Random Ramblin’s: Last 2008 edition

My commute last week and this week was sheer bliss. Lots of people on vacation = less drivers at rush hour = Happy Harley.

We’ve hit temperatures in the high 60s several times this December. Freakin’ awesome.

Driving around my neighborhood a couple Saturdays ago, passed by some people on the side of the road in orange vests, picking up trash. Figured they were convicts doing community service or something, but as I got closer I saw on the back of the vests: “Keep Plano Beautiful – Volunteer.” You don’t see stuff like that in a lot of other places.

TIME FOR SPORTS:

PHILLIES  – Still not sure what to think of signing Raul Ibanez for three years. He’s by all accounts a great guy, so team chemistry will be good. By many accounts, he’s a lousy defender in left field. By my calendar, he’s 37. But he’s in great shape, he’s liable to hit about as well as the outgoing Pat Burrell, and there is something to be said for team chemistry. Just look at the Cowboys with all their superstars and no heart. Or the Mets in the ’90s when they overspent on Bobby Bonilla and paid big bucks for Bret Saberhagen. Yes, the Phils will have a left-handed-heavy batting lineup, but the majority of starting pitchers are righthanders anyway.

YANKEES: Certainly not one of my favorite teams, but I had to say something about them spending nearly a half-billion dollars on three players. It’s their right to do so, and it does stack them up as one of the top teams, but many things could go wrong. C.C. Sabathia is a workhorse, but he’s a big heavy dude and injuries could be a concern after pitching like 469 innings last year. (Approximately.) A.J. Burnett has a long injury history, but could be dominant if he stays healthy. Mark Teixeira will likely fit well in that lineup and bang out 40+ homers and play a great first base. The AL East will be very interesting to watch.

EAGLES: What a crazydiculous season. A tie to the woeful Bengals, Donovan McNabb pulled from a game, Andy Reid continuing to call questionable plays. And somehow, they win a bunch of games down the stretch, Tampa Bay loses to a bad Oakland team, Chicago loses to Houston, and the Birds CRUSH the gutless Cowboys to squeeze into the playoffs. And they have a good shot to beat Minnesota this weekend, and they’ve already beaten the Giants in New York. NFC Championship game, here we come?

COWBOYS: Gotta say my piece on the ‘Pokes. FOX’s Michael Strahan and Jimmy Johnson had this one right: the Cowboys are messed up because it starts from the top down. And owner Jerry Jones is the problem. He also serves as General Manager – even though he’d never get that job if he wasn’t an owner – and makes moves like a fantasy football owner (analogy stolen from ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd). T.O.? Sign him. Roy Williams? Don’t need him, but imagine the receiving numbers! But not when your $67 million boy Tony Romo throws stupid interceptions and the whole team looks like a bunch of quitters. I actually feel bad for Cowboys fans, because unless Jerry hires a REAL General Manager (even George Steinbrenner hired Brian Cashman), he’ll keep running the team into the ground and out of the playoffs.

76ERS: Mo Cheeks fired after going 9-14. Elton Brand out for a month. And we only get like eight 76ers games on network TV, so all that excitement I had about the team has drifted away. (Yes, “fair-weather fan” would be accurate.)

FLYERS: Apparently, they play hockey. From what I’ve gleaned in my not-caring mode, they started off sucky and then won a bunch of games, and they’re playing well.

ARENA FOOTBALL: They’re taking 2009 off and plan to get back to work in 2010. Can I do that too?

Back to ramblin’…

New Year’s Eve? Bah humbug. My REAL New Year begins on January 13, when you can send me as many birthday gifts as you like.

Oh, and of more import than anything else written above…our twins are officially both girls! So yes, Daddy’s Little Girls will be arriving this spring in theaters near you. (Well, not so much in theaters, more like subjects in my blogs that will surely embarrass them later in life.)

Peace out, yo.

An open letter to Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr.

OK, Rube. First off, congrats on the gig. You deserve it – you’ve paid your dues and you’re eminently qualified. (And heck, you worked at the Orleans 8 movie theater in northeast Philly, you REALLY deserve it.)

Let’s get down to business. I’m sure you’re going to make a lot of solid moves, re-signing key guys and such. But I have one major suggestion/request/plea (in two parts):

1–Let Pat Burrell go. It’s not that I don’t like him, or that his on-base percentage and relatively consistent homer totals aren’t good – they are. But he’s 32, he doesn’t run well or play the field well, and he’s probably going to demand $14 million or so for several years – and he probably won’t be “worth” that after the first two.

2–Trade for Matt Holliday. Whatever you need to give up from the minors, do it. He’ll step right into that really good outfield with Jayson Werth and Gold Glove-winner Shane Victorino – he’s 28, his on-base was actually much better than Burrell’s this year, and he even stole 28 bases. Sign him to a multi-year deal, and watch the homers fly between Utley/Holliday/Howard.

Thanks for your time, and good luck.

Your pal

Harley

LiveBlog: World Series Game 5 (part two)

9:07 p.m.: Done for the night. Gone celebratin’.

9:05 p.m.: Oh yeah, I forgot…first sports championship (excluding the always awesome Philadelphia Wings in indoor lacrosse and surprising Philadelphia Soul in arena football) since 1983.

9:00 p.m.: Where were you when it happened? Blogging, sitting next to my beautiful wife. And loving every minute of it.

8:59 p.m.: THE PHILLIES ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!

8:58 p.m.: THAT’S IT! WHIFFS HIM ON A SLIDER! SCREW NETIQUETTE, I’M GOING ALL CAPS!!!!!!!

8:58 p.m.: Hinske tries to hold, can’t. Strike two.

8:57 p.m.: Hinske fouls off the first pitch. If it was me, I would have been taking.

8:56 p.m.: LINE OUT TO WERTH IN RIGHT – TWO OUTS!!! Zobrist did everything he could, hit a laserbeam to right.

8:55 p.m.: Hinske on deck, he hit a massive homer a few days ago against us.

8:54 p.m.: Stolen base, Perez. Tying run at 2nd. Argh. Is it normal to taste gastric juices?

8:53 p.m.: Ben Zobrist is up. Solid player, had surprisingly good offensive year.

8:53 p.m.: Pinch runner Fernando Perez is lightning fast. Very hard to get a double play now.

8:51 p.m.: Dioner Navarro is a very good-hitting catcher. Strike one. Next pitch, swing and a miss. Base hit. Dang.

8:49 p.m.: Ball two. Here comes the next pitch, fouled off again. Got him lunging! Popped up! One out!

8:48 p.m.: Longoria. Strike one. Love that slider. Fouls one off, strike two. Misses low and away, that’s fine – waste pitch.

8:44 p.m.: Full count pitch to Howard…whiffs. Oy. Here we go. Lidge Time.

8:43 p.m.: That was cool camera work – you could see Price’s eyes glance over to first base as Utley took off for a stolen base.

8:41 p.m.: Utley walks. Time for Ryan Howard to step up and be a hero.

8:41 p.m.: I don’t think Utley has had a good swing tonight. C’mon, Chase.

8:39 p.m.: Ah, the Curse of Billy Penn, as explained by Chris Myers. (Not nearly as cool as the curse of Babe Ruth or the Billy Goat that the Cubs have.)

8:39 p.m.: Werth whiffs looking. NEVER on my team! Five laps!

8:38 p.m.: Werth looks a bit overmatched, although he led the majors in HR against lefties.

8:37 p.m.: Ah, here comes the old-timey footage of “the last time a Philly team won a championship.”

8:37 p.m.: Not sure J-Roll should have been swinging on 2-0, leading off against Price. He flies out to left.

8:36 p.m.: Ah, David Price pitching for TB. He will either be awesome or horrible.

8:35 p.m.: You know what? I am most decidedly NOT a PC. After years of working professionally on Apple products, but personally (at home) on PCs, I can safely say that Apples give you less problems, don’t have stupid drivers, and are generally more fun to use. Maybe I’ll do an Unpaid Endorsement one day soon.

8:32 p.m.: Pena flies out to Bruntlett. We are three outs away. Holy crap.

8:30 p.m.: Carlos Pena is dangerous AND due for a hit. C’mon, J.C. Get ‘er done. Just one more out.

8:29 p.m.: DOUBLE PLAY – 6-4-3, Rollins-Utley-Howard. YES! Thanks, B.J. Upton.

8:28 p.m.: Dammit, I didn’t want to be right. Crawford singles. And he can fly, so a stolen base isn’t out of the question. However, stealing on a lefty is, as I recall from many years ago, not easy.

8:27 p.m.: Carl Crawford is always a very dangerous hitter. I fear him, although Romero appears to be “on” tonight.

8:26 p.m.: Bruntlett and the Best Beard of 2008 stay in the game to play left for Burrell.

8:23 p.m.: Romero grounds out. Top 8th coming up.

8:22 p.m.: Iwamura makes a crazygood defensive play to rob Ruiz of a single, getting a force at second. The second basemen today (him and Utley) have both made some amazing plays – Utley on a hard grounder up the middle, faked to first, and gunned down the runner trying to score.

8:20 p.m.: Pedro Feliz singles in a run! To all the naysayers who said he couldn’t hit when the Phillies signed him before the season – those of you who I argued with – nyah nyah nyah! Phils up, 4-3!

8:18 p.m.: Victorino grounds out to the right side, runner gets to 3rd. Solid job, fundamental baseball by Shane.

8:15 p.m.: OK, here’s what you missed (me blogging about) so far…

–Geoff Jenkins is a maniac. I love him. He doubled and scored to send the Phils up 3-2.

–Ryan Madson struggled and gave up a bomb to Rocco Baldelli, 3-3.

–Burrell led off the 7th with a double and they pinch-ran for him.

And that’s where we are so far.

LiveBlog: World Series Game 5

10:20 p.m.: Game suspended until tomorrow. That’s our luck, Phils fans. See you tomorrow.

10:09 p.m.: This is why I don’t watch the TV news. Murder, corruption, lying politicians. I prefer to get my news in blog form. (Kidding. Well, kinda.)

10:01 p.m.: Well, Dallas weatherguy says he thinks game will be cancelled, since rain should continue for several hours.

9:50 p.m.: I’ll take a break, too. Be back when the game’s back…

9:47 p.m.: Oh, they’ll go to local news. Guess that’s OK.

9:45 p.m.: Instead of more Buck and McCarver, can’t they throw on another episode of ‘Til Death starring Brad Garrett and J.B. Smoove?

9:42 p.m.: Oy vay, Rain delay. Now what?

9:40 p.m.: It would be so nice to see a different commercial than the same 12 we’ve seen between every inning of every World Series game.

9:39 p.m.: Get there, Shane! YES! Line drive caught. Three outs.

9:37 p.m.: Pena does exactly that – RBI single to left. Argh. Ulcer begins to form.

9:36 p.m.: I think in this rain, you’d have to hit a ball just perfectly to get it out of the infield.

9:35 p.m.: Upton steals second to render McCarver and Buck’s point useless. Thanks, B.J.

9:32 p.m.: Oh, McCarver, and now Buck too, you’re so dumb. “It robs a team of its talent.” So the Phillies don’t have speed? Rollins? Victorino? Werth? Utley? You’re nimrods.

9:30 p.m.: B.J. Upton would like to have that sweeping curveball back. Never mind, as he legs out a tough ground ball for a single.

9:29 p.m.: Just so you know, I loaded up my gas tank this morning for $2.23/gallon. And it actually went down to $2.21/gallon this afternoon.

9:28 p.m.: Iwamura goes down looking. I think the strike zone gets bigger as the umpire gets wetter in this heavy rain.

9:25 p.m.: OK, what can I say about this Ryan Howard/Subway commercial?

1–If I had written this, I would never admit it publicly.

2–I would never have him rhyming. SO LAME.

3–I always love how they can’t wear team logos in spots like this.

9:23 p.m.: My beautiful wife is completely asleep next to me. She’s been working long hours at her job, so I’m trying to type quietly.

9:21 p.m.: Joan Jett rocks. But you knew that. And so does HP, which is why they use her tune in their commercial.

9:20 p.m.: Just so you know, if you and I were sitting at the game together, you could be getting this scintillating commentary for free and live in person. (OK, it’s free here anyway.)

9:19 p.m.: Ruiz pops out. Triple D’oh!

9:18 p.m.: Apparently, Grant Balfour touches 124 MPH on the radar gun.

9:17 p.m.: Feliz is swinging at everything. That’s not going to get it done. And he pops out to first. Double D’oh!

9:16 p.m.: I wouldn’t mind a double down the line by Pedro Feliz. Just saying.

9:15 p.m.: Shane Victorino pops out to left. One out. D’oh!

9:11 p.m.: They’re fixing the dirt on the mound. And they wonder why TV ratings for this Series have been some of the worst ever.

9:07 p.m.: That’s what’s weird about Burrell. He’ll hit for a decent average, pop 30 homers, knock in 100 runs, strike out 120 times and walk like 90 times, so his on-base percentage is usually quite good. But is he worth the $15 million/year or so that he’ll want in a new long-term contract? I guess somebody will pay it – I just wonder if it’ll be Philly.

9:06 p.m.: Burrell walks. Still 0 for 13, but we’ll let it slide.

9:05 p.m.: Pat’s 0 for 13 in the Series. Even the announcers are trying to reverse jinx him into getting a hit.

9:04 p.m.: The 3-2 to Burrell…fouled off. I’d like to take this moment to announce my deep and abiding love for Dos Equis beer.

9:01 p.m.: This is it. This is Pat Burrell’s moment. If he wants a big free-agent contract, he needs to do something special right here, right now.

9:00 p.m.: Does Kazmir dare throw a fastball to Howard? Well, if that was a heater, it was nowhere near the plate.

8:59 p.m.: The music that FOX uses during the “bumpers” sounds like it was composed for an awards show. I half-expect them to say “Welcome back to the 54th Annual People’s Globe Awards.”

8:57 p.m.: I would also REALLY appreciate another run or five, so I could breathe.

8:55 p.m.: As a former second baseman, I REALLY appreciate the amazing play Chase Utley just made.

8:54 p.m.: Top of the 5th. NICE pitch by Hamels to go ahead 0-2 on Bartlett.

8:53 p.m.: Oh Jimmy…couldn’t get that popup? At least you tried it with two hands…fundamentals!

8:51 p.m.: It’s 2-1, and it’s not nearly a big enough lead. Just hope Cole Hamels can keep it going.

8:49 p.m.: Chase Utley with the bases loaded, full count…grounded out. Darn!

LiveBlog: World Series Game 4

10:40 p.m.: I guess I really don’t remember much about the 1980 win. I don’t even know if I was watching, for Pete Rose’s sake. But thanks to the magic of the InterWebs, my views on this World Series will last for generations…until Keanu Reeves and the robot aliens destroy our planet.

10:39 p.m.: 2-2 again, Romero chews his gum…Baldelli whiffs! A 3-1 lead in the freaking World Series!

10:38 p.m.: 2-2 pitch…kids waving towels…Romero’s pitch…fouled off.

10:37 p.m.: Rocco Baldelli, huh. Not “Rocky” Baldelli. Some kind of weird irony that Rocco Baldelli could be the last out in the town where Rocky Balboa rules (fictionally).

10:36 p.m.: Bartlett goes down looking. Run a lap, son. Two outs, one to go.

10:35 p.m.: Bartlett – he’s a scrappy young infielder. Kind of like a young me. (Hold your laughter.)

10:34 p.m.: Ah, fielder’s choice. One out.

10:33 p.m.: Jeez, crappy error by Romero. Oh well, Philadelphians know nothing comes easy.

10:30 p.m.: 10-2 Phillies. What? No Lidge? Saving him, I guess. J.C. Romero is out there for the 9th. Guess it makes sense.

10:27 p.m.: We’re three outs from a 3-1 World Series lead. This is unbelievable.

10:25 p.m.: Ryan Howard. HUGE homer. Holy crap. Guess there won’t be too many more “choke”-related comments about him.

10:24 p.m.: It’s a magical night. And yet, I’m over at ESPN.com, reading their live blog, and I see Joe Maddon’s comments about Phillies fans:

Maddon’s only concern was with the treatment of his family members by the locals at Citizens Bank Park.

“If we could do something about that, throwing mustard packs at my granddaughter is not very cool. The other part about it I’m good with.”

And you wonder why I don’t always feel great when I claim to be a Philadelphia fan.

10:19 p.m.: Werth. Smack. Gone. There’s your insurance runs. 8-2, son.

10:17 p.m.: Rollins smokes a double. An insurance run or two would be nice…

10:02 p.m.: Not much has happened. Nice defensive play by Tampa Bay.

9:32 p.m.: Pat Burrell is slow, and he stinks. I will be glad to see him out of a Phillies uniform next year.

9:26 p.m.: Wow, McCarver just said something that was immediately proven true. Someone alert the Guinness people.

9:24 p.m.: 6-2 lead in the bottom of the 6th. Jayson Werth SMOKES a liner off the left-field wall for a double. YES!

9:21 p.m.: Joe Blanton f&*king rules. Great pitching and even the first homer by a pitcher since Jewish ace lefthander Ken Holtzman in 1974.

Pheelin’ Kinda Down: Game 2 Thoughts

–The Phillies REALLY need to get a hit with men in scoring position. This is ridiculous.

–The umpires have shown (and that Fox Trax or Trak or whatever has shown) that they are frequently wrong and totally replaceable. Weirdly enough, I think the Rays could have won Game 1 if the calls had been correct, while the Phillies had a shot at Game 2.

–I still hate Tim McCarver as an announcer. He may be a good guy or a decent family man or a soup kitchen volunteer, but he brings me no information or entertainment as a broadcaster.

–Didn’t Jimmy Rollins learn to bunt a couple years ago or so? How about being a sparkplug and getting on base?

–Pat Burrell’s next/last big contract is getting smaller with every at-bat.

–Maybe a sports psychologist needs to talk to the hitters.

–Brett Myers wasn’t good, but he wasn’t horrible.

–I really hope the home-field advantage works for us. If you’re reading this and going to one of the games, scream your head off. It’s your duty.

–I’d love to see Charlie Manuel do something crazy like Rays manager Joe Maddon does. Like bat Ryan Howard leadoff to get him more at-bats.

–I have a hard time believing that NL players who have “played” DH in the past few World Series have batted less than .100. What is up with that?

–I really like Joe Maddon’s postgame press conferences. He always has something interesting to say. I couldn’t believe he admitted he really didn’t know what the Phillies team was all about. Did he not watch any SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight ever? No game films after winning the ALCS? No scouting reports? And yet, he’s perfectly calm and cool about it.

–I think that if the Phils are to win this Series, they have to sweep all three at home. And I’m not sure they can do that.

–Jamie Moyer needs to step it up in what could be the biggest game of his career.

–People are still sleepin’ on Joe Blanton. I have faith in Big Joe.

–Philadelphia is getting a nor’easter this Saturday. (Here in Texas, we’re getting 80 and sunny. Just so you know.)

Subjective Analysis – Follow-Up Comparison to SI

No sooner do I finish my blog comparing the Phillies and Rays in the World Series than I find a Sports Illustrated article doing the same thing:

Read the article here.

If you don’t want to click back and forth, here’s how we measure up:

–They say it’s a tie between Howard and Pena at 1B. I said Howard wins.

–We agree on C, 2B, SS, 3B, LF and RF. And the bench. And the starting pitching and the bullpen.

–Oddly, they give the edge in LF to Burrell and the Phils. They think Crawford has really tanked.

–They give the managerial edge to Maddon and the Rays, where I said it was a tie.

–And the “intangibles” category (which I didn’t do) was given to the Rays. I guess I might have to agree, although this Phillies team isn’t too shabby in the whole “ya gotta believe” thing.

Subjective Analysis: Phils/Rays in the WORLD SERIES.

Here it is. Could be another of the biggest moments in Philadelphia sports history, or just another colossal failure. (You’ll have to excuse me, Phillies fans have had their fill of futility. And yes, the alliteration is amazing.)

Once more into the Phray:

CATCHER

PHI: Carlos Ruiz

TB: Dioner Navarro

ANALYSIS: I’m especially biased on this, because I “owned” Navarro a few years back – BEFORE he began living up to his potential. (The guy’s only 24, I should have been easier on him.) Offensively, he is far superior to Ruiz. Defensively, they’re both pretty solid. Navarro and the RAYS get the edge here.

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FIRST BASE

PHI: Ryan Howard

TB: Carlos Pena

ANALYSIS: I have a feeling Howard will hit some BOMBS. Of course, at the two ballparks in question, many bombs are hit. Overall, these guys had kinda similar numbers…except for the Bombs, where Howard beats him handily. Howard gets the nod here for the PHILS.

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SECOND BASE

PHI: Chase Utley

TB: Akinori Iwamura

ANALYSIS: Although I love saying his name (or any other Japanese player’s name) out loud in a deep, booming voice, Iwamura just is not even close to the offensive force that Utley can be. Utley wins hands-down. Go PHILS.

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THIRD BASE

PHI: Pedro Feliz/Greg Dobbs

TB: Evan Longoria

ANALYSIS: I’d love to try to make the argument that the Feliz/Dobbs combo can almost equal Longoria, or that Longoria is due for a letdown. But I can’t. Advantage RAYS.

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SHORTSTOP

PHI: Jimmy Rollins

TB: Jason Bartlett

ANALYSIS: It was in this space of my Phils/Dodgers analysis that I picked Rollins over Furcal. Of course, I really didn’t foresee Furcal’s three errors in one inning that basically cost them the NLCS. Although Jimmy Rollins is a far better player, all the “experts” believe that Bartlett is the kind of guy who can/will make a crucial play or get a clutch hit to carry his team. Still, the PHILS have the edge here.

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LEFT FIELD

PHI: Pat Burrell

TB: Carl Crawford

ANALYSIS: CC wears my number (13), and he is one of the ultimate seven-tool players. (Not just the typical “five tools” that scouts love – Carl does it all and then some.) He was banged up near the end of the season, but he’s still better on many levels than Pat the Bat. RAYS win this one.

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CENTER FIELD

PHI: Shane Victorino

TB: B.J. Upton

ANALYSIS: Upton is also a seven-tool guy, whose power numbers this year were hurt by a lingering injury. But Victorino has had a magical ride the past month or so, and it’s hard to just say “Upton is superior.” He is, talent-wise, but when it comes to getting the j-o-b done, Shane-O-Vic is right there with him. Argh, this one hurts me physically, but Upton and the RAYS get the call here.

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RIGHT FIELD

PHI: Jayson Werth

TB: Rocco Baldelli/Gabe Gross

ANALYSIS: I’m a Werth-believer. I’m not Werth-y. I enjoy Werth-er’s Butterscotch Candies. (Enough!) I’ve got to take the 20/20 guy over a platoon including a guy battling a strange and awful disease (mitochondrial disorder?) and a guy whose offense doesn’t exactly scare people (.242 batting average with TB). Give this one to the PHILS.

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DESIGNATED HITTER

PHI: ??? (Dobbs, Jenkins, Stairs?)

TB: Willy Aybar/Cliff Floyd/Eric Hinske

ANALYSIS: Phils manager Charlie Manuel is not announcing his DH until the actual game, but it’ll likely be one of those guys above (or maybe Burrell, with Eric Bruntlett or Dobbs in left field). Aybar has been playing out of his mind for the past few weeks, and Floyd and Hinske are nice veteran role players who have some pop. This category has too many question marks, though, so I call it a TIE.

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STARTING PITCHER

PHI: Cole Hamels/Brett Myers/Jamie Moyer/Joe Blanton

TB: Scott Kazmir/Jamie Shields/Matt Garza/Andy Sonnanstine

ANALYSIS: The “experts” say Hamels is the best pitcher in the Series, and I agree. But I don’t agree with their assessments of the rest of these guys. They’re all over the Phils, saying they really have no depth beyond Hamels and that the Rays kids are flat-out awesome. Not taking anything away from them, they’re good and they faced tough competition all year in the AL East. I just think this matchup is closer than many might think – that there’s something to be said for Moyer’s experience and smarts, and Blanton’s ability to keep the ball down.

All that being said, I do have to give the Slight Edge to the RAYS.

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RELIEF PITCHER

PHI: Brad Lidge/Ryan Madson/J.C. Romero/Chad Durbin/Clay Condrey/J.A. Happ/Scott Eyre

TB: Troy Percival/Dan Wheeler/Trever Miller/J.P. Howell/Grant Balfour/Jason Hammel/David Price

ANALYSIS: Again, the “experts” are loving the fact that the Rays have three lefties, who will allegedly shut down the big lefty bats of Philly (Utley and Howard). And Price is this amazing wild card who will likely have an amazing career. But the Phillies’ bullpen has been and will be a great strength here, and deserves respect. PHILS get this one.

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BENCH

PHI: Greg Dobbs/Matt Stairs/Geoff Jenkins/Eric Bruntlett/So Taguchi/Chris Coste

TB: Floyd/Hinske/Aybar/Ben Zobrist/Jonny Gomes/Shawn Riggans/Fernando Perez

ANALYSIS: Dobbs is playing so well, there are people who want the Phils to let Burrell go away via free agency and play him every day in left. Stairs could be a great DH against righties (and so could Jenkins). But there is plenty of pop on the Rays bench, and some amazing speed in Perez. This one goes to the RAYS in a very close race.

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MANAGER

PHI: Charlie Manuel

TB: Joe Maddon

ANALYSIS: Uncle Cholly’s recently-passed mom is watching over this team, and he’s somehow managed to keep it all together and get to the Series. Maddon’s mom is watching from upstate Pennsylvania, and her boy is regarded as this kind of mad genius or rare intellectual who somehow completely inspires his young team. (Oh my, he drinks wine instead of beer! He reads books instead of magazines! Heavens to Murgatroyd!)

But seriously, this one is a TIE because each guy has done an amazing job this year, and Manuel’s occasional mistakes cancel out Maddon’s occasional crazy-looking moves (like a bases-loaded intentional walk).

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FINAL SCORE: Rays 6, Phillies 5, one tie.

FINAL ANALYSIS: I think it goes 6 or 7, and I think the RAYS win.

(P.S.: Reverse-jinx accomplished!)

LiveBlog: Phils/Dodgers, NLCS Game 5

10:39 p.m.: Too much in my head right now. Will get back to you tomorrow. PHILS RULE!

10:38 p.m.: Catch that pop-up, son, and here we go to the World Series!

10:35 p.m.: NOMAH!

10:34 p.m.: Victorino just plays him some centerfield. Two outs.

10:32 p.m.: C’mon Brad, get ‘er done. There’s an out, flyball to Victorino.

10:25 p.m.: Bottom 9, here comes Lidge.

10:24 p.m.: Ryan Howard’s swing is back. And it is sweet.

10:19 p.m.: We are an inning away.

10:04 p.m.: Blog break.

10:02 p.m.: Has everybody/anybody noticed Tim Allen in the 1st row behind home plate? I wonder if his agent called him: “Timmy, bubbeleh, I’m getting you some TV time. Here’s tickets to the Dodgers game.”

9:59 p.m.: I’m always freaked out when these DirecTV commercials have the same actor, just like 25 years later, “breaking the fourth wall” while re-enacting a scene from their movie. Craig T. Nelson’s “hair” just isn’t convincing.

9:55 p.m.: Shut up, Kent. It was a strike. You’re old and you suck and nobody likes you.

9:52 p.m.: Leaving Hamels in here with 1st and 2nd, 2 outs and Kent up in the bottom of the 7th. Hope you know what you’re doing, Uncle Cholly.

9:45 p.m.: Shane Victorino’s defense is still awesome. Great catch, thanks to great speed and instincts.

9:44 p.m.: Oh, by the way, Cole Hamels has been awesome.

9:43 p.m.: Shane Victorino’s defense is awesome.

9:42 p.m.: Eric Bruntlett’s beard is awesome.

9:38 p.m.: Read somebody writing today about how the Fox computer-generated strike zone is “showing up” the umpires and how lousy and inconsistent they are. I can’t wait for the day when umpiring is a computerized science.

9:36 p.m.: Here they are:

ShutUpTimMcCarver.com

BobFinnan.com/TimMcCarver/

9:33 p.m.: McCarver comparing a Presidential debate to a debate over balls and strikes between a ballplayer and an umpire. Meant to be slightly tongue-in-cheek, I’m sure, but just lame and stupid and unnecessary. Where is that IHateTimMcCarver Web site anyway?

9:33 p.m.: They’re replaying Rafael Furcal’s three errors, all in one inning. Wow.

9:32 p.m.: Oh, guess the debate is over. I’ll read a transcript tomorrow morning or something.

9:31 p.m.: Martin still in the game, behind the plate. Wonder if the ump will hold a grudge – he should.

9:29 p.m.: TOSS HIM! Russell Martin is arguing balls and strikes! That’s against the rules, son! He’s got to be ejected, umpire! I call Shenanigans!

9:26 p.m.: Big deal, Manny homers. He’s another one playing for a contract. It’s only a solo bomb. 5-1.

9:24 p.m.: Subjective journalism alerts: FOX desperately wanted L.A. to win this game. Tim McCarver is terrifically stupid. I loved how early on, one of the pitchers was about to throw, and McCarver says something like “here you’ve GOT to throw a curveball,” and the guy throws a 92 MPH fastball.

9:23 p.m.: Pat Burrell, playing for a new fat contract, makes a really good running catch. Phils up 5-0 in the bottom of the 6th. Is this some kind of weird dream?

“Subjective” Analysis: Phillies vs. Dodgers

Well, I was pretty dead-on with my Phils/Brewers blog. (Whodathunkit?)

So on we go to the National League Championship Series, facing the Los Angeles Dodgers – who incidentally are another of those teams that moved but kept the name, even though the name was used for a geographically-specific reason. (“Dodgers” had something to do with dodging trolleys in Brooklyn, the New Orleans Jazz made sense but not necessarily the Utah Jazz, etc.)

Anyway, here we go:

CATCHER

PHI: Carlos Ruiz/Chris Coste

LA: Russell Martin

ANALYSIS: Martin wins in a runaway landslide crush. He hits, he’s got power, he steals bases, he plays solid defense, and one of his middle names is Coltrane. Our boys lose this one to the DODGERS.

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FIRST BASE

PHI: Ryan Howard

LA: James Loney

ANALYSIS: Loney is a really good young player, but isn’t in the same league as Howard right now. PHILLIES get this one.

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SECOND BASE

PHI: Chase Utley

LA: Blake DeWitt (Jeff Kent?)

ANALYSIS: Even if you could somehow fuse Blake DeWitt and Jeff Kent together, you wouldn’t have half of Chase Utley. PHILLIES. (Of course, you’d have Bleff DeKent.)

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THIRD BASE

PHI: Pedro Feliz

LA: Casey Blake

ANALYSIS: Blake is a slightly better hitter, and I mean SLIGHTLY. Feliz is a much better defender. I’m feeling objective, so I’ll call this one a TIE. (Even though the Feliz/Greg Dobbs package is probably superior.)

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SHORTSTOP

PHI: Jimmy Rollins

LA: Rafael Furcal/Angel Berroa

ANALYSIS: If Furcal is at the top of his game, this is close. But he’s coming off a major injury, and I’m feeling subjective. I predict a PHILLIES win in this category for Jimmy, The Great Prognosticator.

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LEFT FIELD

PHI: Pat Burrell

LA: Manny Ramirez

ANALYSIS: Pat, I truly thank you for the two-homer day you had that helped defeat the Brewers. But I owned Manny Ramirez (fantasy-wise), and you, sir, are no Manny Ramirez. DODGERS get this one because Manny, in L.A., only batted .396 with 17 HR and 53 RBI in 53 games. Oh, and his OPS (on-base percentage + slugging percentage) was over 1200, which is just plain sick.

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CENTER FIELD

PHI: Shane Victorino

LA: Matt Kemp

ANALYSIS: I root for Victorino. In fantasy, I own Kemp. And in reality, Kemp has more power and is probably a better hitter in general. Slight edge here to the DODGERS.

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RIGHT FIELD

PHI: Jayson Werth

LA: Andre Ethier

ANALYSIS: Werth showed off some big power with a couple homers in the NLDS, but Ethier is another great young Dodger outfielder who took his game up like 57 notches this year. He doesn’t run like Werth, but his on-base is an excellent .375. Another slight edge to the DODGERS.

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STARTING PITCHER

PHI: Cole Hamels/Brett Myers/Jamie Moyer/Joe Blanton

LA: Derek Lowe/Chad Billingsley/Hiroki Kuroda/Greg Maddux?

ANALYSIS: The Phillies’ starters did an unbelievable job (Hamels), a very good job (Myers), a solid job (Moyer), and an excellent job (Blanton) against the Brewers. The Dodgers’ starting pitching is a mixed bag: Lowe is the wily veteran who’s been there and back; Billingsley is the young power pitcher who was prone to walks as recently as last season (and kind of this season, with 80 BB); and Kuroda is the Japanese import (makes him sound like a car) who put up very solid numbers and is the kind of guy who kills the Phillies. I don’t know if Maddux is available, on the roster, or already back home in San Diego. If he’s there and somehow pitches, I’m sure he’ll shut down the Phillies with his mind-bending wizardry. Or they’ll pound him for seven runs.

All in all, I give a slight edge to the PHILLIES here.

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RELIEF PITCHER

PHI: Brad Lidge/Ryan Madson/J.C. Romero/Chad Durbin/Clay Condrey/J.A. Happ/Scott Eyre

LA: Takashi Saito/Jonathan Broxton/Joe Beimel/Cory Wade/Scott Proctor/Hong-Chih Kuo/Clayton Kershaw

ANALYSIS: Each team has some really good talent in the bullpen. And although Lidge is just plain dominant, he’s almost matched by the Saito/Broxton combination (Broxton should be an elite closer in a year or two). The Dodgers have some very good ERAs in Saito, (2.49), Beimel (2.02), Wade (2.27), Kuo (2.14) and some great strikeout arms in Saito (60K/47IP), Broxton (88K/69IP), Kuo (96K/80IP), and Kershaw (100K/107IP). Strikeout arms against a Phillies squad that likes to strike out = edge to the DODGERS. I just trust those last few names more than I trust Durbin/Condrey/Happ.

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BENCH

PHI: Greg Dobbs/Matt Stairs/Geoff Jenkins/Eric Bruntlett/So Taguchi/Coste (see Catchers above)

LA: Angel Berroa/Andruw Jones/Nomar Garciaparra/Delwyn Young/Chin-Lung Hu/Mark Sweeney

ANALYSIS: Seriously, this LA bench might be the worst bench in the history of benches – despite having (or because of?) huge names like Andruw and Nomar. PHILLIES in a runaway victory. If I’m Joe Torre, I pray every night that my lineup stays healthy.

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MANAGER

PHI: Charlie Manuel

LA: Joe Torre

ANALYSIS: Torre, hands-down. Both of these guys are loved by their teams, but Torre knows how to run a game and probably of more importance, has been to 674 World Series with the Yankees. DODGERS get the nod here.

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FINAL SCORE: Dodgers 5, Phillies 4, one tie.

Yikes, this will be a close one.