Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXX: The ALDS and NLDS)

Written by :
Published on : October 14, 2016

 

Did you think there would be NO drama? Come on. It’s October! We had five-hour games and extra-innings walk-offs. We had tears. We had celebrations. We had sweeps. We have one series that’s not even done yet. Let’s talk about all of it.

 

The Blue Jays swept the Rangers 3-0

Well, add Game 3 of the ALDS in Toronto to the growing annals of Blue Jays playoff history. In the bottom of the 11th, Rougned Odor (of all fucking people) botched a throw to first base on a double play (of all fucking things), allowing Josh Donaldson to race home with a head-first slide, winning the game 7-6 and the series 3-0. As the Rogers Center lost its collective mind, the broadcast cut to a homemade sign that read, “WOULD RATHER GET PUNCHED IN MAY THAN GET KNOCKED OUT IN OCTOBER.”

 

The Rangers pitching in this series was awful. Of the three starters they used, Yu Darvish actually did the “best.” And his 2016 postseason ERA is 9.00. Josh Donaldson, who looked worn down at the end of the regular season, is the hottest hitter in the American League, once again. Edwin Encarnacion isn’t far behind. Either are Ezequiel Carrera or Troy Tulowitzki, for that matter. And Marco Estrada also pitched a gem in Game 1, for a staff that I still think is underrated.

 

 

Oh, and I know that everyone hates Jose Bautista or whatever, but the way he gently sat down his bat when he hit a home run in Game 1 is being grossly overlooked by everyone. First of all, I’m impressed he even had the wherewithal in the moment to think of that. And secondly, that’s so much more shade than any actual bat flip. And it’s dog-whistle enough that dum-dums like Goose Gossage won’t call him “an embarrassment to all Latin players” or whatever garbage shit will come out of his mouth next. I kinda hope gentle bat placements become a thing.

 

Odor’s punch won the early-season battle. Bautista, the Jays and meme generators all over North America won the war.

 

The Indians beat the Red Sox 3-0

It seems like the entirety of the national sports media decided the story of the series was the tearful goodbye of David Ortiz at Fenway Park after Game 3. Not the fact that the team with the best offense in all of baseball was shut down by a team thought to be decimated by pitching injuries. Not even Cleveland’s own beat writers gave the Tribe a fighting chance to make it out of the first round alive. But let’s make sure we focus on the guy we’ve already said goodbye to a thousand times over the course of the six month season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rob Manfred personally wheels Papi out in every game of the ALCS, NLCS and World Series just so we can keep making sure everyone on the goddamn planet has properly bid this man adieu. He is the 4th-greatest DH of all time, after all.

 

 

Maybe I’m just frustrated by all the old story lines the writers and talking heads try to trot out every October, but if I was an Indians fan, this would annoy the shit out of me. The Indians held the Red Sox to seven total runs in the series. The Sox hadn’t been held to seven runs in a three game series all season long. The Indians also won Game 2 by a score of 6-0 and all anybody really cared about was that LeBron James was there. Or, I guess, that David Price is now 0-8 in 9 playoff starts with a 5.53 ERA. But that was it. Seriously, nobody wants to talk about the team doing any of the actual winning?

 

So what should we talk about? How about Terry Francona’s bullpen usage in Game 1. With Buck Showalter’s non-use of Zach Britton in the Wild Card Game still fresh on everyone’s mind, Tito brought in Andrew Miller in the 5th inning. Miller pitched two scoreless innings and then Cody Allen was brought in to get the final five outs, including Dustin Pedroia’s check swing to end the game. Nerd boners could be seen in the proverbial pants of stat heads across the country. You can dismiss the prospects of Cleveland’s staff in a seven-game series all you want (and I am too). But Miller is the real x-factor coming out of the pen. And you gotta look at a lineup that is averaging 5 runs per game this postseason and wonder what Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis or Lonnie Chisenhall can do against that Jays staff.

 

Or, you know, we could just talk about how wonderful it was that Boston gave Ortiz such a nice send-off (again). The designated hitter position has been around since 1973. And it’s only in the American League. And, again, it’s not every day we say goodbye to the 4th-best one of those of all-time. Jim Thome was better. In Ortiz’ prime, Travis Hafner of the Indians was better. And as he exits, the 2016 Indians’ team was better. I think it’s best we finally turn the page. Speaking of which…

 

The Cubs beat the Giants 3-1

 

God bless my patient wife. She put up with a lot over the course of four games. That includes a room full of screaming thirty-something men when Javier Baez hit the home run off Johnny Cueto in Game 1. The five-hour, blue-balls-inducing marathon of Game 3. The emotional roller coaster comeback of Game 4. And God bless her for whatever horrors lie ahead.

 

This series had everything I love about baseball and everything I hate about baseball all at once. And just when the idiotic narrative had switched back to the magical, never-say-die, Even Year Giants, the Cubs (supposedly feeling 108 years of pressure) completed the biggest 9th-inning comeback in a series clincher in the history of postseason baseball. Madison Bumgarner’s postseason scoreless innings streak also ended at 24 (thanks, Jake Arrieta!). The Giants’ winning streak in elimination games ended at 10. Bruce Bochy has finally lost a playoff series while wearing a Giants uniform. And even if the Even Year mystique of the Giants isn’t quite dead, at least I have two more years before I have to look at people with a straight face while they talk about this shit.

 

That Baez home run came in the 8th inning of an all-out pitchers duel between Cueto and Jon Lester. On a normal day, that ball lands on Waveland. But the wind made sure it was the farthest home run to ever land in the left field basket. David Ross also picked off two runners as the Cubs went on to win their first meaningful game in weeks, 1-0. Game 2 had a solo home run from Cubs’ reliever, Travis Wood. And a two-run single from starter, Kyle Hendricks. When Arrieta hit that three-run shot off of Bumgarner in Game 3, the Cubs’ pitchers had six runs batted in and the whole Giants’ team only had two. Unfortunately for me, my wife, my stress level and hearts and livers across Chicago, the series got a little more interesting from there.

 

 

Conor Gillaspie wasn’t even supposed to be playing. He was replacing the injured Eduardo Nunez when he hit that three-run homer in the 9th off Jeurys Familia in the Wild Card Game. And in Game 3, he launched an improbable two-run triple off of Aroldis Chapman’s 102-mph fastball to give the Giants their first lead in the series. Everyone in TV Land was ready to anoint Gillaspie the New Magical Even Year Giant.

 

In the 9th, Kris Bryant hit a two-run shot off of Sergio Romo, which careened off the cartoon Chevron sign and into the left field bleachers to tie the game. You could probably hear my nutball reaction from blocks away. The same goes for Albert Almora Jr’s game-saving catch in the bottom of the inning. Yeah, Joe Panik mercifully ended the 5-hour epic in the bottom of the 13th. But the fact that the Cubs fought back at the end and didn’t just roll over would be a bit of positive foreshadowing for the following night.

 

I know it’s being sold as a bullpen meltdown, but the ineptitude of the Giants’ pen is something that was right under everyone’s nose, if they hadn’t been distracted by all the magical thinking and hopes and dreams of Gillaspie, and seeing Johnny Cueto at Wrigley Field in Game 5. The 2012 San Francisco Giants came back down 0-2 to the Reds in the NLDS and won the whole thing. But this isn’t 2012. Or 2010. Or 2014. Or 1908. Or any other Cubs meltdown year. It’s 2016. Matt Moore pitched a gem. Bochy happened to take him out, leading 5-2.

 

 

He tried Derek Law. Law gave up a single to Bryant. He tried Javier Lopez. Lopez walked Anthony Rizzo. He tried Romo again. Romo gave up a two-run double to Ben Zobrist making it 5-4. He tried Will Smith. Smith gave up a two-run single to Wilson Contreras, tying the game at 5. He tried Hunter Strickland. Strickland gave up an RBI single to Baez, putting the Cubs ahead for good, 6-5. Chapman totally redeemed himself. The Cubs are a better team. And they were the ones chanting “we don’t quit” on the opposing team’s pitching mound for another group photo as they move on to the next round. As much as I love Bill Murray, I was sure glad I didn’t have to see him again until the NLCS.

 

The Dodgers and Nationals are tied 2-2

Like David Price, Clayton Kershaw also has a rep for sucking in the postseason. But who would you rather be right now- Noah Syndergaard, Johnny Cueto and Matt Moore? Kershaw hasn’t been Kershaw. But the Dodgers have won both of the games he’s pitched. Max Scherzer is going in Game 5 for Washington. And he did give up a Major League-leading 31 home runs this season. But beating him twice in five games is almost too much to ask.

 

 

I’ve learned not to weigh in on who I want the Cubs to face in the NLCS (boy did I want the Mets last year). But Daniel Murphy is hot once again. So is Jayson Werth. Trea Turner could be a nightmare for Jon Lester. I think that’s who we’re gonna get. If it’s the Dodgers, they have a red-hot Justin Turner. They have that bullpen. They have Corey Seager, who is loving the first inning. And they have whatever version of Kershaw exists in October. But I’ll just quote Jake Arrieta, when Cubs’ beat writer, Patrick Mooney, asked him if he wanted the Mets or the Giants in the first round. “Who gives a shit?”

 

The Cubs haven’t won the World Series since 1908. They haven’t even been there since 1945. The Indians haven’t won since 1948. The Dodgers haven’t won since 1988. The Blue Jays haven’t won since 1993. The Nationals have never won. But the Even Year Giants are done. The Big Papi Red Sox are done. Two old story lines have been killed off. And before we end this thing, somebody else’s storied drought will be over too.

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. If you want more baseball from me, check out Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Until then, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 8.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XXIX: Bumgarner, Britton, MY Final Awards and LDS)

Written by :
Published on : October 7, 2016

 

 

For this cautiously optimistic Cubs fan, there was something oddly poetic and metaphorical about watching Madison Bumgarner walk back to the dugout after pitching yet another October gem for a team that has been there so many times before. By now you should know the long and torturous history of the Cubs, the 107 years of futility and heartbreak, the billy goats, black cats, Leon Durhams and Steve Bartmans. This version of the team needs just 11 more wins on a season where they’ve already won 103. But in the process of chasing the championship, they’re also surrounded by ghosts, whether they be real or imagined. And so in a year where Cubs fans have never been more hopeful that the wait is over, that this is ‘Next Year’, that they can finally break a curse, of course the first obstacle in their way is a magical team with magical powers in even years, with a magical pitcher whose powers are heightened when they need him the most.

 

To me, Bumgarner symbolizes more than just a star pitcher on the San Francisco Giants. He’s also the poster boy for that magical thinking, superstition and all the other illogical nonsense that will be managed and tamed the further the Cubs get into the postseason. I’ve already seen multiple posts about how Bumgarner now has 23-consecutive scoreless innings in winner-take-all games. Before the Wild Card game, picking Noah Syndergaard to be the ‘winner’ was almost seen as contrarian, even though his numbers strongly suggest he’s the better pitcher. None of that mattered. MadBum was already at legend status. And by the time this is posted, it will have snowballed to godlike proportions. Meanwhile, I’m going to venture to guess that nobody, in their analysis of the Bumgarner vs. the Mets, is going to mention that the Mets were tied with the Milwaukee Brewers for 25th in the Majors in runs scored on the season. And that his next round opponent certainly ain’t that.

 

 

As God as my witness, the Chicago Cubs will eventually go the World Series and win the whole damn thing. It will happen before the sun swells up and swallows the earth or Donald Trump nukes Lakeview. So if a curse was actually a real thing, which I assure you it is not, the Cubs would probably have to break an ‘even year’ spell or whatever else is thrown in their way in the process. Good eventually has to defeat evil. You have to go to Mordor to get rid of the Precious. The 2004 Red Sox had to go through the Yankees to break a curse of their own. Because of course they did. Curses are fiction and fiction should have insurmountable odds right before a happy ending. If this were written by Hollywood, the 2016 Cubs’ storybook ending would go ‘Even Year’ Giants, Daniel Murphy, Boston Red Sox. And all of that can happen. So what better place than here? What better time than now? Who’s ready for some playoffs?

 

The AL Wild Card Game
The Blue Jays defeat the Orioles 5-2 in 11 innings

Oh man. I’d feel bad for Ubaldo Jimenez if I thought anybody was actually focusing on him and not on Buck Showalter’s decision to not use Zach Britton in the game. Jimenez, of course, had that infamous 7.38 ERA in the first half, which basically made him the worst starting pitcher in the Majors. But he’d been better lately, I swear. He had a 2.31 ERA in September. There were real people writing actual articles on ESPN.com saying Ubaldo should be starting the game over Chris Tillman. It’s just that Britton had a 0.54 ERA on the season. He hadn’t given up an earned run since August 24th. And that was the only once since April 30th. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

In the bottom of the 11th, after Jimenez came on in relief with the score tied at 2, he gave up singles to Devon Travis and Josh Donaldson, before Edwin Encarnacion hit a 3-run walk-off to send Toronto in to the next round. Jimenez threw a grand total of five pitches. Showalter used a grand total of six different relievers after Tillman exited in the 5th. None of them were Britton. Showalter was managing for the save, a made-up statistic for a made-up position that logic should have killed off years ago. And it probably took the strategic failing of a renowned baseball strategist for change to happen. I just hope Joe Maddon and Aroldis Chapman took notice.

 

The NL Wild Card Game
The Giants defeated the Mets 3-0

 

The pitchers duel lived up to the hype, all right. Syndergaard took a no-hitter into the 6th and looked dominant before his pitch count reached its limit at the end of 7. He was aided by a fantastic catch by Curtis Granderson in center. But the slumping Yoenis Cespedes and the mediocre bats of the Mets could get nothing going against Racist Legend Boy and a team that tanked the entire second half and had to sweep the Dodgers to hold off the Cardinals at the end of the season didn’t have to use their garbage bullpen. The game was scoreless until the top of the 9th, when Conor Gillaspie, who had six home runs all season, hit a three-run shot off of Jeurys Familia, who’d only given up one all year. Racist Legend Boy’s 4-hit shutout on 119 pitches and the fact that the year ends in a 6 means something very important to people who get paid money to talk about baseball for a living. Seriously, fuck this team.

 

ALDS Preview: The Rangers vs. The Blue Jays

Well this could be horrifyingly dangerous. The epic rematch that everyone outside of Baltimore should have wanted is actually going to happen. And if drunken Canadians are willing to throw Labatt Blue cans at Hyun-soo Kim, imagine what they want to do to Rougned Odor.

 

I actually think the Jays will take the series. While both teams can definitely score, I like the Jays’ pitching depth a lot more. That Rangers +10 run differential still doesn’t make sense. But why would we talk about any of that? Jose Bautista and Roogie could square off again, you guys!

 

ALDS Preview: The Indians vs. The Red Sox

I don’t think anybody has Cleveland winning this. Boston has the best offense in the Majors. Six of their hitters are at least pretty good. And the Indians’ staff is duct-taped together. Plus, Papi is the Madison Bumgarner of hitting. David Price does have a 5.12 postseason ERA. But Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin haven’t beaten the Red Sox this season. And Corey Kluber can’t match up with Price every game. But mostly, Joey Bats might fight Rougned Odor in that other series, you guys!

 

NLDS Preview: The Cubs vs. The Giants

 

The best pitching in the Major Leagues. The best defense in the Major Leagues. The best offense in the National League, outside of Colorado. The year 1908. The years 2010, 2012 and 2014.
This is the hottest the Giants have been since the All-Star Game, which isn’t saying much. The staff is pretty formidable, especially with Jeff Samardzija pitching well lately. But the team has trouble scoring. So if the Cubs’ deep lineup can heat up, that staff should hold the Giants off.

 

Should and will are two different things, obviously. The Cubs were 7-0 against the Mets in the regular season last year, before getting swept in the NLCS. But the Cubs are the story here. The sports media may be chasing after the Even Year Miracle Hillbilly like a dumb dog chasing a mail carrier. But the Cubs are the best team in baseball. And they’re the favorite until proven otherwise.

 

NLDS Preview: The Nationals vs. The Dodgers

No Stephen Strasburg. No Wilson Ramos. A banged-up Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy. And Dusty Baker managing them. This all bodes well for the finally-healthy Dodgers. The only thing is, the Dodgers have pretty mediocre hitting after Corey Seager and Justin Turner. Especially against lefties. And Clayton Kershaw has been pretty un-Kershaw-like in Octobers past. He’s getting matched up with Max Scherzer, who doesn’t quite suck either. I’ll take Washington. Really. I need them for my Daniel Murphy curse storyline and I don’t want to get jumped in Echo Park during the presumed NLCS while forgetting I’m wearing a Cubs hat.

 

Let’s give out some awards.

 

AL MVP FINAL ANSWER: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

 

As the Major League leader in WAR, by a pretty decent margin, Trout proved once again that he’s the best player in the game. It’s arguable that David Ortiz was a better hitter this year. But there’s really no other metric to suggest the A.L. MVP could possibly be anyone else.

 

I’ve already talked about this at length. Trout has led the league in WAR his first five seasons in the Majors and has one MVP award to show for it. Willie Mays led the National League in WAR ten times from 1954-1966. And he only has two MVP awards to show for it. Those voters look stupid to us now. And, unless Trout brings home some more hardware, they’re on their way to looking stupid again.

 

Honorable Mention: Josh Donaldson, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Adrian Beltre

 

AL CY YOUNG FINAL ANSWER: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

I was surprised too. For me, this came down to the numbers. The narrative of everyone assuming Verlander was done is nice and everything. But that has nothing to do with who was the best pitcher in the league this year. And the numbers pointed to Verlander, Rick Porcello and Corey Kluber.

 

—————————WAR   FIP      ERA

Justin Verlander      5.2      3.48      3.04
Rick Porcello           5.2      3.40      3.15
Corey Kluber           5.1      3.26      3.14

 

That’s about as close as you can get. But it’s that ERA – actual results – that settled it for me. I’d hand Verlander his second Cy. Or his third, since I probably would have given it to him in 2012 too. Just saying.

 

Honorable Mention: Rick Porcello, Corey Kluber, Masahiro Tanaka, Chris Sale, Aaron Sanchez

 

AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINAL ANSWER: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees

 

I’d love to be able to give you a great reason. But this came down to Sanchez, Michael Fulmer and Christopher Devenski. Their WARS were essentially the same, regardless of if anybody had Devenski in the conversation or not. And Devenski’s Win Probability Added (WPA) was better than Fulmer’s, as were his FIP and ERA. That’s pitching 2-3 innings at a time, instead of six. But still, that’s a good argument for why Fulmer wasn’t the even best rookie pitcher in his own league. On the other hand, no other American League position player is touching Sanchez. He hit 20 home runs in 53 games, which is a 61 pace. Holy shit.

 

Honorable Mention: Michael Fulmer, Christopher Devenski, Tyler Naquin, Tim Anderson

 

NL MVP FINAL ANSWER: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

Like Trout, Bryant led the league in WAR by a decent margin. Unlike Trout, his play contributed to a winning team. Joey Votto, Daniel Murphy and Freddie Freeman were all better hitters. But they can’t hold a candle to Bryant, defensively. The title of best player in the National League has a new claimant.

 

Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman, Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, Anthony Rizzo

 

NL CY YOUNG FINAL ANSWER: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 

I’m taking Clayton Kershaw out of the equation, since he pitched in 10 fewer games with 34 fewer innings than Thor. But with a full season, Syndergaard led the league in WAR and FIP, while finishing third in ERA. I love Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester (who finished 1-2 in ERA), but they also had that Cubs defense behind them. And I highly doubt Jose Fernandez would want the award handed to him (although he was right up there). Oh, and Max Scherzer is getting hype as a 20-game winner. But this isn’t 1986 and we have better ways of evaluating value.

 

Honorable Mention: Jose Fernandez, Kyle Hendricks, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, Jon Lester    

 

NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINAL ANSWER: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s really not even close. Seager is the best rookie position player since Trout in 2012. And I thought he’d be the best National League rookie since Albert Pujols in 2001 or Mike Piazza in 1993, but it’s actually Dick Allen in 1964. That’s not like, bad company.

 

Honorable Mention: Jon Gray, Kenta Maeda, Trea Turner, Trevor Story, Steven Matz, Zach Davies

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. If you need more baseball from me, check me out on ‘Comedians Talking Sports‘ with Joe Kilgallon on the podcast things. In the meantime, the Cubs’ Magic Number is 11. So nervous!

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XIII)

Written by :
Published on : May 27, 2016

 

 

Well, it’s the 75th anniversary of Joe DiMaggio’s illustrious 56-game hitting streak. Or so the MLB app on my phone keeps telling me. At the time, DiMaggio was a 26-year-old son of a fisherman with four World Series rings and an MVP award under his belt. And we were still six years away from integration. So it seems only fitting that, all these years later, a 26-year-old African-American son of a bus driver was getting attention for doing something (almost) similar.

 

I know that he had a long, long way to go, but we hadn’t seen a hitting streak last this long since 2011. And with a more difficult travel schedule and flame-throwing relief pitchers and, I don’t know, gloves that don’t look like big fat hands, you could even argue that what Jackie Bradley Jr. has done through his past 29 games is just as impressive as DiMaggio in ’41. Even though, you know, DiMaggio hit safely in his next 16 games after the initial streak and, if not for two defensive gems by Ken Keltner of the Indians, the Yankee Clipper would have actually had a 73-game hitting streak. But only an asshole would remind you of that sort of thing. Or the fact that he also hit a double in the All-Star Game during the streak, unofficially making it 57 and/or 74. Try not to think of that either. That was then. JBJ is right now.

 

It does seem like if anyone was going to approach DiMaggio’s record, it would be somebody on this Red Sox lineup. Good god. I’ve already talked at length about what David Ortiz has been doing because it’s still incredible. But Xander Bogaerts has a 19-game streak of his own and is currently second in the league in batting average, only one point behind Bradley. I mean, they’re hitting .298 as a team. I don’t know how long that’s going to last. But six runs a game is impressive enough that I almost don’t feel the need to mention Clay Bucholz’ 6.35 ERA.

 

AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

 

The Baby Face Assassin has been in a bit of a slump lately (as has his team), but he still edges out Mike Trout this week. Speaking of which, remember a few weeks ago when it was Trout who was slumping and Bryce Harper who was murdering the world and in no need of a ‘mental day off’? Yeah. Baseball is hard. But right now, Trout and Machado are making it look easy.

 

AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

Quintana still leads the league in FIP and WAR, no matter how hard everyone’s Chris Sale boner got when he was 9-0. I just want to point out that Sale’s BABIP is .220 right now, which is up from the untenable .197 he was sporting before his first loss against Cleveland. So I don’t know how much we’re kidding ourselves by congratulating Sale for relying on his defense, rather than striking guys out. And while I admit that I agree with every talking-head baseball pundit out there saying the best three pitchers in in the world are 1) Clayton Kershaw, 2) Jake Arrieta and then 3) Chris Sale, I also know that a BABIP one hundred points below normal means that Sale actually got pretty lucky in his first nine starts.

 

All that being said, the White Sox are currently in a major funk. They need help at the back of their rotation, the Indians actually beat Sale and Quintana in succession this week and the Sox’s lead in the Central withered away to half a game as of Thursday. I don’t care if Corey Kluber thinks it’s too early to look at standings. It’s also not helping that every other team in the division (other than the lowly Twins) is red hot right now. I guess not counting the Royals’ recent injuries. But even the Brad Ausmus shirt folding tirade seems to have worked in Detroit, where Miguel Cabrera has awoken from his early season slumber and remembered he was still Miguel Cabrera. We’ve got a ways to go, but it’s getting tight in the AL Central.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

This week, the youngest player in the Majors also happened to hit the farthest home run of the season (491 ft). And the Rangers seem to be sticking around, even though Roog Ned will be gone for the next week. Oh, and Yu Darvish returns on Saturday to (hopefully) put an end to this Pirates surge.

 

If you’re an Astros fan, you might take solace in the fact that the 2005 team actually had a worse record than the 2016 team currently does and still managed to go all the way to the World Series. Then again, that team also had Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte and Roy Oswalt, not to mention Craig Biggio, a retiring Jeff Bagwell and an amazing season from Morgan Ensberg. But all I’m saying is that stranger things have happened.

 

NL MVP: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

 

You know what else happened 75 years ago, besides the DiMaggio streak? Ted Williams became the last guy in baseball to hit .400. So it only makes sense that this year there’s also some shitty-fielding second baseman in D.C. hitting .394. And also, I need it to stop.

 

The Cubs have been coming back down to earth a bit. And I need to keep reminding myself that even a 100-win team has to lose 62 games. So yeah, the pace they were on was probably impossible. Still, I’d say Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist are 2-3 in this week’s MVP picks. And Kris Bryant would also be in my top 10. And, since I’m over the injury scare, I’ll say that Jason Heyward’s catch in San Francisco was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It’s just that he also has worse batting stats than Jake Arrieta.

 

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

You know, I’m a big opponent of giving the MVP to a pitcher. But the Dodgers are the best team on the planet when Kershaw pitches. And they basically suck when he doesn’t. He has three shutouts so far this season and has only given up five walks. That should make your brain hurt. Mine does. His stats look like typos. And I really think we’re witnessing something special in Kershaw.

 

This week, the hottest team in baseball is the San Francisco Giants. Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Madison Bumgarner are as scary a front three as there is in baseball. Even Matt Cain and Jake Peavy seem to be figuring shit out. And Cain hasn’t won consecutive games since 2013. I just want to officially put an end to this ‘even year’ garbage that seems to qualify as analysis on places like ESPN. It needs to end now. And it needs to end once and for all.

 

During the Giants’ weekend series with the Cubs, everyone seemed to think the games had a playoff atmosphere and were, in fact, a preview of the upcoming NLCS. And that’s fine. It may very well have been. But when you’re bringing ‘even year’ nonsense into the discussion, along with the fucking Cubs’ ‘curse’, nobody should have to take you seriously. Billy Sianis, a Greek immigrant with a pet goat who started a greasy restaurant with a bad check does not have power over every baseball season since 1945. Like, at all. And whether the year ends in a 2, 4, 6, 8 or 0 should not come in to your projections for how adult professionals will perform over the course of a season. And I know I’ve made jokes about it in the past. But now I wish Mike Jirschele had waved Alex Gordon home in Game 7 and/or Salvador Perez would have pulled a Bill Mazeroski. I’m proud of you if you know what any of that means. But it should all make more sense than just saying ‘curse’ and ‘even year’. This isn’t fucking Westeros.

 

NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Seager has the slightest of WAR leads over Steven Matz of the Mets. And I almost gave it to Matz this time, if nothing else, for calming down the New York media twice in a one week span about how terrible Matt Harvey is now. I know Matz had that injection scare recently, but man does that staff get treated like a bunch of fragile babies. Harvey and Jacob deGrom’s velocities are down. “Big Sexy” Bartolo Colon is in the tabloids for being a little too sexy. And if Harvey doesn’t talk to the media after another lousy start, it gets even more attention than if he’d answered the same old shit about how he doesn’t feel comfortable on the mound and how he basically looks like a thick Nicholas Cage. If Thick Nick Cage was also rocking a 6.08 ERA.

 

Okay. That’s it for this week. Next week I’ll be in Portland where there are no outfields. But I predict a big week for whoever is playing the Reds. And I also predict increasing trade speculation among the also-ran teams of the AL East and West. If you need more baseball, check me out on the MLB recaps of Comedians Talking Baseball with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Til next time, Ichiro needs 40 hits. And the Cubs’ magic number is 113.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XI)

Written by :
Published on : May 13, 2016

 

Heard anything about the Nationals lately? Good Christ. It seems like every game they played this week had some sort of national news attached to it. First, they got swept by the Cubs in four games at Wrigley, in a series between the two teams with the best records in baseball. That left the 24-6 Cubs with the best 30-game start to a season since the ’84 Tigers (26-4), as well as the best first-30-game run differential (+102) in the history of baseball. In the final game of the series on Sunday, the Cubs walked Bryce Harper six times, tying a Major League record set by Jeff Bagwell in 1999. And since he also got hit by a pitch in the game, that meant Harper reached base seven times in the game without a single official at-bat. That’s also never been done before, no big deal.

 

All that led to the first time (and there will be many more) that fans started to question Dusty Baker and his decision to bat Ryan Zimmerman behind Harper instead of Daniel Murphy, since Zimmerman went 2-for-19 in the series and left 14 runners on base, while Murphy has basically been Ted Williams unfrozen from carbonite. If any manager should know how to combat a player getting the ‘Barry Bonds Treatment’, you would think it would be the guy who also happened to manage Barry Bonds while he was getting said treatment.

 

 Stasburg

 

Anyway, the very next day, all of this would be put on the back burner for two major reasons. One, Stephen Strasburg signed a seven-year $175 million contract to stay with the team. And Two, Harper got ejected from the game in the 9th inning against the Tigers for screaming about balls and strikes from the dugout. And then Clint Robinson (who actually thought it was the 8th inning), immediately hit a pinch-hit, walk-off home run, sending Harper back onto the field to scream, “fuck you” at umpire, Brian Knight, in plain view of TV cameras, while also kind of celebrating the win with the very confused Robinson. Make Baseball Fun Again, Bryce!

 

Then finally, on Wednesday (the same day we learned Harper would be getting a one-game suspension for his F bomb), Max Scherzer goes out against his former team and strikes out 20 batters. ESPN said it looked like the scoreboard operator fell asleep on the K key. More amazingly, Scherzer did that throwing 80% strikes. So not only did he have 20 K’s, he also only threw 23 balls the whole game. Sexy is right, Max! This was coming off a start against the Cubs where Scherzer was terrible. Apparently, when this guy has his best stuff, nobody is better. You know, other than the two home runs he gave up.

 

What’s even more fun is that a 20-strikeout game has only happened four other times (I’m not counting Tom Cheney’s 21 K’s in 16 innings), and Tigers’ manager, Brad Ausmus, has been there, on the losing end, for THREE of them. He was on the Astros when Kerry Wood struck out 20 in 1998. And he was on the Tigers when Clemens did it a second time in 1996. Dude is like Robert Todd Lincoln at presidential assassinations. And this has been a horrible week for his ballclub.

 

Speaking of managers, the 20-strikeout game is something that a lot of people didn’t think would ever happen again. Sure, strikeouts are up. But also pitch counts are way down. Clemens threw 151 pitches in that ’96 game. Nobody would allow that now. Then again, this is Dusty Baker we’re talking about.

 

 

So, as you can see, the Nationals dominated the baseball world this week – a week when Papi got ejected against the Yankees, J.T. Realmuto got called out after hitting a home run, Aroldis Chapman and his first-pitch 100 mph fastball returned from suspension, the Zika virus cancelled games in Puerto Rico, Bartolo Colon hit a fat person home run and Thor actually managed to hit two of them in L.A. But, somehow, all the news kept coming back to the Nationals. I mean, I’ve heard of politicians in D.C. manipulating the 24-hour news cycle, but this was ridiculous.

 

Oh, there’s one more thing about the Nationals…

 

NL MVP: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

 

Murphy is hitting .409, you guys. He’s a career .290 hitter. He’s projected at .302 – .312. So either he’s figured something out, or this isn’t going to last much longer. Either way, I’ll say it again, Daniel Murphy is currently hitting .409, you guys.

 

Moving on…

 

As I said earlier, Bartolo Colon hit a home run this week. And with the Mets scoring all of their runs on long balls anyway, it’s almost fitting. As a Mets hater, I begrudgingly admit that it was a pretty great moment. He’s the oldest player in baseball history to hit his first career home run. He’s also a big fatso, so it was hilarious. And the Mets’ dugout reaction was equally great and hilarious. As was the radio call by Gary Cohen echoing Vin Scully’s “the impossible has happened” call of Kirk Gibson’s Game 1 walk-off in the 1988 World Series. If he hit two home runs in a game like Noah Syndergaard did on Wednesday, I’d probably assume the world was about to end. And that would be a shame because I never got to see the Cubs win it all.

 

NL Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

We still know absolutely nothing about the NL West, where every team has major problems and we’ve been in a big rotating jumble of mediocre teams thus far. The Dodgers and the Giants (even year!) are still favored. Yasiel Puig’s highlight reel in right keeps growing. But the Dodgers have injuries and the Giants have major problems with Matt Cain and Jake Peavy in the 4 and 5 slots in their rotation. Cain is actually winless in his last 14 starts going back to last year. Meanwhile, the DBacks have only flirted with the idea of getting better. And although Nolan Arenado has established himself as an elite player in Colorado, nobody is buying the Rockies or the Padres. If this is how it stays, I might actually start feeling bad for the Phillies, Marlins, Pirates and Cardinals, who all seem like they could win this shitty division.

 

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

 

Yes, the Cardinals and Pirates are heating back up, but NL Central is still all Cubs all the time. I already mentioned all their first-30-game records. But the Cubs have been so dominant thus far, that when they lost back-to-back games in a doubleheader against the Padres, it felt like the sky was falling. There’s really no shame in getting shut down by Drew Pomeranz, but it still felt really weird. It was the lowly Padres. And all my Cubs’ fan friends were calling for Jorge Soler to be traded or sent down to Des Moines.

 

Still, it took 33 games for the Cubs to lose back-to-back, which is the deepest in to a season any team had gone without doing that since the 1929 Philadelphia A’s. Odd how all these teams that keep popping up in 2016 Cub comparisons won the World Series. Odd indeed. Although I highly doubt that Connie Mack had a mariachi band in the clubhouse on Cinco de Mayo for Mickey Cochrane, Eddie Collins, Jimmie Foxx, Lefty Grove and Al Simmons. So advantage Joe Maddon there.

 

This week, Sports Illustrated called Wrigley Field the happiest place on earth. And they also called the Cubs the ‘Last Great American Sports Story’. I’ve listened to people discuss the 116-win record. I’ve listened to Tim Kurkjian argue with Karl Ravech on Baseball Tonight about whether the Cubs will break the ’39 Yankees run differential record of +411. They’re currently on pace for +486. And it was well over +500. I’m also listening to myself argue about whether these Cubs would kill that ’39 Yankees staff, because they didn’t have any actual athletes.

 

 

Sure, I’d say to myself when nobody was looking, the rarely-used Oral Hildebrand was a basketball star and a national champion at Butler. But Red Ruffing, their Hall of Fame ace, lost four toes in a coal mining accident when he was 15 and had to learn how to pitch because he could no longer run. And Lefty Gomez, their Hall of Fame #2 pitcher who said he’d throw at his own mother, was 6’2″, 155 pounds. They eventually had to pull all of his teeth to get him to eat.

 

Plus, pitcher Wes Ferrell would refuse to be pulled from games, punch himself in the face and slam his head into walls until he was restrained by teammates. And I’d regret not telling you that Bump Hadley, their 3 starter, ended the aforementioned Mickey Chocrane’s Hall of Fame career (and actually almost killed him) with an intentional beanball in 1937. I’d doubly regret not telling you that Monte Pearson, their 5 starter, who threw the first no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in 1938, was arrested in 1962 for accepting bribes for approving shoddy septic tanks.

 

These are the conversations people are having surrounding the Cubs. Well, maybe not the last one. But Javier Baez hit that 13th inning walk-off on Mother’s Day against the Nationals. Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Jon Lester are 1st, 3rd and 4th in the league in ERA. Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist are legitimate MVP candidates. And I haven’t been to Wrigley Field this year (although I’m told it’s insane), and I know this could all go away with a key injury or a bad postseason series against the Mets or the Nationals, but this is the Last Great American Sports Story. And I hope the happy ending comes sooner than later.

 

AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

 

Yes, Machado is bonkers. And yes, people are actually starting to notice. And yes, the Orioles are still hanging around. But this week, the Red Sox are actually worth talking about. You know, besides the Big Papi and John Farrell ejections that had people around baseball calling for robot umpires (it was a strike, guys. McCann just got crossed up). Anyway, after the Red Sox outscored the A’s 40-15 in three games, they were tied with the Cubs for the most runs scored in the Majors (with one more game played).

 

If Thursday is any indication, David Price isn’t going to have a 6.00 ERA for much longer (Dustin Pedroia found something wrong with his delivery!). But the fact that he was 4-1 before all that means that it might not even matter. Jackie Bradley Jr. is their 9 hitter. He’s got an 18-game hitting streak going. David Ortiz is retiring. He probably shouldn’t be. I’m almost ready to concede that he’s the 3rd best hitter in their franchise history after Williams and Yaz. The Red Sox are not only relevant for the first time in three years, they’ve actually convinced me that they’re the favorites in the American League for a reason. You know, other than the fact that the entire league isn’t all that good.

 

AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

The White Sox still have the best record in the American League. The Royals are still below .500. And nobody can wrap their head around it. Not even White Sox fans I’m friends with are fully embracing the mid-May standings. But hey, this week ESPN’s Cy Young Predictor has Quintana at #2 behind Chris Sale. And he leads the league in ERA with Sale at #4. I’m still waiting for that Indians surge everyone is predicting, but right now I’m still saying the White Sox are legit. And you can put it on the booooo… I won’t do it.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

The big story in the AL West this week has not been Robinson Cano and the first place Mariners. Nor has it been the never-say-die Rangers. It’s actually been whether or not the Angels should trade Mike Trout. Their ace, Garrett Richards, needs Tommy John surgery. Andrelton Simmons is going to miss two months due to torn thumb ligaments. There’s also CJ Wilson, Andrew Heaney, Huston Street and Craig Gentry on the DL. They’re just taking too much damage. So the question remains whether to try to remake their farm system with the monster return they would undoubtedly get for Trout or learn the lessons the Milwaukee Bucks learned after trading Kareem Abdul Jabbar to the Lakers in 1975. Either way, the Angels are screwed and the Astros are probably going to be out of last place real soon.

 

 

Alright. That does it for this week’s Angelino in the Outfield. If you need more you can always listen to me on the baseball recap shows on Comedians Talking Sports, available for free on iTunes.

 

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode X)

Written by :
Published on : May 7, 2016

 

 

It might be time to start looking at the 2016 Cubs as a historically good team. That’s a weird thing to say. But after the Cubs swept the Pirates on the road, they had a +93 run differential, which is the 3rd highest ever after 26 games since 1900 (after the +103 1902 Pirates and the +96 1905 Giants). I mean, they won 97 games last year and only finished with a +81 for the whole season. Now we’re bringing Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson in to the conversation? Oh boy.

 

And let’s look at the Cubs-Pirates series for a second. It was billed as the bitter rematch of last year’s NL Wild Card Game, the budding of a great new baseball rivalry. The Pirates had been red-hot coming in. They’re a very good team. And then the Cubs murdered them 20-5 in three games. All without Jason Heyward and Miguel Montero and the grand-slam-hitting Matt Szczur, not to mention Kyle Schwarber. And all while they showed up in wacky fucking suits. You’re goddamn right Sean Rodriguez is tipping his cap. If the Cubs can stay relatively healthy (oh please, God), and actually start hitting on a consistent basis (other than Dexter Fowler and Anthony Rizzo), you could be looking at the ’98 Yankees. Or something even better entirely. I guess we’ll see what we learn after the big weekend series with the Nationals.

 

NL MVP: Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs

 

Oh, I forgot to tell you; the Cubs have also yet to lose consecutive games this season. And they’re on pace for that run differential to end up at +576 for the season. Which is nuts. The all time record is +411 by the 1939 Yankees. And I have a strange feeling that you might hear them get brought up more as the season goes along.

 

NL Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

Your entire team is in a shit-awful hitting slump? On top of that, your middle relief is horrible? Okay. Just have Kershaw go out there against the Padres and pitch a 3-hit complete game shutout with 14 strikeouts. Oh, and also have him single in your only run. Amazing. And that’s how Kershaw edges out Noah Syndergaard and Stephen Strasburg this week. I know there’s been a whole lot of talk about what Jake Arrieta has done in Chicago since last season. And there should be, the Cubs have won his last 19 starts. He’s basically 1967-1968 Bob Gibson, if Bob Gibson also did sexy, bearded Pilates and had a better batting average than his opponents. But that being said, Arrieta is still the second-best pitcher in baseball and Kershaw remains #1. Hell, I would have given him his 4th Cy Young Award last season. And that’s coming from someone who loves Jake Arrieta and would love to have it be the other way around. But if Kershaw keeps this up for one or two more seasons, he’s a bona fide first ballot Hall of Famer and (dare I say) probably the best pitcher in the history of that franchise. Except, you know, in the playoffs.

 

Speaking of playoffs, how garbage is that NL West division right now? The Giants are technically still in first place. Even though the back of their rotation is completely no bueno. In fact, the lowly Phillies and Marlins would actually be in first place right now if they were in the NL West. Speaking of which…

 

Look at the Phillies! They’re not legit, but look at them, anyway! It’s fun to see when a team that’s supposed to be terrible is actually playing well in May. And the Phillies are playing well. They swept the Nationals last week. They’re getting some pretty decent pitching – especially from Vincent Velasquez and Aaron Nola. And no team has struck out as many batters so far this season. However, their run differential is at -27. The team just doesn’t score. And FanGraphs has them sitting at a 0.1% chance to make the playoffs. Only the Braves and Reds (with their historically awful bullpen) are lower that that. I’d love for Odubel Herrera and the rest of the Phillies to prove me wrong, but I don’t think this team will even have a winning record at the end of the year. In other words, they’re about as legit as a Dee Gordon piss test (Marlins burn!).

 

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

 

It’s still Diaz, but I keep forgetting that Steven Matz of the Mets is a rookie. And as it turns out, he’s a pretty freakin’ good one. I told you I thought the Mets might be in first place for this week’s post. Let me give it one more week. Those guys are playing home run derby in almost every outing.

 

AL MVP: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

 

Do you have any idea how much attention Manny Machado would get if he played for the Red Sox or the last place Yankees? He’s been lights out this season, but it seems like the only thing the media cares about in that division is how much Clay Buchholz and/or Dellin Betances suck. I’m so over it. At least Pablo Sandoval is out for the year, so I might not have to hear much about him anymore. Guys, it’s over. Travis Shaw is the Red Sox’ 3rd baseman. He’s doing okay. Just not as okay as the Orioles’ former (?) third baseman.

 

And for the love of Frank Thomas, Paul Molitor and (probably) Edgar Martinez, can we please stop referring to Big Papi as the greatest DH of all time? I know everyone loves him. I know he’s retiring. Yes, that “this is our fucking city” speech. Yes, the walk-offs in the 2004 ALCS. I get it. But come on. And, while we’re at it, can we also stop saying he’s the second-greatest Red Sock ever behind Ted Williams? Every time somebody does that I want to recreate the the Marshall McLuhan scene from Annie Hall, except I’m standing with Carl Yastrzemski, Wade Boggs, Dwight Evans, Tris Speaker, Bobby Doerr and Jim Rice. All that being said, Ortiz and the Red Sox’ bats are hot.

 

AL Cy Young Award: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

This is just about the same scenario we had last week. Except now it’s May and it’s becoming clearer that the White Sox are actually good enough to dethrone the slumping Kansas City Royals in the AL Central. The Indians are still slightly favored to win the division, even though they badly need hitting and everyone in that city is still watching the Cavs. Meanwhile, the White Sox finally cut John Danks and will be going with a fluid 5th starter going forward on their very impressive staff. I think this is shaping up to be a pretty big summer in the city of Chicago.

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

Shin Soo-Choo can come back whenever he wants. This dude isn’t going anywhere. Did you see that ALDS rematch series between the Rangers and Blue Jays in Toronto? If you did, then you saw Mazara, unfazed by the playoff atmosphere in May, show off his power at the plate and his cannon for an arm. And I’m sure Adrian Beltre will eventually have a say in this, but Mazara might already be the best player on that team.

 

The current most interesting team in the AL West (once we finally get over the Astros being bad) is the Seattle Mariners. Taijuan Walker and Robinson Cano have been great. Kyle Seager and Felix Hernandez have not. But they’re winning. And you can smoke weed there. And like I’ve said before, a lot of experts picked Seattle to go to the World Series last year. Partially on how high they were on all four of the dudes I just mentioned. I’m going to go ahead and assume Seager (.260 lifetime AVG) is going to get above the Mendoza Line at some point this season, but there is a real concern with King Felix’ velocity. And that sucks to see a player who has been so good for the Mariners for so many years start to drop off when everything else finally seems to be falling in to place.

 

Okay. That looks like it’ll do it for this week’s Angelino in the Outfield. Last week, as soon as I turned in my post, it was announced that Paul Rudd would be playing Moe Berg in The Catcher Was a Spy movie. So I guess this column has magical powers. Or that anything can happen in baseball. Either or. In the meantime, check me out on the MLB Weekly recaps on the Comedians Talking Sports podcast with Joe Kilgallon on iTunes. Go Cubs.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode IX)

Written by :
Published on : April 30, 2016

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sawamura

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

AL MVP: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

 

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

 

AL Cy Young: Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox

 

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

 

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

 

AL Rookie of the Year: Nomar Mazara, Texas Rangers

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

NL Cy Young Award: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 

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

 

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

 

Brido cubs

 

Speaking of which…

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 


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

Written by :
Published on : March 27, 2016

 

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

 

Angels

Finley

 

 

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

 

Astros

Oswalt

 

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

 

Athletics

Henderson

 

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

 

Blue Jays

Halladay

 

 

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

 

Indians

Lofton

 

 

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

 

Mariners

Ichiro

 

 

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

 

Orioles

Mussina

 

 

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

 

Rangers

Rodriguez

 

 

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

 

Rays

Longoria

 

 

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

 

Red Sox

Evans

 

 

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

 

Royals

Paige

 

 

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

 

Tigers

Trammell and Whitaker

 

 

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

 

Twins

Mauer

 

 

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

 

White Sox

Faber

 

 

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

 

Yankees

Jeter

 

 

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

 

 


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?

 

 

 


Champ and Chump: Week 4

Written by :
Published on : October 9, 2015

 

Much of my 4th installment of Champ and Chump is centered around Detroit. Both my Champ and Chump involve players and teams from the beautiful Great Lakes State. It’s a beautiful time to be in Michigan as fall weather comes in. The leaves on the trees take on gorgeous shades of red, orange, yellow and collectively they paint a beautiful picture for us Michiganders to take in and enjoy. At many a local watering hole on Monday evening plenty of pints took on the same golden, amber hues as they painted the insides of our stomachs with happiness. That is until late Monday night when the wonderful fall colors of Michigan were stained by one call. By one individual wearing such boring and drab stripes of black and white…and with that let’s get to the Champs and Chumps of the week ladies and gentlemen!

 

 

Champ: Miguel Cabrera

Won his 4th batting title in 5 years

All dude does is put the bat on the ball.

 

I have only spent some 29+ years on this Earth, and more than likely only around twenty of those glued to baseball and sports in general. However, I can say confidently that Miguel Cabrera is the best pure hitter that I have ever seen, and assuming his career doesn’t completely fall off in the next couple of years, he may go down as the best hitter to ever play the game. Before everyone jumps down my throat, really consider what this guy has done, at such a consistent level mind you. 4 batting titles, a Triple Crown, 5 Silver Sluggers, 2 MVP’s, a career .321 hitter, and more than half of his career spent in a pitcher’s ballpark in Detroit. Hitting .338 this season, Miguel Cabrera barely qualified for the award because he missed six weeks during the season due to a calf injury, only to return and hit .360 for the month without needing any sort of minor league rehab start. I’m convinced, that if Miguel Cabrera was stranded on a deserted island like Tom Hanks in the movie “Castaway,” Miggy would simply need a quick bite, a few sips of Gatorade and he’d be ready to step into the batter’s box. After taking two pitches to get reacquainted with the speed of the game, he would rope one into the right field gap for an RBI double. He is just that good, and it’s a luxury getting to watch him day in and day out. If you’re a Tiger’s fan or just a baseball fan even, cherish the memories of watching this legend, because in some 50 years, he’ll be the one you tell your grand-kids about.

 

 

Honorable Mention:

Texas Rangers- Came out of nowhere to win the AL West and thus clinch a playoff berth. A year removed from losing 95 games, and trailing by as many as 8 games back in early August.

Florida Gators football- Had their coach in the “Chumps” section a couple weeks ago for a sideline tantrum, however the Gators are looking strong at 5-0 (3-0). Knocked off #3 Ole Miss over the weekend with ease and appear to be an SEC contender.

Texas A&M football- Sticking with the SEC, the Aggies struggled mightily in their first season without Johnny Manziel last year, but have cleaned it up and are off to a 5-0 start following a win over Mississippi State.

 

 

Chump: NFL Refs in Detroit-Seattle Monday Night Game

Bro, how do you miss that? You were right there!

 

Let me first start off by saying that I am a big Detroit Lions fan, and growing up in the metro-Detroit area in fact has made me a big Detroit sports fan in general. However, there is absolutely no bias with this argument, complaint, rant or what have you. What happened at the end of the Monday Night game is undoubtedly inexcusable on multiple levels. First off, as you’ll see below, it was inexcusable for the Lions to even put the refs in this position because Calvin Johnson needs to hold on to the damn ball! But that aside, having an NFL referee, or multiple referees, screw up that call is garbage. To me there’s only two possible explanations for what happened with the back judge, and I’m not sure which would frustrate me more: First one being, simply, the back judge didn’t know the rule well enough to call it, or option two being that he was intimidated by the “12th man” in Seattle and therefore left the flag in his pants. According to multiple outlets, the refs determined that the bat wasn’t “overt” enough and thus they didn’t feel they had enough evidence to make the call, but I am not buying that at all. It sounds like a save your ass type excuse because the ref had a clear, perfect view of the play. By having the combination of 3rd grade science, and the experience of watching 10 minutes of a football game, you could tell that the ball was clearly batted the other way intentionally. Simply look at Newton’s laws of motion, and the fact that football players don’t use a flat hand to recover a fumble! The NFL has to find a measure to eliminate crucial errors like this. They have made it so that all scoring plays are automatically reviewed and I think turnovers need to be added to that category because while there was a lot of time left, the Lions very possibly had a win stripped away from them…again (See 2014 NFL Wild Card game).

 

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Calvin Johnson- Fumbled the ball at the 1-yard line with just under 2 minutes to go at Seattle on MNF. Detroit was down 13-10 at that point.

Texas Longhorn’s football- 1-4 in 2015, lost 50-7 vs TCU Saturday. Crazy to think this team was in the national championship game just a few years ago, the program looks so lost. Charlie Strong will unfairly be the scapegoat.

Miami Dolphins- Perhaps I’m the chump here by thinking Miami would win the AFC East this year, (granted at the time, Brady was suspended for 4 games) yet the Dolphins apparently suck on two continents now by losing in London over the weekend. 1-3 on the year and the first team to fire their head coach this season.

 

 

 


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