Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXV: The Miracle Mets and Embracing the Clusterf*ck)

Written by :
Published on : September 9, 2016

 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are only six teams in the National League with winning records. Just as a comparison, the American League East, alone, has four. Depending how you look at it, that’s some historic disparity and/or some historic tanking in the senior circuit. That’s probably aided by the fact that a team that has gone an MLB-worst 17-32 since the All-Star break is still currently in possession of the first NL wild card slot. It could also explain why a team that’s 15 1/2 games back in their own division is in a tie for possession of the second. And it could even explain why a team decimated by injuries (they’re missing their first baseman, second baseman and third baseman and one of their two healthy starting pitchers is 43-years-old and 285 pounds) is the other team tied for the second wild card. Welcome to the National League Wild Card race, a battle in which mediocre teams will try to upset the Cubs in the first round.

 

 With Clayton Kershaw coming back, the Dodgers could be scary.

 

No team has ever gone in to the break with the best record in baseball and then followed it up with the worst record in the second half. So you have to assume the Giants will stop unraveling at some point. But they’re not hitting, their bullpen sucks and they also have six remaining games against the Dodgers, who are actually getting Clayton Kershaw back this week and also have an atoning Yasiel Puig, who is very, very sorry. He promises. The Cardinals, who are almost done in the Central, may have hit home runs in 25 straight games. And they also may have effectively ended the 2016 Pittsburg Pirates’ season with three homers in the 9th on Tuesday. But they also have six games remaining against the Cubs. I’d mention their four games with San Francisco, but that’s probably a good thing. Nevertheless, of the three remaining Wild Card contenders, the team with the easiest schedule going forward is actually the New York Mets.

 

With 22 games to play, the Mets have 7 against the Phillies, 6 against the Braves, 3 against the Twins and 3 against the Marlins. As of now, only their three-game series in D.C. will be against a team with a winning record. And I’ll get to why that just got a whole lot less intimidating in a minute. The Mets also have what is known in the business as zero pressure. Sure, their fans probably didn’t expect to be talking about 26-year-old rookie, Seth Lugo, at this point in the season. But he’s 3-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his first four starts. They probably didn’t expect to be talking about the postseason a month or so ago when they were trailing the Marlins in their own division. But here we are. Twenty-some games to go before the postseason. And two of these teams will have to make it in, however improbable that sounds.

 

 

The AL East

 Go Yankees?

 

Just when I told you that the Blue Jays were the best bet to win the division and that the rest of the division would eat itself, they got swept by the Yankees and everything is back to being a giant clusterfuck. The Red Sox currently lead the division by a game. David Price is 6-0 with a 2.14 ERA in his last six starts. And every single one of their remaining games will be against teams in the division. The only real disappointment for them this past week is that they called up Yoan Moncada too soon. At one point, he struck out seven times in a row. I could do that! Nobody’s calling me the top prospect in baseball.

 

Of course everything that happens in the East also has huge implications for the AL Wild Card and this weekend’s series between the Orioles and Tigers should be very interesting. Especially Chris Tillman returning on Sunday to face Justin Verlander. Everyone, including me, has been waiting for the Orioles to drop out of contention. But then someone like Ubaldo Jimenez (6-11, 6.19 ERA) will throw a complete game two-hitter, as he did against the Rays on Monday. I give up on trying to out-think this team. I’m ready to embrace the clusterfuck.

 

That also means that I need to give up on my smarty-pants predictions from the first week of the season and actually consider rooting for the New York Yankees the rest of the way. Yeah, that’s like rooting for Darth Vader. But this is like in Jedi when his helmet comes off and you see that he’s just old British stage actor, Sebastian Shaw. In the made-for-TV movie that will be written about the 2016 Yankees, this is the part where they dump A-Rod and Carlos Beltran and their two star relievers and then Ace Frehley kicks in singing, “I’m back in the New York grooooove” over a montage of rookies winning games. Deep-cut pop-culture references aside, some men just want to watch the world burn. Or something.

 

 

The AL Central

The Twins are toast, but Brian Dozier is on fire.

 

Eliminated This Week: The Twins.
Just don’t tell that to Brian Dozier. He’s got 25 home runs and leads the Majors in WAR in the second half.

 

 

The AL West

The Astros remain 2 games back in the Wild Card. Even though they’re only half way done with a 13-game stint against first place teams. If only they weren’t 3-13 against the Rangers this season. The Tigers (1 game out of the Wild Card, 1-11 against the Indians) know what I’m talking about.

 

 

The NL East

 

Eliminated This Week: The Braves.
Uh oh. Wednesday night’s game between the Nationals and Braves was supposed to be a catapult to launch Washington deep in to the postseason. Stephen Strasburg was returning from injury. And with Max Scherzer pitching as well as he has, that would give the Nats a 1-2 punch reminiscent of the 2001 Diamondbacks with Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Then in the 3rd inning, all those plans got kicked in the dick. Yeah, the Nationals ended up winning the game in the 11th inning. But the Nationals’ worst nightmares came fruition when Strasburg left early with an elbow injury yet again. At the time I write this, nobody knows the extent of Strasburg’s injury or whether or not he’ll pitch again in the regular season. Or if he’s done, period. But this is awful news for a coasting team that’s essentially gone .500 without him. There’s a bit of a drop off in that rotation after Scherzer and Tanner Roark. So unless someone like Joe Ross or (I don’t know) Lucas Giolito can step up, the once-scary Nationals look like they’re gonna be underdogs in that first-round matchup with the Dodgers.

 

(Update: Strasburg has a strained flexor mass (whatever that is), but doesn’t need Tommy John surgery. There is, however, no timetable for his return. Sounds very Strasburg-y.)

 

Oh, and the Mets signed Tim Tebow to a minor league contract. To quote my friend, Brendan McGowan, from my ‘Go Cubs!’ text message group, “It makes sense bc owners got Ponzied,” and “They’re giving Tebow a $100k signing bonus because talks broke down with Eddie Gaedel.”

 

 

The NL Central

 Now imagine if he does it more than once a season.

 

Eliminated This Week: The Reds, The Brewers.
Every now and then I fantasize about what this Cubs team would look like with Kyle Schwarber in the lineup and/or Jason Heyward actually earning his $184 million contract. And while I can only speculate about the former, I got a glimpse of the latter on Sunday when Heyward tied the game in the 9th against the Giants and then won it in the 13th. Oh well, he’s still hitting .154 in September.

 

 

The NL West

The most beleaguered rotation in the big leagues might have finally glued itself back together again. As I said earlier, Kershaw comes back this weekend. On top of that, Kenta Maeda has quietly had a great season. And Rich Hill has yet to allow an earned run in his 12 innings of work since joining the Dodgers. Earlier this week, the team started four straight rookies (Jose De Leon, Maeda, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart) and they managed to go 4-0 with a 2.82 ERA. De Leon was their 15th starter this season and 7th in 7 days. All that’s probably about to change.  Oh, and remember when they were 14-2 on days Kershaw pitched and 27-34 when he didn’t? They’ve gone 37-24 since he went down, which is the second-best record in the Majors over that period. Add Puig’s .444 average and 1.650 OPS since returning from the time out corner and this team just got really fucking dangerous.

 

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. I’m sure there’ll be more eliminations next week. The A’s, the Padres, the Angels, the Diamondbacks, the Phillies, the Pirates, the Rays and (dare I say) the Cardinals will probably be done in their respective divisions by the next time we talk. If you need more baseball, be sure to check me out on “Comedians Talking Baseball” with Joe Kilgallon on all the iTunes things. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 9.

 

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XVIII: The First Half in Review)

Written by :
Published on : July 16, 2016

 

 

Can you believe we made it all the way through the first half? We’ve already seen epic brawls, surprise teams, a 20-strikeout game, debilitating injuries, returns from debilitating injuries, historic starts, historic rookies and individual performances that range from career years to retiring veterans to perhaps the greatest pitcher we’ve ever seen in the prime of his career. And also, we saw a home run from big sloppy fatso, Bartolo Colon. So let’s look at the first half that was.

 

The AL East

 

Playoff Teams: Baltimore, Boston, Toronto.

 Big Papi looks to be headed for the playoffs in his final season.

 

The Orioles are the surprise team of the first half, and I dismissed them outright until they became the last remaining undefeated team in the Majors. Everyone thought their pitching was going to be terrible. And it hasn’t been good (ask your Orioles fan friends their thoughts on Ubaldo Jimenez). But they lead the Majors in home runs (as does Mark Trumbo), they also have Manny Machado and while their division lead might not be sustainable, it’s not like the rest of the division hasn’t been extremely flawed thus far either.

 

The biggest story in the division is probably the fact that the 40-year-old, David Ortiz – in his final season –  is the best hitter on a Red Sox offense that leads the Majors in Runs, Hits, Total Bases, RBI, Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, Slugging and Baby Powder Walk-Off Parties. The only problem is that, despite some pretty good individual performances from Steven Wright and Rick Porcello, the Red Sox are an even more extreme version of the Orioles (1st in Runs, 19th in ERA). Ask a Red Sox fan about Clay Bucholz. Or possibly, they’re just the Orioles with national media attention.

 

Update: I’ll probably have a lot to say about Drew Pomeranz next week.

 

After two last place finishes in a row, I just didn’t see how adding David Price and Craig Kimbrel (who have both disappointed) would be enough to justify their pre-season projections. And because I felt the baseball media was too giddy to anoint Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts as the heirs to the Big Papi iron throne, I took the Killer B trio as overblown media hype and focused my attention on Pablo Sandoval’s exploding belt. And boy was I wrong.

 

My pick to win the division was the Toronto Blue Jays, who might still be the best team in the East, overall. Josh Donaldson is quite possibly the first half MVP. I’d say they have the second-best pitching in the league, with a standout first-half performance by Aaron Sanchez. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic north of the border, even though Toronto’s first half will probably be best remembered for the strong jaw of Jose Bautista.

 

The Yankees and Rays have mainly been discussed in trade rumors, with Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller being the prized possessions before the deadline. I feel like a lot more attention should be given to Masahiro Tanaka, who might have pitched better than anybody in the league in the first half, despite nobody giving a shit. And C.C. Sabathia wasn’t too shabby, either. On the other hand, the previously-lauded Rays’ staff is about as bad as it gets. And I’d look for a lot of their struggling starters to get a change of scenery after July.

 

The AL Central

 

Playoff Team: Cleveland.

 Kluber & Co have got the Tribe cruising.

 

I picked the Indians to win the Wild Card because of their staff, and yeah, it’s been the best in the American League this season. Danny Salazar is probably the first half Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber is right up there and Trevor Bauer could also be in the conversation. All of that pitching, along with a better-than-expected offense (without Michael Brantley), lead Believeland to a 14-game winning streak on the heels of the Cavs winning the city’s first world title in 52 years. And they’re the AL favorites going forward.

 

And yet, prior to the season, I picked the Royals. Because how could I not pick the Royals after they’d gone to the World Series the past two seasons? Sure, they had bad projections. But they always had bad projections. Then they’d just do whatever it is that they do to win. Did you watch the All-Star Game? Eric Hosmer and his faux-hawk might have been annoying as he yelled about the Royals performing on big stages before. But he’s pretty much right. The main difference is that the 2014 and 2015 Royals were relatively injury-free. That totally has not been the case this year, with Wade Davis and Lorenzo Cain currently on the 15-day DL and Mike Moustakas out for the season.

 

With apologies to my editors, other than the Indians, the entire Central has been mediocre. Except for the Twins, I guess, who are fucking terrible. Except, you know, right before the break for some reason. The Tigers are 1-11 against Cleveland. The White Sox have Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, but don’t score any runs (somebody call Drake LaRoche!). And it’s like a bizarro version of the American League East, where very few teams hit and nobody has a positive run differential, except for the Indians.

 

The AL West

 

Playoff Team: Texas.

 We are all hoping that the Rangers and Blue Jays meet up in the playoffs.

 

The Rangers were my pick in the AL West, solely because they won the division last year and they’d be getting a full season from Cole Hamels and the return of Yu Darvish. And when they were good, they were very good. But the Rangers limped into the All-Star break with Darvish and Derek Holland on the 15-day DL and Colby Lewis on the 60. But that’s not what we want to talk about, is it? We don’t even want to talk about the hot start of Nomar Mazara or the first half of Ian Desmond. We want to talk Roogie.

 

I’d say the most memorable moment of the first half of baseball this season was the Rougned Odor overhand right to the bat-flipping face of Jose Bautista. And, holy shit, do I want a Rangers-Jays rematch in the post-season. And you should too. So we should all pray to the baseball gods (Bill James and Peter Gammons?) that the Blue Jays stay hot and the Rangers can pick up an arm or two before the deadline.

 

Another reason the Rangers need help is because the Astros are creeping. And they were my pick for a Wild Card before the season. But I also took Carlos Correa as my AL MVP, so shows what I know (I meant to say Jose Altuve, I swear). After an awful start, the Astros turned things around. And they actually have better World Series odds than the Rangers currently.

 

Okay. Here are my Top 5’s of the AL first half.

 

Top 5 AL Position Players.

1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays.          5.4 WAR    .424 wOBA
2. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels.                5.5 WAR    .415 wOBA
3. Jose Altuve, Houston Astros.                     4.3 WAR    .400 wOBA
4. Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles.          4.3 WAR    .392 wOBA
5. David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox.                     3.3 WAR    .451 wOBA

 

Honorable Mention: Ian Desmond, Robinson Cano, Jackie Bradley Jr., Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Kyle Seager.

 

Top 5 AL Pitchers.

1. Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees.       3.0 WAR    3.31 FIP    3.23 ERA
2. Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians.             2.4 WAR    3.39 FIP    2.75 ERA
3. Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox.          2.9 WAR    3.48 FIP    3.21 ERA
4. Aaron Sanchez, Toronto Blue Jays.           2.5 WAR    3.52 FIP    2.97 ERA
5. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians.               3.3 WAR    2.95 FIP    3.61 ERA

 

Honorable Mention: Steven Wright, Chris Sale, Trevor Bauer, Jordan Zimmermann, C.C. Sabathia, J.A. Happ, Rick Porcello.

 

Now for the National League.

 

The NL East

 

Playoff Teams: Washington, New York, Miami.

 Syndergaard has me eating crow.

 

If you’ve read this column for a while, you may remember something I wrote back in March saying to call me when the Mets’ front four approaches a 19-20 combined WAR. Even earlier than that, I said that the Nationals’ front four might be even better than the Mets’. Well, here’s how it looked at the All-Star break.

 

Mets (Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz, Harvey)             10.0 WAR

Nationals (Strasburg, Scherzer, Roark, Ross)             9.6 WAR

 

So, I’m an idiot sometimes. Noah Syndergaard has been amazing, bone spur or not. And Jacob deGrom is quietly having a good year. So if not for a few health scares with Jason Matz and, I don’t know, the fact that they’re losing Matt Harvey for the rest of the season, this staff really could have approached 90’s Braves-level awesomeness. And that’s all without mentioning America’s sweetheart, Bartolo Colon.

 

I picked the Nationals because everyone was so jacked up about them last year and I figured that there was no way their luck would be as bad as it was in 2015. What I couldn’t have predicted was just how good Daniel Murphy was going to be. I really thought October was a fluke. The 14 home runs he hit last season were a career-high. And yes, I still hate him.

 

Despite an underwhelming first half from Bryce Harper (although he started on a goddamn tear), Wilson Ramos has also picked up some offensive slack. Stephen Strasburg (with his new contract) is the only qualified starter in the Majors without a loss. As well as the first NL starter since Rube Marquard in 1912 to win his first 12 decisions of the year. Max Scherzer struck out 20 Tigers in a game, throwing 80% strikes and making Brad Ausmus a 20K victim for the third time. And all that adds up for the most franchise wins at the break, along with the infamous ’94 Expos.

 

The Mets have been plagued by so many injuries, that the only way to make this fun is to remind you of the things Bartolo Colon has already done this season. That Mays-esque catch off the mound. That home run in San Diego. The reaction of the Mets’ dugout. That time he promised the catcher he wouldn’t swing. Any of the times he runs the bases. And I repeat; that home run he hit in San Diego. It’s almost hard to believe Big Sexy exists sometimes.

 

All that being said, the door is probably wide open for the Miami Marlins to make a run in the second half. They’re getting Dee Gordon back soon. They have Jose Fernandez. And if the Home Run Derby is any indication, Giancarlo Stanton could round out an outfield so good, that Ichiro might have to wait a while before getting 10 more hits.

 

The NL Central

 

Playoff Team: Chicago.

 Looks for the Cubs to get it back together in the second half.

 

From the start, the Cubs were my pick to win it all. And they started so hot and so fun (wacky suits, mariachi bands) that a semi-epic collapse at the end of the first half still had them up 7 on the Cardinals in the division. Of course, there was the season-ending injury of Kyle Schwarber. And the past month of awful pitching. But overall, it’s been amazing. Dexter Fowler was Mr. April. Ben Zobrist was Mr. May. Jon Lester was Mr. June. Somewhere in there, Jake Arrieta threw another no-hitter. And Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo could arguably 1-2 in first-half MVP voting. Not that that’s a thing.

 

There was also the Javier Baez walk-off on Mother’s Day. The Travis Wood Game. The first Wilson Contreras at-bat. The game where Bryant had three bombs and two doubles. I just hope that the All-Star break was a reset button for a team that played 24 games in 24 days, that Arrieta can resemble his second-half performance from last year, that they get the help they need in the bullpen and all of their troubles are behind them. Then I can finally get to see the ending to what Sports Illustrated dubbed ‘the last great American sports story’. Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease.

 

You know, either that, or they could keep tanking and watch the Cardinals and Pirates pass them.

 

The NL West

 

Playoff Teams: San Francisco, Los Angeles.

 MadBum: Killin’ it.

 

All of the ‘Even Year’ dipshits can rejoice. The Giants are the best team in baseball at the half. Not that they were in 2010, 2012 or 2014. Uh oh, you fucking idiots. But Jeff Samardzija and especially Johnny Cueto were great pick-ups for San Francisco. Their front four has a 9.5 WAR, if you’re keeping score at home. And as good as the 20 K game by Scherzer and no-no from Arrieta were, the single best pitching performance in the first half was Madison Bumgarner’s from last week where he allowed 1 hit, 1 walk and struck out 14 in a complete-game shutout (98 Game Score). That would make me the only person on the planet actually talking about MadBum’s pitching.

 

In Vin Scully’s final season with the Dodgers, he might be witnessing the greatest pitcher in team history. Or maybe all-time. Or he could be hurt for a while. I don’t know. But Clayton Kershaw’s first half was so good, that I’d be willing to say he was the National League MVP, Cy Young and then Corey Seager could also let him hold his Rookie of the Year trophy while we’re at it (oh man, remember Trevor Story?). Anyway, the Dodgers’ staff was plagued by injuries. And I still can’t stand their fans. But I’d really love to see Kershaw come back soon and overtake San Fran in the Wins column.

 

Also, I was right about the Diamondbacks.

 

Now for the NL’s Top 5’s.

 

Top 5 NL Position Players.

1. Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs.                        5.0 WAR    .403 wOBA
2. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs.                   3.5 WAR    .419 wOBA
3. Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals.       3.7 WAR    .410 wOBA
4. Matt Carpenter, St. Louis Cardinals.           3.1 WAR    .414 wOBA
5. Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks.          3.1 WAR    .407 wOBA

 

Honorable Mention: Nolan Arenado, Brandon Belt, Corey Seager, Marcell Ozuna, Paul Goldschmidt, Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler, Wilson Ramos, Freddie Freeman, Christian Yelich.

 

Top 5 NL Pitchers.

1. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers.          5.5 WAR    1.70 FIP    1.79 ERA
2. Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets.                 4.0 WAR    2.06 FIP    2.56 ERA
3. Jose Fernandez, Miami Marlins                        3.9 WAR    2.13 FIP    2.52 ERA
4. Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants.              3.7 WAR    2.70 FIP    2.47 ERA
5. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants.    3.3 WAR    2.96 FIP    1.94 ERA

 

Honorable Mention: Stephen Strasburg, Drew Pomeranz, Jake Arrieta, Jacob deGrom, Tanner Roark, Kenta Maeda, Kyle Hendricks, Max Scherzer, Jaime Martinez, Steven Matz.

 

 

Alright. That’ll do it. See you in the outfield for the second half. Check me out on Comedians Talking Baseball with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Until then, Ichiro needs 10 hits and the Cubs’ magic number is 68.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode IV: Whose Number Should Every NL Team Retire Next?)

Written by :
Published on : March 22, 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. So sit back, relax and enjoy while I go through all 30 teams and tell you who’s the most deserving. First, let’s do the National League.

 

Braves

 Time to retire #25

 

Retired Numbers: Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Phil Niekro, Dale Murphy, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bobby Cox, John Smoltz, Chipper Jones.
The easy answer would be Andruw Jones. But once upon a time the Atlanta Braves used to be known as the Boston Beaneaters and their star pitcher was Kid Nichols, who was the youngest pitcher ever to win 300 games. Granted, I’m sure there’s not a lot of love out there for a guy who retired 110 years ago. But Warren Spahn never pitched in Atlanta either. And Eddie Mathews only played one season there. I could go on, but I feel you judging me. Fine. Have it your way. It’s Andruw Jones.

 

Brewers

Guess it’s gota be him

 

Retired Numbers: Hank Aaron, Rollie Fingers, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Bud Selig.
You leave me no choice, Brewers. It’s Ryan Braun. I don’t want it to be, but I can’t say it’s Ben Sheets or Cecil Cooper or Teddy Higuera. So either I close my eyes and pretend I don’t know about the PED issues or how the guy seems like a grade A asshole… or I can just wait until somebody like Orlando Arcia gets called up and becomes the shit. So I guess we wait.

 

Cardinals

 He is a machine.

 

Retired Numbers: Stan Musial, Dizzy Dean, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, August Busch Jr., Ken Boyer, Red Schoendienst, Enos Slaughter, Ozzie Smith, Bruce Sutter, Whitey Herzog, Tony La Russa, Rogers Hornsby.
It’s Albert Pujols. Did you think it wouldn’t be Albert Pujols? It seems like the Cardinals retire everybody’s number, so I’m kinda surprised they’ve never done Ted Simmons or Jim Edmonds or Ray Lankford or Ducky fucking Medwick. And maybe they’re coming. But Pujols was a monster in St. Louis and they gotta hang up #5. Until then, the other obvious answer is Cool Papa Bell of the St. Louis Stars. Everyone who has a statue outside Busch Stadium also has their number retired inside the stadium except George Sisler (who played for the St. Louis Browns, who are now the Baltimore Orioles) and Cool Papa. Let him in, guys.

 

Cubs

 Make it Dawson

 

Retired Numbers: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux, Fergie Jenkins.
Cap Anson was a racist piece of garbage and basically the entire reason for baseball’s color line that lasted until Jackie Robinson. So it can’t be him. Ever. And I’m not sure Cubs fans would take kindly to “Sammy Sosa Appreciation Day” yet either. And the Cubs have no real sense of history from 1909 until 1969. So you’d get a lot of confused shrugs for Stan Hack or Gabby Hartnett. And anything involving ‘Tinker to Evers to Chance’ or Three Finger Brown reminds everyone of the Year That Shall Not Be Named. So your best bet here is honestly Andre Dawson or Mark Grace. The Nationals un-retired Dawson’s Expos number when the franchise moved to Washington. And I’m sure the Cubs would love to retire anything ’08 related, if you know what I mean. For Grace, just Google ‘Mark Grace slumpbuster’ to know why he’s a legendary figure on the broey North Side of Chicago. By the way, what if the only way the Curse of the Billy Goat can be broken is if Mark Grace finds Steve Bartman and/or some relative of Billy Sianis and has to sex with the fattest woman they know? Just putting that out there as the potential plot of Field of Dreams 2.

 

Diamondbacks

 Why do you hate Curt Schilling?

 

Retired Numbers: Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson.
So everybody must really hate Curt Schilling, huh? They could try to say that Gonzalez is their best position player in their short history and the Big Unit is their best pitcher. But c’mon. 2001. So unless you can sell me on Brandon Webb or waiting for Paul Goldschmidt, I just assume everyone there hates Schilling. Dude was co-MVP of the 2001 World Series. Why do you hate Curt Schilling???

 

Dodgers

How is #34 not retired yet?

 

Retired Numbers: Sandy Koufax, Roy Campanella, Jackie Robinson, Walter Alston, Jim Gilliam, Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Don Drysdale, Tommy Lasorda, Don Sutton.
The Dodgers have never officially retired Fernando Valenzuela’s number, although his #34 has been out of circulation since his retirement. I think it’s about time. I mean, have you ever been to Dodger Stadium? I’d say about 1/3 of the people there are rocking El Toro’s jersey. And way more people would care about that than if it were say, Zack Wheat or Dazzy Vance, even though they were better players. Oh, and also there’s the whole history of Chavez Ravine and the Dodgers fucking owing him. And I don’t even need to talk about Clayton Kershaw or the rest of the 1988 team. You give that to Fernando.

 

Giants

 Will they ever forgive Barry?

 

Retired Numbers: Carl Hubbell, Mel Ott, Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Juan Marichal, Bill Terry, Orlando Cepeda, Gaylord Perry, Monte Irvin, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw.
Call me crazy, but I have this weird suspicion that it’s not going to be Barry Bonds any time soon. Even though he’s the best player in Major League history to not have his number retired by anybody. And I also don’t think there’d be much support for old timers like Roger Connor or George Davis. Or Travis Jackson and Ross Youngs, even though they’re both in the Hall of Fame and played their entire career with the Giants. So either the collective members of the even-year’d Giants teams of this decade retire (and that means Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner) or we forgive and embrace Barry. You know, whichever comes first.

 

Marlins

 Maybe Stanton, I guess?

 

Retired Numbers: Nobody.
Wow. I guess I agree with the Marlins, since the best player in their franchise history is probably Hanley Ramirez. And Andre Dawson and Mike Piazza are the only Hall of Famers to ever play there. You know, famous Marlin, Mike Piazza. So unless they go with Livan Hernandez from the 1997 team or Josh Beckett from the 2003 team, I guess they could honor Ichiro, should he get his 3000th hit with Miami. Or they could just wait for Giancarlo Stanton to keep being awesome when he’s not hurt. But this is a weird situation for them. This team has two World Series trophies and absolutely zero history.

 

Mets

 Do it for the Straw!

 

Retired Numbers: Casey Stengel, Gil Hodges, Tom Seaver, Mike Piazza.
Unofficially, the Mets have also retired the numbers of Gary Carter and Willie Mays. And I’m assuming they’ll eventually make those official. And they’ll probably eventually honor David Wright at some point as well. But you have no idea how bad I wish they’d do something for Dwight Gooden and Darryl Strawberry. I know, I know. But it’s not even that big of a stretch. Who’s better than those two guys in the history of the Mets that I haven’t already named? Jose Reyes? Please. The ’86 Mets have a special evil place in my heart and in their noses. I think they deserve to be honored.

 

Nationals

 But when will Bryce’s hair get its number retired?

 

Retired Numbers: Nobody.
When the Expos moved to D.C. in 2005, they un-retired the numbers for Gary Carter, Andre Dawson, Tim Raines and Rusty Staub. So we know we can’t hold out for them or for guys like Steve Rogers, Tim Wallach or Vladimir Guerrero to get honored. But starting in 2005 also means the best player in their franchise history is Ryan Zimmerman. I mean, it will be Bryce Harper. But the Nationals need to take their own lead from outside their stadium (where they have statues of former Senators greats, Walter Johnson and Frank Howard, as well as Homestead Grays great, Josh Gibson) and hook it up inside. Start there. We can talk about Sam Rice and Goose Goslin and Buck Leonard later.

 

Padres

 It’s got to be Peavy

 

Retired Numbers: Steve Garvey, Randy Jones, Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, Trevor Hoffman.
How happy am I that the Padres are using brown uniforms this year? Anyway, this is hard. Kevin Brown was silly in ’98, the last year they went to the World Series. But that was his only year on the team. So it has to be Jake Peavy. I mean, I don’t want it to be Jake Peavy. But I won’t condone any celebration of Andy Benes.

 

Phillies

 It should be Chase Utley

 

Retired Numbers: Robin Roberts, Richie Ashburn, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Jim Bunning, Pete Alexander, Chuck Klein.
They can’t slap an old timers thing next to Pete Alexander and Chuck Klein for Ed Delahanty or Sherry Magee? Fine. Then they’re going to have to do something for Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. If not also Ryan Howard and Chalie Manuel. See, children. There was a time not so long ago when the Philadelphia Phillies didn’t absolutely suck.

 

Pirates

 Give Arky his due!

 

Retired Numbers: Honus Wagner, Billy Meyer, Pie Traynor, Roberto Clemente, Danny Murtaugh, Willie Stargell, Bill Mazeroski, Ralph Kiner, Paul Waner.
Is there any good reason why the Pirates never retired Arky Vaughan’s number? Or Bob Friend’s? Or Max Carey’s? Or Babe Adams’? Or Fred Clarke’s? You know, other than Carey and Adams hating Clarke, and Clarke being bona fide clubhouse poison during the 1926 season. I looked that up. Anyway, the Pirates need to do a better job with honoring their long history. Because the next best pick is Skinny Barry Bonds until Andrew McCutchen stacks more on to his career numbers. Is the world ready to honor Skinny Barry Bonds?

 

Reds

 Bid McPhee!

 

Retired Numbers: Fred Hutchinson, Johnny Bench, Frank Robinson, Joe Morgan, Ted Kluszewski, Tony Perez, Sparky Anderson, Dave Concepcion, Barry Larkin, Pete Rose.
Bid McPhee! Come on! The guy is in the Hall of Fame after playing his entire career with the Cincinnati Reds. They even ripped off his handle bar mustache for their stupid logo. But somehow, they can’t honor the guy by name inside the ballpark. YOUR LOGO IS A BASEBALL DISGUISED AS BID McPHEE, CINCINNATI! Anyway, after Pete Rose, the only position players for the ’75-76 Big Red Machine to not have their numbers retired are the outfielders – George Foster, Cesar Geronimo and Ken Griffey Sr. And Foster is just as good a choice as anyone else. Except Big McPhee. They’re seriously killing me the with no Bid McPhee.

 

Rockies

What exactly are they waiting for?

 

Retired Numbers: Todd Helton.
I don’t know what they’re waiting for with Larry Walker. And it’s not like Troy Tulowitzki is coming back any time soon. So unless they’re also hung up on Walker’s home/road splits, they should pull the trigger or just give it to Ubaldo Jimenez for actually having one decent season pitching in the thin air of Denver in 2010.

 

 

That’s it for the NL, stay tuned for the American League!

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode II)

Written by :
Published on : March 8, 2016

 

 

Yoenis Cespedes is almost single-handedly making me want to root for the Washington Nationals in the NL East this year. After the Mets gave Cespedes a $27.5 million salary ($22.5 million more than the hated-but-much-better Bryce Harper makes in Washington), he’s turned their Spring Training camp into a a daily episode of MTV Cribs, with multiple custom cars, two tricked-out Polaris Slingshots and a fire-breathing Lamborghini Aventador. All custom-designed by some guy in Miami who is probably not a total douchebag of the worst kind or anything. Now Cespedes is buying $7,000 grand champion hogs at county fairs, slaughtering them and riding horses to work. We get it, you’re MC Hammer.

 

The thing is, for all the love that Cespedes, the Mets and their pitching staff is getting right now, it was the Nationals who were in their same position this time last season. Now the Nats have Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman back for full seasons. And while Max Scherzer and a healthy Stephen Strasburg may not be deGrom-Harvey-Syndergaard, they’re still pretty fucking formidable. Especially since Scherzer is the best pitcher in the National League not named Clayton Kershaw. And despite all the fanfare, Steven Matz’ projections are pretty pedestrian, Bartolo Colon will be 43-years-old in May and Zack Wheeler’s stats don’t really inspire awe right now either.

 

Hate you.

 

There’s a bit of a drop-off in the rotation after the Mets’ Big Three. So I could see an argument why Gio Gonzalez, Tanner Roark and Joe Ross actually round out a better overall rotation than the pitching Murderer’s Row/Greatest Staff Ever in Queens. And I haven’t even talked about Lucas Giolito yet. Call me crazy, but with identical Vegas odds (89.5 wins) and my growing hatred of the 22nd-best hitter in baseball (Cespedes), I am thinking the Nats’ luck can’t be nearly as bad as it was last year. Now somebody just needs to call Dusty Baker and remind not to do to Strasburg what he did to Mark Prior back in Chicago.

 

Around the League

Last week, I named Carlos Correa as my pick for AL MVP. This week, I’ve also made up my mind on my AL Cy Young choice and it’s Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox. If you ask me, he should have won the award last year since he had the best FIP and second-highest WAR in the league. But as of now, he’s the best pitcher of the past 2-3 years who still hasn’t brought home the hardware. I think he’s due. And it’d be nice if his teammates scored some runs for him to help in his cause. I’m sure Sox teammate Jose Quintana feels the same way since it’s probably not fun for someone with a 3.18 FIP to go 9-10 on the year. That’s approaching 2015 Corey Kluber-level ridiculousness.

 

In the National Leauge, the Cy Young is always Clayton Kershaw’s to lose. I know that. You know that. Everybody knows that. But what do you want me to do – actually pick Clayton Kershaw? That’s no fun. That’s like picking Mike Trout to win AL MVP. It’s actually probably even easier than that. You gotta go bolder sometimes. And so I’m going to chose somebody else who’s never won it, and that’s Madison Bumgarner of the San Francisco Giants. His projections are among the league leaders (with Kershaw, Scherzer, Jake Arrieta, Strasburg and Jose Fernandez), but MadBum is also looking at a league-topping 17-18 wins for the Giants. And that’s how Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel put the award away last year. I’d love to think another very-good-but-never-won-it player, Jon Lester of the Cubs, could have been my choice. But I already got my miracle pitching season out of Arrieta last year, so I can’t be too greedy. Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija may be bust risks in San Fran this year, but Bumgarner never is.

 

Death, taxes and MadBum.

 

Also, since the Red Sox-loving media has spent about as much time as it could the past two weeks gushing over David Price and Craig Kimbrel and then crying about Pablo Sandoval’s tummy, this week they seem to have moved on to gushing over Mookie Betts. Next week I assume they’ll move on to Xander Bogaerts. But for now, did you know that Mookie Betts is also the greatest bowler of all time? You didn’t? Well he is. I don’t know how that will help the Red Sox to not finish in last place for the third straight year, but anyway, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts, Mookie Betts. If you’re a Yankees fun, your current Mookie Betts is Andrew Miller. He’s the reason you can rest assured that the same Aroldis Chapman you were super excited to have signed in the offseason is also the guy you can now be like, “30 game suspension? Pffffff. We have Andrew Miller!” My own personal Mookie Betts this week is Addison Russell of the Cubs. I love my Barry Larkin Starter Kit. And did you see the monster bomb he hit in Arizona in the second game? It went so far that it totally didn’t make me give a shit if he could bowl at all.

 

Alright. We’ve got four weeks to go before the season starts. And I need all of this to distract me from whatever insane shit happened in the 2016 Presidential race this week. I might even suggest Yoenis Cespedes as a third party write-in candidate. A Cuban-born New York billionaire who loves publicity? He’s like all the GOP candidates wrapped into one. Which gives John Kasich another reason to drop out since he doesn’t fit into this equation either. I’d actually be hard-pressed to think of many things inside the Yoenis Cespedes/John Kasich venn diagram. But that doesn’t mean I won’t try. Four more weeks of Spring Training, baby! And I’ll be heading to Arizona to see the Cubs in three. If you see a Polaris Slingshot in the parking lot, it’s totally mine.

 

 

Angelino in the Outfield (Episode 1)

 

 


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.

 

 


Great Expectations: A Spring Training Preview

Written by :
Published on : February 23, 2016

 

Oh no. This is a really weird feeling for a Cubs fan to have. For the first time that I can ever remember, the Lovable Losers on the North Side of Chicago seem to be both the unanimous pick to win their division and also a trendy choice for the 2016 World Series. And on paper it even makes sense. Last year, they proved that their young squad was ahead of their projected timeline, won 97 games and then went deep into the playoffs until they ran into a freakishly overachieving Daniel Murphy and a young Mets pitching staff that seems to remind everyone of the nineties Atlanta Braves. And then they went out in the offseason and got the best healthy pitcher and the best position player from their hated Cardinal rivals, and also added a guy who led the majors in WAR in 2009. Oh, and the rest of their seemingly-all-rookie lineup from last year is back and probably better than ever and still way too young and dumb to comprehend how a jaded, cynical asshole like me can still hesitate to be bullish on the prospects of a Thousand Year Cubs Dynasty.

 

This has to be too good to be true, right? There’s too much pressure. The Cubs never follow up a good season with another good season. Look at 1985, 1990 and every other year since The Year That Shall Not Be Named. And Jake Arrieta has to regress. Because he just has to. And John Lackey is 137 years old. And their bullpen isn’t quite there. And Jason Heyward isn’t a natural center fielder. And because they’re the fucking Cubs. Right? Like, why should I get my hopes up just to have them crushed again and again like I have my whole life? Why? Well… Because of Theo Epstein. And because of Joe Maddon. And because of that offense. Oh, that offense. And Kris Bryant. And Addison Russell. And Kyle Schwarber. And Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward is actually younger than Anthony Rizzo. And the fact that Heyward could win a Gold Glove in center. And because Arrieta may have pitched an assload of innings last year, but he famously stays in excellent shape. And because of how great of a story it would be if they actually did do it. And because, on paper, the Cubs just so happen to have the best team in baseball by a decent margin. Oh no, indeed.

 

 

The Rest of the NL Central

The Cubs may have kicked their ass and stolen their girlfriend, but the Cardinals are still the Cardinals. You just kind of assume they’ll be playing in October, no matter what. But even with Adam Wainwright back, the mystique feels like it’s gone, with a bad offseason and Yadier Molina needing to grow another thumb. Maybe their insane luck will finally run out. I also thought that about the Alabama football team back in September. Not that I should talk about football in the same breath I talk about St. Louis. Anyway… Then there’s the Pittsburgh Pirates. It’s not like they sucked last year either. But nobody likes to talk about them because they’ll probably just get to the Wild Card and lose again, if they do anything at all. And the only fun thing about that is if Sean Rodriguez goes HAM on another water cooler. This division will inevitably be drowned out by the tidal wave of Cubs expectations. And the Reds and Brewers have probably already
drowned in it.

 

The NL East

According to EVERYONE, the Mets have the greatest pitching staff of all time, ever. And, yes, it’s horrifying. Matt Harvey is another year removed from Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is a floppy-haired pitching monster. Noah Syndergaard actually is Thor. Big fat Bartolo Colon doesn’t age. Steven Matz would be a #1 starter on every other non-Mets team. And Zack Wheeler will be back in July to seal the already-done deal. Plus, all of them except Colon are 19 years old or something. The only problem is that nobody knows what type of hangover these guys will have from all those innings they ate up against Kansas City in the World Series. Or if they’ll even stay healthy. But if they do all bounce back, holy shit. Plus, they re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, which all makes for an excellent case for them to go back to the World Series. No matter how much I hate that.

 

 

Overall this division is horrible. But Bryce Harper and the dysfunctional Nationals should contend. Even though Dusty Baker is their new manager. And nobody knows what to make of the Miami Marlins quite yet. Don Mattingly is their new manager. Barry Bonds is their new hitting coach. Giancarlo Stanton will be healthy. So will Jose Fernandez. But we’ll have to see what all that means, if anything. Or if those guys can even stay healthy in the first place. And anyone looking to make a bold prediction on the division a la the 2015 Cubs and Astros might want to keep their eye on the Atlanta Braves, who are building a monster farm team, even though they’ll most likely be just slightly less shitty than the Phillies in 2016.

 

The NL West

I hate to say it, but 2016 is an even year. So we can probably throw all the analytics out the window and just hand the San Francisco Giants their fourth world title seven years. Their pitching staff picked up two possibly-great/possibly-hugely-disappointing acquisitions in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. And that could give them an edge in what everybody seems to think will be a three team race with the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks.

 

The Dodgers lost Zack Greinke. To the Diamondbacks. They also have a rookie manager in Dave Roberts. In a market that wore out Mattingly and sent him to Miami. They also didn’t do anything with their gigantic payroll in the offseason. And any time you need to rely on Yasiel Puig for anything other than drama, it’s a pretty scary predicament. But this is a deep team with a crazy-good farm system. And they’ll probably be in enough contention by the time the trade deadline rolls around to throw money at whatever problems they have (that don’t involve lack of team chemistry). Plus they still have Clayton Kershaw. At the end of the day, as a resident Angelino, I just want to see Vin Scully go out in style. And if that means the Dodgers have to be good for that to happen, I can accept that.

 

 

Yes, Arizona got Greinke. And Shelby Miller. And they still have unrecognizable superstar, Paul Goldschmidt and equally unrecognizable AJ Pollock. But their projections aren’t too high as of now because of a lack of offensive depth (sup, Yasmany Tomas?). And it seems more likely they could be this year’s Padres and/or White Sox. As for the 2016 Padres and Rockies, I’m not wasting my time. It is an even year, after all.

 

The AL East

Every team in the division not named the Baltimore Orioles seem to have a chance this year. But the overall consensus comes down to the rebounding Boston Red Sox and the reigning division champion Toronto Blue Jays. Personally, I don’t know how acquiring David Price and Craig Kimbrel turns a 78-win last place team into a division favorite, but that’s just how the east coast media bias works. But it will be fun to see how fat Pablo Sandoval is. And if Hanley Ramirez can play first base. And it’s also the swan song for Big Papi. Plus, David Price is actually really fucking good. So I don’t know.

 

 

The Blue Jays have the best offense in baseball. And reigning MVP, Josh Donaldson. And their offense might be even better than last year since Troy Tulowitzki never got comfortable in Toronto in 2015. They’ll just have to stay healthy. And hope somebody on their team can pitch. As for the Yankees, they’re really old. And look how that worked out for them last season. Plus, you never know about that staff. And as good as their bullpen looks right now, we still don’t know what’s going to happen with Aroldis Chapman’s domestic abuse suspension. And the Rays have Chris Archer and the rest of their great starting five, but they’ll basically need everybody else on the lineup to be awesome to compete. Oh, and also the Orioles are in this division too, I guess.

 

The AL Central

The Royals won the World Series last year, no big deal. And they were one Madison Bumgarner away from being back-to-back World Series champions. Yet for some reason, Baseball Prospectus has them projected to be in last place in the Central in 2016. What gives? Maybe you can’t project things like ‘putting the ball in play and its positive consequences’ or ‘playing with a chip on their shoulder’, but whatever they did the past two seasons worked, so I don’t know why it wouldn’t work again. They have the defense. They have the bullpen. It’s just so hard to make a good enough argument for or against a team with relatively zero stars, that’s this mediocre on paper, going to three straight Fall Classics.

 

 

The hot pick in the AL Central continues to be the Cleveland Indians because of an extremely good pitching staff. Add Francisco Lindor’s defense behind them and they could be a powerhouse. Or Michael Brantley could be hurt and their offense could struggle and they won’t have the money to make acquisitions at the trade deadline to compete. And while I have a soft spot for the Detroit Tigers, they’re also getting a little long in the tooth. They got Justin Upton to aid a pretty good, but aging offense. And they picked up Jordan Zimmermann and K-Rod to help out a healthy, but aging Justin Verlander-led group of arms. Health is the key here. And if they have it, they might compete. The White Sox might also compete, even though nobody outside of Bridgeport is talking about them. They got Todd Frazier. They have Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and a full season from Carlos Rodon. It’s just that everybody is distracted by the heat of a thousand suns ™ on the North Side. And the Twins have Miguel Sano, who is going to hit 40 dongs this year. Even though they were so terrible last year, that even when they were in first place for a while nobody bought it. If that makes any sense. Not that it should. Why would anything in this division make sense? I mean, Royals went to the World Series the past two years.

 

The AL West

Even though the Astros are the unanimous choice to win the division, everybody would rather talk about the Texas Rangers. Their 2015 playoff run was nothing short of a miracle. And now they’ll have full seasons from Cole Hamels and a healthy Yu Darvish. It’s just that nobody really expected the Astros to be where they were last season either. And now nobody expects them to regress. And the former hot choices in the division seem like yesterday’s newspaper. Mike Trout has no talent around him in Anaheim. Nobody wants to get fooled by the Mariners ever again. And the A’s need too much to get anything done.

 

 

So there you have it. Now you’re ready for the baseball season. And now you know why your team probably sucks and why you should switch allegiances to the Chicago Cubs. Or at least that’s how everything looks right now. Spring training, when nothing counts. And before the actual season comes with all its shitty reality to break hearts, launch new stars into the stratosphere and ruin every expectation, rendering long-winded predictions like the one I just spent way too long typing on a nice afternoon completely worthless. But hey, that’s baseball.

 

What else were we gonna talk about, Donald Trump?

 

 

 


6 Things I Learned From Watching the Baseball Hall of Fame Coverage

Written by :
Published on : January 9, 2016

 

 

Announcement Day for the Baseball Hall of Fame is one of my favorite days of the year. The kid in me loved seeing an impossibly aged, 46-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. – a guy who I idolized and whose posters were all over my bedroom walls growing up – get the official phone call from the Baseball Writers Association of America. I also loved seeing the elation of a guy like Mike Piazza, who had to wait years because of the dark cloud of PED speculation swirling over his head, finally getting in as well. But mostly, like I said in my last blog, the baseball nerd in me loved seeing guys like Bob Costas, Peter Gammons and other baseball writers and experts weigh in on the candidates and spark debates that I could watch all day. And so I did. I watched the pre-pre shows. I watched the four hours of coverage. I watched the post-coverage and the post-post coverage. I watched it all. And here’s what I learned.

 

1. Everyone But 3 Writers and Tom Seaver Wanted Griffey to Get 100% of the Ballots.

 

Ken Griffey Jr. was on 100% of the early ballots reported and everybody seemed really giddy about it because that’s never happened before. Not with Willie Mays. Not with Hank Aaron. Not with anybody. The highest vote total ever was actually Tom Seaver’s 98.84% in 1992. But when all of the ballots were finally in, Griffey ended up at 99.30%. Which means that three people didn’t vote for him. There are already all kinds of theories as to why that would be, and witch hunts for who those three people are, but my best guess would be that two people accidentally voted for David Eckstein and one person accidentally voted for Garret Anderson. The math works and so does the logic. Otherwise, holy shit.

 

Also, one thing that I found really interesting after Griffey and Piazza were elected, there were get-well wishes from Johnny Bench and Tom Seaver. And if you’re thinking, “How nice. Seaver congratulated the guy who surpassed his vote total and Bench congratulated the guy who surpassed him as the greatest hitting catcher of all-time,” then you’d be wrong. Bench congratulated Griffey, who grew up around Bench’s Big Red Machine because of his dad and Seaver congratulated Piazza because they were both on the Mets, decades apart. I mean, they could have said other stuff. But this is all they showed. And it’s way more fun to be catty.

 

Another fun moment was when they dug up Griffey’s first manager, Jim Lefebvre, to congratulate him. First of all, Lefebvre had no idea how the voting process worked and kept saying, “For this young man to get 100% of Hall of Famers to vote for him is truly a remarkable accomplishment.” And that’s just no. And second of all, Griffey seemed slightly confused and annoyed as to why he had to talk to Lefebvre to begin with. Plus the show’s host, Greg Amsinger, basically had to get a shepherd’s hook to shut Lefebvre up every time he was rambling. It really made no sense to have him there. Jim Lefebvre only managed the Mariners for three years. So Lou Piniella must have been too busy angrily tossing bases around on some Little League diamond or something to be bothered.

 

 

2. Griffey is Only the 4th Center Fielder to Be Elected Since Duke Snider.

Griffey

 

And that’s counting Robin Yount (who was a shortstop) and Andre Dawson (who, as a Cub’s fan, I consider a right fielder). So really, Ken Griffey Jr. and Kirby Puckett are the only center fielders since Willie, Mickey and the Duke to get elected to the Hall of Fame. That sounded like it had to be wrong, but it isn’t. And the weird thing is, since 1964 (the year Snider retired) nobody else has really been in the conversation. I mean, are you actually going to argue for Jimmy Wynn and Chet Lemon? Sure, this was used as more of a devil’s advocate argument for Jim Edmonds than anything. But Kenny Lofton was one-and-done on the ballots. So was Bernie Williams. And, unfortunately for him, so was Edmonds. The position is currently highly underrepresented as it is. But after Griffey, we’ll have to wait and see the fates of Andruw Jones, Carlos Beltran and Torii Hunter. And then probably just hope Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen can keep it up.

 

3. This is the Class of #1 and #1,390.

Piazza

 

Griffey was the first pick of the 1987 Draft. Mike Piazza was the 1,390th pick in the 1988 Draft. So that makes for a good story. Especially since Griffey was also the first number one overall to go to the Hall of Fame. Not Harold Baines in 1977, not Darryl Strawberry in 1980. Certainly not Shawon Dunston in 1982. But that feat will soon be equaled by Chipper Jones. Possibly A-Rod. Possibly Joe Mauer. And (dare I say) possibly David Price. Plus it gives hope to down-on-their-luck guys like Bryce Harper and Carlos Correa who nobody ever talks about like they’re any good.

 

4. Trevor Hoffman Will Get In. Because Mariano Rivera.

Hoffman

 

I want you to listen to me. Trevor Hoffman getting more votes than Curt Schilling and Mike Mussina is INSANE. Schilling pitched 3,261 innings in his career. Mussina pitched 3,562. On the other hand, the two new relievers to the list (Hoffman and Billy Wagner) only pitched 1,089 and 903. That’s not even close to the same thing. And don’t tell me how they were used was not their fault. If either Hoffman or Wagner were good enough to start, they would have. Clayton Kershaw isn’t a relief pitcher. You want him going seven instead of one. When John Smoltz started to suck, they sent him to the pen. When Kerry Wood started to suck, they also sent him to the pen. And then they were both somehow good again. Like, do you know what Curt Schilling would have done as a one inning relief man? He would have made everybody in question, Rivera included, look like fucking chump change. Rivera was a failed starter. Wagner was a failed starter. Hoffman was a failed shortstop who could throw hard for one inning. The logic of voting for Hoffman over any starter is so stupid to me. But since everyone blindly decided that Mariano Rivera (and his 1,283 innings) was this infallible super god, then we have to deem the #2 guy with almost the same respect. But the fact is, if Rivera was just slightly better, he could have been a mediocre #3 starter. Give me a break.

 

 

5. I Changed My Mind on Larry Walker and Fred McGriff.

McGriff

 

Larry Walker isn’t getting in, period. I think they said the lowest vote total anybody has gotten and still eventually been elected was Duke Snider’s 17%. Walker is currently sitting at 15.5% and wasn’t even covered in any of the discussions leading up to the announcement. And that’s because his home/road splits are bananas. No pun intended. So I guess I’ll have to give up on Walker for now. Your move, Todd Helton. On the other hand, I’ve come to the realization that the 1994 strike completely fucked Fred McGriff. And somehow that argument had never occurred to me. Maybe because I don’t like thinking about the strike. But McGriff is just seven home runs shy of an automatic Cooperstown bid. And through 113 games in 1994, he had 34. So yeah, he would have gotten seven more if they’d played the season out. So I’d switch my votes out for those two if we were ready to play the game all over.

 

 

6. There’s a Real Movement to Soften on Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

Bonds

 

They’re different than the rest of the steroid guys, you see. And they might well be. So we’ll have to see if people are willing to forgive and forget over the next six years. Or if they’ll be banished to Mark McGwire/Rafael Palmeiro Island. And while we’re at it, there seems to be another real movement to let the BWAA vote on Pete Rose. Just to be clear, Shoeless Joe Jackson was on the first ever Hall of Fame ballot in 1936. He got two votes and was never back on. But Rose has never gotten that opportunity. And aren’t being banned from baseball and being in the Hall of Fame two different things?

 

 

Okay. That about wraps up my excitement from Hall of Fame Announcement Day. See you next year when Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines finally get in. And I complain even more about Trevor Hoffman.

 

 


Champ and Chump: Week 8

Written by :
Published on : November 7, 2015

 

As we reach the halfway point of the NFL season, and the first college football playoff rankings are revealed, we crown a true champion in this week’s Champ and Chump. The World Series is over, the dust has settled on the infields soon to be covered by snow in many parts of this nation and we bid farewell to America’s past-time for 4-5 months. This week we welcome a couple first timers to our Champ and Chump section, but also see a familiar face. Spoiler alert: My Detroit Lions are the definition of “Chump”. Alex always said in his NFL Spread picks, “Always bet on the Packers”, well you might as well always bet against the Lions. But before I go on a 6-page tangent that goes through all the feels, six beers, and a box a Kleenex, I’ll just cut to the picks for Champ and Chump this week.

Champ: Kansas City Royals

The Royals getting hype in the 9th inning of their series winning game 5 matchup with the Mets.

 

Not too much of a surprise here. Let’s face it, if you win the World Series, or any championship for that matter, you have a great shot at finishing as my Champ of the week. A year after losing Game 7 of the World Series to the San Francisco Giants, the Royals had one goal all season long, and for the most part they played pretty consistent baseball to get there. As a Tigers fan, I know all too well how good these Royals are and have been the past few years. Often described as a gnat, or pest, that just won’t go away, they battle for 9 innings, and most times end up on top. They made great moves at the trade deadline, and I declared them winners there, and a few months later, those moves paid off. A quick 5 game dismantling of the New York Mets gave the Royals their first World Series title since 1985. Hats off to them.

 

Honorable Mention:

Drew Brees- 39-50 for 505 yards with 7 touchdowns. 91.7 QBR and a passer rating of 131.7 begs the question, “Is this a video game?” Big win over the Giants and Eli, mentioned below

Eli Manning- Weird to have a loser from a game in the same “Champ” category but what else could you have asked Eli to do vs the Saints? 30-41 for 350 and 6 touchdowns with zero turnovers. QBR or 94.1 and a passer rating of 138.2, insane.

Andre Drummond- Pistons fans haven’t had much to cheer about the past six or seven years but they have an absolute star in the making at center. Through four games, Drummond is averaging 20/20 a game following a monster performance vs Indiana where he scored 25 and ripped down 29 boards.

 

 

Chump: Minnesota Golden Gophers’ late 4th quarter clock management

Because of the terrible clock management, Michigan once again holds the Little Brown Jug.

 

A little over a week ago, Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill had to resign due to health reasons. In a very sad press conference, Kill was emotional as he knew that coaching the game he loved was taken away from him far too soon. Kill was building a very successful program at Minnesota, a tough feat to achieve. From a 3 win season in his first year, to coming one win shy of a Big Ten West title last year. He led the Gophers to a 4-2 start before having to say goodbye. Tracy Claeys, an assistant under Kill, took over the job as interim head coach and figures to have a legitimate shot to become the long term replacement. After an emotional week, the Gophers and Gopher fans were ready to “win one for the gipper” as they say. They welcomed the Michigan Wolverines for a game on Saturday night. A back and forth game had Minnesota driving deep into Michigan territory, down 3 with under a minute to play. Then with 19 seconds left Minnesota thought they had it, a touchdown pass to win the game, but it was reviewed and called down. Minnesota had the ball, first and goal at the 1-yard line. Apparently, Minnesota spent no time drawing up a play just in case their touchdown was reversed because they got to the line, the ball was spotted, the clock began and they went on to waste a dozen seconds before even snapping the ball. Minnesota’s quarterback then ran around and threw the ball away leaving them 2 seconds left. They called timeout (yes they had a timeout) and ultimately opted for a quarterback sneak which came up short, and they lost. Two things really bothered me about this complete mismanagement of the clock: For one, call timeout as soon as the play is reversed and you would have four cracks at it from the 1-yard line, and secondly, you’re down 3, kick the field goal and force OT. Michigan was down to their backup quarterback due to an injury, so trust that your quarterback can outduel him in overtime. Also to quote Brian Piccolo from the famous Brian’s Song, “When you dedicate a game to somebody, you are then supposed to go out and win it, idiot. Pat O’Brien never said let’s blow one for the gipper.”

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Detroit Lions- Congratulations to the Lions as they now suck on two continents, a tough feat. Falling to 1-7 across the pond to the woeful Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 45-10 has led to the firing of their President and General Manager, a week after firing a couple coaches. Cheers Lions fans, it literally cannot get worse (we’ve already achieved 0-16), so hang your hat on that.

Los Angeles Lakers- The Lakers and NBA fans couldn’t wait for Kobe Bryant to return this season, and in what may be his final season he is far from riding off into the sunset on a high note. Sitting at 0-4 Kobe’s $25 million per year contract is easily the worst contract in sports right now… well, aside from Bobby Bonilla still getting paid in New York. The guy is shooting 32% from the field, and just 20% from 3-point land, averaging just 16 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists per game. To make matters worse, first round pick Deangelo Russell appears to be struggling compared to a lot of the other top-10 picks from this past draft.

Chelsea Football Club- In England’s Premier League, Chelsea has enjoyed much success in the 21st century and have done so while having some of the most loathsome creatures take the pitch in their all blue kits. Being a Manchester United fan, there isn’t much I enjoy more than seeing Chelsea completely crumbling right now. Currently sitting in 15th place in the table, just four points from relegation, has Chelsea frantically clawing to stay above the cut. While I am sure they will avoid relegation, it is still a bit satisfying to watch them struggle.

 

 

 


Champ and Chump: Week 6

Written by :
Published on : October 25, 2015

 

 

 

A little late with my Champ and Chump picks this week but even with the few extra days, there was nothing that could save the Wolverines from finding a less than desirable spot on the charts over here. Spoiler alert, not that you needed it, Michigan finds itself on the wrong side of the Champ and Chump board this week and boy was it ever something special. See what other special performances happened this past week below, and take a scroll through my Champs and Chumps of the week.

 

Champ: Daniel Murphy

Murphy has been a home run machine this post-season.

 

What a post-season for Daniel Murphy thus far. As the New York Mets enter the World Series, they do it with the hottest hitter on the planet right now. In a series sweep of the Chicago Cubs, Murphy hit .529 and has homered in 6 straight post-season games, a Major League record. The Mets are heading to the Fall Classic for the first time since 2000 where they lost to their cross town rival, the New York Yankees. This time they’ll take on the Kansas City Royals, who lost the World Series last year in a 7-game thriller against the San Francisco Giants.

 

 

 

Honorable Mention: 

Landry Jones- The third string quarterback came in for the injured Mike Vick and went 8-12 for 168 yards and 2 touchdowns in a win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Cristiano Ronaldo- Became Real Madrid’s all-time leading goal scorer (324 goals) passing Raul who played in 741 games with Madrid from 1994-2010. Ronaldo accomplished the feat in just 310 games with the team.

Christian McCaffrey- The son of former Denver Bronco’s wide receiver Ed McCaffrey had a school record 243 yards on the ground and 4 touchdowns, helping Stanford beat the UCLA Bruins last week. McCaffrey, who also returns kicks, finished with 369 all purpose yards.

 

 

Chump: Tie: Jim Harbaugh and Blake O’Neill

Harbaugh and O’Neill dropped the ball in a big way.

 

On what will likely be the play of the year, Michigan State defensive back Jalen Watts-Jackson took a fumbled punt attempt 38 yards to the house as time expired to give the Spartans a win over archrival Michigan. We’ve all seen the play, (as a Spartan fan I can’t watch it enough) with Michigan up 23-21, the Wolverines faced 4th and short with just 10 seconds left. On the other side of the ball, Michigan State figured they had one shot at a miracle and that was to go all out for a block. The snap came in (a bit low) and Michigan punter Blake O’Neill did the unthinkable and dropped the snap. In a panic, O’Neill picked up the ball, turned and tried to get off a kick while getting swarmed by white jerseys. The ball was fumbled up into the air and came right down into Watts-Jackson’s arms. Shocked, speechless, in disbelief, Michigan fans could hardly move. Once they could, and they realized what happened, naturally, the thought was how the hell could you fumble that snap?! Why didn’t you just fall on it?! Both good points, and while O’Neill no doubt is quite the goat for this incredible finish, I think equal blame should fall on the shoulders of their coach. Jim Harbaugh called two timeouts on that drive allowing the clock to dwindle down as much as possible on 2nd and 3rd down before ultimately deciding to punt. I have no problem with the decision to punt, however, how do you not prepare your team to setup in max protect, knowing the Spartans are bringing everyone to block this kick. Again, no Spartans were back to field the kick, yet Michigan sent four gunners down to cover the return? While O’Neill fumbled the ball, I think the Spartans may have got in there to get the block even if O’Neill caught it clean. Four guys had a free release, Harbaugh and company enjoyed their spot as my Champ of the week last week, a complete 180 here as they are big, big Chumps this week.

 

 

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Colts 4th down “fake punt”- Every once in a while a team calls a play or a player does something that leaves you speechless. The Indianapolis Colts provided us with one of these moments last weekend in a highly anticipated game vs the New England Patriots. Down 6 in the 3rd quarter, the Colts faced a 4th and 3, they shifted 9 guys down towards the sideline leaving a wide receiver and safety to act as the quarterback and snapper. Hut, hut, hike…and then 3 unblocked New England Patriots tackled the Colt “QB” for a loss.

David Price- This may be a bit harsh, but for an ace entering free agency one can’t ignore the struggles that Price can’t seem to shake in the post-season. With a career 0-7 post-season record as a starter, and an overall post-season ERA of 5.24, Price was given the ball again for Game 7 in the ALCS vs Kansas City and didn’t pitch well enough, getting a no decision.

 

 

 

 


Most Annoying Fan Bases in Sports

Written by :
Published on : August 5, 2015

 

 

I’ve been all over. So this is the truth. Here is a list of the most annoying fan bases in sports:

 

Bay Area Fans

Don’t you just hate them?

 

Whether you’re a “die hard” Warriors or Giants fan or a fair whether flipper between the Raiders & 49ers, just shut up about all of it. Being a die hard fan of anything by inductive reasoning makes you extremely annoying. The Bay Area is a particularly spoiled sports region that most people don’t think of as a hardcore sports region. The term “sore winners” comes to mind. Don’t forget to recycle those empty fair trade, organic beer cans after you shotgun them while tailgating.

 

Boston

A fan holds up a ‘Free Tom Brady’ sign at a Red Sox game.

 

Another spoiled sports region. All 4 major sports franchises from here have won championships in recent years. The fan base most likely to physically fight you over a minor disagreement. Shout out to Philly fans on violence too.
A city of “die hard fans” meaning they have so little going on in their life that they pour their whole personality into devotions to a team of millionaires. Millionaires competitors who care less about winning than their loyal fans who talk like they all had strokes.

 

Chicago

Put your shirts back on!

 

Shockingly worse accents than people from Boston. The perfect storm of spoiled (Blackhawks, 90s Bulls, Black Sox from not long ago, 80s Bears) and tortured (Cubs, Derrick Rose, current Bears) to combine for an infuriating brand of in-your-face pride & loser’s lamenting. Go eat comfort food from anywhere within 5 feet of you & shut your yapper!

 

New York

Less than a year ago they wanted A-Rods head on a spike in the Bronx. Now it’s all Happy Birthdays and rainbows.

 

Ok, you do have the right to be genuine Yankee fans unlike 85% of Yankee hat wearers. Hearing New Yorkers belly aching about sports is like hearing your rich friend complain about their BMW.  You live in an overwhelming metropolis – find something better to complain about than Carmelo, Gino Smith/Eli Manning & ARod. I’m walking here!

 

Los Angeles

Lakers fans.

 

Similar to NYC fans, but worse because of general vanity & lack of self awareness; not to mention the entitled mentality all fans of big market teams are stricken with. Lakers fans are the hardest to stomach, directly followed by Trojan Fans or Dodger fans* who will beat the living shit out of you then fair-weather Kings fans. What a cross section of fair-weather & spoiled.

*non-violent Dodger fans are legit though

 

Ohio

I hope these drunks aren’t driving after the game.

 

Ohio State fans, the ones who are so enthusiastic/spirited/aggressive/loud – it makes you love U of M even if you have no rooting interest whatsoever. Cleveland fans who burned their Lebron James jerseys & welcomed him back with open arms. Bengals fans when they’re a fringe playoff team. They are the best of the worst, only because they’re consummate losers/silver medalists, but Ohio State fans are the worst braggarts about their success. These fans are those kids who get trophies despite losing.

 

Portland

Fair weather as fuck in a city with pretty fair weather. And I’ll never get behind a team that does this:

Recycle

 


Who’s Buying and Who’s Selling at Baseball’s Trade Deadline

Written by :
Published on : July 28, 2015

 

As baseball enters the final couple months of the regular season, teams are preparing for the stretch run by assessing their chances of contending for the post-season and contemplating what additions are necessary to increase the odds. For many teams, their last chance to climb in the standings is via baseball’s trade deadline which occurs Friday July 31st this year.

 
Last year, the deadline didn’t disappoint as we saw many big names moved creating for some very fun divisional races. Guys like David Price, John Lester, Yoenis Cespedes, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel all found new teams, and some of those guys ironically find themselves on the trading block again this year.
This season, we see a lot of familiar faces atop their respective divisions but also a couple of surprises which could make for a very interesting few days before the deadline. Already, we have seen a couple big names dealt as last year’s American League Champ, the Kansas City Royals, acquired ace Johnny Cueto to fill a much needed hole in their rotation, and then perhaps the biggest surprise team of the year, the Houston Astros, received left handed starter Scott Kazmir from Oakland.

 

Johnny Cueto was traded from Cincinnati to Kansas City on July 26th.
Johnny Cueto was traded from Cincinnati to Kansas City on July 26th.

The Houston Astros aren’t the only surprise team this year; the New York Mets also came into the season with low expectations, yet find themselves very much in the thick of the playoff race. Both teams have a ton of young talent, but face the difficult decision of whether it would be wise to part with a prized young prospect to remain in the hunt, or to stand pat and build around their prospects for brighter years to come. Houston has more to offer realistically, and thus has a better chance of being a buyer this week, although they may have already got everything they were looking for in Kazmir.

The Buyers

The three teams that I think will be looking to buy this week are the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Washington Nationals. Entering the 2015 season, Washington and the Dodgers were given some of the best odds in all of baseball to win the Fall Classic and yet both are in a dogfight to remain atop their divisions. The Yankees came into the season with a lot more question marks, not knowing what they would get from an oft-injured rotation and Alex Rodriguez in his return from a yearlong steroids suspension. All three teams still may need to make an addition to help improve their chances come October.
The Yankees are on a roll and appear to be running away with the American League East, which of course would clinch them a playoff berth, but if they plan on making a deep run in the playoffs, they need to upgrade their starting pitching. As a team, they have only 42 Quality Starts, and no true ace to anchor the rotation heading into the playoffs. Nathan Eovaldi is having the best season with a 10-2 record, but yields an Earned Run Average of over 4.00. Longtime ace C.C. Sabathia is yet to find any sort of rhythm and has just 4 wins, making a strong case that come playoff time he would be demoted to the bullpen when teams go down to four man rotations. As a team, the Yankees rank 21st in team ERA and I look for them to target guys like Cole Hamels, Mike Leake or Dan Haren. All three are currently on teams that could be looking to sell and all three players could instantly bolster the pitching staff.

 

The Yankees could look to trade for Cole Hamels
The Yankees could look to trade for Cole Hamels.

Los Angeles has all the talent to win the World Series already and may not need to make a move, but after faltering the last couple  Octobers, they may want to add to an already explosive arsenal. Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are both pitching as well as anyone in baseball (36 Quality Starts combined) and are a very daunting, dynamic duo to start a series against. After those two however, the Dodgers have young and inexperienced starters. They have a very deep lineup that features both veterans and youth, as well as a lot of talent on their bench. Like the Yankees, I expect the Dodgers to address their starting pitching but I envision them swinging for the fences and getting a guy like David Price from the Detroit Tigers. A rotation with Kershaw, Greinke and Price would all but make the Dodgers the team to beat in the National League, and when you have Madison Bumgarner in your division, you have to do anything you can to out duel him and the defending champion Giants.

 

Could David Price's next destination be Los Angeles?
Could David Price’s next destination be Los Angeles?

In Washington, hopes remain high even though fans probably didn’t think the division would be this close come the end of July. With the New York Mets hanging close, the Nationals can’t afford to take their foot of the gas. Washington has a very strong rotation, arguably the deepest in all of baseball, but offensively they rank in the middle of the pack in many categories. Bryce Harper is an MVP candidate but could use another bat around him if the Nats plan to come out on top in the NL. I look for the them to target guys like Jay Bruce, Justin Upton or even Ryan Howard.

 

Justin Upton's bat could be used in Washington.
Justin Upton’s bat could be used in Washington.

The Sellers

As far as sellers go, three teams that I envision selling and having something substantial to offer are the Cincinnati Reds, the Philadelphia Phillies and the Detroit Tigers. It’s been another dreadful season in Philadelphia and one by one it seems they are shopping the members of their 2008 World Series team. In Cincinnati, we’ve already seen their ace, Johnny Cueto, traded to Kansas City and could see a few more big name players packing their bags as well. One of the biggest disappointments this season has been the Detroit Tigers. World Series contenders the last handful of years, we saw Detroit make multiple big moves in the past year that many thought would get them their first championship since 1984. An underachieving starting staff and weak bullpen have made the Tigers a sub-.500 team that needs to retool.
Cincinnati has a lot of teams calling inquiring about starter Mike Leake, who could provide a nice shot in the arm to a team’s pitching staff the rest of the season. With an 8-5 record, Leake has had an ERA consistently in the mid 3.00’s the past few seasons. Out of the bullpen, the Reds have the most feared closer in baseball in Aroldis Chapman. A flame thrower who routinely touches 103 mph from the left side would be an incredible gain for a contending team.

 

The Reds could get significant return on a trade involving Chapman
The Reds could get significant return on a trade involving Chapman.

 

It’s been seven years since the Phillies have won the World Series and the Fighting Phils appear to be ready to go through a complete rebuild. Starting pitcher Cole Hamels is receiving the most attention, and should garner even more interest following his no-hitter this week in Chicago. Hamels has been very consistent over his career, even while Philadelphia has struggled in recent years. He has been one of the bright spots; never posting an ERA over 3.65 since 2009, even while having the distraction of hearing his name mentioned in trade rumors every year around this time. Jonathan Papelbon has also been consistent throughout his career and is still one of the more reliable closers in baseball. With an ERA under 2.00, Papelbon would be a great add to a contender’s bullpen.

 

Will Jonathan Papelbon be traded by Philly before the deadline?
Will Jonathan Papelbon be traded by Philly before the deadline?

The Detroit Tigers are still very much alive for the post-season but seem to be trending downward quickly. With so many teams still alive in the American League, the Tigers just don’t have the pitching staff to stay within reach much longer and being without their best hitter for a few more weeks due to injury doesn’t make anything easier. They have been buyers the last few years at the deadline causing them to lose a lot of their top prospects, which makes buying this year a very difficult feat. For these reasons I look for the Tigers to sell and get themselves ready to compete immediately next season. David Price was acquired by the Tigers at the deadline last year and has the 3rd lowest ERA in the American League this year. Price has looked very much like when he had won the Cy Young a few years ago, and is potentially the top target out there for buyers this year.

 

At the plate, Yoenis Cespedes is near his career high in batting average and still possesses the same wide range of skills as when he was touted a 5-tool player when he first defected to the United States five years ago. Batting anywhere from second to sixth in for the Tigers, Cespedes would be a great pickup to a team that needs some pop in their lineup.

 

Could Cespedes' time as a Tiger already be coming to an end?
Could Cespedes’ time as a Tiger already be coming to an end?

The final couple of months of baseball should be very fun to watch, and come playoff time will showcase some of the best teams and players in all of baseball. It will be very interesting to see if the buyers can jump those who decide to stand pat as they fight for the post-season. One thing is for sure though, last year’s World Series ending in a Game 7 with the tying run just 90 feet away will be tough to beat.

 


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