Shock the World, Arizona

About 24 hours ago, it was seemingly a two-team race to sign the most coveted prize on the free-agent market: Zack Greinke. The Los Angeles Dodgers were the favorite to re-sign their right-handed ace and keep the knock-out 1-2 punch of him and fellow (multiple) Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. There were also talks in San Francisco that the Giants were trying to sign the ace. The two NL West powerhouse teams were battling over Greinke and no one was surprised.

Then the Arizona Diamondbacks came in and shocked the world.

As first reported by Fox Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal, the D-Backs were offering Zack Greinke a monster deal to come pitch in the desert. Just how monster? Well, Greinke is going to make $206.5 million dollars over the next six years, which can pay for: my college loan debt 14,750 times, 1,894,495 Zack Greinke jerseys, 8,641 2016 Ford Mustangs, and 24,294,117 churro dogs.

But why would he want to sign with the D-Backs? After all, they have been viewed as one of the three doormats of the NL West, along with the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies. Perhaps it was the lure of the fresh new uniforms the D-backs rolled out a few days ago. Perhaps it was the lure of being able to eat a churro dog anytime he wants.

Or, perhaps, he sees what a great team the Diamondbacks are becoming.

In 2015, the D-backs ranked in the top eight in the majors in runs, slugging percentage, OBP, stolen bases, and extra-base hits (thanks to ESPN.com for the stats). In the National League, only the Rockies scored more runs. ESPN’s Aaron Boone commented last night that the D-Backs defense is on-par with the Kansas City Royals, which is a big compliment. Truly, the weak area of the team was the rotation. They did not have a number one pitcher, or number two for that matter. Adding Greinke gives the D-Backs a lot of reassurance in their rotation.

Of course, getting paid $206.5 million dollars doesn’t hurt either.

It’s kind of a surprising move for the D-Backs to offer such a high contract. They were not a team known for breaking the bank for any reason. But, signs that they were wanting to spend big money came along a few days ago when they supposedly offered free-agent Johnny Cueto a 6-year $120 million deal, which he ultimately turned down. This is a team that, for most of its young existence, has done a great job of relying on their own player development to get the job done. The problem, though, is that for the last three or so years, the players in their farm system were not ready for the big leagues until this past year. 2015 was a special year for the D-Backs because they got to see how good their farm system was. The position players were trickling into the locker room and making a big impact. With several top-ranked pitching prospects on the cusp of being big-league ready, the D-Backs are looking good for years to come. Over the last few years, they have also been shedding pay roll so they could financially make a big move like this. Now, armed with a new 20-year TV deal worth nearly $2 billion dollars, this small-market team is sending a strong message: our time to win is now and we will spend money to make that happen.

Aside from vaulting the team into the post-season conversation, the signing of Zack Greinke does so much more. This signing sends a jolt through the fan-base, showing them that sticking with the team through the lean years and the continuous rebuilding could be well worth their recent suffering. When I got that news alert on my phone last night, I got chills. I was sure I might throw up from excitement. I also began to wonder how long it will be before I can buy a Greinke shirsey. Now, maybe Chase Field will start filling up again. Now, maybe more free agents will want to sign in Arizona. As a D-Backs fan and native Arizonan, I would find myself frustrated with the constant “rebuilding” process and I questioned why the D-Backs operated with such financial frugality, even though they had money to spend. The last few years have been tough, but signings like this make me feel optimistic. That feeling I had last night was a feeling I haven’t felt about the D-Backs in a long time.

I finally felt tangible optimism.

Sure, I’ve been optimistic about this team before, but this is different. This is a feeling that the organization as a whole is turning a corner and that the next few years are going to be really fun to watch.Will they regret his contract five so or years down the road? Probably. I’ve said before it’s stupid to give pitchers over thirty more than a five year deal, but I am a post-season craving D-Backs fan. I’ll deal with it.

So, pending a physical, Zack Greinke will be a Diamondback and I can’t wait.

*****

FYI, Buster Olney of ESPN gave a pretty interesting take on LA’s position in his Insiders column today. Here’s a snippet since not everyone pays for a subscription to the Insiders columns…

“…what is odd about the Dodgers’ parting with Greinke is that, besides their monster deal with Clayton Kershaw, they don’t owe a lot of money to other players beyond 2017. In 2018, they’re on the hook for about $42 million, toAdrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Brandon McCarthy, and in 2017, they’re set to be in the last season of deals with Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Alex Guerrero.

The Dodgers, however, would not give Greinke a sixth year in their offer, sticking to a reported $155 million over five years, and when the details of the Arizona deferrals are completed, it could turn out to be that they were outbid by about $35 million to $40 million by a division rival.

The Dodgers’ front office has signaled for weeks that it wanted to go young, but now the Dodgers have to live out that vision, which will be difficult. George Steinbrenner’s Yankees learned three decades ago that a team cannot be the financial bully in the room, with fans expecting an annual shot at championship, and step away from the table for a year or two at a time. Any rebuilding effort must be made on the fly, in concert with an effort to win, and that is the challenge.

And while you can debate the merits of a giving a 32-year-old pitcher a sixth year on top of a five-year offer and walking away from a deal over the difference of $30 million, there is no debating this: Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw propped up the Dodgers last year. When either of those pitchers started, L.A. was 43-22, and when anybody else started, they were 49-48.

The Dodgers might sign a cheaper alternative to Greinke, someone like Johnny Cueto or Scott Kazmir, but now the pressure on Kershaw will be even greater, and the same will be true for first-year manager and front man Dave Roberts, whose coaching staff was already in place when he was hired. They will be the first to feel the brunt of the fans’ frustration if the Dodgers drift backward in the standings and fall behind the Diamondbacks and Giants.

But that unhappiness would trickle upward, quickly, and the politics of failure would manifest, with a course change inevitable, despite the best-laid plans of December 2015. Former Red Sox GM Ben Cherington knows all about that.

A storied franchise sold for $2 billion just lost one of the three best pitchers in baseball over the sake of $30 million or so five years from now.” 

espn.go.com/blog/buster-olney/insider/post?id=11788

 

 

 

 

 

Baseball’s Not Dead

Being unemployed is really not that great, but it has given me ample time to watch a little too much ESPN. Every morning I follow the same routine: wake up, watch First Take, watch His and Hers, and then in the afternoon, catch SportsNation. In between, I’m reading about sports online, catching up on baseball games, and napping.

I’ve made a lot of observations about these talk shows, but one seems to be troubling: they all think baseball is dying.

What?

No, it’s not. First of all, this is a baseball blog, so you should all know by now that I will defend the sport of baseball until the day I die. It’s also my favorite sport.Get ready for a rant because a rant is what you are going to get…

Here is where I take issue with these talk show pundits saying the sport of baseball is dying. They say that viewership is down, which it is, but only on national TV. People, myself included, mostly watch games on local channels or MLB TV. Baseball is continuing to bring in massive local TV deals, even for the smaller market teams. For example, the Dodgers’ signed a 25 year TV deal worth $8.35 BILLION dollars. The smaller-market Diamondbacks signed a 20-year TV deal worth $1.5 BILLION. These are just two examples, but as you can tell, baseball isn’t going anywhere in terms of popularity with local markets. In fact, Fox Sports Arizona, the station that airs D-Backs games, pulls in the highest viewership ratings in the Phoenix area during games, beating out major networks who run programming during the same time slots.

Another thing they say is that young people don’t watch baseball as much anymore. Well, from personal experience I can tell you I have come up with differing viewpoints than that. So many people my age are watching baseball! I can pick out any young adult and ask them how their team is doing and they can give me a good answer. I see everyday how many younger people are blogging about baseball, tweeting about baseball, and supporting local baseball teams. Do you know how many people have MLB’s app on their phone? Just shut your faces, okay?

But what makes me more upset than anything else is that the very people who are saying baseball is dying are the ones who do these talk shows and NEVER talk about baseball! Every morning they talk about basketball and football, when in fact, neither is in season. They are beating the same football and basketball stories into the ground day in and day out. They never seem to talk about baseball unless it is a quick five minutes about the home run derby or a quip about Alex Rodrigues doing something they don’t think he deserves to be doing. They offer critiques about players when they admit that they don’t even LIKE baseball. Marcellus Wiley of SportsNation and Stephen A. Smith on First Take have both admitted to not liking baseball, yet seem to always offer opinions about “negative” aspects of the game. I can’t take you seriously if you preface your opinion with “I don’t even like watching baseball”. Not only that, but these shows, SportsNation in particular, brush off baseball like a joke, going so far as to give the audience a warning that they are going to talk about “boring” baseball.

Why do these programs not even bother to talk about baseball, especially since ESPN actually does a really good job of broadcasting games? They show three, sometimes four, games a week. Their Baseball Tonight crew is fantastic, especially the Seam Head shows they do once a week. However, Baseball Tonight is only on during the season, whereas ESPN chooses to air NFL Insider and NFL Live year round. How can you expect baseball to grow in popularity if you only air baseball shows during the season? I get that football is the most popular sport in America, but stop saying baseball is dying when you are not doing anything to promote it during the off-season. SportsCenter also heavily focuses on sports other than baseball, even during the season. The only time they seem to place a heavy emphasis on the games is later at night. Not cool, y’all.

I guess what I am trying to say is that 1) baseball isn’t dying, and 2) don’t say baseball is dying when you are doing nothing to promote the sport. Baseball is a $9 BILLION/year industry, so to say it’s dying is terribly naive and misinformed. Baseball is expanding it’s reach far beyond the states, and there have even been whispers about creating more expansion teams. You can’t say baseball is dying just because you don’t watch it, or because you don’t follow it. ESPN, you need to have your talk show pundits talk about baseball. You have to, or people are going to assume the myth of baseball dying is correct. Give baseball the same respect and airtime you give the NFL, or at least, the same airtime you give LeBron James.

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

Dear Baseball Santa…

Dear Baseball Santa,

I know I am cutting it a little close here. After all, Christmas is almost over and you are surely back up at the North Pole by now. I do have a few last minute baseball requests for you to work on over this next year. I know you are probably gonna be busy all year yelling at the elves to make the toys faster, but maybe in your spare time you can work on these requests? Pretty please with Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen on top? They are pretty simple requests, so if you could help a girl out, that would be greatly appreciated!

#1) If you could, can you keep the Yankees healthy in 2015? Or, if they do get hurt, can you make sure they don’t get hurt all at once? I understand they are a bunch of old farts out there, but I need them to do well this year. America needs them to do well this year! I wanna see my pinstriped boys in October again! And if A-Rod is back on the team, can you make sure he is productive and not just a super gigantic distraction? I know he’s gonna be a distraction, but it’ll be worth it if he can produce. And while you’re at it, can you please stop Brian McCann from hitting into the shift all year?

#2) On the topic of shifts, can you tell teams to let up on those defensive shifts a little bit? I get that pitching is all the rage right now, but I think everyone would love to see dudes get some more hits! Watching a one- or two-hit game is nice and all, but watching a team unload 10+ hits in one game is even better.

#3) Can you let the Padres be awesome? I mean, they made all of these crazy off-season trades and signings, so I would like to see them do well. They don’t have to make the postseason or anything, but it would be fun to watch them do well.

#4) While we are talking about the NL West, can you make sure that the Diamondbacks will finish with an above .500 record? I don’t even care if they make it to October (it’d be awesome, but I gotta be realistic!), but the fans in Arizona need a team they can believe in (and one who will beat the Giants).

#5) Please please please let the Red Sox suck this year. It’s not exactly fair, I know, but I am a Yankees fan and an asshole, so my request should come as no shock. If you can’t make them suck, can you at least make sure the Yankees finish 2015 with a better record than them? That’s all I want.

#6) If you could, please let Giancarlo Stanton mash many more homers. He’s a special player and he seems like a nice guy, so if you could let his bat stay hot, I’d really appreciate that.

#7) PLEASE DO NOT LET THE GIANTS WIN THE WORLD SERIES AGAIN. I know it isn’t going to be an even numbered year, but just hear me out on this one: It’s time for someone else to win the World Series, Santa, you know this.

#8) I would like fewer Tommy John surgeries to happen this year. It seems to be a popular thing now, so if you could limit the number of pitchers who have to get this surgery, everyone in the baseball community would really love that! And please let Matt Harvey, Patrick Corbin, Jose Fernandez, and Ivan Nova come back stronger than ever. The game is better with those guys pitching.

#9) Please stop letting the managers dawdle during instant replay reviews. If they are going to challenge something, have them do it quickly. No slow ambles onto the field while awaiting a thumbs up or down from the bench. Have them throw a flag or something, or only come out of the dugout if they want to challenge the play. PLEASE.

#10) Stop having Yasiel Puig make stupid choices. He’s a really fun player to watch, but having him make poor play calls and base running gaffs is really bothersome. He’s a better player than that. He could be the NL MVP if he just stopped doing stupid stuff.

Okay. I think that just about covers it. Oh! Wait! One more thing:
HURRY UP AND BRING BASEBALL BACK!!

Thanks a bunch, Baseball Santa!
XOXO,
Hannah

Trade BFFs

Being enemies is so 2001.

If you don’t believe me, just look at some of the trades the Yankees and Diamondbacks have been making. They have made three (3!!) trades with each other since the July non-waiver deadline, with the latest trade coming today. The third trade, which was made today, involves the Detroit Tigers, just to shake things up. All three clubs have just confirmed today’s big trade news, and every MLB reporter has been talking about it since about 8am AZ time this morning. The D-Backs are sending shortstop Didi Gregorius to New York, the Yanks are sending RHP Shane Greene to the Tigers, and the Tigers are sending LHP Robbie Ray and big-time prospect Domingo Lebya to the D-Backs.

Let’s have a run down of the three trades the Yankees and D-Backs have made:
1) Brandon McCarthy to the Yankees, Vidal Nuno to the D-Backs.
2) Martin Prado (bae!) to the Yankees, hot-hitting catching prospect Peter O’Brien to D-Backs.
3) Didi Gregorius to the Yankees, Shane Greene to the Detroit Tigers, Robbie Ray and infield prospect Domingo Leyba to the D-Backs.

So much for being enemies, huh? Growing up in AZ, you are trained to believe that the Yanks are a bigger enemy than illegal immigrants, snow, or the Los Angeles Dodgers (Hence why my love of both teams has led to threats of violence from friends and threats of being disowned by my parents. Hi Mom! I know you are reading this because you are the only person who does! Love you!!). However, these 2001 World Series foes seem to be heavily relying on each other these last six months. In fact, with the Prado (bae in pinstripes) and Gregorius trades, I knew they would happen before they happened! No, I’m not psychic – outstanding and gorgeous will be acceptable titles instead – but I knew what the Yankees needed and what the D-Backs could give. With A-Rod’s suspension and no solid second-baseman in 2014, the Yanks needed a versatile infielder who could play 3rd, 2nd, or outfield. Cue Martin Prado (bae…wit dat booty)! And this year, the Yanks needed a shortstop and guess who has a surplus of shortstops? The D-Backs! See? It’s not that hard to predict trades; you just have to pay attention.

Anyway, looking at the trade today makes a lot of sense for all the teams involved. The Yankees get their shortstop, Gregorius, who is a one-man defensive highlight reel. The Tigers get Greene, who has filthy stuff and potential to be a solid pitcher. I will miss him in pinstripes, but he will do great in Mo-Town as a back-end starter. And the D-Backs got a pitcher who could be a “diamond-back” in the rough (see what I did there?!), be it in the rotation or the bullpen, and they got a minor leaguer who can RAKE. Yes, Leyba has some time before he gets to the bigs and his defense is not as good as it should be, but he has done nothing except put up power numbers in the minors.

Now, if you can recall, this is not the first time the Tigers, Yanks, and D-Backs made a trade. Back in 2009, there was a blockbuster trade. The Yanks sent Austin Jackson and Phil Coke to the Tigers and pitcher Ian Kennedy to the D-Backs. The Tigers sent Curtis Granderson to the Yanks and Edwin Jackson to the D-backs. And the D-Backs? Well, they sent a little-known pitcher named Max Scherzer to the Tigers, along with pitcher Daniel Schlereth…How cool would it be if this trade came full circle and Max Scherzer signed with the Yankees this off-season? I would cry. Obviously, this trade burned the D-Backs bad since Kennedy was a dud for them and Scherzer, well, he won his Cy Young elsewhere. Hopefully, the trade today won’t burn the snakes again.

I like today’s trade, mostly because I will still get to see Didi play on a regular basis. He is awesome and will be a great addition to the Yankees infield. Now, if the Yanks could just re-sign Brandon McCarthy and sign Scherzer, that would be great!

Here’s some good Just A Bit Outside articles about the trade…BTW, if you aren’t on the JABO train yet, I recommend it, especially if you like insider opinions and saber-metrics!
http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/baseball-joe/blog/yankees-diamondbacks-tigers-trade-didi-gregorius-shane-greene-analysis-120514
http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/baseball-joe/blog/the-heir-apparent-to-derek-jet-no-stop-it-120514

…And here are some more articles because this trade involves my two favorite teams on planet earth and you fools need to be well informed!
http://insider.espn.go.com/blog/keith-law/post?id=3016&ex_cid=InsiderTwitter_Law_GregoriusTrade
http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2014/12/05/didi-gregorius-trade-yankees-diamondbacks-tigers/19956169/

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.

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… 

 

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…

 

 

Baseball in a Land Down Under

After a successful week in the scenic Sydney, Australia, the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks should be landing in the states very soon. Obviously, the trip was a bit more of a success for those pesky Dodgers, who ended up winning both games. While I greatly enjoyed watching the second game, which was on a much more reasonable time of day, I was able to learn quite a few things about the teams and the series:

1) Australia is awesome. I mean seriously! They really pulled out all the stops for these teams and that was really cool to see. People don’t realize what a great market this country is for baseball, but they more than proved their case in these last few days. The way they transformed the hallowed Sydney Cricket Grounds (think Old Yankee Stadium in terms of hallowed-ness) into a baseball diamond was incredible. Not only that, but each game had over 38,000 fans in attendance! How cool is that? 

2) Don Mattingly is super pissed at Yasiel Puig. Listening to Mattingly’s comments post-game about Puig make me chuckle. Even the skipper is none too pleased with the kid. Making some serious base running errors that cost the Dodgers some outs is not a good way to go. Add some kind of injury to that and you have a grumpy Donnie Baseball. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Puig is just as likely to help the Dodgers lose games and he is to help them win. My sympathies go out to you, Mr. Mattingly…

3) Kershaw and Ryu are dynamos. For much of the spring, the D-Backs have had Kershaw’s number, but alas, when they needed to dial it, they couldn’t even find the phone. Kershaw dominated in the first game and looked like the Cy Young winning he is. And Ryu? He looked just a good.

4) Wade Miley looked great. Sure, the team didn’t win, but it was not because of Wade Miley. He had eight strike outs and looked really solid. On day two, however, Trevor Cahill did not look so good. With Patrick Corbin probably gone for the year, Cahill really needs to step it up, but if this game is any indication, it isn’t looking so good…

5) Goldy/Prado/Trumbo sandwich combo will be fabulous. Goldschmidt kept up a hitting streak that has carried over from last season and the D-Back fans got to see a real live Trumbomb. As long as Martin Prado’s bat stays hot, we will have three very dangerous hitters on our hands. Prado may not have had the offensive start that he wanted, but let’s remember that he was hitting about .500 during spring training.

6) The Dodgers will still be really good this year. So, congrats Dodger fans. You will have a fun season to watch, but don’t be dicks about it, and I mean that. You all were super annoying last year, especially consider the suck-fest that was your team for the first few months of the season. 

7) The Diamondbacks will be sorta good this year. Frankly, I think anything above a .500 finish will be considered a success. 

8) Baseball is back and it is GLORIOUS. ‘Nuff said.