Overreaction Tuesday…err…week.

How would you feel if I told you the Yankees were 1-4, the Rockies were 4-0, the Braves were 5-0, and the Pirates were 1-4? It would probably surprise you and if you are a fan of those teams, you are probably freaking out a little bit. Or a lot. I’m freaking out a lot. As a Yankees fan, I am totally losing my marbles over the team’s horrible start, even though I have no need to. “It is not the time to panic,” Bae-Rod reminds me. Okay, if Alex Rodriguez tells me not to panic, I’m still probably going to panic anyway, even though I have no need to.

Welcome to Overreaction Week, the week where everyone assumes their team should just give up on the season or that their team will win the World Series. It’s a stressful week for the former because no one wants to see their team spinning out of control at any point during the season. But really, how am I supposed to react when my team’s best player is A-Rod?? Take a deep breath and remember that there are still 157 games left on the season. Cool, I feel a little better, but not really.

Sometimes, it takes a little bit for teams to start clicking and for nature to take order once again. I mean, c’mon, at the rate this is going A-Rod will be the AL MVP and the Rockies will be duking it out with the Braves for a World Series spot against the Royals. Does ANY of that seem plausible? Except for the Royals, not at all. Natural order will take place once again, but we have to give it a few weeks, even a few months for teams to get their stuff together. In the mean time, fans can freak out all they want but it won’t change anything.

So, to all the broadcasters out there: STOP SAYING TEAMS ARE IN THE CRAPPER FIVE GAMES IN. I’m looking at you Joe Buck, Harold Reynolds, and Tom Verducci. You guys called the Yanks/Sox game earlier today and it was a 3-hour Yankees bash-fest. Stop it. It’s been five games. Calm down. Yes, my pinstriped boys are not great right now, but for crying out loud! Don’t say they suck until a little further in the season. If it’s the end of June and they still suck eggs, then we’ll talk.

And to all the fans: CHILL-AX. We have a nice, long season ahead of us, so let’s not freak out yet. Baseball is a funny sport and we should let it take its course before we lose our minds.

As Bae-Rod says, “It is not the time to panic”.

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.

For the Love of Brawls

I love bench-clearing brawls. 

I really do. They are probably one of my favorite things on planet earth and I make no apologies for it. One of my favorite past times is pointing out the stupidity in others and bench-clearing brawls make for some prime target practice. Very rarely have I seen a brawl that did not emerge from something stupid and unavoidable. After today’s skirmish between Carlos Gomez of the Brewers and the Pittsburg Pirates, I figured I should explain why I get so excited when something like this happens. But first, let’s look at some of my favorite brawls (in no particular order):

Dodgers v. Diamondbacks, June 2013: This brawl was insane. Benches cleared twice. TWICE. Multiple fines were issued and the #FreeHinske movement got underway (if you live in AZ, you totally get that reference). After six (SIX!!) hit batters, the dam broke when Ian Kennedy (AZ), plunked Zack Greinke (LA). Cue flying fists and Mark McGwire’s neck vein! This battle didn’t seem to end, no matter how ridiculous it was. People were getting thrown into camera wells, Puig was exploding all over the place, and no “adults” were present. I went to bed too steamed to sleep, which is actually really embarrassing to admit. As it turns out, the brawl was the tipping point for the Dodgers and they went on a tear for the rest of the season. Bum deal, bro.

Brewers v. Braves, 2013: Hark! Carlos Gomez at the heart of another brawl! Gee, I’m sensing a pattern…Anyway, CarGo admired a homer for WAY too long and then proceeded to stare down the pitcher as he trotted around the bases. Braves catcher Brian McCann (who is quickly becoming my new favorite Yankee, BTW), took great exception to that, and by that I mean he never even let CarGo get to home plate. I would not want to run into a McCann-wall. I don’t know anyone who would. Yes, he seems like a super nice guy and a really great ballplayer, but dear God, do not piss him off.

That time Jason Varitek glove-smooshed A-Rod in the Face, 2004: Out of principal, I had to include this. I mean, c’mon. I HAD to (I love A-Rod, I can’t help it: He’s better than the best soap opera and cooler than a cucumber wearing Ray Bans). Let’s face facts: it was a Kodak moment. Literally. I just checked and you can buy a framed photo of the glove-shoving moment on Amazon for $40. Not only that, it was a GREAT fight and cranked up the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry. The rivalry has actually cooled off considerably this year in the small sampling of games I’ve seen. Where’s A-Rod when you need him to spice things up?!?

Here’s the thing: Brawls are usually caused by egos. Duh. If you admire a long home run (or what you perceive to be one), you should expect to get some jawing from the pitcher. Don’t get all butt-hurt when he starts chirping at you! If you don’t want chirping, don’t grandstand. I mean, seriously. Get with the program.

So what if the brawl is caused by getting hit by pitches? Well, the unwritten rule of the game is that the team who did not get hit receives a “free plunk”. Basically, you hit my batter, I get to hit yours. There. Even Steven. All balance is restored and the only thing that happens is the benches get warned. When it escalates from there, that’s when you have a problem. Hitting batters isn’t always avoidable, but anytime there is a whiff of purposeful plunking, watch out. Don’t retaliate after your one allotted revenge hit.

There are plenty more reasons why brawls start, but I would say 97.32% of brawls are totally avoidable. Brawls are bad for baseball! I know, I love them, but I love the game more. Baseball is a gentleman’s game, not a hockey game. Mind your manners. Remember, the person who just gave up a homer to you is feeling pretty crappy, so don’t make it worse. And if you do make it worse, don’t be surprised when they let you know.  

Yes, I will enjoy watching fights when they happen, but I never root for them to occur. I’ll take a civil game over a brawl any day.

Unless A-Rod is involved. All bets are off when A-Rod is involved, and I mean that in a totally good way. Love ya, Alex… 

 

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

 

Winning and Losing Starts Before the Season Does

With the off-season coming to a close and spring training starting this week (YAHOO!!!!!), it is that time when everyone is really analyzing the off-season moves made by all of the teams. I decided to look into who made the best moves and the worst moves. Here is a list of the teams who I think won the off-season and the teams who didn’t make much of a splash:

Winners:

New York Yankees: Dumping almost half a billion dollars during the off-season is a great place to start for a team who has money and really needed to make changes. They needed offense, so that’s what they got (okay, bought). They needed pitching, so that’s what they got. I think they made a lot of smart moves and put some much needed power in their lineup. I mean, spending that much money should be a good thing…right? Please?

Boston Red Sox: I’m including them because they covered their butts by getting AJ Pierzynski to catch for them once Saltalamacchia left. Clearly, the Sox have a pension for catchers with long last names. They just won the World Series and look poised for another post-season run. Besides, they have Mike Napoli’s beard to remind them of their success, and as a warning to never grow those nasty things ever again.

Tampa Bay Rays: They did not get rid of David Price. Forget all the good moves they made and extensions they signed. They are winners this off-season because they kept Price.

Texas Rangers: They picked up Prince Fielder (granted, he was not his best in 2013) and Shin-Soo Choo, so they are already looking better. With some post-season trips and near misses, they are poised to use that momentum to propel themselves forward. It would be fun to see them do that.

Honorable Mentions:

– Seattle Mariners: Giving Robinson Cano an arm, leg, and their soul was an interesting way to start the off-season, but hey, I guess they mean business.

– Kansas City Royals: Will they be Royal this year? Can I call them Queen Bee (get the Lorde reference? I think I tried too hard, but can you blame me??)? I sure hope so. 2013 was such a turn-a-round year for this club, it would be fun to see them really let loose.

– Los Angeles Dodgers: They didn’t really lose any key players and gave Clayton Kershaw a massive, yet deserving, extension. Now how funny would it be if they bombed like they did the first half of last year?

– Arizona Diamondbacks: Getting Mark Trumbo and Addison Reed was huge, but they had to surrender some prospects to get there. Hopefully, this will work out in their favor because I really want to see these Trumbombs everyone keeps talking about.

– Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. That’s all.

– Washington Nationals: A new manager (Matt Williams) and a new pitcher (Doug Fister) poise the Nats to give Atlanta a run for their money.

Losers:

Baltimore Orioles: In a division as hard as the AL East, you’d think Baltimore would have made some more moves. I was optimistic when they picked up Grant Balfour, mostly because I think he is awesome, but to see them drop him like a hot, Aussie potato was surprising. And they didn’t need that, either. Without any moves made, I can’t see how they can be contenders for 2014.

Toronto Blue Jays: Again, the AL East is a nasty place to be. Last off-season, Toronto made some rocking moves, but it never happened for them last year. I want to be optimistic, but I really doubt they will make magic. Really, the only cool thing about the Jays are the knuckle balls that will supposedly come out during Spring Training.

Cincinnati Reds: They lost Shoo, Dusty Baker, and will probably lose Bronson Arroyo. Bum deal, huh?

Pittsburg Pirates: I include them because they didn’t really do much this year. They lost some good players and might lose AJ Burnett, but they have a great farm system. Will it be enough to propel them into the post-season? Eh…it’s a little up in the air.

All remaining free agents: Geez, it must really suck to be a free agent and not be signed by now! I thought that once Masahiro Tanaka signed, the other pitchers would be prime real estate. As it turns out, no one wants to surrender a first-round pick for these guys and I don’t really blame them. It’s kinda of messed up that a solid pitcher is punished because a team won’t give up a draft pick, but that’s how it works.

Not-so-Honorable Mentions:

– Atlanta Braves: Yes, they are in both categories because while they gave extensions to the players who needed it, they lost good players. They better hope BJ Upton gets hot again and Dan Uggla can bounce back.

– Houston Astros: LOL.

– Miami Marlins: see Houston Astros.