Results tagged ‘ Twins ’

Robinson Cano Agrees to Mega-Deal With Mariners

Ten years, 240 million dollars.

That’s what it took to get Robinson Cano to the Pacific Northwest.

After a long period of guessing as to whether Cano going to Seattle was purely speculation, the baseball world found out on Friday that it was in fact a reality. The five time All-Star will certainly make an immediate impact for the Mariners, but how big of an overall impact is yet to be seen.robinson-cano

Even with the signing of Cano, who batted .317 with 25 home runs and 107 RBI’s in 2013, the Mariners are still a ways from becoming a competitive team in the talented American League West division, in the minds of many.

With the Rangers and Athletics turning their already good teams into even better teams this offseason (the Rangers trading for Prince Fielder and the A’s signing Jim Johnson, among others) it’s going to be interesting to see how the Mariners fare this coming season.

But locking up a player of Cano’s caliber for the next ten years is definitely a step in the right direction.

Cano has been a consistent player over the course of his career, hitting at least 25 home runs over the past five seasons, and racking up a minimum of 85 RBI’s over that same span. He’s also been able to stay healthy, playing in at least 159 games for the past seven seasons. Both combined make for a good signing, in my mind. The Mariners needed a player like Cano.

As far as the deal goes, I don’t really feel ten years is appropriate. Cano is 31 years old, meaning by the time all is said and done with his contract he’ll be 41. Who knows what type of player he’ll be by then? But if ten years and 240 million — the third largest contract in MLB history, and the largest ever for a second baseman — is what it took to get this deal done, then I guess the Mariners had to do what they had to do. We’ll see if it pays off.

But Cano isn’t the only 2013 Yankee who found a new home on Friday.

Curtis Granderson agreed to a four-year deal with the New York Mets worth a reported 60 million dollars.

curtis-granderson-ap2I feel this is a great signing by the Mets, who have really struggled in recent history offensively. Granderson will provide some power to their lineup, in addition to being a great outfielder with great range. Though he was injured most of 2013, Granderson put together a couple of 40+ home run seasons the previous two years. It’s certainly possible that Granderson could do that for the Mets this coming season, but I see him as more of a 30 homer guy in that ballpark.

With or without the 40 bombs, Granderson will still be able serve as protection for David Wright in the lineup, who I could see having a career year in 2014. The Mets will be without Matt Harvey, who underwent Tommy John surgery in October, but they should still have a decent season, possibly finishing in third place, yet again, behind the Braves and Nationals.

As stated, while I still don’t think the Mets will have enough to beat out the Braves or the Nationals in their division, this move no doubt makes them an all around better team. A team that could surprise some people down the road, once they get all their pitching back together.

The good news of the day, if you’re a Yankees fan, is that Hiroki Kuroda agreed to a one-year, 16 million dollar contract to remain in New York for 2014.

Although this is little excitement after the loss of Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, the Yankees need pitching, and were smart to let both of them, and the money that would’ve come along with them, go.

The Yankees just signed a good replacement for Granderson, in Jacoby Ellsbury, and while I think they overspent on Ellsbury, as I stated with the Mariners’ signing of Cano, I guess the Yankees “had to do what they had to do” to lock him up. As far as losing Cano goes, they can use that money for what they really need — pitching. (And now, a second baseman).

With it uncertain whether or not Japenese phenom, Masahiro Tanaka, who went 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA last season, will be available, the best starting pitcher still on the market, in my mind, is Ubaldo Jimenez.

Though Jimenez has had his share of ups and down over the course of his career, he had a decent season last year, going 13-9 with a 3.30 ERA, finishing out the season strong. Jimenez is ready for a breakout season, and would be a good fit for the Yankees, now that my original pick for Jimenez, the Twins, have signed former Yankee, Phil Hughes.

If you were a fan of the 2013 Yankees, this has been a bad week for you, as many of them have departed.

But as a baseball fan, this has been one of the most exciting weeks in Major League Baseball offseason history.

My Thoughts On the Remaining MLB Free Agents

The 2013 Major League Baseball season ended nearly a month ago, but the team changing deals that take place every offseason are just now beginning. The biggest trade that has taken place so far is undoubtedly Prince Fielder going to the Rangers in exchange for Ian Kinsler, however, the Cardinals getting rid of David Freese in a trade for Peter Bourjos is up there on the list as well.

UntitledAs far as free agent signings go — none of the previously named players were free agents — Brian McCann signing to play with the Yankees was a big time deal, with Jhonny Peralta’s agreement to play with the Cardinals (4 years, 53 million dollar) being the deal that has caused the most controversy, due to past his PED use. But I won’t get into that.

Not too many of the 184 free agent players have signed yet — just 27 are off the market, having signed with a team or retired — but there’s still plenty of time left for a lot of exciting deals to go down. (The trades that could be made are nearly impossible to predict, but every free agent has to find a home somewhere — either with their same team or a new one — so that’s what I’ll be talking about.)

Notable current free agents include Carlos Beltran, Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury, among others, but I’m only going to be discussing the top ranked (in my mind) player available at each position, and which team I feel they’d fit the best with.

Keep in mind, these are the teams I feel would be the best fit for each player, not necessarily a team that’s interested in them, or subsequently will sign them.

2013 MLB TOP FREE AGENTS

Catcher: Jarrod Saltalamacchia

Team I feel should sign him: Rangers

The Rangers were in the conversation for Brian McCann to take over their catcher role, but after the Yankees locked him up, I think Saltalamacchia would be the next best thing — a good fit for both the Rangers and Saltalamacchia. Having played for the Rangers from 2007 to 2010, Saltalamacchia would be returning to familiar territory. Though he never had much success in Arlington — never playing in more than 84 games in a season — Saltalamacchia proved this past season with the Sox that he can post good numbers, batting .273 with 14 home runs and 65 RBI’s. I think the Rangers would be a great team for Saltalamacchia, but he’ll likely remain in Boston.

Designated Hitter: Kendrys Morales

Team I feel should sign him: Tigers

Kendrys Morales had a great season for the Mariners in 2013, batting .277 with 23 home runs and 80 RBI’s. Being a switch hitter — a very consistent one at that — I feel the Tigers would be a good fit for Morales. The Tigers have a right-handed-heavy lineup, and a good hitter who can hit from the left side — there are talks they could also be interested in Shin-Soo Choo — when needed would be an important addition. Also, Morales could go a long way in replacing Prince Fielder’s bat in the lineup, though admittedly it wouldn’t replace his 30+ home run power. Nonetheless, Morales is a player the Tigers need to target, in my opinion.

First Base: Mike Napoli

Team I feel should sign him: Red Sox

A lot of teams would be interested in Mike Napoli, but I feel the Red Sox should resign him, as he is a great fit where he is. Playing first base, there are really no other fantastic first basemen on the market, and they’re not about to put David Ortiz there full time. Napoli’s 23 home runs and 92 RBI’s this past season is something that’s hard to replace. He was a big reason the Red Sox were so successful this season, helping to lead them to a World Series title. Napoli shouldn’t be going anywhere.

Second Base: Robinson Cano

Team I feel should sign him: Anyone but the Yankees

Because Robinson Cano is such a good player — a great fit for multiple teams — it’s hard to pick just one team that he should sign with. The top ranked free agent of the offseason, I feel Cano doesn’t need to be in pinstripes next season for both his sake and the sake of the Yankees. Not signing Cano to a deal worth, more than likely, nearly 200 million dollars, would allow them to use that extra cash to sign some lower-priced free agents and develop an all-around better team. With or without Cano, there’s no guarantee the Yankees will make the playoffs, but I feel they’re better off in the long run without him.

Third Base: Juan Uribe

Team I feel should sign him: Yankees

Tying into one of the reasons I feel the Yankees shouldn’t resign Cano, Juan Uribe is a player who would come at a relatively affordable price to the Yankees and would be a good fit at third base, where they are very weak. With no guarantees that A-Rod will ever return, signing Uribe would give them a better defensive player at third than what they currently have, and it would add a decent offensive player to their lineup. Uribe’s .278 batting average with 12 homers and 50 RBI’s last season wouldn’t be a team-changing move for the Yankees, but it would certainly improve their situation.

Shortstop: Stephen Drew

Team I feel should sign him: Astros

The only thing that is for sure with Stephen Drew is that he has a near 100 percent chance of not being with the Red Sox next season; other than that, not a lot is certain. Drew was an impact player for the Sox this past season, playing a good defense at shortstop and coming up big in big spots, especially in the postseason, but with Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base, there just isn’t room for Drew. The Yankees could use him down the road at short, but assuming Derek Jeter is healthy, there won’t be a spot for Drew next season, other than Jeter’s backup. For Drew’s sake, I feel he’d be a good fit with the Astros, who could use an everyday shortstop — one of their many weak spots.

Left Field: Quintin Berry

Team I feel should sign him: Diamondback’s

There really aren’t a lot of great left field free agents available, but of them, Quintin Berry is the best. The Diamondback’s have a left fielder, in Adam Eaton, but I feel the acquisition of Berry would be worth it, as they could move some players around to make room for him. Berry hasn’t had a great deal of opportunity to show off any consistency at the big league level, but his speed — he’s never been caught stealing in 24 major league stolen base attempts — alone is enough for the D-back’s to take a shot on Berry, in my mind.

Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury & Shin-Soo Choo

Team I feel should sign them: Mariners (Ellsbury) and Reds (Choo)

I couldn’t pick just one player as the best available free agent at this position, as both Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo have a high value in their own unique ways. Ellsbury hasn’t been able to stay very healthy so far during his career, but an unhealthy Ellsbury is more valuable than a lot of other players in baseball — he’s that great of an impact when healthy. Though Seattle has a difficult time attracting players, due to their location and recent subpar performances, I feel they are going to become a great team in the next year or two. Ellsbury needs to join before things take off. As far as Choo goes, he is very efficient at getting on base, with a .421 OBP this past season. The Reds need to keep him, in my opinion, as their leadoff man, if they want to be as successful next season as they were in 2013.

Right Field: Carlos Beltran

Team I feel should sign him: Yankees

If the Yankees decide not to keep Cano, as I believe they should do, they will likely make a run at Carlos Beltran, who they are reportedly interested in. A left handed hitter, Beltran would thrive at Yankee stadium and would be a big impact for the Yankees in 2014 and beyond. At 36 years old, Beltran isn’t a player you would want to lock up for any extended period of time, however, any time with Beltran on your team is worth it. Batting .296 with 24 home runs and 84 RBI’s last season, Beltran could have a great season should the Yankees sign him.

Starting Pitcher: Ubaldo Jimenez

Team I feel should sign him: Twins

A lot of teams need pitching, including the Blue Jays, Rockies, etc., but the Twins are a team I feel could use a guy like Ubaldo Jimenez the most. The Twins are an interesting team, as they don’t have a lot going for them now, but their farm system is one of the best in baseball and they will be a really good team down the road, similar with the Mariners. Should Jimenez sign with them, I could see him developing into the great pitcher he’s capable of being. He’s shown signs of it in the past, and next year could be a break out year for him. Jimenez could really help out the Twins in a big way.

Relief Pitcher: Brian Wilson

Team I feel should sign him: Tigers

While Joe Nathan and Fernando Rodney would be good fits for the Tigers, I feel Brian Wilson would be the best. Wilson has had a lot of ups and downs in his career, but when he’s healthy, he’s one of the most dominant relief pitchers in baseball — something the Tigers could use. Having undergone two Tommy John surgeries, many teams shy away from Wilson. But after the performance he had towards the end of last season, I feel Wilson could be the piece the Tigers need to clinch them a World Series title after coming up short recently.

So, there are my thoughts on which players are the best remaining free agents at each postion, and which team should sign them. Odds are that things won’t go exactly, if at all, how I feel they should, but this is just the way I see it working out best.

Besides Robinson Cano, who do you feel is the best remaining free agent? Cast your vote:

As always, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts.

Recapping My 2013 MiLB & MLB Baseball Season

Now that the 2013 Minor League Baseball season is over, and with no shot at attending any more MLB games this year, I can finally post a blog entry recapping my season out at the ballpark.

I managed to make it to 16 baseball games this season. Two of those were major league games — one up in Baltimore and one in Seattle — with the remaining fourteen being minor league games. In those minor league games, I saw numerous top prospects, as well as future Hall of Famer, Chipper Jones, on August 20th, at his number retirement ceremony in Durham. It was a great season, full of fun, and I thought I’d take the time to recap it all:

April 5th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Winston Salem Dash

I went into this game looking forward to seeing Indians’ top prospect, Francisco Lindor, and White Sox’ top prospect, Courtney Hawkins. Both are sure to be future MLB stars, and both are exciting players to keep an eye on. I didn’t get an autograph from Lindor at this particular game, but I did receive the bat that Hawkins cracked during his second at-bat of the game, in which he got a bloop-single:

DSCN5713(The bat is signed, but the auto is around the other side. It was done very hastily.)

April 9th – Durham Bulls Vs. Gwinnett Braves

Having one of the best opening day Bulls lineups ever — including Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi, Chris Archer, and Hak-Ju Lee — I was excited to attend this game. I didn’t get Myers, but I ended up with an autograph from both Lee and Brandon Guyer….:

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….as well as a game home run ball hit by the Braves’ Ernesto Mejia:

DSCN5554(This was my first ever home run ball.)

April 24th – Durham Bulls Vs. Toledo Mud Hens

I was hoping to get an autograph from Wil Myers at this game, since I was unsuccessful the last time, but I failed, once again. I did, however, get an auto from Mike Fontenot….:

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….as well as a game homer from Tigers’ number one prospect, Nick Castellanos:

DSCN5602(Castellanos was a September call-up by the Tigers.)

May 9th – Durham Bulls Vs. Syracuse Chiefs

Not much to say about this game. Just that I finally got Wil Myers to sign for me; once on a program, and once on a card:

DSCN5845(Myers is a top candidate for 2013 American League Rookie of the Year.)

May 14th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Salem Red Sox

I didn’t have the chance to get an autograph from Indians’ top prospects, Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin, as I was too busy getting autos from all the Red Sox’ top prospects. Salem was loaded with great players when I saw them in May, and I ended up getting an auto from Garin Cecchini, Blake Swihart and Brandon Jacobs:

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Then, after the game, I picked up a game used, unbroken bat from Deven Marrero:

DSCN5719(Great guy — actually took the time to sign nicely, unlike Hawkins.)

May 30th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks

I was able to get an autograph from Cheslor Cuthbert, however, due to a mistake on my part, I missed out on Royals’ top prospect, Kyle Zimmer. Although, I did manage to finally get an autograph from Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin after the game — both are super-nice guys. I was happy to finally get those:

DSCN5847(Lindor would go on to take part in the 2013 Futures game, up in New York City.)

June 3rd – Durham Bulls Vs. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

I was really hoping to get an autograph from Chien-Ming Wang, but I never saw him in the dugout before the game, so I figured he wasn’t there. But after the game, I ended up running into him on my way out of the ballpark. Turns out, Wang had been in the stands, charting the game. So I was thankfully able to get him:

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I also got a game home run ball hit by Ronnier Mustelier:

BL2j594CIAI5CH_(Chasing down home run balls never gets old.)

June 15th – Durham Bulls Vs. Indianapolis Indians

With the great year he was having, I was looking to get an autograph from Vince Belnome, since I had finally gotten his card. Not only did I get Belnome, but I also got Jake Odorizzi; as well as Wil Myers, for the third time:

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(Little did I know that this would be the last time I’d ever see Myers with the Bulls, as he was called up the next day.)

June 17th – Durham Bulls Vs. Louisville Bats

I had been planning on attending this game since before the season even started. The record holder for most stolen bases in a single season, with 155, Billy Hamilton, was set to be there, and I was looking to get his autograph. I was able to get it, as well as an auto from Reds’ prospect Henry Rodriguez:

DSCN5850(Two things: Hamilton is now in the majors, and Rodriguez needs to work on his auto.)

June 25th – Carolina Mudcats Vs. Frederick Keys

I didn’t think I’d be going to this game, but I got an offer from Orioles’ prospect, Nick Delmonico, for free tickets, and I couldn’t pass it up. I was able to thank him in person, as well as get him to sign a card, making it a great time:

DSCN5851(Delmonico is now part of the Brewers’ organization.)

June 29th – Baltimore Orioles Vs. New York Yankees

Didn’t get any autographs, but had a great time.

Check out my recap HERE.

July 26th – Seattle Mariners Vs. Minnesota Twins

As with the Baltimore game, nothing too exciting.

Check out my recap HERE.

August 20th – Durham Bulls Vs. Charlotte Knights

Third straight game without an auto, but Chipper Jones was there, so it was fun anyway.

Check out my recap HERE.

August 24th – Durham Bulls Vs. Norfolk Tides

This game turned out to be the most successful game of the season; as I got four out of the five guys I wanted an autograph from to sign for me. Those players include Orioles’ top prospects, Kevin Gausman and Jonathan Schoop, as well as Alex Liddi and Eric Thames. All were extremely nice about it, and I was surprised with the number of autos I got:

DSCN6936(As with Rodriguez, some of these autographs need work.)

September 3rd – Durham Bulls Vs. Indianapolis Indians

As if this game wasn’t exciting enough, being a playoff game, I was able to get autos from Pirates’ number one and two prospects, Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco:

DSCN6938(Both are expected to do big things in the majors as soon as next season.)

September 10th – Durham Bulls Vs. Pawtucket Red Sox

Didn’t get any autographs or home run balls — bad way to end the season.

But what a season it was.

I can’t wait for next year; when the auto collecting, home run chasing, and prospect scouting can start all over again.

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By the Numbers

Though you could take the time for yourself to add it all up, I figured I’d make things a bit easier. Here’s a numbers recap of my 2013 MiLB & MLB season:

Games attended: 16

Win-loss record for the home team: 12-4

Total runs scored (Home Team-Visitor): 102-44

Top 100 prospects seen in person: 16

Autographs from top 100 prospects: 8

Total autographs: 26

Game used gear: 2 bats (Courtney Hawkins & Deven Marrero — both signed.)

Game homers: 3 (Ernesto Mejia, Nick Castellanos & Ronnier Mustelier)

Total miles traveled to & from games: 7,740 (Including Baltimore & Seattle)

Buxton Named MiLB Player of 2013; Jeter Back On DL

Major League Baseball’s number one prospect, Byron Buxton, was named the 2013 Minor League Baseball player of the year by Baseball America, on Wednesday, making him the 31st player to receive the award since it was first handed out in 1981 to Mike Marshall. byron-buxton-2013

By winning the award, Buxton joins a very impressive list of past winners. Wil Myers, Mike Trout and Jeremy Hellickson — all currently in the Majors — are the most recent three to receive it, with Derek Jeter, Frank Thomas and Dwight Gooden being some of the more notable players to have been named MiLB player of the year.

When Derek Jeter won the award, back in 1994, he batted .344 with 5 homers and 68 RBI’s, between Single-A and Triple-A.

Combine that with 50 stolen bases by Jeter, and you have a very similar year to the one Buxton had.

While I’m not saying Buxton will turn out to be the type of player Jeter has been over his MLB career — .312 career average, with 256 HR’s and 1,261 RBI’s — it is a good indication of the type of talent that receives the award each year.

Buxton certainly has his share of talent, as he had an outstanding year in the Twins’ farm system. He posted a .334 batting average with 12 home runs and 77 RBI’s, to go along with 55 stolen bases, combined between Low-A and High-A.

The second overall draft pick in the 2012 draft, Buxton also participated in the 2013 Futures Game, up in New York, back in July, and is well on his way to living out his full potential of becoming a future big league super star.

But unlike Byron Buxton, who’s the current Minor League player of the year on his way up, Derek Jeter is a former Minor League player of the year on his way down; as he found himself back on the disabled list on Wednesday with an ankle injury.

This makes the fourth time Jeter has been placed on the DL this season. But this time, he won’t be back in 2013, as the Yankees have officially shut him down for the remainder of the year.

“The entire year has been pretty much a nightmare for me physically. I guess this is kind of fitting that it ends like this”, Jeter said. “If you can’t play the way you’re capable of playing, then you’re not really helping out.”

Many have raised the question of whether Jeter will ever return at all, posing the idea of retirement. But Jeter is adamant he’s not done, saying, “You don’t start thinking about the end just because you have an injury.”

While I fully agree with that statement, and have no doubt Jeter will return in 2014, I find myself, along with most of the baseball world, pondering the thought of whether or not Jeter can return to even a version of his former self.

Though he will never be the same Jeter he once was, there’s always the chance that he can have a good comeback 2014 season, however, there’s no denying that he had a horrible 2013 — posting a mere batting average of .190 with one home run and 7 RBI’s in just image17 games played this season.

Not exactly getting the job done.

But if there’s a bright spot to it all, a full shut down for Jeter will finally give him the chance to recover without the thought of having to take the field to help out the Yankees crossing his mind.

I don’t believe Jeter was ever fully healed over the entire season, and this will give him nearly six months to get everything right. Something that Yankees’ manager, Joe Girardi, has no doubt Jeter will do.

“It seemed like, when he came back, he was fine, and then he would play a couple of days and something would happen”, said Girardi.

“The first time, I think it was his quad. The next time, it was his calf. Then his ankle started bothering him. The repeated days seemed to get to him a little bit, and that was frustrating for him. It was frustrating for all of us, because we wanted him out there.”

“He’ll have a full offseason to rehab it, to get stronger. To get to do all of the things that he didn’t necessarily get to do last year, because he was in a boot for so long. There are no guarantees in life, but I think he’s going to do everything he can to get back. I just know that he’s going to do everything in his will power to get back on that field for Spring Training next year. That’s just who he is.”

July 26th Mariners Vs. Twins Game

After not blogging for nearly a month, I needed a way to jump back into things, and I figured this was the best way to do so. I went back and forth on whether or not to do a recap of this game–after all, it was over two weeks ago–but I decided to, nonetheless.

If you remember back to my last blog post, I discussed the 24 day road trip I was going on around the country, and stated that I wouldn’t be blogging for awhile. It certainly has been awhile, but I’m finally back. I’ll resume blogging about the latest baseball news and such sometime in the next few days, but for now, here’s a recap of the Mariners game I attended during my recent trip:

My grandpa accompanied me to this game, and as has a tendency to happen before I visit a ballpark for the first time, we got all turned around, and ended up going by the ballpark, on the interstate, several times, before finally making it down onto the correct street. It took nearly an hour to go from our hotel, a mere 8 miles away, to Safeco Field–part of that was due to horrible traffic–so when we finally arrived, I made my way as fast as I could to the closest gate, and into the ballpark:

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Our tickets for this game were on the first base side, but I didn’t head immediately to my seat. Instead, I darted for the front row just beyond the Twins’ dugout. Unlike the last MLB game I attended up in Baltimore, in June, I wasn’t as focused on getting autographs as I was on meeting up with Kyle Gibson, who I’ve gotten to know through fairly regular twitter conversations and emails, over the past couple of years.

While I was looking forward to meeting Gibson at the game, for the first time, it didn’t happen. The delay to the ballpark caused me to miss Gibson, and he didn’t return back out of the clubhouse until too late. (Maybe next time.)

But my temporary front row seat wasn’t all bad. I had a great view of the long haul bombers; a group of guys who tour around to different ballparks during the season, putting on spectacular softball home run derby-style shows for the fans:

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They certainly didn’t disappoint, as two of their swings sent the ball sailing out of the entire ballpark. Truly an incredible thing to witness.

Shortly after they finished showing off for those in attendance, the Mariners’ starting pitcher for the game, Felix Hernandez, emerged from the dugout, and headed out towards the bullpen. I hadn’t known he was going to be pitching until a few days before, and I was thrilled to get to see a former Cy Young and perfect game pitcher in action.

I stuck around in the same spot until after the National Anthem, when I headed to my ticketed seat. But I didn’t stay there long. I had been wanting to take a self guided tour, of sorts, around the ballpark, so, after watching NBA Hall of Famer, Gary Payton, throw out the first pitch….:

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….that’s exactly what I did. I began by heading all the way up to the last row in the upper level, behind the Mariners’ dugout:

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It sure was a long way up there, but it was worth it.

I spent a bit of time there, admiring the view, before heading down to the next level and making my way over to left field. But I quickly found myself in some kind of club section, so I had to go all the way down to the lower level. I ended up, somehow, behind the King’s Court (a special cheering section for Felix Hernandez):

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But that was okay. I wanted to get there eventually, anyway.

The atmosphere was incredible on this particular night, with Hernandez pitching. And being in the vicinity of the King’s Court–a section of fans that show up every time Hernandez is pitching, decked out in yellow shirts, carrying yellow ‘K’ signs–for an inning made it even better.

But even with the amazing buzz in the air, I got bored standing there (I get bored easily) and ended up moving to nearly straight away center for a few at-bats:

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However, while there, I recalled one of my main goals of the night: to get some garlic fries. (I had heard they were fantastic, and I was looking forward to trying some.) So, after searching for a bit, I got a basket and headed back to my seat:

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I can honestly say the fries were good, but not great; especially not six-dollar-great. But I got my money’s worth, at least. Can’t say that too often.

The view, from my seat, remained the same up until the ninth inning, when I moved to the third base side:

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I expected the Mariners to hold their one run lead, with Hernandez still on the mound (he had eleven strikeouts on the night), but as my luck would have it, he gave up a run to the Twins to tie things up.

The Mariners proceeded to not do much of anything in the bottom half of the inning, so for the first time in my life I was able to witness an extra inning game. (Kind of surprising with all of the games I’ve gone to lately, I think.)

My grandpa and I stuck around for the tenth and eleventh innings, but left as the twelfth was starting. Who knew how long the game would go, and the next day was going to be a busy one, that started early, so it wasn’t practical to stick around.

The Twins ended up winning the game, 3-2, in thirteen innings. So Hernandez received a no decision, despite the gem of a game. But you know, that happens sometimes.

I had a great time at the ballgame, and an overall great time on the entire 24 day trip. I saw some amazing things, but it’s good to be back home where I can easily keep up with what’s going on around the baseball world, once again. Being away for so long truly makes you appreciate how great of a sport baseball is.

Q and A With Alex Meyer

Alex Meyer was drafted by the Nationals in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. In his first professional season, Meyer showed off why he’s one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, as he went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA, to go along with 139 strikeouts in 129 innings pitched. A year which George Brett,  Alex Meyerincluded pitching in the 2012 All-Star Futures game, in Kansas City, Missouri, it’s fair to say Meyer had about as good of a first season as you can have.

Going from the Nationals to the Twins in November, in exchange for outfielder, Denard Span, Meyer is up for some new challenges that come with a new organization, but he’s looking forward to being part of the Twins. I fully expect Meyer to have an even better season than he did last year, truly showing off his full potential and finally receiving the recognition that’s due to him. (I feel he’s vastly underrated.)

Though consistency with finding the strike zone has been an issue for Meyer in the past, he did a much better job of it last season, and that alone should enable him to excel in the coming year, if he can continue his progression. Meyer possesses an above average fastball, with a decent slider and changeup, and if things continue to go the way they’re going, barring any major setbacks, Meyer could see time in the majors as soon as the second half of the 2014 season.

Alex Meyer–top pitching prospect in the Twins’ organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I started playing ball at age 4. I have had a passion for the game ever since my first practice. My dad played a very influential part in getting me started.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

Ken Griffey Jr. I loved watching him play. Watching him do everything he did was always exciting.

3.) You were drafted by the Nationals in the 1st round of the 2011 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

It was an exciting process throughout the whole thing. I was excited when I saw on TV my name come up. It was something I had dreamed about happening for a long time.

4.) After spending a full season in the Nationals’ organization, you were traded to the Twins, in November of 2012. What are you looking forward to most with your new team?

Just the opportunity to keep playing. I enjoy baseball and the fact that the Twins thought highly of me and traded for me makes me even more excited to get to playing.

5.) Talk a little bit about life on the road. What’s the most difficult aspect of it? What do you do to pass the time?

I don’t really find anything too difficult about it. I enjoy being with my teammates and getting to check out the different cities. I spend a lot of time listening to music or reading.

6.) You pitched in the 2012 All-Star Futures game, in Kansas City. What did you take away from that experience? What was most memorable about it?

The whole experience is something I’ll never forget. Just being able to be on the field with some of the top players in the minor leagues at a major league venue and a setting like that was truly unexplainable. It’s hard to put how incredible something like that was into words. Being able to call George Brett my manager for a day is pretty cool.

7.) Is there any one stat that you pay attention to throughout the season? Or do you try to steer clear of them altogether?

I try not to read into them. I just worry about every 5th day.

8.) What do you feel went well in 2012? What are your goals for 2013?

I feel in 2012 it was good to be able to go out and throw a full professional season. I had a blast and look forward to doing it again with a new organization in 2013.

9.) Favorite TV show? Favorite food?

I loved the 24 series, but now I am a big fan of ‘How I Met Your Mother’ and ‘The Walking Dead’. Favorite food would probably be a nice steak.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

Work on getting better every single day, and if you do that, good things will come.

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Big thanks to Alex Meyer for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on Twitter: @Meyer17A

American League Predictions for 2013

Last year was the first time I ever made actual predictions as to how the MLB standings would look at the end of the regular season. To say I did poorly would be an understatement, but this is a new year, and with it comes a new shot at getting the predictions right. So I’m up for the challenge once again.

Unlike 2012, when I posted both my American League and National League predictions in the same blog entry, this year I’m doing separate posts for each league. As the title states, I’m giving my 2013 American League standings predictions today, starting with the AL East:

EAST

1. Rays

2. Yankees

3. Orioles

4. Blue Jays

5. Red Sox

With the Yankees’ season uncertain, I see this as the year the Rays need to make their move. With the lineup they have, the Rays have the ability to win their division, but it’s going to come down to if their starting pitching begins and ends with David Price, or if their potential superstar pitchers in Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson can get things going. That’s the deciding factor, for me.

Although the Yankees’ season is up in the air, I still have them finishing second in the AL East. Why? Because they’re the Yankees; a team that seems to be able to always find a way to win. But it’s going to come down to Derek Jeter, in my opinion. If he misses a large chunk of the season, at any point, it could send my predictions way off course. Right now, I’m not too worried about him missing the first few games; but that could change.

The Orioles surprised everyone last season with the way they were able to put things together, however, I still think it’ll be 2014 before they stand a good chance of winning the division. Their phenom prospects are still far from ready, with top prospect Dylan Bundy beginning the season in AA Bowie, and I just don’t see everything clicking together in their favor this season.

I’m hesitant to place the Blue Jays all the way down in fourth, with so many people seeing them finishing near the top, but it’s the way I foresee their season panning out. Even with the offseason additions of R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, etc., I don’t see the Jays putting together a season much over .500. You just can’t buy chemistry, and with so many new faces, I don’t see them gelling from the start of the season.

What can I say about the Red Sox? They were once major competitors in the division, but after a couple of horrible seasons, by their standards, I don’t see this year being any better. They didn’t do much to improve their team in the offseason, and it’s going to show once the season starts up. I’m looking down the road, when their key prospects such as Jackie Bradley Jr. and Xander Bogaerts arrive, before I can see them getting things going in the right direction again.

CENTRAL

1. Tigers

2. Indians

3. White Sox

4. Royals

5. Twins

There’s truly no reason the Tigers shouldn’t run away with things in the AL Central division. With one of the best lineups in all of baseball, including sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, along with newcomer Victor Martinez, their lineup should be there. The only question mark is their pitching. Justin Verlander is going to dominate–that’s a given–but the remainder of the rotation is a bit uncertain. But all in all, I think they’ll be just fine.

Coming in second, I have the Indians, as they did a great job of signing guys in the offseason to fill key spots they were missing last year, and I feel it’s bound to pay off in the coming season. The only concern would be their starting pitching. Without a true Ace, you don’t know who to look to for to carry the team throughout the season. It’s definitely something worth watching, however, they should be able to have enough decent pitching to make things very interesting in the division.

It was really a toss up between me placing the Indians or White Sox in third place (with the other in second) but I decided to have the Sox finishing third in the division. The Sox have a future Cy Young winner, in Chris Sale, but with the remainder of the pitching, as well as the lineup, a question mark, I can’t see them winning too many games over .500 in the 2013 season. They still have too many holes to fill.

I’m still questioning the Royals’ decision to trade away their phenom prospect, Wil Myers, along with a few other prospects, to the Rays, in exchange for a couple of middle of the rotation starting pitchers, on most teams, in James Shields and Wade Davis, but it is what it is. I see the move doing more harm than good. The Royals certainly needed starting pitching, but to trade away your top prospect is a poor choice, in my opinion, which is why I have them finishing next to last in the division.

The Twins are a team that have the potential to be very good a year or two down the road, but for right now, I see them having to endure another last place season, in their division. They just don’t have enough top notch guys, both in their pitching rotation and lineup, to make any sort of a run this season, as far as I can see.

WEST

1. Angels

2. Athletics

3. Rangers

4. Mariners

5. Astros

For the Angels, the AL West division is theirs to lose. With the addition of Josh Hamilton in the offseason, along with their already potent lineup of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, there is no reason the Angels shouldn’t dominate the division. Although they lost Zack Greinke to the Dodgers, their rotation is still really good, and it should all combine to be enough to lead them to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The Athletics were one of the big surprises of last season, but I don’t feel it was a fluke. They’ve put together a really great team out in Oakland, and with the majority of the other teams in the division (with the exception of the Angels) still trying to figure things out in the coming season, the Athletics stand a good shot of making the playoffs for the second straight year.

With the loss of Josh Hamilton during the offseason, I don’t see the Rangers doing much of anything this year. While they have a few big bats in their lineup that can change the outcome of a game with one swing, I don’t see their rotation as being strong enough to overcome the uphill climb they face. It’ll be interesting to watch unfold, but I don’t like their chances in 2013.

The Mariners are one of the most interesting teams to keep track of. While I don’t see them having all that impressive of an upcoming season, with all of the talent they have knocking on the door of the big leagues, I feel they’ll be major contenders as early as next season. They don’t have all of the necessary pieces, just yet, to put together a playoff run, but starting in 2014, keep a lookout for the Mariners to do big things in the AL West division.

Last season was flat out ugly for the Astros, as they finished in dead last, with a league leading 107 losses. Being that they’re making the transition from the National League to the American League this year, I don’t see things being any better for them; but when you lose over 100 games in a season, it can’t really get all that much worse.

Leave a comment below with whether or not you agree with my predictions.

Click HERE to be taken to my National League predictions for 2013.

Q and A With Kyle Gibson

Kyle Gibson was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 1st round of the 2009 draft. Since the draft, things haven’t gone as planned for Gibson, as although his stats have been decent, he hasn’t been able to stay completely healthy; having to undergo Tommy John surgery in September of 2011.

As far as Gibson’s stats go, he’s certainly lived up, for the most part, to being a first round draft pick. The 2008 Team USA pitcher went 11-6 with a 2.96 ERA in his first professional season, in 2010. Good enough to earn him a promotion to AAA Rochester at the end of the year, after beginning the season with A+ Fort Myers.Gibson

Gibson’s stellar inaugural season didn’t translate into 2011, however, as although he was selected to participate in the All-Star Futures Game, at Chase Field, Gibson went 3-8 on the year, with a 4.18 ERA. To put it in simpler terms: That’s not very good. But Gibson’s poor pitching wasn’t entirely his fault. Gibson had an arm injury, which resulted in him having to have Tommy John surgery during the offseason. A surgery that would turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Gibson.

Post surgery, Gibson had a sudden boost in velocity, as his fastball rose from upper 80’s to lower 90’s, this past season. In Gibson’s most recent (partial) season, he went 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA; which is misleading due to the few innings in which he was able to pitch. As a result of the shortened season, Gibson traveled out to Arizona to participate in the Arizona Fall League, where he was selected to make the start for the Western Division in the 2012 A.F.L. Rising Stars Game–lasting two innings and giving up a couple of runs.

As long as things continue to go smoothly for Gibson, between now and the start of the season, barring any unpredicted setbacks, you can expect to see Gibson in the Major Leagues sometime during the upcoming 2013 season; if not on Opening Day. He certainly has the potential to get the call up out of Spring Training, and as such, is a guy everyone needs to keep a very close eye on in the coming months.

Kyle Gibson–top 10 prospect in the Twins organization–took the time recently to answer some of my questions:

1.) At what age did you first become interested in baseball? Who was your biggest baseball influence growing up?

I have always been involved and interested in baseball because my dad was. He was a high school baseball coach after he played a little bit of junior college baseball in his prime. He still likes to play in a mens senior league to this day. I believe that is why he would be my biggest influence on my love for the game up to this point.

2.) Who was your favorite baseball player growing up? Why?

I had a couple when I was growing up. My dad was a huge Nolan Ryan fan, so obviously I thought he was cool, but believe it or not, I used to play a little short stop in my younger/shorter/faster years, and at that time Barry Larkin was a favorite player of mine as well.

3.) You were drafted by the Twins in the 1st round of the 2009 draft. What was that process like for you? Where were you when you first found out? Initial thoughts?

The process was a long and stressful process at times mainly because I found out I had a stress fracture in my right forearm about 4 days before the draft. That made everything a little more stressful than I imagined, but even with that said, it was a fun process and I learned a lot. My parents and I decided to stay home and invite some people over to the house to watch the draft, so I was sitting outside in our driveway under a tent with what ended up being a few more people than the “some” we had planned on inviting. Everyone was getting a little anxious because from everything we had heard there was no definite place I was going to get drafted. So as the picks went by we got a little more anxious, but when my name was called there was a loud cheer, and I still get chills thinking about that moment in my life.

4.) You had Tommy John surgery in September of 2011 and seemed to have an increase in velocity. Has that increase in velocity changed the way you go about pitching or did you keep the same basic approach?

It does not change the way I pitch too much, other than the fact that I now have a much different fastball and slider. I have needed to learn to trust my fastball a little more because it’s now consistently in the low 90’s where before I was more consistently 89. My slider has also gained some velocity and has sharpened up a bit, so I have needed to adjust to that as well.

5.) Is there any one stat that you pay attention to throughout the season? Or do you try to steer clear of them altogether?

I would say there are a couple stats that I like to look at, and those are walks and ground ball/fly ball ratio. I hate walking people, so that is why that is so important to me, and I also know that when I am at my best, I need to have the defense involved. The best way for me to do that is to get lots of ground balls and allow our infielders to do the rest.

6.) You made the start for the West division in the 2012 Arizona Fall League Rising Stars Game. What was that experience like, in terms of going up against some of the best hitters that minor league baseball has to offer?

That experience was a lot of fun. Had I not given up a moonshot to the first batter I might have enjoyed it slightly more…..just kidding. It was a great opportunity, even though for only 2 innings, to square off against [Jarred] Cosart, who I have known for many years dating back to when he had committed to Missouri out of high school before the Phillies drafted and signed him. It was a lot of fun for all of us, and good to get that chance to pitch another time against the best the minors has to offer.

7.) What are your plans for the remainder of the offseason to help you prepare for 2013? What are your goals for 2013?

Since my regular season extended into my offseason more than usual, I am now starting to get back into the swing of things and throwing again. Workouts will get more intense as I make sure my arm and body are prepared for another long season. My goals have a lot to do with staying healthy, and hopefully making it up to the big club and having a positive impact on our chances of winning. Everyone wants to become a big leaguer, and I really hope I am able to do that this year.

8.) Favorite TV show?

‘Sports Center’ or ‘Duck Dynasty’.

9.) Favorite food?

Steak or Mozzi’s Pizza from Greenfield, Indiana where I grew up.

10.) Lastly, what advice would you give to kids who are just starting out that dream of playing professional baseball one day?

Always have fun. Baseball should be something that they enjoy doing. Work as hard as you possibly can. I always look back and know that I could have worked harder because I never really knew what it took to become a professional. So have no regrets and work as hard as you can, but have fun doing it!

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Big thanks to Kyle Gibson for taking the time to answer my questions.

You can follow him on twitter: @kgib44

MLB Players Alternate Jobs

Before I get started with what will be my final Q and A post until after the playoffs have concluded, let me first start out by saying that yesterday’s AL and NL Wild Card games went completely opposite from what I had expected.

With the Braves having won the past 23 times Kris Medlen started the game on the mound, I though it was a sure bet that the Braves would get the win. But as you know, that’s not what happened. The Braves ended up falling to the Cardinals (6-3), thus making it their final game of 2012; and Chipper Jones’ last game of his career.

Furthermore, I fully expected the Rangers to beat the Orioles, and just like the Braves-Cards game, I was completely stunned by the end result. The Orioles pulled out the win, beating the Rangers 5-1, ending the Ranger’s chances of a third straight World Series appearance. Incredible; but that’s baseball for ya. Just because you’re the better team on paper, doesn’t mean you’ll always come out on top.

Now that I’ve given you my two cents on yesterday’s Wild Card games, I’ll now get on with the regularly scheduled blog post:

Have you ever wondered what MLB players would be doing had things not of worked out for them to play baseball? Well I did, which I why I spent last week on twitter asking players just that: “If you weren’t playing baseball what would you be doing?”

Of those who replied, some actually put some thought into it while others replied with a somewhat humorous answer. I’ll let you distinguish between the two:

Chris Gimenez–Tampa Bay Rays

Def a coach. Think it would be fun.

David Huff–Cleveland Indians

Probably either playing golf on the tour or teaching high school history.

David Aardsma–New York Yankees

Prob a model.

Denard Span–Minnesota Twins

I’d be doing something associated with sports.

Daniel McCutchen–Pittsburgh Pirates

Prob be a movie star or maye a rapper. Then again, I could always give politics a shot.

David Hernandez–Arizona Diamondbacks

I’d probably be in my 8th year of college trying to figure out what I wanna do.

Luis Exposito–Baltimore Orioles

I would find an occupation where I can help less fortunate kids and help make the world a better place!

Steve Cishek–Miami Marlins

P.E. teacher and coach.

Ricky Nolasco–Miami Marlins

Police Officer for sure.

Brandon Snyder–Texas Rangers

I always say military but who knows. My wife would say I would be a trainer or something.

Josh Lueke–Tampa Bay Rays

Professional outdoorsman like my buddy @IHuntStrong [and] @BackwoodsLife #outdoors4life

Brian Dozier–Minnesota Twins

Lead guitarist for a rock band.

Paul Maholm–Atlanta Braves

Something in golf.

Daniel Hudson–Arizona Diamondbacks

No idea. Probably coaching somewhere.

Thomas Neal–Cleveland Indians

Coaching somewhere.

Mike Olt–Texas Rangers

I would be a lion.

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My next blog post will come tomorrow evening, and will detail my blogging plans for the next few weeks. So check back for that…

June 23rd Reds vs. Twins Game & HOF Ceremony

My day started out in downtown Cincinnati, at the Red’s Hall Of Fame museum:

The doors opened up at 8:00 am, but I arrived at around 10:30. The reason I was going to the museum in the first place was the meet and greet that was going to run from 11:00-1:00, and it seemed unecessary to show up any earlier.

The first thing I saw after getting my ticket scanned and rounding the corner was a wall of game used jerseys, bats, etc., of former Reds’ greats:

Being a Hall of Fame museum there was a lot of this kind of stuff.

In addition to the Reds’ memorabilia, there was a lot of non-Reds’ items as well, including a game-used Roberto Clemente cap:

Pretty cool stuff.

After making my way through the first floor of the museum it was on to the third floor, where the meet and greet was being held. There was already a fairly large line, so I went ahead and jumped in it. After around 45 minutes of waiting, the line began moving, and the meet and greet got underway.

The players weren’t permitted to sign autographs, but you could go through the line and get your picture taken with them, which is exactly what I did:

I realize the numbers are fairly small, but I numbered the photos (in the bottom left corner) so you could identify each former player, with the above players being:

1. Mario Soto

2. Lee May

3. Gary Nolan

4. Jack Billingham

1.  George Foster

2. David Concepcion

3. Eric Davis

4. A random picture of a group of statues. (Put in to make everything uniform.)

Everyone I’m pictured with above was part of the first half of the meet and greet. The second half featured both Dan Driessen and Sean Casey, who were going to be officially inducted into the Red’s Hall of Fame later in the day:

(Yes, I realize the picture is a bit blurry.)

After the meet and greet was over, I picked up bobblehead number one of the day:

The Dan Driessen bobbles were given out to everyone who paid for admission into the Red’s Hall of Fame museum.

After I was done at the museum, I made a brief visit to the gift shop (home of the 40 dollar t-shirt) before finally heading over to the main entrance of Great American Ballpark:

Signs of the upcoming Hall of Fame induction were everywhere. None bigger than the sign in the above picture hanging from the stadium wall. Here’s a closer look:

While I was standing in front of the ballpark taking it all in, Sean Casey emerged from the HOF museum, and was immediately mobbed by people wanting to take pictures, and get autographs:

Casey was really cool about it, as he must of taken 50 pictures, and signed just as many autographs in a 10 minute span.

While all of this was happening, there was also a block party taking place in the street. It began at around 11:00, but by the time Casey made his way to the stage that was set up for the band that had been playing all morning, it was around 1:15.

Casey didn’t talk long, but it was cool to see the fans react to him the way they did. There were at least a couple thousand people packed into the street, and they were all big fans of the Cincinnati Red’s and Sean Casey:

After Casey finished talking, I made walked back over to the gates behind home plate. The promotion for the game was that the first 25,000 fans would recieve a Sean Casey bobblehead, and I wanted to make sure I was one of them.

To my surprise the lines were already fairly long by the time I got back:

Fortunately I was able to pass the time by watching a human statue, and waiting for him to move:

Except for the occasional patting on the head to unsuspecting kids who stopped to pose with the “statue” for a picture, he never did move. Never.

Due to the large crowds the gates opened up 45 minutes before they normally would have, and I was thrilled. It was pretty hot outside, and standing in the direct sun was almost unbearable.

As I stated earlier it was Sean Casey bobblehead day, and they certainly had a lot of them:

I quickly grabbed my bobblehead and made my way to my seat to check out the view:

Not bad.

As you can tell, batting practice was in full swing (no pun intended), and it stayed that way for another hour or so. BP ended at around 3:00, and with the Hall of Fame ceremony set to start at 3:30 I decided to take a break from the heat and walk around the shaded concourse.

A few minutes into my walk I noticed a crowd beginning to form:

Curiosity got the better of me, and I headed over to check it out. As I got closer, this was my view:

Jim Day (on the left) and….well, I’m not sure who that is on the right (help?) were broadcasting the Red’s pregame show live on Fox Sports Ohio. I’m 99% sure I was on TV, but since I didn’t record the broadcast, or know of anyone who did, or even watched, I can’t say for sure.

I stood and watched for around 5 minutes before heading back to my seat. By the time I got back the groundscrew were hard at work getting everything set up for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony:

It wasn’t long before the seats were filled with 20 or so Red’s Hall of Famers (2 of which are in the National Baseball Hall of Fame):

The start of the ceremony had each player standing up as their name was called. Johnny Bench recieved the biggest applause from the crowd:

After each player’s name had been called the induction speeches began. Driessen and Casey gave their own but the great great great great nephew of the late John Reilly, Kirtley Kinman, gave the speech for him:

Sean Casey gave his speech last and it seemed as if Driessen and Reilly were overshadowed by him. But when your nickname is “The Mayor” I guess that’s to be expected.

Casey and Driessen threw out the first pitches of the game:

Let me just say it was obvious neither were pitchers in their playing days.

The game itself wasn’t anything spectacular, with the Reds winning 6-0. The most interesting part of the game occured in the 4th inning when Scott Rolen hit his 507th career double to move past Babe Ruth on the all-time list:

Anytime you pass Babe Ruth in any category, you know you’ve accomplished something noteworthy.

This year’s game went much better than last year’s, when I didn’t even make it through the gates due to a rain out. Now that I’ve been inside I can say that Great American Ballpark is an extremely nice park, that I hope to visit again sometime in the future.

The next MLB ballpark I’ll be visiting is Kauffman Stadium for the 2012 State Farm Home Run Derby on July 9th. More on that a little later in the week…..

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