Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXXI: The ALCS and NLCS)

Written by :
Published on : October 21, 2016

 

 

We’ve come a long way. And it’s been an emotional roller coaster of a week. I’ve sat in silence in the nosebleed section of Dodger Stadium, while my beloved juggernaut of a team forgot how to hit. I’ve had a full-on doggypile in my living room. Somewhere in there, the Cleveland Indians won the American League pennant. For this week’s episode, I’m going to give you all of the games from the past week, and my reaction to them immediately after. You get to ride in the roller coaster with me for the ups and the downs. And then feel assured that we still have a long way to go.

 

Thursday, October 13th. NLDS Game 5. The Dodgers beat the Nationals 4-3. They take the series 3-2.

Wow. It’s pretty rare that a Division Series game would be considered an instant classic. But this year, we’d already had Games 1, 3 and 4 of the Cubs-Giants series vie for that title. And now we have what might go down as “The Clayton Kershaw Game” if it weren’t for the fact that that one-hour-and-six-minute 7th inning was one of the most bizarre/unique innings in the history of baseball. I could listen to people dissect every decision by managers, Dusty Baker and Dave Roberts, in that inning, forever. And luckily for me, baseball nerds are going to be talking about this one for a long time.

 

Prior to that 7th inning, the game already had its fair share of pivotal moments. The Nationals went up 1-0 in the 2nd, but also stranded runners on first and third. They also had runners on second and third in the 3rd inning, when Roberts brought in Joe Blanton (his set-up guy!) to replace Rich Hill. Blanton got Anthony Rendon to fly out and the Nats squandered another scoring opportunity. In the 4th, Max Scherzer still hadn’t allowed a hit. And he’d end up striking out the side, but it was his 13-pitch walk to Justin Turner in the inning that would be consequential deeper into the game. Yeah. A two-out walk in the top of the 4th, where the runner was stranded. It mattered. And that was all before third base coach, Bob Henley, waved Jayson Werth home in the 6th.

 

 That 13-pitch walk to Justin Turner would come back to haunt Max.

 

That was quite possibly the worst ‘send’ I have ever seen in my life. I know you’re supposed to be aggressive with two outs. I know the bottom of the order was coming up. And I know the Nats had already stranded two guys at third. But even the Dodgers seemed to be going, “What are you thinking???” when the ball was relayed home. I’ve re-watched that play ten times now. And my eyes tell me that Werth had already rounded third when Corey Seager got the relay throw. But in my head, I’ll always remember it comically, like the slowest, most awkward runner on earth was midway between second and third and just kept a-scootin’ on home. Maybe Henley lost the ball in the corner. Maybe Andrew Toles just played it perfectly. Maybe Julio Urias’ pickoff of Bryce Harper in the previous inning cost Werth valuable lead distance from first. Maybe it was just a perfect storm of suck. The juke attempt at the end and defeated facial expression from Werth did not help. The only thing that could have made that worse is if they only lost by one run or something.

 

The very next pitch of the game, in the top of the 7th, was bashed over the wall by Joc Pederson, tying the score at 1. Nobody thinks it was a bad pitch. There was no sign of fatigue or a loss in velocity in Scherzer. It was just a great piece of hitting by Pederson. And Baker still yanked Scherzer after 99 pitches. It might be the first time in history people were complaining for Baker NOT leaving someone in. But why even bring Scherzer out for the 7th if you were just gonna yank him after one ‘mistake’? And now how consequential does that 13-pitch walk to Turner look? Because if he’s at 80-something pitches, he probably gets left in the game. He’d only given up 1 run on 5 hits to that point. This is a guy who will probably win the Cy Young this year. He’s getting paid $15 million. Isn’t this exactly what you’re paying him to be? Instead, the Nats opted to send in the clowns.

 

Ah, the 7th. The Dodgers scored four runs off six pitchers in one inning. Scherzer, Marc Rzepczynski, Blake Treinen, Sammy Solis, Shawn Kelley and Oliver Perez. Roberts countered with three pinch hitters and a pinch runner. Harold Reynolds said his scorecard looked like a Jackson Pollock painting. You gotta love National League baseball. The chess match continued in the bottom of the 7th, when Baker called on Chris Heisey to pinch-hit off of Grant Dayton. And Heisey launched a two-run bomb to left, making it 4-3. With one man on and the top of the Nationals’ order coming up, Roberts called for his closer, Kenley Jansen, to make a 9-out save. And Jansen loaded the bases, before striking out Rendon to stave off any further damage. As if that inning couldn’t have gotten any crazier, it was also about the time in the game that Clayton Kershaw got an idea.

 

Before the game started, a reporter asked Roberts if Kershaw would be available to come out of the pen. “Absolutely not,” was the curt response. That reporter was a fucking idiot. Kershaw had thrown 110 pitches two days prior. And THAT was only on three days rest. It would be crazy to ask Kershaw to even consider pitching. But what if it’s his idea? When Jansen came on in the 7th, Kershaw started doing the math in his head and realized that Jansen was going to run out of gas before he got that 9th out. And after the 8th inning, the TV broadcast cut to images Kershaw making his way to the bullpen. It was all the announcers could do to stop from shouting, “No fucking way!” My phone started blowing up with texts.

 

 The Legend of Kershaw grows.

 

Jansen struck out Turner to start the bottom of the 9th. Then he walked Harper. At this point, Jansen was past his career high in pitches and looked like Ali at the end of the fight in Manila. But he stayed in to face Werth. That could have something to do with Werth’s .313/.389/.500 slash line against Kershaw. But Jansen walked Werth as well. And then Daniel Murphy was up next. That’s when Roberts called for Kershaw.

 

I mean, holy shit.

 

Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball. But he had a reputation for choking in October. Murphy plucked himself from obscurity last October and then proved it wasn’t a fluke over the course of the 2016 regular season, with one of the best hitting performances in the National League. He hit .438 in this series, for Chrissakes. Plus, Kershaw and Murphy have a history. It was Murphy’s home run in Game 1 of the NLDS last year that started his legend and simultaneously contributed to another Kershaw postseason loss. Then Murphy homered off Kershaw again in Game 4 of that series, exactly a year removed from when he’d be called to the mound with two on, one out and the season on the line.

 

Murphy popped out to second.

 

The next batter was Wilmer Difo, a Dominican pinch hitter whose name, when typed, looks way too much like Willem Dafoe. And Kershaw would strike him out to end the game. The Nationals have still never advanced past the NLDS. According to Sarah Langs, Kershaw’s last professional save was in the Gulf Coast League in 2006. His catcher was current Dodgers closer, Kenley Jansen. The team he was facing was the GCL Nationals. And that team’s manager was current Nats third base coach, Bob Henley.

 

 Live it up boys.

 

Add this game to the postseason legend of Dave Roberts. This guy isn’t going to just be defined by one stolen base in 2004. And mark this game as Exhibit A in the postseason narrative shift for Kershaw, who pitched in every game the Dodgers won in the series. Remember, Randy Johnson lost seven playoff games in a row with the Mariners, Astros and Diamondbacks between 1995 and 2001 before his dominance in the 2001 NLCS and World Series made him synonymous with postseason excellence. I feel like Kershaw could do the same. I’m a Cubs fan and I don’t want him to do that. But its not like it’s up to me. Congrats Dodgers. I’ll see you at Games 3, 4 and 5.

 

Friday, October 14th. ALCS Game 1. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 2-0. They lead the series 1-0.

“If this is what October is like, I want to do this every year.” That’s what Francisco Lindor said after Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox. In Game 1 of the ALCS, Lindor’s two run homer off of Marco Estrada was all the Indians needed after Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen silenced a Blue Jays offense that scored 22 runs in three games against Texas. Kluber is now at 13 1/3 scoreless innings in the postseason. Miller struck out five of the six batters he faced. Allen had a 1-2-3 9th.

 

Game 1 was probably a must-win for the Indians, since Kluber is really their only reliable starter. Especially now that Trevor Bauer has sliced his pinkie finger repairing a drone. You read that correctly. Dude is 25 and makes $2 million a year. He fixes drones, apparently. The positive for Cleveland is that this is their 4th win in a row. And current  projections still favor them over Toronto (FanGraphs gives the Dodgers a slight edge over the Cubs in the NLCS). And even the East-loving pundits, who still aren’t really sure what to make of Terry Francona’s bullpen usage are saying things like, “This is a team that swept a very good Boston Red Sox lineup.” Still mostly just a Red Sox compliment, but baby steps.

 

Saturday, October 15th. ALCS Game 2. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 2-1. They lead the series 2-0.

I’m sensing a pattern here. Indians pitcher keeps a formerly-unstoppable offense silent. Indians’ offense scores a couple of runs. Andrew Miller comes in strikes everybody out for two innings. Cody Allen slams the door. It was the exact same game as Game 1. Why would you change anything?

 

 ANDREW. MILLER.

 

For two games in a row, I thought the Toronto bats looked poised to explode. I was wrong both times. But we’re heading to Toronto, where things could change. If not, Francisco Lindor (who wasn’t even alive when Joe Carter hit that walk-off in 1993) is about to be really famous. And Andrew Miller (plus Buck Showalter) could change the entire way bullpens are designed going forward.

 

Saturday, October 15th. NLCS Game 1. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 8-4. They lead the series 1-0.   

Holy shit, that was beautiful. An 8th-inning gamble by Dodgers manager, Dave Roberts, backfired so epically and in such a shockingly unexpected fashion, that I doubt, years from now, many people remember all of the other Cubs awesomeness that happened in this game, prior to that 8th.

 

I doubt they remember Ben Zobrist throwing Adrian Gonzalez out at the plate in the top of the 2nd. I doubt they remember Javier Baez’ heads-up bloop double that put the Cubs up 2-0 in the bottom of the inning. They might not even remember Baez stealing home after he got caught off third base on a safety squeeze. And Dexter Fowler, who had a better game than anyone, made two diving catches, one of which was fucking spectacular. If you mention it at a bar years from now, you might mention that he broke his belt on the play, just to jog a memory or two. Even Joe Buck, who I’d spent years dogging, had a superb night in the announce booth. When Pedro Baez’ molasses pace was sucking the life out of the entire game in the 5th or 6th, he blurted out, “This Pedro Baez is really tough to watch.” But all of that is dust in the wind.

 

The only thing people will probably be talking about years from now (and they will be talking about it), was that 8th inning. Adrian Gonzalez’ two-out, bases-loaded single off Aroldis Chapman tied the game at 3 in the top of the inning. And then the Cubs came to the plate needing the same type of late-inning heroics that won them the Division Series in San Francisco. Joe Blanton was on the hill for Los Angeles. Oh man.

 

Zobrist led off with a double. Then the ice-cold Addison Russell grounded out and couldn’t advance Zobrist to third. Why Joe Maddon didn’t have Russell bunt there is pretty confusing, but I’m already over it. Then the Dodgers intentionally walked Jason Heyward to get to Javy Baez. At the time, everyone I was watching with said, “Uh… thank you.” But Baez flew out. Two down. This is when Roberts started doing his chess match shit that won him the NLDS in D.C. And Blanton intentionally walked Chris Coughlan, since Chapman was next in the batting order. Joe Maddon’s hand was forced. He sent Miguel Montero (a lefty) to the plate to face Blanton (a righty). In theory, Roberts was going to pull Blanton and bring in Grant Dayton (lefty) and then Maddon would burn Montero and counter with the hot-hitting Wilson Contreras (righty). But Blanton stayed in and went up on Montero 0-2. Oh man. Lemme quote Joe Buck one more time.

 

“Here comes the 0-2. Line drive into right, back at the wall, it is GONE!!! GRAND SLAM, MONTERO! Game 1 HERO!”

 

And here’s Pat Hughes on 670 The Score.

 

“Blanton ahead of Montero nothing and two. The windup and the pitch… Montero drives one in the air! Deep right field! It’s got a chaaaaaaaaaance! GRAND SLAM!!! GRAND SLAM, MIGUEL MONTERO!!! CUBS LEAD 7-3!” Then Ron Coomer added, “WRIGLEY FIELD IS SHAKING RIGHT NOW AFTER THE BLAST THAT MONTERO – UNBELIEVABLE!”

 

 

I completely lost it. A hugging, jumping, screaming fit in the middle of my living room that went on for so long that I barely noticed that Fowler hit a solo shot, back-to-back on the very next pitch. I honestly don’t even care how the game ended. I think Anthony Rizzo made a sick defensive play to double off Andrew Toles. Whatever. Nobody will remember. It was another dramatic victory for the Cubs. And their first in the NLCS since 2003. I promptly found a photo of Montero’s shot (the one where Fowler is tossing his bat into the air in the on deck circle) and made it my background photo on Facebook. One win down. And now we face Kershaw.

 

Sunday, October 16th. NLCS Game 2. The Dodgers beat the Cubs 1-0. The series is tied 1-1.

I think we can officially put the whole ‘Clayton Kershaw sucks in October’ narrative to bed. He was dominant through seven innings of a virtual must-win game, limiting the Cubs to two hits in a shutout. And Kenley Jansen struck out four in two perfect innings of relief. Kyle Hendricks made one mistake to Adrian Gonzalez in the 2nd. And that’s the ballgame. I was stuck complaining about Eric Cooper’s bullshit strike zone and occasionally popping out of my seat, like when Anthony Rizzo cranked that massive foul ball or when Javy Baez made a great play at second to force out Josh Reddick and then catch Gonzalez in a run-down. Or when I was convinced Baez hit a two-run bomb in the 7th. According to Statcast, 67% of balls like the one he hit have been home runs at Wrigley this year. Even Kershaw thought it was gone. And Dave Roberts’ annoyingly maniacal laughter after the fact leads me to believe he did too.

 

Kershaw is the greatest pitcher on Planet Earth. But (other than Baez and Kris Bryant) the Cubs just aren’t hitting in the postseason. Like, at fucking all. Ben Zobrist is hitting .182. Dexter Fowler is .167. Jason Heyward is .111. Addison Russell is .045. And Anthony Rizzo – their three hitter – is batting .043. They’ve gotten contributions from the pitchers at the plate. And they went off on Jeff Samardzija for two innings in Game 2 of the NLDS and then the Giants’ garbage bullpen in Game 4. Those bats need to wake up. And hopefully they do. Because I want to be sitting in a silent Dodger Stadium when the Cubs doggypile after Game 5.

 

I still think it might happen. In the last four games, Kershaw and Jansen have pitched more innings than everyone else on the team, combined. They’re 3-1 in those games, which were all one-run wins. But Rich Hill has a 6.43 postseason ERA. He also has blister problems. Kenta Maeda’s postseason ERA is 9.00. It’s like they either get shelled or Kershaw/Jansen save the day. This team just doesn’t have a rotation. If the Cubs can find their bats at all in Los Angeles, we should be moving on. I think.

 

Monday, October 17th. ALCS Game 3. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 4-2. The Indians lead 3-0.

Trevor Bauer’s finger is fucking disgusting. But so is the Cleveland bullpen. I think everybody thought the story of this game was gonna be Jose Bautista’s comments about the mysterious “circumstances” that inhibited the Jays in the first two games of the series (read: strike zone). Especially when his game started with Mike Napoli’s fly ball bouncing out of his glove for an RBI double. And then he led off the bottom of the first taking a called strike three. But it wasn’t too long after that Bauer started gushing.

 

I love that Bauer almost looked like he was trying to hide his pinky from the umpire. It’s still making me laugh picturing some old timer like Joe Niekro pretending it’s not his blood and then using his own wound like a sneaky emery board. But Bauer was out after only facing four batters and Terry Francona would have to rely on his bullpen for the remainder of the game. And I had to assume the Blue Jays would finally decide to hit and the Indians would be drone-fucked.

 

Michael Saunders tied the game in the bottom of the 2nd with a solo shot off Dan Otero. But it was answered in the 4th when Napoli hit a solo shot of his own. Ezekiel Carrera tripled in the 5th and was singled in by Josh Donaldson, tying the game again. But the Indians answered in the 6th with a homer by Jason Kipnis and some great base running by Napoli after he was walked. All the Indians had to do was get to Bryan Shaw, put in Cody Allen in the 7th and let Andrew Miller get the final four outs. Francona looks like a genius. But then again, any manager who has a guy with the ability to strike out 20 batters in 9 innings of postseason work is gonna end up looking pretty good.

 

Corey Kluber is being called on for Game 4 on three days rest. If they win (53% according to FiveThirtyEight), it’s the Indians’ first pennant since 1997. It’s also their 10th win in a row. And everyone will rightfully heap praise upon Miller and the rest of the Indians’ staff. But the longer this team goes into October, the more evident it will be that they’re severely shorthanded. They’ve only started Bauer, Kluber and Josh Tomlin in their 6 postseason games. Now Bauer is drone-fucked. And they’d have to use Ryan Merritt for a potential Game 5. I don’t really know who he is either. The Red Sox and Blue Jays vanished in the first six games (seriously, the Blue Jays have scored three runs and have never had a lead), but I gotta think Cleveland is vulnerable for whoever they face (Cubs???) in the World Series.

 

Tuesday, October 18th. The Blue Jays beat the Indians 5-1. The Indians lead the series 3-1.

Well, the Blue Jays finally found their bats. And it started with Josh Donaldson, who also flashed a little leather at third to save a run. I don’t know how much to read in to the fact that Corey Kluber has never pitched on three days rest before. But with Ryan Merritt going in Game 5 for Cleveland and possibly no one (or probz Kluber again) available for them if it goes all the way to Game 7, this thing could have just gotten interesting.

 

 Hey Blue Jays, you got one!

 

Tuesday, October 18th. The Dodgers beat the Cubs 6-0. The Dodgers lead 2-1.

What a shitty time to go to my first Cubs postseason game. And good thing I also have tickets for Games 4 and 5. Ugh. I know Rich Hill pitched well this season. I know he pitched well enough in the game. I know Clayton Kershaw was good the game before. But that’s 18 innings in a row for the Cubs without a run. That’s not something that usually happens. The analysis prior to the game, at least by Jess Mendoza of ESPN, was that if the Cubs were going to bust out their slumps in the series, Hill wasn’t gonna be the guy they did it against. She also said the Cubs were gonna play better with their backs against the wall, and unfortunately, I’m probably gonna have to see if she’s right on that front too. I’ve watched the Cubs lose big games before, but never surrounded by so many people so happy about my misery. Fuckin’ Dodgers fans. Being down 2-1 would feel a lot less insurmountable if anyone on this goddamn team felt like hitting. 103 wins just to all collectively slump in October? So grumpy.

 

Wednesday, October 19th. The Indians beat the Blue Jays 3-0. They win the series 4-1. 

Prior to Game 5, Jose Bautista, who is not everyone’s favorite player, said that Indians’ starter, Ryan Merritt, would be “shaking in his boots” thinking about facing the Blue Jays’ hitters. Merritt is 24-years-old. He was a 16th-round pick out of a community college in Waco. He has an 83-mile-per-hour fastball. Prior to the game, he had one career start and 11 career innings pitched. Keep in mind that, if not for a freak drone accident, he probably wouldn’t be getting his second career start in a potential pennant-clincher. The kid’s from Texas, so he might own boots. But he was certainly not shaking in a goddamn thing.

 

 Believeland again?

 

Merrit pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings. He retired the first 10 batters of the game. By that point the Indians were up 3-0 off of a double from Mike Napoli and homers from Carlos Santana and Coco Crisp. And then that bullpen came in. Series over. Andrew Miller got MVP honors. The Indians had a little bit of fun with the whole boots comment in the clubhouse and on social media during their celebration. Jason Kipnis told reporters, “That’s why you don’t say dumb shit.” Now is as good a time as any to mention it was also Bautista’s 36th birthday. He batted .167 in what will probably be his last series with Toronto. You’re going to be hearing a lot about 1948, 1997 and the Cleveland Caviliers in the next week. I’ll be worried about what happens if the Indians have a lead on the Cubs after the 5th inning in any of the World Series games. But that thought will have to be tabled for the time being.

 

Wednesday, October 19th. The Cubs beat the Dodgers 10-2. The series is tied 2-2.

Addison Russell and Anthony Rizzo were a combined 3-for-50 in the postseason heading in to Game 4. Regression to the mean is a motherfucker. They each went 3-for-5 with home runs and the Cubs’ bats finally came alive after 21 scoreless innings. Maybe everything was a bit overblown since this is the Cubs we’re talking about. The ’98 Yankees were down 2-1 in the ALCS, for crying out loud. It happens all the time. Cubs fans may even remember the ’84 Padres being down 2-1. Or the 2003 Marlins. This is a fairly normal thing. But the Cubs hadn’t been in this sort of trouble all season long. Yeah, Dodger fans will cry about Adrian Gonzalez being thrown out at home in the 2nd (his hand looked like it was hovering to me). But the Dodgers gave up 10 runs and committed 4 errors. And if it wasn’t for Justin Turner’s grounder taking a bad hop off of Mike Montgomery’s glove in the 5th, the score would have been 10-0. I’d rather be Anthony Rizzo apologizing to Angel Hernandez for trotting to first on a called strike (and homering on the next pitch) than Adrian Gonzalez doing his best Jose Bautista whine impression in the clubhouse after the game. I just hope these bats can stay hot against Kenta Maeda in Game 5 before this series heads back to Wrigley Field.

 

 

Alright. That’s it for this week. If you need more baseball from me, check me out on Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon, available on the podcast things. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 6. Ohmygod.

 

 


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?

 

 

 


Wilmer Flores, Mets Deserve this Moment

Written by :
Published on : August 1, 2015

 

Wilmer Flores has had a week that he can tell his kids and his grandkids about one day.

The Mets shortstop was supposed to be traded to the Brewers along with Zack Wheeler for former Mets farmhand Carlos Gomez on Wednesday night. SportsNet New York captured the moment of Flores crying on the field in the middle of the game that same night.

Mets manager Terry Collins clearly did not know what was going on or else he would not have put Flores in the game at all, but there was a reason to why someone in the Mets front office never told the Mets manager. The Mets were not going to approve the deal since they had issues with Gomez’s hip, so the trade never happened.

There’s no question this was an experience Flores will remember forever. It had to weigh on him; he’s only human. As a 23-year old, it’s tough to handle an experience like that for the first time. After all, he has been with the organization since he was 16 years old, and it’s the only ball club he knows.

It was a reality check for the young man. And now, he learned he has to make the most of his opportunity of staying with the Mets. After not playing Thursday afternoon, he played with a sense of urgency by going all out on defense, highlighted by a diving catch in the first inning.

Flores saved his best for last when he hit the game-winning home run in the 12th inning to give the Mets a 2-1 victory over the Nationals in the first of a three-game series last night. Naturally, Flores was emotional. After he hit the homerun, he pumped his fist and said something as he was running the bases, and he flung his helmet and raised his jersey as he was heading home to be embraced by his teammates. He was soaking it in, and why not? He deserved it after what he has endured.

 

      Flores and the Mets celebrate his twelfth inning walk-off home run. 

 

Good for him that he showed emotion. Most often, baseball players tend to have robotic personalities, which is one reason fans can’t get into baseball. For him to act like that, he wanted to show how he relates to the fans.

Moments like this make for great sports theater. It restores fan’s faith in humanity regarding sports, especially after reading about all the bad news relating to athletes. Something like this does not get scripted in movies. It’s something you can’t make up. For him to almost be traded and play the hero in a divisional game, it’s something. It’s why we love sports. Flores was going to enjoy every moment of this as much as he could. Moments like this don’t come often. It’s a good bet he did not sleep last night. It would be hard after coming off such an emotional high.

This season hasn’t been easy for Flores. He has struggled at the plate at times, and his defense has left much to be desired. He has been criticized for his poor play, and that’s fair. It would have been easy for him to be discouraged and quit on himself. Instead, he kept working at playing shortstop all year. He worked at his craft on his hitting. He kept at it.

He finally received the reward for his work last night. That’s why Mets fans felt good for him after the game. To say this was the best moment of his young career is an understatement. Maybe this is a start of something special for him. Who knows?

His story is so big that we forget this was a big win for the Mets against the first-place Nats. The Mets are now two games out of first place, and it’s a game they needed after turning a 7-1 lead into an 8-7 loss to the Padres Thursday afternoon.

 

                                                       The team celebrates the win on Friday.

 

The fact he did this against a team the Mets want to finally beat consistently makes this all special. That’s why Mets fans enjoyed this. If Flores does not have a good Major League career, he can always look back at last night. No one can take that moment away from him.

 

 


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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