Results tagged ‘ Derek Jeter ’

Yankees Setting Up for Contention In 2015?

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 Tanakaisn’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, chase-headleyHeadley 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.

Recap of the 2014 Baseball Winter Meetings

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.Meetings

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 SamardzijaRobertsonMarcus 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 Lesterobtained 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.

KempComing 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 CespedesPorcellopatterns. 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.

Trip to the National Baseball Hall of Fame

A little over eight years ago, back in June of 2006, I took a trip with my family to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, as part of a two week journey around the Northeast. I wasn’t extremely into baseball back then, but I enjoyed it just enough that I would’ve gotten a decent experience out of the visit. However, it wasn’t meant to be. Due to major flooding in the surrounding area, the Hall of Fame was closed, and we had to settle for a visit to a nearby baseball wax museum — an interesting place, but one that obviously paled in comparison to the main attraction in town.

In the years since, I’ve become one of the biggest baseball fans you’ll ever meet, constantly following the game and studying up on the stars of today and years past. Therefore, it had slowly become a must for me to make it back to Cooperstown at some point during my life. Although I imagined a return trip would take place a couple of decades or more from the time I last made the long trek up to New York from North Carolina, a plan for my dad, grandpa and I to take another trip to the Hall of Fame was quickly orchestrated over the past few months. And thus, on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the three of us made our way to New York.

On Saturday, November 29th, we got up early and made the drive from our hotel in Binghamton, NY, over to Cooperstown, arriving at a little bit after 9:00 in the morning:

DSCN7426As you may have noticed, there was snow on both of the trees to each side of the doors, as well as icicles hanging at various lengths from the roof. The cause of the snow and ice is one element of the trip that wasn’t present in June of 2006: cold weather. Far from the warm summer temperatures of our last visit, it was fairly cold (as is to be expected in late November), with the day starting off at around 10 degrees. But, thankfully, the Hall of Fame doesn’t close for cold temperatures, and we were actually able to make it past the front door this time around.

Upon entering the Hall and purchasing our tickets, we walked up the stairs to the second floor, where we caught a brief introduction movie, before beginning the tour of the museum.

One of the first pieces of memorabilia that we saw, and one of the most interesting of the day, was an old baseball that was used to “prove” that Abner Doubleday was the inventor of baseball, back in 1839:

DSCN7427However, contrary to popular belief, Doubleday didn’t invent baseball. As the display discussed, Doubleday was given credit for the sport’s origin, but a version of baseball had been being played for numerous years prior to 1839. Although the exact inventor of baseball isn’t fully known, credit for the rules of today’s version of the game — 90 feet between bases; 9 innings; 9 players per team — was awarded to Alexander Cartwright, the “Father of Modern Baseball”.

But while the invention of baseball wasn’t Abner Doubleday’s, there was an interesting non-baseball item that was in fact his own:

DSCN7436As a lover of history, including the Civil War era, these shoulder epaulets belonging to Doubleday during the war were very cool to see. Though not directly related to baseball, I came to find that the off the wall items such as these — not just baseballs, bats, jerseys, etc. — were some of the most interesting things to see.

But the baseball memorabilia was amazing as well; especially that of baseball’s well known all-time greats, such as Honus Wagner. Playing from 1897 through 1917, mainly for the Pittsburgh Pirates, there was a locker filled with Wagner stuff, such as one of Wagner’s full uniforms (used while he was a manager):

DSCN7442Wagner’s 1909 T206 baseball card holds the record for the most valuable sports card in existence, having sold for a whopping 2.8 million dollars back in 2007. So seeing the rare items tied directly to Wagner was amazing.

But things kept getting better and better as the journey through the museum continued. Next up was an entire section dedicated to the most well known player in baseball history: Babe Ruth. Among the items on display were a baseball estimated to have been hit by Ruth over 500 feet (picture 1); Ruth’s glove from the 1926 World Series (picture 2); a display of various things, such as one of Ruth’s bats (picture 3); and an autographed Babe Ruth baseball (picture 4):

RuthFollowing the Ruth exhibit, there was an exhibit dedicated the Negro Leagues, titled “Pride and Passion: The African-American Baseball Experience”. The most well known Negro League player has to be Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball’s color barrier back in 1947, going on to be inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1962. However, the exhibit focused on more than just Robinson. Also included in the exhibit, that helped tell the story of the Negro Leagues, were uniforms worn by Satchel Paige (left) and James “Cool Papa” Bell (right):

Negro LeaguesPaige is likely the most widely known Negro League pitcher, having pitched three shutout innings against the Boston Red Sox in 1965 at the age of 59, becoming the oldest player ever to play in the majors. Bell, while not as much of a household name as Paige, was just as amazing in his own way. Possessing blazing speed, it was said that Bell could “turn off the light and be under the covers before the room got dark” and that Bell once “hit a ball up the middle of the field and was struck by the ball as he slid into second base”. Though merely stories people liked to tell, it goes to show just how much Bell’s speed stood out to people.

Next in line on the path through the museum was “Diamond Dreams”, which showcased the many roles that women have played throughout the history of baseball, including playing the game themselves. The 1992 movie ‘A League of Their Own’, staring Tom Hanks, Geena David and Madonna, among others, covered this very topic of women playing the baseball. And therefore, the exhibit included costumes from the movie itself:

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After spending some time reading about the history of women in baseball, the three of us then made our way through a collection of items from 1930-1970, including things used by all-time greats, Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle, before finding ourselves in a portion of the museum dedicated to Latin American baseball players, entitled ‘Viva Baseball':

DSCN7483Although everything in the exhibit was interesting and fun to learn about, there were some items that interested me more than others. Two of the key items for me were David Ortiz’s 2004 World Series jersey (left), from the year the Red Sox broke their 86-year Championship drought, as well as a jersey worn by Albert Pujols (right) during his 2001 Rookie of the Year winning season:

LatinBoth players are likely on their way to the Hall of Fame for their careers once they retire.

The next section we came upon covered baseball up through the year 2000. Some of the top things around the exhibit were a Tom Seaver display (Seaver holds the record for highest Hall of Fame induction voting percentage, with 98.8 %) that included the red cleats from his 300th career win (picture 1); George Brett’s pine tar bat from 1983 (picture 2); Robin Yount’s batting helmet from his 3,000th hit (picture 3); and Derek Jeter’s 1998 World Series cleats (picture 4):

Today's GameAlthough I enjoyed every portion of the museum, seeing this type of stuff from players that I’ve seen countless hours of video on truly made it all the more impressive.

That’s one of the reasons I most enjoyed the last room of the second floor that had items from the last decade or so of the game. One of the great things about these items was that I could remembered seeing a lot of the unique events they were tied to take place on TV, either live or in a recap of the game. The room was organized into thirty different lockers (one for each team) positioned around the walls, with several items for each team in each locker.

Remember back in 2012 when Orioles’ slugger Chris Davis came on to finish out the marathon 16 inning game on the mound against the Red Sox after beginning the game as the designated hitter? Well, the cap Davis was wearing was there:

DSCN7516Do you recall the unbelievable home-run-robbing catch made by DeWayne Wise in 2009 to preserve Mark Buehrle’s perfect game? They had the glove he used to snag the ball:

DSCN7520In fact, pretty much anything of significance that has happened within the past number of years was included in this exhibit. The cleats Miguel Cabrera was wearing the night he secured baseball’s first Triple Crown since 1967 (picture 1); the cleats Mike Trout wore when he recorded his first career cycle (picture 2); Jim Thome’s 600th career home run (picture 3); and the cap Mariano Rivera wore during his final All-Star outing of his career in 2013 (picture 4):

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It was all there.

Also in the room — in a display case in the very center — was an arrangement of items specifically from the 2014 Major League Baseball season. Although a bat from Jose Abreu’s rookie year was awesome to see, as were the cleats Albert Pujols was wearing when he blasted his 500th career home run, the thing that stood out to me the most was the jersey worn by Mo’ne David during the Little League World Series:

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Having watched Davis pitch on T.V. throughout the series, as well as seeing her on the cover of Sports Illustrated and basically anywhere you looked, it was awesome to see the jersey used by the first girl to earn a win in Little League World Series history.

After taking in all the things from this season, and doing my best to photograph it all, we all made our way up to the third floor of the museum. There, in a Hank Aaron exhibit, we saw another unique item not directly related to baseball, like the Abner Doubleday epaulets talked about earlier — bricks from Aaron’s childhood home in Alabama:

DSCN7557But while that was awesome to see, the Hall of Fame also had the full uniform Aaron was wearing the night he passed Babe Ruth for most home runs on the all-time home run list:

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That was pretty remarkable to see after watching him hit that historic blast over and over on T.V.

However, as we all know, Aaron’s career mark of 755 home runs didn’t stand. Barry Bonds went on to pass Aaron, with his 756th home run coming on August 7, 2007. The helmet Bonds was wearing when he hit the homer was on display, as was the ball itself:

DSCN7573You may have noticed that the ball has an asterisk cut out of the cover. The story behind that lies with Marc Ecko — the person who bought the ball online for $752,467. After purchasing the baseball, Ecko held an online contest to determine its fate. Voters had three choices: put an asterisk on the ball; leave it alone; or shoot it to the moon. Around half of the ten million votes said an asterisk should be added before the balls donation. And thus became the ball you see above.

Also in this room, focusing on records and such, were some pretty incredible things. Among them was Derek Jeter’s batting gloves from his 3,000th hit game (picture 1); a cap from each of Nolan Ryan’s record seven career no-hitters (picture 2); first base from Armando Galarraga’s infamous near-perfect game (picture 3); a ball from the 2007 game in which the Rangers defeated the Orioles 30-3 (picture 4); the jersey from Roy Halladay’s postseason no-hitter in 2010 (picture 5); and, my personal favorite item, possibly of the entire museum, the glove Willie Mays used to make “The Catch” in the 1954 World Series (picture 6):

Baseball

In all, I took more pictures in this one section of the museum than any other section. It was truly amazing stuff.

Towards the end of items on the third floor was a display with memorabilia solely from the 2014 World Series between the Giants and the Royals. Watching every single inning on T.V. as it happened, is was awesome to see some items from the series in person. But the one thing that stood out the most was rookie pitcher Yordano Ventura’s cap that he wore for his game six start:

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In addition to being a standout item because of the great outing Ventura had, it’s the inscription on the cap that makes it stand out the most. After the tragic death of 22-year-old Cardinals’ prospect, Oscar Taveras, Ventura took to the mound with “RIP O.T # 18″ written on his hat as a tribute to his native Dominican Republic friend. It was touching on T.V., and even more so in person.

Once we had viewed all there was to see on the third floor, my grandpa, dad and I headed down the street to grab a bite of lunch at a nearby restaurant before returning to continue walking around the Hall of Fame. Believe it or not, after over three hours spent at the Hall (and after 35 pictures and 2,000 words in this blog post), there was still more to see and do.

After returning to the Hall of Fame, we headed over to an art exhibit, which normally isn’t my thing but really intrigued me this time around. Following that, we headed through a room dedicated to this year’s Hall of Fame inductees — Joe Torre, Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux — before arriving to the Hall of Fame’s main point of interest: The Hall of Fame Gallery:

DSCN7618With the current number of Hall of Famers standing at 306 total people — 211 players, 35 negro leaguers, 28 executives, 22 managers and 10 umpires — there were a lot of plaques to cover, but we made our way around to every single one.

As with every part of the museum, there were a few portions (in this case, people) that stood out the most.

The first of such was the inaugural class of five plaques (located at the far end of the picture above), being of Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson, all of which were inducted in 1936 — three years before the Hall of Fame’s opening in 1939:

DSCN7636Standing out as a member of the Hall of Fame that isn’t necessarily as known as the everyday players such as Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Cy Young, etc., was Wesley Branch Rickey (left), accompanied by Jackie Robinson (right):

Robinson

Rickey was the person who brought Jackie Robinson to the Dodgers in 1945, making him the first African American player to break baseball’s color barrier when he made his debut two years later.

Another lesser known member is Effa Manley — the only woman in the baseball Hall of Fame:

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Manley was greatly involved in the Negro Leagues as the only woman owner among an industry of male owners. Her induction came in 2006 as a “reflection of her commitment to baseball and civil rights”.

One last person who is more known for what he did than who he was is Bill Veeck:

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Mostly known for his stunt of bringing the shortest player in MLB history to the plate in 1951 — 3 foot 7 inch tall Eddie Gaedel — Veeck made a major impact on the game, stating, “I try not to break the rules but merely to test their elasticity”.

Upon completion of viewing all of the plaques, we made a brief stop by the gift shop, where I picked up a T-shirt and a magnet to commemorate my second trip and first successful visit to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Following that, after half a dozen hours or so spent at the Hall of Fame, my dad, grandpa and I swung by historic Doubleday Field, which was covered in snow . . . :

DSCN7686. . . before making our way out of town and back to our hotel.

I didn’t fully know what to expect from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sometimes you can get your hopes up so high that the actual experience fails to meet those lofty expectations. But I can honestly say that the Hall of Fame completely blew away all my expectations. It was so well set up and so greatly stocked with some incredible pieces of baseball history that there was no way I could document it all — both with my camera or in this blog post.

So, if you haven’t, go see the Hall of Fame for yourself. It’s truly something that every single baseball fan should do at least once in their lifetime. You’ll never forget it.

Derek Jeter Shines In Final Home Game of Career

The Yankees officially fell out of playoff contention on Wednesday, making it just the first time since the 1992-1993 seasons that they have missed the playoffs in back-to-back years. But at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night, no one cared. There was a far more important reason that 48,613 fans (the most at any game this season) spent thousands upon thousands of dollars to jam pack the ballpark.

The reason was Derek Jeter.

Playing in his first home game in which the Yankees were eliminated from the playoffs, Jeter went into this game knowing it would be his finalUntitled game in New York of his career.

Even with that on his mind, the .313 career hitter at Yankee stadium was still able to block out his emotions for the most part (something he’s been able to do extremely well over his career) and focus on the one thing he’s been concerned about for years — winning.

But things didn’t start off as planned, as the first two batters of the game went deep to give the Orioles a quick two-run lead. Taking the fans from an electric crowd to a somewhat stunned crowd, you still figured this was far from where things would end. Not in Jeter’s final game in the Bronx.

As has happened from stadium to stadium throughout this season, due to his preseason announcement that 2014 would be his final year, Jeter received a standing ovation when he made his way to the plate for his first at-bat of the night. The fans knew this would be one of their final opportunities to thank Jeter for the memories, and they took full advantage of it. But the memory making wasn’t done. Not by a long shot.

After working the count a bit, Jeter drove a 3-1 fastball from Kevin Gausman deep to left center, and although everyone immediately thought it was a home run, the ball hit off the wall, allowing Jeter to coast into second with an RBI double — the 544th double, 3,462nd hit and 1,308th RBI of his career. You got the feeling that this was going to be a magical night.

However, the second and third at-bats of the night weren’t much to write home about for Jeter. A weak ground ball which resulted in a a fielder’s choice and a swinging strikeout, respectively, Jeter appeared to be headed for a memorable but fairly uneventful evening as the game rolled on.

But things would quickly change for The Captain.

Coming up with the bases loaded in a 2-2 ballgame for his fourth time at the plate, Jeter grounded to fellow short stop, J.J. Hardy, who made a wide throw to second base, allowing two runs to score on the throwing error. The score became 4-2, Yankees, with Jeter being responsible for two of the Yankees’ four runs. A sacrifice fly by Brian McCann then took the score up to 5-2, which is where things stood when the game moved into the ninth inning.

Before the game even began, many people speculated as to when Derek Jeter would be removed from the game. Many felt it would be with one or two outs in the top of the ninth, but the chance to replace him never occurred. Yankees’ closer, David Robertson, came on and gave up a two-run home run to Adam Jones, followed by a solo shot by Steve Pearce, and just like that the game was tied.

But no one seemed to panic as they normally would.

One look at the lineup card showed that Jeter was due up third in the bottom half.

After a single by Jose Pirela to lead off the bottom of the ninth (Pirela was promptly replaced by a pinch runner), Brett Gardner bunted the runner to second, bringing up Derek Jeter in a tie ballgame with one out.

Wasting no time, Jeter took the first pitch of the at-bat the opposite way into right field, bringing around the game winning run — the first walk off hit for Jeter since June of 2007. With everything having to go exactly right, there’s absolutely no better way the game could’ve ended for Derek FarewellJeter.

He’s a legend — simple as that.

Going down as one of the best short stops in history — right up there with Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken Jr., etc. — Derek Jeter will be remembered forever.

Not only as one of the greatest to ever play his position, not only as one of the greatest Yankees to play the game, but also as one of the greatest human beings to play the sport. Putting together a near spotless career on and off the field, few will argue that you will never see a player quite like Derek Jeter ever again.

And the fans let Jeter know it when he walked back onto the field after getting the game winning hit. Joined by fellow Yankees legends, Mariano Rivera, Joe Torre, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte, among others, Jeter took the time to thank the fans for their support, tipping his cap before taking off down the dugout steps and through the tunnel for the final time of his career.

Playing his entire twenty year career for the Yankees, the first ballot Hall of Famer didn’t have a whole lot to say after the game. As has been the case over his career, Jeter never says more than he wants to say. But he did let his emotions show through a bit, tearing up a bit at times. When asked what he would miss most, Jeter responded, “Everything. But most importantly, I’m going to miss the fans. They’re what made this special”.

The 1996 American League Rookie of the Year, fourteen time All-Star, five time World Series champion, and sixth place player on the all-time hit list accomplished nearly everything he ever dreamed of doing on a baseball field. Growing up, all Jeter ever dreamed of was being the short stop for the Yankees, and he was able to do just that. Dreams really do come true.

With that being his ultimate goal, Jeter made it official after the game that he will never again play short stop, saying he’s going to play in the final three games of the year up in Boston out of respect for the fans, but merely as the designated hitter.

As such, Jeter will undoubtedly get a standing ovation each and every time he steps to the plate up at Fenway park until his final at-bat occurs on Sunday. For a New York Yankee to get that type of respect from rival Red Sox fans, you know he had a truly remarkable career. As he always does, Derek Jeter put it best on Thursday night, simply stating, “I’ve lived the dream.”

Yankees Blow Win & Chances of Making the Playoffs

Any shot the New York Yankees had of making the playoffs this season — however small a shot it may have been — was all but officially eliminated on Sunday night at Camden Yards. A blown save by their recently “overused” closer, David Robertson, resulted in a walk off hit by former Yankee, Kelly Johnson, trimming the Orioles’ magic number to win the division down to three, and the Yankees’ elimination number down to a mere two.

usatsi7944843While the Yankees are technically still in the race, with their Wild Card elimination number standing at ten games, it’s going to take an unprecedented run like baseball has never seen before for the Yankees to pull off the near miracle of making the postseason.

Just 2.5 games back of the second Wild Card as recently as August 27th, things have simply gone downhill for them ever since.

Now five games back of the second Wild Card, which the Royals currently hold, the Yankees surely aren’t going to have an easy finish to the season that would allow for a possible push at the Wild Card, especially with the struggling team they possess.

Playing all American League east teams for their remaining fourteen games — Rays for three, Blue Jays for four, Orioles for four, and Red Sox for three — it’s still going to be fun to watch how they finish out 2014.

It certainly would have been nice for Derek Jeter to be able to play in one final playoff run, having won five career World Championships, but it’s unfortunately not the way his career will end. With the Yankees losing three of four games in their recent series against the Orioles, the Bronx Bombers currently hold just over a one percent chance of making the playoffs, according to MLB.com; further securing the fact that Jeter’s amazing career will come to an end September 28th at Fenway Park, and not sometime in October as was once hoped.

But while the Yankees aren’t seemingly playoff bound, and although they’re somewhat of an overall disaster, and overlooking the subpar numbers that Derek Jeter has been posting this season, make sure you take the time to watch a Yankees game or two before the end of the season rolls around. The Yankees will be back in 2015, likely stronger than ever, with some offseason additions that will once again make them competitive in the division. But the one thing they’re guaranteed not to have is Derek Jeter.

That’s one element of the Yankees that you need to enjoy right now.

There’s not much more time left to do so.

Heading into the Final Month of the 2014 MLB Season

It’s hard to believe, but the 2014 Major League Baseball regular season is almost over. Today marks exactly one month until the final games of the season, on September 28th, and teams are making their final push towards the postseason, with every player doing their best to finish out the season strong. With all of this going on, I thought I’d post an entry on the five main storylines I plan to watch throughout the final stretch.

200 Hits for Jose Altuve

7848827Leading all of baseball in batting average (.332) and with 14 more hits on the season than the player with the second most hits, Jose Altuve is well on his way to recording his first 200 hit season of his career. With 181 hits this year, Altuve should easily make it to what has become a somewhat rare achievement.

The last time any player recorded 200 or more hits in a season was back in 2009, when Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, Ryan Braun and Robinson Cano all did it. For Altuve, he’s set to become only the second Astros player to ever record 200 hits in a season, with Craig Biggio, doing so in 1998, being the other.

Though Altuve is too far back to break Ichiro Suzuki’s all-time hit record for a season of 262 hits, it should be interesting to see how many hits he can amass in this final month.

Race for Stolen Base Lead

After Billy Hamilton set the all-time single season stolen base record for the minor leagues back in 2012, stealing 155 bases that year, many people began to proclaim Hamilton as the next Rickey Henderson. Those are some lofty expectations that Hamilton hasn’t quite been able to live up to, with Hamilton sitting on 50 stolen bases (the youngest Reds player to ever reach 50 stolen bases in a season) for the season and Rickey Henderson having stolen 100 bags in his first full year.

Hamilton currently sits eight stolen bases back of the leader, Dee Gordon, so he definitely has some work to do if he wants to finish out the year on top. But despite not running away in the stolen bases category like many people initially believed he would, Hamilton has done a phenomenal job of making adjustments this year. After a horrid start to the season, Hamilton has really turned things around, and if he can continue to get on base, he has the potential to rack up a ton of stolen bases in a short period of time.

How Jose Abreu Finishes the Year

Chicago White Sox v Kansas City RoyalsProving to have been one of the most valuable offseason pickups, Jose Abreu is posting one of the best rookie seasons we’ve seen in years.

Currently sitting on 33 home runs (he has a good shot at winning the home run crown, tied with Chris Carter and Giancarlo Stanton, and one back of only Nelson Cruz), 96 RBI’s and a .312 batting average, Abreu has done nothing but produce all season long, leading many to believe that he has the American League Rookie of the Year award completely locked up.

At one point in time, there was a good chance that Abreu would break the all-time home run record for a rookie, set by Mark McGwire back in 1987, when he blasted 49 home runs. But Abreu will inevitably come up just short of that mark, due in part to a brief stint on the disabled list earlier in the year.

Even so, Abeu will likely wind up with around 40 home runs for the season, and will be a major asset for the White Sox for years to come.

American League West Division

It can’t much tighter than it currently is in the American League West, as the Angels lead the Athletics by a mere game in the standings. With just a few more weeks of games, this is undoubtedly the division to watch most closely throughout the rest of the season. However, the wild card spots are looking to be just as intriguing, in both leagues.

On the American League side of things, whichever team doesn’t win the AL west between the Angels and A’s will end up taking the first wild card spot, but the Mariners, Tigers and even the Yankees are going to be fighting hard for that second wild card spot. In the National League, the Cardinals hold a slight lead for the first wild card, but the second one is anyone’s for the taking between the Giants, Braves, Pirates and Marlins, if they can keep pace through the month of September. It should be interesting to see which teams get the job done.

Derek Jeter’s Final Month of His Career

Derek JeterAfter having a disastrous 2013 season, in which he was injured and posted measly stats, Derek Jeter announced at the beginning of the year that 2014 would be his last. Therefore, all eyes are on Jeter to see how he performs in the final month of his farewell season. So far, Jeter isn’t doing terrible, but he’s not doing all that great either, batting just .267 with 3 home runs and 36 RBI’s.

But although Jeter isn’t producing all that much, he will still go down as one of baseball’s all-time greats, with over 3,400 career hits.

The one thing on everyone’s mind, however, is whether or not the Yankees can make the playoffs to give Jeter the chance at a sixth career World Series title.

Sitting 2.5 games back of the second wild card, there’s still a shot that the Yankees make it in, but it’s going to take a good amount of terrific play for them to reach the postseason.

Active MLB Players With Hall of Fame In Their Future

The biggest honor a Major League Baseball player can receive for their hard work and consistent numbers throughout their career is an induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas and Greg Maddux will all be awarded that honor this coming Sunday (along with Tony La Rusa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre for their managerial careers), as they will be officially inducted after earning the necessary 75 percent of the vote back in January.

With the 2014 MLB Hall of Fame induction ceremony coming up this weekend, I wanted to go over the active major leaguers who are either sure things, likely to make it, or well on their way to a HOF career. Keep in mind, the players listed in each category below are by no means all of the players that fit each category, and some players that I feel are Hall worthy may not be in your mind; while players you think have the numbers didn’t make the cut in my mind. It’s just the top three per category, as far as I’m viewing things.

First Ballot Players

With nearly 3,500 hits, over 250 home runs, around 400 stolen bases and an average above .300 for his career, Derek Jeter is no doubt a future albertpujolsfirst ballot HOFer. Set to retire after this season, Jeter is one of the all time great players the game of baseball has ever seen, and the career he put together both on the field and off makes him all the more impressive.

Nearly as close of a lock as Jeter is Albert Pujols, who hit his 500th career home run earlier this season. In addition to the homers, Pujols has 2,000 other hits to go along with them, equaling out to a .300 career average to show for it. Going on a record setting start to his career, with twelve straight seasons of 30+ home runs, Pujols should certainly get in his first time around on the ballot.

Though there are people who argue against David Ortiz because he’s a designated hitter, a career of over 450 homers, nearly 1500 RBI’s, and an upper .200’s batting average makes it in my book. Coming through in the clutch in seemingly every situation for the Red Sox throughout his career, Ortiz is going to make it in, even if it’s not the first time.

Likely to Make It

While the stats don’t count, when combined from his numbers in Japan, Ichiro Suzuki has over 4,000 professional hits. As far as the record books show, here in the States, Ichiro has nearly 3,000 hits, a .300’s 12449263average and almost 500 career stolen bases. Therefore, despite missing the beginning of his pro career due to time spent in Japan, Ichiro will inevitably wind up with the stats to get in the Hall.

Adrian Beltre continues to put together the type of numbers that gets a player elected to the Hall of Fame. With over 2,500 career hits and almost 400 home runs, to go along with an upper .200’s average, Beltre is one of the best third basemen the game has ever seen. Given the fact that he will likely play a few more seasons, Beltre should only continue to improve his case.

Argued as the best hitter in baseball today, Miguel Cabrera’s stats are unbelievable at this point in his career. At just 31 years old, Cabrera may not get into the Hall if he quit tomorrow, but it would definitely be close. Holding the highest active average of any player, to go along with over 2,000 hits and around 400 home runs, Cabrera will ultimately find himself in Cooperstown when all is said and done.

Off To Great Starts

With the future unknown, I could’ve put dozens of players in this category, but these three are the ones most off to Hall of Fame careers. Having not played for too terribly long, they don’t currently hold the stats to make it in, but if they can each continue their average season for years to come, they’ll definitely finish out their careers with numbers equaling a Hall of Fame career.

Clayton Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher currently in baseball. With two Cy Young awards before the age of 26, Kershaw has posted an ERA Craig+Kimbrel+Arizona+Diamondbacks+v+Atlanta+L7qIMlcwQqRlunder 3.00 each of his first six years in the big leagues; the exception of his career being his inaugural season. Kershaw has also put together over 200 strikeouts each of the past four seasons, and, if he can keep the success going, will likely be on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Seen as the best closer since Mariano Rivera, Craig Kimbrel is as dominant of a relief pitcher as you’ll find. Recording over 40 saves each of the past three years, over which his highest season ERA was a whopping 2.10, Kimbrel is nearly a sure bet in the ninth inning. Holding a career strikeouts per nine innings pitched of over 15, Kimbrel is on his way to sharing in Rivera’s fate — making it to Cooperstown.

Though Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter currently in the Majors, Mike Trout is viewed as the best all around player. A true five tool outfielder, Trout has shown the ability to hit for power — 25+ home runs and 80+ RBI’s each of his first two seasons — as well as the ability to hit for average — over .320 in those two seasons. While the future is unpredictable, at just 22, Trout’s future surely holds an induction into the Hall.

As for the players being inducted into the Hall of Fame this Sunday as part of the 2014 class, you can watch the live induction ceremony at 1:30 on MLB Network.

American League Wins the 85th MLB All-Star Game

With a 5-3 win over the National League, the American League achieved the All-Star game victory on Tuesday night, and, more significantly, secured the all important home field advantage for this year’s World Series. Though home field advantage is considered by some to be meaningless, with the home team having gone 18-18 in the history of World Series game sevens, given the fact that the past five World Series 402-1gCL7O_AuSt_55winners have had home field advantage, it’s proven to give a slight advantage when the Fall Classic rolls around, at least as of late.

But while each and every All-Star game brings it’s share of superstar players who are looking to take home a win, this particular game was noticeably more special than it has been in a long time.

Derek Jeter, who announced back in February that he had planned to retire following the season, was the focus of everyone’s attention. After playing in just 17 games all of last year with an ankle injury, coming back for one final season gave fans all around the country the opportunity to show their appreciation to the captain.

In his fourteenth and final Major League Baseball Midsummer Classic, the entire ballpark took the time to acknowledge the brilliance of Jeter’s two decade career in pinstripes, giving him a loud cheer upon his introduction and a long standing ovation for his first at-bat of the game.

On cue, Jeter drove the second pitch from Adam Wainwright down the right field line, pulling into second base with a double — good old-fashioned Derek Jeter baseball. With a triple off the outfield wall, Mike Trout drove in Jeter for the game’s first run, and was promptly driven in by Miguel Cabrera, who blasted a home run to left field to give the American League a quick 3-0 lead.

The National League would answer back in the top of the second, with an Aramis Ramirez single, followed by a pair of doubles from Chase Utley and Jonathan Lucroy, which brought the score to within one run, to 3-2.

Jeter came up to the plate in his second and final at-bat of the game (his final All-Star at-bat of his career) in the third, and he once again found a way to bloop a hit out into right field — something he’s done numerous times in his career. With that hit, Jeter raised his career All-Star game average up to a staggering .481 average (just a few back of the best career Midsummer Classic average of all time) and became the oldest player in history to record a multi hit All-Star game.

Taking to the field in the top of the fourth, Derek Jeter was replaced by Alexei Ramirez before the inning got going, and exited the game to a standing ovation. After giving the crowd a curtain call, Jeter returned to the dugout where he would take in the remainder of the game, which saw many great plays, and tons of excitement.

In the very inning that Jeter was removed, the National League, with the help of a Jonthan Lucroy double that scored the speedy Dee Gordon from first (Gordon had just replaced Chase Utley) tied the game at three aside. But it wouldn’t last long. In the bottom of the fifth inning, Mike Trout and Alexei Ramirez each drove in a run after a few hits put players on the bases, taking the score up to 5-3 in favor of the American League.

Things would stay right there through the ninth inning, when hometown guy, Glen Perkins, came in to close out the game. Going down 1-2-3, the National League didn’t have a comeback in them on Tuesday night, and the American League won the game, thanks to a save by Perkins Untitledwho is one of the most underrated closers in the game.

Although it was Jeter’s final All-Star game, Mike Trout ended up taking home the Most Valuable Player award, having gone 2-3 with a couple of RBI’s on a triple and a double. Though many people felt it would’ve been story book for Jeter to win the MVP, Trout was certainly deserving of the honor.

In his third All-Star game, Trout becomes the second youngest player to win the game’s Most Valuable Player (Ken Griffey Jr. was the only player younger), and there’s no doubt that Trout will play in numerous more Midsummer Classics, with a good shot that he will pick up a few more MVP’s in the process.

In the end, while it was a competitive All-Star game that went back and forth, there’s one thing from the entire event that will forever stand out in people’s mind. Sure, people may remember the great pitching performances by the American League; they’ll probably remember the great MVP caliber game that Mike Trout put together. But the one thing that everyone will remember the most is Derek Jeter and the final All-Star memory he instilled upon all who witnessed it.

That will stick with people for a lifetime.

Jeff Samardzija Winless In 2014 Despite Sub-Two ERA

The Cubs are a bad team; nearly everyone around the baseball world knows it. Jeff Samardzija, one of the best pitchers in baseball so far in 2014, has seen that first hand more than any other player currently on the Cubs, as regardless of his terrific outings, Samardzija is yet to win a single game.Jeff Samardzija

Sitting 0-4 on the year — part a winless streak that stretches back to August 24th of last season — Samardzija’s overall performance on the year could be missed if you were to look solely at his win-loss record. But possessing an ERA of 1.46 over 10 games pitched, Samardzija has been setting himself up for success all season long, however, the Cubs simply haven’t provided any run support in his starts — the fourth worst for any pitcher in baseball — going 1-9 in Samardzija’s starts this season.

In Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Yankees at Wrigley Field, Samardzija was outstanding yet again, going seven innings and not allowing a single run. But, as has been the case so often this season, it wasn’t enough, with the Yankees coming back to tie things up in the ninth, and going on to win the game, 4-2, in the thirteenth inning. Certainly a blow to Samardzija, who appeared to have his first win of 2014 secured upon his departure.

If Samardzija played for nearly any other team in Major League Baseball, such as the Yankees, there’s a chance that he could be 10-0 on the season. Given, that’s purely speculative, and a few of those games would likely have been losses or no decisions, the basic point being made is that a pitcher can only do so much. It also takes good performances by your teammates to win ballgames.

And therefore, the question many people are asking: What value does a win truly carry?

As far as the answer goes, I’m halfway in between. On one hand, a win can say a lot about a pitcher and how well he’s pitched over the course of his outings. When you pitch extremely well, the majority of the time (unless you play for the Cubs) you’ll pick up the win. But on the other hand, as has been proven with Samardzija, you can’t just look at a win-loss record and declare who’s the best pitcher in baseball. Right now, arguably, that accolade would go to Samardzija, even though he’s yet to pick up a win.

Some people go as far as to say that the win statistic is useless and should be taken out of the game all together. Although I agree that the win isn’t as useful as some of the other stats a pitcher can post — ERA, batting average against, strikeouts per nine innings, etc. — I still think it’s a big part of the game. While it might have meant more numerous years ago when a pitcher that was pitching well would stay in the entire length of a game, there’s something special about a pitcher hitting the 20-win plateau, or only loosing a few of their numerous games pitched in a season.

Though you now have relief pitchers racking up wins that, had their team performed better, the starting pitcher would’ve notched, in addition to pitchers with bad outings still receiving the win due to a ton of run support — Chris Tillman gave up 7 runs back on April 23rd and won the game — it’s still a fun statistic to keep an eye on.

But while the win isn’t everything, and Samardzija is very unlikely to go the full length of the season without a single win with the way he’s been pitching, it doesn’t help the Cubs’ cause in terms of influencing Samardzija to stick around for the long haul. When you do your job but still lose due to being apart of a team that is among the worst in baseball, I imagine you can get frustrated very easily. As one person put it in on Twitter, “Samardzija is one of the biggest wastes of talent in the game today”. It’s truly a shame.

In the end, whether or not you agree with the win being an important stat for pitchers, you have to agree that Samardzija is putting together an amazing 2014 season. Even though he’s winless, Samardzija seems to have figured things out over the past couple of seasons, and is one of the only bright spots on the Cubs. However, for the majority of the Cubs, if they can’t figure things out for themselves as a whole fairly quickly, they may face a situation without Samardzija at some point down the road.

Ballot Released for the 2014 MLB All-Star Game

On Friday, the ballot for the 2014 Major League Baseball All-Star game, set to take place up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at Target Field on July, 15th, was released, giving baseball fans all across the country the ability to pick which players they’d like to see in the starting lineups of Untitledthe midsummer classic.

With more and more attention being given to the All-Star game as years pass (a record 40.2 million ballots were cast in 2012), and with there being so many top quality candidates to choose from, the voting has become extremely intriguing.

To cast your vote, you can head down to your local ballpark and pick up a ballot, or, the easiest of ways, just head to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You have up to 25 votes (35 if you’re a registered member with MLB.com) that you can use.

Voting doesn’t end until July 3rd, but I’m not waiting (at least not completely).

I went ahead and cast half of my eligible 35 votes today for the players who I feel would deserve to make the All-Star team if it were being played tomorrow, with a plan for my remaining picks to be cast much closer to time. A lot of things can change, and therefore, my picks will subsequently change as well. However, for the sole purpose of this blog post, I figured I’d reveal the players I voted for, with the reasoning behind my picks:

FIRST BASE: Albert Pujols (AL), Paul Goldschmidt (NL)

With the great start he’s had so far this season, picking Albert Pujols was an easy choice. Though there are several other great candidates, including Miguel Cabrera, who just recently moved back over to first, and rookie phenom, Jose Abreu, who’s off to a fast start to his major league career, it was Pujols who had the overall package, posting a solid campaign for comeback player of the year.

For the National League side of the vote, it was a bit more difficult, with even more great candidates. From Brandon Belt’s fantastic, breakout start, to the always consistent Freddie Freeman, it was hard to settle with the decision I came to of picking Paul Goldschmidt. However, after the breakout season he had in 2013, and the fact that he isn’t letting up, he’s done enough to earn him my vote.

SECOND BASE: Robinson Cano (AL), Neil Walker (NL)

Though his power numbers have yet to show up so far this season, as many predicted with his move to the Mariners, I voted for Robinson Cano to start at second for the All-Star game. He’s still been fairly consistent at the plate this season, and his defensive skills are always fun to watch. While both Jason Kipnis and Dustin Pedroia were considered, Cano, in my mind, is the best choice at the moment.

I never thought I’d cast a vote for Neil Walker over the walking web gem that is Brandon Phillips, but that’s exactly what I did. Walker is off to a fantastic start to the year, and while Phillips hasn’t slowed down with his glove handiwork, he’s been a bit slow at the plate thus far. If he can pick it up offensively, he’ll likely earn the fan’s vote, but for now, I’m sticking with the Pirates’ Walker.

SHORTSTOP: Derek Jeter (AL), Troy Tulowitzki (NL)

Statistically, Alexei Ramirez probably deserves the starting shortstop role more than Derek Jeter, having one of the fastest starts of anyone in baseball, and the best kickoff to his career. However, with this being his final season (and Jeter being my favorite player), I had to vote for Jeter. The model of consistency, Jeter in all likelihood will be making his final All-Star start come July.

Troy Tulowitzki has always had the potential to be one of the top players in all of baseball, however, health has played a big role in hindering that caliber player from showing up. But with Tulo fully healthy, he’s begun to show signs of his full potential, and has been doing fantastic so far for the Rockies. While Andrelton Simmons and Hanley Ramirez would be great picks, mine goes to Tulowitzki.

THIRD BASE: Evan Longoria (AL), David Wright (NL)

In voting for the American League third baseman, though Josh Donaldson has, arguably, gotten off to the best start of any third baseman in baseball, I went with Evan Longoria. While Donaldson could definitely earn the All-Star spot should he continue his great play, Longoria has always been able to be consistent for the Rays. He should be able to do enough to earn the honor yet again.

Pedro Alvarez and Nolan Arenado have both begun the 2014 season on a high note, however, with David Wright having a good year as well so far, and factoring in his track record, my ballot saw Wright as the pick for third base. Wright always seems to have the numbers to warrant an All-Star selection, and I feel he’ll likely make the cut this time around as well.

CATCHER: Matt Wieters (AL), Yadier Molina (NL)

With Brian McCann heading from the NL to the AL this offseason, many felt he would be an immense impact as he has been over the years. But while he certainly has been great, he hasn’t had the fastest start to the season among catchers. Matt Wieters has had a career season so far, really producing well for the Orioles, and if he can keep it up, he very well could overtake McCann in the voting.

When it comes to picking the National League catcher, it truly is a tough choice. There are several great ones to pick from, many of which have been All-Stars before, and the great seasons so far by those players makes it nearly impossible to say which one player stands above the rest. With that said, however, I went with Yadier Molina, who does nearly everything well on the field, and deserves another selection.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz

Being just an American League category, there weren’t too many players to pick from, so it came down to David Ortiz and Nelson Cruz for me. While David Ortiz is usually the obvious choice, Cruz is having a career season so far, and he might receive the All-Star votes needed if he can keep up his hot start. However, don’t count out Ortiz, as he could heat up as July continues to approach.

OUTFIELD

It’s never easy to narrow down 90 players to just six (three for each league), especially when you could make a strong case for a dozen of the outfield choices for each league, but it’s a requirement when casting a ballot. So, while I voted for the players who I felt were All-Star caliber players at the moment, there are a few more I would’ve liked to vote for, but couldn’t. Keep that in mind when reading the outfielders I selected for the American League and National League:

Mike Trout, Carlos Beltran, Jose Bautista (AL)

All three of these players are off to tremendous starts to the season, with all three standing a good shot at making the All-Star team this year. Mike Trout is, arguably, the best player in the game today, constantly making great plays and showing off his power at the plate, with Carlos Beltran and Jose Bautista possessing some of the best power baseball has to offer. Everything together, they all deserve consideration.

Ryan Braun, Giancarlo Stanton, Andrew McCutchen (NL)

As with most categories, the National League has more players overall that have an argument each season to be an All-Star. For this season, I voted for Ryan Braun (unfortunately), Giancarlo Stanton and Andrew McCutchen, as while I’m against Braun for his PED use, he’s still a good player. But with that said, I felt a lot better about choosing Stanton and McCutchen than I did Braun.

Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Leave a comment below.

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