Baseball is Over and I am Sad

We have officially entered the saddest, most horrible part of the year.

The off-season.

If you are anything like me, you are probably in serious baseball withdrawals. I mean, I went from watching 2-3 games a day to watching none and I honestly have no idea how to fill my time. What am I supposed to do now, watch basketball? I only care about basketball during the playoffs or when the local team wins so I can get half-price pizza from Papa Johns. Anyway, I would like to talk about the World Series. I’m a week late, I know, but I’ve been busy nursing a sick cat back to health and sulking through a two-week long rainstorm. Neither one of those are made up excuses. Sadly.

Okay, first of all, I am sooooooooooo happy the Mets and the Royals were the two teams in the World Series. It was weird not having the Cardinals or the Giants as a major player, but if we are being honest, I was glad they were not there. It was nice to see some fresh teams coming out of the National League! BTW, how amazing was it to see the Cubbies in the postseason? For the first time a while, I had no rooting interest in what team won the World Series. I would have loved the outcome either way.

Even though it only went five games, this was one of the more entertaining World Series I have seen in quite some time. It was dramatic, energetic, unpredictable, and fun. The crowds at Citi Field and at the K were incredible. The pitching was incredible. The offense was incredible. And, even more than that, the story lines in this World Series were incredible:

  • Daniel Murphy going from en fuego in the NLCS to el cabra (a goat. And yes, I did Google translate that) in the WS
  • Matt Harvey pitching like the hero NYC deserved in Game 5, but pitching long enough to see himself become the villain
  • Eric Hosmer half-stealing home plate in Game 5, after the Royals came up 90 ft short in Game 7 last year
  • Edinson Volquez pitching, unaware of his father’s death, then pitching a gem in Game 5

And that’s not even all of them! Also, can we just talk about how the Royals scored most of their runs late in games? Like, they are the biggest procrastinators ever. Well, either that, or the Mets have a really sucky bullpen.

This series had everything we as baseball fans love and adore. Actually, the entire postseason was one of the best I can remember. The drama was there. The high caliber of play was there. The passion was there. The underdogs were there. The fallen giants were there.

Looking back and reflecting on all of it, I gotta say, we were very spoiled with the 2015 postseason. It was magical, plain and simple. I can only hope that 2016 will give us another amazing season!

But, for now, I will have to settle for watching football and hoping that A-Rod tweets more so I can get my Bae-Rod fix until Spring Training.

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.

The Not-So-Curious Case for a DH

I’ll start right off the bat and let everyone know that I like having a DH. When I go to ball games, I don’t want to see the pitcher hit; it’s usually painful, awkward, and a guaranteed out. Who wants to see that? Let’s be honest: the only pitcher who is a joy to watch hit is Bartolo Colon, and that’s because it’s always a funny at bat. Watching him swing a bat is something that always brightens my day.

This morning it was reveled that Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright will most likely be missing the entire season with an Achilles injury he sustained while getting out of the batter’s box. He was running to first on a pop fly and tweaked something, which ended up being worse than most had figured. He’s getting an MRI on Monday, but the conclusion seems foregone. Nationals’ ace Max Scherzer said this injury should get MLB talking about having a designated hitter in both leagues, something I agree with 100%.

Earlier this year, Arizona Diamondback rookie Archie Bradley got his first hit in his first big-league at bat. Pretty impressive, right? It was impressive until he got picked off at first for basically being a zombie on the bases, not paying attention to the pitcher. Cool, you got a hit, but you still got an out. These kind of things happen to pitchers all the time. They are slow on the base paths, don’t make aggressive slides, and are only good for bunting. It’s harsh, but true. I don’t want my starting pitcher to get hurt because he is far less replaceable than a position player. Injuries happen all the time in baseball, but having a DH can prevent a good many pitching injuries.

Now, there are plenty of pitchers who are actually pretty good hitters. Madison Bumgarner is a solid hitter, as is Zack Greinke. Lots of pitchers also enjoy hitting. Scherzer said he likes to take hacks and prepare for at bats, but understands that no one wants to see him hit. I think there are tons of good reasons to have a DH:

1) No more hurt pitchers. If they must get hurt, I’d rather they get hurt on the mound.

2) No more “easy outs”. Pitchers in the American League have to work a smidge harder because they don’t get guaranteed outs. You don’t get to look at the line up and smile because you only have to work to two position players in the next inning. You actually have to do what your team is paying you $15 million to do: get potentially difficult outs. You’re not getting paid more money than God to get easy outs. If you are making fat stacks, I want you to earn your worth, dammit!

3) No need to take pitchers out early. How often have you seen a pitcher in a groove, but pulled out of the game early because the manager wanted to use a pinch-hitter to try and get some offense going? How dumb is that? You shouldn’t have to pull your pitcher out of the game early to try and get some runs! With a DH, pitchers can go deeper into games and you don’t have to burn through your bullpen unless it’s one of those games where everyone is having a collective brain fart. It’s crazy how many bullpen pitchers a manager uses, just because his spot to bat is coming up. I think I’ve seen maybe one or two relief pitchers ever go up to the plate. In the NL, being a relief pitcher is a Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am kinda deal, isn’t it? Perhaps relief pitchers could go a little longer and you long-relief guy could go a more innings if they didn’t have to bat.

4) Use the DH to rotate players. Got a guy who has a hot bat but needs a day off? Put him as the DH! Take him out of the field for a day and just have him hit. Managers in the AL do this all the time when they need to rest some of their players. Just because you have a DH position does not mean you have to have the same person hitting there all the time. People like David Ortiz and Victor Martinez, who play there exclusively, are rare. Give your guys a partial day off and keep them more rested.

5) More offense!!!! It’s a pitcher’s paradise these days, with teams scoring fewer runs. We have fewer power hitters these days and offense is down all across baseball. It might not help much, but having a DH could potentially increase a team’s run supply. Unlike pitchers, a DH has the power to change the game with the swing of his bat. For real though, when it comes to hitting, you always hear me say “Aww crap, it’s Big Papi!” I don’t think I’ve ever said “Crap, Clayton Kershaw is batting!” Seeing a pitcher hit does not exactly draw fear in anyone…

If you ask me, I think it is inevitable that the DH will come to the NL. Pitchers are too valuable these days to risk getting injured swinging the bat. There are some injuries that you cannot prevent, but you can prevent injuries sustained while batting. Will Wainwright’s injury change the system? Probably not, but it sure is sparking a conversation.

http://m.cardinals.mlb.com/news/article/120615844/st-louis-cardinals-brace-for-possible-season-ending-diagnosis-to-starter-adam-wainwright-after-achilles-injury

http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/writer/jon-heyman/25163988/in-wainwright-wake-scherzer-adivocates-for-the-dh-for-both-leagues

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.

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…

 

 

RECOMMENDED ARTICLE

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/major-league-baseball-execs-open-to-signing-gay-player-021014

With football prospect Michael Sam coming out of the closet, the NFL is poised to sign its first openly gay player. I, for one, couldn’t be happier. If the guy is good, it shouldn’t matter who he goes home to after the game. Is the NFL ready? I hope so. Is MLB ready? I hope so. I think this article gives me hope that a person’s sexuality should not matter when it comes to getting drafted. If he can hit a baseball or pitch like a fiend, it should never matter.