Goals for Every MLB Team in 2017

Ahhhh Spring Training: the time of year when hope springs eternal for every MLB team. The Florida heat and the Desert sunshine bring the warmth and promise of a summer filled with homers, double plays, and a sense of purpose for baseball lovers everywhere. My goal for every MLB season is the same: watch as many games as possible and try to see as many games in person as I can. Usually, I accomplish both goals. But, like me, every MLB team also has goals coming into Spring Training.

I will tell you all what the main goal for every MLB team should be. Sure, they might disagree, but I know what’s right. I am all-knowing. I am basically the MLB mind reader. The strike out swami. The foul-ball fortune-teller.

You get the point.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles: Actually use one of the best pitchers in baseball in a critical moment. Woe is the team who does not use Zach Britton in a crucial moment. You can rest assured the Orioles won’t make that mistake again. There is no reason why Britton, who several baseball writers argued should be a Cy Young nominee in 2016, should have been warming the bench in the Wild Card game against Toronto. Nope nope nope.

Boston Red Sox: Get to the World Series. Seriously, as a Yankee fan, I hate how good the Red Sox will be this year. They should be able to run the table in the AL East fairly uncontested and if their offense matches up to what should be a stellar rotation, watch out.

New York Yankees: Let the youngsters play! In what the Yankees won’t be calling a “rebuild”, older players are almost through with their contracts and the farm system is stocked but not quite ready. It will be a rough year in the Bronx (or, at least, rough by Yankee terms), so the biggest glimmer of hope will be seeing the Baby Bombers get some quality playing time. With one of the best farm systems in baseball, there are plenty of young prospects who should see playing time on the big stage.

Tampa Bay Rays: Fill your stadium past 1/4 capacity. I mean, it’s not like the fans will have much to cheer for, but can we at least do our best to fill the seats when Chris Archer is pitching? The Rays won’t be as bad as last year (here’s hoping), but they probably won’t be the AL East’s marquee attraction.

Toronto Blue Jays: Don’t let the fans hurt visiting players. Like, for real. You were scrappy and cute a few years ago, but c’mon: you can’t throw bottles of beer onto the field and expect people to like you. You’re Canadians! Don’t be like Americans. Americans would throw beer bottles. I mean, if your going to throw anything, at least throw food. Athletes always need food.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox: Let some kiddos into the clubhouse during Spring Training. Okay, I don’t know if this is a problem or not this year, but better safe than sorry. #IStandWithDrakeLaRouche

Cleveland Indians: Get to the World Series and DON’T blow a 3-1 lead. This one seems pretty self-explanatory.

Detroit Tigers: Get invited to the Verlander/Upton wedding. 1) You know it’s gonna be a big-ass party and you don’t want to miss that, and 2) you really have nothing better going on this year. The Tiger’s window of winning seems to have closed as the rest of the AL Central has surpassed them. It’s a shame that the only exciting thing for the Tigers this year will be the wedding of their star pitcher and his swimsuit model fiancée.

Kansas City Royals: Honor Yordano Ventura. Play the game in memory of the young pitcher lost too soon. Play as hard as he did, scrap as much as he scrapped, and emote as much as he emoted. Love the game as much as he did.

Minnesota Twins: Don’t be a dumpster fire. Please? Give my cousins something to root for! I have a lot of family in Minnesota and I want them to have a team that doesn’t suck.

AL West

Anaheim Angels: Don’t waste Mike Trout. YOU HAVE THE BEST PLAYER IN BASEBALL AND YOU HAVE SURROUNDED HIM WITH AN “OKAY-ISH” TEAM. YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELVES.

Houston Astros: Make the Postseason. The Astros are a talented team, yet they cannot seem to make it into the postseason! I hope that changes this year because I want to see Jose Altuve breakout onto the big stage and show the world that a lil’ guy can be a force to be reckoned with.

Oakland A’s: I dunno. Be relevant? Who else forgot they were a team last year? *slowly raises hand*

Seattle Mariners: Make the postseason. Y’all have been so close the last few years! The Mariners have one of their better teams this year and this might be the year they get into the postseason. Will they make it past the divisional round? Probably not. Make no mistake, they are a good team, but I need them to prove to me that they are a GREAT team.

Texas Rangers: Have every player play just like Adrian Beltre. Who says no?

NL East

Atlanta Braves: Make Bartolo Colon pitch every single game. Please please please for the love of things holy, make Bartolo play every day. The world needs more Bartolo gifs!

Miami Marlins: Play for Jose. I can’t remember a more impactful sports moment than when Dee Gordon smashed a homerun in his first at-bat after the death of his teammate Jose Fernandez. God and Jose helped that ball rocket from Gordon’s bat deep into the bleachers and everyone on planet earth wept. Or, at least, I wept. It was a brilliant and beautiful reminder that sports are a magical entity. This year, the Marlins should continue to play hard, have fun, and remind the sports world how great sports are.

New York Mets: Wrap every pitcher in bubble wrap. For the Mets, it’s simple: keep your rotation healthy and the rest will take of itself. So the Mets need to wrap every member of their five-man rotation in bubble wrap during every second they are not pitching. I’m not even kidding.

Philadelphia Phillies: Give me free Chickie and Pete’s fries at every game I go to. I live close to Philly, so I go to several games over the course of the season. I think it would be grand if the Phillies gave me free crab fries. Those things are basically deep-fried crack. Let’s face it: the Phillies will still not be great this year, but they have a good thing going. They have some outstanding young talent that needs to mature, but I don’t think they will quite get there this year.

Washington Nationals: Give Max Scherzer as much chocolate syrup as he wants. I would say something about Bryce Harper, but it’s Mad Max who is the no-hit threat nearly every start. After his incredible past few seasons, I have no doubt that he will continue to dominate and if he wants to celebrate by getting chocolate syrup squirted all over him, Dusty Baker should let that happen.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs: Make it back to the World Series without becoming hated. Winning a lot means you’re gonna be hated by a lot of people. At this point, the Cubbies are still lovable and their players are still people you want to hug. They are an easy team to root for, but gosh those scales tip quickly.

Cincinnati Reds: Don’t lose 100 games. You can do it! I kind of believe in you! Let Joey Votto live his best life!

Milwaukee Brewers: Don’t eff it up. That gem is courtesy of the Brewers’ owner Mark Attanasio. But really, that about sums it up for the Brewers – they have a lot of young talent and some grizzled veteran players who could really seize on some opportunities as the team continues to rebuild.

St. Louis Cardinals: Get the Wild Card. Sorry red birds, but the Cubs are gonna win the division. They are a better team, have better players, and they have momentum on their side. You have “The Cardinal Way”, which will get you far, but I think you ought to really stay realistic here.

Pittsburg Pirates: Don’t let my ex, who lives in the ‘Burg, into the games. Like, I’m not being vindictive or anything, but I am being a lil’ petty. Okay, but really, the Pirates once again will have a formidable squad but I have a sneaky feeling they will come up just shy of the postseason. Or, they will trade Andrew McCutchen, which might cause the entire population of Pittsburg to march in protest.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks: Get a witch doctor, voodoo woman, and any other magic worker to sprinkle some pixie dust on the pitcher’s mound. The only silver lining for D-Backs fans is that there is no possible way Shelby Miller and Zack Greinke will be as bad in 2017 as they were in 2016. But, you know, a little pixie dust on the mound might not be a bad idea. Also, can you mail some churro dogs to New Jersey? Asking for a friend…

Colorado Rockies: HIT. ALL. THE. BASEBALLS!!!! The Rockies, believe it or not, have probably the most offensively-talented team in baseball this year. And they are talented even without the benefit of playing at a higher elevation. I’m not saying the Rockies will live to see October, but they could make things verrrrrry interesting.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Win the World Series. For a team this talented, it won’t be enough to just make it to the World Series. If they can’t win the whole shebang this year, they will be considered a multi-billion dollar failure. It’s that simple.

San Diego Padres: Tank and tank hard. Get those draft picks, baby!

San Francisco Giants: Suck. Okay, so this one is not a goal they should have, but as someone who grew up in AZ, I’ve come to loathe most California teams. There is no team I loathe more than the Giants and I would be more than happy to see them lose every game. I mean, they won’t, but I’d gleefully watch it happen.

Advertisements

Pinstripe Problems

I wanted so badly for my first baseball-related post of the 2017 season to be about the outlook of every team as Spring Training commenced. After all, optimism springs eternal for every team this time of year, and wouldn’t it be great to write a commentary on that for each team?

Yeah, it would have been, but Yankees President Randy Levine made sure that post wouldn’t happen. Yet.

Ugh. I’m so mad. As a Yankees fan, this whole episode with Levine makes my blood boil. For those of you reading who have no idea what is going on, let me fill you in: Yankees reliever Dellin Betances and the New York Yankees just finished an arbitration hearing to negotiate Betances’ salary for the 2017 season. Betances filed for $5mil, the Yanks filed at $3mil – that’s quite a difference. Dellin and his agents’ rationale was that he has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball over the last few seasons and should be paid what teammate Aroldis Chapman was paid after his first arbitration hearing (since 2014, Dellin has been a 3x All-Star, has a 8.5 fWAR, 392 strikeouts through 247 innings pitched, and a 14.28 strikeouts per 9 innings).

Arbitration hearings are always messy and not fun. The players have to listen to their team explain all of their shortcomings and why they are not worthy of a higher salary. But these hearings are part of the game and no matter what side wins, the loser still pushes on and the two sides tend to be amicable towards each other regardless. The Yankees won the arbitration hearing and all signs were pointing toward Dellin taking his salary and moving on, like a normal person.

Then team president Randy Levine opened his mouth.

Levine stated that Betances was not a closer, so even though he could be one, he was not worthy of more money. He said Betances was used by his agents to upset “the system”, referring to the idea that relief pitchers not given the “closer” title are not worth more money.

The idea that Betances was “used” by his agents is absurd – Betances did have a valid argument for wanting more money. Though he may not be a closer, he’s not exactly your typical set-up man. The fact is that even though the Yanks’ closer is Aroldis Chapman, Betances could easily fill that role.

Understandably, Betances and his agents were not going to take Levine’s comments lying down. Betnaces, when asked about the comments, said “I was planning on putting everything behind me until I was aware of Randy Levine’s comments saying I was the victim in this whole process and saying how much they love me, but then they take me in a room, trash me for about an hour-and-a-half.” He then added, “You look at it a little differently now. I think (free agency) will be a little easier when the time comes.”

RANDY LEVINE YOU BUTTHOLE.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal then wrote an article with the response from Rick Shapiro, the senior union executive who was tapped to represent Betances. Shapiro gave details about Levine’s manor in the courtroom, which makes the whole story even more infuriating. Levine was said to bully the panel and didn’t even contribute to the majority of the hearing. When he did contribute, he called Dellin by the incorrect name repeatedly and began to blame him for declining ticket sales and for the Yanks lack of postseason appearances. ARE YOU SERIOUS.

Okay. Deep breath.

Let’s unpack this bit-by-bit:

First, Dellin Betances hails from the Big Apple and grew up a Yankees fan. He’s one of the fans’ favorite players and the fact that he is a home-grown player is even better. It makes my heart hurt that Levine unnecessarily damaged the relationship between a home-grown player who grew up a fan and the front office.

Second, it’s normal for players to feel ill-will towards the front office after arbitration hearings. Feelings get hurt, but players move on. Dellin wanted to move on, but Levine made his thoughts heard in a press conference (which is totally unprecedented, BTW). You don’t air out your thoughts and dirty laundry with a presser.

Third, HIS NAME IS DELLIN.

Fourth, Dellin is not responsible for declining ticket sales. MAYBE THE FACT THAT YOUR TICKETS ARE UNREASONABLY PRICED IS WHY YOU ARE NOT SELLING TICKETS. Like, I can hardly afford crappy seats at Yankee Stadium! It’s such a nice ballpark and the views are incredible, but dear Lord it’s crazy! After paying for my NJ Transit ticket, subway fare, crappy tickets to the game, and for food and beer, I’m out well over $150. That may not seem like a lot to someone like Randy Levine, but to a girl who is trying to pay off student loans, car payments, etc, $150 is huge. If anything, watching Dellin and some of the other young, homegrown players are INCENTIVE for me to come to the ballpark. I don’t get to watch #BaeRod anymore, so I want to see these young kids play, even if we don’t win.

Fifth, the reason the Yanks haven’t made the postseason in a few years is because they are old, decrepit, injured, and frankly, not that of a great of a team. Let’s be real: it’s amazing they have still managed to have winning seasons the last few years.

Look, arbitration hearings are tough, but it did not have to get to this point. Levine could have shut his face and moved on, just like Dellin was trying to do. Dellin was upset with what he heard during the hearings, but he was more than happy to move on and contribute to the team. He is under contract until 2020, so I hope that the Yanks are able to mend fences with the fans’ favorite reliever. The Yanks front office and upper management have made several gaffes over the last few years (the whole Ticketmaster debacle, no digital tickets, the comments that basically said the casual fan doesn’t deserve nice seats – really, I could keep going), and they are all disheartening. But it is especially hard for me to see them trash one of their best players publicly.

Dellin Betances is a fan favorite and he is one of the best relievers in the game today. He deserves better.

 

 

 

Super Boring 51? Maybe.

Once again, I got caught up listening to a sports talk radio show out of Philadelphia on my way home from work tonight. Like it has been for much of the last week and a half, the Super Bowl was the topic of conversation. The question posed to the listeners today was “Is this the least-hyped, most boring Super Bowl ever?” Seems silly when you consider the fact football is the most popular sport in America and the NFL basically owns three days of the week for five months a year. But then I got to thinking: do I care about this Super Bowl less than previous Super Bowls? Could it be?

The answer is, begrudgingly, yes.

Perhaps I am on football overload, or perhaps I am just sick and friggin’ tired  of the Patriots, but I can safely say that I am less excited about this Super Bowl than I have been about any Super Bowl since I stopped watching the event just for the commercials. As I thought about this, I began to come up with a few reasons why this Super Bowl just doesn’t have the excitement of Super Bowls past…

1) It’s the Patriots. Again.

Aren’t y’all just sick of the Pats? I know I am. I mean, except for the first four weeks when Tom Brady was suspended, we all knew it was gonna be the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The rest of the AFC was just that weak. We could pretend for a few weeks that the Steelers or the Chiefs, maybe even the Raiders could upend them, but really, we knew Tom Brady and Co. were going to be in the Super Bowl. We just knew it.

2) The media really only covered, like, two football teams plus Colin Kaepernick all year.

…And yes, one of those teams was the Pats. I watched a ton of ESPN and FS1 this year and honestly, the media seemed to only talk about the Pats and the Cowboys. Lord, can you imagine the circus we would have if Dem Boyzzzzz and the Pats were in the Super Bowl? It would be insane. Like, ESPN would probably cease to function and Skip Bayless would be even more intolerable than usual. See, the problem is that the sports media focused so heavily on those two teams that every other team flew under the radar. For example, most people didn’t know the Chiefs were really good this year. Heck, most people didn’t know the Falcons were good! Not only that, but Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests got way more media attention than we thought it would (not that it was necessarily a bad thing). The media was so focused on the Pats, Dem Boyzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, and Colin Kaepernick, we never got to see how good some of the other NFC teams were (I say only NFC teams because let’s be real: the AFC sucked hard this year).

3) The election.

Nothing takes the joy out of the football season like a contentious, ridiculous, rancorous election. Seriously, I had a hard time focusing on how miserable my Arizona Cardinals were because I was too busy languishing over comments about sexually assaulting woman and banning entire religious groups from entering our country. Unlike the World Series, which offered us a wonderful break from the vile, rape-y rhetoric courtesy of our soon-to-be-elected president, the Super Bowl has not offered us a respite. In fact, even the sports talk shows are talking about Trump because the athletes are talking about Trump (you know, except Brady. Yeah, I went there.). Donald Trump’s executive orders (and the subsequent protests) have dominated the news in such a way that the Super Bowl has become an afterthought. Leave it to The Donald to ruin the Super Bowl.

4) LeBron 

This might sound crazy, I know. You can’t blame LeBron James for the lack of Super Bowl hype, but sports shows are endlessly covering the LeBron vs Charles Barkley feud. If LeBron stopped complaining, there would be more time to cover the Super Bowl. Not that LeBron needs to stop complaining, but he could hold off until Monday.

5) Pitchers and catcher report in exactly two weeks!!!!!!!!!!

BASEBALL IS ALMSOT BACK AND I CAN HARDLY CONTAIN MYSELF.

 

I’m sure there are other reasons this year’s Super Bowl is not as exciting as years past, but these were the big five that I could come up with. I’m still looking forward to the game, and I will watch it gleefully, but this year is so different. It’s a shame that I can’t be as excited about this year’s Super Bowl. It will still be a big day and it should be a great game, but gosh darn it, I wish I was a little more enthusiastic.