Legendary center fielder Ken Griffey Jr. became a baseball icon in a Seattle Mariners uniform, but also spent a healthy portion of his career back in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio as a Red. The numbers were never quite the same, but those Cincy colors breathed some new life into the Kid’s Nike signature sneaker line. Available to purchase now is the Air Griffey Max I in a colorway that wasn’t a part of the original run, but still rates as one of the best pairs to ever feature the Griffey name.
This pair is dressed in varsity red nubuck with a white leather underlay running across the side panel. Black takes care of the cross strap, lace panels, toe box Swoosh and inner liner. A white polyurethane midsole houses full-length Air, while a black rubber outsole finishes off below.
Available: Nike Air Griffey Max I – White/Black-Varsity Red
Last season, Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips won his second Gold Glove award, received his first All Star selection and led the Reds to the Playoffs for the first time since 1995.
Brandon Phillips at the Eastbay shoot
After years of hard work and persistence, Brandon’s love of baseball is paying dividends. In 1999, Brandon signed with the Montreal Expos straight out of high school. After playing some minor league ball, Brandon was traded to the Cleveland Indians in 2002. He won the starting second baseman job with the Indians in 2003 but, after some ups and downs, was dealt to the Reds in April of 2006. Going back to when he was a kid, Brandon speaks highly of his idol, former Reds shortstop Barry Larkin: “The only reason I really started playing baseball is because of Barry Larkin. If it wasn’t for him, I probably would be playing football right now.” For Phillips to look up to Larkin (the 1995 NL MVP) and then to have the opportunity to play for the Reds was huge.
Brandon Phillips' Player Exclusive Wilson gloves
After being sent to Cincy, Phillips made an instant impact with the Reds in 2006, batting .276 with 17 homers and 75 RBIs. He had a fielding percentage of .977 and seemed to have found a home in the Reds’ infield. In 2007, he set career highs in multiple categories, getting 187 hits, batting .288, slugging .485, hitting 30 dingers, scoring 107 runs and stealing 32 bases. He also recorded 94 RBIs and had a fielding percentage of .990. When we asked Brandon what advice he had for kids trying to play at the next level, he said, “You got to make sure you just work hard and you got to stay focused. It’s like what Sparky Anderson told me: ‘What you put in the game is what the game will give back to you.’” Brandon’s hard work and focus paid off in 2008, when he hit 21 homers, had 78 RBIs and won his first Gold Glove with a .990 fielding percentage, committing just 8 errors on the season. Brandon had another strong season in 2009, batting .276 with 20 homers and 98 RBIs while posting a .988 fielding percentage. Last season, he batted .275 with 18 dingers and 59 RBIs while picking up his second Gold Glove with a .996 fielding percentage.
Brandon with his Dad
You can tell from listening to the off-season drills Brandon talks about that he works extremely hard at his craft. It seems like he really enjoys putting in the work. When it comes to staying sharp in the field, Brandon says, “I do a lot of pick-up drills when it comes to defense, cause, like, defense is very important to me. A lot of people don’t really know how important defense is, because defense wins championships. I do a lot of quick feet drills. My dad rolls the balls to me and I try to make sure I get in front of the ball, make sure I get the ball in between my legs every time. And I do a lot of wall ball; there are many activities that I do to make sure my hands are golden. [laughs]”
Along with collecting his second Gold Glove award last year, he also helped the Reds win the NL Central Division, clinching a Playoff birth. Talking about what’s next for him, he says, “Just get better day in and day out. I still have a lot of things in my game I need to improve on. And you know I am going to improve on everything in my game when it comes to my speed, hitting, and just trying to be a five-tool player. When it comes to the Reds, I just feel like that we have something we have to go out there and prove again. We need to make it to the playoffs and get past the first round this time and try not to get no-hit. [laughs]”
Brandon’s passion and love of the game is what makes him a special player. “Baseball is America’s pastime and is the greatest sport ever. I love doing it. A lot of people think I’m cocky, but I just love playing baseball. I just love this game and would do anything to play this game. I just like to have fun; I’m just a big kid. If you’re not having fun playing this game, then why are you doing it? I don’t see baseball as a job; I see it as a hobby. It’s a hobby I get paid for.”
For the American League East and the National League West, it came down to the final day of the season to determine the division winners. For the Yankees and the Rays rivalry, as well as the Padres and the Giants, you really wouldn’t have expected it to end a game sooner this season. Now that the puzzle pieces are in place, let’s take a look at the first round matchups and see who has the advantages.
Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
In the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays finished one game ahead of the Bronx Bombers in the American League East, securing the best record in the American League at 96-66. The Rays will host the Texas Rangers on Wednesday to open up the post-season action. The Rays will begin the series with 19-game winner David Price taking the mound in Tampa Bay against the 2008 American League Cy Young winner Cliff Lee of the Rangers. During a few days off for Evan Longoria, the Rays offense was still able to lead the team to the top spot in the AL East, and with him back for Wednesday’s game, Texas has a tough road ahead of themselves.
Prediction – Tampa Bay took the regular season series 4-2 over the Rangers, and although the Rays have had the added stress of fighting for the final playoff spot, they’re a better team than the Rangers, even if they don’t have fans that show up. If Texas can get a win in game one, they’ve got a good chance at an upset, otherwise I’m going with the Rays 3-1.
New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins
In the second of the AL playoff matchups, the Minnesota Twins, who will have to get through the playoffs without 2006 American League MVP Justin Morneau, who was recently ruled out for the entire post-season by Twins GM Bill Smith. The Twins will send Francisco Liriano to the mound for the opening game of their series against the Yankees. New York will be visiting Minnesota Wednesday evening and will be handing the ball over to one of this year’s strongest Cy Young Award candidates in 21-game winner CC Sabathia. Offensively, the Yankees “lesser known” superstars, like Robinson Cano, will be the key to victory for the Yanks this post-season, while the Twins will look to the added experience of players like Jim Thome and Orlando Hudson.
Prediction – The Twins have lost to the Yankees in their last three playoff meetings. This year, the Yankees went 4-2 in their meetings, and the Yankees know how to step it up in the playoffs. With that said, the Twins can push New York to five games with home field advantage, but whether they’ll be able to finally overtake the Yanks is still uncertain. However, with Joe Mauer, Jim Thome and the new Target Field, I’m going with the favorite that is really the underdog, the Minnesota Twins in five games.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies
In the National League, the Philadelphia Phillies will look to continue their hot streak into the post-season by sending the NL’s top Cy Young Award candidate to the mound, Ray Halladay. Halladay has been the leader of one of the most dominating starting rotations in baseball this season, and the Phillies best record in baseball of 97-65 record reiterates that. Cincinnati will send Edinson Volquez out for the first game of the series on Wednesday evening. The Cincinnati Reds play well together and have surprised many behind Dusty Baker’s leadership. Their bats are capable of beating the Phillies, but their lack of experience compared to the veteran Philly lineup will be their downfall.
Prediction – Both of these teams can play well against each others’ weaknesses, which could make for an unpredictable series, and considering their closing pitchers Brad Lidge and Francisco Cordero both have a track record of cold streaks, either team could be the benefactor. The way the Phillies have been playing recently, and their experience in the post season, gives them the edge. Philadelphia wins this one 3-0.
Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants
The last series to get underway in the 2010 MLB Playoffs will be in San Francisco, where the Wild Card winning Atlanta Braves will take on the National League Division West champs, the San Francisco Giants. The Giants will send last week’s Pitcher of the Week, Tim Lincecum, who is back to his old form that won him back-to-back Cy Young Awards in the last two seasons. The Braves will counter with veteran right-hander Derek Lowe, who has won his last five consecutive starts. Offensively, the Braves will look to Derrek Lee, Troy Glaus and Rookie of the Year candidate Jason Heyward. Both of these teams have more emotion tied into their post-season hopes than any of the other matchups, which will make for some great baseball. What gives the Giants the ultimate edge is not their starting pitchers, but the dominance of their bullpen pitchers, like Sergio Romo and Brian Wilson.
Prediction – Atlanta is playing for Bobby Cox, one of the most respected coaches in baseball’s history, which is reason to fight until the end. However, the Braves have really held tightly to the final spot in the National League, and that momentum may cause difficulties for the Giants. The Giants have the healthiest balance of youngsters and veterans in the league and one of the best pitching staffs in the league. The Giants struggle against Atlanta ace Tim Hudson, who pitches in game three against SF’s Jonathan Sanchez. Otherwise, I don’t see the Braves getting much more than one win in the series. The Giants will take this one 3-1.
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