Angelino in the Outfield (Episode IX)

Written by :
Published on : April 30, 2016

 

 

This week has been all about the resurgent Mets, the historic disparity of the National League, as well as the semi-real possibility of an October Red Line Series between the Chicago White Sox and Cubs. But it was mostly me going down an internet rabbit hole of Japanese baseball information. Because as I was looking up Kenta Maeda of the Dodgers, the deeper I dug, the more immersed I was into a world of Jewish spies and evil judo masters and the actual Heisenberg. You know, regular baseball stuff. Allow me to ease you in with some basic info…

 

Did you know that Maeda wears #18 because it’s a tradition in Japan for the ace of the staff to wear that number? I didn’t. But you might notice that Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners wears #18. And it’s been worn by Daiske Matsuzaka and Hiroki Kuroda and a number of other pitchers from Japan – the same way #10 is usually worn by the best player on a soccer team. Maybe it is a bit presumptuous for a guy on the same staff as Clayton Kershaw to sport the ace’s number, but whatever. We don’t have that tradition. And it’s not like anybody is crying about Matt Cain wearing #18 in San Francisco.

 

 

Maeda actually earned his #18 in Japan as the two time winner of the Eiji Sawamura Award, which actually predates, but is the Japanese equivalent of the Cy Young. I’m simplifying things here, but they have a checklist of sorts that a pitcher needs to meet to qualify (25 starts, 15 wins, 10 complete games, a .600 winning percentage, 200 innings pitched, a 2.50 or lower ERA and 150 K’s). And just to give you an idea, if we had those qualifiers here (because of those 10 complete games), nobody would have won the Cy Young since Randy Johnson in 1999. Nevertheless, the Sawamura Award has also been won by Matsuzaka, Iwakuma and other guys who eventually came to the big leagues like Hideo Nomo, Yu Darvish and Masahiro Tanaka.

 

Also, the story of Eiji Sawamura, himself, and the 1934 American barnstorming tour that inspired his legend (as well as professional baseball in Japan) is so good that it’s worth retelling briefly here. In 1934, a group of American league all-stars (including future Hall of Famers, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Charlie Gehringer, Earl Averill and Lefty Gomez) came to Japan to play a group of Japanese amateurs. During one of the games, the 17-year-old Sawamura struck out Gehringer, Ruth, Gehrig and Foxx in succession, impressing American manager, Connie Mack, so much that he offered him a contract with his Philadelphia Athletics. The only issue was that, while the American baseball players were greeted as heroes everywhere they went in Japan, relations between the two countries was at a very low point, since, at the time, America was opposing Japan’s expansionist policies in Asia. And Sawamura turned down the contract saying, “My problem is I hate America and I can’t make myself like America.”

 

And this is where it really gets interesting. Because also on that American team was Moe Berg, known around the league as the brainiest guy in baseball. Berg was educated at Princeton, the Sorbonne in Paris, as well as Columbia Law. He is said to have read 10 papers a day and spoke seven languages, although teammates used to joke he couldn’t hit in any of them. The fact that Berg was such a mediocre catcher, and the fact that he later worked for the CIA (with a license to kill Werner Heisenberg if Berg suspected the Germans were close to developing an atomic bomb), has led to documentary shorts like 30 for 30‘s Spyball (I watched it) and books like, Banzai Babe Ruth: Baseball, Espionage & Assassination During the 1934 Tour of Japan (I’m thinking about it). I’m beginning to suspect Berg’s entire reason for being in Japan was to spy on the country. And that sounds to me like the most amazing movie that’s never been made. It’s Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own meets Tom Hanks in Bridge of Spies. I mean, holy shit.

 

Sawamura

 

On the Japanese side, the team was formed by media mogul and (I’m not kidding) judo master, Matsutaro Shoriki. And besides Sawamura, their other star pitcher was Victor Starrfin, “The Blue-Eyed Japanese.” Starrfin was born in Russia, but his family fled to Japan during the Revolution. Anyway, in 1934, his father was in jail on involuntary manslaughter charges and the family was being threatened with deportation back to the Soviet Union. So Shoriki actually blackmailed Starrfin to force him on to the team or else he’d cause a scandal in his newspapers. So Starrfin agreed, Shoriki eventually turned his team professional and they’d become the Yoriumi Tokyo Giants, the New York Yankees of Japan.

 

Starrfin would go on to become the first player in Japan to win 300 games. All with the added pressure of xenophobia surrounding his life and career there. In fact, during World War II, Starrfin was placed in a Japanese detention camp and years later, he eventually committed suicide. Meanwhile, Sawamura went on to pitch the first no-hitter in Japanese baseball history, as well as two more before, in a strange twist of fate, he was killed by American forces in combat during the war. And while Ruth’s playing days were numbered by 1934, the tour made him legendary in Japan and his name became an anti-American rallying cry for the Japanese who would yell, “To hell with Babe Ruth” during battles.

 

That whole tour sounds insane to me. And that story doesn’t even include Masaichi Kaneda (aka “The Emperor”), who won 400 games in Japan between 1950 and 1969, even though he played for the Kokutetsu Swallows, who were name-appropriately horrible. Kaneda is said to have thrown so hard that a game he played in his rookie season was stopped so that the umpires could make sure the pitchers’ mound was at the appropriate distance away from home plate. And towards the end of his career, his arm caused him so much pain that he actually developed an underhand change up. Like I said, rabbit hole. But I think it was worth it. Okay. Let’s get to this week’s stuff.

 

AL MVP: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

 

Well, the Astros might be playing like total garbage right now, but you certainly can’t blame Altuve. Actually, you can’t blame Colby Rasmus either. But Altuve leads the league in WAR, wOBA, slugging and OPS. He’s also the shortest man in baseball. And he’s the only guy to be selected to an All-Star game in both leagues for the same team. I guess I’m trying to put a positive spin on things. The Astros are in big trouble.

 

AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

I love the national attention that Chris Sale is getting all of a sudden. The White Sox have the best record in the American League. Sale is 5-0 and therefore we must assume he’s the early front-runner for this year’s AL Cy Young Award. And he was also my pre-season pick for the award, so I’m almost fine with it. However, if you look at advanced stats, Sale hasn’t even necessarily been the best pitcher on his own team so far this season. And I only say that because Sale’s FIP is a full run ahead of Jose Quintana’s, even though Quintana is merely 3-1. And despite Sale’s undoubtable greatness (and also the fact that I would put him neck-and-neck with David Price as the best overall pitcher in the American League), I’d say his current stats also rank behind Taijuan Walker, Price and Rich Hill as my #5 pick for the early Cy. I still think Sale will win it. But right now he’s already this year’s Zack Greinke.

 

The White Sox, by the way, are still projected to finish behind the Indians in the Central, which is kind of crazy considering Carlos Carrasco is out 4-6 weeks and nobody knows how healthy Michael Brantley is yet. But the White Sox swept the Rangers this week. And then they swept the Blue Jays, shutting out that offense for the first time this season. They also had that wacky 9-3-2-6-2-5 triple play. And they have the best team ERA in baseball. And they moved up to 19th in runs scored. All because of the loving memory of Drake LaRoche bonding them together or something. Even better for the White Sox, I don’t really know what’s going on in the rest of that division at this point, other than the Twins doing nice things for Prince (RIP) and Tyler Collins flipping everyone off in Detroit. Hey, maybe he’ll run in to Byron Buxton somewhere in the minors.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

So… apparently Shin-Soo Choo is feeling better. And everyone still has huge expectations for Mazara.

 

NL MVP/Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

 

I told you about this guy last week, but now he’s the NL leader in wOBA, batting average, on base percentage, slugging and OPS. So I gotta give it to him over Dexter Fowler and Bryce Harper. I understand that Fowler had been getting overlooked by everybody, but between all the talk about Harper and even Trevor Story and Maeda, I haven’t even heard anybody taking about Diaz yet. Sports Illustrated just did an article on all the young shortstops taking over baseball and didn’t even mention the 25-year-old Diaz once. So few people have talked about him that I don’t even really know how to say his name. Ah-Led-Mees? Uh-Led-Mee? I guess we could all be learning it real soon.

 

NL Cy Young Award: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 

It’s been Thor every week so far this season. Except this time, the Mets are hot as shit and somehow knocking on the Nationals’ door for first place. After Tanner Roark struck out 15 Twins this week, Nationals fans were going apeshit about how good they were because he’s only their #4 starter. They were being declared the hyperbolic juggernaut we thought they would be last season. Bryce Harper was going to break Hack Wilson’s single-season RBI record from 1930. Dusty Baker was a goddamn tooth-picked genius. And nobody seemed to mind that the Nationals had only played shit teams so far. Now Neil Walker is the most-talked-about second baseman in Mets history (with apologies to only Edgardo Alfonzo). And Yoenis Cespedes is doing impressions of Kirk Gibson in 1988 out there. The Nats also just got swept by the Phillies. They haven’t scored in 22 consecutive innings. And by the time we talk next week, the New York Mets could have actually crawled out of their early season hole and back into the driver’s seat in the NL East.

 

All that being said, the Cubs are still the best team in baseball. This week, their run differential climbed to +74, which is so insane that fans of opposing teams are starting to claim that Pilates is a PED. Even when Jake Arrieta has an off night, he only gives up one run. And Arrieta doppelgänger, Jason Hammel, might have even better stats than Arrieta at this very moment. And next up the Cubs play the Atlanta Braves, who are truly terrible. As a Cubs fan, I think I can even wear my ‘Try Not to Suck’ t-shirt around L.A. under the radar without some hoodlum Dodger fan knowing what it is and wanting to stab me.

 

Brido cubs

 

Speaking of which…

 

I went to the Marlins-Dodgers game this week. And, for the most part, it was nice. I didn’t get to see any Yasiel Puig circus throws or catches. But I got to see Kershaw pitch. I got to see Ichiro’s 2,944th Major League hit. And I also had a pretty good view of the left field bleachers, where fans were getting into drunken fist fights and aggressively screaming at other fans in opposing baseball caps, indiscriminate of whether that team was in the same division or even the same league as their beloved Dodgers. This was a Tuesday night, mind you. In fucking April. All of which reminded me that this is Vin Scully’s last season in the broadcast booth after 67 seasons. The Dodgers just honored him by renaming Elysian Park Avenue ‘Vin Scully Avenue’. And he’s a man of unequivocal class and greatness. But to see that juxtaposed with the Mad Max/Idiocracy scene in left field is truly bizarre to me and completely unworthy of the man’s legacy or his final season.

 

Plus, it doesn’t even make sense. Most of those dipshit fans were gone by the 7th inning, anyway, with L.A. only down by 3 runs. So you’re telling me you’re willing to fight people and cause physical harm to anyone opposing your favorite baseball team, just as long as you don’t have to hit any traffic? That’s so stupid. And while I used to chalk up the drunkenness at Wrigley Field to the drunken culture surrounding Harry Caray. This just proves that I couldn’t have been more wrong. This is Vin Scully we’re talking about. The only way for my theory to work with Dodger Stadium is if Tuco Salamanca from Breaking Bad was announcing the games (had to throw in Tuco since we already had a Heisenberg). Which, on some level would be pretty entertaining. But it’s not necessarily a place you want to bring your family.

 

Okay. Check back in with me next week. And feel free to listen to me talk baseball on the MLB weekly recap of Joe Kilgallon’s podcast, “Comedians Talking Sports” on iTunes, Soundcloud or www.joekilgallon.com.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode VIII: Bottom of the 1st)

Written by :
Published on : April 22, 2016

 

 

Two years ago, I took my wife to watch a baseball game at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. And I pointed to center field and said, “That’s Mike Trout. He’s the best player in baseball.” That same game, Trout went 0-for-3 with a walk and my wife said, “I didn’t think he was all that good.” Now I know that what we’re dealing with now isn’t that much bigger of a sample size than my wife saw in 2014. But through the first two weeks of this season, Trout had really struggled, hitting only .220 and looking especially un-Trout-like on off-speed pitches.

 

On the other hand, Bryce Harper has been on an absolute tear in Washington. Sure, the Nationals have only played garbage teams. But still, they’re off to their best start in club history, thanks in large part to Harper, who might actually be better than he was in last year’s MVP season. And that’s truly scary. He’s improved his contact rate. He’s cut down on chasing pitches out of the zone. And that’s led him to currently have more walks than he has strikeouts. Not to mention hitting his second grand slam of the season in as many tries on Tuesday night, which was also his fifth home run in six games. Plus, having Dusty Baker in the dugout doesn’t really hinder everyone from making the comparison between Harper and Barry Bonds, who Baker managed in San Francisco from 1993-2002.

 

 

So… are we ready to officially declare Bryce Harper the best player in baseball? That was the big question this week. Which is not meant to disparage Trout, by any means. There’s no question he’ll improve. Everybody knows that. And it looks like he’s heating up as we speak. But even so, Harper’s WAR was slightly higher than Trout’s last season. And, like I said, he seems to be getting somehow better. So even if Trout rebounds to a .300/.400/.550 hitter with a 9 WAR, would it even be enough? With the NL East the way it is, I’m not so sure it will be. But as of right now, I’d say Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball. I’m not quite calling it a ‘clown question, bro’ (had to) but check back in with me after Harper is still doing this against teams that aren’t the fuck awful Braves, Phillies or Marlins.

 

And please don’t get me wrong. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; Harper is legit, the Nationals are legit. They were my pick to win their division, even when everybody else was picking the Mets. Especially if they stay healthy for once. Plus, what were they supposed to do – not beat the shit-ass teams they’ve beaten? Is Daniel Murphy not supposed to try to be the Lou Gehrig to Harper’s Babe Ruth, just because I hate him so much and because he probably thinks the Iron Horse is a down low bar in D.C. where he could run in to a lot of ‘like-minded’ conservatives who are totes just there because they “play such good house music” or whatever?

 

I’ll get over Murphy and last year’s NLCS at some point. I promise. But all that being said, the best team in baseball is still the Chicago Cubs. I think that’s safe to say at this point. I just watched their 16-0 drubbing of the Cincinnati Reds where Jake Arrieta just so happened to throw his second career no-hitter (the second-most lopsided no-no since Pud Galvin of the Buffalo Bisons defeated the Detroit Wolverines 18-0 in 1884). And it’s probably the greatest Cubs game I’ve ever seen in my life. Arrieta is 15-0 in his last 16 starts. He’s had 24 consecutive quality starts. And he also hasn’t given up a run at Wrigley Field since last July 25th. It’s bananas. Actually, all of their starters worked at least six innings in their first 14 games, which is also bananas. And even Jon Lester’s crazy, blooper-reel throws to first are getting outs. Just in case you needed more bananas.

 

 

What Lester should do is take a few throwing lessons from Jason Heyward, who those hillbilly Cardinal fans can boo all they want. Did you see that throw he made to nail Matt Holliday at the plate on Tuesday? He may have been 0-for-9 in those first two games of the series and batting .170 at the time, but that D don’t slump, son. And if Daniel Murphy is reading this, I’m talking about his defense. Double burn.

 

Anyway, with that pitching and that defense, the Cubs also lead the Majors in walks. Which is why their run differential still has them looking like the ’39 Yankees, even though Dexter Fowler is the only guy on the team with a batting average north of .260. But once those bats heat up, oh man, it’s crotch chop city in the Bridenstine household.

 

Man. It’s so weird to be this excited about the Cubs in April. But, again, let me have this.

 

This Week’s NL MVP: Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs

 

He leads the league in wOBA, WAR and OBP. Harper and Murphy lead in about everything else. Fowler really has been the only consistent weapon for that offense throughout April (not counting that 16-0 clinic). And he’s also done it against teams that have actually won more games than they’ve lost. Seriously, there are rumors that even the Braves’ ground crew is phoning it in. I’m just saying.

 

This Week’s NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

There was a brief moment right after I submitted last week’s post where I could have given it to Vincent Velasquez of the Phillies. But other than that, Thor has had this on lockdown. I’m sure Arrieta and/or Clayton Kershaw (with his new 46 mph eephus) will eventually put an end to this. But any time you’re getting compared to J.R. Richard and (especially) Nolan Ryan on a consistent basis, you’re doing something right. And it looks like the rest of his team might be ready to start turning things around too. The defending National League champions are not a .500 team, no matter how much I want them to be.

 

This Week’s NL Rookie of the Year: Aledmys Diaz, St. Louis Cardinals

 

You can probably tell that I do not like the Birds on Bats, but you have to just shake your head and shrug at their next man up mentality. First Jhonny Peralta goes down. Then Ruben Tejada goes down. Then like, 17 other shortstops go down in a game of shortstop dominos and next thing you know, there’s a 20th string shortstop in St. Louis hitting .385. And it’s not like it’s just him, either. They also have Greg Garcia and Jeremy Hazelbaker doing the same shit. And then Seung-hwan Oh in their bullpen. Oh, by the way, has two amazing nicknames that you need to know. They called him ‘Stone Buddha’ for showing no emotion when he pitched in Korea and Japan. And also, ‘The Final Boss’, which as far as relief pitcher nicknames go, has got to be in the top 5. Trevor Story is still having his moment in Colorado. But in terms of overall WAR, this week it’s Diaz.

 

This Week’s AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

With all the Harper vs. Trout talk this week, I guess everyone forgot that Manny Machado is the best player on the (current) best team in the AL and he leads in every offensive category that Josh Donaldson doesn’t. I feel like more people talk about Adam Jones, Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo than they do Machado. And the only time this guy should come in 4th in a baseball conversation is if the first three people mentioned are Harper, Trout and Donaldson.

 

This Week’s AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

That Sox staff has been insane so far. Chris Sale is 4-0. Mat Latos has been outstanding, which is odd to say. And the guy with the second-lowest FIP in baseball (and tied for the AL lead in WAR) is actually the 1-1 Quintana. Actually, his FIP is almost a full run better than the 3-0 0.00 ERA’d Jordan Zimmermann of the Tigers, who apparently gets a little bit of help from Jose Iglesias at short. The White Sox have been doing well early. And they’re probably a little annoyed by all the attention on the North Side. But just imagine what this team would look like if they weren’t also 24th in baseball in runs scored.

 

This Week’s AL Rookie of the Year: Tyler White, Houston Astros

He’s still my pick, even though everybody would rather talk about Nomar Mazara in Texas and what they’ll eventually do once Shin Soo-Choo returns. We should be talking about the regression of that Astros staff and how it’s squandering some great individual performances by White, Jose Altuve and Colby Rasmus though. Because right now, the Astros are in a category with the Yankees and Twins as AL doormats. And in a league with this much parity, that is not an ideal place to be.

 

Okay. See you next week. Where hopefully, I can be even more annoying about the Cubs.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode VII: Top of the 1st)

Written by :
Published on : April 17, 2016

 

 

Yeah, yeah. It’s still early. The Orioles have been amazing. The Mets have not. A lot of things are happening in baseball right now that aren’t necessarily supposed to be happening. I get it. There’s also been sub 40 degree weather and even snow flurries in a few games. And you don’t necessarily associate those things with baseball either. So it’s not quite time for most of these teams to freak out about anything just yet. That being said, these games still totally count. And these stats still totally count. Just like everything that happens in the top of the 1st inning of a game still totally counts. And that’s really mathematically how we should think about the first 9 games of the season.

 

I mean, everybody is still trying to find hope and meaning and clues in the smallest of things to see what the rest of the way to October will look like. But it’s still just the top of the 1st. Almost anything can and will happen. The bad news for the Twins and the Braves is that no team to lose their first seven games has ever made it to the postseason in the history of baseball. And I think only one team to ever go 0-8 even had a winning season. The good news for both of them is that they play each other at the end of July in a bizarro 25th anniversary rematch of that epic ’91 World Series and somebody will have to win. Okay! Let’s get started.

 

 

Are the Orioles for real? That was the biggest question this past week when the Orioles were the lone remaining undefeated team. And the obvious answer is probably not. But like, maybe. Hear me out. Before the season started, I listened to Tim Kurkjian of ESPN say that only 8 teams could go to the World Series from the NL. But in the American League, every single team had a shot. Then he added, “Even the Orioles.” Which shocked and dismayed the other baseball analysts who all do their best (but fail miserably) to hide their undying love for the Boston Red Sox.

 

But the Orioles almost make sense. Almost, I said. Baltimore isn’t THIS good. But we already knew they would hit a bunch of home runs. And that they play solid defense. And that they have a good bullpen. And that Manny Machado is awesome. So it makes sense that if their starting pitching could hold it together long enough to keep that offense in the game, they would always have a shot. It’s almost the exact same argument everyone made for the Blue Jays before the season started. The main difference is that Baltimore’s rotation is supposed to be terrible. And it hasn’t been thus far. But we shall see.

 

Speaking of terrible, don’t feel too bad for Pablo Sandoval, his mysterious shoulder injury or his exploding belt. Homeboy is owed $70 million through 2019. And I don’t know if David Ortiz watched Kobe go out with 60 points on Wednesday night, but it looks like he’s trying to do the baseball equivalent of the same thing. You know, overachieve for a team that won’t make the playoffs. I keed the Red Sox. They still have the highest projected playoff percentage in the AL I’m just waiting for somebody to explain to me why.

 

Sandoval

 

The most compelling division in the American League remains the AL Central, which arguably has the three best teams in the league right now. It feels like every single pitcher on the White Sox is amazing. It feels like every single pitcher on the Royals is amazing. The Tigers just took 3 out of 4 from the Pirates. And it looks like this whole Jordan Zimmermann thing is working out for them. The crazy thing is, it’s the Cleveland Indians who are still projected to win that division. None of this bodes well for Minnesota. But you probably already figured that out by now. Miguel Sano is about 60 points south of the Mendoza Line. Byron Buxton isn’t much better. And Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies has more RBI than the Twins do as an entire team. If they don’t drastically improve by next week’s column, I’m declaring them officially dead and over.

 

Do you know who the projected winner in the AL West is? It’s still the Houston Astros, who are currently in dead last place in the division. Actually, if the Twins didn’t exist, I might tell you the Astros had been the worst team in the league so far. Tyler White has been great. Colby Rasmus has been great. Carlos Correa has been good. But that staff ERA is north of 5, which is Boston-level terrible. I keed the Red Sox. The only good news for the Astros is that nobody else in the division wants to win that bad so far either. The fortunes of the Rangers might change with Nomar Mazara in right. But until somebody in the Nolan Ryan Division spends more than a day in first place, I’m not willing to trust anything.

 

Week 2 AL MVP & Rookie of the Year: Tyler White, Houston Astros

 

I still have no idea who this dude is. But the idea of considering Brian McCann the best hitter in the American League makes no sense either.

 

Week 2 AL Cy Young: Edinson Volquez, Kansas City Royals

If that is his real name. I really don’t know. He signed to the Rangers as ‘Julio Reyes’ in 2001. Then he went as Edison (with no extra ‘n’) from 2004-2007. He should have changed his name again after that 50 game suspension for PEDs in 2010, but I’ll try to forget that for now.

 

Now for the NL

Since we last spoke, Kyle Schwarber went down for the season with a torn ACL and LCL. And I love Kyle Schwarber. As my buddy, Mike Burns, said last year during the playoffs, “Kyle Schwarber looks like he eats baseballs.”  So I’m really bummed about his injury. That being said, I’m pretty sure this team is going to be okay. As of now, the Cubs far and away lead the Majors in run differential. There’s no glaring weakness in their batting order. And this has all the makings of a really fun summer for yours truly.

 

In the Cubs home opener at Wrigley, Addison Russell’s go-ahead home run made the fans go so crazy that it shook the press box. Cubs’ announcer, Len Kasper, said he hadn’t experienced that happening since Kerry Wood’s home run in Game 7 of the 2003 NLCS. Of course, at the time, Kasper was the announcer of the Florida Marlins. And it was the day after the Bartman game. But I remember that home run well. It tied the game at 3 in the bottom of the 2nd. I jumped up and down screaming like a lunatic, watching by myself in my apartment in Chicago. And while the Cubs ended up losing that game 9-6, at that moment the fans truly believed it was going to happen, if only for that brief moment. And that’s what it’s like right now to be a Cubs fan. Let me have this.

 

Russell

 

It’s also got to be fun to be a Nationals fan right now. Bryce Harper is breaking scoreboards. Daniel Murphy is reminding me of why I hate him. And then Jonathan Papelbon is slamming the door. They were playing the lowly Braves, but still. And if the Braves didn’t exist, we’d really have to talk about the last place New York Mets, who apparently hate to score runs. The fact that Noah Syndergaard has pitched the way he has in his first two outings and still somehow has a no decision is borderline criminal. And other than Thor, it’s almost time to put that ‘greatest pitching staff of all time’ shit to bed. Unless Bartolo Colon’s ‘Fattest Willy Mays Ever’ impression counts for something. I think the word I’m looking for is ‘schadenfreude’. Stupid Mets.

 

If the Dodgers don’t want anyone to notice their middle relief sucking, then they shouldn’t blow the game when Ross Stripling is out there in the rain trying to become the first pitcher since Bumpus Jones in 1892 to throw a no-hitter in his Major League debut. Not necessarily the most fun position for Dave Roberts to be in in his fifth game as manager. Also not fun: Zack Greinke is 0-2 with a 9.90 ERA for the Diamondbacks. And Shelby Miller is 0-1 with a 8.18 ERA. Yuck. But let’s talk about who is doing well…

 

Week 2 NL MVP: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

I was actually going to choose Trevor Story just because I hate Murphy so much. But it also makes me happy that the Mets’ anemic offense has to look at the stat sheets and see what it lost. You know, when they’re not buying horses and pigs and tricked out whips and sucking at baseball.

 

Week 2 NL Cy Young: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 

I think we’d better get used to him in this slot. Greatest one man staff of all time, everybody.

 

Week 2 NL Rookie of the Year: Trevor Story, Colorado Rockies

Yeah, he’s not done yet. I thought for sure I’d be handing it to Jeremy Hazelbaker of the St. Louis Cardinals this week. But Story leads the Majors in home runs and almost hit two more that would have been gone if the Rockies didn’t raise their fence. Just to be clear, three of the five best hitters in baseball right now are rookies. That’s nuts. The other two are Murphy and McCann. We’ll see how long this lasts.

 

Alright! Tune in next week as we begin the bottom of the 1st.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode IV, Part II: Which Number Should Every AL Team Retire Next?)

Written by :
Published on : March 27, 2016

 

During the upcoming 2016 season, Ken Griffey Jr., Pete Rose, Mike Piazza and Wade Boggs will have their numbers retired by the Mariners, Reds, Mets and Red Sox, respectively. And that got me thinking about which players should be next in line for those honors. We already did the National League. Now, lets do the Junior Circuit.

 

Angels

Finley

 

 

Retired Numbers: Gene Autry, Rod Carew, Nolan Ryan, Jimmie Reese, Jim Fregosi.
The Angels are in kind of an odd predicament since their most obvious choice of position players is 24-years old and their current center fielder. They could go with Darin Erstad or Tim Salmon from the 2002 team. Or that goddamn Rally Monkey. But my choice would be Chuck Finley. He’s their all-time leader in wins and innings pitched and pitchers WAR. Plus, he’s local to Newport Beach. Oh, and after a very messy divorce with 80’s Babe, Tawny Kitaen, where she accused him of steroid use, marijuana and alcohol abuse, Finley responded, “I can’t believe she left out the cross-dressing.” Like a drifter, he was born to walk alone.

 

Astros

Oswalt

 

Retired Numbers: Jim Umbricht, Don Wilson, Jose Cruz, Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan, Larry Dierker, Jimmy Wynn, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio.
I’d say Lance Berkman, if he wasn’t a giant homophobe. Not that Houston is some kind of progressive place. And my second choice would be Cesar Cedeno, if he didn’t also murder his girlfriend in a Dominican hotel room in 1973. And, I’m not kidding, he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and fined $100. That’s not a typo. ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS. Anyway, I guess that leaves us with Roy Oswalt. I think he only kills deer. And he’s the all-time Astros pitching leader in WAR. Plus, he might have some sort of superpower. I say that because while he was in the minors he suffered from a shoulder injury until he was electrocuted while fixing his pickup. After the incident he exclaimed to his wife in his Mississippi accent, “My truck done shocked the fire out of me and my arm don’t hurt no more.” Case closed.

 

Athletics

Henderson

 

Retired Numbers: Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers, Reggie Jackson, Dennis Eckersley, Rickey Henderson.
The Athletics have played in Oakland since 1968, but their history goes back to 1901 in Philadelphia. So all-time greats like Jimmie Foxx, Eddie Collins, Al Simmons, Eddie Plank and Lefty Grove haven’t been recognized by he organization. Or any organization for that matter. And I think they should be. Those guys all won multiple World Series championships for a team that was named the Athletics and it’s not like the team changed its name or its logo to generate a new identity since they moved. All they have to do is slap an old Philadelphia logo on a banner with their names on it like their bay area brethren Giants do with the New York Giants and call it a day. Of course, you might want to include Connie Mack and Home Run Baker and Chief Bender and Herb Pennock and Mickey Cochrane. My point is that the A’s existed before your older brother bought his Bash Brothers poster. They should recognize their heritage or change their name. It’s not like ‘Athletics’ makes much sense 115 years later. Hey, Rickey Henderson was raised in Oakland. Name them after him. The Oakland Rickeys. Either that or do what I said earlier.

 

Blue Jays

Halladay

 

 

Retired Number: Roberto Alomar.
As much as I want to give it to Joe Carter for his epic walk-off in 1993 or Jose Bautista for his epic bat flip in 2015, the best Toronto Blue Jays player of all-time (in terms of WAR) is actually Roy Halladay. He might have gotten more publicity on the Phillies. He might not have been as flashy as Roger Clemens in his two seasons with Toronto, but Halladay is the closest to great there is for a franchise without any great players. Phil Niekro played there in 1987. Roberto Alomar only played there for five seasons. Dave Winfield was there for one. Rickey Henderson was there for one. Paul Molitor was there for three. Frank Thomas was there for two. And good luck convincing me it’s Tony Fernandez or Carlos Delgado. Unless Bautista sticks around and surpasses everybody, they should retire #32.

 

Indians

Lofton

 

 

Retired Numbers: Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Earl Averill, Mel Harder, Larry Doby, Bob Lemon, the Indians Fans.
Okay, Tris Speaker was in the Klan. But somebody needs to explain to me why the Indians never honored Nap Lajoie. Because he had a falling out with the team manager in 1914? That’s stupid. And while we’re at it, the Indians could also honor Cy Young of the defunct Cleveland Spiders. But it looks like the best choices for now would be Jim Thome and Kenny Lofton. They were fun, right? And I can think about them while I attempt to block Tris Speaker out of my mind forever.

 

Mariners

Ichiro

 

 

Retired Number: Ken Griffey Jr.
Griffey had to be first. They did the right thing. But the Mariners also haven’t reissued the numbers of Edgar Martinez, Lou Piniella, Jay Buhner, Randy Johnson or Ichiro Suzuki, so all those guys are definitely on the horizon. Which is awesome. Because I don’t have do do anything. I could say, “What about Felix Hernandez?” but it seems like the Mariners are already on it.

 

Orioles

Mussina

 

 

Retired Numbers: Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson, Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Cal Ripken Jr.
Uh, it’s Mike Mussina. What are you guys doing? Unless they’re waiting for Mussina to get into the Hall of Fame, I don’t see the reason for waiting. We could discuss George Sisler and Bobby Wallace of the St. Louis Browns. Or even Boog Powell. But Baltimore should quit with the whole not retiring Mike Mussina’s number thing.

 

Rangers

Rodriguez

 

 

Retired Numbers: Johnny Oates, Nolan Ryan.
They should just rename the American League West, ‘The Nolan Ryan Division’ since 3 out of the 5 teams in the division have retired his number. Anyway, the Rangers’ relatively short history is riddled with Jose Canseco’s steroids. So this all depends on how we feel about Ivan Rodriguez. Then realize that the next best choice is Rafael Palmeiro. I guess we’ll see what Hall of Fame voters do next year with Pudge. So unless somebody wants to honor Adrian Beltre or Kevin Brown or somebody else from those Ron Washington-led 2010 and 2011 teams that came oh-so-close (Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, CJ Wilson, Neftali Perez, Washington himself), the Rangers will probably be stuck with someone Canseco injected in the butt cheeks.

 

Rays

Longoria

 

 

Retired Numbers: Wade Boggs, Don Zimmer.
The obvious choice is Evan Longoria and also probably the only choice. The team has only been around for like, five minutes and all of their other good players (Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, James Shields, David Price) are currently on other rosters. Longo or nobody at all.

 

Red Sox

Evans

 

 

Retired Numbers: Joe Cronin, Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Carlton Fisk, Johnny Pesky, Jim Rice, Pedro Martinez, Wade Boggs.
The Red Sox have not reissued the jerseys of Jason Varitek, Tim Wakefield or Skinny Roger Clemens. So I’d guess all three numbers will get retired at some point. Well, maybe not Skinny Roger Clemens. But if they did, that could leave an opening for Skinny Barry Bonds in Pittsburgh. But my main question is, what do the Red Sox have against Dwight Evans? Other than Skinny Clemens, he’s their best choice. Sure, this is another team that could honor Cy Young (and there’s a statue of him at the site of old Huntington Avenue Grounds in Boston). Or they could continue to go the 2004-2013 rout with Dustin Pedroia, Stephen Drew, Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, Jon Lester and Curt Schilling. But we’ve already established that everybody must hate Curt Schilling, bloody sock and all. And it probably shouldn’t be Manny. So Big Papi and Dustin Pedroia are next. If, and only if, they can explain to me why they hate Dwight Evans.

 

Royals

Paige

 

 

Retired Numbers: Dick Howser, George Brett, Frank White.
Okay, what about Leroy “Satchel” Paige? He played on the Kansas City Monarchs. And it’s not like they’re going to give it to Amos Otis or Willie Wilson any time soon. You could make a pretty decent argument for some of their pitchers from the eighties and nineties like Kevin Appier, Mark Gubicza and Bret Saberhagen. But Paige is clearly a better choice. And he even played for the Kansas City Athletics in 1965. Sure he was 59-years-old and only pitched in four innings of one game. But that’s more amazing than anything most people I’ve already named have ever done. I’m sure this current group of players (Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Greg Holland, Wade Davis and manager, Ned Yost) will have a say in the end. But for now, give it to Satchel.

 

Tigers

Trammell and Whitaker

 

 

Retired Numbers: Al Kaline, Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser, Willie Horton, Sparky Anderson, Ty Cobb, Mickey Cochrane, Sam Crawford, Harry Heilmann, Hughie Jennings, George Kell, Heinie Manush.
Okay, stop everything. The Tigers still haven’t retired the numbers of Lou Whitaker and Alan Trammell? Who’s in charge of this shit, Rick Snyder? The racist ghost of Ty Cobb? Get it together! You rip #1 off of Jose Iglesias and #3 off of Ian Kinsler right now, Detroit. I don’t want to see anybody in that shit ever again, you got me?

 

Twins

Mauer

 

 

Retired Numbers: Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Tony Oliva, Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett, Bert Blyleven, Tom Kelly.
We’ve already established that none of the old Senators are going to get a fair shake in Minneapolis. So it’s gonna have to be Jim Kaat or Joe Mauer. Kaat has 16 Gold Gloves as a pitcher, for Chrissakes. I could throw in World Series MVPs, Frank Viola or Jack Morris, just for funzies. But I think everybody knows it’s going to be Mauer.

 

White Sox

Faber

 

 

Retired Numbers: Luke Appling, Nellie Fox, Minnie Minoso, Luis Aparicio, Ted Lyons, Billy Pierce, Harold Baines, Carlton Fisk, Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko.
Red Faber is the best pitcher in White Sox history, played his entire career for the White Sox and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. And he was the last legal spitballer in the American League. I don’t know what gives. Hall of Famer, Eddie Collins, also played on the South Side for 12 years. And Ed Walsh, who has the lowest ERA in baseball history at 1.82, also played on the Sox for most of his career. So yeah, they’ll probably give it to Mark Buehrle or Robin Ventura. Because who in Bridgeport would look up lame shit like history?

 

Yankees

Jeter

 

 

Retired Numbers: Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Casey Stengel, Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Whitey Ford, Thurman Munson, Roger Maris, Elston Howard, Phil Rizzuto, Billy Martin, Reggie Jackson, Don Mattingly, Ron Guidry, Mariano Rivera, Joe Torre, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte.
We end where it all began. When Lou Gehrig gave his famous, “luckiest man on the face of the earth” speech it was the 4th of July, 1939 and the Yankees were making Gehrig’s #4 the first retired number in Major League history. Which is kind of appropriate since the 1929 Yankees were also the first team to permanently adopt numbers, anyway. All that being said, it’s Derek Jeter. I mean, it might be Paul O’Neill. But it should be Jeter.

 

 


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.

 

 


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