April 12, 2013
Fame can be fleeting in baseball. MLB players who at one time enjoyed star status can suddenly find themselves yesterday’s news in a heartbeat.
For various reasons—age, injuries that take their toll and inexplicable performance drop-offs among them—players can quickly become bench players who have been passed by.
Here are five MLB players who could see their stars fizzle in the 2013 season.
1. David Ortiz: Boston Red Sox
At 37 years of age, Ortiz will attempt to bounce back from last year’s injury and again be a main contributor for the Red Sox as they attempt to recover from a miserable season. Whether or not Ortiz can fully recover remains to be seen, but with his advancing age it’s entirely possible that the 2013 season could be the year that his star finally begins to fizzle.
2. Paul Konerko: Chicago White Sox
Konerko will again be expected to deliver in the middle of the batting order for the White Sox in 2013. Whether or not he can continue to provide solid and consistent production at the age of 37 is in question. With numbers in decline over the past two seasons, that regression could continue.
3. Alfonso Soriano: Chicago Cubs
Now 37 years of age, Soriano will again be relied upon to supply power from the right side of the plate. As with the two players already displayed on this list, it’s entirely possible Soriano may have maxed out his performance last season.
4. Derek Jeter: New York Yankees
New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter has apparently fully recovered from the broken ankle suffered in Game 1 of last year’s ALCS against the Detroit Tigers. Jeter now ranks 11th all-time in MLB with 3,304 total hits and is preparing himself to continue his climb up the leaderboard.
The big question at this point is whether or not Jeter can reclaim his offensive mojo after a devastating injury late in his career. Considering the body of work he’s put forth up to this point, it would be foolhardy to bet against him. But it certainly remains a possibility.
5. Tommy Hanson: Los Angeles Angels
In some ways, 26-year-old Tommy Hanson is getting a fresh start with the Los Angeles Angels. The Atlanta Braves traded Hanson to the Angels over the offseason after he suffered through a sub-par 2012 campaign with reduced velocity.
Hanson will look to recover the jump on his fastball in Anaheim and rediscover the talent that led to him becoming a top pitching prospect for the Braves. It could be just a one-year audition for Hanson, and the Angels won’t hesitate to move on without him if he can’t deliver in 2013.
This is a guest post submitted by Ally Silva. Ally played all kinds of sports growing up and adamantly follows everything sports now, particularly Chicago sports. She works with Phoenix Bats, a company that creates world-class wooden bats for amateur and professional ball players around the world. Ally loves writing on different sports topics and is very grateful to be able to contribute here.
March 14, 2013
With the 2013 MLB season set to begin in April there are five teams destined to have a bounce-back season.
For the teams mentioned in this article, the 2012 season was a major league letdown. Regardless, what’s done is done and there’s no reason to dwell on it.
With optimism flooding the mentality of every MLB team and their fan bases this time of year, there’s no time like the presence to turn the corner.
After all, only the San Francisco Giants went home happy in 2012.
For some teams, becoming a respected and prominent team this year is the ultimate goal. For these teams, it’s now time to forget about 2012 and put solid numbers in the “Win” column.
The Boston Red Sox Won’t End Up in the Cellar Again
Things have drastically changed in Boston, but fans need not worry about becoming cursed again. The team will be just fine in Bean Town. Despite finishing 69-93 last season, things are looking good.
They successfully shed about $250 million in salary with a massive nine-player deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers last August. Although a ton of talent left town, they still have the familiar faces of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Here’s where fans will fall in love with the latest edition of the Red Sox—they’re going to be gritty, which is a perfect fit in Boston. With a nice mixture of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance, the chemistry in the clubhouse should be lively and fun.
One player to keep your eye on is a young outfielder by the name of Jackie Bradley. He’s quickly winning over his teammates and hitting around .500 this spring. Expect him to be a staple in the Red Sox lineup before season’s end.
The Pittsburgh Pirates Look to End 2013 the way the 2012 season began—Winning
It’s hard not to root for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They haven’t made the postseason since the early 1990s and looked destined last season, but stumbled down the stretch. In fact, they haven’t had a winning season in 20 years.
Their superstar, Andrew McCutchen, is an all-world gentleman. He did something last season that hasn’t been done in Pittsburgh in decades—he signed a six-year contract to stay in the Steel City.
He believes and so should the fans. We know they know how to lose, but they’ve definitely tasted victory. Now, 2013 is the year to put it all together.
Although pitchers Garrit Cole and Jameson Taillon won’t start with the big club on Opening Day, they’ll be front-row and center by the time August rolls around. When they arrive, the whole world will have all eyes on the Pirates.
The Kansas City Royals Will Make the Playoffs
It’s true; your eyes are not playing tricks on you. The Kansas City Royals will make the playoffs in 2013.
For years the Royals have had one of the best farm systems in all of baseball, but that potential hasn’t quite translated into wins. This is the year that is does.
The organization traded one of their highly touted prospects named Wil Myers to the Tampa Bay Rays in the offseason for quality starting pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis.
This is a positive first toward making the playoffs. After all, how far can a team go if their pitchers can’t take them deep into ball games?
While Myers’ MLB debut is highly awaited, the Royals have an entire roster of prospects just like him. Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Salvador Perez are just a few names in the Royals dugout that have insane amounts of talent.
Don’t be shocked when it all comes together this season.
Don’t Write Off the Seattle Mariners as Dead Meat in the AL West
The team still has one of the best pitcher’s in the game in Felix Hernandez. They also players like Jason Bay and Michael Morse. These guys will be playing with a chip on their shoulder looking to prove they still have gas in the tank.
Combine these vets with youngsters like Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and others and the Mariners have a nice squad on their hands.
Here’s where the 2013 Mariners will be most dangerous—they will be overlooked, circled on every opponent’s calendar as an easy victory. This is where others will be wrong. Following by the example set by the veterans, the entire roster will play like today could be their last. In a sense, they’re a team of castaways sent to the Northwest to be forgotten about.
Expect that “Us Against the World” mentality to fuel the Mariners throughout the season.
This Will Be the Year Chicago Cubs Fans Start to Believe Again
This is now year two of the Theo Epstein era. Reminder, Epstein is the General Manager whose formula brought the Boston Red Sox two World Series titles in the first decade of this century. Given, the Cubs aren’t the favorite to win it all this season, but they’ll be better than their 101 losses a season ago.
How will they be better?
Superstar Starlin Castro will mature and take every second seriously. He’s been known to be lax in the past. They also have Anthony Rizzo, who will face a make-or-break season. Don’t expect him to be considered a bust this season. Rizzo was once one of the top prospects in baseball and is still only 23 years old.
It is rookies Javier Baez and Jorge Soler that will be the sparkplugs in the Cubs offense this year. They may take a few months to get their feet wet, but they’ll quickly become fan favorites.
“Hey Chicago whaddya say…”
Things are looking up.
July 13, 2011
The next season, the league and the player’s union agreed to “make it count” by awarding home field advantage in the World Series to the winner of the game. This is a good idea in theory, but over the past ten years, the American League has dominated the National League in most facets of the game (excluding small ball). Look at the interleague record and past World Series Champs for proof. It’s extremely lopsided. At the risk of sounding like a toddler, it’s clear that placing a prize as important as home field on a lopsided game just isn’t fair.
Beyond the negative impact on competitive advantage, the measure didn’t please the fans, the target market of professional sports and especially All-Star games. The players like being selected, I’m sure, but they would also like to take a few days off to charge their batteries for the remainder of a long season.
There’s clearly room for improvement. First of all, why is the game always on a Tuesday? All other major league all-star games are on an “All-Star Weekend” of some type. The answer to this is likely simple – people have other things to do on the weekend, especially during the summer, and are not as likely to watch the Home Run Derby or All-Star Game. But maximizing television ratings (which the MLB is very good at) should not force them to sacrifice the opportunity in front of them. It’s harder for fans to travel on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. It’s better “to make a weekend of it,” like the NBA has been able to do with their game.
The most interesting parts of other all-star games, in my opinion, are the various skills competitions. The NBA has the dunk contest, dribble obstacle course (or whatever it’s called), and the three point contest. The NHL has a bunch of stuff (I won’t pretend for a second I’m a hockey fan, but I’ve stumbled across their skills competitions, and they’re pretty cool). The NFL has their pass-punt-kick competitions. Why doesn’t the MLB have these?
Baseball is a game of many combined skills, more than any other sport, that often go unnoticed. I say try to quantify them by putting them on display. A few random gimmicks to try…
`1. Outfielder vs. Speedster – Take one of the outfielders with the best arm and one of the fastest players. The outfielder is stationed somewhere in left/right field. The runner starts from home and sprints around the bases. Once they touch 3rd, the outfielder cocks back and lets it loose towards home. They could create some sort of bracket, similar to the Home Run Derby. Who doesn’t like a play at the plate?
2. Targets – Set up targets throughout the infield. Create stations in the outfield for players to aim at targets. It’s similar to the pass-punt-kick, except only throw. I’ve always enjoyed watching relievers long toss before games, why not make it a competition.
3. Crab fights – Place a pool in the parking lot and have players battle it out with each other. Prince Fielder and Brandon Phillips vs. David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury. Who doesn’t want to watch that?
Sure, the last one is off the wall. But when the traditional model is not working, it helps to innovate and do something zanier than the competition is willing to do. If the fans are not happy, it’s time to take a few risks. It may be hard to get any crab fight-esque ideas past the player’s union, but if they resist, force a lockout! (Too soon?) Anyways, there’s plenty of games, competitions, and Quidditch matches that could be integrated into the MLB All-Star festivities. Thoughts, anyone?
June 20, 2011
It wasn’t always this way. If you could somehow wind back that old, creaky grandfather clock in the hallway about a decade, you could see that. Ten years ago, the Internet was a fairly new invention (just whose invention is up for debate), your Star Wars movies were likely on VHS instead of DVD, and America was going through one of the roughest times in recent memory with 9/11. On the sports front, Kobe and Shaq were still together, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling were busy breaking up the latest Yankees dynasty as members of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Tiger Woods had just won something called a ‘Tiger Slam.’ Oh yeah, and Hulk Hogan was king of WCW’s rivalry against the WWE – can’t leave that out.
Boston? Well, the Red Sox still were under the curse of the Bambino and with the Yankees’ success, there appeared to be no end in sight. When you mentioned the Celtics’ Big Three, it wasn’t Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, but instead, only distant memories of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, and Robert Parish. The Patriots were in the Drew Bledsoe era while some guy named Tom Brady was a sixth-round Draft Pick and on the bench, and the Bruins hadn’t won a Stanley Cup in 30 years.
Let’s just say things weren’t exactly looking up in Beantown.
Now, in 2011, the tide has changed and Boston sits atop the sports world. In recent memory, the city has not only fielded competitive sports teams, but championship ones. With the recent Stanley Cup win by the Bruins, all four of Boston’s major sports teams have won a championship in the past six years. Along with those titles, those franchises boast plenty of individual star power. Leading the way for the Red Sox are Josh Beckett, David Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jacoby Ellsbury. The Pats’ Brady is a future Hall of Famer and playing at a high level. The Celtics triumvirate of stars – Garnett, Pierce, and Allen – is still a collection of big names and good players. And, by the way, the Bruins’ Tim Thomas may be the best goalie in all of hockey.
And while none of the city’s professional sports franchises are guaranteed or maybe even expected to continue winning titles, all have legitimate shots to do so.
The Celtics, while an aging group, have a chance to get out of the Eastern Conference for at least a few more seasons. The Red Sox put together an All-Star lineup this year in hopes of winning another World Series and while they got off to a slow start, they’ve moved into first place in the AL East and have the horses to make another championship run. The Patriots have taken a step back from their dominance of the mid 2000s, but with Brady at the helm, are not going away anytime soon. And the Bruins, fresh off a Stanley Cup win, will be able to compete as long as Thomas continues to post unbelievable performances in net.
Another reason Boston could be on their way to winning additional championships is that there are no current dynasties in sports. The Los Angeles Lakers and Pittsburgh Steelers may have been the closest to that, but both fell short in title bids in 2011. The sports landscape is wide open and Boston could continue to capitalize for many years to come.
March 13, 2009
It just keeps getting better…
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Today’s great names in baseball are all represented and many of them are also available as Real.Big. Fatheads including: Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Alfonso Soriano, AJ Pierzynski, Albert Pujols, Carlos Beltran, Chase Utley, Chipper Jones, Curtis Granderson, David Wright, Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer, Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard and Vladimir Guerrero.
Check it out!