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

How do You Solve a Problem Like the Red Sox?

I don’t know.

Honestly, I have no idea how to help the Red Sox win at this point. As of this writing, they have lost 10 straight games and are just sucking some serious balls. Stephen King tweeted it best, saying “It’s likes watching one of your good friends, normally sober, get drunk and puke on his shoes”.

How does a team who won the 2013 World Series (with ease, I might add) just bomb this badly? There are usually a few things you are able to pin-point that can explain the reason for the slump, but with the Red Sox, it’s more than a few things. Let’s make a list! In no particular order…

1) Offense – As of today (May 26), only ONE player is hitting above .300 and that is Brock Holt, who has only played in 15 games. The next closest is Xander Bogaerts with an average of .284. It is also worth noting that David Ortiz is the only person who has more than 6 home runs this year, which is astonishing considering how lethal the Sox offense was last year.

2) Pitching – In the last 7 games, the collective ERA is 5.29 and Opponent’s Batting Average is .297. Let that sink in: Boston’s opponents are hitting nearly .300 against them. That’s insane. There have been plenty of quality starts from these pitchers, just not in the last 10 games. Clay Buchholz has done a complete 180 from last year. In 2013, he was a likely Cy Young candidate for most of the year. In 2014, he looks like he should be pitching in AA. In the last 7 games, only one starter has made it to 7 innings, John Lackey. That means that the bullpen is bearing the brunt of the load, which is just not acceptable.

3) Injuries – Okay, so Felix Doubront, Shane Victorino, Mike Napoli, and Will Middlebrooks are all on the DL. Napoli is making $16 million and Victorino is making $13 million, and we should not forget that Napoli still has his dreadful beard. The beard doesn’t have much to do with anything, but I just wanted to point that out. Obviously, all of these are bad news bears for the Sox.

4) Departures – Okay, so we can’t fault Boston for losing some players, but it needs to be taken into account. Clearly the biggest loss comes in one of my new favorite Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury was the best lead-off hitter on planet earth last year, and that has been a real trouble spot all year for the Sox. The defense he provided in center field for the Sox is far better than what Jackie Bradley Jr. had been able to supply this year. They also don’t have Ryan Dempster pitching for them this year, probably because he would be bored without an A-Rod to plunk (that’s my theory, anyway). They also lost catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to the Marlins in free agency.

As you can see, the Red Sox have more problems than they know what to do with. If I am a team in the AL East, I’ve got to be pretty happy. I would also be looking at this and seeing exactly what their weaknesses are and how the team can use it against them. You also have to be cautious because they are the Red Sox and they can turn things around pretty quickly if they want to. However, Dustin Pedroia shaved his beard and that is a sure sign that things are not going well. If you gotta ditch the beard to get your Boston mojo going again, you know things are bad. Hey! Maybe if they shave Mike Napoli’s beard, they will go all the way again! On second thought, let’s not do that. This Yankees fan is very happy with the sudden spiral of the Boston Red Sox…

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. 

 

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.