Zach Britton on the Same Journey as Mariano Rivera

Before I get too far into this post, let me begin by saying that I am in no way comparing Zach Britton to Mariano Rivera as far as the caliber of pitching is concerned (not yet, at least). Rivera is in a class all his own as the best closer in baseball history, hands down, and will inevitably be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Britton is still a long way away from being anywhere close to the pitcherClosers Rivera was. But even so, there are undeniably a lot of similarities to this point in both of their careers.

Like Rivera, Britton began his career as a starting pitcher. Coming up through the Orioles’ system, Britton posted a 3.38 ERA over the course of 137 games in the minor leagues. However, upon reaching the majors, Britton wasn’t able to stick, posting a 4.77 ERA over 46 starts ranging from 2011-2013.

Rivera faired much the same in his attempt to be a big league starter. In his only season starting for the Yankees, Rivera was horrible, positng a 5.51 ERA over 10 starts. The following season, Rivera was made a reliever, and the year after that at the age of 27 was made the full time closer, notching 43 saves his first season as the ninth-inning-guy.

The rest is history.

In the first season as a full-time closer for Britton in 2014, he recorded 37 saves and posted a 1.65 ERA — a huge turnaround from the three subpar seasons in which he attempted to make it as a starter. And he hasn’t looked back since. Over the past three seasons, the two-time All-Star has recorded a collective 1.44 ERA as well as 111 saves, including 38 alone so far this season. But Britton is still being overlooked in the minds of many.

This year, Britton is not only having a breakout season that’s leading to him being seen as a top-notch closer, but also BrittonAas a candidate for Cy Young or even (less likely) American League Most Valuable Player.

Britton is certainly making a good case to be in the running. After all, it’s been nearly four months since Britton allowed an earned run, coming all the way back on April 30th.

Since then, Britton has gone 43 straight appearances without allowing an earned run. When you put it all together, Britton has recorded one of the best seasons ever for a reliever, tallying a 0.53 ERA to this point — on pace to be the lowest single-season ERA ever for a reliever with over 50 games pitched (Rivera’s lowest ever was 1.38 back in 2005).

If that isn’t remarkable, I don’t know what is.

So, maybe Britton won’t go on to be a Hall of Fame closer. Sitting well over 500 career saves back of Rivera, Britton certainly has a long way to go before he could even come close to being viewed in that light, and there have been a fair amount of relief pitchers to explode onto the scene only to fall apart within a few years. That’s not the point I’m trying to make at all. But regardless, the similarities between the two are hard to ignore.

Who knows? Maybe Zach Britton’s career will turn out much like that of Mariano Rivera.

Failed starter, turned All-Star closer, turned all-time great.

The Difficulty of Going Out on Top

Whenever a player who has had an amazing career announces plans to retire after any given season, you inevitably find yourself rooting for their team to go all the way and win the World Series so that the player can retire on top for their career with one final Championship. However, that unfortunately almost never happens.

Over the past several seasons, we’ve seen the retirements of some great players and fan-favorites, such as Torii Hunter (Twins finished 12 games back of the Royals), Derek Jeter (Yankees finished second to the Orioles), Mariano Rivera (Yankees finished in fourth place) and Chipper Jones (Braves made playoffs, but no World Series), just to name a few. But none of those players were on teams capable of going all the way to the World Series.

This season, I feel the Red Sox stand a decent chance of changing that fortune.Ortiz

Announcing his plans to retire after the 2016 season — plans that many are questioning with the superb numbers he is posting — David Ortiz is looking to record one final star season of what is arguably a Hall of Fame career, for a Red Sox team that he has impacted time and time again over the years. It would be fitting if they returned the favor and helped lead Boston to another World Title.

Despite finishing in dead-last in 2015, the Red Sox currently sit tied with the Orioles atop the American League East division standings. Although they’ve been a bit shaky at times, there have been other games that lead you to believe that the Sox could actually pull off the World Series sendoff for Ortiz.

But getting to the World Series is hard, with winning it being even harder. Some great players like Barry Bonds, Edgar Martinez, Craig Biggio, etc., never won a World Series title, even though they had great careers with some good teams. However, Ortiz already knows what it’s like to win it all, having won a World Title with the Red Sox in 2004, 2007 and 2013. He assuredly would love that feeling again in 2016.

Ortiz is certainly doing his part to make that happen. Over the course of 40 games this season, Ortiz is hitting .329 with 11 home runs (giving him 514 for his career) and 37 RBI’s — second to Robinson Cano for most in all of baseball. If he were to keep up that pace, he would wind up with around 35-40 homers and well over 100 RBI’s. Given, there are a lot of games still to be played, but what Ortiz is doing is simply remarkable.

But it’s not just Ortiz fueling the Red Sox and their march towards a fantastic season. Several players are breaking out into becoming stars, such as Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts, Travis Shaw and Jackie Bradley Jr. (as well as Brock Holt, before his injury), with Hanley Ramirez performing the way he was expected to when he was signed before last season.

Xander Bogaerts leads the team in batting average at .346, and is followed closely behind by Jackie Bradley Jr.’s .342 line, who is currently riding a 27-game hitting streak. In addition, Mookie Betts is second on the team in homers with 9, with Travis Shaw stepping up at third without Pablo Sandoval and making a big impact himself; as well as Hanley Ramirez who has shown some pop and is hitting above .300 on the season. With all of these pieces clicking, their lineup looks to be in good shape.

However, if there would be one thing that would keep the Red Sox from going all the way to a World Title, it would be their pitching. Good hitting can carry a team for awhile (the Red Sox are first in baseball in team batting average and RBI’s), despite a struggling rotation (Boston is 19th in team ERA), but eventually it won’t end up being enough, with those types of teams crumbling more times than not.

Steven Wright and Rick Porcello have been the Red Sox’s most reliable starters, being the only two pitchers of their rotation with an ERA below 4.00. David Price, who was acquired in the offseason to be the ace of the staff, has had aPrice few games where he dominated opposing hitters, but overall he’s been a big disappointment, with an ERA of 5.53 over 9 starts. Clay Buchholz has been even worse, holding a 5.92 ERA, and leaving the Red Sox looking for answers in that department.

Their bullpen, on the other hand, has been stellar, for the most part. When the game has gone to closer Craig Kimbrel in a save situation, he has looked like the Kimbrel of old, striking out 31 over 19 innings pitched and saving 12 out of 13 games he’s come in to close. Other guys, such as Junichi Tazawa, Matt Barnes, Tommy Layne and Heath Hembree have also done terrific jobs. But it’s their rotation that has left more to be desired.

Even so, the Red Sox appear to have things figured out enough that they can continue to win on a regular basis, despite their flaws. If their rotation begins to pitch the way it was envisioned to, the Red Sox could absolutely take off and run away with things, keeping in mind that it’s still very early, with over 100 games remaining.

But even if the Red Sox fall apart over the remainder of the season, or make the playoffs and simply can’t go the entire distance, David Ortiz is still on pace to have one of the best seasons of his career . . . at age 40.

If David Ortiz can’t go out on top with a World Title, he’ll certainly still leave with a bang.

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:

DSCN7475

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):

todays-game

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:

DSCN7549

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:

DSCN7561

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:

DSCN7598

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:

DSCN7633

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:

DSCN7657

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 to Retire After the 2014 Season

Derek Jeter has said all along that when he became unable to compete at a competitive level he would call it quits. And therefore, after a 2013 season in which Jeter dealt with injury after injury, resulting in a mere 17 games played and a .190 batting average, Jeter is keeping to his word.

untitledJeter announced on Wednesday that he will be retiring after the 2014 Major League Baseball season. While the news is a bit of a shock, it’s not all that surprising.

Jeter is going into his age 40 season, and it’s no secret that as players age they just can’t perform at the same level they once could (although, it wouldn’t shock me to see Jeter record 200 hits in his final year). In addition, three (Jeter being the fourth) of the longtime ‘core four’ — Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite and Mariano Rivera — are no longer with the Yankees.

With so much change, Jeter has decided that it’s his time to go, saying in an online letter, “It’s now time for something new . . . I know it in my heart. The 2014 season will be my last year playing professional baseball.”

Jeter went on to say, “I have achieved almost every personal and professional goal I have set. I have gotten the very most out of my life playing baseball, and I have absolutely no regrets . . . Now it’s time for the next chapter . . . But before that, I want to soak in every moment of every day this year, so I can remember it for the rest of my life.”

Joining Chipper Jones, who announced his retirement before the 2012 season, and Mariano Rivera, who announced his retirement before the 2013 season, Jeter will likely receive the same type of treatment that both Jones and Rivera got — getting farewell after farewell throughout the year from fans at different ballparks around the country.

While Jeter isn’t the type of player to necessarily want that type of recognition — always putting the team’s success before his own — as Jeter said, he’s no doubt going to embrace every aspect of the coming season. It’s only fitting for Jeter to accept the fans’ appreciation when he has given them so much over his 20-year career.

Going down as one of the top players in Yankees’ history, as well as baseball history, Jeter’s current career stats of 3,316 hits, 256 home runs and 348 stolen bases, to go along with a .312 batting average, make him a sure bet to become a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2020. But more than his stats, the way Jeter carried himself every second of every day is what a lot of fans will remember. Not too many players achieve a flawless off the field career, but Jeter was one of them. That won’t soon be forgotten.

But Jeter still has an entire (barring injury) season ahead. There’s one more year to enjoy his incredible talent and class.

Enjoy it while you still can.

2013 GIBBY Awards

The 2013 Greatness In Baseball Yearly (GIBBY) award winners were announced Tuesday afternoon. The GIBBY awards — which began in 2002, but were referred to as the ‘This Year In Baseball Awards’ until 2010 — are awarded annually for 23 different categories, including Rookie of the Year, Play of the Year, MVP of the Year, etc.

These awards are given to the players voted on by the fans at MLB.com, media, and front-office personnel, as the best for each category. I, as always, have my own opinions, and have included them below, along with the winners:

MVP OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Chris Davis

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

I originally picked Chris Davis for this award, however, I have no problem with Miguel Cabrera getting it instead. He was very deserving, batting .348 with 44 home runs and 137 RBI’s this season, coming up just short of a second straight Triple Crown award.

HITTER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Miguel Cabrera

Winner: Miguel Cabrera

Though I didn’t necessarily deem him as the Most Valuable (the category above), I easily picked Miguel Cabrera as the best hitter of the 2013 season. Anytime you hit in the mid 300’s, launch over 40 home runs and drive in way over 100 runs, you have my vote.

STARTING PITCHER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Clayton Kershaw

Winner: Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw had a career season; one of the best in MLB history for a pitcher. Kershaw is very deserving of this award, and there really wasn’t any competition, as no one could compete with his 1.83 ERA.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Wil Myers

Winner: Jose Fernandez

With three players having incredible rookie seasons — Wil Myers, Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig — it was difficult to pick just one. Therefore, while my original pick was Wil Myers, I feel Jose Fernandez is just as worthy. Fernandez’s 2.19 ERA over 28 starts is truly remarkable for a rookie.

CLOSER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Craig Kimbrel

Winner: Craig Kimbrel

While Mariano Rivera was the most followed closer of the 2013 season, after announcing his retirement this year back in March, Craig Kimbrel continued to be the most dominant. Though there were a few other closers who had great seasons, Kimbrel stood above the rest, recording 50 saves with a 1.21 ERA.

SETUP MAN OF THE YEAR

My original pick: David Robertson

Winner: Mark Melancon

This was another difficult category to pick, but I feel the right player received the award. I didn’t originally pick him, however, Mark Melancon was truly remarkable this season as the setup man for the Pirates, with an ERA of 1.39. He should continue to help out the team moving forward.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Brandon Phillips

Winner: Yadier Molina

Though I don’t really agree with Yadier Molina winning this award, I do have to acknowledge his great defensive skills behind the plate, blocking pitches better than nearly any other catcher in the game. While I still think Brandon Phillips, or a few other players, should’ve received this award, Molina is still worthy of the honor.

BREAKOUT HITTER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Matt Carpenter

Winner: Chris Davis

I really felt Matt Carpenter had a shot at this award, as he was a big part of the Cardinals’ success this season. But I suppose hitting 2o more home runs and 53 more RBI’s than 2012 stands out for Chris Davis deserving this award.

BREAKOUT PITCHER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Koji Uehara

Winner: Matt Harvey

My original pick, Koji Uehara, had a great finish to the season, and a great postseason. I thought that would be enough, however, Matt Harvey ended up taking home the award. Harvey truly had a breakout year, lowering his ERA by nearly 50 points the year before, and I’m happy he received this award.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera

Winner: Francisco Liriano

I don’t think Francisco Liriano should’ve won this award, and I’m shocked that he did. Liriano had a come back year, no doubt, but Mariano Rivera had a better one, in my opinion. With the combination of coming of an injury in 2012, pitching another great season, and retiring after the year, I would’ve thought Rivera would’ve won easily.

MANAGER OF THE YEAR

My original pick: John Farrell

Winner: John Farrell

John Farrell took a Red Sox team that finished in last place the season before and led them to winning the World Series. This was an easy category to predict, and Farrell deserves it, no question about it.

EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Billy Beane

Winner: Ben Cherington

I’m a big fan of Billy Beane and the great work he does every year, but Ben Cherington, being the general manager of the Red Sox, had a few more accolades for the award than Beane. As with John Farrell, the Red Sox winning the World Series put Cherington over the top in this category.

POSTSEASON MVP

My original pick: David Ortiz

Winner: David Ortiz

David Ortiz stood alone for this category as no other player came close to posting the stats he did. All throughout the postseason, Ortiz came up big, posting a batting average of .353 throughout October, and he truly earned this award.

PLAY OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Ben Revere’s diving catch in Cincinnati

Winner: Manny Machado’s offbalance throw in New York

The play with the biggest “wow” factor for me all season long was the catch Ben Revere made up in Cincinnati. Running back on the ball and diving at the last second to make an unbelievable catch that ended in doubling off the runner at first, Revere’s catch was one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen. But Manny Machado’s throw from foul territory to first base to nail the runner, after bobbling the ball, was remarkable as well.

MOMENT OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera pitching in his final All-Star Game

Winner: David Ortiz’s speech in first Red So game after bombing

I guess I’m such a big fan of Mariano Rivera that I felt he should’ve won every award he was nominated for. But instead, the award winner was David Ortiz, for his speech he made before the first game played at Fenway Park after the Boston marathon bombings.

STORYLINE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Mariano Rivera’s final season

Winner: Pirates making the postseason

Again, as I stated in the last category, I thought Mariano Rivera should’ve won this award as well. But the Pirates were voted the storyline of the year, finishing above .500, and making the postseason, for the first time since 1992.

HITTING PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Alfonso Soriano’s 2-homer game with 7 RBI’s

Winner: Mike Trout’s cycle

Alfonso Soriano’s two home run game in which he notched seven RBI’s was impressive, and was the one I voted for, but I really didn’t have a favorite from this category. Mike Trout’s cycle at the age of 21 won the award, and I cant really argue with that.

PITCHING PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter

Winner: Tim Lincecum’s no-hitter

This was a fairly simple choice, as while there were several no-hitters, Tim Lincecum’s stood out the most, with his 13 strikeouts. While Lincecum has had some ups and down over the past couple seasons, I feel he’ll have a bounce back season in 2014.

ODDITY OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Ball goes through padding for ground-rule double

Winner: ‘Hidden Ball Trick’ by Evan Longoria & Todd Helton

My original pick was a ground rule double in St. Louis that bounced between two pieces of padding in the outfield wall — I mean, what are the odds of that? But, instead, Evan Longoria and Todd Helton received the award for the “hidden ball trick” performed flawlessly by both during the season.

WALK-OFF OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Giancarlo Stanton scores on wild pitch to clinch no-hitter

Winner: Giancarlo Stanton scores on wild pitch to clinch no-hitter

Giancarlo Stanton scoring on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to secure Henderson Alvarez a no-hitter, who hadn’t allowed a hit but didn’t have any run support, was hands down the best walk-off of the year. That’s something you may never see again.

CUT4 TOPIC OF THE YEAR

My original pick: Carly Rae Jepsen’s bad first pitch

Winner: Munenori Kawasaki’s Speech

Carly Rae Jepsen throwing one of the worst first pitches in baseball history down at Tropicana Field was the one I originally selected, but Munenori Kawasaki’s speech up in Toronto was the winner. I’m actually glad Kawasaki won, despite not picking him, as he is one of the funniest guys in baseball, and I still get a laugh by watching footage of his speech.

POSTSEASON MOMENT

My original pick: Allen Craig scores on obstruction

Winner: Allen Craig scores on obstruction

This was one of the most unusual endings to a postseason game in baseball history. Allen Craig scored, tripping over third baseman, Will Middlebrooks, on an obstruction call to end game three of the 2013 World Series, and it was truly an incredible, and memorable, moment.

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT

My original pick: Mariano Rivera

Winner: Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera is on his way to the Hall of Fame, after having one of the best careers for a pitcher in MLB history. The greatest closer in MLB history, with 652 career saves, Rivera won this award fairly easily, with the respect he has earned over the years and the stats he’s been able to put together for the Yankees.

2013 Players Choice Awards

The 2013 MLB Players Choice Awards were announced last night on MLB Network. These awards, as the name would suggest, are voted on by players from around baseball — American League players vote for American League players, with National League players voting for National League players, in most categories — each September, when they receive a ballot to make their pick for each category.

The winning players for each category are awarded a grant from the MLB Players Trust, ranging from 20,000-50,000 dollars depending on the category they win. The money goes to the winners’ choice of charity, with some players deciding to split up the money between multiple causes.

This marks the 21st annual Players Choice Awards, which began in 1992.

Here’s a recap of the winners, with my thoughts on each:

OUTSTANDING ROOKIE AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees- Chris Archer, Jose Iglesias and Wil Myers

AL Winner- Wil Myers

NL Nominees- Shelby Miller, Jose Fernandez and Yasiel Puig

NL Winner- Jose Fernandez

In my opinion, the players got it right. While there were several good candidates from both leagues to win the Outstanding Rookie, none deserved it more than Wil Myers and Jose Fernandez. Myers batted .293 with 13 home runs and 53 RBI’s while Fernandez went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA. Truly incredible inaugural seasons, and I hope the baseball writers pick them for the Rookie of the Year award next week.

OUTSTANDING PITCHER AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees- Anibal Sanchez, Yu Darvish and Max Scherzer

AL Winner- Max Scherzer

NL Nominees- Francisco Liriano, Clayton Kershaw and Jose Fernandez

NL Winner- Clayton Kershaw

There was really no competition here. While every nominee had a great season, both Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw stand above the rest. While Darvish’s 2.83 ERA and 277 strikeouts are impressive, beating out Scherzer in each category, it’s hard to ignore Scherzer’s win-loss record of 21-3. Likewise, it’s hard to ignore Clayton Kershaw’s ERA of 1.83 for the season. Both will likely be named the Cy Young award winners for their respective league.

COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees- Scott Kazmir, Victor Martinez and Mariano Rivera

AL Winner- Mariano Rivera

NL Nominees- Marlon Byrd, Francisco Liriano and Troy Tulowtzki

NL Winner- Francisco Liriano

Of the American League nominees, you knew it was going to be Mariano Rivera. There was no way his final season, in which he recorded 44 saves after suffering a season ending injury in 2012, was going to be overlooked. Rivera truly had a comeback year for the ages. On the National League side, Francisco Liriano had a great year, going 16-8 with a 3.02 ERA, however, I thought Troy Tulowitzki deserved the award, after the subpar seasons he’s had lately. But it is what it is.

OUTSTANDING PLAYER AWARD ($20,000)

AL Nominees- Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and Chris Davis

AL Winner- Miguel Cabrera

NL Nominees- Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen and Yadier Molina

NL Winner- Andrew McCutchen

It came down to Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis for me in the AL, as both had amazing years — not to take anything away from Mike Trout. Cabrera ended up receiving the honor, as his batting average of .348 to go along with 44 homers and 137 RBI’s made the hard decision a little easier. Andrew McCutchen won for the NL, and I by no means agree with that. McCutchen had a great year, no doubt about that, but Paul Goldschmidt’s .302 average with league leading 36 home runs and 125 deserves it more.

MARVIN MILLER MAN OF THE YEAR AWARD ($50,000)

Nominees- Carlos Beltran, Raul Ibanez and Mariano Rivera

Winner- Mariano Rivera

The Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award is given each year to the player most recognized for outstanding on-field performance and off-field contributions to his community. Past winners include Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols and Chipper Jones. This year it went to Mariano Rivera, and I couldn’t think of a better person to receive this award.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD ($50,000)

Nominees- Miguel Cabrera, Chris Davis and Clayton Kershaw

Winner- Miguel Cabrera

It’s always difficult to pick between a hitter and a pitcher, as their stats are completely different. Having to choose between a .348 average, in Miguel Cabrera, 53 home runs, in Chris Davis, and a 1.83 ERA, in Clayton Kershaw, makes things even more complicated. But the players went with Cabrera, and I can’t argue against that. This is the second straight season Cabrera has been named player of the year by the players. In addition, it was announced that Miguel Cabrera will be the new cover player for MLB 14 The Show. Not a bad year for Cabrera.

Final Games of the 2013 MLB Regular Season

Every new season brings new hope among all thirty teams around Major League Baseball. No matter how badly you did the year before, there’s always a chance that any given season could be your year. However, the yearly aspiration of postseason baseball ended for nineteen teams on Sunday afternoon — leaving just the Red Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Indians, Rays, Rangers, Braves, Cardinals, Dodgers, Pirates and Reds with shots at winning it all.

But it’s not going to be an easy road for any of them.

The Rays and Rangers face arguably the most difficult path, as they ended the season tied for the second American League Wild Card spot, and therefore will have to play in a one-game tiebreaker game Monday night in Arlington — game 163 of the season. It’s do or die for both teams, as a win could mean playoff glory, with a loss meaning the end of the season.

It’s sure to be an incredibly great game.

While eleven teams are still battling it out for a shot at becoming World Series Champions, the remainder of the teams are done for the year. But some players on those teams are finished forever, as they announced their retirement earlier in the season.

7Mariano Rivera and Todd Helton are two of the biggest names of the retirees, and both have good cases for the Hall of Fame, once their first year of eligibility rolls around in 2019.

Rivera — the greatest closer in MLB history — is the definition of greatness, both on and off the field. Rivera will go down as one of the best players and people the game has ever seen, and will undoubtedly be missed by everyone around the baseball world.

Another player of equal caliber is Todd Helton, who made a name for himself as arguably the best player in Rockies history, as well as a player who is well respected all around the game.

It will be interesting to see how both the Yankees and Rockies — teams that had subpar years — will do next year without their long-time star players.

In the end, no matter what next year brings, it’s extremely sad to see them go.

But Sunday wasn’t completely full of sadness.

Henderson Alvarez, of the Miami Marlins, threw the fifth no hitter in franchise history, however, it wasn’t done in the most conventional way; part of what makes it so intriguing. Alvarez recorded the twenty-seventh out of the game in the ninth, without having allowed any hits, but it wasn’t officially a no-no just yet. The Marlins gave Alvarez absolutely no run support, and it took a bases loaded, wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to secure both the Marlins win and, more importantly, Alvarez’s no hitter.

Truly a remarkable way to end the year.

If the 2013 postseason winds up providing anywhere close to the level of excitement the last day of the 2013 regular season brought, it’s sure to be an amazing month of October.

My final latest leaders blog post, which I was planning to post tomorrow, will have to be moved to Tuesday, as game 163 of the year is being played tomorrow night between the Rangers and Rays, with the stats counting towards the regular season stats. After that, my postseason predictions will be posted on Thursday as scheduled. Be sure to check back to see who I have making it to the World Series. (My World Series predictions will come after the two teams have been decided a few weeks down the road.)