Results tagged ‘ Baseball ’
It’s been quite awhile since people have whole heartedly believed in the Cubs.
But let’s face it. They haven’t had a reason to believe for the past several years. With the Cubs having failed to even make the postseason since 2008, not having made a World Series appearance since 1945, and currently holding a 107-year World Championship drought, the Cubs’ fan base has been nothing but disappointed for a long time.
The Cubs, however, have finally put together what could prove to be a formidable team that fans could actually get behind. In fact, many Cubs fans are getting so behind this year’s roster that they have visions of a World Series title to round out the coming season. While I like their optimism, and wouldn’t be too stunned if it happened, I don’t think it will necessarily occur in 2015. I think it will be 2016 at the earliest before the World Series becomes a possibility.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t think the Cubs will have an amazing team this year. Although a lot of people are saying that the Cubs are extremely overhyped and stand little chance of doing much of anything this season, I actually believe in the club they have.
First off, their new manager, Joe Maddon, has proven to be one of the best in baseball — not necessarily for his winning records but for his ability to get the most out of each and every one of his players. His addition to the club house will have an immeasurable impact on the Cubs in my mind.
As far as the players themselves are concerned, it’s a talented group of characters the Cubs are going to be putting on the field throughout the season.
The one weakness a lot of people foresee, however, is their pitching staff, consisting of guys like Travis Wood, Tsuyoshi Wada and Kyle Hendricks. While those players aren’t the worst pitchers in baseball, they aren’t Cy Young candidates either. But the Cubs do in fact have a Cy Young caliber pitcher they snatched up this offseason, set to lead the staff every fifth day. Jon Lester, who came over to the Cubs on a 155 million dollar contract, is sure to instantly make the Cubs pitching staff relevant (with their bullpen being decent enough).
Beyond that, the Cubs’ lineup is fairly good as well. Admittedly, it consists of a lot of young, unproven talent, but it’s a good group, nonetheless. Having Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and newly added catcher, Miguel Montero, slotted in the Cubs’ lineup is sure to lead to runs being scored. But it’s the youth of the Cubs that could ultimately lead to a lot of wins in 2015.
With Jorge Soler, Tommy La Stella, Arismendy Alcantara and Javier Baez looking to have breakout seasons — along with uber prospect Kris Bryant, who should be called up shortly into the year — the Cubs’ team is going to be one to reckon with.
However, it’s that very youth and inexperience in a great number of the players that has a lot of people remaining cautious from hopping aboard the Cubs’ bandwagon. After getting their hopes up in the past only to see things come crashing down, many people from around the baseball world refuse to believe that the Cubs stand a chance at making much ground in a division that includes the Cardinals, Reds, Pirates and Brewers.
But it’s not stopping me from predicting the Cubs to have success in 2015.
Maybe the 2015 Cubs aren’t the team that will break the “Curse of the Billy Goat”. Maybe they aren’t even the team that will dominate their division for the better part of the season. But I feel that the Cubs are in fact the team that will surprise the most people this season as they make a run toward the second wild card spot in the National League.
When you think of a magic number for a pitcher in a season the first number that will likely will pop into your head is twenty wins. For a hitter, when you think of a solid season, it likely involves around a .300 average, 20-30 home runs and/or around 100 RBI’s. And when you think of a so called magic number for a team as a whole, the number 100 probably stands as the number that everyone pictures each team shooting for but very few teams hitting.
While a twenty win pitcher occurs seemingly every year, and a player (or several) always reaches the aforementioned magic numbers for a hitter, it is becoming more and more rare for a team to pick up 100 wins in a season. In fact, there hasn’t been a single 100-game winner in all of baseball since the 2011 Phillies. Taking things even deeper, two or more teams haven’t reached the 100-win mark in a single season since 2004, after a streak of multiple 100-game winner from 1998 through 2004 (with the exception of 2000).
It would appear, however, that both droughts could be broken in 2015.
With that in mind, I decided to take a look at the division winners from 2014 — the teams with the best shot at making a strong run in 2015 — and attempt to project how many, if any, of the teams could potentially obtain 100 wins in 2015:
2014 American League Division Winners
East – Orioles (96-66): The Baltimore Orioles completely blew away all of the competition in the American League East last season, winning by a total of twelve games over the second place Yankees. But while they were a terrific ball club last season, things are likely going to take a bit of a downfall in the coming season.
The biggest reason for the fall being that they O’s lost a good chunk of their offense via trades and free agency throughout the past few months. No longer possessing slugger Nelson Cruz, veteran outfielder Nick Markakis or reliever Andrew Miller, things are sort of up in the air for how the Orioles will perform in 2015.
Therefore, even if they surprise some people, I don’t think they’ll be able to pull off the stunning feat of winning 100+ games.
Central – Tigers (90-72): For the Detroit Tigers, they are a particularly intruiging team. For the past couple of years, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have been able to pull off a 100-win season, playing in somewhat of a weaker division, however, the Tigers have disappointed to a degree.
Having a great lineup and pitching staff, the Tigers have recently been in the preseason World Series predictions by a number of people throughout the baseball world. But things just haven’t panned out.
Having lost Max Scherzer — their undeniable ace of the pitching staff — to the Nationals, and with certain players not performing up to their potential, I’d say it’s going to be tough for the Tigers to even hold off the Royals from taking the division crown. A 100-win season was doable over the past few seasons, but the opportunity for them has come and gone.
West – Angels (98-64): The Angels fall into a category much like the Tigers. The slightly more successful version of Detroit, many people saw the Angels winning it all in 2012 after the acquisition of Albert Pujols, but injuries and underperformance in general have caused the Angels to come up short.
Their lineup is there — with the exception of Josh Hamilton, who is a huge question mark — and their pitching is good as well.
The only thing standing in their way are the other teams in the West. The Athletics — despite an offseason deconstruction — always seem to be in the mix, and the Mariners are very good as well. It will be exciting to see what happens.
2014 National League Division Winners
East – Nationals (96-66): Without question, the number one team to watch throughout the 2015 season is the Washington Nationals. After putting together a 96-win season last year — winning the National League East division by a major league best 17 games over the Braves — the Nationals could likely make a run at 100 wins if they put out the exact same roster from 2014. But their roster is better than last season — much better.
Picking up Max Scherzer who has gone 39-8 with a 3.02 ERA over the past two seasons, their pitching staff is the top one or two in all of baseball. If Scherzer can continue to pitch as he has over the recent history of his career, and if supposed phenoms Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg can finally put up super star caliber numbers, the sky is truly the limit for what appears to be an extremely dominant Nationals team.
Central – Cardinals (90-72): I am a strong believer that the National League Central Cubs will make a run at the postseason as soon as 2015, but they by no means will win 100 games. The Cardinals, though, stand a chance, however slight it may be. Given, it would have to be a ten win jump from their record in 2014, the Cardinals are one of those teams that could surprise some people.
With a decent rotation that includes the always reliable Adam Wainwright, and a lineup that possesses All-Star catcher Yadier Molina, who can make any pitcher look like a former Cy Young winner, the Red Birds will win a lot of games moving forward. The division isn’t extremely strong, and their track record has proven that the Cardinals can go on a run with the best of them. Still, it won’t likely add up to a 100-win year for them.
West – Dodgers (94-68): A pitching rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw is always sure to be a terrific one. But the Dodgers’ staff doesn’t begin and end with Kershaw. He’s their best pitcher, no doubt, but the addition of Brandon McCarthy to go along with Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu will go a long way in a 2015 quest for 100+ wins.
But the Dodgers will be without on and off superstar Matt Kemp in the outfield — the hope is that Joc Pederson will fill the role there — and the loss of Dee Gordon and Dan Haren will certainly have an impact. The lack of those players could be enough to keep them from winning the division like they were able to do in 2014.
Nonetheless, despite all of the losses, the pickup of veteran infielder Jimmy Rollins in addition to promising backstop Yasmani Grandal should lead to a decent enough lineup. If I had to guess, though, the Giants will be riding them too closely for the Dodgers to break 100 wins.
In conclusion, while every season is unpredictable, this year could see a 100-game winner (or two) for the first time in four seasons. But even if that doesn’t happen, there are teams such as the Cubs, White Sox and Padres who will make legitimate playoff runs after failing to do so in quite some time. That alone is enough to cause any baseball fan to continue counting down the days until Opening Day.
The annual top 100 prospects list was revealed on Friday night to the baseball world, providing everyone the first glimpse at which minor league players are worth keeping a very close eye on throughout the coming 2015 season.
I’m not sure what it is about prospects that intrigues me so much, but I absolutely love studying over, and basically memorizing, the top 100 prospects list — the stars of tomorrow. I didn’t really get into it until 2012, as that’s when I began to get serious about autograph collecting, and I had to keep up with the prospects to know when a particularly talented player was coming to town. I suppose that’s why I love it so much, as I can’t get autographs from MLB players all that often — living 250 miles from the nearest MLB team — so I have to get them on their way up.
In this blog post, I’m going to tackle the prospects list in chunks (10 prospects at a time), but I’m not going to be talking about them all. That would take far too long, and besides, not every player of the top 100 is going to make an impact at the Major League level in 2015. Therefore, I’m only going to cover the prospects who will likely make it to the big leagues this year; including those who don’t make it out of Spring Training but have a chance of a call up later in the season.
Keep in mind, I’m by no means guaranteeing the players I discuss below will make the major leagues this year; they could get delayed for whatever reason. In addition, there might end up being a few players I don’t mention that end up making it to the big leagues this season. I’m merely giving my own personal opinions as to which players I feel will make it to the bigs in 2015. With that said, let the debating begin:
Steven Moya (100), Manuel Margot (99), Touki Toussaint (98), Alex Gonzalez (97),
Rafael Devers (96), Grant Holmes (95), Lucas Sims (94), Christian Bethancourt (93),
Alen Hanson (92) and Francelis Montas (91).
After seeing some time at the major league level in 2014, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Steven Moya make a return once again right out of the gates in 2015. Given, it’s likely he’ll begin the season in Triple-A, but a mid-to-late-season return is a near guarantee. That also stands as the case for Christian Bethancourt, who made his debut with the Braves last season but struggled a bit in his short time there. With his previous competition, Evan Gattis, now traded away to the Astros, I expect Bethancourt to make a quick return to Atlanta, if he isn’t placed there on Opening Day.
For all the other players on the list, it will likely be a year or two before they arrive on the big stage. While anything is possible — with some players making the jump from Single-A to the majors in one season — a big league debut doesn’t seem imminent in 2015 for the other eight players besides Moya and Bethancourt.
Stephen Piscotty (90), Eduardo Rodriguez (89), Orlando Arcia (88), Jeff Hoffman (87),
Vincent Velasquez (86), Franklin Barreto (85), Miguel Almonte (84), Jake Thompson (83),
Michael Conforto (82) and Aaron Blair (81).
Unlike the last ten prospects, none of these prospects have made it all the way to the majors to this point in their careers. But that’s pretty much guaranteed to change for a few of them, namely Stephen Piscotty and Eduardo Rodriguez. For Piscotty, he very well had a case to make it to the majors in 2014, but he wound up remaining at the Triple-A level all year long. For Rodriguez, while he spent most of 2014 in Double-A, pitching just the playoffs in Triple-A, he has quickly become one of the fastest rising young pitchers in the game today and should see a promotion at some point.
Jake Lamb (80), Kyle Crick (79), Mike Foltynewicz (78), Willy Adames (77),
Tim Anderson (76), Brandon Finnegan (75), Nick Kingham (74), Matt Olson (73),
Brandon Nimmo (72) and Domingo Santana (71).
Jake Lamb played a total of 37 games with the Diamondbacks last season to round out the year, and that’s where he should begin 2015. Likewise, while they won’t start 2015 with their major league clubs, Mike Foltynewicz, Brandon Finnegan and Domingo Santana should spend a great deal of time in the bigs as well, getting the opportunity to show their organizations what they’re capable of. Nick Kingham could potentially make it to the majors as a September callup, but that remains to be seen. It will all depend on how he performs throughout the year.
J.T. Realmuto (70), Matthew Wisler (69), Aaron Judge (68), Sean Newcomb (67),
Steven Matz (66), Daniel Robertson (65), Reese McGuire (64), Kevin Plawecki (63),
Trea Turner (62) and Justin O’Conner (61).
J.T. Realmuto is the only player of the ten that saw major league time last season, and he stands as the only player that could see more big league time to begin the year in 2015. Even so, it’s more likely the case that Realmuto, along with Matthew Wisler and Kevin Plawecki on the list, will begin the season in the minors, with a late season big league call up always being a possibility for each of them.
Kyle Freeland (60), David Dahl (59), Kyle Zimmer (58), Albert Almora (57),
Sean Manaea (56), Maikel Franco (55), Nomar Mazara (54), Clint Frazier (53),
A.J. Cole (52) and Austin Hedges (51).
Following a decent season at the Triple-A level, Maikel Franco was promoted to the Phillies to end out the year, but didn’t perform all that well. Nonetheless, he stands a good shot at seeing a lot of playing time with them this year. Another player who could get a good amount of seasoning with their big league team is A.J. Cole. However, being a pitcher, he’ll likely have to serve at a bullpen capacity with the loaded starting rotation the Nationals now possess.
D.J. Peterson (50), Kyle Schwarber (49), Hunter Renfroe (48), C.J. Edwards (47),
Austin Meadows (46), Jorge Alfaro (45), Aaron Sanchez (44), Dalton Pompey (43),
Michael Taylor (42) and Hunter Harvey (41).
The number 44-42 prospects on this list all saw time in the majors this past season, with Aaron Sanchez being the only one to post above average numbers upon their callup. But while Dalton Pompey and Michael Taylor underperformed for their clubs, they should each see themselves back up in the majors at some point. D.J. Peterson also stands a chance at a September call up spot, after the great season he had in 2014. It should be interesting to see if he makes the jump.
Raul Mondesi (40), Braden Shipley (39), Jose Peraza (38), Aaron Nola (37),
Kohl Stewart (36), Eddie Butler (35), Josh Bell (34), Nick Gordon (33),
Jose Berrios (32) and Jameson Taillon (31).
Eddie Butler is the only one of these prospects to have played a single moment at the majors, but a few others will be added to that list in 2015. Braden Shipley, Jose Peraza, Aaron Nola, Jose Berrios and Jameson Taillon should all make their debuts at various points throughout the coming season. They all bring something different to the table, and are all very talented. They’re the type of players that make big impacts for years and years to come.
Mark Appel (30), Alex Meyer (29), Alex Jackson (28), Tyler Kolek (27),
Jesse Winker (26), Andrew Heaney (25), Robert Stephenson (24), Luis Severino (23),
Jorge Soler (22) and J.P. Crawford (21).
Virtually, all but a couple of players from this portion of the list could make the major leagues in 2015, but the most likely are Mark Appel, Alex Meyer, Andrew Heaney, Robert Stephenson and Jorge Soler. Heaney and Soler both spent time in the major leagues in 2014, with both likely starting the year back where they left off. For Appel, Meyer and Stephenson, their major league careers will likely kick off towards the end of the season.
Dylan Bundy (20), Henry Owens (19), Blake Swihart (18), Daniel Norris (17),
Jon Gray (16), Archie Bradley (15), Carlos Rodon (14), Joc Pederson (13),
Tyler Glasnow (12) and Miguel Sano (11).
Talk about a loaded list. Getting down closer to the number one spot brings better and better talent (obviously), with all of these players standing a shot at big league time this year. Though Jon Gray and Tyler Glasnow are long shots, Dylan Bundy, Henry Owens, Daniel Norris, Archie Bradley, Carlos Rodon, Joc Pederson and Miguel Sano will see the big leagues this year, barring injury, with their arrival time differing from player to player.
Noah Syndergaard (10), Joey Gallo (9), Julio Urias (8), Corey Seager (7),
Lucas Giolito (6), Addison Russell (5), Francisco Lindor (4), Carlos Correa (3),
Kris Bryant (2) and Byron Buxton (1).
With the exception of Lucas Giolito and Carlos Correa (and likely Byron Buxton), each one of these players could potentially see big league games this year. From Noah Syndergaard to Corey Seager and all the way down to Kris Bryant (who should’ve been number one, in my opinion), the future of baseball looks to be bright, with some amazingly talented prospects on the not so distant horizon.
Patience is a virtue — especially in baseball.
Max Scherzer proved that on Wednesday afternoon by officially inking a seven-year, 210 million dollar contract with the Nationals that’s set to keep him in D.C. through the 2021 season. Coming after Scherzer took the gamble of turning down a six-year, 144 million dollar offer from the Tigers last year, waiting things out until free agency, and betting on his abilities, paid off extremely well for him, with Scherzer netting a total of 66 million extra dollars.
But the money is well deserved, as Scherzer has quickly become one of the most feared pitchers in baseball. While Scherzer didn’t start off his career with fantastic pitching performances — posting a 4.43 ERA over 33 starts with the Tigers in 2011 — over the past two seasons he’s been one of the best. Going a combined 39-8 with a 3.04 ERA between 2013 and 2014, it’s no mystery why the Nationals wanted Scherzer so badly.
Heading to D.C. after five years in Detroit, Scherzer’s mega contract sits second all-time in amount given out to a pitcher, behind only Clayton Kershaw’s 215 million dollar deal with the Dodgers. (Kershaw, however, is in a class all his own.)
Choosing to receive his contract over the next 14 years, coming out to 15 million a year, the structure of Scherzer’s contract allows the Nats to use the money saved per season to lock up other talented players around him, making this an even better deal in the end.
With Scherzer joining a rotation that already consisted of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, the Nationals now have one of the best — if not THE best — rotations in baseball. (The Nationals also have a couple promising pitching prospects in A.J. Cole and Lucas Giolito in the minors who will be making major impacts over the coming years, so they will have additional pitching options for years to come.)
Although their bullpen could use some work after the loss of closer Rafael Soriano — there’s still plenty of time to improve that aspect of the team — the Nationals’ lineup is equally as talented as their pitching staff. From Ian Desmond and Anthony Rendon to Jayson Werth and Denard Span, along with a hopefully healthy Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, the Nationals are going to score a lot of runs.
With the Nats likely setting themselves up to produce runs night after night, and a rotation filled with pitchers capable of giving up a few mere runs a game, the Nationals have a nice combination that should lead them to a ton of wins in 2015.
After going 96-66 last year — good enough to earn Nats’ skipper, Matt Williams, the National League Manager of the Year award — there is truly no reason they couldn’t post a 100-win season this year. If that happens, it will make them the first team since the Phillies in 2011 to win 100+ games in a season.
And therefore, after winning the National League East division by a staggering 17 games a year ago, the Nationals could be looking at the same type of dominance in the foreseeable future. The Braves, who finished in second place for 2014, are in the process of rebuilding and currently seem to be out of the postseason picture for 2015, as do the Phillies who are theoretically trying to find their new identity. That leaves just the Marlins and the Mets to challenge the Nationals for the divisional title — though both teams, especially the Marlins, could make a big push towards the playoffs this year.
Even so, the Nationals are nearly a lock to make the postseason for the third time in four seasons, with an aforementioned 100-win season not completely out of the question. They have all the talent in the world, with great pitching and a good mix of young and veteran star players. But in the end, making the playoffs is only part of the goal. The one question on everyone’s mind is whether or not the Nationals have enough with the addition of Max Scherzer to lead them to the World Series and a subsequent World Title?
The unfortunate truth is, only time will tell. All too often does a team expected to dominate fall into a slump and not do much of anything for the season, while a team that was predicted to go nowhere exceeds expectations and makes a playoff push. That’s baseball. That’s what makes things fun each and every season.
But regardless, I have to agree with the majority of people that the Nationals are going to be terrific, and therefore anything short of a World Series appearance for them would be a disappointment with all the promise they have of putting out an effective winning machine this season.
After all, it’s that very expectation of winning (I’m sure the money was a factor as well) that ultimately led Scherzer to sign a deal with the Nationals, saying, “I think this team is capable of winning and winning a lot. When you look at near term and long term, this is an organization you want to be a part of . . . . I want to win and that’s why I’m here.”
With Max Scherzer now on board, it looks to be an exciting season in D.C.
It’s been sixty years since the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) last elected four players to the Baseball Hall of Fame in a single year — a class that included Joe DiMaggio as the top vote getter. But on Tuesday it was 1955 all over again, as Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio all received well over the 75 percent of the vote necessary to gain entry into Cooperstown.
Receiving 97.3 percent of the total vote — meaning, 15 out of the 549 voters somehow chose not to vote for him — Randy Johnson didn’t quite beat out Tom Seaver’s all-time Hall of Fame election percentage of 98.84 percent. But regardless, Johnson still finds himself eighth all-time on the percentage list, and becomes the tallest pitcher in MLB history to be elected to the Hall of Fame. With a perfect game under his belt, along with five career Cy Young awards, not to mention his 300+ career wins and close to 5,000 strikeouts, Randy Johnson more than deserved the honor.
The three other players elected on Tuesday were also extremely worthy. Pedro Martinez’s .687 career winning percentage was good enough to earn him 91.1 percent of the vote; John Smoltz’s combination of career wins, strikeouts and saves earned him a modest 82.9 percent; and Craig Biggio finally received his due after recording over 3,000 hits for his career, finding himself on 82.7 percent of the voters ballots.
But not all of the deserving players made it in this time, both in my opinion as well as the opinions of others. More than anyone else, Mike Piazza still not earning a place in Cooperstown is unbelievable. As I’ve stated in the past, Piazza may not be one of the best hitters in history, but he is statistically the best hitting catcher in history. Along with Piazza, Tim Rained not making much ground was also a disappointment to me, sitting twenty percent away from election with just two years of eligibility remaining. While Mike Piazza will in all likelihood get elected in 2016 (receiving around seventy percent in 2015), the time may never come for Tim Raines.
The time for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens may never arrive either. A true shame, as they are first ballot Hall of Famers without their performance enhancing drug use, neither Bonds or Clemens made much progress in this their third years on the ballot. Bonds gained just 3.1 percent, taking him up to 36.8, with Clemens amassing a few more votes, bringing him up to 37.5 percent. With both just shy of 40 percent away from election, things aren’t looking too bright for them.
However, with a few great newcomers set to be added to the ballot in 2016, things are looking bright for a great 2016 Hall of Fame class. Though it assuredly won’t rival this historic class of 2015, Ken Griffey Jr. and Trevor Hoffman — both nearly slam dunks for election — are lining up to be a part of the ballot, joining Mike Piazza, who will hopefully finally see himself getting elected with a somewhat weaker ballot than the incredible one from this year.
Each and every year there arises a major debate around the baseball world as to which players are deserving of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. While certain players from any given year are no doubt picks, sparking little argument as to whether their career numbers are worthy of election, others players have rather borderline statistics, making things very controversial. This year was no different.
The 2015 Hall of Fame ballot has 34 players on it, with 17 of them being in their first time on the ballot. After reviewing the ballot numerous times, I gave each and every player careful consideration, but in the end I wound up placing only six on my ballot. Here are the six players I feel should make it into the Hall of Fame in 2015 (not necessarily the players I think will get elected):
The first player on my ballot is Craig Biggio.
Missing the Hall of Fame by a mere two votes last year, Craig Biggio should get in without a problem this time around. One of only four of the twenty-eight total players in MLB history with 3,000 or more hits that isn’t in the Hall of Fame — the other three being Rafael Palmeiro (steroids), Pete Rose (banned) and Derek Jeter (he’ll be elected in 2020) — Biggio will likely have that change in 2015. His career stats of 291 home runs and 1,175 RBI’s are relatively low for a Hall of Fame player, but his career number of hits puts him over the top in my book.
The second player I have on my ballot is Mike Piazza.
I felt strongly last year that Mike Piazza should’ve gotten into the Hall, and I feel the same way this year as well. While Piazza received just over 62 percent of the vote in 2014, and therefore may or may not make a 13 percent jump to receive induction this time around, Piazza will eventually make it in, as he should. Piazza’s stats of 2,127 hits, 1,335 RBI’s and 427 home runs aren’t the best of anyone in history, but they’re right up near the top for best hitting catcher in baseball history. There is no doubt that Piazza is a Hall of Famer.
Tim Raines also finds his way onto my list of picks.
The only new player on my ballot that isn’t in his first time up for election, I gave Tim Raines a strong look last year but decided to leave him off my ballot. This year, however, I included Raines. Raines’ overall statistics aren’t over the top, having blasted just 170 home runs in his career, but it’s his 808 stolen bases combined with his 2,605 total hits that make him Hall of Fame worthy. Raines sits fifth all-time on the stolen base list, with the four players ahead of him each holding a spot in Cooperstown. In my opinion, Raines should join them.
Following Raines I have Randy Johnson.
The easiest choice of all the first time ballot players, Randy Johnson will no doubt get into the Hall of Fame in 2015. Racking up over 300 wins for his career — something that nowadays will likely never happen again — and recording 4,875 strikeouts to go along with a 3.29 ERA, Johnson sits in the top few all-time in a number of categories. Having received the honor of obtaining five Cy Young awards over his career, Johnson has put himself into great position to get the greatest honor of all: induction into the Hall of Fame.
The fifth player on my ballot is Pedro Martinez.
Pedro Martinez is by no means a guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he’s very, very close. With a career ERA at 2.93, and the sixth best winning percentage of all-time, at .687, Martinez is definitely worthy of the Hall, just maybe not the first time around. Even so, he’s on my ballot. With all of the great seasons Martinez had, most notably with the Red Sox, where he won 117 of his 219 career games and helped lead Boston to its first World Series title since 1918, he will receive a great number of votes. But Martinez will perhaps come up just shy of induction this time around.
The final player on my ballot is John Smoltz.
As with Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz getting into the Hall in 2015 isn’t a sure bet, but he’s going to get a good amount of support regardless, and will undoubtedly get in eventually. The only player in MLB history to win over 200 games and record over 150 saves, all totalling up to a 3.33 career ERA, it’s Smoltz’s combination of great years as a starter and fantastic three year stretch of relief pitching from 2002-2004 while dealing with arm injuries that makes him deserve it all the more. Racking up all his career saves (154) over that time, Smoltz was an all around great pitcher.
Unfortunately, even with all of the great players on the ballot this year, I had to leave off the remaining 28 players, including a large number of the really good players from the ballot, being Fred McGriff, Lee Smith, Curt Schilling, Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, Larry Walker, Gary Sheffield and Jeff Bagwell — all of which have good arguments for induction into the Hall.
In addition, I’ve excluded Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Rogers Clemens, among others traced to PED’s, not based solely on their PED use, but merely because I don’t feel they should get in this time around. Not yet. Maybe not even at all. I haven’t fully decided how I feel. The Hall of Fame is an exclusive club, and I’m not sure I’ll ever feel that PED players are deserving of induction.
Though you may disagree with some of the players I feel are Hall of Fame worthy and with some of the players I left off my ballot, it’s just the way I feel and how I see things. Now, I want to hear from you. Of the players on the 2015 ballot, who do you want to see get inducted in July? Cast your vote below for the number of players from the 2015 ballot that you would vote into the Hall of Fame, and feel free to leave your thoughts below.
Happy New Year, everyone!
As I’ve done for the past few years, I wanted to take the time to go over the main things I’m hoping to accomplish, blogging wise, throughout the coming year. Some of them are the same as my 2014 goals, but a few of them have been altered a bit.
The five main resolutions/goals I have for this blog in 2015 are as follows:
1. Blog at least once every 5 days:
Last year my goal was to blog at least once every four days. I was able to accomplish that goal, but not without a great deal of work. There were a few times that there was simply nothing to write about, and I had to basically make things up as I went along due to it being the fourth day and not wanting to break my goal. It was very stressful at times. And therefore, while I’m not saying I won’t be able to get a post up every four days or less in 2015, I’m adding one more day to my maximum gap in entries to give myself a little slack — just in case.
2. Post 100+ blog entries:
Because I’m adding a day to my goal of number of days between entries, naturally the number of blog posts I publish this year will decrease. In 2014, while blogging at a breakneck pace at times, I was able to put together 128 blog posts — the most in a single year in the history of this blog. I’m going to be a lot busier this year for several reasons, and thus I had to keep close to my 2014 goal of blogging 100 times. My only other option was to give up blogging altogether. But I didn’t want to do that; at least not yet.
3. Get more views than 2014:
Every year of this blogs existence, I’ve recorded more views in each year following the previous one. With that said, I’d love to keep that going in 2015. While I’ll be blogging a little less than I did in 2014, I really hope to get more views than I did last year. Even one more total blog visit would make me happy. Having accumulated just over 80,000 views in 2014 — around 3,000 more than 2014 — I would really be astounded if I could get to a nice round number of 100,000 blog views for 2015. But if I could get to even 81,000 visits between now and December 31st, I would consider this blogging year a success.
4. Go on a 3-post-blogging-streak:
In 2014, this goal was a five-post-blogging-streak. But just like some of the previous goals, I’m changing this one a bit to go a little more conservative for 2015. Last year I was able to get up five blog posts on five consecutive days, but it was difficult. It started with my post on the MLB award frontrunners at the All-Star break, on July 14, and continued through the entry I posted on the second half of the MLB season setting up to be exciting, on July 18th. Even though I did that five post run, I’m only shooting for three this year. Easier, but still not extremely easy.
5. Reply to every comment that is left:
This is one of the two goals from 2014 that stayed exactly the same. The reason for that is it’s very easy to accomplish, as it takes less than a minute (usually) to answer a comment. I don’t get too many comments left on my blog, but when I do I want to always make sure I reply to them. Whether the comment is a question, about something I’m up to or the post itself, or a general comment or statement, I feel the obligation to reply back. Without the readers this blog wouldn’t be what it is. Replying is my way of saying that the reader is appreciated.
So, there you have it. My top five blogging resolutions/goals for 2015.
As I stated last year — a recurring theme in this blog post — I hope to make this my best year of blogging yet. If I can accomplish what I want to (and plan to), I feel it truly will be. That’s always the overall goal, to get better and better. I think 2015 is going to be an exciting year.
As everyone is aware, the New York Yankees failed to make the playoffs in Derek Jeter’s farewell 2014 season, which was very disappointing to a great number of people. One of the few times in their storied franchise history that the Yankees went consecutive seasons without making the playoffs, things are currently in somewhat of a lull for the Bronx Bombers.
Now that Jeter is officially retired, and with the loss of their 2014 closer, David Robertson, to the White Sox via free agency, many are beginning to wonder just how much of a competitive team the Yankees will be in 2015. After finishing twelve games back of first in the American League East last season, they have a lot of ground to make up, but a division title isn’t seemingly as far out of reach as it would appear.
Some of the Yankees offseason pickups last year failed to produce in 2014, due to either injury or a down statistical season. From Masahiro Tanaka to Jacoby Ellsbury to Carlos Beltran to Brian McCann — if those players can get back to their normal selves next season, combined with the already good bullpen of Dellin Betances and recently signed Andrew Miller, things should be better in 2015 for the Yankees.
But that’s without any changes whatsoever.
The Yankees, however, have in fact made a few tweaks to their roster that could have a big impact on their season success throughout the 162 game stretch.
Beginning with a trade that saw promising young shortstop Didi Gregorius coming to New York to take over the vacant spot left by Jeter, the Yankees would appear to have a long term “replacement” for the long time Captain.
Though Gregorius won’t be able fill the enormous legacy of Derek Jeter — no one could ever do that — he will give them a little added thump in their lineup and defense at the position. Another such player being Chase Headley, who the Yankees signed to a 4-year, 52 million dollar contract on Monday.
There’s a slight issue in the signing that everyone is pointing out, however: Headley plays third base. With the Yankees still owing third baseman Alex Rodriguez — who was out all last season due to a PED suspension — over 20 million a season for the next few years, it would be hard to envision them filling A-Rod’s place at the hot corner with a bargain priced third baseman. But it appears that the Yankees are doing just that.
Although the Yankees could move Headley around from time to time as the season progresses, it lines up that A-Rod is headed for merely a designated hitter role in 2015. After hitting 31 home runs to go along with 115 RBI’s back in 2012, Headley hasn’t been that MPV-type of player since, but really impressed the Yankees after coming over from the Padres last season, hitting .262 in the 58 games with them to finish out the year.
If Headley can be solid at third base, and if Rodriguez can provide any sort of offensive production at the plate, the Yankees should be in good shape next year. But, where exactly would they fall if the season began tomorrow?
For me, I see them being like they were last season — a team that could potentially win a lot of games, but has to have a lot of things go right for them to post those type of collective numbers they’re capable of.
As stated earlier, if the Yankees can get full, healthy seasons out of Masahiro Tanaka, Brian McCann, etc., their overall production will increase naturally.
Another team in the division that should see their production increase due to several key moves is the Blue Jays. Signing veteran catcher Russell Martin, and trading for All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays could be a very competitive team in 2015. Though I feel they still need another year or two to put everything together, you never know for sure how a team will fare.
Even so, I feel the Red Sox are the team that has done more than enough to put themselves in line to win the American League East division. Signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez a few weeks ago, and adding much needed starting pitching in Justin Masterson, Rick Porcello and Wade Miley, Boston has put together a very solid team after their disastrous 2014 season.
Just the opposite, the Orioles have seen their team taken apart. Losing breakout slugger Nelson Cruz, veteran outfielder Nick Markakis, and dominant reliever Andrew Miller (to the Yankees), Baltimore certainly has some work to do before the start of the season in April. (The Rays also fall into that category, in my opinion.)
So, with such a packed division, seeing that every one of the teams in the east could potentially make big runs towards the division title, it should be fun to see how things play out. If I had to predict things right now, though, I feel confident in saying that the Yankees are setting themselves up to break their postseason drought in the coming year.
For the most part, I like to write about big time trades and/or signings within a day of when they occur. I feel that waiting too long to give my thoughts on a particular transaction causes it to become old news and therefore not really relevant to the everyday fast developing topics around baseball.
However, for the 113th annual baseball Winter Meetings that took place this past week in San Diego, things were happening so fast and at such a high volume that I would’ve been blogging multiple times a day to keep on top of the action. I didn’t have time to do that, nor did I want to do that. And thus, I decided to post this recap upon the conclusion of the Winter Meetings. (Keep in mind, not every single signing or trade is included in this post; just the major ones, in my mind.)
Ending on Thursday, this years meetings saw an unprecedented amount of teams signing or trading players. Practically every ten minutes news broke of a new deal or trade that was sure to shake things up in 2015 and beyond. Seeing more trades go down over the past week than the last three Winter Meetings combined, a lot of exciting things look to be in store for the 2015 season.
The Winter Meetings were kicked off with a trade of Brandon Moss by the Athletics on the very first day. Getting sent to the Indians in return for minor leaguer Joe Wendle, Moss will certainly add a bit of pop to Cleveland’s lineup, having hit 25 or more home runs each of the last two seasons.
But the A’s weren’t done parting with players. Following the departure of Moss, Oakland traded away pitching prospect Michael Ynoa to the White Sox along with breakout pitcher Jeff Samardzija, whom the A’s gave up a few of their extremely promising prospects for in a trade back in July. In return for Samardzija, the White Sox simply had to toss a few prospects to the Athletics, in Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Josh Phegley and Rangel Ravelo.
In my opinion, and the opinion of many others, the Athletics didn’t get back quite enough in that deal. All of this coming after the trade of Josh Donaldson to the Blue Jays, many are really questioning the A’s logic.
No one, however, is questioning the White Sox. After acquiring Samardzija, a lot of people began to talk about the White Sox’ playoff chances in 2015 with their improved pitching staff. But those talks only increased when the Sox announced a four-year, 46 million dollar signing of David Robertson. After the past few seasons Robertson has been able to put together, saving 39 games last year for the Yankees, he was near the top of available free agent relievers. The White Sox adding Robertson to their roster gives their fans hope for a promising upcoming year.
The White Sox aren’t the only Chicago based team that’s setting themselves up for a nice 2015 season, however. Across town, the Cubs are also in line to be much improved. Following the addition of veteran catcher Miguel Montero to their lineup in a trade that sent two minor leaguers, Jeferson Mejia and Zack Godley, to the Diamondbacks, the Cubs obtained one of the biggest free agents heading into the Winter Meetings.
While it took awhile for him to decide on the Cubs, Jon Lester made the choice to head to Chicago for the next six years, signing a contract worth 155 million dollars. Combined with a new manager in Joe Maddon, and a talented young roster of players, it should be fun to watch the Cubs moving forward.
But although there were large deals such as the one Jon Lester signed with the Cubs that went down over the course of the Winter Meetings, there were also multiple smaller deals that could end up having large impacts on the given team(s) involved.
Francisco Liriano resigned with the Pirates on a deal worth 39 million over the next three years; and the Twins picked up Ervin Santana for the next four years, set to pay him a total of 55 million over that span. But the smaller signings I like the most are the ones the Astros made by adding Pat Neshek and Luke Gregerson to their struggling bullpen, which had the worst ERA (4.80) in all of baseball in 2014. After not getting David Robertson or Andrew Miller, the Astros had to settle with these two relievers, but Neshek and Gregerson will go a long way in helping a bullpen that had 26 blown saves in 2014. Even so, the Astros aren’t likely to make the playoffs just yet.
Just the opposite, the Dodgers have been a playoff team for the past two years and seemingly would be so again in 2015 regardless of if they did anything to change their roster. But that didn’t at all stop them from making moves — big moves.
After making an impactful 4-year, 48 million dollar signing of free agent starting pitcher Bandon McCarthy, who was terrific in the second half of 2014 with the Yankees after an up and down career, the Dodgers proceeded to reshape a good portion of their team.
Coming after weeks of rumors that the Padres were interested in Matt Kemp, the Dodgers complied with the Friars, sending Kemp and Tim Federowicz to San Diego for Yasmani Grandal, Joe Wieland and Zach Eflin.
The fact that this trade went through came as a shock to many, as Kemp is a superstar when healthy, and the Dodgers didn’t get much in return, but it needed to be done with the overcrowded Dodgers outfield.
Although the Dodgers were quoted as saying that their All-Star second baseman, Dee Gordon, was not being considered for a possible trade, the baseball world did in fact see Gordon, along with Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas, leaving the Dodgers. Unlike the Kemp trade, Gordon and company getting shipped off to the Marlins in a trade for Andrew Heaney, Chris Hatcher, Austin Barnes and Enrique Hernandez made sense, as this swap seemingly would help both sides.
Part of the trade, though, wouldn’t last even an hour. A brief time after obtaining promising pitching prospect Andrew Heaney, the Dodgers flipped him to the Angels in exchange for Howie Kendrick. In addition, the Dodgers also flipped Zach Eflin, whom they received for Matt Kemp, and another prospect to the Phillies, in a swap for Philadelphia’s franchise hits leader, Jimmy Rollins.
Doing so subsequently fills the holes left by the loss of Hanley Ramirez and Dee Gordon, and now gives the Dodgers a double play combo of Rollins and Kendrick. That’s certainly not bad at all, especially with Kendrick basically coming over for free with the trade of the newly acquired former Marlin Heaney.
But the Andrew Heaney deal with Los Angeles didn’t quiet the Marlins. After locking up Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year, 325 million dollar deal last month, the Marlins made a promise that they would surround Stanton with talent capable of winning a lot of ballgames, and so far they’re keeping good on it.
Following the addition of Dee Gordon, Dan Haren and Miguel Rojas, Miami later made a trade for another key piece to place in their starting rotation — Reds’ solid pitcher, Mat Latos. Getting Latos for the price of Anthony DeSclafani and Chad Wallach, the Marlins could very well be setting themselves up to be a playoff contender as soon as 2015.
That’s what the Red Sox are attempting to do. Going from last to best to last over the past number of years, logic would tell you that the pattern indicates that 2015 would be another up year. Unfortunately, things don’t always follow patterns. And thus, things have to be done to actually improve the Red Sox’ team and not leave them merely hoping for a miracle season.
The main need for Boston heading into the Winter Meetings was pitching. Signing Justin Masterson to a 9.5 million dollar contract for 2015; trading away Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster and another prospect for Wade Miley; and acquiring Rick Porcello from the Tigers by trading off Yoenis Cespedes, Alex Wilson and Gabe Speier; the Red Sox quickly added three solid pitchers to their poor rotation in a matter of days. Those three should drastically help them next season, as they already own a great lineup following the signings of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.
So there you have it — a recap of the majority of the deals and trades that took place at the 2014 baseball Winter Meetings, and the possible impacts each move will have for each given team. As many have pointed out numerous times, this was one of the most active Winter Meetings in their long history. But nonetheless, there are still a number of valuable free agents that remain on the market.
From James Shield and Max Scherzer to Melky Cabrera and Chase Headley, there are multiple impact players that are available to any team that does what it takes to get them. With every free agent having to find a home somewhere, the exact ball club they wind up with could have a big effect on the outcome for teams in 2015.
Since the draft, McKinney has posted solid numbers between three different levels of professional baseball, hitting a combined .283, and truly showing why he was so highly thought of by the A’s in the 2013 draft.
However, despite seemingly being a big part of the Athletics’ future, McKinney was traded to the Cubs’ organization in July as part of the trade that sent Jeff Samardzija (now with the White Sox) to the Athletics.
But the trade turned out to be great for McKinney, who was batting just .241 through 75 games worth of at-bats before the swap.
Following the team change, McKinney hit .301 to finish out the season, bringing his combined average for 2014 up to .264 to go along with 11 home runs and 69 RBI’s. A great turnaround after the slow start McKinney had to begin 2014.
If McKinney can continue to develop into the player he’s expected to become, it won’t be long before he’s a part of the Cubs’ future at the major league level.
Billy McKinney — top prospect in the Cubs’ 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 growing up?
I started playing tee ball when I was 3 years old. My parents [were my biggest influences], as both of them helped me in different ways. My mother helped me keep a positive attitude regardless of the situation, and my father helped with my development.
2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?
Josh Hamilton, [for] two reasons. One: I admired his swing and power. Secondly: I respected him for the challenges he overcame to become an MLB player.
3.) You were drafted by the Athletics in the 1st round of the 2013 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?
It was an exciting and enjoyable time, balancing all the scout home visits, hitting sessions for various teams, and playing my final high school season. My family was fortunate to be asked to attend the draft at the MLB Studio. It was an opportunity to be there with eight other players who were expected to be drafted. When Mr. Selig called my name as an Oakland Athletic I was ecstatic, as I had always admired them being a great baseball team. I was pumped being picked by such a strong baseball club that focused on solid fundamentals.
4.) After finishing out 2013 with short-season Vermont, you were moved all the way up to High-A Stockton to begin 2014. Struggling at times with Stockton, what did you find most challenging about making the jump to that level of baseball so quickly?
Most definitely was adjusting to the quality of pitching in High-A. Some very, very good pitching in both the California League and the Florida League.
5.) In July, you were a part of a multi-player trade for Jeff Samardzija that sent you from the Athletics’ organization over to the Cubs’. How did you react when you first heard about the trade? What was it like making the switch in organizations mid-season?
I was shocked at first, although as time passed I quickly realized baseball is a business and the Cubs are a quality organization with great leadership. At first it was different, although my Daytona Cub teammates made it a very easy transition, welcoming me to the team.
6.) Upon your transition to the Cubs’ system, you were able to get a fresh start, recording solid numbers with their High-A club to finish out the year. What was it about your new team that made it easier for you to perform at a higher level than you did the first half of the season?
It was basically making adjustments in my approach to the quality of pitching in High-A and learning from previous experiences.
7.) Talk a little bit about life on the road: What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?
Bus rides and downtime, although being together as a team helps ease the boredom. [We] hang out together and/or watch TV.
8.) What do you feel went well in 2014? What are your goals for 2015?
[In 2014, I] learned throughout the year and appreciated the opportunity to play for the Florida State League Championship with the Cubs. [Goals for 2015 are to] help the Cubs in anyway I can and to continue to develop as a player and person by being challenged.
9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?
‘Modern Family’. Steak.
10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?
Work hard and never give up, regardless of the situation. Also, embrace your teammates, as baseball is a team sport.
Big thanks to Billy McKinney for taking the time to answer my questions.
You can follow him on Twitter: @billy_mckinney