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 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.”







The Clayton Kershaw Postseason Pitching Problem

Clayton Kershaw is without a doubt one of the finest left-handed pitchers I have ever seen. I’ve had the priledge to see him pitch in-person, and even though he destroyed the Diamondbacks that day, I get to tell the future children I may or may not ever have that I got to see Kershaw pitch.

He has put up some of the most outrageous numbers over the course of his career and his numerous Cy Young awards have gone uncontested. No one else active in the MLB has even come close to deserving the accolades he has racked up in his seven year career with the Dodgers. His career ERA is 2.43 and his career WHIP is 1.03. That’s ridiculous.

However, Kershaw is a totally different pitcher when the calendar flips to October.

Last night, he actually pitched a very good game against the Mets, but got out-dueled by Jacob de Grom, a kid with epic hair who is making the MLB minimum salary. Kershaw, unfortunately, did not have his team’s offense behind him, but he still still pitched a great game. He gave up 4 hits, 3 runs, and one homer, but he also struck out 11 batters. Eleven. That’s nuts! The problem is that Kershaw really struggled against the left-handed hitters in the Mets’ line-up. As everyone knows, Southpaw pitchers are typically brutal on left-handed hitters, but for some reason, Kershaw actually has better numbers against right-handed hitters. In 2015, RHBs had a .192 BA/.239 OBP/.272 SLG and LHBs had a .203 BA/.231 OBP/.323 SLG. In other words, Kershaw owned everyone, but he had just a smidge more success with right-handed batters.

His postseason struggles are reflected in his stats:

2008: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 1 SO – 1.5 WHIP, 4.50 ERA

2009: 13.1 IP, 14 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 7 BB, 10 SO – 1.58 WHIP, 6.08 ERA

2013: 23 IP, 18 H, 11 R, 8 ER, 7 BB, 28 SO – 1.09 WHIP, 3.13 ERA

2014: 12.2 IP, 12 H, 11 R, 11 ER, 2 BB, 19 SO – 1.11 WHIP, 7.82 ERA

So what gives? How could a pitcher as prolific as Kershaw completely crap the bed come October?

To be honest, I’m not quite sure. It is possible it’s fatigue. After all, he’s been a beast all year, so something has to give, right? It’s well proven that some players just do not do well come October. My boo A-Rod, for example. In his magnificent career he’s averaged out to be a .297 hitter. In the postseason? His BA goes down to .259 and his strikeouts shoot up. Not everyone can be a Carlos Betran or Derek Jeter. I mean, they didn’t call them Senor Octobre and Mr. November for nothing. Not everyone can be a Panda Pablo Sandoval.

Can he handle the big stage and all the pressure? I am sure he can, after all, he plays for the team with the highest payroll in baseball. And, he plays in Los Angeles, the second-harshest media market (but I love the New York teams, so I could be a bit biased). He has nothing but pressure with every start, so I find the idea of him not responding well to the pressure a bit silly.

He has also had the misfortune of being out-dueled by other great pitchers. See, the thing about the postseason is that almost every team has a very good pitching staff. Kershaw has a lot of talent behind him defensively, too, and has had a very good offense supporting him. However, every single team in the postseason is going to challenge you and opponents are always better-than-average.

So what trips up Clayton Kershaw in October? I think it’s a combination of things. I don’t know that we can find one singular cause of his October woes. If we could, he would have corrected it by now. Perhaps it’s a combination of exhaustion, body wear and tear, good opposing pitching, and a touch of bad luck. I have a sneaky suspicion his time will come. Kershaw shines so much during the regular season that there is no way he won’t shine at some point in the postseason.

A HUGE thanks to ESPN for giving me all the stats I needed!

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.


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.

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:

Thanks a bunch, Baseball Santa!

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.

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.

Rocky Mountain High-Oh-My-Oh-My

Quietly lurking in the vast dump truck that consists of three teams in the NL West is a team that no one expected to be as potentially dangerous are they are ending up being. In a division that contains the Giants and Dodgers, no one really cares about the other three teams. The D-Backs? Laughable, off to the worst start in team history. The Padres? Wait, they still exist? The Rockies? Hahah-wait. 

The Rockies? How about those Rockies.

Yes, they are only 14-12 on the season, just scraping over .500 at the end of April, but I wouldn’t heed those numbers too much. They are, after all, currently tied with the Dodgers for second place in the division. Once Clayton Kershaw comes back off the DL, I suppose that will change, but don’t count the Rockies out yet. 

With a very scary offense, this is a team that could surprise people. On their 25-man roster, 8 are batting better than .300 and 11 are batting above .250. In comparison, on the Dodgers’ roster, only 4 are batting over .300 and 7 are batting about .250. Nutty, right? Oh, and the Rockies are leading the majors with a combined batting average of .294. Who would have thought that the Rockies, a team forgotten by many, could have such offensive prowess? And let’s not forget that the bearded center-fielder Charlie Blackmon is batting a league-high .402. I know, I had never heard of him either.

Yeah, they are offensively a good team, but what about defense? Well, I am so glad you asked! The Rockies have two 2013 Golden Glove winners in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez and the rest of the team ain’t that bad, either. New first base addition Justin Moreno is known for his defense, and taking over for the newly-retired Todd Helton is no easy feat. You have to hand it to the Rockies for being so reliably good on defense. 

Can this team make it into the post-season this year? I highly doubt it, and I say that because they have to climb over the Dodgers and the Giants to get there. They are very good and rather dangerous. If they can keep the same nucleus of guys next year, look out. I have a good feeling about the Rockies, I just hope I am right. I would love to see them do well.




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… 


R-E-S-PUIG (Respect for Puig)

I tend to dog on Dodgers’ star Yasiel Puig quite a bit.

Of course, most of it is because of his off-field antics and his ball playing gaffs. I don’t necessarily dislike him as a person, but I do think his behavior is, for lack of a better term, teenager-ish. 

So imagine my surprise when I read his very dark and disturbing story of his defection. I suppose it wasn’t so much surprise as it was humbling sadness for this kid. I won’t go into details about his defection because it is a story that cannot simply be summarized using witty banter and bizarre adjectives. If you get the chance, you ought to read it yourself because it is very sobering. Let’s just say his Cuban defection story has given me some newfound respect for this Tasmanian Devil.

After I read it, I understood more of why he acts the way he does. I get why he has always been so guarded and so mysterious. He clearly has much more on his plate than baseball. His manager Don Mattingly said that he is worried about Puig, especially since he has gotten death threats from the smugglers who got him to the States. Puig even owes these people a significant chunk of his baseball earnings, so that must make those smugglers unhappy. 

In addition to worrying about the smugglers, he fathered a child in the off-season. He has had multiple run-ins with the law. This kid has issues, but some of them can probably be explained by the trauma he must have dealt with trying to get to the USA. His on-field antics cannot be explained by this, which is why he needs to work extra-hard on getting better. He needs to focus and channel his energy in a more positive way. He needs to learn the ins and outs of the game and be more respectful of the game and its former players. 

Listen, there is no denying this kid is good and baseball is better having him there. All I ask of him is that he work on being a more respectful person and to fix his unnecessary errors on the field. I have no doubts that he is a good man with a good heart. Hearing what he had to go through made me respect him more as a person. If he can get better on the field and work on his uber-polorizing personality, he might have a shot into my good graces.

Here is a link to his full story. I highly recommend you read it, especially if you want to lose some faith in humanity: 

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.