World Series Thoughts Destined to be Wrong

This is the World Series we wanted.  For the first time in over a decade, the teams with the two best records in baseball will fight it out in the Fall Classic.  The St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox are so evenly matched that it can’t be a repeat of 2004, can it?  That’s when the Sox swept the Cards to become champions for the first time in 86 years.  This has the makings of a long series……or does it?  By writing my thoughts about this World Series, will my thoughts turn an epic matchup into a stink bomb?

Adam Wainwright gets the ball in Game 1 against Jon Lester.  Credit:

Adam Wainwright gets the ball in Game 1 against Jon Lester. Credit:

Why I like the Red Sox:  Let’s face it, no matter what fan you are, this is a fun team to watch, beards and all.  They look as though they are having a blast but they also know how to play, play the game correctly and most of all, know how to win.  Minor issues like David Ortiz having to play first base in St. Louis doesn’t bother them.  Perhaps not having Mike Napoli‘s bat when the series shifts to St. Louis could be a problem.  Then again, Napoli didn’t hit much early in the ALCS and the Sox did ended up winning in six games.  The lineup will beat you at any game you want to play.  The signings of Napoli, Shane Victorino and Stephen Drew while not adding a tremendous amount of power, made it a much more difficult group to navigate for opposing pitchers.  The starting pitching with previous champions Jon Lester and John Lackey is battle-tested and will fight with every pitch.  Nearly unhittable, ALCS MVP Koji Uehara leads a bullpen that will register outs in the blink of an eye.  When I think of the 2013 Red Sox, the first word that comes to mind is juggernaut.

Why I like the Cardinals:  They are the best organization in baseball, one of the tops in all of sports.  Albert Pujols leaves?  Plug in Allen CraigTony LaRussa retires?  Mike Matheny is ready to lead.   There are pitchers with more glamorous names but if I want someone to win me a big game, my choice is Adam Wainwright.  NLCS MVP Michael Wacha did not allow a single run against the Dodgers.  After three previous attempts, Carlos Beltran gets to take his playoff magic act to the grandest stage of them all.  Craig, who has not played since September 4th, led the team with 97 RBI’s and is set to be the designated hitter in Boston.  Catcher Yadier Molina and second baseman Matt Carpenter are legitimate MVP candidates.  Trevor Rosenthal, Carlos Martinez and Kevin Siegrist remind me of another dominant bullpen trio:  “The Nasty Boys” from the 1990 World Series Champion Cincinnati Reds.  With such young talent and a deep farm system, win or lose, the Cardinals have the makings of a dynasty.

The Prediction:  There has been a multitude of analysis leading up to Game 1.  You can make an argument for both teams, look at both rosters and still not make a decision until the next government shutdown.  These guys are that close.  I prefer to keep it simple.  I go with the team that has the best starting pitcher.  That would be Wainwright.  Cards in 7.


Carlos Beltran and Other MLB Playoff Thoughts

Sorry for being away for so long.  I was writing for another blog, previewing the Arizona Fall League players for the ten Western Division teams.  The playoffs are in full swing and we are already down to the final four teams.  Here are some of my observations of what we have seen so far.

Carlos Beltran should go to the Hall of Fame.  Image:

Carlos Beltran should go to the Hall of Fame. Image:

-Last week I had posted on Facebook that Carlos Beltran was on his way to the Hall of Fame. This was before Game 1 of the NLCS in which he drove in all three runs and gunned down A.J. Ellis in the Cardinals’ 3-2, 13 inning victory over the Dodgers.  Including this year’s playoffs, Beltran has 156 postseason at-bats with 16 HR’s, 34 RBI’s 11 steals and a slash line of .327/.442/.712.  But does that guarantee a ticket to Cooperstown?

For his career, Beltran was the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year with the Royals.  He is an eight-time All Star with only one top five finish in the MVP race (2006 with the Mets).  100 RBI seasons are usually a good indicator of production; Beltran has eight of them, the last coming in 2008 although he drove in 97 in 2012.  His career numbers after 16 seasons read like this:  358 HR’s, 1,327 RBI’s, 308 stolen bases and a line of .283/.359/.496.

Personally, I think Beltran deserves to get in.  He has had eight dominant seasons even if the results didn’t show up in the MVP race.  Although his career was cut short due to an injury, the reason why Kirby Puckett is in the Hall of Fame is because he has two World series rings and was the best player on those teams.  Beltran has better overall numbers with no title.  If Beltran gets to the Fall Classic, he knocks on the door; if the Cardinals win, the door swings open.

-Since Billy Beane became the general manager in 1998, the Oakland A’s have made six playoff appearances (five division titles and one wild card) and have gotten to the ALCS only once.   Some may consider this a knock on his record.  I do not.  Getting to the playoffs in baseball is the hardest road to travel in any professional sport.  They should be celebrated for their tremendous success over 162 games not maligned for a failure to advance after five games.   What has made the last two seasons hurt is having the Tigers win the decisive Game 5 in both years at Oakland.  They can thank Justin Verlander for shutting them out two straight seasons in the clinchers.

-Speaking of Verlander and the Tigers, there was no way I would have taken him out after eight innings with a 3-0 lead.  He had allowed only two hits and one walk with ten strikeouts on 111 pitches.  That is domination and to me, you allow your star pitcher to finish the game.  It worked out for Jim Leyland but one could only imagine if the A’s rallied.  I am a firm believer of letting your best starting pitcher close out a tight series, like the Cards did with Adam Wainwright in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Pirates.

-I really don’t have too much of a rooting interest but if I had to pick a team, it would be the Dodgers.  Don Mattingly was my favorite player and I want to see him do well after being almost fired earlier this season.  It is hard to root for them given how I write a blog about the Diamondbacks.   However, I can put personal feelings aside in the hopes that Donnie Baseball, who just missed out on a title as player with the Yankees, can get one as a manager.

-Had Torii Hunter made this catch, he would have become a legend.

Robinson Cano is the American League MVP

You come to this blog not just because you know me but also because I have some interesting things to say.  I sometimes dabble in topics that provide a different take on the game of baseball or sometimes go off the reservation when making a prediction, such as me picking the Seattle Mariners to win the American League West this season.  Regardless, one of my goals is to give the reader something new to think about, something that he or she may not have considered and having them come around to it see from my point of view.  Well, here goes another one of those topics.

Robinson Cano should be the 2013 AL MVP.  Image:

Robinson Cano should be the 2013 AL MVP. Image:

Robinson Cano deserves to be the American League MVP.

Before you decide if this the right or wrong choice, stop for a moment.  Turn away from this page, grab yourself a drink (alcoholic or not) have a cookie and take a deep breath.  I promise I will still be here. There are five guys who I think would belong in this discussion:  Cano, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, Chris Davis and Mike Trout (only because people want a Cabrera-Trout rematch). Yes, numbers are important and Cano would not be listed here if his were weak.  The key word here is “valuable”; we have to put that word back into MVP.

Of the five gentlemen listed, think about where their respective teams would be if they were injured or underperforming.  For all of his greatness, the Angels minus Trout this year would be more than the four games under .500 they currently are.  It is very hard for someone to win the award whose team has been out of playoff contention since May.  I know you shouldn’t compare teams from year to year when determining an individual award.  However, the Orioles were better in 2012 when Davis’s numbers were not nearly as impressive as 2013’s output.  Donaldson has enjoyed a breakout season for the A’s but his numbers are little down as compared to Cano’s.  Finally, Cabrera has been slowed by injury for the past month which while not taking away from another dominating season, the Tigers have been comfortably ahead in the AL Central all season long.  Now, think about where the Yankees would be without Cano.  Although they may ultimately come up short of the playoffs, there is no chance they are even close without his production.  This leads me to the other part of my reasoning.

Think about each candidates supporting cast.  Although Albert Pujols has been hurt and Josh Hamilton has had a rough season, Trout still has Mark Trumbo who is on pace for 35 home runs and over 100 RBI’s in addition to C.J. Wilson who could win 18 games for the Halos.  Davis has Adam Jones (32 HR’s, 103 RBI’s) and Manny Machado (51 doubles) to help him drive the Orioles offense.  Donaldson has three other teammates that have over 20 homers plus a staff that ranks second in the AL with a 3.61 ERA.  Cabrera is surrounded by Torii Hunter (17 HR’s, 78 RBI’s, .295) and Prince Fielder (24 HR’s, 103 RBI’s, .283) in the lineup.  Cano’s biggest help in the run producing department is Alfonso Soriano, who didn’t come to the team until the end of July and Brett Gardner whose numbers (8 HR’s, 52 RBI’s, 24 steals) do not measure up to any of the players I listed earlier.

I do not want to diminish anyone’s reliance on statistics such as WAR or other metrics that help determine year-end awards.  All serve a purpose and should be considered when making a selection.  However, I think we do overanalyze when some simple thinking can be applied.  This is the case for the AL MVP discussion.  Just ask yourself this question:  which team would be most hurt if their star player was absent?  When you realize the answer, hands down, is Robinson Cano, then you will have identified the 2013 AL MVP.

Marlins on My Mind

Jose Fernandez could become the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year. Image:

Jose Fernandez could become the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year. Image:

I have a special affection for South Florida.  My grandparents moved to Ft. Lauderdale in the early 1970’s and we would visit them, often taking a week or ten days in February.  After my grandfather passed away, we would go sometimes during Christmas and even braved a few days in the Spring or Summer there.  My grandmother has since passed but the condo still remains and is in our family’s name.  This explains why I like keeping tabs on the teams in the area, particularly the Miami Marlins.  It also may explain why that, in the middle of the crucial series between the Yankees and Orioles, I decided to spend a good portion of time watching an almost meaningless Marlins-Braves contest.  I say “almost” because the Fish have two of the most exciting players in all of baseball on their squad:  Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton.

The main reason why I had that game on last week is because it was the final start of the year for the 21-year old Fernandez.  If you didn’t hear about it, there was alot of other fireworks surrounding the game that involved the young right-hander. Nevertheless, Fernandez is someone special to watch. His fastball tops out at 98, which he was throwing in the seventh inning.  There is also this breaking ball that looks as though it breaks five feet in about a tenth of a second.  I know there will be considerable debate on whether he or Yasiel Puig will win Rookie of the Year in the National League.  I won’t have a problem if either wins.  That being said, here are Fernandez’s numbers:  12-6, 2.18 ERA in 28 starts, in 172 1/3 innings.  Here are even more impressive stats:  187 strikeouts, 111 hits allowed and 58 walks.  His 5.8 hits allowed and 9.7 K’s per nine innings is tops in the NL.  Incredible.

It is hard to believe that Stanton is only 25 years old.  Earlier this season, he became the ninth fastest player to reach 100 career home runs.  Although he didn’t play in a game until June, Stanton leads the Marlins in both home runs and RBI’s.  On this team, the fact that he has even had opportunities to get a pitch to hit is amazing.  In 2012, he led the National League in slugging at .608 and was second in home runs with 37.  Unfortunately, because of where he plays, Stanton is forever the subject of trade rumors.    Management insists he is not on the block but given their track record, can you really trust them?

If the Miami Marlins insist that they are committed to South Florida, they should sign Fernandez and Stanton to long-term deals before they are close to hitting free agency.  Stanton is under club control until 2017, Fernandez, 2019.  While the organization was killed when they made trades to dismantle their team, right now, those trades don’t seem to be so bad.  They received some nice pitchers in return which are forming the foundation of a nice rotation.  If the team sells off Fernandez and Stanton with no real attempt at keeping them long-term, then Major League Baseball needs to invoke its best interest of baseball clause and take the team away from Jeffrey Loria.

The Greatness of Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter will prove most people wrong and have a great 2014.  Image:

Derek Jeter will prove most people wrong and have a great 2014. Image:

On Wednesday, it was announced that Derek Jeter would return to the disabled list and not return for the rest of the season.  The captain of the New York Yankees played in only 17 games this season with the major culprit being the ankle injury he suffered in last season’s American League Championship Series.  The same ankle has now shut him down for good at least as far as 2013 season goes.  However, in listening to his press conference on Wednesday we were reminded just why Derek Jeter is great.

As I was driving home from work, his voice had my complete attention.  He jabbed at reporters who wanted to know if he was retiring.  He is a ballplayer and his job is to go out there every day and play.  He doesn’t think about retiring or looking ahead,  his focus is on that day’s game and the current season.  I can’t quote every single thing he said so perhaps the link found here can help you out.  The bottom line is that I believed every word he said.  When he says he will work out to be ready for 2014, I believe he will work out like a mad man and come back and hit .310 with 185 hits and 90 runs scored.  At 40 years old and a year away from the game, that sounds like wishful thinking.  I won’t be the one to doubt him.  You would be foolish to think it can’t happen; you don’t think Jeter will be fueled by all of the naysayers who insist he hang it up?

Those doubters have plenty of company when it comes to knocking Jeter.  You know, the ones who say he is the most overpaid player in the game.  Or the ones who state that using XYZ metric, he is the worst defensive shortstop in baseball.  Let us settle this once and for all.  Derek Jeter is an all-time great.  Yes, I said it.  He is 9th on the all time hits list.  Go ahead, tell me that is not a big deal.  There have been thousands of men who have played Major League Baseball and only eight players have more hits.  As far as his defense goes, maybe he is not flashy enough for some but he makes every single play.  Tell me, when is the last time you saw him make a bad throw?  Never?  Does he not go into the hole on a backhand and throw the runner out at first every single time?  It amazes that a guy who is so great, who every dad could tell his child, “play the game like him” who at times can be so maligned.

The greatness of Derek Jeter goes beyond the baseball field.  It is his class, his ability to thrive under the most glaring of spotlights without losing his dignity and his coolness ion dealing with the harshest of critics that make him so great.  Doubt him if you must but I feel that Derek Jeter will have a monster 2014.

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My Starting Lineup in 2016

There are so many talented, young players today in Major League Baseball that it is hard to keep track of all of them.  These players are already a lot of fun to watch and rank among the best at their positions at such an early age.  As always, there are many guys at the Minor League level that we will be saying the same thing about in a year or two.  With that in mind, here is my what “dream” Opening Day lineup would be in the year 2016, with the requirement that all of them are 27 and younger that April.  Of course, you come back around that time and laugh at me as I am sure some of these gentlemen will prove me wrong.

What can't Mike Trout do on a baseball field?  Image:

What can’t Mike Trout do on a baseball field? Image:

1B-Anthony RizzoThis guy can hit.  The batting average does not reflect it, but there is no doubt that Rizzo’s bat is Major League caliber.  It has been a rough year at times for Rizzo and most of the time for the Chicago Cubs.  He leads the team in home runs and RBI’s and he just turned 24.  Rizzo’s play around the bag at first is not spectacular and I am sure he will address that come Spring Training as there will be no World Baseball Classic.  Although he is hitting .230, you could attribute that to the fact that he is still young and that he plays on a bad team.  I am confident that in three years, he will be among the best players at his position.

2B-Kolten WongWhen evaluating top prospects, it is usually a safe bet that someone from the St. Louis Cardinals will find their way onto any list.  Wong was called up to the Cards in mid-August and has received semi-regular playing time.  Matt Carpenter has had a great season at second for St. Louis but can play in different spots on the field.  Wong, a first round choice in 2011, is clearly the future at that position.  He has good extra base power and does not strike out much.  Wong is a smart defender and has tremendous instincts.  When you draw up the blueprint for a typical Cardinals player, Wong fits the mold perfectly.

3B-Manny Machado-It is amazing that Machado is only 21 and yet feels as though has been with the Baltimore Orioles forever instead of this being his first full season in the Majors.  Machado is living up to the hype that has him being compared to O’s legend Brooks Robinson.  He leads the American League in doubles with 46 and is on pace to hit about .300 with roughly 17 home runs and 80 RBI’s.  His defense is already in another world with his cannon arm and endless range that reminds many people of Brooks’s gems in the 1970 World Series.

SS-Jean SeguraThe 22-year old Segura is a shining light in an otherwise dark season for the Milwaukee Brewers.  He leads the National League in stolen bases with 39 and has other solid offensive numbers across the board.  His average has been over .300 all season long and is in the top ten in all of baseball in hits with 165 and triples with 9.  Segura’s game at short is equally outstanding with soft hands and a rifle for an arm.  It is a shame the Brewers have had a lousy year, hindering any chance at serious national recognition for him.  July’s All Star appearance will be the first of many for Segura.

LF-Mike TroutWhat accolade hasn’t the 22-year old Trout received in his brief, electric career?  He is simply the most exciting player in the game today, a ridiculous blend of speed, power and defense that, if he stays healthy, will allow him to become one of the game’s all-time greats.  The dreadful season of the Los Angeles Angels has not overshadowed Trout’s spectacular sophomore campaign.  He leads the American League in runs, triples and walks, the latter a sign that he is starting to get the Barry Bonds treatment.  The only question about Trout in this lineup is does he hit first, third or fourth?

CF-Bryce HarperThe production of Harper hasn’t quite lived up to the hype yet.  The people who are disappointed in his Major League career need to remember that he will not turn 21 until October.  His numbers pale in comparison to Trout’s right now but there is no denying that Harper will be a huge star for the next 15 years.  41 home runs and 108 RBI’s before the legal drinking age is quite an accomplishment.  Washington Nationals fans hope his physical style does not force endless trips to the disabled list.  Look for Harper to have an MVP-type season in 2014.

RF-Yasiel PuigAbout the only thing that can hold Puig back is himself.  He is a bit of a hothead and moody but one has to understand he just came to this country less than a year ago from Communist Cuba.  Some players adjust here right away, others take time.  Once Puig harnesses his emotions, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have paid a bargain for him.  LA’s season turned around the instant Puig showed up and while he has cooled, he is still batting over .350.  Wait until Hollywood makes a movie about him.

C-Salvador PerezIf you want to see what a leader behind the plate is, look no further than Perez, already a leader on the Kansas City Royals.  He is one of the building blocks in which KC is hoping to build their team around.  Perez made his first All Star appearance this season.   He is almost peerless behind the plate and he has good offensive numbers which will see him finish around .280 with 12 home runs and 70 RBI’s.  These are excellent numbers for a catcher who turned 23 in May.

SP-Matt Moore-This is easily the hardest position to gauge with so many pitchers for just one spot.  I go with Moore, who in his fourth Major League appearance, pitched seven shutout innings for the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of the 2011 American League Division Series.  Tampa thought so much of him that he is under their control through 2019.  This season, Moore is 15-3 with a 3.27 ERA.  If David Price leaves as a free agent, Moore will be designated the staff ace.  He appears up to the challenge.

That’s my lineup.  Sorry, no DH’s on this list.

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Oh, Joba

He was once the crown jewel in the farm system of the New York Yankees and considered perhaps the heir apparent to Mariano Rivera.  Today, Joba Chamberlain is not even a primary setup man for the Bronx Bombers, almost an afterthought in the bullpen.  Sunday’s latest fiasco, giving up a three-run home run to Adam Jones during a 7-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles, is the latest low in a career that started with such fanfare, including the use of the “Joba Rules”.

This could be Joba Chamberlain's last month in a Yankee uniform.  Image:

This could be Joba Chamberlain’s last month in a Yankee uniform. Image:

When he was called up for the stretch run of the 2007 season, Joba instantly created a tremendous buzz.  Armed with a 98 mile per hour fastball and nasty breaking stuff, Chamberlain racked up 34 strikeouts in 24 innings, sporting a miniscule 0.38 ERA.  New York was home to Joba Mania and there was such high hopes for the young righty.   However, the Yankees couldn’t seem to make up their mind about making him a starter or keeping him a reliever.  For the record, I supported putting him in the rotation.  Over the next two seasons, he started 43 games out of 74 appearances with only moderate success.  In 2009, his ERA was a messy 5.38 and if you count this season, that ERA has been above 4.00 in three out of the past four seasons.  Injuries have played a role in his demise with elbow surgery during the 2011 season and a dislocated ankle in Spring Training in 2012.  For his career, Joba is a 23-13 record with a 3.78 ERA, allowing 426 hits  with 175 walks and 443 strikeouts in 441 innings pitched.

Joba Chamberlain will be a free agent at the end of the season.  He was once considered the future of the Yankees’ pitching staff.  Now, he will be very lucky to be back in the Bronx in 2014.

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