Vegas Getting its Wish: Phillies Won

One of the really interesting aspects of the World Series comes from the Wise Guy angle. With several futures tickets outstanding for daring soles who bravely bet money on the Rays to win the World Series at 200-1 before the season started, there’s no secret who Las Vegas and other online casinos want to win the Fall Classic: the Phillies. They opened the line with the Rays as the favorites even though the teams seem to be pretty evenly matched, so that they could try to spark betting interest on the Phils to help them hedge. What kind of impact could it have on sports books in Vegas if the Rays win?

“It’s a significant number for a futures book, but it’s nothing that’s going to shut down the book or anything,” Kornegay told The Associated Press. “It might dim the lights.”

“We have learned our lesson that we don’t open these teams at 500-1 until the season starts and we realize what they have and what kind of team they have,” Kornegay said. “This year, I’m going to guess it’s probably in the millions range if you accumulate all the liability across the state.”

They must be breathing quite a sigh of relief after seeing the Phils take a Game 1 lead. Could you just imagine a room of FOX execs and sports book managers huddled together hoping for the Rays to lose in the ALDS or the ALCS so they don’t lose too much money? Could there be any other team in there that people would be more unhappy to see? At least they’re getting their way so far. Wonder if the wise guys can somehow create a few artificial rainouts to get Hamels an extra start or two — they wouldn’t even have to sweat in that case.

Madonna Wants Alex Rodriguez’s Baby? A-Rod Moving into the Neighborhood?

So I still haven’t completely comprehended the whole Madonna/Alex Rodriguez couple. It’s still pretty strange that A-Rod wound up with her in the first place. Think about it: when you’re A-Rod, you have the pick of the litter. Anyone you want and it’s yours. And you choose some of the chicks that he does? I don’t get it. Well since I guess many of us are past this totally weird couple thing, try this on for size:

Rodriguez shares Madonna’s belief in the mystical Jewish tradition of kabbalah. Monday, Britain’s Daily Mail quoted a friend of Madonna as saying, “She thinks he’s physically a great specimen. And if she is going to have another child, he would be the ideal man.”

One report had Rodriguez close to buying the $80million four-bedroom, 5,200-square-foot penthouse there. Insiders told The News he was scoping out several cheaper condos.”

Dude, A-Rod, get out before it’s too late. Seriously man, what are you thinking? I can’t believe how easily swayed he is. He really doesn’t sound too far off from the kid Jose Canseco described in the book, Vindicated. And how about something a little more in your age group too, A-Rod?

Dodger Fans Are Smart, Dump Beer on Police in Left Field Pavilion

I’d like to think that most Dodger fans are pretty sensible creatures. Unfortunately Doyer fans have decided to make up for the Raiders not being in town anymore and have left me disappointed. They’ve been involved in stadium shootings, been banned from local bars, and now they’re apparently dumping beer on police like complete idiots. Then again, I’m not sure you would expect much else from a dude donning Manny dreds.

Video via SbB. Seriously, aren’t Philly fans supposed to be the rowdy bunch of the two? I can’t believe Dodger fans these days.

Terry Francona Gives Ortiz, Drew Home Run Sign, Move Pays Off

You remember that movie Forest Gump? It was based on a book called Being There. Also known as the Terry Francona story. That dude has just totally been along for the ride during the Red Sox success the past few years which includes a pair of World Series titles. How hard is it to pencil in Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling’s name in the lineup card and just say, “Well, all we need is one run tonight thank you very much.” Honestly, if Thursday night’s Game 5 comeback by the Red Sox doesn’t prove it’s about the players then I don’t know what does. First the Sean McAdam rips on Joe Maddon for making a pitching rotation change (which didn’t turn out to be the problem), then I hear media members praise Francona following the win.

What a genius Francona was to put Jonathan Papelbon into the game in the 7th to keep it at a 5-0 margin. First of all, I don’t know which manager wouldn’t put his best available arm into the ballgame when his team is down five in the final game of the season — Joe Torre similarly had all hands on deck in Game 5 against the Phillies the day before. Secondly, Papelbon wasn’t flawless giving up a two-run double to B.J. Upton. And most importantly, it doesn’t matter what moves the manager makes if the team isn’t hitting. Seriously, like what did Terry Francona really do that was so special? Did he give David Ortiz the sign for “home run” in the 7th? Did he do the same with J.D. Drew? This guy is really just along for the ride. I still say the Rays in six, regardless of Boston’s recent history of comebacks. Don’t get me wrong though; I loved finally having an exciting game to watch and I’d love to see another one in Game 6.

Joe Torre Doesn’t Look Like Such a Genius Anymore

It bothered me that Joe Torre got so much credit for the Dodgers making it to the playoffs, and even more after they swept the Cubs. The amounts of praise he received was nauseating. There was talk about what a calming influence he provided, how he was able to tie together the two groups of the team — the veterans and youngsters — in a way that Grady Little couldn’t. All this talk was about the same manager who presided over an eight-game losing streak that included sweeps by the Phillies and Nationals at the end of August that all but had the Dodgers eliminated from the playoffs. To me, the Dodgers surging and making the playoffs was about two factors more than anything else: the acquisition of Manny Ramirez and the collapse of the Diamondbacks. People forget that it wasn’t so much about the Dodgers playing fantastic ball at the end of the season so much as it was about Arizona’s inability to win; the Dodgers didn’t even have to do anything on their part to clinch. Additionally, it became painfully evident how dependent the Dodgers’ offense was on Manny to score runs in the five-game series loss to the Phillies.

So let me ask this: what changed from the Cubs series to the Phillies series for the Dodgers? Did the roster change outside of Saito’s deactivation and Kuo’s activation? Were there any significant injuries? Were there any changes to the coaching staff? Were the Phillies a better team than the Cubs? It’s pretty safe to answer “no” to all those questions. The only thing that changed from the NLDS against the Cubs to the NLCS against the Phillies was the performance of the players. It’s pretty hard to win when Chad Billingsley pitches you out of the game by the 3rd inning on two occasions. It’s pretty hard to win when Cory Wade and Jonathan Broxton give up long balls in relief. It’s pretty hard to win when the bats of Andre Ethier, Russell Martin, and Blake DeWitt go invisible for the most part.

Look, I’d love to place some blame on Joe Torre and make him accountable for the NLCS loss. About the only thing I can say I disagree with was his move of Kemp to 7th in the lineup and then a subsequent benching in the following game — that to me is a display of panic when you’re benching one of your best players. Outside of that, what could Torre really have done to make a difference in the series? Not a whole lot. The bottom line is that the manager is at the mercy of his players with his success tied to their performance. Torre never should have received the credit he did for the Dodgers’ surge to the playoffs and their sweep of the Cubs. At the same time, he shouldn’t receive the blame for the team’s horrid performance against the Phillies. In the end, it all comes down to the performance of the players.

And just for kicks, our man and resident Philly fan Hop-a-Long was at Dodger Stadium for the clincher and was able to capture the moment on video.

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Matt Stairs: ‘I Swing for the Fences’

I’ve always been a fan of Matt Stairs, professional hitter. He has a unique style and always struck me as such the prototypical beer league softball player. Only he plays real baseball. And he plays it well. And in one statement, Stairs showed exactly why I love him so much. Check out this correspondence with Ken Rosenthal following the Phillies’ 7-5 win in Game 4 of the NLCS Monday night, where Stairs had the tie-breaking 2-run HR:

Score tied, one on, two out in the 8th inning, you’re up to pinch-hit, what’s your approach? It’s the same as when I pinch hit or when I’m playing — I try to swing for the fences — that’s how I’ve been my whole career.

There I was, rolling my eyes because Rosenthal had asked the typical, boring question to start his interview. I was expecting the “I was just hoping to get a pitch I could drive, I was looking to get a base hit …” but no. What does Stairs do? He lets the whole world know that his entire approach at the plate in every at-bat he’s ever taken is to try and hit a home run. I don’t think I could have possibly been more shocked by a player’s response to a question. Does it get any better than that? Is there any wonder why Matt Stairs is such a boom or bust hitter? I think we have our answer.

(photo courtesy Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

New Rays T-Shirt Proclaims Dominance Over Boston Red Sox

Not to get ahead of themselves or anything … but …

It takes a lotta balls — or mohawks — to put together a t-shirt proclaiming something so bold. And you know, the Rays made me look bad for making them my W.S. pick after the Divisional round was completed. Everything they did well against the White Sox they failed to do against Boston — play solid defense and get clutch hits. They had Dice-K on the ropes and couldn’t come through, and Crawford misplayed that ball in left field. I have a feeling they have a ways to go before they can go around making such claims. Thanks to Home Run Derby who discovered the shirts at the Rays online shop, and Ballhype as well.