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Brewers and Cardinals Advance to 2011 NLCS, Plus Recap of Carpenter vs. Halladay

Saturday October 8, 2011

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  In what had been shaping up to be very tight league division series, MLB fans were treated to not one or two, but rather three game fives this year.  With the Tigers advancing last night to face the Rangers, it was time for the National League to decide its championship series competitors.  The Diamondbacks were in Milwaukee to face the Brewers, while the Phillies were at home to host the Cardinals.  Both games ended in on run leads, with the Cardinals and Brewers pulling out the wins.  Let’s recap the MLB action from Friday night:

 

St.Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies: NLDS Game Five

The best way that I can sum up this game is as follows.  Chris Carpenter was taking the mound, facing off against ex-Blue Jays teammate Roy Halladay.  This was a game that had a great deal of hype and buzz and excitement surrounding it.  Games of this nature usually end up disappointing.  I have seen all too often two great pitchers matchup, with one of the starters leaving early or getting hit hard.  This one was one of those games though that ended up exceeding expectations.  Carpenter won it, pitching a complete game shutout, three hitter, no walks and three strikeouts.  About as good of a performance as you will see in baseball, let a lone the playoffs.  Halladay on the other hand was just as strong, finishing with 8 IP, 6 hits allowed, 1 ER, 1 BB and 7 strikeouts.  Ryan Madson came in for a clean 9th inning, striking out a pair.  The only blemish for Halladay came in the first, when he gave up a leadoff triple to Rafael Furcal, who proceeded to score on a Skip Schumaker double.  An Albert Pujols intentional walk- otherwise, an almost perfect day as well for Halladay.  The Cardinals stranded more runners on base (7), while the Phillies only left 4 on base.  Carpenter did hit Chase Utley, but managed to complete the game unscathed.  Carpenter was very efficient in this outing, requiring only 110 pitches for the complete game.  Halladay on the other hand needed 126 pitches to get through six.  It is rare to get only one run in the 1st inning and to make the lead stick.  But Chris Carpenter did just that.  Now the Cardinals advance and continue their Cinderella run (blame the rally squirrel).  Given the importance of the game and intensity, you would be hard-pressed to find a better pitched baseball game.  Hats off to both starters, as each had an incredible outing last night.  But Carpenter was the better arm on this day and as a result, the Cardinals break through while the Phillies stun the baseball world by exiting the playoffs in the first round.   

Howard to have MRI:   After the game, the baseball world was buzzing about Ryan Howard.  Requiring help to get off the field, Howard was on crutches.  Reports indicate that he may have tore his Achilles tendon.  Howard will have an MRI today to confirm the severity of his injury.  This type of injury can typically take 6-9 months approximately of recovery time.  With the Phillies possibly losing their top star for a good portion of next season, things just back to worse for the one time heavy favorite to win the 2011 World Series.  Roy OswaltJimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson may all not be back, and Cole Hamels also has an impending free agent status that will need to be dealt with.  For a team that was expected to do so much, greater uncertainly lies ahead as the team attempts to recover and figure out what went wrong.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Five

 The second battle of the aces of the day featured Yovani Gallardo opposing Ian Kennedy.  Both pitchers did their jobs in this one, going six inning apiece.   Kennedy giving up 2 runs on 5 hits, Gallardo 1 run on 6 hits.  Both walked 2 and struck out 5.  Gallardo’s only blemish on the day was a solo home run to Justin Upon in the 3rd.  The Brewers led this one from the 6th on, until the 9th.  Saito and Rodriguez each earned holds with a clean inning of work each.  With closer John Axford on to pitch the 9th, he gave up the tying run to send this one to the 10th.  Axford ended up pitching 2 innings for the win.  After setup man David Hernandez pitched 2 clean innings, it was up to closer J.J. Putz to hold the Brewers in check in the 10th.  The unlikely hero was Nyjer Morgan, who got the game-winning hit to score Carlos Gomez to send the Brewers to a 3-2 win and a meeting with the Cardinals in the NLCS.  While the Diamondbacks were the feel-good team of this year’s playoffs, the clock struck midnight on them.  The Brewers, stocked to make a run this year, fulfill a part of their destiny by advancing.  The Diamondbacks go home feeling good about themselves.  A team that was expected to continued rebuilding grouped together, and made a run that few if any in the baseball world could have expected.  Kirk Gibson and his boys should proud when reflecting their on season.

The Cardinals are Flying in:  The Brewers get to stay home for game one of their NLCS matchup with the Cardinals.  Zack Greinke is set to go for the Brewers, with the Cardinals starter still TBD.  The Brewers are the favored squad, with their balance of sluggers, top starting pitching and lockdown bullpen.  The Cardinals now take on the role of the Diamondbacks, the underdogs that everyone is rooting for.  With the Rally Squirrel being the talk of the town (don’t ask…), do the Cardinals have the firepower to match up with the powerful Brewers?  This series will come down to managing.  Tony LaRussa vs. Ron Roenicke.  While Roenicke has an extensive coaching resume, he is still a fairly raw manager.  LaRussa is as crafty as they come and my money is on St. Louis making a return trip to the World Series.  The Cardinals have a strong offense, led by Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.  The team has received good to great starting pitching and their bullpen gets the job done.  The Brewers are the favorites on paper.  I see this one going the full seven games, with the Cardinals moving on to face the Rangers in the World Series.  The road to the World Series begins tonight in Arlington, as Detroit and Justin Verlander take on C.J. Wilson and the Rangers.  A great postseason so far, that only promises to get better.

 

 

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Tigers advance to ALCS, Yankees Go Home and Ventura Named White Sox Manager

Friday October 7, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  Thursday was an exciting day in the world of Major League Baseball.  The Detroit Tigers were set to face-off against the Yankees in New York.  Game five of their ALDS series, all tied up 2-2.  Winner moves on to face the Texas Rangers, loser goes home.  The Yankees has their AL ROY candidate Ivan Nova on the mound, with the Tigers relying on Doug Fister.  In the wake of the only game on Thursday’s schedule, Kenny Williams and the Chicago White Sox shocked the baseball world by naming Robin Ventura their new manager.   A wild and crazy day indeed.

 

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Five

 The highly anticipating pitching matchup never took place in this one.  Fister did his part for the Tigers, tossing 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 1 ER, 2 walks while striking out 5.  Max Scherzer and Joaquin Benoit earned holds while Jose Valverde earned the save with a lockdown 1-2-3 9th inning.  Ivan Nova lasted only 2 innings, giving up 2 runs (back to back solo home runs in the first to Don Kelly and Delmon Young), while allowing 3 hits and striking out 3.  Not taking any chances, Joe Girardi was active with his bullpen all night, sending out Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, C.C. Sabathia, Rafael Soriano, Dave Robertson and Mariano Rivera.  This game boiled down to execution and squeaking out runs.

The Tigers, underdogs going into the series, were able to pull out a 3-2 win.  Fister got the win while Nova took the loss.  Sabathia, ironically enough, ended up giving up allowing the game winning run in the 7th.  Despite getting more hits than the Tigers (10-8), the Yankees left a whopping 20 men on base last night, while the Tigers left 13.   The Tigers did lose Delmon Young during the game to injury (apparent oblique strain), making his status for the immediate future uncertain.  Young, along with Fister, were the difference makers in this game.  Both mid-season acquisitions by GM Dave Dombrowski, helped the Tigers win the Central and advance to the ALCS.  Brian Cashman and the Yankees stood pat at the trade deadline, and were left standing in the wings once again in the playoffs. 

The game marked the likely end of Jorge Posada‘s Yankee (and possibly major league) career.  The future hall-of-famer endured his toughest year ever in the majors.  But for all his troubles in the regular season, Posada ended up shining in this year’s playoffs- finishing with a .429 average.  The game also possibly marked the last game of C.C. Sabathia’s tenure in New York.  With his opt-out clause looming this off-season, there is a chance that Sabathia may jump ship to another team.  Highly unlikely, given his apparent love for New York and the Yankees dire need for his arm.  But as Alex Rodriguez proved yet again this year (.111 AVG in the playoffs, with 3 strikeout on the night, including the game ending at-bat), big contracts do not necessarily guarantee victories.  With 6 years and approximately $143 million left on the books (excluding incentives), the Yankees will likely be eating A-Rod pie for some time to come.

With this game in the books, questions now centre on the immediate future of each team.  The Tigers move on to the ALCS, to face the Texas Rangers.  This will be an exciting series and a big challenge for the Tigers.  With the Texas-sized offense in place, the Tigers’ pitching staff (led by AL pitching triple crown winner and likely Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander and Fister) will need to be stellar.  Both teams have strong bullpens that will be relied upon heavily in the series.  This series will boil down to whether the Tigers offense can muster enough runs to compete with Texas, and on the same token, how well the Texas rotation can contain Detroit.  The Tigers have enjoyed a great run to-date, but my crystal ball is showing a Texas return trip to the World Series.  One year wiser and more experienced, Ron Washington’s team should be able to win this out in six games.  But keep one thing in mind:  whenever Jim Leyland is involved, anything can happen.  The Tigers made it this far for a reason and in a short series…. you never know. 

 

Robin Ventura Named Chicago White Sox Manager

The talk of the day yesterday was the White Sox big announcement.  GM Kenny Williams announced that the team had hired former third baseman, Robin Ventura as the White Sox new manager.  Ventura, 44, spent 10 years with the White Sox as a player.  Most recently he was retained by the team as a “Special Advisor”.  Now, Ventura with no managerial experience to his resume, takes over control of the team on the field.  Many names were thrown around as possible candidates, including former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, former players and currently employed coaches Sandy Alomar Jr. and Dave Martinez, as well as hall of famer and current minor league manager Ryne Sandberg.  Personally, I expected the White Sox to hire Martinez or Sandberg.  Given the success of the Rays, Martinez as bench coach to manager Joe Maddon is highly considered in the game.  Sandberg, on the other hand, has a proven track record managing in the minors and has strong ties to Chicago (obviously).  Why then the choice of the inexperienced Ventura?

A couple of reasons come to mind.  Firstly, the White Sox endured a very difficult 2011 season in missing the playoffs, despite heavy preseason expectations.  Nothing distracts a fan base better than brining in a well known and loved name.  Ventura was one of the most popular White Sox players in his day, and his hire at some level will help appease the fans.  As well, a shocking signing of this nature has an effective way of masking the results of the season gone by, as well as steering the press to focus on 2012 and how Ventura will perform as a manager, rather than analyze the season that had just been completed.  A stroke of genius in my book.  Another reason to consider, which is a guess on my part, is that Williams is not interested in hiring a big and powerful name that will overshadow him.  After enduring years of arguments and power struggles with former manager Ozzie Guillen, Williams was looking for a manager that would first and foremost listen to him and know his role in the organization.  While Ryne Sandberg is my book is a far more qualified individual for the job, his stature in the game (as well as Chicago) would have relegated Williams to the back seat, had Ryno been named the new White Sox manager. 

The ironic part is that while hiring Ventura clearly solidifies Kenny William’s place in the White Sox food chain, it may have the strongest effect of sweeping him out of town soon.  The lustre of the White Sox 2005 World Series championship has long faded.  With a large payroll and unsuccessful ballclub, it is “put up or shut up” time for Williams and the White Sox.  If the team gets off to a slow start, and/or has another failed campaign, I fully expect Kenny Williams to be reassigned or dismissed from his post.  If results on the field are the most important factor for Williams to keep his job, then he should have looked for the best candidate to guide his team.  The Ventura signing may make White Sox fans feel all soft and cuddly at the onset.  But losing games will change that in a hurry.  With Frank Thomas being discussed as a possible candidate for a role on the squad, the 2012 White Sox coaching staff may look like a reunion from years gone by.  I enjoyed watching Ventura as a player and had he been groomed as a coach for this position, perhaps he would have been prepared to succeed.  But coming in raw, the new manager will have to learn quickly on the job.  A move made by Williams’ ego, but not his sensibility in my estimation. 

 

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap of Wednesday October 5th

Thursday October 6, 2011

 

 

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  Wednesday was a fun night of playoff baseball.  We saw two close games for teams on the verge of elimination, and unusual players stepping up to take the spotlight and assist their team to victory.

Philadelphia Phillies at St.Louis Cardinals: NLDS Game Four

Going into the game, I thought that the superior team, the Phillies, would win and advance to the ALCS.  However, in baseball the best team doesn’t always win.  What the Cardinals showed tonight is that they weren’t ready to have their season come to an end.  They’ve come so far this year and they weren’t going to go home without a good fight.  What was impressive to me is how clean of a ballgame they played.  Nobody wanted to make a mistake, as evidenced by the Cardinals zero errors.  They just seemed upbeat and confident that they’d win.

The Phillies got off to a fast start in the top of the first with a double, followed by a triple, followed by a single.  However, Lance Berkman came through in the bottom of the inning with a two out RBI double.  Edwin Jackson turned in an impressive performance going six innings while only giving up two runs.  Jackson only gave up two hits, singles, after the big first inning.  In the fourth inning, Oswalt walked Berkman then hit Matt Holliday.  To make things worse, David Freese crushed a one out double down into the left field corner to put the Cardinals up 3-2.  You could tell Oswalt didn’t have his best stuff tonight.  Sometimes pitchers have those days where it looks like they are only seventy percent of what they should be.  Well, Oswalt had one of those days.

Then, in the fifth inning something magical happened.  If you missed it, on Tuesday a squirrel ran across the field at Busch Stadium in St.Louis.  Well today, either the same squirrel or one of his relatives made another unwelcome appearance.  This time, the squirrel actually ran across home plate during Skip Schumaker‘s at bat.  When asked about the incident after the game, Charlie Manuel had this to say,” “There’s not too much I can do about a squirrel running across the field, I don’t know what I can do about that. Of course, being from the south and being a squirrel hunter, if I had a gun there, might have done something. I’m a pretty good shot.”  Hopefully, the Busch Stadium squirrel family will make a surprise appearance Friday in Philadelphia, where most likely, they’ll be booed.

Even after his RBI double, David Freese’s day wasn’t done yet.  In the bottom of the sixth, Freese got a 0-1 fastball, which he belted to center field to add two more runs to the Cardinals lead.  Guess you could say he really iced the Phillies chances, eh? Anyone?  Moving on, the Phillies scored one more run in the eighth off of a Fernando Salas wild pitch but the Cards held on for a 5-3 win.  The series moves back to Philly for Game 5 Friday at 8:30 PM ET.  Roy Halladay takes the mound against Chris Carpenter tomorrow in a one of the better pitching faceoffs in baseball.  It’s sure to be an exciting, pressure packed game which will determine which team will continue their season in the NLCS.

Milwaukee Brewers at Arizona Diamondbacks: NLDS Game Four

Out of all of the first round matchups this year, there’s no doubt that this one has been my favorite.  Both teams play with such crazy energy and enthusiasm unmatched by any other two teams.   If you like watching offense, this was the game for you.  These teams have some pretty interesting stories of how they got to this point in the playoffs, but I can’t put enough emphasize on much fun these teams are to watch.  Both teams have a player the fans love, in Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Roberts, and great position players to build their team around.

The Brewers led things off with a Ryan Braun RBI double in the top half of the first.  When the Diamondbacks came up to bat, everything went wrong for Randy Wolf.  He loaded up the bases and with two outs, Ryan Roberts A.K.A Tatman poked a grand slam just over the left field fence.  Then the next at-bat, on a 3-1 pitch, Chris Young homered.  The rest of the game was a slugfest, with D-Backs players crushing the Brewers pitchers.  Aaron Hill homered and Colin Cowgill brought in two runs with a single.  Chris Young finished 2 for 3, with 2 HR, 3 RBI, and 1 BB.  In my opinion, the hero of the game was Ryan Roberts.  His grand slam gave the D-Backs an early lead and their pitchers a nice cushion to work with.  Even though the Brewers scored six runs, it wasn’t enough to get the win.  Final score: D-Backs: 10 Brewers: 6.  The series is tied up 2-2 and will head back to Milwaukee where Yovani Gallardo and Ian Kennedy will face off in a battle of two of the game’s top righties.  Game time on Friday at 5:00 PM ET.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Game 162 and Beyond – Can MLB Top That?

September 29, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): In order to write all of this, I needed to step away from my TV and computer, take a deep breath, and sleep for a while.  The excitement of last night was almost too much for my fragile heart to bear, so the time away to clear my head was necessary.

I find myself repeating, “What just happened??” in my head.  What happened last night was unfathomable.  Not only were there two teams in each league tied for the Wild Card, but both teams that had been leading, suffered epic failures along the way.  Go back to September 1, and the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Atlanta Braves held an 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Both teams chances of reaching the postseason were over 99%.  Nobody could have actually predicted seriously at that time, that both the Cards and Rays would win the Wild Card on the final day of the regular season.  Especially not the way that the AL Wild Card was eventually decided.

The Rays started David Price against the Yankees.  Sounded promising enough, until Price gave up 6 runs in 4 innings.  The game was pretty much over with the score at 7-0 in the Rays’ half of the 8th inning.  3 runs plated in the bottom of the 8th, then Evan Longoria took over the game.  A 3-run home run put them within one run, and Tropicana Field exploded.  Then with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, Rays manager Joe Maddon made one of the gutsiest calls I have ever seen: pinch hit with Dan Johnson.  Johnson was 9 for 90 this season.  He hadn’t gotten a hit since April.  He had 36 hits since 2008.  With one swing of the bat, the pandemonium levels in Florida had never been so high.  Then, as if he hadn’t done enough already, Longoria blasted another home run, this one of the walk-off variety that would vault the Rays to the postseason.

What hasn’t been said about Boston and their collapse? It has been covered by so many people from so many angles.  You could blame the whole organization from top to bottom, and you wouldn’t be wrong.  What happened was an epic collapse, capped off by a 2 out rally by the Baltimore Orioles of all teams in the bottom of the 9th inning of game 162.  The Orioles had nothing to play for but pride, and the love of the game.  Robert Andino’s walk-off single to win the ball game will be remembered by Boston fans for years to come.

Hunter Pence hit a bloop-ish 120 ft infield single to win it for the Phillies over the Braves.  In the 13th inning.  After Craig Kimbrel, the super rookie, blew a lead in the 9th inning.  The game saw the Phillies march out nine pitchers and the Braves used 8, including Scott Linebrink, who eventually gave up the winning run in the 13th.

Chris Carpenter twirled a gem for the Cardinals, a 2 hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and 1 walk against the Astros.  This performance sealed at the very least a one-game playoff game against the Braves had they won.

Wow what a night.

Now onto LDS matchups:

Rays vs. Rangers

The Rays come in with unlimited momentum, and a pitching staff that is so deep, that manager Joe Maddon is having a difficult time naming the starter for game 1.  While Matt Moore seems to be the obvious choice to me, Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis could be viable options as well.**  James Shields would have to go on short rest, and Price pitched last night, so one of the other three will be chosen to go against C.J. Wilson and a Rangers offense that is ready to take on all comers.  Shields will go game 2 and Price go the 3rd.  Beyond that is a toss-up.  For the Rangers, Wilson will go Game 1, Derek Holland game 2, and still undetermined the rest of the way.

Adrian Beltre had a phenomenal September, earning AL Player of the month, and Mike Napoli has been dominant all year, bashing home runs all over the field.  Michael Young worked his way into the MVP race after a tumultuous offseason that saw him switch positions yet again.  Josh Hamilton is as dangerous as ever, and Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler are still hitting home runs at a high rate.  Kinsler actually became only the third 2nd baseman to join the 30-30 club, with 32 HR and 30 SB.  The Rays may not have the prodigious bombers that the Rangers have, but they have athletic, smart ballplayers that never say die.  They ultimately seem like a team of destiny, and I will not discount the fact that they may have the best manager in all of baseball at the helm.

** Note: Matt Moore has been named the starter for game 1.

Rays in 4

Yankees vs. Tigers

So the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, and the Tigers have the 10th, about $100,000 between them.  Should be easy, right? Yankees should take this series in 3 games.  Wrong.  Detroit has one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball in 2011 in Justin Verlander, who should win the Cy Young vote unanimously.  He should also garner serious MVP interest.  Against him will be CC Sabathia, who has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball the last 7 or 8 years.  Doug Fister was brought in to shore up a shaky Tigers rotation, and with Max Scherzer, the Tigers look like they have a pretty decent chance.  Behind Sabathia will be rookie Ivan Nova, who I am not sold on, and after him is Freddy Garcia, who is having a fine year, but is nowhere near the pitcher he used to be.

Robinson Cano has been his usual stellar self playing 2nd base for the Yankees, but there were a lot of subpar seasons by other Yankees.  Derek Jeter was better than last year, A-Rod was almost nonexistent for a lot of the season, and aside from Curtis Granderson, the lineup struggled to find consistency.  The Posada soap opera continues, but giving Jesus Montero more at bats needs to happen.  The kid can swing it.  The Tigers have another MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez has been stellar, and they have a young kid behind the plate named Alex Avila who could be in line for a Silver Slugger award.  The Tigers are younger, and hungrier to win, but the Yankees have more overall talent.  Even if their roster is aging, and this one should go down to the final out.

Tigers in 5

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

The two best managers in the NL this year; Kirk Gibson of the DBacks and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers square off in this ultimately tight series.  Arizona did it this year with a cast of relative nobodies and no real superstar other than Justin Upton.  The Brewers have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Zack Greinke, John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez.  They have star power up and down the lineup and rotation, and they have a great fan base.

Ian Kennedy may be a Cy Young candidate, but the Brewers have more depth in their rotation.  Yovani Gallardo will oppose him in game 1, followed by Shaun Marcum and Greinke, who will be opposed by Josh Collmenter and Daniel Hudson.  The Brewers also have the dominant back-end of the bullpen in K-Rod and John Axford, who was 46 for 48 in save opportunities.

Brewers in 5

Cardinals vs. Phillies

Prince Fielder just missed his 11th straight season of .300/ 30 HR/ 100RBI.  He hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI.  The cards are not just a one trick pony, however, as Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina have been stellar all season long.  If they can get solid contributions from their secondary players they could make the series interesting.  The Phillies, like the Brewers, have tremendous star power in Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  Not to mention one of the best deals of the year in Hunter Pence.  They have a veteran presence filled with guys who have been to the postseason five years in a row, and have the ability to hit any team’s pitching.

If you ask anyone who knows anything about baseball what team has the best pitching, the unanimous decision would go to the Phillies. The 4 Aces look to lock up Philly’s second World Series in the last 4 seasons.  Led by Roy Halladay, or Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels, every team in the postseason should be scared.  It is not very often that a team could have 3 pitchers in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award, but it could happen this year.  Roy Oswalt will pitch game 4 if necessary.   Tony La Russa has decided to open the series with veteran Kyle Lohse, which seems asinine.  Edwin Jackson will go Game 2 and Chris Carpenter game 3.  Jaime Garcia, who could be their most talented pitcher, will throw game 4 if necessary.

Phillies in 4

All 4 series should play pretty close, and the series I am most excited to watch is Arizona vs. Milwaukee.  If Game 162 was any indication of what is to come of the postseason this year, then everyone needs to grab their popcorn and beverages, get bunkered down, and get ready for a long, gruelling, exciting month of baseball. 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Bob Kendrick Interview: President Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Tuesday September 13, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  the President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, Bob Kendrick.  It was an honor and privilege to get to know one of the finest and most important executives in the world of baseball.  The Negro Leagues represents a key time period in baseball history.  The NLBM is essentially the Cooperstown of the Negro Leagues, in Kansas City.  Mr. Kendrick is responsible for overseeing the entire NLBM and has one of the most demanding and rewarding jobs that we have ever seen.  His story is a fascinating one and we were glad to have Mr. Kendrick with us today to share it.  For all fans of baseball and American history, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum is a vital institution to visit.  We present today our interview with the President of the NLBM, Mr. Bob Kendrick: 

 

MLB reports:  Hello Mr. Kendrick.  It is a pleasure to have you on the Reports.  Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to speaking with us.
 
You are President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Missouri.  Please give our readers an idea as to what your job entails and the responsibilities of the President of such a fine baseball institute.

Bob Kendrick:  My primary responsibilities are to provide effective leadership, management and operations of the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum and the development of the future John “Buck” O’Neil Education and Research Center. This includes managing a staff of seven; planning strategies to advance the mission and financial stability of the organization and develop and communicate goals and planning strategies with a local board and a national governing board for implementation. In addition, I’m also responsible for developing and managing community and corporate partnerships, programs, marketing, special events along with media, public and community relations.

 
MLB reports:  What is the significance of having the museum in Kansas City?  Was there ever a thought to build it beside Cooperstown?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Kansas City is the birthplace of the Negro Leagues and thus the rightful home of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (NLBM). In 1920, Andrew “Rube” Foster established the Negro National League in a meeting that took place in at the Paseo YMCA in Kansas City. Today, the NLBM operates two blocks from the historic Paseo YMCA and has designated the building as the future home of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center. There were never any intentions to build or move the NLBM to Cooperstown.

 
MLB reports:  What does Buck O’Neil mean to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  How did the museum fare when he was alive and what has been the state of the museum since his passing?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Buck, along with the late Horace Peterson, were the co-founders of the NLBM in 1990. He served as the museum’s chairman for 16 years until his death in 2006 at age 94. Buck was the face of the NLBM and the museum’s inspirational leader and the person that is single-most responsible for its rise to prominence.
 
Buck’s death coupled with a down economy have definitely had an impact on the growth of the NLBM. To use a bad baseball analogy, Buck was our power hitter. When you take your power hitter out of the lineup you can’t expect that your offense is going to be as potent as it was with him in the lineup. The NLBM, like a lot of museums and particularly cultural institutions, have had its challenges but I feel strongly that we are poised to carry out Buck’s dream to sustain and grow this great institution.

 
MLB reports:  Do you feel that there is pressure in your role to meet the expectations set by Buck O’Neil? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  No. There will never be another Buck O’Neil! What I’ve tried to do is embrace Buck’s legacy and use it as additional motivation to see that his museum continues to be successful. If there is any pressure, it comes from the understanding that you are responsible for an institution that we want to see stand the test of time. Ultimately, no one will have greater expectations of me than I have of myself.

 
MLB reports:  What are your favorite exhibits at the museum? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  The Field of Legends is an amazing and awe-inspiring display. It is the centerpiece of the NLBM and features 10 life-size bronze statues of Negro League greats cast in position as if they were playing a game. The players were chosen because they represent 10 of the first group of Negro Leaguers to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
 
A 1952 photo of a young Hank Aaron standing at the train station in mobile getting ready to leave to join the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro Leagues is one of my favorites. I believe that photo is the validating point in the exhibit that visitors start to grasp how special the Negro Leagues were and the incredible level of talent the leagues featured. All of sudden, the stories that we’ve shared about the exploits of Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell, Satchel Paige, and the other legends become more real because Hank is a name that everyone knows and understands how impactful his career was.

 
MLB reports:  Are there new exhibits this year that are in place? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  We’re developing a new exhibit on the life and times of Buck O’Neil in recognition of his 100th birthday (Nov. 13). The exhibit, entitled “Right on Time” is adapted from Buck’s critically acclaimed biography “I Was Right On Time,” and will be a chronology of his life featuring rare family and baseball photos, videos and works of art from a team of professional artists that interpret the meaning and impact of Buck’s illustrious life. The exhibit is scheduled to open at the NLBM on Oct. 6 which would mark the fifth anniversary of Buck’s death. It will be on display until January 2012. The NLBM is developing plans for a national tour of the exhibit.

 
MLB reports:  Why should a baseball fan take the trip to visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum? 
 
Bob Kendrick:  I often said that there is no greater example of “love of the game” than there is when you bear witness to what the courageous athletes of the Negro Leagues endured to play baseball in America. Love of the game is something that every fan shares.
 
In some respect, as baseball fans, we’ve all been cheated by not having an opportunity to learn about America’s unsung baseball heroes prior to the rise of the NLBM. When you visit you going to meet some of the greatest baseball players to ever play the game. But more importantly, you are going to gain a perspective on how their determination, courage, passion and perseverance not only changed the game but America too.

 
MLB reports:  You have rejoined the museum after a leave of absence.  How did you find out you were offered the position of President and what was your decision-making process in deciding to accept the role?
 
Bob Kendrick:  I left the NLBM in February of 2010 to accept the post as Executive Director of the KC office of the National Sports Center for the Disabled after being a part of the NLBM team for 12 years departing as VP of Marketing. I began having serious discussions with the museum’s board in March of this year. Betty Brown, chair of the museum’s board of directors, called on behalf of the board to offer me the job. On April 11, 2011 I began my tenure as President of the NLBM.
 
Like any major life-changing decision, I did a lot of soul-searching and had many discussions with my wife, Vanessa, and other members of my family. This was with the realization that sometimes the most difficult thing you can do is go back home. The NLBM had been home for me for 12 wonderful years and I was tremendously proud of what we had accomplished, but I honestly thought that chapter of my life was over. When this opportunity came about I didn’t want to make a decision with my heart and not my head, but I’d be lying if I said that my heart didn’t lead me back to the NLBM. It’s a tremendous honor to work with a great team and serve as leader of what I believe is one of the most important cultural institutions in the world.

 
MLB reports:  It has been less than a year at the helm of the museum.  What changes have you instituted since taking over?  
 
Bob Kendrick:  My familiarity with the organization, staff and board has made for a pretty smooth transition. The staff, especially, have been great. For all of us, working at the NLBM is a labor of love and I’ve got a great team that has allowed me to move rather seamlessly into this new role.
 
My first few months on the job hasn’t been as much about implementing change as it has been about assessing all aspects of museum operations and the development of a tactical strategy to energize and generate operating revenue. We have a goal of balancing the budget by the end of this fiscal year which ends June 30 of 2012. I have every belief that we’ll be successful in attaining that goal.
 
Any initial change has come from a programmatic standpoint. In June, we brought back our popular Legends Luncheon series. In October, we will introduce the Rube Foster luncheon and will honor former Kansas City Chiefs football great Deron Cherry for his career and leadership on-and-off the field. The Legacy Awards will return on January 14, 2012. The event honors the best Major League Baseball players, managers and executives with awards named for Negro League legends.
 
 
MLB reports:  I read that C.C. Sabathia recently visited the museum.  Who are some other current and former players that have visited the museum?  Any stories?
 
Bob Kendrick:  CC has been a friend of the museum going back to his days with the Cleveland Indians. He always makes a point to visit when the Yankees are in town to play the Royals. While a member of the Indians, CC brought Cliff Lee to the museum. List of current current players includes: Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Justin Upton, Howie Kendrick, Chone Figgins, Derrek Lee, Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, Jimmy Rollins, Juan Pierre and Jerry Hairston to name a few. Former Major Leaguers include: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Monte Irvin, Joe Morgan, Dave Winfield, Lou Brock, Ernie Banks, Ozzie Smith, Fergie Jenkins, Minnie Minoso, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Ken Griffey, Sr., Jerry Manuel, Willie Randolph, John Smoltz, Buck Showalter, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Bob Watson, Dusty Baker, Ozzie Guillen, Don Newcombe, Robin Roberts, Brooks Robinson, Maury Wills, Cecil Fielder, Rick Sutcliffe, Harold Reynolds, Frank White, John Mayberry, George Brett, Willie Wilson, Bo Jackson, Amos Otis and others.
 
Ryan Howard started visiting the NLBM before we knew who he was. At that time, Ryan was still in the Phillies’ minor league system. He’s never stopped visiting. He’s often said that he would visit as part of his ritual to prepare for Spring Training. He said he drew inspiration from their strength and dedication to the game that helped him deal with the difficulties he would encounter in the game.

 
MLB reports:  What role do current and former players play in building and maintaining the museum?  I personally think that current African-American players need to play a big part in attracting attention to the museum and inviting fans to learn and respect the past of the negro leagues.  How has the process been to get players involved?
 
Bob Kendrick:  We’ve made great strides in cultivating relationships with both current and former Major Leaguers. This takes on an even greater level of importance for the NLBM since the passing of Buck O’Neil. We’d like all baseball players to take more ownership in the NLBM and help us preserve this once forgotten chapter of baseball and American history. It obviously takes on an even great magnitude when we talk about the African-American and Hispanic baseball player. This is their story. Simply put, they would not have the opportunity to play the game they love had it not been for the sacrifice of those who played in the Negro Leagues.

 
MLB reports:  Major League Baseball has teams play games yearly in Negro Leagues jerseys, which is a great way for fans to learn about the Negro Leagues.  What other initiatives has MLB taken to assist in the education of the Negro Leagues?  Does MLB and/or Cooperstown support the museum?  If Major League Baseball sat down with you and asked what they could do to assist the museum, what would your answer be?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Major League Baseball and its teams have played an important role in the success of the NLBM and helping educate fans about the history of the Negro Leagues. From the in-stadium salutes held by a number of teams, to celebrating Jackie Robinson, it’s all part of baseball’s embracing of the heritage of the game.
 
The museum has had (and continues to have) a meaningful and valued relationship with the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
 
In addition to funding, I asked MLB to create a national day of recognition for the Negro Leagues; partner with the NLBM on a national promotional campaign and provide leadership to serve on the museum’s board.

 
MLB reports:  I have read many articles discussing the lack of interest in African-American boys in playing baseball, particular in inner-cities.  With the lack of fields and the attraction of other sports, including football and baseball, it seems that baseball is having a hard time attracting African-American youth to the game.  MLB is trying to encourage more participation through its programs.  Is enough being done to get African-American children to play baseball?
 
Bob Kendrick:  We want kids of all colors to play and enjoy the great game of baseball. The NLBM believes it has a social responsibility to make sure urban kids have the opportunity to play baseball.We want to use the history of the Negro Leagues as a tool to inspire kids to play. Progress is being made, but it is going to take a long and sustain collective effort. Major League Baseball has done a wonderful job, through its creation and support of initiatives like RBI and the various Urban Youth Baseball Academies, of creating opportunities for African-American kids to play the sport. But this is not Major League Baseball’s responsibility solely. If we are to reverse the trend, then baseball has to become important again to the African-American community.

 

MLB reports:  Do you think that there is a correlation between the interest of today’s African-American youth in baseball and the interest in learning about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the subject.
 
Bob Kendrick:  We certainly believe the NLBM can serve not only as a resource to educate young people about the history of this country, but also inspire them by introducing them to men and women who overcame tremendous social adversity to play the game they loved. Urban kids who experience the NLBM can see people who looked just like them who were extremely successful playing, managing and owning baseball teams. The messages that stem from this powerful story transcends time, age, gender and race. Essentially, what the Negro Leagues teaches us is if you believe in yourself and you dare to dream then you can achieve anything you set your heart and mind to. That’s a universal message.

 

MLB reports:  With the All-Star game coming to Kansas City, what events does the museum have planned as part of the festivities?
 
Bob Kendrick:  First, I can tell you that no one is more excited about the All-Star game coming to Kansas City! There’s no doubt that the Kansas City Royals our great city will host one of the most memorable All-Star games ever. I’m confident that the NLBM will play a great role in helping make the event special.
 
We’ve already had great conversations with Major League Baseball and their event planning team about partnership opportunities for the 2012 All-Star game. Look for activities ranging from parties to player appearances to take place at the NLBM. Also, expect to see a new exhibition that will open in June of 2012 that will celebrate the players from the Negro Leagues who became Major League All-Stars. A planning committee is being developed to make sure we maximize the opportunities associated with the 2012 All-Star Game.

 
MLB reports:  In five to ten years from now, what will be the future of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum?  What is your vision?
 
Bob Kendrick:  Collectively, we are working to ensure the long-term sustainability of the NLBM. As we begin the next two decades of operation, we are dedicated to building a thriving, vibrant, cutting-edge institution that will not only celebrate and educate the public to the rich history of the Negro Leagues, but will continually challenge itself to make history relevant to an ever-changing society. Much of this will be solidified by the completion of the Buck O’Neil Education and Research Center which will provide an international headquarters for Negro Leagues history and social commentary on issues relative to race and sports.

 
MLB reports:  If people would like to learn more about the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum and to visit, how do they go about getting more information?  Also how can fans contact you with questions and comments?

Bob Kendrick:  You can get more information about the museum at http://nlbm.com. Or, call the museum at (816) 221-1920. I can be contacted at bkendrick@nlbm.com or please follow me on Twitter @nlbmprez.

 

BUCK O’NEIL CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION: As part of our revenue generation plan, we’ve just launched a national individual fundraising campaign in remembrance of Buck O’Neil’s 100th birthday through the introduction of the BUCK O’NEIL ALL-CENTURY TEAM campaign. The effort is asking fans and friends to donate at least $100 in memory of Buck and in support of his museum. Every person who makes the $100 gift (or more) between now and Nov. 13, will have their name, family name or person they designate permanently recognized at the NLBM as part of a new display created to mark Buck’s milestone anniversary.
 
To sign-up for the BUCK O’NEIL ALL-CENTURY TEAM, visit http://nlbm.com or call the NLBM at (816) 221-1920.

 
 

 

Thank you again to Bob Kendrick for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to joining us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you have on the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum.  As well, please feel free to contact Mr. Kendrick directly by e-mail or Twitter.  He is very active on social media and welcomes your feedback! 

**The photographs in today’s feature were provided by our guest, Bob Kendrick**

 

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Top Home Run Hitters: The MLB Leaderboard

Sunday June 12, 2011

MLB reports:  Another week goes by and we find that there are more changes on the MLB Home Run Leaderboard.  Jose Bautista finally has some competition and the proven long ball hitters of seasons past have finally made the list.  Let’s take a look at the home run leaders in Major League Baseball as of today:

Tie 1st:  Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays:  20

Jose Bautista hit #20 on May 28th.  Since then, he has remained stuck on 20 while the rest of baseball starts to catch up.  For a man in a home run draught, he still has 58/35 BB/K on the season, with a .338 AVG, .490 OBP and .692 SLG.  As Bautista works to recapture his early season form, Adam Lind has come back to the Jays as a man on a mission.  Lind is hitting .327 on the season with 11 home runs of his own, a beneficiary of the protection that Bautista can afford him in the lineup.  Realistically speaking, Bautista was never going to hit 80 home runs this season.  But he remains on pace for 50+ and Bautista may still match or exceed his 54 long balls from last year.

Tie 1stCurtis Granderson, New York Yankees:  20

There is a 2nd sherif in town and his name is Curtis Granderson.  One of three Yankees on our list, Granderson has enjoyed a rejuvenation at age 30.  Granderson is close to matching his 24 home runs from last year and well on his way to exceeding his career high of 30 home runs from 2009.  Granderson’s 27/65 BB/K ratio tell me that he has not necessarily changed his free swinging ways at the plate and a “market correction” may be in order here.  But despite his .267 AVG, Granderson has not shown any slow downs in the power department.  2011 has been Curtis Granderson’s coming out party and if Bautista isn’t careful, we may have another home run king on the season very soon.

Tie 3rdMatt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers:  19

Matt Kemp (“The Bison”) at the age of 26, has finally started to cement his place in the book of baseball superstardom.  With 19 home runs on the year, to go along with his incredible .331 AVG, .408 OBP and .632 SLG, Kemp has gone from prospect to star seemingly overnight.  After hitting 26 and 28 home runs over the last two seasons respectively, Kemp is on pace to hit 40-50 home runs this year.  Hitting in the heart of the Dodgers lineup with Andre Ethier, Kemp has been the heart and soul of the team this year.  As he matures as a person and leader, so has his game developed on the field.  The sky is the limit for this young superstar, who has future MVP written all over him.

Tie 3rdMark Teixeira, New York Yankees:  19

The last two spots on our top-five list should come as no surprise, starting with Yankee slugger Mark Teixeira.  With 39 home runs in 2009 and 43 in 2005, Teixeira has showcased his home run strengths in previous years.  A consistent 30+ home run threat, Teixeira is on his way to setting a career high in the category, showing his enjoyment playing in Yankee Stadium with its short porch.  Teixeira, with his smooth swing, home run park and protection in the lineup, has all the factors in his favor.  By season’s end, I expect him to remain near the top of this list and could very well finish at the #1 position.

5thPrince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers:  18

The final spot goes to Prince Fielder, the impending free agent slugging first baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers.  Prince has literally done it all this season.  He has shown a great eye, with 36/31 BB/K in 2011, to go along with his .300 AVG, .410 OBP and .614 SLG.  The man hit 50 home runs in 2007 and 46 in 2009.  With a BIG payday ahead (rumored to be in the $200 million range), Fielder is showcasing his skills this year.  At 27-years of age, Prince will be able to write his own ticket when picking his next home.  He has certainly ensured to give himself the best chance to make the big bucks in the future by his strong play in the present.  Fielder’s agent?  None other than Scott Boras.  Expect Fielder to continue to explode on the field all season with teammate Ryan Braun as the Brewers make one more giant push with its hulking first baseman steering the ship.

After looking at such an impressive top-five list, the rest of the sluggers represent the who’s-who of baseball.  Bruce, Braun, Quentin, Pujols, Cabrera, A-Rod…yes, they are all here.  Mike Stanton with 16 home runs has come together quickly in his 2nd season to become one of the top home run hitters in the game.  As we discussed several times to start the season, the cream always rises to the top as the months go by.  As we sit at almost the halfway mark of the season, the proven home run sluggers have proven just that.

The Best of the Rest:

Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds:  17

Carlos Quentin, Chicago White Sox:  17

Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals:  16

Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox:  16

David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox:  16

Mike Stanton, Florida Marlins:  16

Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers:  15

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers:  14

Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals:  14

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers:  13

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies:  13

Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees:  13

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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