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.

Cruz-ing to Safeco…

If you don’t follow MLB Memes on Twitter, I highly recommend doing so. They make fun of everyone and every team (although I would say they make fun of the Yankees more than others…) and some of things they post are genuinely funny. After news broke that Orioles slugger Nelson Cruz signed a 4 year/$57 million deal with the Seattle Mariners, MLB Memes posted a photo of a graveyard that said “Nelson Cruz in Safeco Field, where power hitters go to die”. I laughed because it is true.

When the Mariners swiped Robinson Cano from the Yankees in the off-season last year, I was upset. There went our power-hitter and it was something the Yankees never quite recovered from. Being the spiteful person that I am, I really did not want to see Cano’s home run totals be high. I got my wish. He only hit 14 home runs in 2014. To put that number into perspective, he hit 27 in 2013 and 33 in 2012. He was still incredibly productive, with an average over .300 most of the year, but his home run numbers dropped significantly without that short right field porch Yankee Stadium offered him.

Cano’s example begs the question if Nelson Cruz will see similar drop offs in his power numbers. My guess is they will drop. Camden Yards, where Cruz slugged his way through 2014, is a pretty good hitters ballpark. Safeco Field is cavernous. Some people will argue that the power numbers come from a hitter-friendly park (such as Camden Yards, or Yankee Stadium in Cano’s case), which is totally valid. For example, Troy Tulowitzki could be considered a power hitter at Coors Field, but not even close whenever he is on the road. Ball parks have a lot to do with it, but raw power is something else.

Nelson Cruz has raw power. That was never the question. The question is if he will be able to make a meaningful difference in Seattle. He will make a big impact in terms of getting runs in, but will that be all? Do the Mariners want to spend so much money on these power hitters when they know full well that their ball park is a graveyard of power hitters? I would have signed Cruz myself, but I think they also need to play small ball in their big ball park. Seattle will be very good in 2015, but it won’t be because of the long ball.

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.

Cano, don’t’cha know?

Listening to the Bleacher Creatures chant “You Sold Out” to Robinson Cano was as hilarious and it was ironic. After all, the New York Yankees are only good because they rely on their players “selling out” to join the team. How much did CC Sabathia sign for? Or Mark Teixeira? $161 and $180 million respectively. How much did they give Jacoby Ellsbury to come over from Boston? How much did they pay Brian McCann to leave his hometown? 

You get the point. 

I could go on and on all day about what a dumb chant those bleacher creatures were yelling. I get why they are upset: Not only did NYY offer Cano more money, but it would give him a chance to have a Jeter-esque New York career. But, sadly, he opted for a longer contract. So, instead of a $175/7-year deal, he got a $240/10-year deal. Well, I guess you can say he has job security. 

The NYY were not about to dish out another 10-year deal. They don’t need it blasting them on the back-end, a la Alex Rodriguez. After seeing that first-hand, you’d think Robinson Cano would understand why a 10-year deal was not an option. Regardless, he chose to go to a team that is sub-par every year. He’s gonna get most of his Octobers off and I doubt he will get another World Series ring. He traded in a legacy with the Yanks to be the face of the Seattle Mariners, which is probably punishment enough.

I’m not going to boo Cano because he left. He is a big boy and can make his own choices, but I will take issue with one thing. I do not appreciate him saying he felt no respect from the Yankee organization. Correct me if I am wrong, but being offered $25 million a year does not seem disrespectful. Was he put off by the rapid signing of Jacoby Ellsbury? Maybe, but as a “businessman”, he should understand why the Yanks were not going to wait on him. I guess I just don’t understand how he felt disrespected and he never elaborated on it, which is why there is a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. In no conversation on the part of the Yankees have I detected hints of disrespect.

So yeah. Cano did what he did and that’s fine. I don’t dislike him for making a business choice or going where he felt more wanted. I don’t dislike him at all, really. I’m indifferent. His leaving was overshadowed by so much over the course of the winter and spring training (Jeter’s retirement news, the nearly $500 million in new additions) that his leaving quickly was forgotten. Not only that, but they new Yanks have played well. Had the team been suffering, maybe I would miss Cano more. 

I think Cano will regret leaving someday. He’ll probably be sitting at home in October and wondering why he left. Maybe if he had waited until AFTER hearing about Jeter’s retirement he would have stayed. Maybe if he had gotten more money he would’ve stayed. Maybe. Maybe maybe maybe. So many maybes, so little time. 

I guess what I am trying to say is don’t knock Cano for going to Seattle. Trust me, playing for Seattle seven years from now will probably be punishment enough….

Oh, Miggy Miggy, Can’t You See? Sometimes Your Money Just Hypnotizes Me…

I am still trying to wrap my head around the massive contract that Miguel Cabrera and Tigers have reportedly agreed to. 

I mean, seriously. 

This thing is massive. Like, biggest-contract-in-all-of-sports big. 

BIG.

In case you live under a rock and haven’t heard, Miggy has reportedly signed a contract for about $300 million over the next 10 years, which is including the remaining two years left of his current deal. Add all of those numbers together and Miggy will be pulling in just over $30 mil/year. Assuming he plays 150 games, that averages out to approximately $200,00/game. God damn. I can only hope to make that much money over the next five or so years! 

Of all the players in baseball, none is more deserving of a whopping contract, but is it the best thing? Miggy is going to be 31 this year, which means that he will be at least 40 by the time this thing is up. DH is where he will end up soon-ish, so that would mean he is getting paid pretty much only for offense. Personally, I think a 10-year deal is outrageous, no matter the player. I mean, didn’t these teams learn ANYTHING from the whole A-Rod/10-year deal? It craps on your desk about seven years in, something Detroit better be prepared for (and the Mariners with Cano, for that matter). Is there anyone who I would give a ten year contract to? Nope. Maybe Mike Trout, but, wait, erm…eh…nope. Just kidding. Ten year contracts, in my opinion, are irresponsible. 

Will this contract hurt the Tigers in their pursuit for an extension for Max Scherzer? My guess is maybe. It’s so hard to say. Dropping this much money on one player is not super crazy, but it shows that they care more about the MVP than the Cy Young winner. You’d figure they would pursue Scherzer harder, since his contract was up first, but whatever. I’m not running the show in Detroit. 

We will find out if this contract was worth it, but one thing is for sure: The Tigers wanted to keep Miggy in Detroit for as long as humanly possible, no matter the cost. 

What a cost it was. 

Moneybags McGee. 

$$$$$$$$$$$$ 

Winning and Losing Starts Before the Season Does

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

Winners:

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Losers:

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

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

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

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

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

Not-so-Honorable Mentions:

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

– Houston Astros: LOL.

– Miami Marlins: see Houston Astros.