May 14, 2013
Don’t look now but the MLB regular season is already a quarter of the way over. Several superstars have yet to take the field (most reside in New York) and some teams have played themselves out of playoff contention already (I’m talking to you Houston and Miami). We’ve also got a few teams playing surprisingly well (speaking of New York) and some players off to red-hot starts (can John Buck keep this up?) Here are a few more observations on the season so far.
The A.L. East is upside down. Wasn’t this supposed to be the year that the division was open for the taking because the Yankees and Red Sox aren’t very good? And wasn’t Toronto going to be a strong contender with all the big names that went to Canada? So far New York and Boston are well over .500 and the Blue Jays are one of the worst teams in baseball.
The Angels and Dodgers also went all-in and signed some high-profile players but are underachieving big time so far. And not even switching leagues can help the lowly Astros. They are on pace for just 40 wins!
Is there a chance Miguel Cabrera could win back-to-back triple crowns? He’s leading in RBI, second in batting average and currently four home runs off the pace in the American League.
If the playoffs began today, the qualifiers in the American League would be the New York Yankees, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox. Looks like all the usual suspects here. In the National League it would be the Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Cincinnati Reds and the Washington Nationals. No surprises here either. But with about 120 games to go only two teams are more than 10 games off the wild card pace so anything can happen.
Unless of course we’re talking about the Cubs. Anybody think they will break the curse this season? Me either. But one streak that should be coming to an end is in Pittsburgh. They may or may not get to the playoffs but the Pirates should be able to finish over .500 for the first time since 1992.
It’s no surprise that Miguel Cabrera is the best player in fantasy baseball so far but I didn’t even know who Matt Harvey or Jean Segura are before this year and they are the second and third best in fantasy.
Speaking of fantasy baseball, if any of you know B.J. Upton or David Price please let them know I could use some production for my team. Thanks.
April 17, 2013
We may only be a few weeks into the 2013 MLB season, but there’s plenty to talk about. With every team playing around 12 games, enough action has played out to begin to speculate on just how the season may go.
If your favorite team has stumbled out of the gates, don’t be discouraged, there are still 150 games to go.
The players and teams mentioned in this article have not struggled from the get-go. In fact, it’s just the opposite as they are red hot.
The Atlanta Braves are the Hottest Team Right Now
Baseball experts were perplexed in the preseason in regards to just which team would win the National League East. The only team not considered to contend for the divisional crown is the rebuilding Miami Marlins. At this moment, the 12-1 Atlanta Braves are the early favorites. The Washington Nationals won it last season, the Philadelphia Phillies are never to be taken lightly and the New York Mets are considered a Wild Card, but the Braves are the best. This is a playoff race that won’t end until game 162.
The Braves gave their franchise a facelift in the offseason and the gamble is paying off. Among other acquisitions, both B.J. and Justin Upton now roam their outfield. Justin, the younger of the two brothers looks like an early NL MVP candidate. His eight homers currently lead the league.
The Braves look like a team in midseason form and even with injuries to the likes of Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann. A pleasant surprise has been the addition of 26-year-old Evan Gattis to the lineup. His journey to the majors is one for the ages. He only made the club out of spring training due to injuries, but he’s not going anywhere and is in Atlanta to stay.
Gattis is hitting .289 in the early going with four home runs and 10 RBI. The Braves will have a good problem on their hands when Freeman and McCann return to the lineup. Gattis is their X-factor. Every winning team has one. He’s a player to root for all season no matter who your favorite team is.
Now a Member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Carl Crawford Looks Like His Old Self Again
Crawford now looks like his former self when he played outfield for the Tampa Bay Rays. Right now he’s hitting .392 as the Dodgers lead-off hitter. He looks happy and his team is looking wise to trade for him even when injured.
Most importantly, the Dodgers have positive momentum thanks to new ownership. The club may only be .500 at the moment but its only mid-April. They have an All-Star lineup from top to bottom and Crawford will be the piece that puts them over the top in 2013. When he’s on, he’s electric. He can win a game all by himself with his speed.
Don’t sleep on Crawford, he’s back to being the real deal.
New York Mets Pitcher Matt Harvey is the Early NL Cy Young Favorite
Some New York Mets fans may have cringed when the team traded away R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason. All Dickey did last season is win the NL Cy Young.
Well, the Mets front office looks brilliant right now because young pitcher Matt Harvey looks like he could win the coveted award this season.
The 24-year-old pitcher has won his first three starts and is making history. He became the first pitcher since 1947 to go at least seven innings with three hits or less allowed in his first three starts. The last man to do that was Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame hurler Bob Feller. That’s good company to be in.
Harvey tasted the majors late last season, throwing 59 innings and striking out 70 batters. He hasn’t disappointed thus far in 2013 and Mets fans have to be looking forward to the future with Harvey as their ace.
It won’t be too long before he’ll an undisputed star.
Prince Fielder Looks like he’s having an MVP season in Detroit
Many can argue that boost in average is because he had Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera batting in front of him, but Fielder also had former NL MVP winner Ryan Braun hitting ahead of him as a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Tigers came up empty in the World Series last season and Fielder is making it clear that the team has unfinished business this season. He’s hitting .383 this season with four homers and 19 RBI so far and the Tigers offense is clicking on all cylinders.
Fielder almost looks angry at the plate. Like the baseball is his despised nemesis. Truth be told, anything short of a ring this season in Detroit and 2013 will be considered a failure.
Fielder is out to make that dream come true—he’s on a mission. Albeit early, the AL MVP is his to lose. In doing so, he’ll be the Tigers third consecutive MVP.
February 20, 2013
Baseball fans, it may seem like we’re in the doldrums of winter, but the 2013 MLB season is now just a few short weeks away.
With pitchers and catchers reporting across the league recently, general excitement is beginning to brew within diehard fans yearning for the boys of summer. Spring training is set to get into full swing later this week and don’t be fooled, Opening Day is April 1.
While there is a laundry list of topics to talk about regarding the upcoming season, this article is dedicated to the teams who made a big splash this offseason. With key additions to their rosters, these teams have created positive momentum, reinvigorated their fan base and have a bright future ahead of them.
Each of these teams now expect to make the playoffs, don’t be surprised when they shake up the standings and reach their goal.
The Cleveland Indians Saved Themselves from Further Disappointment
The Cleveland Indians have finished no better than an even .500 every year since 2007. Just when fans thought they were in for another decade of futility, the front office did everything right this offseason.
First, they completed a three-team trade with the Cincinnati Reds and Arizona Diamondacks. What the Indians got in the deal was outfielder Drew Stubbs, who needed a change of scenery and a young pitcher named Trevor Bauer, who will someday be their No. 1. Bauer was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft and has all the attributes a franchise could want in an ace.
The front office also made some noise via free agency when the inked prized outfield Michael Bourn just a few weeks ago. Bourn was highly coveted heading into the offseason but was lost in the shuffle. What he brings to the Indians is an Opening Day leadoff man, superior defense and ridiculous speed on the base paths.
The organization did themselves a world of good with the moves they made this offseason. The Indians could be real spoilers come late season.
The Atlanta Braves Have a Pair of New Faces Fans Will Love
The Atlanta Braves made a plethora of moves in the offseason, highlighted with the acquisition of both B.J. and Justin Upton.
Sure, the likes of pitcher Tommy Hanson and super-utility sensation Martin Prado may be out, but the Upton brothers are two of the best in the league.
It can easily be argued that younger brother Justin is better than B.J., but Justin’s presence will push B.J. to reach his full potential. It was the acquisition of B.J. that led the Braves to not chase after free agent Michael Bourn. Now, the sky is the limit for the insanely talented pair of brothers.
The Braves have one of the best bullpens in all of baseball and with all the offensive weapons they now have, anything short of a deep playoff run will be considered a failure.
Don’t Forget About the Philadelphia Phillies
Ask any Phillies fan and they’ll tell you that a .500 finish to the 2012 season was a major disappointment.
Not wanting to repeat, the Phillies front office went on the offensive this offseason and once again made the Phillies feared.
A trio of new Phillies has made them a contender in 2013. Although Delmon Young is a liability in the outfield and will start the season on the DL, he’s pure gold in the playoffs. Another outfield addition that will pay dividends is Ben Revere, who was brought over via trade. He’s young, can hit for average and is an automatic threat on the bases. Phillies fans will fall in love with him quickly.
The biggest move they made was for infielder Michael Young, who may be 36 years old, but is a .301 career hitter and brings that veteran presence to a team that needs some added focus.
A bonus, reliever Mike Adams is dominant and will bolster the back end.
Although it may seem that they are an afterthought, the Phillies will be primetime contenders for the World Series this season.
The Toronto Blue Jays Simply Dominated this Offseason
There’s no doubt that the AL East has been the toughest division in baseball. The Toronto Blue Jays felt the pressure to compete and made a splash so big they emptied the pool this winter.
Where to begin?
Well, 2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey is now a Blue Jay.
Also, former Miami Marlins players Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and John Buck are now all Blue Jays. This was a blockbuster trade that MLB fans live for. Yes, the Blue Jays took on a ridiculous amount of money, but they instantly made themselves favorites.
They also added Melky Cabrera, who may be guilty of using banned substances, but is still an above-average baseball player.
If this roster doesn’t bring fans flocking to their games, then I don’t know what will. They have an All-Star team all by themselves. If Toronto comes to town, do yourself the pleasure and buy a ticket.
On paper, they’re World Series favorites.
March 26, 2012
With the announcement that Chipper Jones will retire from Major League Baseball after the season, the Braves’ third baseman will wrap up an excellent career after this summer. Jones has not only been a pillar for the franchise, but one of baseball’s best players over the past 20 years. The question is sure to be there during the season: Is he a Hall of Famer?
One big thing that will help Jones is that he’s thus far avoided the rampant speculation of steroids that other stars in this generation haven’t. Jones has put up numbers that are widely believed to be honest and therefore, will stand out even more than many of his peers. About those numbers – heading into this season, Jones has amassed 454 home runs, 1,561 RBI, and 2,615 hits. He’s a career .304 hitter, won an MVP award in 1999, and also took home a batting title at the age of 36 in 2008.
Another thing to like about Jones’ credentials is that he finished in the top ten in Most Valuable Player voting six times over his career. Jones wasn’t only voted the league’s best player through that 1999 Award, but he’s been among the top players for a good portion of his career. That’s also evidenced by his seven All-Star selections.
Jones was somewhat of a quiet superstar. He never put up mind-boggling numbers compared to some of his contemporaries such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey, Jr., Sammy Sosa, or Alex Rodriguez, but his consistency was his allure. He had eight seasons with at least 25 home runs and 100 RBI. That consistency also included staying healthy. In eight of his first nine full seasons, he played in at least 150 games. In addition, other than the strike-shortened 1994 (when he missed the full season due to injury) and 2010 when he played 95 games, Jones has reached the 100-game mark in every other season of his 18-year career.
And for everything that Jones has done in his career, there’s also what he didn’t do that was significant. In an era when 100 strikeouts is commonplace for power hitters, Jones never reached that mark.
Then there was the winning. Few, even Jones himself, would likely argue that the Braves underachieved when it came to winning World Series titles. From 1995 – 2005, the Braves reached the playoffs 11 consecutive times, but won the championship only once (1995). While that’s a bit disappointing, to even reach the postseason that many times is ridiculous. Atlanta did that largely behind strong pitching from future Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine, but Jones’ performances had a lot to do with it and in many of those seasons, he was the team’s biggest offensive threat.
I’ll be the first to admit that Jones doesn’t have monster Hall of Fame numbers. Barring an unbelievable 2012 season or a postponement of his retirement, he’s not going to get to 500 home runs – the long-time standard for induction before the steroid era. He also doesn’t have 3,000 hits or 2,000 RBI – both big milestones. But Jones’ numbers are surely good enough in my opinion and his track record in helping Atlanta to so many postseason appearances should put him over the top.
July 27, 2011
The MLB trade deadline is quickly approaching, arriving July 31. This time of year, the Hot Stove begins to heat up and players begin changing teams; either to fill a hole for the playoff run or to make a move toward the future. Each team has different interests in mind this time of year. Here are a few types of trades you’ll see.
The Final Piece
This is the most publicized of trades. MLB teams in the playoff hunt that need an extra boost, whether it’s to win the wild card, division, or the World Series, often seek a marquee player to help propel them. In exchange, the seller will either receive prospects, salary relief, or both, depending on the quality of the player.
You’re final piece contestants this year are the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Atlanta Braves. They’re going after Carlos Beltran (likely to be traded), Hunter Pence (not likely to be traded), and Jose Reyes (not likely to be traded).
The Depth Play
Some MLB teams are fortunate enough to have every player they need to win it all (note this is extremely rare – teams can always upgrade at a position, it’s more of a question of whether or not it’s worth it). The better MLB trade deadline deal, then, is to shore up a weaker area of the team. An additional reliever is always a hot commodity, as well as gritty veterans that can come off the bench, play multiple positions, and hold themselves defensively. These transactions go largely unnoticed, but often make a larger impact that you’d expect.
Many playoff teams utilize this method – it’s an easy way to upgrade at a usually low price. Look for cash conscious teams like the Cleveland Indians, San Francisco Giants, and Pittsburgh Pirates to seek depth to push their overall player quality higher.
On the opposite end of the final piece and depth play scenarios are the futurists – MLB teams that are well out of the playoff hunt, but have players who would be valuable to playoff contenders. Quality of players will vary, as superstars obviously will make an impact, but specialists and veterans often have more value to a contender than a team in the cellar. The value the player provides the playoff contender usually determines how much the selling team gets in return.
Look for the New York Mets, Colorado Rockies, Seattle Mariners, and Tampa Bay Rays to trade some of their better players at the end of their contracts in exchange for prospects. Tampa Bay is especially good at doing this every year, so look for BJ Upton to potentially be on the move to make way for talent on the farm system. Ubaldo Jimenez of the Rockies has also been rumored, and would bring back very good prospects in return.
The salary dump is another trading strategy on the other of playoff contenders. For whatever reason – be it ownership requests to reduce expenses, player request for trades, etc – teams look at the MLB trade deadline to get rid of their higher priced players. It’s also common for the current team dumping player salary to pick up a portion of the remaining pay, reducing the amount saved but still worthwhile in the end.
Look for the Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers, and really any team out of the playoff race to dump significant salary. Unless they plan on offering an extension, a high priced player is wasted on a team just going through the motions, waiting on next season.
Players to be Named Later
This league rule has always been strange to me. How can you complete a trade with someone when you don’t know what you’re getting in return? The answer to that is this – the teams will agree on a list of players to choose from by a specified date, sometimes based on criteria like performance. These trades often don’t work out for the team receiving PTBNL. If they were that good, they would be demanded up front, right? But recently, I’ve noticed a few promising young MLB players who fall into this category, such as Michael Brantley of the Cleveland Indians.