One, two, three strikes, you’re ejected.

I don’t know about you, but I have been noticing an interesting trend occurring in baseball this year. More and more players and managers are complaining about the strike zones. And, subsequently, more and more players and managers are getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes.

Last night, during a game against the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter had a magnificent ejection after arguing balls are strikes. Watching the video, it’s pretty funny. Not only is he yelling, but he strips off his jersey, gloves, and pads and throws them across the field. It’s quite a spectacle considering how mild-mannered Hunter usually is. Because he is so mild-mannered, that’s what makes his ejection so interesting and makes the issue of balls and strikes more pressing. If calm players like Hunter are getting worked up, maybe the problem is bigger than we realize.

A few days ago, Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia, another usually cool and calm player, got ejected for the same thing. He was upset because the Yankees batters kept getting rung up on a low pitch, but the Angels were not. He was ejected after jawing with the ump and his manager Joe Girardi was also tossed (after completing what might be the smoothest jump over a dugout railing I have ever seen). It’s quite a sight to see. And, in an earlier series against the Mariners, their manager Lloyd McClendon was ejected after defending his catcher, who thought my homie A-Rod took a checked-swing a little too far. A-Rod was awarded first base instead of getting called out on strikes. McClendon got his money’s worth, though. And even the Cardinals’ Matt Holliday was ejected for arguing pitches.

One thing I have noticed is that players are becoming more aware of the strike zone and the inconsistencies that go along with it. If I had to guess, it’s probably because of all the video that is available to players now. Every single pitch can be looked at and every single call can be questioned. With replay now in effect, you can review almost any call…except balls and strikes. I agree with this because can you imagine how ridiculous it would be having to pause the game every time a player disagreed with a call?

Not only can you review video after the games, but a lot of the TV broadcasts are now showing the strike zones during the broadcast. You can see exactly where the ball hit in the strike zone. Of course, it’s the networks that create the strike zone, but it’s still a good way to gauge consistency in the umpire’s calls. It’s a situation that needs to be resolved, but that’s tricky thing to do. I have a feeling new commissioner Rob Manfred will take a look at this, since he has proven to be a man who will take action on issues quickly.

I don’t know how we can change the strike zone since we have so many different umpires, but I do think we can work on consistency throughout the game. If you’re going to call a low pitch a strike, call it that throughout the whole game. If you’re going to have a wide strike zone, keep it wide. It’s hard being an umpire behind the dish, but making small improvements like this during the game could be really beneficial.

Josh Hamilton

I have to admit, I have been feeling very conflicted about what has been happening with Angels outfield Josh Hamilton. It bothers me to hear all of the rhetoric being spouted from the Angels management, but I am comforted by the assurance from his teammates that he is still a member of the team. If you didn’t know, Hamilton has a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, but has been clean for the last few years. He is a prolific hitter, or at least, he was a prolific hitter before he signed with the Angels in 2012. His numbers have been down since and has only been hitting .255 since joining the team. Considering the amount of money he signed for ($125 million, to be exact), those are not the number you want to see. Then, before spring training it was revealed that he had relapsed. He is currently recovering from a shoulder injury and not expected to play until May.

Say what you will, but the Angels knew of his problems long before he was signed. After the relapse, MLB decided he had not violated the joint drug agreement and was clear to play. However, the Angels are singing a different song. They claim that there were special clauses in his contract that would make his contract basically null and void if he suffered a relapse. I can understand their logic behind this move; after all, no one wants to pay a guy who might be hooked on drugs and not playing. The Players Association says that not letting Hamilton play is unjust and will surely file a suit if the Angels don’t let him play. Arte Moreno, the team’s owner, refused to say if Hamilton would ever play for the team again. His silence speaks loudly.

One player who is not silent is Angels lefty CJ Wilson. Wilson, who is the team’s representative for the MLBPA, has stated that if Hamilton was playing well, none of this would even be happening. If he was hitting .300, like he was signed to do, the organization would welcome him back with open arms.”Literally everything is different if you’re good. If you’re good, you get away with everything. That’s all there is to it”, Wilson told reporters. And he’s right. That’s how sports work. Fans, owners, managers, etc. will forgive and forget if you are producing on the field.

But this puts us in a moral quandary: do we let Hamilton play or do we insist he get treatment before he steps back onto the diamond? And, if we do let him play, what happens if he doesn’t play well? If he doesn’t play well, the team looks like a fool, but he does play well, no one will care about his past drug usage. However, if the Angels let him play and we find out he isn’t healthy mentally, they will look like buttholes for letting him play. Really, the Angels are in a no-win situation.

I am going to play owner/president/manager for a second. If I ran the organization, I would not spout out stupid things. I would condemn his behavior, but I would make sure everyone knew his health was the most important thing. Then, I’d suck it up and pay him the money he is owed. I knew full well of his struggles when I signed him, so the whole “fool me once” thing goes into play. But, I will only let him play with the agreement that he get therapy. If he wants to play, he needs to get his mind right. He is only human, after all. MLB says he is allowed to play, so play he shall.

Hamilton did well in Texas because they gave him a structured system that did not allow him to have the leeway to use drugs. He flourished under this system. My guess is that he works best when teams apply the whole “ideal hands do the devil’s handiwork” adage.  Hamilton needs help and the Angels are only making it worse. Sometimes, athletes need a kick in the can and sometimes athletes need a butt pat. I think Hamilton needs a butt pat.

Personally, I think the rhetoric the Angels is using is all wrong. It makes them come off like they don’t care about Hamilton’s personal well-being. As an organization, the well-being of your players is far more important than the results they produce on the field. The Angels have plenty of talented men on the team who can pick up the slack while Hamilton gets better. You signed him to a contract knowing full well of his issues, so guess what? You have to deal with the fallout. Don’t try and talk your way out of this one because it just makes you look like a turd. And stop saying these things publicly. It does no one any good to hear you say these things. I’d be willing to bet Hamilton is hearing these things and is probably not looking forward to playing for you.

http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/12674286/cj-wilson-los-angeles-angels-defends-teammate-josh-hamilton

D-Backs Got 99 Problems, but Trumbo ain’t One

Starting off the season 2-7 is not ideal for any team. Yes, yes, there are 154 games left, but starting off a season so badly is not exactly a great tone to be setting. It’s even worse when you start off a season in the same division as the Dodgers and Giants. What’s even worse is when you get blown out of the water by the Rockies, who had previously just been swept by the Marlins. THE MARLINS. Let that all sink in for a moment…

The Arizona Diamondbacks are off to the worst start in team history. The team is desperately trying to reassure fans that this is a bump in the road and things will turn around once the season gets going. However, fans are starting to groan and are wondering if this is going to be a really long season. Let’s face it: the D-Backs are worse than the Dodgers were this time last year, but no one is predicting the same epic turnaround. 

The most glaring problem the team has is the bullpen. With only two relief pitchers I completely trust (the awesome tomahawk throwing-style master Josh Collmenter and the new 40+ game saver Addison Reed), the bullpen is not looking good. After the leading the majors in blown saves last year, GM Kevin Towers did his best to revamp the bullpen. It didn’t work. The previously highly reliable sidearmer Brad Ziegler is struggling mightily. David Hernandez, who had a bad start to last season, was looking much better, but had to undergo Tommy John about a week ago. JJ Putz has hardly made an appearance. Lefty specialists Joe Thatcher and Oliver Perez haven’t proven themselves yet. Throw in a few other pitchers and you have yourself quite a motley crew. 

To help keep the bullpen out of the game, you want starting pitchers who can eat up innings, no problem. That is, after all, why the D-Backs went out and got Bronson Arroyo. I have faith in him. I really do. He is a proven pitcher who can eat up innings and will be good once the nerves of a team exit his system. Brandon McCarthy has pitched two good games thus far, only to have them blown by a few bad pitches or the bullpen. Wade Miley has been very good, and if he can stay settled down in the first few innings, he’ll be golden. Also, don’t forget to mention that Wade Miley can hit, too, which is always a welcome surprise. Patrick Corbin needing Tommy John was just about the worse thing that could’ve happened to this team, aside from losing Paul Goldschmidt. Corbin was the ace of the staff and highly reliable for a good outing. The other young pitchers, Randall Delgado and top-prospect Archie Bradley, struggled, with Bradley ultimately being sent back down to Triple-A before the start of the season. Delgado has all the potential in the world, but has not quite delivered. Lastly, there is Trevor Cahill who was looking for a bounce-back season this year, but had a rough spring training and rough first start. If he doesn’t come back strong, the team is screwed.

Offensively, things are not looking all that bad. Paul Goldschmidt is consistent, just coming off a 26-game hit streak and delivering RBI’s. He also gets on base a lot, with hits and walks. Martin Prado, who has been batting fourth behind Goldschmidt, has been great since the All-Star break in 2013. He has done everything he can to contribute to the offense, and let’s not forget that he is one of the best third basemen out there. And then there’s Mark Trumbo. Trumbo, newly acquired from the Anaheim Angels, has done nothing but contribute to the offense. He has had four homers in as many games and five on the season, not to mention that he gets on base with ease. You can tell he used to be a DH. Yes, he has made some poor plays in the outfield, but as long as he keeps doing what he is doing offensively, he can make as many bum plays as he wants. 

The problems are plentiful. Chris Owings at shortstop needs to work on his defensive skills a little, but his offense is productive. The pitchers need to go deeper into games and pay better attention to the batters they are facing. There is no reason they should be throwing meatballs to the same batters in the same location. They see the bullpen is gassed and need to stay in as many innings as they can. And the bullpen. Oh man, there are no easy answers to that one. Honestly, I have no idea what to do about the bullpen. I could spout ideas, but none of them would be good. Until Towers and Kirk Gibson can figure out what to do with the bullpen, the starting pitchers should pick up the slack as much as possible.

The D-Backs need to figure this out. The fans are getting upset and disgruntled. Attendance is already a problem at Chase Field and a losing team is not going to help that whatsoever. It is a shame to see players like Miley, Goldschmidt, Prado, and of course, Trumbo play so well only to have the team lose anyway. The D-Backs need to figure this out, ASAP. The NL West is too good of a division to just accept being sub-par. 

So, Trumbo, keep doing what you’re doing. The team and your fans need it. 

 

My Picks for the Post-Season!

I am of no authority to make my picks for who will win a division. No matter how many stats you look at or how many injuries you take into account, predicting the outcomes of the standings is far from an exact science. Too many factors are involved over the course of 162 games per team to make any kind of accurate prediction. But for now, I will look into my crystal ball and tell you how I think things might shape up…

National League:

NL EAST: Washington Nationals. Hands down, I think these guys are gonna take it. After the Braves went down with numerous injuries and so many players coming off bad years, I can’t see them winning the division. Washington has the offense, pitching, and leadership to take this team into the post-season.

NL CENTRAL: St. Louis Cardinals. This one is a bit trickier because the Pirates are looking good so far this spring, but I just don’t think the Pirates can win the division. The Cardinals have done everything right during winter break and acquired good pieces to fill holes left vacant. Add a bomb farm system and you have yourself a great team.

NL WEST: Los Angeles Dodgers. I hate to say it, but they are so good. If they can keep their front-line starters healthy and keep Puig from making embarrassing gaffs, this team is a lock for the post-season. Yes, there are a million huge personalities to tame, Don Mattingly’s included, but if they don’t all kill each other first, they will be just fine. Oh, and I just saw that they are now baseball’s highest spenders this year, taking away the Yankees’ 15-year run, so they REALLY better not suck.

WILD CARD(S): Pittsburg Pirates, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, or San Francisco Giants. All of these teams are good, but I doubt they are “win the division” good. Pittsburg has the momentum, the Braves always scrap their way in, the Reds have everything to prove, and the Giants have pitching for days. How these teams will preform if they do get into the post-season is not in their favor, but gosh darn it, they will try. Also, look for the Arizona Diamondbacks as a sleeper team. If the Goldschmidt/Prado/Trumbo sandwich works out, the offense could be insane.

American League:

AL EAST: Tampa Bay Rays. Talk about the hardest division in baseball! Good Lord, this is going to be a knock-out drag-down fight until the end, I can feel it! Honestly, any team could take it, but I would put money on the super awesome Joe Maddon and the Rays.

AL CENTRAL: Detroit Tigers. A perennial contender, the Tigers will be great this year. There have been some question marks with injuries and front office crap, but I think they can pull it out. But this one will be close because the Indians are really good, as are the Royals.

AL WEST: Oakland Athletics. This is the one division I was most unsure about. On paper, the Angels and Rangers look the best, but Oakland has a way to quietly dominate. Add the injuries to the Rangers and the uncertainty about the Angels, Oakland still looks the best. Seattle may have sold their soul to get Robinson Cano, but their offense is still weak and I doubt they will be contenders this year.

WILD CARDS: Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees, or Kansas City Royals. There is a reason there are 3 AL East teams. All of them could take over the division with no problem, so don’t be surprised if three or four of them hit the post-season. I view the Yankees as the dark horse team, a team that will be very dangerous offensively and off the mound. Boston still looks great so far and they have to motivation from winning the World Series, but back-to-backs Series wins are rare. The Royals have everything to prove here, so I expect them to work their butts off this year. I was tossing up between Baltimore and Texas, but just because of injuries, I have to go with Baltimore.

So, there you have it. I have the right to change my picks, not that I will because I don’t care. You can just read newer posts. Psh, this post will be on the elusive second page by the time I need to change my picks. Anyway, enjoy the picks I have made and let’s hope they don’t just suck baseballs by the time the season gets going…