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.

Kansas City Royals (royal)

Since sweeping their respective opponents, the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals are slated to meet in the American League Championship Series. Not only is this totally unexpected, but both teams were deemed underdogs in their ALDS series. I picked that the Angels would beat the Royals in a close series and the Tigers would demolish the Orioles, as did everyone who has watched baseball this year. In fact, I wasn’t even convinced the Royals would make it past the Wild Card game against Oakland. Color me shocked.

Now, color me a supporter of the Cinderella-story Royals.

Even though I don’t think it will happen, I REALLY want the Royals to win the ALCS and advance to the World Series. Here are some of my reasons:

1) I am a Yankees fan, so I do not like the Orioles. I respect how awesome they have been this year, but I do not like them.
2) The Royals are terribly likable.
3) I get to yell things like “COUNTRY BREAKFAST” and no one questions it.
4) I get to sing Lorde and people only think I am slightly cray cray.
5) The Kansas fans seem really cool. Like, I would invite them to a barbecue. And not just because they have the best BBQ on planet earth there (or so I am told). Besides, the Orioles fans, as nice as they might be, would probably bring seafood to my BBQ and I really don’t like seafood.
6) Again, as a Yankees fan, I don’t want to hear people say “It’s the New York Yankees verses the reigning World Series champs the Baltimore Orioles!”. That got old this year with Boston, the only difference being Boston sucked balls this year. I don’t think the Orioles will suck next year.
7) I want to see more pictures and footage of an excited George Brett. It’s like he is as surprised as everyone. If you are surprising your franchise’s biggest star, you must be doing right.
8) Kansas is the Cinderella story. That may seem like a stupid reason, but it is a great reason nonetheless.
9) Everyone else seems to be rooting for Kansas. I looked at a poll done by ESPN and the majority of people in the US want them to win. So yeah, I’m with the majority.
10) Their defense is so sparkling, I want to watch it as long as I can. It sparkles like Edward Cullen in a diamond mine, sprinkled in fairy dust.

So there. That is why I want KC to win. Again, I think the O’s will likely take the series in 7 games, but gosh darn it, I will be rooting to Kansas so hard.

Immaturity vs. **Pizzazz**!

There is room in baseball for pizzazz, but very little room for immaturity.

This season, we have started to see a rash of young players coming in and taking baseball by storm, something that is always exciting to see. These kids are talented, energetic, and have helped their various teams win games. However, with players such as Manny Machado, Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez, and others showcasing some serious personality, veteran players are starting to get rubbed the wrong way. Where is the line between personality and showboating, or pizzazz and immaturity?

I guess we ought to start with my favorite guy to dog on, Yasiel Puig. I LOVE how talented he is, I really do. Slowly but surely, I have noticed him starting to mature this year. I think it is taking some goading from his teammates and manager, which is perfect. Don Mattingly sat Puig for showing up late to warm ups and is not afraid to get in his face a little if Puig has a mental lapse. Puig’s theatrics have also been a bit more subdued as of late, but he still does a bat flip whenever he clobbers a homer. He will cheer for himself after making a great play. Puig is basically his own cheerleading squad. Now that Puig’s blatant attitude problems are starting to clear, we are seeing the line between immaturity and pizzazz starting to blur. So long as he keeps maturing, I will enjoy watching him play baseball, which is something I never thought I would say. The energy he brings to the game is astonishing.

Now let’s talk swag. Swag is something I actually don’t mind at all. If a player cocks his hat a tad askew off his head (a la Jose Fernandez and Michael Pineda), that’s legit. Unbuttoning the top few buttons of your jersey, you do you bro. These little things are some of the only things players can do to let their personalities shine through in uniform that won’t piss off other players. I mean, let’s be real: you know what happens to players who piss off other players. That fastball comes in high and tight and you better jump out of the way. If the veteran players have a problem with the hat cocked or jerseys open, they need to get over it. Let the youth be youthful! I think they sometimes forget that at one point, they were cocky young players, too.

Okay, so when is the line between assholery and youthful drive crossed? Look no further than Manny Machado’s horrific display this past weekend against Oakland. After having an argument over an aggressive tag with Josh Donaldson, it was no surprise when Manny got thrown at. To be fair, Manny has just come back from a knee injury and the tag put him in a precarious position, and he had no desire to hurt it again. Should he have gotten heated with Donaldson? Nope. Calmly say, “Hey, watch my knee, please. I don’t want to re-injure myself, surely you understand” and boom! problem solved. Fast forward to the next game and Oakland reliever Fernando Abad clearly intentionally throws at Machado. Not cool, but not unexpected. So, what does Manny do? That’s right, a stupid and immature thing: he throws his bat down the third base, where Donaldson is playing. Coincidence? I think not! At first, I thought the bat might have just slipped, but after seeing so many replays, it was not accidental.

How stupid was that? Someone could have seriously been hurt by Machado’s bat! Throwing a temper tantrum does not produce results in real life, so why does he think it would serve him well in baseball? I really like Machado, but I have no respect for him. These kind of things can stain a person’s career, even if they are a great player. Manny is a GREAT player, but he needs to check his personality. I am glad he was ejected (as was Abad), and I hope it gives him a change to reflect on what he did wrong. Manny acted like a toddler and he got punished like a toddler. Players on other teams are not going to put up with his crap and he better be prepared to suffer the consequences for his actions.

I get that these young players are in their early twenties, where maturity is allowed to lapse. However, they are on a different stage than the other regular Joe’s their age. They are being looked up to by children and are representing a long history of tradition. Baseball polices itself, just like it always has, just like it always will. For the sake of the game, let’s hope the younger players are willing to mature faster so the game can roll along like it always has. If not, well, they will have a lot of baseball shaped welts and bruises…

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…

 

 

More Spring Training Shenanigans!

There is so much to talk about!

For my purposes, I’m only gonna talk about some of the stuff I’ve seen, mostly because I do not feel like writing a novel at this point in time. Short and sweet, right? Let’s do this…

Ryan Braun: With more than everything to prove, Braun has come back swinging. Literally. The dude is batting about .800 in his spring training games so far and that is pretty spectacular. The Brewers really REALLY need him to produce this year so they can have a top-notch offense. If spring training is any indication, they should not be worried. Yeah, he’s been booed copious amounts, but those boos are starting to go away. If he can prove that he is just as good without the juice, he’s golden and can be mostly forgiven. Okay, I have forgiven him, but not everyone might. 

Yankees late game issues: Well, the Yankees’ offense is having no troubles early on in the games. In most of the games I have seen, they take the lead early and keep it that way until about the fifth or sixth inning. That’s when it gets sticky. I know, I know, the rookies and minor-leaguers are coming into the games around this time and that’s probably why, but it begs the question. Not sure what the question is, but it needs begging. 

OriolesNow here is a team with the potential to be awesome. Potentially. See, here’s the thing: they look really good on paper and the stats of the individual players are pretty good, but they got stuck in the hardest division in baseball. Because of this, I wouldn’t count on a post-season run, but who knows. Maybe they will hard-core tap into their potential. Potentially.

Detroit: Good news, Tiger fans! Max Scherzer still looks sharp this spring! Woohoo! Honestly, this team will probably make it into the post season again. It’s just their thing right now. And let’s face it: people like this team, if only because you really want to see them win for their city’s sake. If my teams don’t make it into the postseason, I will most definitely be rooting for the tigers, even if Justin Verlander is still dating that silly girl…Who is about my age…Life is so not fair. Wait, where was I?

Once I get a chance to watch more, I will probably write some more. Or not. It will be spring break soon. The beach + a pina colada + a good book = my kind of vacation. 

 

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.