Sunday will mark the 16th and final game I will attend of the 2015 MiLB season.
It’s certainly been a fun year, and it seemed to fly by. But with neither the Mudcats or the Bulls (my two local teams) set to make the playoffs this season, Sunday’s game between the Durham Bulls and Charlotte Knights will be the last one for me this year.
The previous fifteen games I’ve gone to so far this year were all exciting, and saw me heading to ballparks in Hickory, Greensboro, Durham, Zebulon and Myrtle Beach. Throughout the year, and my travels, I managed to get around 100 autographs again this year, and I’ll be detailing them all in full within the next week or two.
With the Bulls schedule for next year already released, I’ve already been looking ahead to the 2016 season, trying to project which players will be coming to town. From the way I’m viewing things, next year could be even more eventful than 2015, but that’s a long time down the road, and anything can happen.
When Derek Jeter homered for his 3,000th career hit, the moment was magical. When Alex Rodriguez did the same on Friday night, the moment was controversial. The fans cheered, they acknowledged the historic moment, but there was a lingering feeling that things just weren’t the same.
Although Rodriguez has played in 63 games since returning from a season long performance enhancing drug suspension in 2014, the air around A-Rod is still rather bad. The majority of baseball fans have vowed to never get over his PED use and don’t see the milestone as much to celebrate. While I agree to an extent, A-Rod’s 3,000th hit is still something to stop and think about for a moment.
After all, only 28 other players in the history of Major League Baseball have ever recorded 3,000 or more hits in their careers — 28 out of over 18,000 players. In addition, Mike Schmidt and Derek Jeter are the only other players to record their 3,000th hits on a home run. So the hit by A-Rod shouldn’t be completely overlooked.
But at the same time, the moment won’t ever be seen in the same light as it should have been if A-Rod had remained clean. Rodriguez is creeping up towards 700 home runs, and is one of only five players to record 3,000+ hits and 500+ homers, joining Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Eddie Murray and Rafael Palmeiro. He’s one of the all-time greats. Rodriguez should be getting celebrations around baseball, but instead he’s getting booed by many of the fans everywhere he goes.
And rightfully so. I don’t agree that a player who recorded 3,000 hits clean and one who used PED’s throughout their career should be looked at in the same light, even if it is a remarkably rare achievement. But, thankfully, it shouldn’t be too long before we get the chance to wholeheartedly celebrate a player reaching 3,000 career hits: Ichiro Suzuki, who is just 114 hits away.
For the first time in awhile, the Cubs could be relevant in 2015.
A big reason for that is their young, future superstars who showed signs of their potential in the Cubs’ Spring Training game against the Indians on Tuesday afternoon.
Hitting back-to-back-to-back home runs off of the Indians’ Trevor Bauer — a player who really needs to figure out once and for all if he’s ever going to be the star pitcher he was once hyped as –, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant each gave the Cubs reason to look forward to this year.
But there is a really good chance that Bryant (the number 2 prospect in all of baseball) may not begin the season in Chicago. For several reasons — none of which really involve talent level — the Cubs have made known that their likely plan is to send Bryant to Triple-A for the first portion of the season. To me, although I can comprehend the reasoning, that could turn out to be a mistake.
I understand that leaving Bryant in the minors for a few weeks allows them another full year of control over him, and that leaving him in the minors through June would save the Cubs some money. But that’s major production that the Cubs could truly use this year, in my opinion, if they want a true shot at the postseason.
The Cubs owe it to their fans, after so long without a World Series, to put out the best team possible on every given day of the regular season each and every year. In order for that to happen, the Cubs need to have Kris Bryant playing third base on Opening Day.
Due to the fact that the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star ballots are asking fans to once again vote for who they’d like to see participate in the home run derby (unfortunately, the votes are only a poll, and don’t actually count towards anything), it hasn’t yet been announced who the derby captains will be, as it had been by now each of the past several years. And therefore, not knowing when it will be revealed, I didn’t want to wait until then to give my take on who I’d most like to see in the derby, along with my reasoning for each pick.
While there are some players that I left off, for one reason or another, I feel the players I selected would make for a great 2014 home run derby, as they all have to ability to hit a good amount of home runs as well as doing so for big power. With the 2014 home run derby now around three weeks away, here are the players I’d most enjoy seeing take part:
Nelson Cruz: One of the game’s most underrated power hitters, Nelson Cruz would be a fantastic pick for the home run derby next month. Currently leading all of Major League Baseball in home runs, Cruz would likely make it deep into the derby, possibly even reaching the final round. His ability to hit home runs seemingly at will and the overall power he possesses would make things very interesting in the derby.
Edwin Encarnacion: After breaking out back in 2012, hitting 42 home runs that season, Edwin Encarnacion has been in a groove ever since. Going on an absolute tear in May, Encarnacion has cooled down a bit as of late, but he would definitely thrive in a home run derby atmosphere. Though Target Field isn’t necessarily a hitter’s park, Encarnacion could easily make it one.
Jose Abreu: Although Jose Abreu is a rookie, he’s already done more than enough to prove that he belongs at the big league level. Coming over from Cuba to the White Sox, Abreu set a rookie record for home runs in his first month, and despite a minor setback due to an injury, Abreu hasn’t let up. If Abreu is in the derby, along with his phenom status and incredible power, he will be someone to watch closely.
Yoenis Cespedes: Winning the home run derby last season, Yoenis Cespedes is somewhat overlooked, playing for the Athletics, but he’s truly a major power threat every time he steps to the plate. Although I don’t feel he will win two years in a row, especially if the other players on my list are going up against him, Cespedes could very well surprise me, as he did in 2013.
Giancarlo Stanton: If Giancarlo Stanton is one of the sluggers in the 2014 derby, I truly don’t think any other hitter stands even a slight chance. The guy is simply amazing, with arguably the most power in all of baseball. When Stanton hits a home run — which is often for him — you immediately know it’s gone. Stanton would put on an unbelievable show in the derby in a few weeks.
Evan Gattis: The true definition of a natural power hitter, Evan Gattis has raw power and can absolutely crush a ball when he squares it up. Although he likely wouldn’t make it terribly deep, with the immense talent that’s in the derby each year, he would hit his share of amazing blasts. Gattis isn’t necessarily a top pick for the derby, but I’d love to see him participate, just to see what he can do.
Carlos Gomez: While some of Carlos Gomez’s on field antics have rubbed people the wrong way, it’s a fact that he’s super-talented. Gomez isn’t a guy who hits an extremely high amount of home runs each year, but put in an environment where the only goal is to hit a homer, I think Gomez would do well. Given the underlying power that he has, Gomez might actually make it deep into the derby.
Yasiel Puig: As with Carlos Gomez, not everyone appreciates the flair that Yasiel Puig shows on a daily basis, but he’s undeniably one of the most exciting young players on the big league level today. Coming up as a rookie from Cuba in 2013, Puig helped to turn around a struggling Dodgers team, and I feel he’d put on a show in the derby (as long as he doesn’t do a bat flip after every home run).
So, those are my picks for who I’d like to see in the 2014 home run derby, up at Target Field, on July 14th. Odds are that not all of them will be selected, but I truly hoped the majority of them are in the derby. Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Who would you like to see participate? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
After starting from a level playing field on Opening Day, there are always certain teams who find themselves falling lower and lower in the standings as a given season goes on. Though it can vary from year to year, with teams having an off season compared to their normal standards, for the last several seasons it has been two main teams: the Cubs and the Astros.
Currently sitting dead last in their respective divisions through a fourth of the season played, and with no signs that things will be changing in the near future, even with a good amount of the season left to go, it’s once again not looking too good for either the Cubs or the Astros. However, despite neither having finished with a winning record since 2009, their fortunes could be changing over the coming years. One thing they both have in common is their strong farm systems, which are loaded with top prospects that will be coming up to help out down the road.
For the Cubs, having not reached the postseason since 2008, they currently have prospects such as Javier Baez, who’s off to a rough start to 2014 after dominating last year; Kris Bryant, who’s expected to have 40 home run power in the majors; and Albert Almora, who is a few years away but is likely to have a big impact once he reaches Chicago. Those players, combined with those they have now, should make for a good team beginning around 2016 and continuing for the many years beyond.
To go along with their already decent major league team, the Astros, who haven’t made the postseason since 2005, have a ton of talent coming their way, including Carlos Correa, who is expected to be an all around fantastic player; Mark Appel, who’s likely to get a late season call up if he’s performing well; and Jonathan Singleton, who possesses some above average power. After losing over 100 games and being the worst team in baseball as of late, the Astros could see things turning around very soon.
The only good thing about performing so poorly each season is that you receive a high pick in the following year’s draft, with it looking likely that the Astros will take Carlos Rodon as the number one overall pick in the upcoming 2014 draft (the Cubs have the fourth overall pick.) But even so, your top picks in the draft, which subsequently become your top prospects, don’t always pan out and reach the big league level. And even when they do, for some players, it takes them a bit of time to adjust once they get the call up.
The most recent example of that being George Springer, who has hit a mere .222 with 3 home runs so far this season with the Astros after blasting 37 homers to go along with a .303 batting average as part of their farm system in 2013. Though he’s predicted to still have a great career, sometimes it just takes awhile for players to make the adjustment to big league pitching, no matter how good they are.
And therefore, while I’m not saying either the Astros or the Cubs will be winning the World Series in the coming years, I do feel that with their high level of talent from the minors on its way they will become much more competitive than they currently are, having to settle with last place finishes year after year.
With it being nearly equal in terms of current talent, and taking prospect depth into consideration, it’s somewhat difficult to predict which of the teams will be the best half a decade from now. But if I had to choose, I’d likely go with the Cubs, even though the Astros should be a lot better as well. It’s truly too close to call, and that’s something to look forward to if you’re a fan of either team — or just a baseball fan in general.
Who do you think will be the better team in five years?
When Billy Hamilton stole over 100 bases in 2011, he caught the attention of numerous people. When Hamilton broke the all-time minor league single-season stolen base record in 2012 by swiping 155 bags, he earned the respect of baseball fans across the country. And now that Hamilton has reached the major league level, with sky high expectations, he has the entire baseball world watching his every at-bat.
However, while Hamilton has the potential to be a star, he hasn’t been able to get things going so far this season, batting .231 with 9 stolen bases. Nonetheless, there are still a ton of people who feel Hamilton will eventually become one of the all-time best base stealers, even with the slow start.
But there’s a player very similar to Hamilton who isn’t getting the same recognition.
Dee Gordon is on the verge of a breakout season, with him batting in the mid 300’s, including 12 stolen bases, and the speed he possesses rivals that of Billy Hamilton. From turning a ground ball into a double, to legging out a triple on what would be a double for most other players, Gordon seems to do something exciting each and every night that makes you shake your head in disbelief.
Despite never stealing more than 73 bases in the minors, Gordon can certainly run with the best of them, even if he never broke any big time records like Hamilton, and thus doesn’t get the major headlines.
The one thing that Gordon has shown the capability of doing better than Hamilton on the major league level is getting on base consistently, whether it be via a hit or a walk. In the end, it doesn’t matter how much speed you have, if you can’t put the ball in play it does you no good. (As they say, you can’t steal first.) But that isn’t a problem for Gordon, as he has shown that he can hit for a high average in addition to displaying a little pop every now and then.
So, while you should definitely watch Billy Hamilton to see if he can go on a hot streak and begin to rack up incredible numbers, be sure to keep an eye on Dee Gordon as well. While he likely will cool down a bit as the season goes on, if his first few games are any indication, this could be a very special year for the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter.
We’ve had the Opening Series, held down in Australia on March 22nd and 23rd; we’ve had Opening Night, held down in San Diego last night; and now, after so much anticipation leading up to the year, we’re set for Opening Day — an unofficial holiday for millions of baseball fans around the country. This is the day we’ve all been waiting for, ever since the final out of the World Series was recorded in October of last year.
Thirteen total games are on tab for today, with the Yankees, Astros, Dodgers and Padres being the only teams not in action. The games will take place all throughout the day, from 1:05 Eastern, with the Pirates taking on the Cubs, to the Mariners going up against the Angels, at 10:05, making the entire day exciting.
Not only is Opening Day fun because of the official start of the 162-game baseball regular season, but it also stands out as one of the few times you ever see every single teams pitching ace on the mound around the country. Every team starts from zero, with hopes of making the postseason (some with better odds than others) and putting your best pitcher on the mound is a great way to kick off the year on a high note; knowing that things may not look too good towards the end of the year.
With so many changes this past offseason, this could be one of the most intriguing Opening Days in years. While teams and players have had over a month of Spring Training games to show off their potential, those games are basically meaningless. You never know how individual players, and teams as a whole, will fare for the entire length of a season. That’s what makes a given season so entertaining — the unknown factor.
So, make it a point today — if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably planning to anyhow — to sit back and watch a least a little baseball at some point. With every game played from here on out taking teams closer and closer to the World Series in October, there’s nothing quite like Opening Day baseball.
Ever since MLB.com debuted the fantasy baseball style game ‘Beat the Streak’ back in 2001, fans all around the country have been doing their very best to pick up some cash, while at the same time “beating” Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak of 56 games. With a 57-game hit streak of sorts needed to beat the streak and claim the money ($10,000 being the top prize back in 2001), fans have developed all kinds of strategies that they felt certain would help them win the game.
Truly incredible when you think about it, that not one person has even come close to winning ‘Beat the Streak’, with a fan back in 2007 coming the closest of anyone, amassing a hit streak of 49 games. And therefore, since 2001, MLB.com has upped the prize money. For the past several years, the top prize for breaking the hit streak has been 5.6 million dollars (yes, MILLION). That’s a pretty good prize for a free online baseball game.
The rules of the game are fairly straight forward: Pick up to two players a day that you think are the most likely to get a hit. If the player(s) you selected get a hit, your streak climbs. If, however, your player — or either player, if you pick two in a day — doesn’t get a hit, your streak falls all the way back down to zero. That can be discouraging, especially if you were in a groove and had a good streak going; making this a fun, but somewhat stressful, and seemingly impossible, game to play.
Nonetheless, MLB.com is doing its very best to help someone win the game. Debuting last season was a Dunkin Donuts mulligan, which you could use only once throughout the entire season, but that saved any streak lower than 10, should your chosen player not get a hit. This season, they increased it to a 15-game hit streak, and that could possibly make the mulligan an even bigger help.
But you don’t necessarily have to come close to beating the streak to win some sort of prize. For the first time, the game is offering scratch off cards (electronic ones) that give you the chance of winning MLB game tickets, Dunkin’ Donuts gift cards, MLB.TV subscriptions, merchandise and much more. With all the possible prizes and neat stuff you can get, this year’s ‘Beat the Streak’ could turn out to be the best one yet.
While the odds may seem slim, they’re actually your best odds to win this amount of money. It’s not easy to win ‘Beat the Streak’ by any means, but with your odds of winning 5.6 million dollars being less than one in a million, by many accounts, you stand a better chance of winning this game than you do your local lottery. (Unlike the lottery, where you get one shot, you get multiple chances in a game for your player to get a hit. )
So give it a shot. It doesn’t cost anything, so you have nothing to lose. And who knows, maybe, with a little luck, you’ll be the first person ever to beat the streak and take home the money. That’s definitely worth playing for.
There are multiple teams around Major League Baseball that are currently looking to sign another pitcher to add to their rotation, and there is no pitcher on the market better than Masahiro Tanaka. Going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season in the Japanese League, Tanaka is being sought after by numerous teams, and has until January 24th to make a decision.
Though multiple organizations around the country are reportedly interested in Tanaka, the New York Yankees are the team that could use him the most, in the minds of many, of the teams that can actually afford to make the deal. The Yankees have made a few good moves so far this offseason, and signing Tanaka to add to their somewhat weak rotation would make an immediate impact for the 2014 season.
Joining a rotation of C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Hiroki Kuroda, among others, Tanaka would likely be the Yankees’ number two pitcher, behind Sabathia, and could potentially become their number one. Tanaka certainly has the talent, though there’s always the risk that he could fail in the Major Leagues, as has happened to multiple Japanese pitchers in the past. Most people, however, don’t see that occuring with Tanaka, as he has incredible stuff.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean signing Tanaka is the right thing to do.
While the Yankees are likely going to be able to use the money previously owed to Alex Rodriguez, who is going to miss all of the 2014 season, they need to look at the big picture, in my opinion. Yes, picking up Tanaka would make them a good team, but signing other players with the money would make them a really good team.
Tanaka is going to take a lot of money to sign — probably leading them to overspend to beat out the competition. To me, it would better serve the Yankees to use the A-Rod money to sign multiple, cheaper free agents to fill their needs, such as their closer role, as well as other starting pitching options.
The Yankees are rumored to be interested in Grant Balfour, who was picked up by the Orioles last month before having his deal canceled after failing their physical, reportedly due to knee and wrist issues. Assuming Balfour is actually healthy, the Yankees should be able to get him for a decent price, and, while he’s no Mariano Rivera, he would do a great job at closing out games for them, posting 38 saves with a 2.59 ERA last season.
As far as starting pitchers go, Ubaldo Jimenez would be a great alternate option for the Yankees, as I’ve felt for awhile. Though Jimenez has had his share of ups and downs over his career, he has the potential to be a good pitcher, showing that ability over the last half of the 2013 season in which he was tremendous. Should Jimenez have a bounce back year in 2014, he could easily be a steal by the Yankees.
All things considered, there are several options for the Yankees moving forward this offseason, many of which don’t include Japanese phenom Masahiro Tanaka.
Therefore, if I were the Yankees, I’d have to pass on Tanaka.
Things haven’t slowed down a bit since my blog post yesterday on the latest major trades and free agent signings. Numerous deals have taken place since, including Jarrod Saltalamacchia going to the Marlins, and Justin Morneau heading to the Rockies, as well as multiple other transactions. But I’m not focused on those. The only signing on my mind at the moment is the deal the New York Yankees gave to Jacoby Ellsbury. It’s a deal that Ellsbury would’ve been crazy to turn down, and that, in my opinion, the Yankees were crazy to offer.
Ellsbury received a seven-year, 153 million dollar deal on Tuesday to play with the Yankees through 2020 — the third largest contract for an outfielder in MLB history. For a player who is injury prone — missing a good part of this past season, and playing in just 74 games in 2012, and a mere 18 in 2010 — this isn’t a very smart deal in the long run.
But it’s not just the health of Ellsbury that makes this a bad deal in my mind. Ellsbury isn’t a player worth over 20 million dollars a year, given his career stats.
In Ellsbury’s career best season, in 2011, he batted .321 with 32 home runs and 105 RBI’s to go along with 39 stolen bases. That’s a player worth this type of money. But considering the fact that Ellsbury hasn’t had another season even close to 2011 — his highest other seasons being 9 homers in 2008 and 2013, and 60 RBI’s in 2009 — I don’t feel he’s worth anywhere near that. The one thing you get with Ellsbury is speed, having stolen 52 bases last season, but that’s about it on a consistent basis.
In addition to the amount of money, at thirty years old, Ellsbury is too old for a contract of this length, especially given his injury history. If Ellsbury was an everyday player, playing 160+ games every season, it would go a long way in convincing me that this deal will be worth it. But for a player with a career best 158 games in a season, and an average of 113 games a season for his career (not including his rookie year), this deal is bound to disappoint both the Yankees and their fan base, who need something to get excited about.
The Red Sox really don’t lose anything by Ellsbury signing elsewhere. They have a good young prospect, Jackie Bradley Jr., who, while he doesn’t have the same speed as Ellsbury, is nearly equal in every other aspect of his game. Bradley should be able to stay healthier than Ellsbury has been able to, and will be a great asset to the Red Sox for years to come.
While the Yankees are the Yankees and seem to be sticking with their historical trend of spending money for the players they want, I feel this is money wasted. Sure, you get a slightly above average player when healthy, and an impact player, at least for now, at the leadoff spot, but this likely ends any possible run for Carlos Beltran, who is reportedly close to a deal with the Royals.
The Yankees could’ve used the money to sign a player of Beltran’s caliber (if not Beltran himself) to an outfield spot. But instead, they overpaid for Ellsbury. Nonetheless, the Yankees are supposedly still looking to lock up Robinson Cano at second base, so they have some more money to burn, apparently, even after spending a combined 238 million on Ellsbury and Brian McCann. So, who knows what they’ll do from here?
Despite my pessimism, I truly hope that Jacoby Ellsbury proves me wrong and makes this deal well worth it for the Yankees. If he can have a fully healthy next few seasons, and subsequently post good numbers as their likely leadoff hitter, the Yankees could have a decent 2014 and beyond, especially with newly acquired Brian McCann behind the plate.
But, from the way I’m viewing things, I just don’t see that happening.