the new NL Central rivals in the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. Playing in the playoffs for their first time since 1992, the Buccos definitely held their own. They forced the full five game series. After getting shelled in Game 1, the Bucs returned the favor in Game 2 to winning convincingly behind rookie sensation Gerrit Cole. They split the two close games back in Pittsburgh. In a predictable sudden death Game 5, the Cardinals, behind ace Adam Wainwright, glided to a 6-1 victory over Cole and the proud Pirates.

You have to give the city of Pittsburgh credit; their fans are electric. The crowd reminded me of the 12th man that the Seahawks have in Seattle. Waving those black flags, the Pirates and their fans have a lot to be excited about in the future. Pedro Alvarez set a record by recording an RBI in his first six career playoff games. Andrew McCutchen is a viable MVP candidate every year and a model citizen on and off the field. In the end, they were facing the Cardinals. Enough said. All they do is advance in the playoffs. They moved on to their eighth league championship series in 14 years. Simply remarkable. No Albert Pujols. No Tony La Russa. No problem. The Cards are the best run franchise in baseball, filled with a great blend of young talent and skilled veterans. They will play the Dodgers as truly he best two teams in the National League. I can’t complain.

th (1)In the American League, there were two solid matchups. The Red Sox were back in the postseason and even without Pedro Martinez and Manny Ramirez, they are still a heck of a team to watch. “Fear the beard?” Yes I do.  The Red Sox sported many beards on their squad making them fun and cool to admire this hard-nosed team. The first two games at Fenway Park had two great pitching matchups, on paper. However, this is why games are played not on paper, but on the field. Matt Moore got crushed in Game 1 and David Price was clobbered and the Red Sox won both games easily. The only series that went 2-0, it did not look bright for the Rays.

After a road trip consisting of a playoff clinching series in Toronto, a Wild Card play-in game in Texas, a Wild Card playoff game in Cleveland, and the first two ALDS games in Boston, the Rays finally were back home in their illustrious Tropicana Field. And they actually had some fans attend Game 3 and 4. Trailing 3-0, a sweep seemed inevitable until Evan Longoria tied it up with a three run knock. After wild closer Fernando Rodney blew a save in the ninth, new hero Jose Lobatob cranked a walkoff home run to give the Rays their only win in the series. Game 4 consisted of very few runs. Joe Maddon used every pitcher in his bullpen, but it was not enough as the Red Sox scratched two runs in the 7th and one in the 9th to win 3-1 and the series. The Rays once again fell short in the playoffs, but still did not disappoint since making the playoffs for a team with this payroll is a victory in itself. The Red Sox continue to grow their beards and look as if they are the hottest team going right now.

The Tigers-A’s series closes out our bracket and this one did not disappoint. Games 1 and 2 were both one run games. In Game 1, Max Scherzer was given a 3-0 lead early and made it stand all the way home. Just barely.Yoenis Cespedes rocked a majestic homer in the 7th to make it 3-2, but this ended up being the final score.  Rookie Sonny Gray took on Tigers superstar ace Justin Verlander in a pitchers duel in Game 2.  A walkoff single by Stephen Vogt capped off a very exciting 1-0 win for the Atheletics. Moving to Detroit, the series was also a toss up.

thAnibal Sanchez has quietly been the MVP of the pitching staff for the Tigers this year, but got roughed up as the A’s came out swinging. The A’s came out victorious 6-3, but the highlight of the game took place in the 9th inning when A’s closer Grant Balfour and Tigers slugger Victor Martinez got in a screaming match. Martinez fouled off a Balfour pitch and the two proceeded to stare at each other, use bleeped verbiage, causing both benches to clear. A mere shouting match. Nothing really came out of this except that some athletes take themselves way too seriously. The Tigers rallied in Game 4 behind home runs from Jhonny Peralta and Martinez to win 8-6. Scherzer came in out of the bullpen highlighting one of my favorite elements of postseason baseball in do-or-die situations.

In a rematch of Game 2, Verlander showed everyone he can be the most dominant pitcher in baseball. He had everything working and Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run homer, giving him all the run support he needed. The Tigers advanced to the ALCS against the Red Sox, leaving the A’s and Billy Beane still one win away from their Moneyball dream. It is hard not to be optimistic about the A’s future, but one can not question if this style of baseball will ever carry them over the top. For the Tigers, they are definitely not playing their best, but they still have the best hitter in baseball in Cabrera and a pitching staff full of studs. Just like the NLCS, the Red Sox and Tigers are indeed the best two teams in the American League. The Tigers look to get back to the World Series and they don’t care who stands in their way. The Red Sox will be ready.

mlb-champsOverall, baseball had four competitive and compelling division series. All four series had some great games and great heroics. The best teams won and coincidently, the four teams left have the most superstar power and should draw the best ratings. In a time where sports fans choose football and basketball over baseball, this is just what the doctor ordered. Baseball is now in position to recapture the hearts of its fans. They have the most stars, pitching and hitting, and geographically, the entire country is represented with these four teams. The Dodgers look to establish themselves as the new mainstay in the National League and how fitting to do it against the classic and respected Cardinals. The Red Sox are back and better than ever. They take on the Tigers who are looking for some revenge after getting swept in the World Series last year. This sports fan is very pleased and excited for the rest of these playoffs. Baseball should be too. These next couple of weeks  could be crucial for the revival of baseball and its fandom. Ratings will be up, and hopefully up for a long time to come.

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Paul Culley
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Eye of the Tigers

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With the playoffs around the corner, the top teams of Major League Baseball are preparing for a World Series run. September is the month where the best of the best can rest a little bit. They have compiled such good records throughout the course of the season that they can line up their pitching for the postseason. People who have minor injuries can rest them because they can afford to. Teams contending for those wild card spots do not have this luxury. Teams like the Red Sox, Tigers, Dodgers and Braves are in position where they can visit the pit stop for some good maintenance.  All four teams represent the No. 1 seeds if this were a bracket. However, the team with the best chance to win it all this year is the Detroit Tigers.

Detroit-Tigers-Miguel-CabreraMiguel Cabrera. Need I say more? They have the best hitter in baseball and he is having another phenomenal season, chasing the Triple Crown. He may have off-the-field issues, but who cares?  He is becoming one of the best hitters of all-time in terms of power, clutchness and batting average. It does not matter what pitchers he faces. You know the adage, “good pitching beats good hitting,” Not with Cabrera. He reminds me of the Dos Equis Guy, aka the “Most Interesting Man in the World,” except Cabrera advertises hitting. They have invented a new pitching category for pitchers who start against the Tigers when he does not get a hit. A Complete Miguel Cabrera Shutout. Pitchers are relieved when he hits a double because they prevented him from scoring on his own hit. “Miggy Pop,” as his teammates call him, could outhit most of the league using a tennis racket. Slight exaggeration, but he is truly that good. With another Triple Crown in sight, Cabrera will be sharp once October comes around and lead this potent Tigers offense.

In addition to the best hitter, the pitching staff of the Detroit Tigers is second to none. The scariest part is that their ace can easily be outdone at any time by their No. 4 starter. Normally, this would be an awful thing on a team. Not for the Tigers. Justin Verlander has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for a long time. With two no-hitters on his resume, his electric fastball and breaking pitches is a devastating combo. Now, he has had a subpar year by his standards, but all experts know that on any given day another no-hitter can be thrown. He will surely start Game 1 in every series as the leader of this staff

Detroit Tigers v Tampa Bay RaysMax Scherzer is having a breakout season. Very simply, he is 19-3 with a 3.01 ERA as of September 12. His team seems to always give him run support and Scherzer looks like he will be the Game 3 starter. That’s like having to drive the Porsche third because you had to drive the Bentley and Aston Martin first. His last name may be tough to look at, but his pitching this has been anything but. Anibal Sanchez might be the most consistent starter out of the group, proving he is worth every penny that he was signed for in the offseason. Doug Fister is that crafty veteran of the group and could be a No. 1 or 2 starter for most teams. He would have to wait until Game 4 to pitch, if there is a Game 4. From top to bottom, the Tigers’ big four is lethal, all capable of shutting out any team on any given night. Good luck hitters. You are going to need it.

Now let’s take a peek at the supporting cast. The Tigers spent a lot of money landing free agent Prince Fielder and he is doing a great job playing Robin to Batman. First of all, the only reason Cabrera is able to not get pitched around is because Fielder is licking his chops in the on-deck circle. If anything, Fielder has it tougher because he is the one in position to get pitched around in a tight spot. He has remained under the radar a lot, but don’t be surprised if he ended up being the MVP of the team in the postseason. He is posting very solid numbers this year and combined with Cabrera, represent the most formidable 1-2 punch in baseball. It’s a right-handed and a left-handed punch that Canelo Alvarez could have sure used against Floyd Mayweather.

Torii Hunter joined the ball club this year and has rejuvenated his career. After some underachieving seasons with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Hunter is killing it this year. Just like his name, his two eyes help form his identity. And this year, he is seeing the ball brilliantly, hovering around a .300 batting average with a chance at 90 RBI this year. Austin Jackson, like Fielder, is having a respectable year leading the way at the top. The main reason Cabrera has a shot at the Triple Crown is because Jackson and Hunter are always on base. They set the table. A good running back cannot excel without a good offensive line. A good eater cannot eat if there is no food on the table. Maybe that’s why Cabrera has gotten so plump in recent years. This supporting cast around Cabrera makes so many of his at-bats meaningful. They all are patient and know their roles. This lineup is going to be very tough to beat.

Torii+Hunter+Atlanta+Braves+v+Detroit+Tigers+vVruMJbOmsMxSince the Biogenesis suspensions were handed out, the Tigers have reached somewhat of a lull in their season. They lost Jhonny Peralta to this steroid suspension, and some have said that this has gone hand in hand with their plateau in their performance. I think not. Jim Leyland would not let this happen. Let’s cut the Tigers a break. They played in the World Series last year and are eager for it to be October again. Every “championship or bust” team goes through this. The regular season can be boring at times, especially when you play 162 games in a season. They know how good they are and how little meaning the regular season has once a playoff spot has been secured. Leyland, the second oldest manager in the big leagues, has seen a lot of baseball in his day and knows how to manage teams through this phase. Experience is something that the Tigers have on their side all throughout their roster and Leyland is the brains of the operation. He is the jockey and is keeping the reins on his thoroughbred until the final sprint of the race.

The Tigers have comfortably led the AL Central throughout the entire season. Sure, the Indians and Royals have been feel good stories and given Detroit a little reason to cause to pause, as they say, but let’s be honest, it’s the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals. Kansas City fans have moved on to supporting the Chiefs and Cleveland fans are already looking toward the NFL Draft. They have better hitting than the Dodgers and Braves, subjectively and statistically speaking. And compared to a similar offense in the Red Sox, their pitching staff trumps Red Sox hands down.

The Tigers are equipped with the most powerful offense in baseball, led by Cabrera, the best hitter in baseball. With guys like Fielder, Hunter and Jackson surrounding him in the lineup, crooked numbers can happen in any given inning. Role players in Andy Dirks, Alex Avila and Omar Infante will be crucial as well. Look for many calls to the bullpen by opposing managers. If by some chance the offense has an off night, the hurlers will be waiting to show the team’s true stripes. Pitching is vital in October and the Tigers, led by Verlander and Scherzer, have plenty of it. Throughout the playoffs, the Tigers will have a top pitcher on the bump, and the opposing offenses will have an uphill battle, literally. Throw Leyland into the mix with leadership and experience, the ingredients are in line for a World Series title. You heard it here. Detroit Tigers will be champions at the end of October.

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Paul Culley
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The New Red Sox Nation

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The Curse of the Bambino? That’s old news. The Red Sox now are the cream of the crop these days in the Major Leagues, which is a long way since their days of misery and woe. With the Sox finally breaking through and winning the World Series in  2004 and repeating in 2007, they began a new era in New England. Winning, however, leads to higher standards and expectations. If not handled correctly, you can lose your identity in this transitional process.

Look at the Chicago Cubs. They are nicknamed the lovable losers because losing is the expectation on the North Side of Chicago. Cubs fans accept the fact that the Cubs are not supposed to be good, and it is OK. When you go to a cheap horror film these days, you still enjoy the movie even though you know chances are you are not really going to get scared. Mistakes and bad breaks are supposed to happen at Wrigley Field, and this is the culture that has existed there since 1908. This same ideology existed for the people of Fenway Park, but not anymore for the Red Sox after breaking through in October. They had created a new standard of winning and could finally give the New York Yankees a run for their money, literally. However this new winning environment comes with dangerous territory.

The staple of the Red Sox teams that won  two World Series was grittiness, toughness and hustle. Nicknamed the idiots, led by caveman-looking Johnny Damon and Kevin Millar, this group of guys represented all hard-working class people. They were not pretty boys like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. They sported beards, probably didn’t brush their teeth and grinded everything out like it was their last day on Earth. Instead of dating celebrities like Cameron Diaz and Jordana Brewster, most Red Sox players preferred bromances and men’s stags. You could tell. They had fun. They fought until the very end. And they won.

This hard-nosed persona however seemed to change over time. With winning comes fame and media attention. The phrase sell-out comes to mind when I think of the non-famous getting famous. Led by Terry Francona, the Red Sox became lazy and strayed away from the ways that brought them success. Those beards were being shaved making us realize why they weren’t dating those aforementioned. The inmates started to realize that they were good, and bought too much into their own hype. They lost their identity and started to run the asylum themselves.

They “shed their beard” when they lost Damon and Millar to free agency. Ironically Damon went to the Yankees, definitely not selling out (sarcasm intended). David Ortiz was still there, but steroid rumors were circling around his name like vultures to a desert carcass. Jonathan Papelbon was becoming more known for his media outrages on social topics than closing games. Josh Beckett and John Lackey had VIP access to the disabled list, finally showing the treads on their tires. Rumor had it that some of players would be drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during the games. Even for the idiots, that was dumb given this era of social media. From the naked eye, winning wasn’t as important as it used to be.

The Red Sox tried signing big free agents like Carl Crawford in a Yankee-like move, but this proved to be unsuccessful. They even invested in the Japanese phenom pitcher, Daisuke Matsuzaka. Sure he showed flashes of brilliance, but injuries and declining stuff yielded a poor return on investment. Injuries and blowing leads seemed to be the new theme for the Sox. The team chemistry was falling apart and it was plain for every fan to see. The team eventually fired Francona, who found a new home in broadcasting before landing another manager gig in Cleveland this year.

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In an effort to bring in a new voice for this team, the Red Sox hired former Mets manager Bobby Valentine last year. But despite his last name, there was very little love shared amongst the team. Valentine is a candid fellow, and openly criticized his players to the media often, which rubbed a lot of them the wrong way. And when he went after the heart and soul of the team in Dustin Pedroia, the fans started to turn against the new leader of the pack. Combined with more losing, the Valentine experiment was aborted after only one year. He has been rumored to attend some Red Sox games this year, but wears a fake moustache and glasses to disguise himself. However, the real disguise was looming over the Red Sox organization. Their new era of a winning expectation was not working, and the machine needed to be tweaked.

The Red Sox went back to the basics. Out with the old and in with the new. They shipped out Adrian Gonzalez, Crawford and Beckett to the Dodgers. Papelbon signed with the Phillies. The got less flashy and started to revamp their team to resemble more of those idiots. They signed Mike Napoli and Shane Victorino as undervalued free agents and they have been a perfect fit in Boston. They went from having one Drew brother in J.D. to another one in Stephen. They went within the division to hire their new manager.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Toronto Blue Jays

The new sheriff in town was John Farrell. Farrell is a strong silent type who leads by example, and is now a leading candidate for Manager of the Year. Big Papi is back, crushing home runs (and telephones), leading this team to a playoff berth with co-captain Pedoria. They have homegrown prospects in Daniel Nava, Will Middlebrooks, and Felix Doubront, contributing to the cause. Their pitching is led by ace Jon Lester, who is pitching like Sandy Koufax. Lackey must have gone on the Subway diet because he is thin, healthy and throwing cheese to the hitters. Their bullpen is comprised of a bunch of no-namers who just come in, gets outs and do their job. They acquired veteran Jake Peavy at the trade deadline, a common staple of any contending team. More symbolically, the beards are back. Johnny Gomes and Napoli are the new cavemen for the team, illustrating that tough and gritty mentality of the team is back in full force.

The Boston Red Sox have one of the best records in baseball this year. They are running away with the AL East and set up for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and another World Series title. They are playing fundamental baseball. Working the count, hustling, cheering for teammates and most importantly, having fun doing it. The players are no longer bigger than the game, but vice versa. The Red Sox are resembling those teams that broke the Curse of the Bambino. They dropped the tuxedos and Gucci sunglasses and put on their cargo jeans and working boots. They lost their identity and tried to be a group of people they were definitely not. Leave those shenanigans to the Yankees boys. They might not be the idiots we fell in love with in years past, but they are on their way to re-branding a new version of hard work, team play and scrappiness for Red Sox Nation.

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Paul Culley
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America’s Favorite Pastime: Past its Time

Derek Jeter isn’t the only one upset about the state of the MLB right now.

The Cover 4 will feature a number of writers to cover a variety of topics. This article is by our very own Long Island Sound, Sports Activist.

It can easily be seen throughout sports and pop culture in America that the NFL, NBA, and soccer are on the rise, and the once glorified sport of baseball is on the decline.  No one finds this more unfortunate and painful to present than yours truly, but the days of Peter Gammons and Timmy K are now gone.

As a preface, society in general has become faster and faster over the last decade.  Information cannot come quicker.  First, the email. Next, the text message. Now, the capability to do both on a phone.  Need to scan? Oh, there is an app for that.  Any project from construction to video game development cannot be produced fast enough because owners want their new toy to sell to consumers.  With all of the enhancements and societal shifts, baseball has happened to stand pat with regards to technology while providing a slower product.

Taking the sports on the rise individually, developments can be seen in each aspect that generate its current prominence.

The most watched and followed sport right now is the NFL.  Some may ask why?  “South Park” portrayed it best by every child in America can be diagnosed with ADD by a doctor, but the fact is we have a very limited attention span as humans.  Each NFL team only plays 16 games, ultimately resulting in every game being important.  Each Sunday (Thursday and Monday now) there is an underlying story other than winning and division standings.  For example, the Colts played the Titans last week.  Was that the Game of the Week for CBS? No, but people wanted to watch Andrew Luck develop. Is Chris Johnson done, and is Jake Locker a NFL quarterback?  How did that game turn-out?  Each and every game on the schedule presents an underlying story that is watchable.  Also, the sky rocketing of fantasy football has only driven popularity; making neutral office workers tune in for work place bragging rights.  Plus, when was the last time you watched a Marlins vs. Astros game?  2003, when the Killer Bs took on Beckett, Burnett, and Dontrelle?  Exactly.  ALMOST A DECADE AGO.

Next, the NBA has fallen into its greatest player class since the days of Magic and Bird.  Jordan carried the league through all of the 90s to hand it off to Shaq, Kobe, and the Spurs.  Beginning with Kobe and now LeBron, the NBA has aligned itself into mega-powers across the corners of the nation.  From Miami, LA, NY/Brooklyn, and OKC, the NBA has founded powerhouses throughout the country with competitive markets in-between much like an equally balanced Risk board.  Also, the underprivileged, athletic youth in America tend to take on basketball because of the minimal price to play. All you need is a ball and hoop.  A great amount of young athletes are now taking to the NFL and NBA, which diminishes the actual athletic talent pool from baseball.  It can be argued the MLB actually has Triple A teams in the majors.  The Houston Astros are a minor league team with a hill in centerfield.

Lastly, this may come as a surprise to some but soccer is on the rise in the US.  The common argument with soccer is that team USA is not globally competitive. While this statement has been true of past teams, USA has arguably become a better team in the recent decade.  It may come as a surprise to some but a large portion of the recent successes of Soccer in America can be attributed to the EA Sports FIFA video game series.  The FIFA series has gained steam in the past five to six years; gaining a large followership across the country. Concurrently, playing the game increases fans knowledge of the game and players, while conveying the intricate skill of the sport.

Soccer is 90 minutes (+/- 5) with a 20 minute half.  One can leave their house in 110 minutes guaranteed (not a cup game in this situation).  We all know the common exchange, “When are you heading over?” Typical reply, “After the game!”  If that game is Red Sox vs Yankees, that could be 2.5 hours if ’07 Beckett shows up or 4.5 hours is Dice-K and Phil Hughes get after it; that just does not work for us anymore.  Today, everything we download has a defined “time remaining”.  Twitter has 140 characters; short and sweet.  We are a right now culture that is phasing out the leisurely “watch a ball game” because we have things to do with limited time.  Additionally, the advancement of technology has made information and knowledge transfer faster, but the amount of information demanded has increased with it and those expectations are burdensome.

Overall, it hurts to admit, but baseball is behind the times of right now.  Growing up playing and loving baseball, the product that is presented on a day-to-day basis does not suffice with 162 games defining a regular season.  To quote Colin Cowherd, “Baseball is like the stubborn Grandfather who still doesn’t have internet, it’s not cute anymore; just old.”

Long Island Sound

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