High Socks to ChiSox, and Northside to Southside.

Look out, AL Central: The Chicago White Sox are coming to play. Not just play, they are coming to contend.

Much to my dismay, Yankees closer David Robertson has agreed (allegedly) to a 4 year, $46 million deal with the Chicago White Sox. Not only that, but he has limited no-trade protection. Robertson cashed in big time. It may not be “Papelbon” money like he was hoping, but my goodness he came awful close.

As if the news about D-Rob wasn’t enough, we just found out that Jeff Samardzija, who was previously with the other Chicago team, has landed with the White Sox (allegedly) via a trade with the Oakland Athletics.

HOLY BALLS YOU GUYS.

None of this is confirmed of course, but don’t be stupid. All of these reporters can’t be wrong! (please read that sentence with a smidgen of sarcasm) But for real though. the south side of ChiTown came to play during these winter meetings. As a Yankees fan, I take comfort knowing they will get a first-round draft pick (that will probably get traded away for an “established” player, like, three years down the road…) for D-Rob. However, as a baseball fan, you have to wonder what Billy Beane is doing over there in Oakland. He has traded away many fan favorites and basically dismantled the team from last year. He’s kind of a mad genius, so even though what he is doing seems crazy, I can’t expect anything less.

It will be interesting to see what the rest of these winter meetings will hold…

The Great Second-Half Collapses

If I told you in May that the Oakland Athletics would not have clinched the AL West title, that the Atlanta Braves were not going to make the post-season, or that the hot-hot-hot Brewers would be all but forgotten, would you believe me? The answer is no, you probably wouldn’t. Back in May, everyone was picking Oakland to make it to the World Series, myself included. I would’ve guessed that Atlanta would have gotten a Wild Card spot, along with the Brewers. But, alas, this is not going to happen. These three teams have had the most unprecedented collapses this year and everyone is surprised.

Let’s start with Oakland. This is the one team everyone was sure, at the very least, would clinch their division. The talent on this team was undeniable and it’s still there, but something is off. This is not the Oakland team we knew and loved. Yoenis Cespedes is gone, traded to Boston for the still-brilliant Jon Lester and the problems seem to be stemming from that. The offense has been substantially quieter since they traded away their Home Run Derby champ, which has been problematic. Every starting pitcher they have had or have brought in have been fantastic, but the offense can’t get things going. Yes, the A’s are still in the Wild Card hunt, but they need to finish this season on a VERY strong note. Not only that, but they are going to need to win the one-and-done wild-card deciding game. Then, if they make it that far, they will STILL have to play some pretty killer teams. With the Angels meteoric rise to clinch the AL West, the division I had pegged as “weak-ish” at the beginning of the year suddenly became stellar. If the A’s can make it to the ALDS, I think they will be fine. But, then again, I said that last year, too.

Besides the Cardinals, the Braves have been a post-season staple (ok, a NLDS staple since they can’t seem to actually get further than that) for the last number of years. Atlanta is a team that has always been good, and for the first half the year, that held true. But then, the Nationals hog the NL East spotlight. The Nats were the team I picked to win the division because they are the overall best team in baseball, but I could not have foreseen the Braves just crumbling. Their offense has been near last in just about every category you can think of since the All-Star break. This is a team who has so much super-star potential, yet there some serious disconnect happening. Today they fired their GM and more cuts are likely to happen. How crazy is that?

Lastly, the Brewers were a team that surprised us constantly this season. They surprised us early on by being so good and they are surprising us now by scrambling for a Wild Card position. They held the lead in the NL Central for most of the season and looked like the team to the beat in the post-season, but they are currently shadows of their former selves. Their “average” pitching has finally pooped out and they cannot seem to hold leads for very long. If I were them, I would harness the power of Hank the Ballpark Dog. Hell, let Hank pitch! He might do better than some of their current staff, and gosh he is ten-times cuter.

What does all this mean? Well, this gives us some optimism that the Brewers could be quite good next year if they get some pitching. It means the Atlanta is in a time of transition, which could take a few years to figure out. They will always be good, but as long as you have the Nats in your division, good luck. As for Oakland? Well, let’s hope they go far this post-season or people will be second-guessing Billy Beane more than they already are. Remember: the players Beane got are basically rentals. I can’t see Lester staying after this year (Lester! Hey, Lester! You should maybe consider coming to the Bronx. Pretty please? Maybe? Please?) and it is tough to figure out who else will stay. These teams have disappointed plenty during the second half of this season, but I have faith that Oakland will at least make it to the post-season. I hope they do. Oakland still has time to turn it around, but time is something they don’t have much of.

If it Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix it. Oh, You Did Fix it? Huh.

This year’s trade deadline brought a bunch of change for many teams, but none more so than the Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s. Both teams should theoretically make the playoffs because both teams have been great all year. Before the trade deadline, these teams were leading their divisions and cruising to an easy postseason berth. What shocked the baseball world was when Billy Beane traded his beloved prospects for a ton of high-caliber starting pitchers, plus Jonny Gomes. We were also shocked when Detroit pulled off a three-team trade for the Rays’ David Price. So, with these two teams on paper becoming world superpowers (kind of), what could possibly go wrong?

Well, let’s start with Oakland since I really really really really want them to FINALLY get to the World Series and so Brad Pitt can finally win the last game of the season. Now that I have accepted the fact that my Yankees will not get to the World Series, I can start choosing sides. Anyway, Oakland sent the home run derby champ Yoenis Cespedes to Boston for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes, further ramping their rotation, even after their trade with the Cubbies. So what happened? Well, the Angels are now in sole possession of first place in the AL West, and they are not backing off. Oakland is somehow unable to consistently win games. It is worth noting they still have the second-best record in baseball, but this is not what they were expecting. They were expecting to be on a rampage, riding unicorns into battle and slaying their opponents mercilessly.

Let’s talk the Tigers now! With the acquisition of David Price, the Tigers have the most lethal rotation in baseball. I firmly believe they could out-pitch the Dodgers if need be, but ever since the trade, their offense has become sporadic and their rotation is a little shaky. They got walloped by the Twins two games in a row, including a 20-6 massacre. I am unsure if the Twins have scored 20 runs combined all year. Another example is when Price pitched in Tampa. He gave up ONE hit, a homer, and still lost the game. How messed up is that? Anyway, another factor is cause for alarm in the Motor City: Kansas City. The Royals have come out of the woodwork and overtaken first place in the AL Central. Now, Detroit is jockeying for a Wild Card spot. Well then.

So, is there reason to worry about these teams? Nah, not yet. If we get to mid-September and these two teams are in fact NOT riding unicorns and slaying their opponents, then I will worry. Pitching is the key to winning in the postseason, and Oakland and Detroit have that in spades. Once the new players settle in, I think both teams will be fine. However, after the deadline, these were not the results these two teams were hoping for. Like I said, everyone was expecting them to be riding unicorns and slaying every other team, but that is not happening. The unicorns are doing a slow trot, but hopefully this just means they are saving their energy for late September.

Pitching wins the postseason and these two teams have no reason to worry. They just have to get there first.

Oh, What a Night! Late July, Back in 2014

I don’t think any of you will catch my Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons song title spoof, but for those of you who do get it, you’re awesome. My brain is too fried from this crazy trade deadline to come up with something more clever.

WHAT A CRAZY NON-WAIVER DEADLINE. Holy crap, I am still trying to wrap my brain around everything that happened over these last few weeks, especially what transpired in the final 24-hours. Rarely have we seen such an eventful deadline with such big names. Since I love making lists, let’s go over my picks for winners and losers, both short and long-term! Let’s do this.

Long-Term Winners
Boston Red Sox – This is a team who gave up 4/5 of their starting rotation, the rotation that WON them the World Series last year, but they got some good prospects, good offense, and unloaded contracts, which will really help them in 2015, much to the chagrin of this Yankees fan.

Arizona Diamondbacks – While I am super bummed about the departure of Gerardo Parra, the loss of Martin Prado is cushioned because I get to watch my favorite Venezuelan in pinstripes. D-Backs nation is a little stunned by the moves, but one has to remember that they have one of the best farm systems in MLB. With all of the prospects they got in these trades, the D-Backs will be set for awhile…just not any time soon.

Tampa Bay Rays – I know, I know, they just gave up their superstar pitcher David Price, but I think they will recover just fine. They got some good stuff in the three-team trade, and, although I think they should have gotten more, I bet they will do more in the off-season to become a viable threat again.

Short-Term Winners
New York Yankees – I am mad impressed with what this team did. There were no splashy moves, no big name trades, but they were able to vastly improve without surrendering team talent and only one top prospect. They got Brandon McCarthy, Martin Prado, Chase Headley, Chris Capuano, and Stephen Drew while surrendering Vidal Nuno, Yangervis Solarte, Kelly Johnson, and prospect Peter O’Brien. Not bad, Bombers, not bad…

Oakland Athletics – I put them in “short term” because they built this rock star team to win the 2014 World Series. I do not know how much of this team they will keep after this season is over, but dear God, watch out. When your rotation is Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija (I spelled it right on the first try!), Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray, and Jason Hammell, you don’t have much to worry about. Yes, they traded some hot prospects and Yoenis Cespedes (yes, I spelled that one correctly, too), but as I am sure Billy Beane is thinking, “YOLO”.

Detroit Tigers – I also put them in “short-term” because it seems like they will be losing Max Scherzer after this year. Yes, they got David Price, but my guess is that they will be looking to give him the long-term contract instead of Scherzer because of the inability to agree on a deal with Mad Max. Their rotation is killer, like, could probably strangle bears, but they will need to duke it out with Oakland to get to the World Series. My goodness, that will be a ridiculous October matchup.

St. Louis Cardianls – While I am a bit concerned that they so readily dealt Allen Craig, they did get John Lackey from Boston, which is never a bad thing. Lackey will do well there and he will probably get to go back to October, something his former Red Sox teammates will probably not be able to say.

Seattle Mariners Again, as is a trend here, Seattle did well during this trade, but I don’t know how it will shake-up long-term. They got some much needed offensive power and didn’t have to part with much to get it. I am not convinced that Seattle will be a contender this year, but they made some very smart moves at the deadline.

Losers
Boston Red Sox Yes, they are winners AND losers. Them trading away their whole rotation was a bit of a white flag for me, saying that they are not too confident about the rest of the season. Think about it: Clay Buchholz is now the “ace” of their staff. Yikes.

Philadelphia Phillies They REALLY needed to move some contracts and after a disastrous season, this was not an ideal way to end the deadline. So many of their players were in the trade rumors, yet nothing was able to come of it.

San Diego Padres They got rid of Huston Street (best baseball name ever, BTW) and Chase Headley, but didn’t really do much to improve themselves. With the mess they have in the front office, it’s not really surprising, but I think they could have done a smidge more to help themselves.

Pittsburg Pirates In a division like the NL Central, you would think the Pirates would do something! But nope. They did diddly squat, which was disappointing.

San Francisco Giants This is a team who really needed some help in the infield and could not get anything done. They got some pitching reinforcement in the Red Sox’s Jake Peavy, but Peavy can’t get San Fran to the post-season all by himself.

Los Angeles Dodgers – They sure don’t need the help, but they were mentioned in SO many deals that it is hard to believe they really only walked away with the Cubs’ Darwin Barney, who was claimed on waivers. They will be playing in October, no doubt, so I don’t think you can really think of them as total deadline losers.

Okay, that is a lot of teams. And yet, it’s still not all the teams involved in the trades! Good lands, I could be here all night. I think these are teams that really stuck out in my mind, for better or worse. This was probably the most exciting July trade deadline that I have seen and it is GOOD for baseball. I am so excited to watch the rest of the season unfold and watch how these teams compete for a post-season berth.

Okay, I need to unwind and reflect some more on these trades…just kidding, I’m already watching more baseball.

Immaturity vs. **Pizzazz**!

There is room in baseball for pizzazz, but very little room for immaturity.

This season, we have started to see a rash of young players coming in and taking baseball by storm, something that is always exciting to see. These kids are talented, energetic, and have helped their various teams win games. However, with players such as Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez, and others showcasing some serious personality, veteran players are starting to get rubbed the wrong way. Where is the line between personality and showboating, or pizzazz and immaturity?

I guess we ought to start with my favorite guy to dog on, Yasiel Puig. I LOVE how talented he is, I really do. Slowly but surely, I have noticed him starting to mature this year. I think it is taking some goading from his teammates and manager, which is perfect. Don Mattingly sat Puig for showing up late to warm ups and is not afraid to get in his face a little if Puig has a mental lapse. Puig’s theatrics have also been a bit more subdued as of late, but he still does a bat flip whenever he clobbers a homer. He will cheer for himself after making a great play. Puig is basically his own cheerleading squad. Now that Puig’s blatant attitude problems are starting to clear, we are seeing the line between immaturity and pizzazz starting to blur. So long as he keeps maturing, I will enjoy watching him play baseball, which is something I never thought I would say. The energy he brings to the game is astonishing.

Now let’s talk swag. Swag is something I actually don’t mind at all. If a player cocks his hat a tad askew off his head (a la Jose Fernandez and Michael Pineda), that’s legit. Unbuttoning the top few buttons of your jersey, you do you bro. These little things are some of the only things players can do to let their personalities shine through in uniform that won’t piss off other players. I mean, let’s be real: you know what happens to players who piss off other players. That fastball comes in high and tight and you better jump out of the way. If the veteran players have a problem with the hat cocked or jerseys open, they need to get over it. Let the youth be youthful! I think they sometimes forget that at one point, they were cocky young players, too.

Okay, so when is the line between assholery and youthful drive crossed? Look no further than Manny Machado’s horrific display this past weekend against Oakland. After having an argument over an aggressive tag with Josh Donaldson, it was no surprise when Manny got thrown at. To be fair, Manny has just come back from a knee injury and the tag put him in a precarious position, and he had no desire to hurt it again. Should he have gotten heated with Donaldson? Nope. Calmly say, “Hey, watch my knee, please. I don’t want to re-injure myself, surely you understand” and boom! problem solved. Fast forward to the next game and Oakland reliever Fernando Abad clearly intentionally throws at Machado. Not cool, but not unexpected. So, what does Manny do? That’s right, a stupid and immature thing: he throws his bat down the third base, where Donaldson is playing. Coincidence? I think not! At first, I thought the bat might have just slipped, but after seeing so many replays, it was not accidental.

How stupid was that? Someone could have seriously been hurt by Machado’s bat! Throwing a temper tantrum does not produce results in real life, so why does he think it would serve him well in baseball? I really like Machado, but I have no respect for him. These kind of things can stain a person’s career, even if they are a great player. Manny is a GREAT player, but he needs to check his personality. I am glad he was ejected (as was Abad), and I hope it gives him a change to reflect on what he did wrong. Manny acted like a toddler and he got punished like a toddler. Players on other teams are not going to put up with his crap and he better be prepared to suffer the consequences for his actions.

I get that these young players are in their early twenties, where maturity is allowed to lapse. However, they are on a different stage than the other regular Joe’s their age. They are being looked up to by children and are representing a long history of tradition. Baseball polices itself, just like it always has, just like it always will. For the sake of the game, let’s hope the younger players are willing to mature faster so the game can roll along like it always has. If not, well, they will have a lot of baseball shaped welts and bruises…

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…

 

 

Let Me Elbow in Here…

Unless you have been living under a rock this spring training, you should have noticed a deeply upsetting trend occurring among young pitchers. This issue is causing serious problems for ball clubs and players, and is disappointing fans everywhere. If you know the names Patrick Corbin (D-Backs), Kris Medlen (Braves), Jarrod Parker (Athletics), or Brandon Beachy (Braves), then you know what I am talking about:

The dreaded elbow injury.

These four guys are all facing the daunting idea of Tommy John surgery, and for Kris Medlen, it would be his second. It is something that no one wants to have to deal with, especially considering the recovery time is about 12 months. There is no denying it: these injuries are increasing and that is a problem.

Just think about some of the names of guys who have had to have this surgery: Steven Strausberg, Matt Harvey, etc. These guys were both in their early twenties. It’s kinda odd, right? That’s why I was so disheartened to hear about Patrick Corbin. He is just 24 and was slated to have another great year. Even if he doesn’t get surgery, he is probably going to be out for six to eight weeks, minimum.

It must be really scary, right? It’s kinda scary for me and I am just a fan! Watching these pitchers going down (these last four in the same week!) is really concerning. We try really hard to prevent these kind of injuries by limiting pitch counts, innings, etc, but it’s not enough. Pitching is unnatural and the arms are trying hard to tell us that.

Losing Medlen and Beachy forced the Braves to pick up free agent Santana. Aside from losing the power-hitting Paul Goldschmidt, losing Corbin is the most devastating thing that could happen to the Diamondbacks. A rotation that was shaky last year relied heavily on their young ace, who delivered and then some. He was an All-Star. He nearly broke the club record for most wins and no losses. For now, the D-Backs are going to have to figure out what to do until he is healthy again. My guess is that they are going to take a chance on Archie Bradley and put Randall Delgado in the bullpen for long relief, but I could be totally wrong. This is a mess, but fortunately, there will be plenty of time to figure it out on the flight to Australia. 

All of these players are outstanding guys who do not deserve to deal with this kind stuff. Injury in any sport is inevitable, but it is a bit alarming how many pitchers are coming out of the game due to elbow injuries.

 

This was a good article by Ken Rosenthal, if you want some more detailed info:

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/rosenthal-pitching-injuries-piling-up-and-remedy-still-elusive-031514