By Ivan Berliant
For the first time since 1996, the National League won the mid-season classic and FINALLY regained home field advantage for this years N.L. representative in the World Series.
And apparently not too much of America seems to care.
Tuesday night’s showdown rendered the lowest viewers for an All-Star game EVER. Yes, I said EVER. Perhaps the typical fan is more American League oriented and wanted to see a slugfest, and well after all, “chicks dig the long ball.” But this year’s contest had none of that, and was dominated by much of what we’ve seen for the first half of the season, lights-out pitching.
Personally, there is nothing I like more than a pitching duel, and that’s one of the reasons I will be in attendance for tomorrow’s Marlins game featuring the young phenom Stephen Strasburg and one of my personal favorite pitchers, Ricky Nolasco. Plus, c’mon, it’s STEPHEN STRASBURG… who wouldn’t go!?
Needless to say, I enjoyed Tuesday’s pitching display, which featured some of the greatest young arms in the game. And for those of you who did tune in, you got to see first hand what type of talent fantasy owners have drooled over all season.
Moreover, fans who happened to watch the 3-1 N.L. victory as well as the previous night’s home run derby, witnessed what Marlins’ fans take for granted on a weekly basis– the amazing talents of Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson.
It was business as usual for the Marlins during the All-Star stretch, as Josh Johnson came in for two innings of shut-down ball against some of the most revered hitters the American League had to offer. JJ (as we refer to him here in South Florida) started the fourth inning by getting the Rays’ Carl Crawford to line out to third, followed by two consecutive strikeouts of Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki.
You thought that was impressive?
Well Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton and Vlad Guerrero went down in order in the fifth! That’s a stretch of six hitters no pitcher would ever want to see, and Johnson made it through without the bat of an eyelash.
Josh Johnson’s talents overshadowed Hanley Ramirez’s day at the plate, who went 0-3 throughout the night, but I’m sure Hanley wasn’t too disappointed.
In fact, I believe his previous nights work at the home run derby was more than sufficient for Ramirez’s ego, as he just fell short of David Ortiz for the slugging crown. Hanley knows he’s the man and being in a small market such as Florida he was able to showcase his skills to a national audience.
I’m sure his efforts at the derby will resonate more so with baseball fans who might only be familiar with Ramirez and the Marlins due to a well documented clubhouse controversy.
The Marlins still could be buyers in the second half of the season, and with these all-star talents likely locked in the organization for some time (suprising Marlins’s fans I know), I can see the Marlins developing some momentum as they attempt to make a Second Half Push.
By Blake Chadwick
On Opening Day, if I asked who you thought would be leading the NL West at the All-Star break, most would say either the Dodgers, Rockies, or Giants. Hell, even the Diamondbacks might come up a few times. All of those answers are wrong. The San Diego Padres are the cream of the West crop at the halfway point with a three game lead. This is a truly amazing feat. Let’s go through the lineup. It looks like a Spring Training squad mixed with veterans, prospects, and Triple-A lifers.
The heart of this team is clearly 1B Adrian Gonzalez. Arguably the most underrated player not only at his position, but in the entire game.He is a former #1 overall pick to the Florida Marlins back in 2000, and in four and a half major league seasons has become a force. He has 17 HR’s and 54 RBI’s with .302 avg and .929 OPS at this point of the season. He is the only player on the team with more than 8 HR’s and 32 RBI’s. He is joined on the roster by such players as Everth Cabrera, Kyle Blanks, Chase Headley, David Eckstein, Tony Gwynn Jr., Oscar Salazar, the list of mediocrity goes on and on.
The one truly consistent point this season for the Pads has been their pitching. The rotation has a bunch of no-names ever since Jake Peavy left town and Chris Young has been injured. Jon Garland is perhaps the most well-known of this bunch. But they get the job done. 4 of the 5 guys in the rotation boast a 3.56 ERA or better including Mat Latos and his lights out 2.62 with an equally nasty 0.96 WHIP. Talk about a fantasy sleeper. Also, no names like Clayton Richard and Wade LeBlanc have more than proved their worth with 20 Quality Starts between them.
If the Padres want to make that second half push into the postseason, they will need to pick up their bats a bit. With balanced squads like the Rockies, Giants, and Dodgers all nipping at their heels, the offense will need a shot in the arm. Will the Padres actually be buyers at the deadline? That remains to be seen. For now, however, Petco Park is a party and everyone is invited. Unless your in the NL West.
By Blake Chadwick
The staff of Second Half Push wanted the full-on Marlins experience, so for $7.90 a ticket and the opportunity to watch multiple fantasy players in action, including both starting pitchers, we had to attend this must see affair. Well, we thought it was a must see affair anyway. How perfect the scenario, I have the young gun Tommy Hunter on the hill for Texas, and my opponent in our Yahoo H2H league had Anibal Sanchez for the Fish. Every pitch was important. Moreover, I had the chance to see one of my all-time favorites, Vlad Guerrero. Unfortunately, the only plate appearance Guerrero had was an intentional walk–bummer .
The announced attendance was just over 17,000– an absolute joke. Anyone watching on TV or at the game could tell you there was 7,000 there tops, half of them wearing jerseys of teams not even in casual conversations with the night’s competitors. An early scare for me 2 1/3 innings into the game, Hunter was yanked for a leg injury. My fantasy gem was squashed without even giving up a hit. The Texas bullpen sustained the lead for Hunter, which included 2 perfect innings from former Met Darren O’Day.
After an in-person look at the Texas lineup, this team is for real. Julio Borbon is starting to heat up after a shaky start, connecting for his first HR of the season off Sanchez in the second. Josh Hamilton collected four hits including a towering shot to dead center over the 400 foot sign late in the game to seal the deal. Also, Michael Young might be one the most underrated players in the game. The guy gets it done year and year out, playing multiple positions while doing whatever is asked of him by the coaching staff. He’s hitting .320 this season and just took the all-time Rangers lead for hits with the team last night.
The Marlins did not quite make the same impression on me last night. Hanley Ramirez looked solid as usual and Chris Coghlan has appeared to regain his 2009 Rookie of the Year form, but otherwise the team looked like they belonged under .500 and destined to miss the postseason once again. All in all, it was an entertaining night for Second Half Push with fantasy points collected and a Marlins loss. What a perfect scenario.
If yesterday’s interleague excitement wasn’t enough for you to get to today’s Marlins game, then 790 The Ticket’s infield box blowout promotion sure will. The flagship station of the Marlins baseball is offering $7.90 tickets for infield box seats to today’s game against the AL West leading Texas Rangers (36-28).
If you missed yesterday’s action, well then you missed A LOT. Not only was it the home debut of rookie phenom Mike Stanton, but the amazing pitching duel between Josh Johnson and C.J. Wilson went for naught, as Marlins’ closer Leo Nunez blew the save in the top of the ninth.
The only solid pitcher in the Marlins’ bullpen, Nunez, served up a fastball over the heart of the plate to former Marlin Matt Treanor. The pinch-hitter stroked a triple to the area of center field known as the “Bermuda triangle,” which allowed two runs to score and put the Rangers up by a run in the bottom of the inning. Cody Ross seemed to be eaten up on the play worse than a visiting left fielder playing a ball off the ‘Monster’ in Fenway.
The Rangers’ rookie closer, Neftali Feliz, came in and shut the door on the Marlins in the bottom of the ninth with some electric heat topping off at 98 mph, that kid is GOOD.
Regardless, today’s action seems to be just as exciting, as I’m sure the Marlins are out for blood as they try to keep pace with the rest of the surging N.L. East. So come to the game, get a ticket for $7.90 and see some of the most exciting players in the game. I’ll be there in section 142 so look for me, and if you missed Matt Treanor’s triple to win it you can read about it here.
By Ivan Berliant
Naturally, when a highly touted prospect makes their Major League debut it is met with skepticism, and why shouldn’t it? We were led to believe that such anticipated debuts of pitchers like Kerry Wood or Mark Prior would transcend into hall of fame careers. Even our experiences last year with Matt Weiters and David Price proved disappointing, and I’m still waiting to see what all the hype is surrounding the Orioles’ catcher (.246 AVG/4 HRs/17 RBIs in 2010).
With that said, Tuesday’s debut of Stephen Strasburg, and to a lesser extent Mike Stanton, put many cynic’s predications to rest, including my own.
In an article written prior to Strasburg’s debut, I noted that watching the National’s rookie fire-baller wouldn’t be as exciting to me personally in comparison to that of Stanton’s.
I was wrong.
Strasburg was phenomenal, striking out 14 batters through seven innings, while only giving up two earned runs and zero walks. Yes, zero walks! His 12-to-6 curveball had Pirates buckling up more than a bus of kids on their way to a soccer game, and even in his seventh and final inning, Strasburg hadn’t lost any steam while striking out the side.
Although it was the Pittsburgh Pirates, who as a team are hitting a collective .236 and have maybe one or two sluggers to show of the bunch (Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones), you would still think this kid has a long and prosperous career ahead of him.
As I digress, one couldn’t help but notice the impact Strasburg had on the city of Washington D.C., and it occurred to me, will he have that same impact at visiting parks? Could this rookie be able to accomplish the daunting task of selling out our very own Sun Life Stadium when he inevitably visits?
So now I propose this challenge to you Stephen Strasburg:
Can you, Stephen Strasburg, complete the near impossible task of selling out Sun Life Stadium?
Of course a match-up between Stanton and Strasburg will draw a monstrous crowd, but I don’t believe the Marlins’ rookie outfielder is up for the challenge alone. Stanton’s significance extends to Marlins’ fans, fantasy die-hards and some baseball aficionados, but Strasburg is quickly becoming a “living legend.”
So, I’m curious to know what you think, do you believe Stephen Strasburg will be able to sell out Sun Life Stadium? I know I will be there.
-Mike Stanton’s debut had the makings to overshadow Strasburg’s. If the rookie could of hit the go-head home run against the Phillies’ Brad Lidge in the top of the ninth, we would’ve had some different headlines here in South Florida. Stanton went 3-5 at the plate with a run, he showed promising defensive ability and electric speed on the bases. Scouts say Stanton has the power of Ryan Howard, and Jayson Stark of ESPN noted on 560 WQAM this morning that he believes Stanton will ultimately be better than Braves rookie Jason Heyward.
-Other notable 2010 rookie call-ups: Neil Walker (Pittsburgh Pirates), Starlin Castro (Chicago Cubs), Mike Leake (Cincinnati Reds), Jason Heyward (Atlanta Braves), Buster Posey (San Francisco Giants) and Neftali Feliz (Texas Rangers).
-David Price is 9-2 this year while posting a 2.23 ERA/57 Ks/1.17 WHIP.
–Strasburg’s next start is against the Indians on Sunday June 13.
-Roy Halladay and Josh Johnson match up again tonight, the last time these two faced off Halladay pitched the twentieth perfect game in Major League history.
By Blake Chadwick
No, this is not referring to Britney Spears top hit in the late 90’s. This is all about Omar Minaya and his pitfalls as GM. We here at Second Half Push have endured Minaya’s reign as GM, and we are close to the breaking point. After a few years of solid work, it has all been downhill since those Marlins knocked out the Mets two years in a row on the last day of the season. Questionable signings, *cough* Oliver Perez *cough* as well as a rash of injuries have put him squarely on the hot seat. Let’s flashback to the year 2005, when Minaya was in his first season running the show in Queens. Mike Jacobs was a young bopper who only played 30 games for the Amazin’s but still managed to hit 11 HR knock in 23 RBI’s and hit .310. The Mets feeling the need to bolster their lineup with a veteran presence, shipped Jacobs in the offseason to the hated Marlins for Carlos Delgado.
On paper, this looked good for the Mets. Let’s check reality. Jacobs went on to hit 69 HR’s in 3 mostly full seasons with the Fish including a 32/93 outing in 2008. While those numbers aren’t gawdy, they are serviceable. At close to $300,000, the pricetag is somewhat tough to beat. So after 99 career HR in his first four and a half seasons, Jacobs might have hit his proverbial peak. The Marlins got all of their value out of him by shipping him to Kansas City for current Marlins closer Leo Nunez, a guy that now garners more fantasy points than any of the previously mentioned players. Anyways, Jacobs fell off in the second half of last season and was subsequently released by KC. So what does Minaya do? He signs Jacobs as a potential starter at 1B in 2010. At a salary nearly matching his entire 3 year stint with Florida, he was investing in a guy that seemed to have begun regressing. Well, Omar did it again. In 2010, Jacobs has just 5 hits in 24 at bats and only 1 HR. He was expected to fill the void left by Dan Murphy when he went down with injury in Spring Training. Definitely a fantasy nightmare. He was shuttled down to Buffalo, the Mets AAA affiliate, within a month. The silver lining for us Mets fans was obviously the premature call up of blue chipper Ike Davis. Jacobs almost has certainly no chance of being recalled, let alone re-signed for next season. So even though there wasn’t a tremendous financial hit, this has to be seen as a definite bust by the Mets. While Ike Davis will make most forget about this blunder, will Omar Minaya even have the chance to correct his mistake(s) in the future?
By Ivan Berliant
The Philadelphia Phillies are six for their last 19 games, they’ve only scored 40 runs throughout that span and Chase Utley is in a slump (5-37/2 RBIs/0 HRs in his last 10 games) some would argue is the worst of his career.
Mets’ and Marlins’ fans couldn’t be happier.
No one expected at this point of the season that all five of the N.L. East teams would still be in the hunt for first place, with only six games separating the first-place Atlanta Braves (33-25) from the last-place Washington Nationals (27-31).
For those of you in South Florida who actually went to Roy Halladay’s perfect game (and did not buy a ticket afterwards), you might have seen the lone highlight of the Phillies’ horrible stretch, and one could argue that the lack of production from one of the league’s most threatening lineups might even overshadow Major League Baseball’s twentieth perfect game.
While the rest of the N.L. East and its fans rejoice for the serendipitous circumstances presented to us, I’d like to believe our distaste for the Phillies and their fans still lingers.
So I’d like to present my top three reasons of why “Philly sucks,” and maybe after I’ll have you chanting “Suck it Philly.”
1) The Fans– I’m sure Marlins’ fans would say that the only fans worse than Mets’ fans are the Philly faithful, and I would agree. The one difference between our obnoxious natures is that you won’t find Mets’ fans forcibly throwing up on a police officer and his daughter.
2) The Lineup– Let’s face it, the Philadelphia lineup strikes fear into the hearts of pitchers in the National League, and for a few weeks a year usually the American League as well. You can’t help but to hate that your main rival has the competitive advantage from a personnel standpoint, I guess that’s why this present slump has been such a pleasant surprise.
3) Fantasy Busts– This year’s draft was particularly rough on me, not only did I draft a Philly player, but I drafted three! Thinking Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Raul Ibanez would take me to the promise land in my 14-team H2H Yahoo League. With the exception of Utley (prior to the slump), the other two have been very disappointing. You would think that Utley and Rollins will still have pretty good years, but Ibanez seems to of lost that sweet stroke he had at the beginning of last year. So not only are the Phillies usually killing me during the regular season, this year their killing my fantasy expectations.