August 1, 2013

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MLB Contenders Post Trade Deadline

By: Matt Bowen

Now that the dust on settled on the July 31 MLB non-waiver trade deadline, we can focus our attention on the true contenders. It’s now August, this is the time where the cream rises to the top. MLB GM’s believing that this is their year have spent the last couple of weeks trying to feverishly hammer out deals to put their team on top when it’s all said and done. As baseball fans we now get to sit back and watch the drama unfold. The next two months will be pure entertainment as every division except the NL East is up for grabs.

So, what is to be expected down the stretch? Who were the real winners at the deadline?

AL East: Per the usual, the AL East will be one of the most interesting races until the end. The Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Baltimore Orioles are all in contention.

The Rays were the quiet, only acquiring left reliever Jesse Crain from the Chicago White Sox. Crain is currently on the DL, but has electric stuff out of the bullpen. This was a low-risk, high-reward kind of deal for the Rays—if Crain returns healthy they win, if he doesn’t, the compensation towards the White Sox will be next to nothing.

The Baltimore Orioles proved to their fan base that they plan on winning now and forever. They traded for starting pitchers Scott Feldman from the Chicago Cubs and Bud Norris of the Houston Astros along with reliever Francisco Rodriguez from the Milwaukee Brewers. Nice work from the Orioles front office.

While the Orioles made plenty of noise, the Boston Sox stole the show in the division. The acquisition of pitcher Jake Peavy from the Chicago White Sox made headlines as the Red Sox appear to be legit. They also picked up left-handed reliever Matt Thornton from the White Sox. For a team that lost 93 games in 2012, they have certainly changed their course. The Bo Sox have Boston buzzing at the moment.

AL Central: This division is a two horse race that won’t be settled until the final days of the season. The Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers are the two best teams in the Central and only got better at the deadline. Both teams picked up necessary relief help with Marc Rzepczynski headed to Cleveland from the St. Louis Cardinals and Jose Veras to Detroit from the Houston Astros.

In the end, it was the Tigers who made out best though. They were involved in the trade with the Sox, both White and Red, that sent the aforementioned Peavy to Beantown, shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Tigers and young prospect Avasail Garcia to Chicago, along with others.

The Tigers need a shortstop with the suspension of Jhonny Peralta seeming imminent. Peralta, who is involved in the Biogenesis mess, is also a free agent as the end of the season, so picking up the talented 23-year-old Iglesias now is a stroke of genius.

While the Tigers will benefit the most now in the division, the White Sox may have gotten the best player out of the deal. Garcia has star written all over him, but with a crowded outfield in Detroit, it was a price that had to be paid.

Regarding the race in the Central, neither the Tigers nor Indians will quit. As of August 1, they’re two of the hottest teams in all of baseball. The two teams face each other seven more times in 2013 with the last game on September 1.  Both teams won at the deadline, but who will win the division?

AL West: Still in disbelief that the Oakland A’s are truly good? Don’t be, this team is for real, but did the division leader do enough? They swapped a minor leaguer for infielder Alberto Callaspo from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to shore up their defense. Where they swung and missed is in the pitching department. For decades the A’s were sellers at the deadline and this year, when they needed it most they couldn’t land a prized trade target to take the hill.

This means their rival the Texas Rangers were the true winners in the division at the deadline. They got starting pitcher Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs and seem to be in a groove right now. True, the A’s are still the team to beat, but the Rangers won’t go away. Now that the A’s seem to have crosshairs on their back, can they hold onto the West?

NL East: No contest here—the Atlanta Braves have a double-digit game lead in the division and the small and subtle acquisition of reliever Scott Downs from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim only made them better. Overall, the NL East has been a dud this season. Maybe 2014 will bring more competition. The Braves will skate into the playoffs.

NL Central: Baseball’s best division had an interesting trade deadline this time around. While the Milwaukee Brewers and Chicago Cubs were heavy sellers, and for good reason, the top three teams were rather stagnant. This is a very peculiar situation, the Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals, and Cincinnati Reds were all quiet. The Pirates, who currently lead the division tried but could not land a big-name right fielder. The Cardinals didn’t make a splash and the Reds needed a viable two-hole hitter to bolster their lineup but did next to nothing. Content with what they have, all teams are now on board with their current rosters. This was disappointing on all accounts. If a winner had to be chosen, it would have to be the Cards, who seem to always find a way to win.

NL West: Let’s not forget about the NL West—there’s no west coast bias here, but the deadline proved that only the Los Angeles Dodgers are the real thing. They snatched up coveted pitcher Ricky Nolasco from the Miami Marlins and had the luxury of signing charismatic reliever Brian Wilson. Since rookie Yasiel Puig was called up earlier in the year the team has been on fire. In just 50 games Puig is batting .364 as of August 1—most importantly he’s instilled some swagger in the Dodgers’ clubhouse.

The Dodgers payroll may be bigger than many small countries’ annual GDP, but they are now looking like they are worth every penny. Move over Hollywood, the Dodgers are now the big stars in town.

April 13, 2011

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Top Mustached Men in Baseball

By: Rick Jarrell

The recent release of our Dennis Eckersley Fathead reminded us that the overzealous mustache is as large a part of baseball as the stitching on the ball and the blades of grass in the outfield. All three are taken for granted, but without them, the sport wouldn’t be the same. Rollie Fingers. Keith Hernandez. Don Mattingly. Incredible MLB players, impeccable mustaches. Sure, a new season means a lot of clean shaven faces, but we can still admire seasons past while we wait for what’s to come.

Carl Pavano

After a less than eventful four years with the New York Yankees – a $40 million investment that garnered only a handful of starts for the oft injured MLB pitcher – Pavano has revived his career to be a solid starting pitcher with the Minnesota Twins. Accompanying him last season through this resurrection was a once small painter’s brush mustache (click here to see it) that grew into a full-on Groucho Marx (see the late-season mustache here). Bloggers both chastised and championed his efforts, but after the Twins lost to the Yankees in the ALDS, the mustache was no more. Will he duplicate his facial hair efforts from last year? Or up himself? Pass the torch to someone else?

Clay Zavada

Words can’t even begin to describe the awesomeness Zavada’s mustache projects. A quick Google image search returns hundreds of pictures of the MLB player with one of two styles – the upward handlebar thinning toward the outer parts of the lip (a la Rollie Fingers — click here to see it) or the more traditionally intimidating chevron (see it there). Double mustache points for sporting the two separate looks. Is the Rollie handlebar his formal wear, and the chevron ‘stache his business casual? From a career standpoint, Zavada may be a marketing genius. If it wasn’t for the ‘stache, no one would know the name Clay Zavada.  He’s currently in AAA after a 2009 stint with the Arizona Diamondbacks and a 2010 season eliminated by Tommy John surgery.

Eric Wedge

Wedge’s walrus mustache, my personal favorite, is storied amongst baseball fans. During his coaching stint with the Cleveland Indians, the team made it within one game of the 2007 World Series only to fall to the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS Championship. The next season saw a slow start and an ultimately disappointing season. The more conventional minded fans pointed toward the high expectations on a follow up performance for a still young team, or a poor pitching staff, but some suffering Clevelanders, confused and hungry for a winner, blamed Wedge’s new-found lip hair. How dare they think a mustache of such prowess would cause harm to their city, but hey, if true, that would be one powerful ‘stache. Wedge had the same look as an MLB player, though, so I highly doubt its impact on the team’s performance.  The Mariners are obviously not put off by it, having signed Wedge for the 2011 season (see his current mustache here).

Ron Washington

Another walrus mustache from a long time MLB professional. Like Wedge, Ron Washington has stuck with the shrub through the majority of his playing and coaching career. Right now he’s at the top after a surprise trip to the 2010 World Series for his Texas Rangers and a hot start to the 2011 season. There’s even a little kid out there that dressed like Washington for Halloween! How awesome is that?  (See Washington and the kid here.)

Are all the years of mustache bravado boiling over into a winning explosion the size of Texas? I say yes, and for this one short paragraph, what I say is fact.

Brian Wilson

Not the singer/songwriter for the Beach Boys, but the maverick closer for the World Champion San Francisco Giants. Including Wilson is kind of cheating, so we’ll refer to this as an honorable mention. He doesn’t only have a mustache, but a full beard. Combine the black beard (that matches the uniforms but not the hair on top of his head), the crazy look in his eyes, and the cannon for an arm, and you have one of the best MLB pitchers in the game. Let’s hope the young Wilson continues the mustached-beard mayhem through a long career (see his hairy face here).

These mustache veterans are only the tip of the iceberg. As the 162 game season slides into summer and creeps into the fall, players get restless. Lots of days on the road lead to lots of shenanigans and creativity, often in the form of wild facial hair. Keep your eye out for new and innovative mustaches throughout the season. There are always a few trend setters, and you never know, we may witness the next great facial hair fad since mutton chop sideburns.