Angelino in the Outfield (Episode I)

Written by :
Published on : February 27, 2016

 

 

Last week on Monday Night Raw, Shane McMahon made a shocking return to the WWE after a six year absence. And it was soon announced that he’d be facing the Undertaker inside ‘Hell in a Cell’ at WrestleMania 32. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, Theo Epstein happened to be watching. Because just three days later, Dexter Fowler’s surprise return to the Cubs was as close to a WWE-style swerve as an actual non-scripted sport can get. The only thing it was missing was cued-up entrance music (“My Way” by Fetty Wap, would have been perf) and his Cubs teammates chanting ‘holy shit’ and ‘this is awesome’ (clap clap clap clap clap) after the big reveal.

 

Until that very moment, the consensus foregone conclusion was that Fowler had signed with the Baltimore Orioles. It was speculated and anticipated for weeks by baseball’s talking head community until it evolved into a full-blown fact. Right up until the moment it wasn’t. And after receiving a text that just said “Fowler!” from my ‘Go Cubs’ iPhone message group, I was so confused and skeptical that I didn’t believe the news until I actually saw the video of a 6’5″ dude in street clothes who looked a lot like Dexter Fowler walking onto the field with a guy who looked a lot like Theo Epstein and being greeted by a group of guys in Cubs uniforms who looked exactly like the rest of the Chicago Cubs. It wouldn’t take long for a meme to go out on social media with Steve Harvey holding the Miss Universe card and saying, “DEXTER FOWLER HAS SIGNED WITH THE ORIOLES.”

 

 Fowler will be back with the Cubs.

 

And while I could talk about what the Fowler signing means for the 2016 Cubs (the best team in baseball on paper just got better, Jason Heyward can now move back to right field where he’s won three Gold Gloves and it creates an insanely flexible lineup depth with Fowler, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber in the other outfield slots, etc.), it’s probably best to use this as further proof that conventional wisdom at the start of Spring Training doesn’t necessarily equate to actual regular season results. And everything we think we know about the 2016 season before it starts is probably just as true as the fact that Dexter Fowler is the new leadoff hitter for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

All that being said, I still can’t think of a reason why it won’t be the Cubs’ year in 2016. Yes, I’m still worried about the Cardinals. And I still think the Pirates are probably vastly underrated. And I know that saying, “Anything less than the World Series would be a huge disappointment” is a statement that is probably held equally true for the Mets and the Dodgers. And I know that the Nationals were the team that looked like the hands-down best-on-paper team last year. That is, of course, until they weren’t. But it’s still February as I type this. And hope still springs eternal. So as of right now, I’m a believer.

 

Around the League

 

The more I think about the 2016 Boston Red Sox and their high win projections, the more I have a problem with them. Pablo Sandoval showed up to Fort Myers looking like me after a cake bender. And if you combine that with Hanley Ramirez at first base, I don’t see why every team they face wouldn’t just put on a dead-ball-era bunt clinic until the Red Sox can figure their own shit out? But the good news for the Red Sox is that every team in their division has a really good reason why they won’t win either. The best one is that 5’8″ Marcus Stroman is going to become the the ace of the Blue Jays like he’s pitching’s Jose Altuve. And Jose Bautista’s contract looks like it’s already a distraction. As are the whispers that Troy Tulowitzki can’t hit outside of the thin air of Coors Field. And those two teams are the favorites in the division. If you add to that, the uncertainty of the rotation and age of the position players in New York, a possible 30-40 game suspension of Aroldis Chapman, a Tampa Bay Rays team that doesn’t score runs and an Orioles team that doesn’t prevent runs, it leaves me throwing up my hands and saying, “Let them eat cake.”

 

I’m increasingly curious to see Byron Buxton and Jose Berrios in Minnesota. Not to mention Miguel Sano and Byung-ho Park. That’s too much young talent to not pan out in a division where I’m totally ready to see something new and exciting happen. That could also occur if the White Sox can score runs and if the Indians can play defense. I just don’t want to see a scenario where these Kansas City Royals, who have the 13th-highest payroll in baseball and who will not be sneaking up on anyone this time around, can become the 1998-2001 Yankees or the 1988-1990 Bash Brother A’s. I can only take so many cuts to Happy George Brett in the owner’s box before I get sick of this double-tapered shit.

 

 Can the Royals really do it again?

 

My way-too-early AL MVP pick is going to be Carlos Correa of the Houston Astros. Especially now that they created the Chase Utley Slide Rule to protect him. Mike Trout is still probably going to be the best player in the league. But he’s going to get ‘LeBron Ruled’ out of the award until the Angels can put a decent lineup around him. The same probably goes for Josh Donaldson and even a returning Miguel Cabrera because nobody likes repeats. So that probably leaves us with Manny Machado, who probably won’t be in playoff contention and Correa who probably will. And my backup choice is obviously Dexter Fowler, the definite new right fielder for the Baltimore Orioles.

 

And while I haven’t decided on my pre-season NL MVP pick quite yet, I will say that if the Diamondbacks are really going to be in contention, then there’s no reason it won’t be Paul Goldschmidt. But you can’t rule out never-been-picked guys like Giancarlo Stanton (with his zero facial hair and his Barry Bonds) or whichever Cubs player hogs up the most attention in their historic season. Or it could even be whoever this Royce Harper guy is Dusty Baker keeps talking about. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

 

Well, we have actual Spring Training games next week. We’ll get to see Lucas Giolito and Julio Urias and Corey Seager and Byron Buxton and Joey Gallo and start forming actual thoughts about these teams as they move towards the regular season. I’ve given you my picks for World Series champion and AL MVP. And with just a little bit more information, I can form enough of an opinion to the wrong about the rest. Stay tuned.

 

 


5 Big Winners of the MLB Offseason

Written by :
Published on : December 21, 2015

 

With Major League Baseball’s Winter Meetings wrapped up and Opening Day just a few months away, there were a lot of big names on the move and still a handful of marquee players available. The hot stove was blazing the past few weeks, setting up for a very interesting 2016 season. Here are my 5 Big Winners of the MLB Offseason so far. The 5 teams that I think improved themselves the most from last year.

 

 

#5San Francisco Giants 

The Giants have given Bumgarner a lot of help and he is excited.

 

The San Francisco Giants are looking to get back into the post-season after missing out last year. A very successful team over the past decade, the Giants have won two World Series titles under manager Bruce Bochy and still have a very talented team. Led by ace Madison Bumgarner, they added to their arsenal by adding two solid arms in Jeff Samardzija (5 years, $90 million) and Johnny Cueto (6 years, $130 million).

 

The Giants have the potential to have the most talented rotation in all of baseball and may even be the favorites to win the National League West, if not the pennant as well. Veterans Matt Cain and Jake Peavy round out the rotation, with perennial all-star Buster Posey calling the pitches. The Giants also may be interested in signing left fielder Alex Gordon, which would move the Giants way up this list.

 

 

#4Chicago White Sox

 Robin Ventura should be very pleased with how this off season has gone.

 

The Chicago White Sox haven’t made much noise in the American League Central the past few years as they have entered somewhat of a rebuilding mode. Last year, the Chi Sox got only 13 homers from their 3rd base spot, so they went out and sought better hitting from the infield. In a 3-team deal with the Dodgers and Reds, Chicago gave a few young players to get 3rd baseman Todd Frazier from Cincinnati. Frazier is one of the better power hitters in baseball the past couple years, bringing 30+ home runs annually, and will add some major pop alongside first baseman José Abreu.

 

In a previous deal, the White Sox acquired Brett Laurie from Oakland, who is set to play 2nd base. They are hoping he will reach his full potential and be a guy that can find the seats in a hitter friendly ballpark. Lawrie is a reasonably cheap upgrade and Frazier is an absolute steal right now as he is set to make just $7.5 million, and doesn’t hit free agency until after 2017.

 

 

#3- Arizona Diamondbacks

The Greinke signing has been the biggest splash yet this off season.

 

The Diamondbacks needed to make a big move to try and compete with the likes of the Giants and the Dodgers out west, and what a splash they made. Getting potentially the biggest free agent in all of baseball, starting pitcher, Zack Greinke for 7 years in a monster deal. A signing that came out of left field, nobody saw Greinke heading to the desert. Joining Greinke in Arizona will be another quality arm as the Diamondbacks acquired Shelby Miller from Atlanta for former first round pick Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte.

 

While dealing away two potentially great players, the Diamondbacks get potentially an even better player in Miller. He is a legitimate #2 after posting solid numbers with the Braves last year but was very unlucky with what little run support he received. Also, at just 25 years old, Miller is under team control for another few years.

 

 

#2- Boston Red Sox

 Price and Dombrowski: Reunited in Boston.

 

When Dave Dombrowski joined the front office in Boston, he wasted little time in trying to build another championship roster in Beantown. Headlined by the signing of former Cy Young winner David Price, the Red Sox improved their pitching staff immensely. Coming off one of his best seasons with the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays, Price signed a 7 year deal worth $217 million but has an opt out option after 3 years. For Boston, they are back into familiar territory looking to win now and they feel they have the pieces to make it happen.

 

Joining Price on the pitching staff, the Red Sox acquired one of the best closers in baseball from San Diego, Craig Kimbrel. Koji Uehara has been lights out in that role for the Red Sox over the last handful of years but with an injury plagued season a year ago, the Red Sox now boast a nearly unbeatable backend of their bullpen.

 

In a trade with Seattle, the Bo Sox also received reliever Carson Smith and starting pitcher Roenis Elias. Smith is a very reliable bullpen arm who posted a 2.31 ERA in relief with a lot of strikeouts. Elias is more of a backend of the rotation guy who doesn’t have outstanding career numbers. He does have five more years of team control for cheaper than what Wade Miley was earning, and for arguably around the same if not slightly better numbers. Bottom line, with the offense that the Blue Jays has in that division, the Red Sox had to get some pitching to be able to shut them down, and took the ace of Toronto’s staff in the process.

 

 

#1- Chicago Cubs

 The Cubs signed Heyward to overcome his former team, the Cardinals.

 

My winner thus far in the MLB offseason has to be the Chicago Cubs. Theo Epstein has done a remarkable job since joining the Cubbies front office. After making it to the NLCS last year, it’s looking like World Series or bust for the Cubs this year. The two biggest acquisitions the Cubs made may be more about who they stole them from and not as much about who the players are. Constantly looking up in the standings to the St Louis Cardinals in the NL Central, the Cubs plucked two very talented players from St Louis to hopefully shake the standings up a bit this year.

 

The biggest splash was with the Cubs agreeing to terms with outfielder Jason Heyward for 8 years and $184 million. A pretty large contract possibly considered a bargain considering Heyward is rumored to have turned down some $200+ million offers to sign with Chicago. The other former Cardinal to join the Cubs is veteran starter John Lackey. At 37 years old, Lackey signs a 2-year, $32 million deal with the hopes of building on his already sound postseason numbers. Coming off a year in which he finished the regular season with a 2.77 ERA, Lackey appears to have plenty left in the tank.

 

A familiar face for manager Joe Maddon also joins the Cubs as former Tampa Bay Ray Ben Zobrist signed a  4-year $56 million deal. While this deal may prove to be a little steep for a utility guy at age 34, Zobrist isn’t your average utility man. He can play just about anywhere in the outfield and infield, and he was a key piece in the Kansas City Royals’ World Series run last year, as he started most of their games after being acquired at the trade deadline. He’ll see a lot time in the starting lineup again this year and may even see some time in the middle infield helping to take over for Starlin Castro, who was traded to the Yankees in exchange for a talented young pitcher Adam Warren. The Cubs are set up nicely with a lot of young talent to contend for many years to come.

 

 

 


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