Angelino in the Outfield (Episode XVII: All-Star Selections)

Written by :
Published on : July 8, 2016

 

With the All-Star Game approaching, the big talk this week was who got snubbed (which is probably unfair to Ned Yost and Terry Collins, since every team, no matter how awful they are, has to be represented) and also who should actually be starting. So let’s take a look at that. First up, the American League.

 

AL Starting Pitcher: ????

Should Start: Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians

 Will it be Salazar?

 

I think it should go to Salazar, especially since Jose Quintana didn’t even make the team. And neither did Masahiro Tanaka, who I honestly haven’t heard one person talk about all year, despite some fantastic stats. Anyway, Salazar is the AL leader in ERA. His FIP is better than Chris Sale’s and Steven Wright’s. And I’d guess those two are his only real competition for the start. Sale does have 14 wins and leads in ESPN’s Cy Young predictor. So I wouldn’t be surprised if he was given the nod. But with all the injuries to the Rangers’ rotation, Cleveland is probably the best team in the American League right now. And the main reason they’re so good is because of their staff. They had a 1.83 ERA during their franchise-best 14-game winning streak and Salazar has been the best of all of them. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re up 7.5 games on Sale and the White Sox.

 

AL Starting Catcher: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals

Should Start: Perez

 

Good job, fans. It’s not a strong pool, but Perez leads AL catchers in WAR and wOBA.

 

AL Starting First Baseman: Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

Should Start: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

 It should be Miggy.

 

You would think that with all these AL Central players I’ve mentioned so far, the division would be a little more competitive. And it probably would be if the Tigers weren’t 1-11 against the Indians. But I digress. If we go ahead and say that Edwin Encarnacion is a DH (which he is), then Cabrera edges out Chris Davis of the Orioles (who didn’t make the team) with slightly better hitting.

 

AL Starting Second Baseman: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

Should Start: Altuve

 

After a horrible start, the Astros actually look like they’re gonna make a run at the postseason, after all. And Altuve is a legit MVP candidate. Too bad he can’t also pitch for them.

 

AL Starting Third Baseman: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

Should Start: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

 There’s no doubt Manny should be in the game, but maybe not at third base.

 

This race is about as close as it gets (as is the AL East, itself) and Machado and Donaldson are also both MVP candidates. As good as Machado has been so far, Donaldson has been even better. But don’t worry, I have a way to fix this.

 

AL Starting Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox

Should Start: Machado

 

Machado has actually played eight more games at short than at third this season. So that technically makes him the best shortstop in the league. And don’t cry, Red Sox fans. There’s plenty more room on the roster for your offense. And also, you’re a third place team with 6 All-Stars.

 

AL Starting Outfield: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels. Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red Sox. Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

Should Start: Trout. Bradley. Ian Desmond, Texas Rangers

 

Trout is still the best player in the league. Bradley and Desmond are right up there. But that starting lineup isn’t bad for a Boston team that has fed-up fans calling for their manager to be fired. It’s not like adding David Price (who didn’t make the All-Star team) and Craig Kimbrel (who somehow did) were going to fix the rest of the team’s pitching woes, even if they weren’t both underperforming.

 

AL DH Selection: David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

Should DH: Ortiz

Papi should continue to praise whichever gods are giving him such power at such an age.

 

We don’t have to talk about the Red Sox pitching for the time being. Ortiz just passed Ted Williams on the all-time home run list. And since Williams died the year before Ortiz got to Boston, we can assume that all of his frozen powers were transferred over to Big Papi in 2003. Just kidding, he totally did ‘roids.

 

Okay, here are the Top 5 AL snubs this year, according to WAR.

 

1. Jose Quintana, Chicago White Sox. (3.1)
2. Masahiro Tanaka, New York Yankees. (3.0)
3. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays. (2.9)
4. Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners. (2.9)
5. Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers. (2.8)

 

Let’s move on to the National League.

 

NL Starting Pitcher: ????

Should Start: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets

 They say with great hair comes great pitching.

 

With Clayton Kershaw on the DL (and from this point forward, nobody can complain about pitching injuries unless they’re the 2016 Los Angeles Dodgers), Collins needs to go with his ace. I can see the argument for starting San Diego native, Stephen Strasburg, but unless the Mets are freaked out about potentially losing Matt Harvey for the season, the clear #2 choice (and the best available pitcher) is still Thor.

 

NL Starting Catcher: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

Should Start: Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals

 

This one is close, but Ramos edges Posey out with slightly better hitting. I suppose that since the Giants now have the best record in baseball (RIP Cubs SuperTeam), they should have somebody in the starting lineup. But since they also denied Madison Bumgarner a slot in the Home Run Derby, they also deserve nothing.

 

NL Starting First Baseman: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

Should Start: Rizzo

 Rizzo deserves this one.

 

Maybe with the Cubs sucking so bad the past two weeks, their entire infield shouldn’t be starting the All-Star Game. These guys need rest, not more games. But Rizzo is actually deserving of this, edging out Wil Myers and Paul Goldschmidt by a hair. And since I always seem to make fun of the Red Sox pitching on here, let me just cop to the fact that the Cubs arms are no longer setting the world on fire. Yeah, yeah. They had to regress at some point. But “The Body Issue” of ESPN the Magazine isn’t the only place the Cubs’ pitching has been showing their asses lately.

 

NL Starting Second Baseman: Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs

Should Start: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals

Zobrist was great in like, May. But Murphy has been great the entire first half. Plus, I consider the recently-injured Matt Carpenter a third baseman.

 

NL Starting Third Baseman: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

Should Start: Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks

 Bryant may be getting the start but it’s Lamb who deserves it.

 

Lost in this whole Bryant vs. Nolan Arenado debate is that fact that nobody in the National League has had a better season than Jake Lamb and/or Matt Carpenter thus far. You know, other than the Carpenter injury. And for all of the complaining I hear from Team Arenado, they need to realize that he’s 4th among NL 3rd basemen in WAR and also 4th in wOBA. And Jake Lamb didn’t even make the team. But I guess since Bryant has already equaled his home run total from all of last season, I’ll figure out a way to get him on the starting lineup.

 

NL Starting Shortstop: Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs

Should Start: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers

 

If the Dodgers are going to survive without Kershaw this season, it’s going to be because of Seager. He’s got the longest hitting streak in the National League so far. He’s 1st in WAR and second in wOBA among NL shortstops. And I’d actually say, at this point at least, that Seager, Brandon Crawford, Danny Espinosa, Zack Cozart, Aledmys Diaz, Jonathan Villar and Trevor Story would actually be more deserving of a start than Russell. Ouch, Mike.

 

NL Starting Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets. Dexter Fowler, Chicago Cubs

Should Start: Bryant. Cespedes. Marcell Ozuna, Miami Marlins

 Ozuna should be out there for the NL.

 

Listen, Bryant plays a lot of outfield. And he’d actually lead in WAR and be second in wOBA among all NL outfielders. He could replace Fowler, who I don’t want to play if he’s not healthy. And it might not even screw up the All-Theo Epstein Game (9 of the 17 starters are Theo acquisitions) too badly. Also, Marcell Ozuna is a sleeper choice for the NL MVP this year. Especially if mounting injuries can move the Marlins past the Mets in the standings. You know by now I’m rooting for that.

 

Okay. Finally, here are the Top 5 NL Snubs, according to WAR.

 

1. Jake Lamb, Arizona Diamondbacks. (3.5)
2. Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants. (3.3)
3. Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates. (2.8)
4. Danny Espinosa, Washington Nationals. (2.5)
5. Zack Cozart, Cincinnati Reds. (2.4)
5. Tanner Roark, Washington Nationals. (2.4)

 

Okay. See you next week, where I will give a recap of the first half of the season. If you need more baseball, you can check me out on Comedians Talking Sports with Joe Kilgallon, available on iTunes. Until then, Ichiro needs 10 hits and the Cubs’ magic number is 70.

 

 


Angelino in the Outfield (Episode II)

Written by :
Published on : March 8, 2016

 

 

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

 

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

 

Hate you.

 

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

 

Around the League

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

 

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

 

Death, taxes and MadBum.

 

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

 

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

 

 

Angelino in the Outfield (Episode 1)

 

 


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?

 

 

 


Earning His Stripes: How Al Avila Won Big in His First Off-Season as GM

Written by :
Published on : January 23, 2016

 

After winning four consecutive American League Central Division titles from 2011-2014, the Detroit Tigers had high hopes entering last season as they again looked to contend for the division crown. After a 6-0 start and eventually winning as many as 11 of their first 13 games, everything seemed to be on the right track.

 

While sweeping the Minnesota Twins to start the season, the Tigers outscored their opponent 22-1 over the course of three games, setting an American League record of 24 scoreless innings to start a season. An unearned run in the 7th inning of the final game in the series ended Detroit’s string of pitching dominance.

 

 

On the mound, David Price looked locked in to have a Cy Young season, heck with the starts Alfredo Simon and Shawn Green got off to early on, it appeared his own teammates may be his toughest competition. With former Cy Young winner and league MVP Justin Verlander out until June or July, it was a very promising start from the new look rotation.

 

At the plate, things looked just as good through the first couple weeks as Miguel Cabrera was in his usual groove showcasing Ted Williams like numbers, and unlikely heroes José Iglesias and newcomer Anthony Gose were spraying the ball all over the outfield while flashing some leather in the field. For a team that hadn’t won the World Series since 1984, it had the feeling early on that this just may be the year. After four consecutive division titles, fans hoped that the third time was the charm, considering the Tigers made it to the World Series twice in the past decade only to come up short both times.

 

 

But how quickly things can change in this cruel game. Just a month or so later, the Tigers would drop eight consecutive games and fall to .500 for the first time all season. The Tigers would hang around the .500 mark for the next few months before deciding to unload at the July trade deadline. David Price, Yoenis Cespedes and closer Joakim Soria packed their bags late in July as Detroit cut its losses and began to carve out a plan for a quick “reboot” according to then President/General Manager Dave Dombrowski. Vowing this team wouldn’t endure another 15+ year rebuilding process that I witnessed during the bulk of my childhood and early teen years, but instead that this “reboot” would have us back next season.

 

Just a week later, Dombrowski was gone. Said to be a mutual decision between he and owner Mike Ilitch, Dombrowski resigned, handing the reigns to his assistant Al Avila after nearly 14 years with the team. Some two weeks later, the Boston Red Sox hired Dave Dombrowski to the same role and a few months later kicked off the off-season with some blockbuster moves, highlighted in a piece I wrote last month. But what about Dombrowski’s former team? How would the Detroit Tigers do with their offseason? With Dombrowski no longer apart of the organization, were the Tigers still in a “reboot” and ready to make a splash of their own during the offseason with new General Manager Al Avila? The answer, Detroit fans would come to find out, was yes.

 

 

Heading into the offseason, the Tigers had three glaring holes to fill if they had any dream of contending for a world championship, let alone the American League Central. Some of those holes required more than one player to fill them. First and foremost, the starting pitching needed to be addressed. With David Price dealt away at the deadline and Anibal Sánchez having a less than stellar 2015 season, Detroit needed a guy that had ace like stuff. They got that with Jordan Zimmermann, who had been with the Nationals. While some may worry about the decline on his fastball and the fact that he has had Tommy John surgery in the past, Zimmermann can flat out pitch and has a great strikeout to walk ratio. As a backend of the rotation type guy or potentially even a long relief bullpen arm, the Tigers also signed veteran Mike Pelfrey, most recently with the Minnesota Twins. This one was by no means a no-brainer like with Zimmermann and potentially a head scratcher at $8 million per, but these days signing a starting pitcher for less is rare.

 

Sticking with pitching, the Tigers also needed to add a couple quality arms to their bullpen. While the starting rotation didn’t have its best year in 2015, the bullpen didn’t fare any better. Aside from Joakim Soria, who was dealt away in July and maybe Alex Wilson too, the bullpen didn’t give Tiger fans much confidence in the later innings of ballgames. Al Avila made what appears to be a fantastic move by acquiring Francisco Rodríguez, or K-Rod, from Milwaukee for a prospect who many don’t see making it beyond AAA for any extended period of time. So the Tigers scoop Major League Baseball’s active saves leader for the next two seasons for just under $12 million? Yes, please. Avila, also added two more relievers in RHP Mark Lowe and LHP Justin Wilson.

 

The third and final major hole the Tigers needed to fill came after the trade of Yoenis Cespedes. When the Cuban Centipede was dealt away at the deadline, Tiger’s fans knew an outfield of JD Martinez, Anthony Gose, and Rajai Davis was not the answer for 162 games. Very early into free agency, the Tigers brought back a familiar face in an attempt to upgrade the outfield by acquiring Cameron Maybin from Atlanta in exchange for Ian Karol and a LHP prospect. With Atlanta covering $2.5 million of Maybin’s 2016 salary, this move was a low risk, but potentially also low reward. Over the next couple months, fans saw guys like Jason Heyward sign with the Cubs, Alex Gordon re-sign with Kansas City, and hoped that the Tigers would go out and splurge by bringing back Cespedes or another left fielder high on many GM’s lists, Justin Upton. While the familiarity of Cespedes probably had most fans preferring the highly touted 5-tool Cuban, Upton had the potential to add a wide variety of talents to a contending team. Then, late Monday night, the Tigers and Justin Upton had agreed on a 6-year deal.

 

 

Things moved really quick with the Upton deal. It was barely considered a legitimate rumor around much of Major League Baseball, but Al Avila got the final word from Mike Ilitch to go ahead and make the move even though it places them well above the luxury tax range. But as Mr I has always said, “Scared money don’t make money.” He said that right? Well, at any rate, Upton could be the final piece to the Tigers contending in 2016 and beyond. While Upton does have an opt-out clause after year two of the deal, both parties seem to be interested in keeping Justin here for the long haul. Upton brings a bat with great extra base power, a decent walk rate, and can steal you 15-20 bags a year to go along with solid defense in left field.

 

At first glance, Al Avila’s first full off-season as the head man in the front office for the Tigers probably couldn’t have been much better. He addressed every need, even going as far as to get multiple guys at each of the positions, and adding a few other backup spots elsewhere on the diamond as well. What Tigers fans need to understand is they were never in on guys like David Price, Zack Greinke, or Jason Heyward. So to come out with Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Upton and Francisco Rodriguez to fill your biggest voids grades out at a solid A in my book. With the 2016 season just around the corner, the Tiger’s “reboot” appears to be complete and while Rome wasn’t built in a day, Detroit hopes it’s beloved baseball team has been rebuilt in just one offseason.

 

 

 


A Detroit Sports Fan’s Christmas Wish List

Written by :
Published on : December 25, 2015

 

 

 

 

As we spend the holiday with family, feeding both our gluttonous faces and the capitalist machine, I thought I would take a minute to do what most Americans do around this time. Dream about the things they don’t have and probably never will. In order to do that, I made a Christmas Wish List of all the athletes that I wish my teams would acquire, either by free-agency, trade, or kidnapping if necessary.

 

 

Yoenis Cespedes

 

This a weird one because it’s a dream of mine that was reality for a short time. For just about a year, my favorite Cuban-born player was on the Detroit Tigers. Once they realized the season wasn’t going anywhere, the team traded him away in the midst of an all-star caliber season. Cespedes was a very important piece on the Mets teams that went deep in the playoffs. He is looking for a big payday in free-agency. I say the Tigers should break out some serious cash and bring him back to the Motor City.

 

 

Kevin Durant

 

If the Pistons could somehow get Kevin Durant on the floor with Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, then this team would be very scary. He’s just the type of wing player that this squad needs. He can shoot the ball, take it to the hole, rebound and defend with the best of ’em. He’s an absolute monster all of over the court and can single-handedly change the outcome of a game. In fact, the other night he hit the go-ahead shot, and followed it up with a game-saving block to seal the win over the Clippers.

 

Aaron Donald

 

Now this is someone that should already be on the Detroit Lions’ roster. They had the chance to draft the defensive tackle with the 10th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but passed him up to take TE Eric Ebron. That has proved to be a poor choice when you consider Ebron’s inconsistent production, the loss of their top-3 DTs in free agency, and the fact that Donald absolutely destroyed the Lions two weeks ago for 3 sacks. If he was on the team, I would be like Ndamukong “Who”?

 

Jamie Benn

 

For the final selection on my Detroit Sports Fan’s Christmas Wish List, we’ve got the captain of the Dallas Stars, Jamie Benn. This guy has it all. He’s young and plays the entire length of the ice. He’s got 46 points in 35 games this season and would kill it on a line with any handful of young Red Wings. If he was on the team, they would have to be favorites to come out of their conference.

 

 

 

So there you have it, my Christmas Wish List for all four of my favorite professional sports teams. Leave a comment and tell us which superstars you’re wishing for this holiday.

 

 


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

Written by :
Published on : July 28, 2015

 

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

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

 

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

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

The Buyers

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

The Sellers

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 


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