December 16, 2011

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Who Will Be The Next MLB Hall Of Fame Inductees?

By: Jeff Herbst

In December of each year, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame announces their inductees. In recent years, Hall of Fame voting has been somewhat skewed due to several players who were known to have used performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) who have been effectively blackballed by voters.

For example, the long ball king, Mark McGwire, only received 19.8 percent in his fifth year of eligibility. Rafael Palmeiro, who is only one of four players who have collected 3,000 hits and 500 home runs in their MLB careers, only received 11 percent of votes in his first year of eligibility.

Since both Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds have both been linked to PEDs, it’s unlikely that voters will give them any opportunity at the Hall of Fame when they become eligible.

With that in mind, I wanted to predict who I thought would be the next 5 players to be voted into major league baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Greg Maddux

With 355 total victories, four consecutive Cy Young awards and 18 Gold Glove awards under his belt, pitcher Greg Maddux will be an absolute lock for induction into the Hall of Fame when he is eligible in 2014.

While Maddux didn’t blow anyone away with an amazing fastball, his superior command made him close to unhittable throughout the majority of his career.

Frank Thomas

Also eligible for the first time in 2014, long-time Chicago White Sox first baseman/designated hitter Frank Thomas was an offensive force to be reckoned with. With 521 home runs and a .301 lifetime average, Thomas was deadly with a wooden baseball bat. He was one of the most feared right-handed hitters in the American League throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.

Thomas won back-to-back AL Most Valuable Player awards in 1993 and 1994, and finished in the top three in MVP voting on three other occasions.

Frank Thomas gave White Sox fans plenty to cheer about during his days in Chicago.

Tom Glavine

When Tom Glavine started his career with the Atlanta Braves in 1988, he got off to an inauspicious start, losing 17 games to lead the National League.

However, Glavine quickly turned things around, and by the time his career ended in 2008, he had won 305 games, was a five-time 20-game winner, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, and finished in the top three in Cy Young voting on four other occasions.

Glavine would appear to be a first-year lock for Hall of Fame induction in 2014.

Randy Johnson

Southpaw pitcher Randy Johnson will be eligible for the Hall of Fame in the year 2015, and when his name is called, he will without a doubt be a lock in his first year of eligibility.

Johnson won a total of 303 in his 22-year career, winning the Cy Young Award four consecutive times between 1999-2002, helping the Arizona Diamondbacks win the World Series in 2001.

Johnson is also second all-time in strikeouts with 4,875, trailing only Nolan Ryan.

Pedro Martinez

There was no pitcher who was more dominant than Pedro Martinez between 1997-2003. Martinez became only the second pitcher in history to win Cy Young awards in both leagues (1997 with Montreal Expos, 1999-2000 with Boston Red Sox), recorded 300-strikeout seasons twice, and was the only pitcher in the 20th century to record 300 strikeouts under six feet tall.

Martinez routinely threw in the high-90s at the height of his career, and when shoulder injures began to slow him down, Martinez turned into a pitcher rather than a thrower, even coming back in the 2009 season to record five victories for the Philadelphia Phillies in their drive for the National League pennant.

Who do you think will be the next MLB Hall of Fame inductees?

October 13, 2011

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“Who Would Win?” with Kevin Youkilis of the Boston Red Sox

By: Lionel

The Boston Red Sox have taken a beating from the media over the last few weeks, with the team melting down in the last month of the regular season, the departure of Terry Francona and Theo Epstein, and the recent accusations of players partying in the clubhouse during games.  We could get caught up in the drama, but we prefer to talk about happy things.  Besides that, we have a fun interview with Kevin Youkilis that we’re excited to publish while people are still talking about the Boston Red Sox.

We asked Kevin Youkilis to play “Who Would Win?” with us.  The premise is simple.  We just asked Kevin to tell us which of his Boston Red Sox teammates would win various hypothetical events.  His answers are below in bold:

“Kevin Youkilis, of your Boston Red Sox teammates, who would win…

1. …a game of Trivial Pursuit?”  Ryan Lavarnway, only because he went to Yale.

2. …a car race?”  Marco Scutaro loves fast cars.

3. …a political election?”  Jed Lowrie, because he went to Stanford and wears 3-piece suits.

4. …a singing contest?”  Daisuke has a good voice.

5. …a dance-off?”  No idea.  Luckily never seen some guys dance.

6. …a humanitarian award?”  Too hard to answer because we have a lot of guys that do a lot of charity work.

7. …a trash-talking contest?”  Pedroia for sure.  A daily routine for him [is] to talk trash, but it’s all joking around and never too serious.

8. …an arm-wrestling tournament?”  Varitek.  He is one strong dude.

9. …a stand-up comedy contest?”  Marco Scutaro for sure.  He is always making guys laugh and keeping the locker room loose and fun.

10. …a hot dog eating contest?”  Jacoby Ellsbury and Jonathan Papelbon.  They can eat a lot.

August 17, 2011

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Jim Thome’s 600 Home Runs – and Hall of Fame?

By: Rick Jarrell

On Monday, Jim Thome entered one of the most exclusive clubs in sports. Thome has joined Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey, Alex Rodriguez, and Sammy Sosa as the only professional baseball players to hit 600 home runs (and surprisingly, the only full-time 1B/DH). Logically, the next question on the minds of MLB fans, is whether or not Thome is worthy of a MLB Hall of Fame induction.

The so-called “steroid era” has placed a dark shadow on baseball over the past 20 years, especially power hitters like Thome. Hall of Fame voters are especially critical when it comes to looking past the indecencies of the recent era. Unlike others members of the 600 home run club, he has never been directly accused or exposed as a user of performance enhancing drugs. Will Hall voters make an exception? Here’s why they should.

Could Thome become a Hall of Famer after this milestone?

High At Bats/Home Run Ratio

Thome has one of the lowest AB/Home Run Ratios in Major League Baseball history. The only players ahead of him are Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth, Ryan Howard, and Barry Bonds. The MLB players directly behind him include Harmon Killebrew, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, and fellow former Philadelphia Phillies Mike Schmidt. Excluding McGwire and Howard, all are current Hall of Famers. Very esteemed company if you ask me.

High OPS

As most power hitters achieve, Thome has a high career slugging percentage of .588. Not only does Thome hit a lot of dingers, but he also gets on base a lot, with a .400 career on base percentage. That’s a 147 OPS+, i.e. slugging percentage + on base percentage adjusted for league and park factors, ranked 41st in history.

Thome also gets a lot of free passes. He’s gained more than 1,700 walks in his career, good enough for 8th all time, and makes up for his tendency to strike out (Believe me, I know. When he was still in Cleveland, it always felt like he was either hitting a home run, walking, or striking out).

Modest Attitude

Personally I don’t think this should be factored in. The Hall of Fame is about your on field performance, not your actions and/or attitude off the field. Having said that, I get a sense the voters – a bunch of old school writers – place more importance on this than they should, based on their reaction to the “steroid era.”

If that’s the case, it will only help Thome. He’s the youngest of four brothers, grew up competing heavily with them, drinking a lot of milk, still lives in his hometown, and generally regarded as one of the nicest players in baseball – he makes a point to learn as many MLB stadium workers’ names as he can. All of this may not matter, and doesn’t have much to do with this article, but these are many of the reasons I’ve always liked him as a player and a person, even after he ditched my beloved Indians for Philadelphia. Thome is as classy as they get. He deserves the Hall nod.

If Thome doesn’t make it in, it’s likely due to one thing. During the latter part of his career, he’s been relegated to mostly DH duties due to various injuries – he was actually an above average first basemen during his early days in Cleveland. It’s unclear how voters perceive designated hitters, but if Edgar Martinez is an indication, it serves as a negative for the player.

May 9, 2011

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Why ‘56’ Will Never Be Broken

By: Anson Whaley

At least once every few years, we see MLB Players make a run at Joe DiMaggio’s historic 56-game hitting streak. The most recent contestant in ‘Attempting to Break Unbreakable Records’ was Dodgers’ star, Andre Ethier. Ethier’s streak ended at 30 games this past weekend in a game against the New York Mets. In recent years, several other players including Albert Pujols, Ryan Zimmerman, Moises Alou, and Willy Taveras all reached 30. Chase Utley and Luis Castillo were so bold to make it to 35 and Jimmy Rollins and Paul Molitor even put together streaks of 38 and 39 respectively. But after that point, there have been considerably fewer players to challenge DiMaggio’s record.

The insurmountable evidence that exists as to why the record will not be broken is that it’s never even really approached. The last time someone even reached 40 was Pete Rose’s 44 in 1978 – and he’s the all-time career leader in hits, after all. As for 50? A grand total of zero players other than DiMaggio have eclipsed that mark.

Cero. Nada. None.

Next in line after Mr. Marilyn Monroe? Willie Keeler had 45 in the 1896 and 1897 seasons. To give you an idea of how long ago that was, Keeler’s Baltimore team was in the National League, some guy named William McKinley was President, and Babe Ruth was two years old.

So why would it be so difficult to break? Well, in addition to it being an absolutely incredible feat, there is a laundry list of reasons why today’s players have it tougher than DiMaggio did back in 1941. Cross-country flights, specialty relievers, improved pitching with the integration of baseball, more media – they all add up to the record being unapproachable.

Then, there’s the ‘invisible barrier of 30.’ For some reason, players fall apart once they reach that number. That’s when the media attention really starts to kick in and every at bat is scrutinized. There have been a total of 54 hit streaks of at least 30 games or more. In 20 of those times, nearly 40%, the streak has ended precisely at 30. In addition, ten more players only made it to 31. So, in actuality, DiMaggio’s record can be broken down into two parts: The first 30 games and the remaining 26. Hitting in the first 30 is difficult enough, but then, there’s the constant attention of each game and a player comes to realize … he’s only about halfway there.

In addition, one thing constantly gets overlooked when discussing the record: No one really gets a second crack at it. Ty Cobb, George Sisler, and Sam Rice are the only players to put together more than one streak of at least 30 games or more. All three played nearly 100 years ago and Rice (1930) was the last player to do it. This record isn’t similar to Maris’ home run record where we saw players make multiple runs at it. It’s basically a one-and-done situation.

Also, there’s the fact that hitting in that many consecutive games is somewhat a fluke by nature. Ted Williams, the last player to bat .400 and perhaps baseball’s greatest hitter of all-time, never even reached 30. Some of the best hitters in history have joined Williams in not even coming close – Rogers Hornsby, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Lou GehrigRod Carew, Wade Boggs, Tony Gwynn, and Ichiroall failed to reach that mark. On the flipside, mediocre major leaguers such as Jerome Walton, Benito Santiago, and Sandy Alomar, Jr. did. You need the right combination of skill, luck, and even help from the game’s official scorer.

Baseball is a game where batting .300 (essentially, succeeding 30% of the time) is seen as a great accomplishment – which, by the way, is why hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports. There aren’t many guarantees in life, but it’s almost a lock that ‘56’ will stand forever.

March 29, 2011

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American League Preview

By: Joe Williams

In just two days, the Major League Baseball season will begin with games that may or may not be played, depending on snow. If it seems like it was just a couple months ago that the World Series was finishing up in cold weather, it was. So who will be representing the American League in the Fall/Winter Classic in 2011?

A.L EAST

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles may finally be headed in the right direction. The O’s hired Buck Showalter to be the manager in the middle of last season and he immediately turned the team around. He led them to a 34-23 finish in 2010. Baltimore has added some quality veterans in the offseason which should provide some leadership for a young team. They should be better but it won’t be enough to win the toughest division in baseball.

Boston Red Sox

The Red Sox won 89 games and missed the playoffs in 2010. They have a star-studded roster and will be in the playoff hunt all season. The additions of Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez have the Red Sox as the favorite to win the division and the World Series.

New York Yankees

The Yankees’ success in 2011 will depend on the health of their older stars like Jeter and A-Rod and the questions in the pitching staff. C.C. Sabathia and Mariano Riveria are as good as it gets, but questions surround the rest of the staff. Cliff Lee is back in Philadelphiaand Andy Pettitte is retired so the Yankees will have to rely on guys like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon and Ivan Nova. And if that doesn’t work out, they can always afford to make a deal.

Tampa Bay Rays

The defending A.L. East champs look quite a bit different in 2011. Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Rafael Soriano and Matt Garza are out. Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez are in. If Manny being Manny happens at the plate and not off the field, the Rays will be right in the mix with Boston and New York.

Toronto Blue Jays

One thing is for sure. The Blue Jays will be the best team in Canada. They led the majors in home runs in 2010 and won 85 games. They may have been good enough to contend in another division, but not the A.L. East. No team would benefit more from realignment than Toronto.

A.L CENTRAL

Chicago White Sox

The White Sox aren’t the superstars of the Yankees or Red Sox but they are solid at every position. What they can get from Jake Peavy will go a long way towards determining how they finish in the Central. The addition of Adam Dunn at DH will be a boost to the lineup as well.

Cleveland Indians

They were bad in 2010. The roster hasn’t changed much. They are going to be bad in 2011. The misery continues for Cleveland fans.

Detroit Tigers

The Tigers won 81 games last year. The additions of Joaquin Benoit, Victor Martinez and Brad Pennyoutweigh the losses of Jeremy Bonderman and Johnny Damon. If Miguel Cabrera can leave his off the field problems off the field and be the monster in the middle of that lineup, Detroit could steal the division title.

Kansas City Royals

If you are a Kansas City fan, help is on the way. Next year. The Royals have the best farm system in the majors and should start getting reinforcements in the near future. They will be much better in the next couple years, but will struggle in 2011.

Minnesota Twins

Minnesota won the A.L. Central in 2010 without Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan. If both players can come back healthy, the Twins will likely defend that title.

A.L WEST

LA Angels

The Angels were a disappointment in 2010. They were also a disappointment in the offseason. They failed to sign any of the big free agents they wanted. They have been passed in the West and haven’t done anything about it.

Oakland A’s

The A’s have a strong young pitching staff. They play in a winnable division. The question is can they score? Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui will help. Will it be enough?

Seattle Mariners

Seattle lost 101 times in 2010. They will be better. They almost have to be better. They have some great players like Ichiro Suzuki and Felix Hernandez. They have some young prospects with potential. But they will still finish last in the West.

Texas Rangers

Texas won the A.L. West and went to the World Series in 2010. They can score. And they added Adrian Beltre at third. Cliff Lee is gone and Michael Young has asked for a trade. If the Rangers can keep Young happy and Brandon Webb can get healthy, they have the horses to defend their division title.