Results tagged ‘ Mike Trout ’

What Impact Will Lincecum Signing Actually Have?

It’s been nearly a year since we last saw Tim Lincecum pitch in a Major League Baseball game, but that will soon change. After being rumored to have made Lincecum an offer earlier this week, the Angels finally made a deal with him official on Friday, signing Lincecum to a one-year contract for the 2016 season worth around two million dollars (plus incentives).

LincecumAs a Lincecum fan, I’m certainly happy to see him on his way back to pitching in the majors (it’s believed that he will need a few starts in the minors to get ready), but I also find myself questioning just which Tim Lincecum the Angels are getting. After all, he’s been extremely inconsistent over the past several years.

Following a stellar start to his career, in which Lincecum recorded back-to-back Cy Young award seasons in 2008 and 2009, the former first-round pick has gone down hill ever since around the 2012 season.

After posting his final sub-three ERA year in 2011, Lincecum proceeded to see that number rocket up to 5.18 over the course of 33 starts made in 2012 (given, the Giants still went on to win the second of Lincecum’s three career World Series rings that season).

Over the past four seasons, the soon-to-be 32-year-old Lincecum has notched a collective 4.68 ERA over 106 games started, all before being shut down mid-season in 2015 due to a degenerative condition in both hips. It took Lincecum all of the offseason as well as Spring Training and the first two months of this season to get healthy, but he appears to be fully recovered from his injury, impressing many with a pitching showcase two weeks ago in Arizona.

The Angels certainly could use a fully healthy starter in their injury-plagued rotation. After the loss of Garrett Richards for the remainder of the 2016 season, who had a 2.34 ERA so far on the year, as well as Andrew Heaney (and C.J. Wilson until June), the Angels needed someone to replace some of those lost innings. They appear to have found their guy in the form of Tim Lincecum.

Sitting 4.5 games back in the American League West, the Angels have a bit of work to do but aren’t completely out of things, with it still being very early in the season. The Mariners are performing better than most people believed they would, and the Astros have been a major disappointment so far, so anything can truly happen in that division.

Although Lincecum’s old team, the Giants, are riding an eight-game winning streak, the Angels are more than capable of going on a big run and getting back into the mix. Signing Tim Lincecum goes a long way in making that a possibility.

Lincecum AZWith decent production coming from Nick Tropeano and Hector Santiago to this point, Lincecum will likely slide into the middle to back end of the Angels rotation, but that’s a step in the right direction for a guy who was predicted to inevitably have to begin his journey back into being a big leaguer as a bullpen piece. The Angels have given Lincecum a big opportunity to begin as a starter right out of the gate.

With that in mind, however, I don’t think Lincecum will let them down. In fact, I think he may turn out to be a bit better than anticipated.

Throughout his poor outings over the last several seasons, Lincecum has thrown sporadic quality games, recording a no-hitter in both the 2013 and the 2014 seasons. He’s still a major league caliber pitcher, especially now that he’s reportedly fully healthy and ready to go.

Perhaps Lincecum won’t ever be an All-Star again — as he was in four straight seasons from 2008-2011 — but the Angels don’t need him to be. They’re getting a fan-favorite, and, more importantly, a guy who knows how to win, and has proven his value over and over again throughout his career.

In the end, no matter what happens, the Angels lose nothing (besides a couple million dollars) by signing Tim Lincecum. On one hand, if Lincecum flops, they’re no worse off than if they had passed on signing him in the first place. But on the other hand, if Lincecum returns to even a portion of his former self, the Angels may have just helped their team out in a big way. It’s the definition of a low-risk, high-reward type of deal.

When it comes to a guy like Tim Lincecum, I’d take that deal every time.

Arenado: The Most Underappreciated Player in MLB

If I asked you to name the best player in Major League Baseball age 25 or younger, your mind would likely immediately turn to Bryce Harper, Mike Trout or Manny Machado, who have all become superstars. And you wouldn’t receive any argument whatsoever from me as to any of those players being the best in the game. It’s all opinion-based, with no one truly being right or wrong. But there is one player who I feel isn’t getting the full recognition he deserves, and that’s Nolan Arenado.

ArenadoArenado is in the highlight reels virtually every single night, and he’s won his share of recognition through awards (three straight Gold Gloves and a Silver Slugger last season), but he’s still not being held in the regard that I feel he should be. Arenado is simply one of the best — if not the best — players in the majors today, yet he doesn’t receive the coverage to the same extent of Harper, Trout and Machado.

Mike Trout got off to a somewhat slow start in 2016, but has been turning things around as of late. Following an eight game start to the season where Trout recorded just one homer and batted .185, Trout has now notched seven dingers and is hitting above .300 for the season. He is undoubtedly headed for another MVP-type season, as every one of his years have been to this point. But Nolan Arenado has better numbers.

Bryce Harper, just the opposite of Trout’s season, began things on a blazing pace, but has slowed down recently. Over his last 15 games, Harper is hitting just .167, but has recorded 22 walks, leading to the best on base percentage of the Arenadoplayers listed in this blog post. With his average greatly down this season, it makes you wonder if Harper can get back on track. Even so, Harper is the type of player who can get red hot overnight. But Nolan Arenado has been more consistent.

Manny Machado has been fairly consistent, and in some ways even more consistent than Arenado, all season long, and is having another great year. He has more hits than the other three, subsequently leading the other three in batting average, and is playing great defense at third base — the American League version of Nolan Arenado. But Nolan Arenado has more career Gold Gloves.

Drowned out a bit by the historically hot start of Trevor Story in 2016, and with Arenado playing in Colorado, his accomplishments can be a bit overshadowed at times. Nolan Arenado has just as much power as any player in baseball, plays an unbelievable defensive third base, and is the best overall combination of the talents of Harper, Trout and Machado. He’s going to hit .300 every season, drive in well over 100 runs and hit 40+ home runs. Not many players can post those type of numbers year in and year out.

In the end, it’s hard to compare the four of Harper, Trout, Machado and Arenado, with them all playing different types of games, but I still feel that Arenado is the best of them all, even if it’s not acknowledged quite as often or on the same level as the other three. Arenado has the ability to win the Triple-Crown any given season, and will inevitably be one of the top players in baseball for years to come.

The most overlooked all-around player in baseball, if you ask me.

My Initial 2016 MLB All-Star Game Ballot

We aren’t even a month into the baseball season, and the 2016 Major League Baseball All-Star game ballot has already been released. I feel it’s a little too early to be casting votes for the Midsummer Classic, as some superstar players have gotten off to rough starts and will likely get back to their former glory by the time the All-Star game arrives on July 12th out in San Diego, while some previously unknown players who have busted out of the gate will likely be merely trickling along by that time.San Diego

But even so, I decided to go ahead and post a blog on the subject, regardless of the earliness of it all.

Voting itself is simple. Although there are no longer paper ballots that you can pick up and fill out at your local ballpark, you can head over to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You can vote up to 5 times per day, and 35 times total, for the players of your choice. (Voting is open until June 30th.)

Due to the All-Star game still being over two months away, I divided things up a bit this year. I’m going to go ahead and cast 15 votes for the players I feel are All-Star worthy as of now (the players discussed below), with a plan to go back and cast my other 20 available votes in the final week leading up to the actual game. Odds are, at least a few of them will be different, but as for right now, here are the players at each position that I feel are deserving of playing in the 2016 MLB All-Star game:

FIRST BASE:  Joe Mauer (AL),  Adrian Gonzalez (NL)

With guys such as Eric Hosmer, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis to choose from in the American League portion of things, this wasn’t necessarily an easy decision, but I ended up going with Joe Mauer. Leading the pack in batting average, Mauer has really gotten off to a nice start of what looks to be a bounce back season.

For the National League, I chose Adrian Gonzalez. He is second in the National League first basemen group in average, and is off to an equally good start as Joe Mauer. Amazingly, Joey Votto, Freddie Freeman and Anthony Rizzo are all batting down around .200, making this a somewhat easy choice.

SECOND BASE: Ian Kinsler (AL),  Neil Walker (NL)

Picking between Jose Altuve and Ian Kinsler was rather difficult, as both have stats very similar to the other. In the end, however, I chose Kinsler for the all-around game he brings to the table. While Altuve has had a hot bat to begin the season, it’s Kinsler who I feel can continue to hold his streak the longest.

There are multiple options for National League secondbaseman, with Daniel Murphy and Jean Segura’s high averages jumping out as All-Star worthy. But I wound up picking Neil Walker, who has a combination of a good average, along with a high early homer total that make him All-Star game worthy.

SHORTSTOP:  Carlos Correa (AL),  Zack Cozart (NL)

After winning the 2015 American League Rookie of the Year award, I currently have Carlos Correa being the AL starting shortstop at the All-Star game as well. Correa plays a great defense and has just as much pop in his bat as anyone around baseball. Therefore, I picked him on my ballot.

The National League shortstop spot goes to Zack Cozart in my mind. While Trevor Story leads the pack in homers and RBI’s, the majority of those came during his extremely hot (and historic) first several games. Recently, Story has cooled off a ton, and the shortstop spot is Cozart’s to lose, in my opinion.

THIRD BASE: Manny Machado (AL),  Nolan Arenado (NL)

There are a ton of worthy candidates in the American League for All-Star game third baseman, but, unfortunately, I could only choose one on my ballot. Josh Donaldson, Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos and even Adrian Beltre all have cases. But I went with Manny Machado, who has been incredible to start the season.

Going against Maikel Franco and Kris Bryant was extremely hard to do, especially with them getting off to good starts, but I didn’t go with either of them. Instead, I went with Nolan Arenado. Although his stats aren’t much better than any of the other options, Arenado is one of the best both offensively and defensively at the position.

CATCHER:  Salvador Perez (AL), Wellington Castillo  (NL)

Though his average is a good distance away from the magic .300 mark, Salvador Perez is deserving of the All-Star catcher slot. He is having a great season in Kansas City, once again, and easily earns my vote. Always consistently good, Perez is one of the best catchers in the game, and should be honored as such.

Yadier Molina is always the heavy favorite for National League starting catcher, and he is once again on top in batting average. But I didn’t go with Molina. Instead, I went with breakout catcher, Wellington Castillo. Castillo is having a great year to this point, and he has a very good case for being named the starter in July.

DESIGNATED HITTER: David Ortiz

David Ortiz could be hitting .100 by the time the All-Star game rolls around and he still would be worthy of the vote. Being his final season, and with all he’s done over his career, he deserves it no matter what. But the stats are there, regardless. Ortiz more than deserves to play in his final All-Star game.

OUTFIELD

It’s never easy to narrow down several dozen players to three All-Star picks 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:

Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout and Steven Souza Jr. (AL)

Picking Mark Trumbo and Steven Souza Jr. was a bit tough, but they’re having too good of seasons for me to ignore. Although they likely won’t be the top vote-getters when all is said and done, they earn my vote for now. Mike Trout, on the other hand, was a no-brainer. Despite a slow start, Trout is heating things up, and is still a superstar.

Bryce Harper, Yoenis Cespedes and Ryan Braun (NL)

As with Mike Trout in the AL, picking Bryce Harper for National League outfield was the easiest choice of the three. But after a lot of debate between the candidates to fill the other places, I wound up choosing Yoenis Cespedes and Ryan Braun, who are each having uniquely great seasons, and are each very exciting players to watch.

Donaldson and Harper Win MVP Award

The Most Valuable Player award was first given out in 1911 to Ty Cobb of the American League and Frank Schulte of the National League. Originally known as the Chalmers award, named after Hugh Chalmers, the award didn’t catch on as well as had been hoped, and therefore was discontinued after the 1914 season.

In 1922 the League Awards were established to honor the baseball player in the American League (National League began being recognized in 1924) who provided the greatest all-around service to their club. The winner — who received a medal and cash for winning — was voted on by a committee of eight baseball writers, with a player not being able to win more than once. Like the Chalmers awards, these awards didn’t last long, stopping in 1929.

Finally in 1931 the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Most Valuable Player award was established, which is the award still given out today.

Voting for the award is fairly straightforward.

Two writers from each city of both the American League and National League make up the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA) voters for the Most Valuable Player award, making a total of thirty voters for each league (fifteen teams, with two voters per city). A first place vote earns a player fourteen points, a second place vote gets nine points, a third place vote receives eight points, a fourth place vote is worth seven points, and so on, all the way until tenth place for one point. Once added up, the player with the highest overall total wins.

There is no specific criteria for the voters to use when choosing the Most Valuable Player, but some suggested attributes include value of a player to his team (strength of offense and defense), number of games played, and a player’s overall character, disposition, loyalty and effort.

The 2015 Major League Baseball Most Valuable Player award winners for both the American League and National League were announced Thursday night on MLB Network. Here are the winners, along with my thoughts on each:

AMERICAN LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Josh Donaldson

Finalists: Lorenzo Cain, Josh Donaldson and Mike Trout

Winner: Josh Donaldson

Thoughts On Josh Donaldson Winning

Anytime a players posts a .297 average with 41 home runs and 123 RBI’s, they have to be considered as a very strong candidate for Most Valuable Player. That’s exactly what Josh Donaldson was able to do this season, and he was the Donaldsonfavorite heading into the award announcement on Thursday night.

Josh Donaldson wound up winning by a fairly large margin, amassing a total of 385 points off of 23 out of 30 first place votes, with Mike Trout getting the other 7 first place votes and 304 total points, and Lorenzo Cain placing third with 225 points of his own.

This marks the third time that Trout has finished second in the American League MVP voting, joining him with Mickey Mantle for second most runner up finishes in baseball history. But with the year Donaldson had, you simply had to pick him to take home the honor.

Helping the Blue Jays make the playoffs for the first time since 1993, Donaldson came up time and time again throughout the year for Toronto, and proved his value in some very big spots. He becomes just the second player in Blue Jays team history to win the Most Valuable Player award.

If Donaldson can keep it up and post another incredible season in 2016, it very well may not be his last time in the running for the award.

NATIONAL LEAGUE MOST VALUABLE PLAYER

Original Pick: Bryce Harper

Finalists: Paul Goldschmidt, Bryce Harper and Joey Votto

Winner: Bryce Harper

Thoughts On Bryce Harper Winning

There were three finalists for the National League Most Valuable Player award, but there was truly only one choice. The year Bryce Harper had made him more than deserving of the award in the minds of many people. Inevitably, the Baseball Writers Association of America agreed.Harper

Bryce Harper received all 30 first place votes for a collective 420 points. Paul Goldschmidt received 234 points, and Joey Votto got 175 point from the voters, earning him a third place finish.

At 23 years of age (Harper just turned 23 in October), Harper becomes the youngest player to ever win the MVP by a unanimous vote, and just the seventh all-time. In addition, Harper’s MVP is the first in Washington franchise history.

Batting .330 with 42 home runs, combined with a .460 OBP due to 124 walks, made Harper the easy pick for the award. While the Nationals didn’t make it to the postseason — a factor that has played a large part in the voting in recent years — it didn’t truly matter. His stats were more than worthy of him being the first player since Albert Pujols in 2008 to win MVP from a team that didn’t reach the playoffs.

Finally able to have a fully healthy season after battling injuries over the early part of his career, Harper ultimately was able to break out as a superstar, and all signs point to him being able to keep it up as he matures into his prime.

Both Josh Donaldson and Bryce Harper had terrific seasons in which they came up time and time again all season long for their given teams, making them very valuable. Moving forward, they will undoubtedly be in the MVP conversation in future seasons. It should be interesting to see which players emerge to challenge them in 2016.

My Vote for 2015 A.L. Most Valuable Player Award

Choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.Donaldson

With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Josh Donaldson, Mike Trout, and even Chris Davis, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the American League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.

Chris Davis posted some unbelievable stats in 2015, of 47 home runs and 117 RBI’s all while hitting a solid .262. Whenever a player does that, they have to at the very least be acknowledged as a valuable member of their given team. Even so, while Davis was arguably the most valuable Orioles player, he was by no means the most valuable player in all of the American League.

That honor came down to Mike Trout (once again) and Josh Donaldson. But while Trout had another incredible statistical season, in which he brought a tremendous amount of value, he won’t be picking up his second straight MVP. Despite an elite on base percentage of .402, along with 41 homers, Trout didn’t quite put up the numbers needed to win the award.

In my opinion, and the opinion of many others around the baseball world, Josh Donaldson is the best choice for the 2015 American League Most Valuable Player award. All season long, Donaldson came up big for the Blue Jays time and time again. Although the likes of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion did their fare share of carrying the team, it was Donaldson leading the charge. With his 41 homers, league-leading 123 RBI’s and batting average of .301, Donaldson truly earned the MVP.

Albert Pujols Unlocking Youthful Self

In game one of a doubleheader against the Red Sox on Monday afternoon, Albert Pujols blasted a homer to left for his 547th career home run. But as stunning as that is, it would turn out to be the second game on the day that would have people talking.Pujols

Facing Red Sox knuckleballer, Steven Wright, Pujols smacked a hanging knuckler into the left field seats in his first at-bat, tying him with Mike Schmidt on the all-time home run list. Later in the game, Pujols hit yet another dinger, giving him two for the game, three on the day, and moving him into 15th place on the all-time chart.

Pujols hasn’t been playing this way for quite some time. Since signing a 10-year, 240 million dollar contract with the Angels in 2012, the Angels have been expecting this kind of production from Pujols — the kind he recorded in his days in St. Louis. But Pujols has been just a shell of his former self; until recently, that is.

Since May 28th, Pujols has been on a tear, hitting 21 of his 29 homers on the season. Becoming the first Angels player since 1995 to homer in both games of a doubleheader, it would appear that Pujols is back in full force. But it’s not just Pujols who is putting on a show. Mike Trout also smacked a homer of his own on Monday, giving him 28 on the year in what has become a back and forth home run battle between him and Pujols.

Currently, Pujols is on pace to smack 51 home runs — that would be a career high — with Mike Trout on pace for 49. If that happens, they would become just the sixth pair of teammates to finish with 45+ home runs. If they can both reach 50, they would match a mark set by only one other pair of teammates in baseball history: Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in 1961.

But while on pace numbers are never a number to be set in stone, Trout and Pujols are well on their way to becoming the first teammates to finish in the top two spots for home runs on the season since Manny Ramirez (43 homers) and David Ortiz (41) did so back in 2004. That would still be an amazing feat.

With the Angels playing great baseball, thanks in large part to the hot bat of Albert Pujols, many people are foreseeing them making an even deeper run into the playoffs than the one they were swept out of in 2014. However, with Pujols just seven homers away from passing Manny Ramirez on the home run list, and just 15 away from jumping over Reggie Jackson, a lot of eyes will also be focused solely on Pujols.

Having stated that he plans to fully play out his contract, which runs through 2021, Pujols has a chance at making things really interesting down the road. 600 home runs is a lock for sure, but 700 isn’t out of the question. Assuming Pujols is sitting around 565-570 homers at the end of the season, with six full seasons left to go on his contract, that comes out to right around 22 home runs per season. Very doable, if you ask me.

It all just depends on how long Albert Pujols can keep the fountain of youth flowing.

2015 Award Frontrunners at the All-Star Break

Sunday marked the last day of MLB games until after the All-Star break, and although the baseball world is looking forward to seeing baseball’s best sluggers put on a show in the home run derby, I wanted to quickly focus my attention on the players who have posted amazing performances throughout the first half of the season.

For this post, I’m covering the players who I feel stand the best chance right now (given, it’s still early) of winning the three major awards of Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year and Cy Young. All three awards have multiple players who can be argued as being deserving, but I have my own opinion as to who deserves each award the most at this point in the season.

Most Valuable Player Award

American League: Mike TroutLos Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Kansas City Royals

After a couple of seasons of getting beaten out for the award by Miguel Cabrera, Trout is finally breaking out into an every season Most Valuable Player. Already having blasted 26 home runs, and well on his way to another 100+ run year, Trout could be picking up another MVP at the season’s end.

National League: Paul Goldschmidt

I nearly went with Bryce Harper for this category, and when all is said and done, he very well may win it. But there is no ignoring what Paul Goldschmidt is doing for the Diamondback’s. With a .340 batting average, 21 homers and 70 RBI’s, Goldschmidt is having an MVP caliber season.

Rookie of the Year Award

American League: Lance McCullers Jr.McCullers

Picking Lance McCullers Jr. was by no means an easy choice, as there are a few other pitchers and position players that have stats that stand out, but I decided that he was currently the leader. With a 2.52 ERA over 11 games started, McCullers is really impressing a lot of people around the baseball world.

National League: Joc Pederson

It is somewhat difficult to pick between Joc Pederson and Kris Bryant for who deserves the award, but I ended up going with Pederson. Despite batting in the lower .200’s, Pederson’s 20 home runs so far is extremely impressive for a rookie. In my mind, that’s enough to earn him the award.

Cy Young Award

American League: Sonny GrayGreinke

Although there is a good amount of competition at the break for the American League Cy Young award, Sonny Gray leads the charge. With a 2.04 ERA over 18 games started, and an opponent batting average below .200, Gray is in a good spot if he can keep pitching the way he has.

National League: Zack Greinke

Once again, there’s a Dodgers pitcher out in front of the candidates for Cy Young award, but this time it’s not Clayton Kershaw. Instead, Kershaw’s teammate, Zack Greinke, is the one dominating the league. With an incredible ERA of 1.39 after 123.1 innings pitched, Greinke would have to fall apart to not win the award.

Whether or not you agree or disagree with my picks for who deserves each award at this point in the season, one thing is for sure: there is still a lot of season left where any player can have anything happen. With 15 of the 30 teams at .500 or better, in terms of wins-losses go, regardless of the award races, the games following the mid-summer classic are sure to make for an exciting second half.

Who I’d Like to See In the 2015 Home Run Derby

Although we don’t yet know who the captain for the American League and National League home run derby team is going to be, I wanted to go ahead and give my take for which players I’d like to see in the home run derby up in Cincinnati on July 13th. Assuming the rules change from 2014 that saw an additional player being added to each league’s derby team stays the same, I selected the five players from each league that I wanted to see in the derby.

While there are some players that I left off, for one reason or another, I feel the players I selected would make for a great 2015 home run derby, as they all have to ability to hit a good amount of home runs as well as doing so for big power. With the 2015 home run derby just over three weeks away, here are the players I’d most enjoy seeing take part:

American League

Nelson Cruz: Of all the players from the American League to choose from, this was the easiest of them all. Nelson Cruz led all of baseball in home runs back in 2014, and is well on his way to finishing near the top again. Although Cruz can hit tape measure shots, I think he would do well in the derby due to his ability to hit numerous home runs as well. He would put on a show.

Josh Donaldson: Donaldson isn’t that widely known as a slugger, but he has been a breakout player over the past few seasons, and is having a great year with the Blue Jays this season. Donaldson can really launch the ball a long way, and I think that he would stand a shot at winning if he can find a groove and stick with it. Having him in the derby would definitely be fun.

Mark Teixeira: This isn’t the most obvious of picks, as Teixeira has been up and down over the past few years, but he is having a good season this year, and he should be in the home run derby. Somewhat surprisingly sitting in the top five of the American League in homers, Teixeira would be a general sleeper pick for the derby, but if he could get things going, he would last awhile, I believe.

Mike Trout: There truly isn’t anything in baseball that Mike Trout isn’t good at, and that includes hitting home runs. Trout is currently one of the most well known and liked players in baseball, and having him take part in the derby would get more people to watch. And I feel that they would be treated to a show, as Trout would likely hit several long homers on his pursuit of the title.

Edwin Encarnacion: Josh Donaldson’s teammate, Edwin Encarnacion, can hit a ball just as far, if not farther, than nearly every other player in the big leagues. It’s that ability to launch balls a great distance that I think would make him great for the derby. He would be able to put on a show, hitting balls deep into the stands, and would stand a good chance at making it deep into the derby.

National League

Paul Goldschmidt: Goldschmidt is well on his way to having a great season yet again, and that includes posting a large number in the home run category. Goldschmidt has the ability to hit numerous home runs in addition to hitting them a great distance, and that makes him perfect for the home run derby. He would represent the National League extremely well in the competition.

Todd Frazier: Frazier would be on my list of derby participant regardless of the fact that his team is hosting the All-Star festivities, as he has great stats that warrant the selection. However, it is an added bonus that Frazier is a Red, and that would inevitably make him a fan favorite among the crowd. Frazier might not win, but he will give the fans an extra something to cheer for.

Giancarlo Stanton: Stanton was the favorite to win the 2014 derby by nearly everyone, but he disappointed to say the least. But although he didn’t win, Stanton hit balls further than nearly all of his competition and was still able to put on a show. With him having another great year, I think Stanton would do better in the derby and deserves another shot at winning the whole thing.

Joc Pederson: The fact that Pederson is merely a rookie and is launching home runs as if he’s been in the majors for a decade is remarkable. And that’s why he deserves to be in the derby. Pederson would likely hit balls farther than anyone with the exception of Stanton, and he would be able to put on a great show. Therefore, having Pederson in the derby is something I’d really like to see happen.

Bryce Harper: Harper surprised some people in the 2013 derby with how well he did, and with him having such a good season this time around, I think he should be in the derby once again. Harper isn’t liked by some around the baseball world, but his talent can’t be denied. If Harper can find a pace he’s comfortable with, I think he stands a really good shot at the derby crown.

So, those are my picks for who I’d like to see in the 2015 home run derby up at Great American Ballpark on July 13th. Odds are that not all of them will be selected, but I truly hoped the majority of them are in the derby. Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Who would you like to see participate? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

My Ballot for the 2015 MLB All-Star Game

The ballot for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star game has been out for awhile now, but I’ve been holding off with casting my votes for who I’d like to see in the game up in Cincinnati on July 14th. With it seeming like the ballot is coming out earlier and earlier each year, I wanted to give players enough time to put up quality numbers before I made any decisions. But I finally feel there are enough stats to make a logical decision.AllStar

Voting is simple. Although there are no longer paper ballots that you can pick up and fill out at your local ballpark, you can head over to MLB.com and fill out an online ballot with the player you feel most deserves the honor for each position. You can vote up to 35 times for the players of your choice. (Voting is open until July 2nd.)

I cast my maximum 35 votes a few days ago. Although the All-Star game is still just under two months away, I figured I’d go ahead and go over the players I picked for the Midsummer Classic. A lot of things can change, with my picks subsequently changing as well, but these are the players I went ahead and voted for to make the All-Star game:

FIRST BASE: Miguel Cabrera (AL), Adrian Gonzalez (NL)

It came down to Miguel Cabrera, Eric Hosmer and Mark Teixeira for me in the American League portion of the first base spot. While Teixeira leads in homers and RBI’s, his batting average was too low for me to select him. In addition, Eric Hosmer has fewer homers and RBI’s than Cabrera in more at-bats, and thus, I picked Miguel Cabrera.

In the National League, it was another tough decision. While Paul Goldschmidt is producing another year worth of MVP caliber numbers, and although Anthony Rizzo is getting better and better, I voted for Adrian Gonzalez. Getting off to a hot start to begin the year, Gonzalez holds the second highest batting average in baseball and deserves to make it.

SECOND BASE: Jose Altuve (AL), Dee Gordon (NL)

Jose Altuve leading all of American League second baseman in stolen bases, sitting second in average and third in homers was enough to get him selected by me to make the All-Star game. Although Devon Travis of the Blue Jays has been a highlight reel each night, Altuve is one of the most exciting second basemen in baseball.

The National League race for All-Star second baseman was an easy decision on my part. Dee Gordon is deserving of the spot, no question about it. Gordon doesn’t have any home runs, but that’s not his game. He leads all NL second basemen in stolen bases, and holds a batting average above .400. That’s deserving of All-Star recognition.

SHORTSTOP: Marcus Semien (AL), Brandon Crawford (NL)

I’ll be honest — I had to double check Marcus Semien’s stats when I was casting my vote for American League shortstop. I knew he was having a good year, but I didn’t realize how good. Leading the American League shortstops in homers and stolen bases, Semien is the unlikely frontrunner for the honor.

It was no easy task to choose a shortstop that had the best stats for the All-Star game. There are a ton of them with good numbers in one category or another. But while names such as Zack Cozart, Jhonny Peralta, etc., stood out, I went with Brandon Crawford, who has good numbers as well as the amazing defense to match.

THIRD BASE: Josh Donaldson (AL), Todd Frazier (NL)

You could make cases for Manny Machado, Mike Moustakas, Josh Donaldson and even Evan Longoria for the American League third base spot in the All-Star game. But I went with Donaldson, who is having a fantastic year. Sitting second in homers but first in RBI’s among AL third basemen, Donaldson should be in Cincy in July.

The first and only Red on my list — likely to be a favorite with the Reds hosting the All-Star game — is Todd Frazier, who I selected for NL third base in the midsummer classic. His batting average isn’t the best, but he is at the top in homers and is deserving in my mind of the honor.

CATCHER: Stephen Vogt (AL), Buster Posey (NL)

This is somewhat of a shocking pick, but a very deserving one. Stephen Vogt wasn’t all that well known as recently as a year ago, but his bat is making him more of a common name. Vogt leads AL catchers in average, home runs and RBI’s, and should lead them in voting when all is said and done.

I could’ve easily picked Miguel Montero or Yasmani Grandal to make the start behind the plate for the National League, but I went with the always consistent Buster Posey instead. Posey leads AL catchers in homers, and should be adding another All-Star game to his already impressive resume.

DESIGNATED HITTER: Nelson Cruz

Although the designated hitter role in the All-Star game goes to David Ortiz the majority of the time, there is simply no other choice for DH this year than Nelson Cruz. It’s not even close. Cruz leads all designated hitters in homers, runs batted in and average, and will be in the All-Star game up in Cincinnati.

OUTFIELD

It’s never easy to narrow down several dozen players to three All-Star picks 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, Josh Reddick and Adam Jones (AL)

Mike Trout was a nobrainer, as he once again is in the process of posting another fantastic season, but the other two spots were somewhat difficult with all of the great players. In the end, after examining all of the stats, I made the tough choice of Josh Reddick and Adam Jones. I hope to see them in the All-Star game starting lineups.

Bryce Harper, Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton (NL)

As with Mike Trout in the AL, picking Bryce Harper for National League outfield was the easiest choice of the three. But after a lot of debate between the candidates to fill the other places, I wound up choosing Justin Upton and Giancarlo Stanton. Upton is having a good year, and despite a subpar average, Stanton is dominating yet again.

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):

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:

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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:

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.

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