Q and A With Barrett Kleinknecht

Barrett Kleinknecht was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 12th round of the 2010 MLB draft. Since the initial draft took place Kleinknecht has been working hard, and in return has been able to move his way up through the lower ranks of the minor leagues.

Kleinknecht spent the first 30 games of his 2011 season with Single-A Rome, before finishing out the season with High-A Lynchburg. In that time, Kleinknecht recorded 88 hits in 113 games played. Of those 88 hits, 19 found the gap for doubles and 11 flew over the wall for home runs. Not bad for just his second professional season.

Barrett Kleinknecht–prospect in the Atlanta Braves organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence?

Since I can remember I have loved baseball. My dad has been coaching high school baseball for 36 years and I had the privilage of playing for him, so he’s probably my biggest influence.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Scott Rolen because he played the game hard but stayed out of the spotlight while winning numerous gold gloves and playing in numerous all star games.

3.) You signed with the Braves after being drafted in the 12th round of 2010. What was the process like for you? Where were you when you found out? Initial thoughts?

Pretty much a cut and dry process with being drafted. I was actually hitting with a summer league team when I got the call. It didn’t kick in untill I finished hitting and had around 80 missed calls, and close to 70 text messages.

4.) This past season was your second year of professional ball. What do you feel went well? What do you feel you need to work on for 2012?

I play every position on the field besides pitcher, so being able to compete at the pro level at all of those positions takes a bunch of work and dedication. I didn’t have many errors at all, so defensively I was set. Offensively I need to work on being more patient and hit to the situation.

5.) When’s the first time you were asked for your autograph? Oddest thing you’ve ever signed?

Haha, in college I was on the front of my town’s phonebook, so my sophmore year in college. Probably a cell phone or a flip flop.

6.) Favorite thing to do on an off day during the season?

Fish or shoot guns.

7.) Favorite food?

My grandmas cooking, or just a good southern meal.

8.) Favorite baseball movie? Why?

The Rookie, because it shows that if you love something you should never give it up.

9.) You’re very active on twitter. What do you feel are the advantages and disadvantages of being a ballplayer on twitter?

Biggest advantage is interaction with fans and friends to show them that pro athletes are real people just like everyone else. We (pro athletes) dont understand why people ask for our autographs, but from a fans standpoint autographs make us feel like we are apart of the game.

10.) What advice would you give to kids who are just starting out, that dream of playing professional ball one day?

If you love it, persue it; but dont think it will be an easy road. You lose a lot of friends, but you make new ones and you have to make a ton of sacrifices if you want to be good at it. Don’t let anyone outwork you but when it all comes down to it you have to have fun. After all, baseball is a game.

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Big thanks to Barrett Kleinknecht for answering my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @bkleinknecht

Ryan Braun Wins His Appeal

When it was reported back in December of last year that Ryan Braun had tested positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s) the baseball world was stunned. Now that Braun has successfully appealed the accusation that he had taken PED’s (the first player in MLB history to do so) the baseball world is stunned yet again.

First of all, before I get into my thoughts and opinions, I want to take a moment to say that this should never of been leaked in the first place. Whether Braun had taken PED’s or not, the person who leaked the results had no business doing so. It’s likely that it will never be found out who spilled the beans, but if it is ever found out that person should be fired for all of the problems they caused. But I digress.

Braun has been adamant since the initial report was made that he has never taken any PED’s. He continued with the confidence during today’s press conference in which he made it clear that he won his appeal because the truth was on his side.

In all realitly, it was never determined whether or not he took PED’s. All that was determined was that proper protocol wasn’t followed in testing the sample from Braun. According to Braun, the sample was taken on October 1st, however wasn’t delivered to FedEx until October 3rd. Proper protocol states that test samples are to be delivered to FedEx the day that they are taken. Braun won his appeal due to the uncertainty of what could’ve been done to the test sample from the time it was taken to the time it was dropped off at FedEx. In Braun’s own words the testing process is “fatally flawed”, and I couldn’t agree more.

Braun having his 50-game suspension lifted is one of the reasons I haven’t posted my blog entry in which I’m going to announce my predictions on how I think each team will do in the upcoming MLB season. Had Braun of been suspended, the Brewers would have had no chance whatsoever to win the NL Central. Now, with Braun back in the line up for the full season, I think they’re going to be real contenders in their division.

At first glance you’d find yourself thinking that the loss of Fielder would hinder the Brewers enough to keep them from defending their title of NL Central winners from 2011. You’d also find yourself thinking that the 2011 World Champion Cardinals would overtake that spot, but with the loss of Albert Pujols, I’d say both teams are about even.

Pujols and Fielder are similar in the fact that they both make major impacts each and every night. They’re both power sluggers and are the best in the business at driving in runs. Combine the loss of Fielder with the loss of Braun for 50 games, and I could easily see the Brew Crew finishing 3rd or worst in the NL Central division. With Braun however, I think they have a good chance of winning the division for the second straight season. That’s how important Braun is to his team.

In conclusion, whether you agree or disagree with the outcome, what’s done is done. You’ll just have to put up with watching Ryan Braun do his thing for an extra 50 games than everyone thought he’d being appearing in at this time on Thursday.

Bryce Harper Ready For Big Leagues?

Ever since Bryce Harper appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2009, he’s been all people could talk about. From the good, of being the first overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, to the bad, of blowing a kiss to the opposing pitcher, Bryce Harper has been in the news for quite a while now.

When it comes down to it, love him or hate him, the kid is good; extremely good in fact. But I’m guessing you already knew that, and I don’t want to waste my time, and yours, by writing about the same information that’s been circulated over and over again by the media. So instead of rattling off a bunch of stats, and including a bunch of quotes from Harper himself, I’m just going to write about what’s on my mind, giving you my own opinion of baseball’s ‘The Chosen One’.

If you follow me on twitter then you know I’m not the biggest Harper fan in the world. But not liking Harper has NO influence whatsoever on my opinion of whether or not I feel he’s ready for the majors. Even if I was the biggest Harper fan in the world, and had a tatoo of his face on my arm, my opinion that he’s not quite ready for MLB would be the same. My problem with bringing Harper up for Opening Day is that I feel that the Nationals are rushing him. Harper says he’s ready, but I mean come on; that doesn’t tell you anything. If I was in Harper’s position I’d tell everyone I was ready too. Just to let you know, when I say “ready” I’m not just talking about whether or not his skills are good enough, I’m talking about whether he’s mature enough. After all, he’s just 19 years old, and has only played in 109 professional games, between A and AA ball. If it was up to me I’d start Harper out in AAA and then possibly call him up in June or so depending on how he was doing. No need to rush the guy. Let him get in some more at bats, and mature a little more, before bringing him up to hopefully dominate in the NL East.

According to reports, the fate of Harper rests on how he performs in Spring Training. Apparently if he does well he’ll more than likely be on the Opening Day roster for the Nationals. Obviously having Harper AND Strasburg on your roster is sure to attract attention, which in turn will increase attendance levels. But if the Nat’s are just bringing Harper up to draw more attention to the team I think they’re making a mistake. Harper seems to have this ‘I can’t fail’ mentality, when in fact he’s human, and thus can, and will, fail at some point down the road.

Harper said in an interview with Harold Reynolds that he doesn’t want to get the call up and get sent back down to AAA a month later, and then repeat the process a few more times before becoming a permanent fixture in the nation’s capital. Harper says he wants to get to the majors and stay there, with his ultimate goal being to win the NL Rookie of the Year award. In my opinion he stands a much better chance of doing that if he’s called up a few months down the road. Patience is a virtue.

My Review of 2011 Topps Triple Threads Baseball

First of all I’d like to give a shout out to baseballfactorysets.com. I ordered my box of 2011 Topps Triple Threads baseball on Sunday night, and it arrived this afternoon. Considering the fact that it was coming from Houston, TX, (to North Carolina) that’s EXTREMELY fast shipping. They’re also reasonably priced when compared to all of the other sports card websites out there. So be sure to check them out.

Now, my thoughts on Triple Threads itself is that you have a great shot of getting your money back ($220 a box) but even if you don’t, you’ll end up with some awesome cards. Each box has two mini boxes in them, and inside each mini box is five base cards, one auto card, and one relic card. (One of the relics will be a triple relic, and one of the auto cards will be a triple relic auto.)

In terms of the product, this is what the box itself looks like:

As stated, there are two mini boxes:

Of the two boxes, here are the base cards I recieved:

Green base cards are numbered to 249.

Bronze base cards are numbered to 625.

Red base cards are numbered to 1500.

Five base cards per mini box comes out to 10 base cards total. The base cards are numbered to a maximum of 1500.

Here are the hits I pulled:

Brian McCann jersey card, numbered 10/36.

Hanley Ramirez triple relic card, numbered 9/18.

Neftali Felix auto-jersey card, numbered 20/25.

Mike Stanton auto-triple relic card, numbered 2/18.

Considering that the highest numbered card I hit was numbered to 36, I’d say this was a pretty good box. So if you have the money to spend, and are looking for guaranteed hits, this product is for you. I’d give it a rating of 8 out of 10.

Q and A With Billy Bullock

Billy Bullock was drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Dogers, however elected not to sign. He went onto have a successful college career with the Florida Gators, and was subsequently drafted his Junior year by the Minnesota Twins in the 2nd round of the 2009 draft. After a couple of successful years in the Twins organization–in which he moved from Single-A to Double-A in a matter of a year–Bullock was traded to the Atlanta Braves organization. Since the trade Bullock has made quick progress, working his way up through the ranks, as after starting the 2011 season with Double-A Mississippi, he ended the year with Tiple-A Gwinnett.

The 6′ 6″, 225 pound, power throwing righty tops the gun in the upper nineties. The ability to throw the heater past batters as well as his ability to get outs when he needs them, is what I feel will enable Bullock to hit the big leagues fairly quickly. The Braves can always use another elite relief pitcher, and I think Billy Bullock could be exactly that if he can keep up the hard work ethic and determination.

Billy Bullock–relief pitcher in the Atlanta Braves organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball?

I started playing at three, in tee ball, and haven’t stopped since.

2.) Did you always want to be a pitcher?

No, at first I wanted to be a position player but quickly realized I couldn’t hit. So that made that change a no brainer.

3.) What made you go to college over starting your career after high school?

I wanted to go to college from the beginning but it made it easier when I didn’t get drafted where I wanted to out of high school.

4.) What does it feel like to be having such success this early in your career?

It’s a really good feeling knowing that so many people have confidence in my ability to push me and promote me thru the system, although no real success is had until the day I get to the big leagues. Then I can look back on my minor league career and access success. Until then, it is just part of the process.

5.) Do you collect anything? If so, what? And why?

I don’t really collect anything other than sneakers. I’ve been known to be called a sneakerhead before.

6.) If you weren’t playing baseball, what would you be doing?

I’d probably be working to overtake day to day operations of my grandfathers farm and nursery operation.

7.) Favorite TV show?

Entourage.

8.) Favorite car?

’70 Chevelle SS.

9.) Favorite player growing up? Why?

Ozzie Smith for the passion and the love. He played the game with each and every day.

10.) Favorite moment of your baseball career thus far?

Sending Miami home two straight years in the NCAA tournament. Nothing like in state rivalries.

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Big thanks to Billy Bullock for answering my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @BillyBullock

Tim Wakefield Retires From Baseball

Long time knuckleballer for the Boston Red Sox, Tim Wakefield, announced earlier today that he’s retiring from the game of baseball. You had a feeling that this news was coming, as Wakefield is fairly old for a Major League ball player, at 45, but I thought he’d at least last another season or so. Although ballplayers rarely play until age 45, the fact that Wakefield used his knuckleball as the primary pitch of his arsenal enabled him to extend his career due to the limited stress put on his arm. Wakefield’s retirement makes R.A. Dickey, of the New York Mets, the lone active MLB Pitcher with the knuckleball as his main pitch.

Tim Wakefield broke into the major leagues on July 31st, 1992 with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After a successful first season with the Pirates in which he went 8-1 with a 2.15 ERA, Wakefield quickly lost his stellar stuff as he went on to go 6-11 with a 5.61 ERA in the 1993 season. After spending most of the next season in the Minors (due to the poor 1993 season) the Pirates apparently felt he was a lost cause as they released him when the season was over. A mere 6 days after Wakefield was released by the Pirates he was signed by the Boston Red Sox. The rest is history.

CAREER STATS AND INFORMATION

Tim Wakefield had a great MLB career no mater how you slice it. He recorded his 200th career win on September 13rd of this year. 186 of those wins came in a Red Sox uniform, which puts him third all-time for Red Sox team wins, behind Cy Young and Roger Clemens who had 192 in their Boston careers. Of those 186 wins he achieved while playing for Boston, 97 came at Fenway park–second all time behind Roger Clemens who had 100 wins at Fenway. One stat that Wakefield leads in is innings pitched in a Red Sox uniform. Wakefield spent 3,006 innings on the mound as a Red Sox player–229 more than Roger Clemens who had 2,777. Wakefield was also part of the 2004 and 2007 World Series winning teams. So add that to his resumé.

A lesser known fact about Tim Wakefield, however far more important than stats, is how involved he is in the community. Wakefield was nominated for the Roberto Clemente award 10 times in his career, and won the award in 2010. Although Wakefield will never play another game at Fenway park, his involvement with the community is going to continue for years to come.

To sum it all up I’ll end this entry with a few lines from Tim Wakefield’s retirement press conference held earlier today:

This has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do…..So it’s with a heavy heart that I stand here today…..and I’m sad to say that I have decided to retire from this wonderful game of baseball…..I have to thank the Red Sox fans. You are the greatest fans in the world. I have enjoyed every minute of every game I have ever played for you…..I was  fortunate enough to play 17 years here. It’s been a great one. I’ve been very blessed.

Yoenis Cespedes Signs With Oakland

When I woke up Monday morning the rumor was still that the Miami Marlins were the front-running candidates to sign Cuban phenom, Yoenis Cespedes. That’s why it was a huge shock to me, and most of the baseball world, when it was announced that Cespedes had signed a 4-year, 36 million dollar deal, with the Oakland Athletics. As far as the move goes, I’m not sure what the logic is behind it, on both Billy Beane, and Yoenis Cespedes’s part. As far as Billy Beane goes, we all know this guy makes crazy moves, but in my opinion this move is crazy even for him. The Athletics traded away three of their best pitchers (Trevor Cahill, Andrew Bailey and Gio Gonzalez) during the offseason. Replacing them with a big bat will only go so far in helping your team. You need starting pitching, as well as a good offensive lineup to help your team win games.

The Athletics did pick up pitching prospect Jarrod Parker from the Diamondbacks, but to me they still need one more guy on the roster to help this team be even slightly more successful than they were last season. Manny Ramirez could be the addition they need, as rumor has it that Oakland is still looking to sign him. Although I feel Ramirez’s career in MLB has run it’s course I’m not going to pitch a fit if he ends up signing with the Athletics; or any team for that matter. I think it’d be interesting to see whether or not he still has the ability to help a team win, or do just the opposite.

Moving on, let me take a minute to tell you how I feel the Yoenis Cepedes signing will effect the team. First of all, I’d like to point out (in case you’ve forgotten) that the Athletics finished next to last this past season, just beating out the Mariners. I feel that the Mariners will flip flop spots with the Athletics this year. Reason being, the Mariners have several young guys that I feel will come through big for them this season. The main guy to watch being Jesus Montero, who was traded by the Yankees. If Montero can put up big numbers in Seattle I can see the Mariners doing well this season. As far as the Athletics go, I just don’t see enough talent there to give them a chance at coming in any higher than last place in the AL West division. But Oakland, if you’re reading this (haha), prove me wrong.

If you’ve got a minute (or 20) take the time to watch ‘The Showcase’ video of Yoenis Cespedes, if you haven’t already seen it. The guy’s in freakishly good shape:

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO ON YOUTUBE