March 26, 2014

Leave a Comment

Bold Predictions for MLB Awards

By: Matt Bowen

On March 31 Major League Baseball will officially put old man winter to bed as Opening Day kicks off summer. This will soon become a National Holiday and for good reason. The baseball season signifies the start of something fresh. For many around the country deprived of baseball and sunshine due to the bitter winter this season is a breath of fresh air.

With that being said let’s have some fun and prognosticate some postseason awards.

Justin Verlander

Will Verlander return to Cy Young form in 2014?

AL Rookie of the Year

Baseball is rich in young talent and the product on the field is proof. There’s a general buzz surrounding the league right now because of tomorrow’s stars.

The 2014 Rookie of the Year award will belong to Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura. This kid may only be 5’11” but his arm packs a punch. He has a blistering fastball that can top triple digits and two quality secondary pitches.

The Royals have so much faith in Ventura they’ve already announced he’s made the Opening Day roster and that he’s third in their rotation. Even better, they think he can pitch between 180-200 innings this year.

Without an innings limit and strike-out stuff Ventura is the favorite for AL ROY.

NL Rookie of the Year

No surprise here, Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds will capture the NL Rookie of the Year.

There’s much debate surrounding Hamilton’s ability to handle the leadoff spot for the Reds this season and beyond. Truthfully, I’m a believer. Hamilton has worked hard this offseason on his batting—especially bunting. He has world class speed and if he gets on base 35 percent of the time he’ll notch 75 stolen bases.

Not to mention he’ll soon be a Gold Glove winner in center field.

He’ll succeed this season and his 2014 NL ROY award will be his prize.

AL Bounce-Back Player of the Year

We won’t call this Comeback Player of the Year, rather Bounce-Back Player of the Year. Both of the players in this category played in 2013, but they didn’t play to their fullest potential.

Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers will once again be a Cy Young candidate this season. His 2013 campaign was marred with rocky starts but he pitched well from August onward and salvaged a 13-12 season.

Look for the 2-time Cy Young winner to return to dominance this season with a sub-3.00 ERA.

NL Bounce-Back Player of the Year

Jason Heyward of the Atlanta Braves deserves a bit of praise. He’s still just 24 years old and has time to become the true star he once was projected to be.

Heyward’s 2013 season was derailed by an early-season appendectomy and a broken jaw suffered when hit by a pitch.

This season will be different and Heyward will prove himself and have a breakout season.

AL Cy Young

This year’s AL Cy Young award will belong to none other than Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers. He and his pitch arsenal will pull out all the tricks this year and capture the coveted award.

Darvish is now in his third MLB season and will come into his own. Don’t let the fact that he’s missing Opening Day with a stiff neck thwart your expectations for the season. He’ll top 300 strikeouts for the first time in his career and win 20-plus games.

NL Cy Young

Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers currently holds the status of best pitcher in the NL but he’ll be uprooted by rival San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner this time around.

At just 24 years old Bumgarner will be entering his fourth full MLB season. He’s pitched 200-plus innings in each season and he’ll look to build off his impressive 2013 ERA of just 2.77. The towering lefty will make the Giants competitive and be considered an outright star by season’s end.

For that he’ll be named the 2014 NL Cy Young award winner.

AL & NL MVPs

There’s no sense in beating around the bush here—there will be a changing of the guard in Major League Baseball this season.

Youngsters Mike Trout and Bryce Harper will win their respective MVP races. Both players will be no older than 23 years old by the time fall rolls around. These guys are the face of baseball and their performances this season will justify their high praise.

Trout has finished second in the MVP race to Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in back-to-back seasons but this year he’ll take the title. Harper is a natural wonder and due to his added muscle this offseason he’ll be all that and a bag of potato chips.

Buckle your seats and enjoy the ride—these kids are about to take us to the moon.

May 31, 2013

Leave a Comment

In Case You Missed It: May Edition

By: Joe Williams

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like something crazy is happening on a daily basis in the sports world. Maybe it’s always been that way and it’s just that we now have the technology that allows us to see and hear everything. Either way, there is just too much crazy for one article at the end of the year to cover it all so let’s just take it a month at a time. Here are some of the wacky sports stories from this May.

The New York Knicks ended up looking pretty foolish when lost Game 5 against the Boston Celtics after they came to the arena dressed in all black because they were “attending the Celtics funeral.”

Aroldis Chapman ate 18 pastries before a game in May.

Wichita State catcher Tyler Baker chased down and captured a squirrel with his batting helmet after the animal ended up in the infield when Baker was on second base.

Washington Nationals outfielder, Bryce Harper, was ejected from a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates because he slammed his bat and his helmet to the ground.

An NFL quarterback who attempted just eight passes last season and is now unemployed was named Most Influential Athlete by Forbes Magazine. That’s right. Tim Tebow is at it again.

Boston Red Sox pitcher Joel Hanrahan threw a wild pitch that actually went right through a sign on the wall behind home plate.

The Oakland A’s lost a game to the Cleveland Indians when a blown call cost them what would have been a game-tying home run in the top of the ninth. Not only did the umpires miss the call live, but then they went to the replay and still got it wrong.

A Jacksonville Jaguars fan sent President Obama a petition asking the President to force the Jaguars to sign unemployed quarterback Tim Tebow.

MLB umpires suffered another embarrassing incident when they allowed the Houston Astros to go to their bullpen twice before a pitch was thrown. The Angels argued the call and after three huddles and a phone call, the incorrect call was upheld.

An average citizen contacted the NBA to declare himself eligible for the draft. Surprisingly, he received a personal response from the NBA informing him that he is a free agent and can sign with any team.

A fan at a San Francisco Giants game fell onto the field while reaching for a ball, lost his pants and was then ejected from the game.

A fan at a Chicago Blackhawks playoff game went into labor in the stands. But she wasn’t about to leave during an elimination game and waited until after the game to go to the hospital.

Lorenzo Cain of the Kansas City Royals was awarded a walk after receiving just three balls instead of the required four in a game against the New York Yankees.

San Diego Chargers rookie Manti Te’o actually showed up at the Maxim Hot 100 party after the magazine put his fake girlfriend at No. 69 in its Hot 100 list.

Cincinnati Reds closer Aroldis Chapman blew a save against the Philadelphia Phillies. This was after he at 18 pastries before the game.

A snow cone vender at a Houston Astros game was fired after bringing the snow cones into the bathroom and leaving them on the floor while he used the toilet.

More to come in June I’m sure.

May 22, 2013

Leave a Comment

MLB’s Emerging Stars

By: Matt Bowen

Major League Baseball has a brilliant future. Fans everywhere should be ecstatic for the next decade.  Scattered throughout the league, even teams currently below .500 have budding stars.

Sure, every generation of players has their own crop of cornerstones, but this is different. The league is stacked. The competition will be fierce. Playoff races will come down to Game 162. Interest throughout will reach a fever pitch.

We all know the likes of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are the leaders of the pack when it comes to the “next-generation”, but they are not alone. They’re joined by a bushel of future heroes. Some of which are a touch older than the young 20-somethings, but a star is a star, no matter how long it takes to shine so bright.

Bryce Harper is already a household name for MLB fans.

Here’s a quick rundown of players to fall in love with:

Catcher: Wilin Rosario, Colorado Rockies

This kid has pop at the plate and in the thin air of Colorado he’ll find the cheap seats with ease. A catcher who can hit for average is always a plus and Rosario is holding his own this season. Even though his numbers have dipped in May, he’ll be just fine. The Rockies have smooth sailing ahead of them with Rosario in their lineup for years to come.

First Base: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

Fans may not have had a chance to catch Paul Goldschmidt much due to proximity, but he’s a stud. By season’s end he’ll be in the NL MVP conversation. Possessing power, average and enough speed to motor around the bases, he also helps his team with a stealthy glove at first base. The Diamondbacks are in good hands thanks to Goldschmidt. Yes, he’s currently 25 years old, but it’s never too late to be one of the best.

Second Base: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros

The Houston Astros may own a dismal record, but with Jose Altuve on their side better days are in store. At 5’5” he may be undersized, but he shouldn’t be underestimated. The dude can do it all and is the key to the future in Houston. He’s more than fun to watch and should be respected and feared by all.

Shortstop: Jean Segura, Milwaukee Brewers

Whoa baby! Jean Segura of the Milwaukee Brewers puts up silly numbers in the box score. Blessed with plate presence and speed to burn, Segura is a nightmare for the opposition. Just checking his numbers makes one want to move to Milwaukee and watch this guy in person 81 times a year. With the skills he has, it’s almost not fair. Cheers to Segura. Expect him to be an All-Star this season.

Third Base: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles

Talk about a cornerstone, Manny Machado is it in Baltimore. He’ll be manning the hot-corner for the next 15 years for the Orioles and has yet to scratch the surface of his true talent. He’s only 20 years old. Diehard O’s fans have to be drooling when thinking of the future. Dare I say he’ll be the most beloved in Baltimore since a guy named Cal Ripken, Jr. Machado is the man. Come September, expect heroics.

No Surprise Here, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout Made the list:

It’s safe to say that the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are set in terms of a superstar. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout will bring fans out in droves until they retire. Some may argue that they aren’t “emerging” stars, but let’s be real—they are so young it’s not fair to say we’ve seen or that we can comprehend their “ceiling.” They are the future. Embrace it.

Rounding out the Outfield, Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates:

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been begging for a winner since neon slap bracelets and Nickelodeon slime were in style. Now, with the emergence of Starling Marte to compliment star Andrew McCutchen, the Pirates are built to win.

Marte looks like he’s on skates in the outfield and handles himself well at the plate. He bolsters and gives the Bucs lineup much needed depth. There should be nothing but smiles from the Pirates faithful these days after decades of futility. Marte is the difference in Pittsburgh.

Pitcher: Matt Harvey, New York Mets

While it’s tough to pick just one pitcher, have you seen Matt Harvey on the mound? The 24-year-old is off to a ridiculous start to his career. He looks like Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers and future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux wrapped into one.

A fine blend of power and finesse, Harvey may be considered the best pitcher in baseball by the end of 2014. His fastball is tough enough to blow back hitters while his offspeed arsenal makes them weak in the knees.

After just 19 career starts, he’s being considered a legend. Watching him is a must.

April 3, 2013

Leave a Comment

Who’s better: Bryce Harper or Mike Trout?

By: Matt Bowen

Finally, spring has officially sprung as the 2013 MLB season is upon us. While there’s plenty to debate about in regards to the rest of the league, the main focus will be on Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.

Bryce Harper started the season off with 2 Home Runs on Opening Day.

The two sophomore sensations are nothing short of miraculous as they helped reshape baseball forever last season. Their ridiculous display of athleticism and flare for the dramatic are simply astounding. Teams have long groomed their prized prospects until they’re deemed fit by outdated unwritten rules.

Now, thanks to Harper and Trout, many prospects will be brought up as early as 19 years old. They’ve changed the way GMs think, how fans act and how fantasy diehards draft.

One thing is for sure, the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have the center piece of their respected franchises for the next decade.

Baseball couldn’t ask for anything more from these young men in terms of proximity—what we have is a classic East vs. West battle, which ensures Major League Baseball that the entire country is engulfed in the debate.

So, who’s better?

Harper has been highly touted since he left high school early to play college ball. He was hitting homers out of major league ballparks before kids his age got their driver’s license.  The buzz surrounding his arrival at “The Show” reached a fever pitch. The Nationals couldn’t hold him back any longer as they wanted to cash in and put their best possible team on the field.

Harper didn’t disappoint as a rookie, but there’s room for improvement. Relax; before you jump out of your seat screaming, I’ll say it for you—he was only 19 last season. He hit a modest .270 last season with 22 home runs, which is nothing to scoff at from a kid who’s seen minimal big league pitching.

Things can only go up from here. Soon he’ll become comfortable filling in his big league shoes, become patient at the plate and learn the ropes of the outfield.

He started 2013 off with a bang as he hit two homers en route to a 2-0 Nationals win on Opening Day. To put his growing legacy into perspective, he received a standing ovation, at 20 years old, in the fourth inning. Whoa!

Trout is a year older than Harper but is currently viewed as the more well-rounded talent. Trout’s 49 stolen bases in 139 games in 2012 have him going No. 1 in many fantasy drafts, even ahead of Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.  Oh, not to mention he hit .326 with 30 homers and 83 RBI.

For sake of this debate, Trout did get a cup of tea with the Angels toward the end of 2011. He hit .220 in 123 at-bats. On the other hand, Harper got 74 at-bats at AAA Syracuse before his call came last season.

Never mind his taste of the majors in 2011, Trout made the Angels immensely better and turned into an MVP candidate in 2012. He even has many thinking he’s the best player in baseball.

This is where Harper has the advantage this season—all the pressure is on Trout right now. It’s true that both players have big expectations to meet, but Trout has all eyes on him. With slightly less attention on him, Harper can easily slide safely back into the pole position amongst themselves.

So, who’s better? Who cares! They are both awesome. Watch them as much as you can. Appreciate them. They have revolutionized baseball and given us a new batch of stars to root for.

One last thing to ponder—the scary thought is that both of these boys have yet to fill out. We have to wait until they turn 25 years old before they’ll be “full grown.”

This is one debate fans will be having 50 years from now. And that is why we love this game.

May 14, 2012

Leave a Comment

A Night at the Ballpark

By: Anson Whaley

Who doesn’t love a night at the ballpark? Even if baseball doesn’t happen to be your favorite sport, attending a live game is still a good time. So when Stephen Strasburg and the Washington Nationals came to town to play the Pittsburgh Pirates, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the evening. And the fact that I found seats about ten rows off the field behind the visitors’ dugout for half-price through an online vendor made it even more of a slam dunk.

PNC Park is a great place to go and catch a game.

The on-field action, though, wasn’t the only part of the night. Here’s a brief recap of the evening:

6:40 – Arrive at PNC Park (seriously, if you’ve never been there, you’re missing out) and promptly head into souvenir shop with time to kill. After browsing the hat section, I find a minor league prospect paperback book that caught my attention … until I noticed the $24.00 price tag. Quickly head out, opting for the $7.00 yearbook instead.

7:05 – Settle into my seat just in time for the opening pitch. Seated next to me are a father and son, each with the largest bucket of wings available. My only thoughts are, ‘Good luck finishing those, guys.’

Bottom of 2nd Inning – Strasburg strikes out the side. Eh, not so impressive.

Top of the 3rd Inning – Strasburg gets hit by a pitch and is jeered relentlessly when he asks for a jacket at first base. A female Pirates fan in front of me asks her companion, “Who is this Strasburg guy,” pronouncing it “Strays-burg.” I can’t help but think this is going to be a long night.

Bottom of the 3rd inning – Strasburg strikes out the side. Again.

Top of the 4th Inning – When Ryan Zimmerman comes to the plate, a somewhat drunk fan behind me tells his friend how great he is, repeatedly calling him ‘Ray.’ This all happens despite the fact that we happen to be facing the scoreboard with his name on it in gigantic letters.

Middle of the 4th Inning – The Pirates host their own version of the Price is Right’s Hi Lo game. The team provides a statistic and a selected fan has to determine whether a certain Pirates player had a higher or lower amount of that statistic than the previous player shown. The category in question is the amount of career walks.

Honus Wagner comes up as one of the players and the previously-referenced fan is at it again saying, “Honus Wagner couldn’t have walked a lot since he swung at everything.” I’m not sure which was more amusing – the certainty with which he said it or the fact that he appears to have studied Wagner’s prowess in actual game footage from nearly 100 years ago. At any rate, a somewhat confused contestant reaches the final question and after giving what is clearly the wrong answer, an exasperated host asks her if she wants to reconsider her choice. After a brief pause, she says no and loses. Fun, fun, fun.

Top of the 5th Inning – Strasburg smashes a double at the plate. Is there anything this guy can’t do? By the end of the night, he’s hitting .308 on the season. Forget the pitching, I’m thinking he’d look pretty good in the middle of the Pirates’ anemic batting order.

Middle of the 5th Inning – The Pittsburgh Pierogi mascot race also features the Washington Nationals’ President mascots. The mascots run around the park, much to the fans’ delight. Well, at least the ones under the age of 12.

Top of the 6th Inning – Zimmerman again comes to bat and the now clearly drunk fan behind me calls him Ray yet again. After his friend politely corrects him by saying, “I think his name’s Ryan,” there’s an eerie silence followed by an “Oh.” Said fan then ceases to talk for the rest of the inning, which quickly becomes the highlight of the night.

Middle of the 6th Inning – Father and son duo next to me not only finish off both buckets of wings relatively easy, but leave and return with a jumbo-sized portion of nachos. Yeah, I got that one wrong.

Top of the 7th Inning – Steve Lombardozzi comes to bat as a pinch-hitter as Strasburg exits the game. Despite a close contest, many fans follow suit, heading for the turnstiles after watching him toss 13 strikeouts in only six innings.

Middle of the 7th Inning– Another fan loses an inning break game. This time, a guy misses out on a jacket and then a hat, selecting a mystery box, which included an assortment of beef jerky instead. The irony that the fans are losing seemingly as much as the Pirates do isn’t lost on me.

Top of the 8th Inning – Harper comes up for his final at bat. After striking out, more than half of the remaining crowd files out.

9:43 – Game ends as Pirates lose, 4-2. All in all, well worth the $21.00 ticket price. I’d traveled to Altoona to witness Strasburg’s debut in AA two years ago and though he’s lost some velocity either because of his surgery last year or through his own choice (he topped 100 miles per hour then and touched the upper 90s only a few times last week), he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball.