Friday, July 15, 2011

The Franchise/Baseball Halfway

I knew there was a reason I have Showtime.
This blog is going to go a few places. I want to talk about the best new sports show airing on Showtime called, The Franchise: A Season with the San Francisco Giants. Also, I want to talk about the baseball season, what the playoffs would look like if the season ended today, and who would win the hardware. Last, I want to talk a little about episode 30 of The Sports-Casters. I walked away from episode 30 with a big smile and thoughts that it might be our best work. I am getting ahead of myself. Lets start this off with, The Franchise.

When I moved into my new house last year it was an obvious call to go with DirecTV. As long as DTV has the exclusive rights to the NFL Ticket, I am going to have to subscribe to their services. Good or bad. The most important thing to me is to be able to watch Saints games every Sunday in the fall.

When we signed up for our initial package the gal on the phone threw in three free months of Showtime and Encore and The Movie Channel might be in there too. We had planned to dump it when the three months of free time ended. We already had HBO, and I figured that their package of movies, television drama, and sports was plenty of premium television for me.

Ultimately, I never cancelled Showtime. It slipped my mind, and I just got used to paying $1xx.xx every month for television. I have turned to it now and again. Last summer, I sat through a few episodes of Big Brother: After Dark. I watched a few movies. I watched the last couple of seasons of Weeds and I even tried to get into Dexter and Nurse Jackie. I wouldn't call it worth the money, but I never got frustrated to the point of picking up the phone and giving Showtime its walking papers.

A few months back, Miss Caster (she is so pissed to be Miss and not Mrs, but its only been 11 years, I don't want to rush anything) brought up the idea of cancelling Showtime. I initially agreed and then remembered hearing about  some kind of Hard Knocks/24/7 type show that would focus on the San Francisco Giants. I thought it was supposed to be based around spring training and when spring training came and went with no series I forgot about it.

Last week, I seen an add in the iPad version of Sports Illustrated for the show I had been waiting months for. Last night was the premier, and to sum it up briefly, this show was well worth the wait. The first episode covers the team from opening day right though to the All-Star Break. It runs around an hour and when I finished watching I thought it had to have been closer to ninety minutes. They packed so much information and covered so much ground it just felt like a longer episode.

My main complaint is that the first show probably could have been two episodes and they could have given more time to some of the stories covered and included some of the more obvious omissions. For example, Tim Lincecum didn't have a role in the first episode. He is one of the most interesting players in MLB. He also happens to be surrounded by a group of characters and pieces of work potentially unparalleled in the history of sports. Despite a lack of Lincecum, the episode is jam packed with stories about Barry Zito, Aubrey Huff, the comeback of Ryan Vogelsong, and the devastating injury to catcher Buster Posey. Not to mention plenty of airtime for that weirdo, Brian Wilson.

Another thing the show does well is taking us into the lives of the players and coaches. We get to meet Mrs. Cain, see some of the players interact with their children, and step into the meetings that the coaches and front office staff have each week of the season. One of the best scenes from last night showed head coach Bruce Bochy phoning in his All-Star selections to the Major League Baseball office. He then calls Ryan Vogelsong into his office and we get the chance to see Bochy give the news to his pitcher that he has made the All-Star team. Vogelsong was drafted by the Giants, traded to the Pitates, blew out his elbow, spent time in AAA, pitched in Japan, and finally got a chance to play in the big leagues when Zito was hurt earlier in the season. It really is an incredible story and the producers did a great job telling it.

The Franchise continues a recent trend of sports television that I am giddy about. Hard Knocks got it started a few years when NFL Films was given the chance to flex their muscles on HBO. The Ravens, Cowboys, Chiefs, Cowboys, Bengals, and Jets have all been featured in this 4or 5 episode behind the scenes journey through training camp. Last winter, the NHL got in on the action with the four episode 24/7 on HBO surrounding the Winter Classic. The winter before that HBO 24/7 did a four episode feature on NASCAR stud Jimmy Johnson. If The Franchise isn't enough, HBO is going to air a one hour documentary called Derek Jeter 3K about the weeks leading up to that magical Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

The Franchise will air each Wednesday night at 10:00 PM EST on Showtime (545 on Direct TV).  For more information, check this out. 

Did you know that this time it counts?
The All-Star Game has come and gone with the National League winning a mostly uneventful game, 5-1 over the favored American League. The NL has now won back to back All-Star Games despite having lost the previous 47 to the presumably dominate American League. I don't have any thoughts on the format, if the game is still relevant, or who played or didn't play in the game. For me, its just an exhibition played during the most boring sports week of the summer.  (Wait...what? The ESPY's were this week? My bad.) My favorite part of the All-Star game is actually clicking onto the standings and finding out what the playoff match-ups would be if the season had to end the day after the All-Star Game. Last season, only 2 of the 8 team in position to make the playoffs at last year's break failed to do so. The Padres and Cubs collapsed and ended their season's early to focus on their fantasy football teams. Here is how the standing look right now:

AL East- Yankees
AL Central- Indians
AL West- Rangers
Wild Card- Red Sox

(Also in contention (6 back or less): Rays, Angels, Tigers, White Sox, Twins)

Since the Yankees have the best record and the Red Sox are the wild-card if the playoffs started today, the Yankees would play the Indians and the Red Sox would play the Rangers. The reason is that you can't play a division opponent in the first round. If this is the case the Yankees fall to the two-seed and Texas moves up to the one-seed.

Yankees vs. Indians: I remember being convinced in 2007 that the Yankees were going to wipe the Indians out of the playoffs faster than King Kong Bundy can eat a plate of ribs at Dinosaur BBQ. Then the bugs of Lake Erie attacked Joba and the Yankees were sent home and forced to say goodbye to Joe Torre.

Rangers vs. Red Sox: I want the Rangers to do well because I am worried about Josh Hamilton. No one should have to go through what he has the last few weeks, and I hope his sobriety doesn't suffer. Adrian Gonzalez has been a beast and by playoff time Crawford should be a bit more comfortable in his skin.

NL East- Phillies
NL Central- Cardinals
NL West- Giants
Wild Card- Braves

(Also in contention (6 back or less): Brewers, Pirates, Reds, Diamondbacks)

Like in the AL, since the Phillies have the best record and the Braves, also in the NL East, control the wild card. The Phillies would be a de facto two-seed in the playoffs with the Giants getting the bump to 1. In that case, its Phillies vs Cardinals and Braves vs. Giants would be the round one match-ups.

Giants vs. Braves: This would be an awesome best of five series because of how good both teams starting pitching is. The Braves would roll Jurrjens, Hanson, and Hudson against Cain, Lincecum, and Vogelsong. The Braves have the best bullpen in baseball and that could be the difference in what promises to be a low scoring series.

Phillies vs Cardinals: This series has sweep all over it. The Cardinals just can't compete with Halladay, Lee, and Hamels in a short series. Who could?

The National League playoffs is going to be loaded with pitchers. I would like to see the Brewers get in to see how effective Zack Greinke could be in the playoffs.

My World Series Pick: Braves over RedSox in 7 games.

I will quickly go through my choices for AL/NL MVP, Cy Young, RotY, and Coach.

AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez. I could have easily selected Jose Bautista here, but his team isn't near the playoffs so is he really that valuable?

NL MVP: Prince Fielder. I think that the Brewers will emerge from the NL Central and make the playoffs. Fielder was the All-Star game MVP and I think he will beat out Jose Reyes and Matt Kemp for the award.

AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander. Verlander is must see baseball every time he pitches. Weaver and Beckett are close and could win, but I have a bit of a pitcher crush on Verlander right now.

NL Cy Young: My rule of thumb has always been if Roy Halladay is healthy all year he wins the Cy Young award. My favorite thing about Roy is that he finishes his work. He has the most complete games in an era of specialized bullpens and pitch counts. Hamels, Kershaw and Jurrjens deserve to be in this crowded and competitive field.

AL ROY: This is easy, Michael Pineda. This guy has filthy stuff and if he wasn't pitching at 10:30 in Seattle all the time he would be getting more run in the media. The coolest stat about Pineda; He is the seventh youngest player in the league.

NL ROY: Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel leads the Majors with 28 saves and is on pace to break the rookie saves record of 40 set last year by Neftali Feliz.

AL Coach: Manny Acta. Did anyone expect Cleveland to be as good as they have been? The Indians lost 93 games last year and turnarounds like that are usually what wins coach of the year awards.

NL Coach: Clint Hurdle. I have heard plenty of Kirk Gibson talk and that makes sense. But, like Acta, Hurdle has the Pirates (THE PIRATES) contending. If they finish the season with 85 or more wins Hurdle will be a lock for this award.

Episode 30 was Awesome. 

Just real quick, I want to give some links pertaining to the most recent episode of The Sports-Casters. The podcast reached the milestone of 30 episodes on Tuesday and the show was some of our best work yet. We try to get better ever week, and If we do, that means the last episode should always be the best so far. It doesn't always work like that. There are factors that can make or break a podcast. For example, thank god we got Greg Wyshynski at the last minute and decided to pair him with Sarah Kwak in episode 28. Sarah bombed and if we didn't have the interview with Greg our July 1 NHL coverage would have been a shame.

Anyway, a few links to information discussed in episode 30 of The Sports-Casters.

  • Jane Leavy isn't on twitter but she has plenty of information on her website.
  • We talked about her book, The Last Boy.
  • We also talked about this piece that she wrote for Bill Simmons's Grantland.
  • My number one guest in show history is Lee Jenkins. Check out his work on SI.COM.
  • Don chose Dave Dameshek as his top guest. I hope you are listening to his podcast on NFL.COM.
  • Damon Hack can be found on SI.COM as well, but don't forget about the work that he does for GOLF.COM
  • Damon predicted that Lee Westwood would win the British Open.
  • Damon talked about this catch by Terrell Owens in the 1998 NFL Playoffs.
Alright, it's time for my girl Bella to say goodnight.


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