June 12, 2013
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 10 days, you know who Yasiel Puig is.
Right now Superman wears Yasiel Puig pajamas to bed at night.
For a team with a 28-36 record who’s been struggling since Opening Day, Puig has made the Dodgers “must-see TV.”
The Dodgers haven’t had this much positive buzz surrounding them since 2008 when Manny Ramirez turned Tinseltown into “MannyWood.”
What Puig has done in just over one week of MLB service is remarkable. He’s already a juggernaut. There’s nothing he hasn’t done on a baseball field. He’s batted in multiple spots in the lineup, gone deep four times including a grand slam and has simply taken over baseball.
He’s showcased his cannon of an arm by throwing out two would-be advancing opponents from the outfield with ease. The last time we saw an arm this good from the warning track was Ichiro in his prime.
He’s been compared to Bo Jackson! That’s not a comparison that gets tossed around lightly, that’s an athlete.
Seriously, who gets compared to Jackson as an athlete? Many athletes may possess particular traits of Jackson’s, but not the entire package.
So, is Puig the reincarnation of Jackson? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure, his meteoric rise to stardom has no ceiling right now.
Last season it was Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim that took baseball by storm, but this story is a bit different. Yes, the two players are in the same city, but there’s something majestic about the Dodgers. The colors, the history, the aura of the franchise are intoxicating and right now Major League Baseball is under the spell that Puig has cast.
The big question is how long can he keep up this torrid pace?
No, he won’t hit around .500 forever, but there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be a career .300-hitter.
In spring training he hit .517, but spring training isn’t always the best evaluator of talent. A hot start in March doesn’t always translate to success. The worry with Puig was that he wouldn’t be able to handle the arsenal of pitches MLB aces would throw at him. So far, he’s hit a thick menu of pitches. Puig has the opposition scratching their collective head pondering on just how to get him out. He’s even been intentionally walked already. That’s a good sign that he’s here to stay.
The Dodgers have been waiting for someone like Puig to return them to relevance for some time now. They’re a team that has been plagued by injuries this season. If they can slowly inch closer to .500 until the All-Star break in July they’ll be fine. Come the second half of the season, they’ll be considered the scariest team in baseball.
A healthy Dodgers lineup with a fire-starter like Puig leading the way is a force to be reckoned with.
Don’t let their current record fool you, the Dodgers are coming.
May 22, 2013
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
March 13, 2013
MLB’s Opening day is just a couple weeks away which means it’s time for my yearly ritual of predicting the six division winners and ensuring that those teams don’t have the season they are hoping for. What can I say? It’s a gift. So let’s get on with it.
It’s gotta be now or never for the Blue Jays right? The Red Sox aren’t going to make a 25-win improvement over last season and the Yankees have been ravaged with injuries. The division door is wide open and Toronto has added several star players. Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buerhle, R.A. Dickey and Melky Cabrera should be able to help the Blue Jays to the top in the A.L. East.
It almost feels like cheating to pick the team that won it last year. Almost. The Tigers ought to be a hungry bunch after losing in the World Series last year. They may have the best hitter and pitcher in baseball in triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander. And I don’t see anyone else in the Central making a run at 90 wins.
In 2012, the Oakland A’s surprised everyone and stole the title from the Rangers. Now it’s the Angels that everyone thinks will take the title after they recruited one of the biggest stars in Texas, Josh Hamilton. Adding Hamilton to a lineup with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols makes the Angels scary, but I’m going with another surprise in the West and taking the Rangers.
Everyone in Washington is left wondering “what if” after the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg at the end of the season and then collapsed in the playoffs. They’ll have a chance to redeem themselves this October after taking the N.L. East crown. Atlanta will fight them to the end and the Phillies won’t go quietly, but the Nats are the best overall team right now.
With all the injuries in St. Louis, this looks like the Reds’ division to lose. They won 97 games in 2012 and added a dynamic player in Shin-Soo Choo. Plus…The Astros are gone. The Cubs are the Cubs. The Pirates are still trying to find a way to finish above. 500. So I guess that leaves Milwaukee. Can the Brewers make a run at Cincinnati? It will depend on what they can get from the starting rotation.
This will be the most interesting race I believe. There is a young up-and-coming team in Arizona; the defending world champs in San Francisco and the new Yankees in Los Angeles. The Diamondbacks are probably another year away and the Giants appear to be out-manned by the All-Stars the Dodgers brought in to win last year. A full season with guys like Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez and the addition of Zack Greinke make L.A. the pick.
March 4, 2013
Magic Johnson offers $1 million dunk challenge offer to Lebron James: Each year, nearly all of the NBA’s biggest stars forgo the league’s slam dunk contest held during All-Star Weekend. Once a marquee event that featured some of basketball’s biggest stars such as Michael Jordan and Julius Erving, the dunk contest now showcases some smaller, and even obscure, names. Magic Johnson is the latest person to challenge Lebron James to partake in the event … but he’s backing it up with his wallet. Magic offered James $1 million to participate in next year’s dunk contest. More specifically, he’s willing to put the money up as a prize to the winner and LBJ is reportedly thinking about the offer. Here’s the thing – while it would be cool to see the best player in the league show up, only doing so after a significant purse is put up makes James look bad. The dunk contest is supposed to be about the fans, but if Lebron participates now, it looks like it’s all about the money. One way James can dunk next season and not look greedy? Donate the money to charity.
Joe Flacco becomes highest paid player in NFL: Funny what a Super Bowl win can do for you. First, wide receiver Jacoby Jones gets a Dancing with the Stars invite, and now Joe Flacco is in the news. Heading into this season, Baltimore Ravens’ quarterback Joe Flacco was widely regarded as a solid, but unspectacular, player. He had the always-popular ‘Can’t win the big one’ tag and no one knew that he’d ever shake it. But this season, Flacco took a fairly unheralded Ravens’ team and not only bulldozed their way through the AFC, but knocked off the favored San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl. Flacco parlayed that into a record NFL contract and is now the highest paid player in the league. Does he really deserve it? Probably not. There are many players more valuable to their respective teams and Flacco may never again reach another Super Bowl. But kudos to the Ravens for stepping up and paying their franchise quarterback. He’s still young and should have a lot of seasons ahead of him.
Mike Trout to make near minimum after historic season: By most accounts, Mike Trout had one of the most astounding rookie seasons in baseball history. It was so historic, that he nearly won the American League’s Most Valuable Player award. But if you think Trout was due for a big raise, think again. The Angels could have renewed his contract for a significant amount, but chose to give him only slightly more than the league minimum. The club is perfectly within its rights to pay Trout what they want since he’s not yet eligible for arbitration, but low-balling him after he proved he’s one of the game’s top players could come back to bite them when it comes time to re-sign him. Trout hasn’t openly complained, but I can’t imagine he’s too happy right now.
Randy Moss could leave San Francisco 49ers: Randy Moss didn’t have one of his biggest seasons, but he fit in with the 49ers this past season, helping the team reach the Super Bowl. It seemed like a good fit, but the wide receiver tweeted this past week that he wished the team good luck, indicating he may be moving on. If Moss does leave, it will be interesting to see what teams want to pick him up. He just turned 36 this month and is surely on the downside of his career. There just may not be many suitors for his services.
Catholic Seven to keep Big East name: The Catholic Seven, otherwise known as the non-football members of the Big East, decided recently to leave to create their own conference. The schools aren’t only leaving, but they’re reportedly taking the Big East name with them, according to ESPN. Assuming that happens, that’s the right move. When you think of the Big East, you think of schools like Georgetown, Providence, and St. John’s – not SMU, Houston, and Tulane. And frankly, the Big East name just wouldn’t fit the conference anymore once new members join since so many of them are away from the east coast.