Category Archives: MLB

Jays Season Review and One Crazy Night (Plus Postseason Predictions)

Myles Dichter

I’m sure you will encounter numerous report card/player by player 2011 Blue Jays season reviews. And I’m not gonna lie, I was considering doing that too. But then I realized: baseball is a team sport. A team cannot be fairly judged on its performance by examining each individual player. Nine solid innings from your pitching staff are always better than 3 great pitchers but one awful one. Jose Bautista, regardless of whether or not he is the best player in baseball, clearly cannot get this team to the playoffs on his own. His own remarkable individual stats do not tell you anything about how the Jays fared this season.

I’ll start this review with the infamous man in the white shirt scandal. The Jays were accused of sending a man into the centre field bleachers, who then picked up on the opposing catcher’s signals to the pitcher and motioned to the Jays hitters whether the upcoming pitch was a breaking ball or fastball. This was just the latest explanation for Jose Bautista’s breakthrough seasons. And I believe this is entirely true. The sign-stealing story came to the public on August 10th. We don’t know when the Jays found out that ESPN had this information, but the difference in Bautista’s number before and after July 31st is drastic. Before, he was the frontrunner for MVP with a .325 average and 31 home runs (.32 homers per game). Now, he is an outside shot to win the MVP after batting .248 with just 12 dingers (.17 homers per game) in August and September. Never mind the fact that he struck out 26 times in August, a huge anomaly considering the most k’s he’d had in any other month was 16. This is what strikes me the most. Bautista has always had the skillset to thrive in the Majors, he just didn’t have the discipline, constantly striking out on pitches in the dirt. But when he came to Toronto, this annoying habit went away, with the supposed help of Dwayne Murphy. But once the man in white left Rogers Centre in August, Bautista started striking out again. It should be pointed out that while sign-stealing is not actually against the rules of baseball, it is highly frowned upon, which begs the question: Why did the Jays feel they needed to stop, if they were stealing signs in the first place?

Looking to next year, there are definite improvements the Jays must make if they want to consider contending for a Playoff spot. Every facet of pitching must be improved, though I did like what I saw from closer Frankie Francisco the last couple months. Beyond Romero, there was not a single trustworthy starter in the Jays rotation, except maybe Henderson Alvarez for the final month. I would like to see a rotation consisting of Romero, Morrow and Alvarez next year with a battle for the final two spots between Dustin McGowan, Brett Cecil, Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchison (guy from AA New Hampshire, like Alvarez). I see no need to add a crappy veteran reliever to “stabilize” the rotation, a la Kevin Millwood. I’d rather see the young guys develop, as I’m sure most Jays fans would. On offense, the Jays have a hole to fill at second base, and DH. With a thin market in free agency for second basemen, the Jays will probably have to go the trade route to find a viable replacement. At the moment, the Jays have Edwin Encarnacion pencilled in as their starting DH. I hate Edwin, because at the end of every year he teases you into believing he’s a legit MLB player, but every year he disappoints. I would love for the Jays to sign Prince Fielder as their first baseman. He would solve a Jays need for a power first baseman, and would send both Adam Lind and EE into part-time roles. Moreover, the Jays would suddenly transform into contenders. Now I’m not saying that this is at all realistic, but it would be nice if AA could get the money to pull it off.

On to last night. This was the best night of baseball I have ever experienced. Ever. In my entire 16 years, 11 months and 3 days. The night culminated with two teams completing 8.5 game comebacks, 2 extra innings, 2 walkoffs, Red Sox actually rooting for the Yankees, and the Rays coming back from down 7-0 in the eighth inning. There were four games with playoff implications, 3 were decided in the bottom of the ninth or later, one was a blowout. The Rays, after losing marquee free agents such as Carl Crawford, saw Crawford botch a fly ball in left allowing the Orioles to win and sending the Rays into the playoffs over Crawford’s new team. The heros last night? Robert Andino and Dan Johnson. It almost seemed like the Yankees were trying to torture their nemesis, teasing them with a 7-0 lead then blowing it. Not like the game mattered to them anyway. It was heartbreaking for Red Sox fans, who one minute seemed certain that they could at least hold on to win their game and force a play-in game, then ten minutes later were devastated by Evan Longoria’s 317 foot home run. It was really only fitting that the Braves and Red Sox blew saves after blowing their massive wild card leads.

Lets look ahead to the postseason now, with a completely different picture than at the beginning of the month. Our matchups our Rays/Rangers, Yankees/Tigers, DBacks/Brewers and Phillies/Cardinals. And my predictions…

ALDS

Rays over Rangers in 5

I’ll take pitching over hitting in the playoffs any day. Rays have an all-star rotation.

Tigers over Yankees in 4

Comes down to pitching again, and the Yankees rotation is just plain awful, compounded by the fact that their ace is going to be overmatched by Verlander.

ALCS

Tigers over Rays in 6

Rays dream run ends here as Verlander win two games singlehandedly, and Miguel Cabrera goes beastmode.

NLDS

Brewers over Diamondbacks in 3

The DBacks aren’t a good team, at least on paper. Surprising enough that they made the playoffs, but are overcome by Braun, Fielder and the trio of Marcum, Gallardo, Greinke.

Phillies over Cardinals in 4

Does this need any more explanation: Doc, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt.

NLCS

Brewers over Phillies in 7

I think the Brewers top three guys are good enough to keep the games tight with the Phillies Phoursome, and the Brewers offense is significantly better than the Phillies’.

World Series

Brewers over Tigers in 5

I honestly couldn’t care less who wins the Series at this point, other than for my own satisfaction of correctly picking the winning team. What I’d really like is a good World Series, maybe even going 7 games. I went with the Brewers here because of quantity over quality. Braun, Fielder, Greinke, Marcum, Gallardo over Cabrera, Verlander.

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The Last of His Kind-Vladdy Guerrero and the End of The “Ballplayer”

Jordan Wajs

When I think of Vladimir Guerrero, I think of a “ballplayer”. Not an athlete, or a professional, a “ballplayer”. He sticks out. Vladdy Guerrero does not fit into those roles. In fact, he doesn’t fit into his time.

The name Vladdy brings a thought to my head – an imaginary at-bat. I see him standing in the batters’ box, twirling his bat behind his head, leaning out over his feet. In my head, Vladdy is waiting for a pitch. He’s holding his head high and his front elbow low. It’s late in a ballgame. Guerrero needs to come through. Pressure mounting, his dugout and thousands of fans focus their eyes and spirits on him. And all the while, Vladdy is smiling.

Guerrero has never won the World Series. He has never won a batting title, or a gold glove. As his career winds down, his numbers and statistical legacy are beginning to dwindle. However, he has never been more significant. Vladdy Guerrero is the last pure “ballplayer”.

Let’s take a trip into the not-so-distant past; I’m thinking 1960. Baseball is “America’s Pastime”. To be a “ballplayer” is every boy’s dream; to play the game for as long as possible is every “ballplayer”’s dream. In 1960, baseball wasn’t a profit-based media conglomerate. Baseball, along with the other major sports, was still a game. It wasn’t an enterprise of millionaires; Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, the time’s two biggest stars, shared a small apartment in Queens. Men played because they enjoyed the game. There were no designated hitters, no in-depth scouting, batting and pitching reports, and no steroids. Guerrero fits this era. He doesn’t concern himself with modern intricacies (pitch selectivity, batting gloves, etc.), only with swinging and running as hard as he can, and basking in the beauty and pure pleasure that baseball can afford him. Vladdy doesn’t step into the batters’ box to earn his paycheck. He doesn’t do it to have a productive and patient at-bat, or to strategically expose a pitcher’s easy-to-hit cutter. He does it, simply, because it’s what he likes to do.

At this point in my fantasy, Vladdy’s facing his first pitch. It’s a strike – he swings and misses. He doesn’t need to collect himself; he’s the epitome of a free swinger. Next pitch is right down the middle – he’s late on it. Strike two.

Vladdy plays baseball like the true “boys of summer”. His approach to the game does not fit into the modern sports world. Baseball is a game he gets to play every day, not his job.  His naïve yet driven attitude towards the sport is unparalleled. Most players spend hours each day studying their opponents and developing strategies and theories towards specific parts of their game. Guerrero is different. He takes prolonged batting practices, and warms up with his glove, even though he hasn’t played the role of an everyday fielder in years. He cares about turning on strikes and pushing for that extra base.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of Vladdy Guerrero’s life is his nonchalant attitude towards the lifestyle of the common athlete. In today’s over-scrutinized sports scene, athletes’ every move is documented, and their every thought transcribed. They have willingly accepted the position of role models to their fans. Kids grow up idolizing them, and learning from their character and image. This is one of sports’ greatest problems. Athletes are not true role models; they don’t fit the part. They can speak as thoughtfully and act as maturely as they want, but in the end, they are just playing a part. Realistically, their careers and ideals are not incredibly positive. The modern athlete is driven by money and material success. Very few are highly educated. No matter how mature LeBron James dresses and tries to speak, when push comes to shove, he’s not someone who should be emulated. Vladdy Guerrero embraces the notion of the classic pro. He plays to enjoy himself, staying away from the tailored image of a media darling. He doesn’t go out of his way to participate in interviews – he has yet to learn English properly. He hasn’t been swept into the wave of the celebrity athlete. In this day and age, Vladdy is extremely unique. He doesn’t focus on his image or his statistics. Vladdy plays the game he loves, the way he feels comfortable. His dreadlocks hang down, his bat circles high, and his smile shines. Vladdy looks goofy. And it’s beautiful.

I enjoy watching Vladdy Guerrero play because he’s so different. He’s like a record player; his style is outdated, yet the beauty and quality of his nature persists. He isn’t graceful at the plate, or incredibly disciplined. He swings at any pitch he likes, not the pitches that stat reports favor. He doesn’t follow the technological or professional norms. Vladdy does what he wants. He is a “ballplayer”.

As Vladdy bends awkwardly over the plate, bare handed, the third pitch comes. He doesn’t flinch. His smile vanishes. Vladdy is upset. He isn’t out; the count is one and two. Vladdy’s unhappy because like him, the pitch was way outside the box, too wild to connect with.

Jose Bautista-The Unbelievable Story and Unfair Link to Steroids

Warren Kosoy

Since the beginning of September 2009, Jose Bautista has become baseball’s best power hitter. Going into September, Jose Bautista had hit 3 home runs all season long while playing in a part time role. Bautista had been working with Jays’ hitting coach Gene Tenace and manager Cito Gaston all season long to correct his wild swing. At the beginning of September, Bautista was told by Gaston that he was going to play every day in right field due to an injury to the Jays. Although Jose’s average and power were down, the Jays were impressed with his eye and his on base percentage and they decided to give him a chance. Bautista went on to hit 10 home runs in the month, including 3 straight home runs in 3 straight games against the Red Sox in Fenway Park as a key part of a 3 game sweep for the Jays. However, the unrecognized birth of a star was overshadowed by the departure of Cy young award winner, Roy Halladay. Season ticket sales went way down as the Jays finished 2009 with a disappointing 75-87 record. All of the Jays’ fans wanted to see someone like an Alex Rodriguez figure brought in. Some fans even called in to Jays talk shows because they wanted to see an aging Barry Bonds brought in to bring excitement to the park. These fans didn’t realize that the newly announced leadoff man in the offseason was the star that would fill that role as the new face of the Blue Jays franchise, and maybe the best player in the MLB.

The 2010 season started off slowly for Jose Bautista, and he quickly lost his job as the leadoff man. However, the Jays still kept finding ways to throw Jose in the lineup. I was one who questioned this heavily. He was hitting .191 with 1 home run on April 18th when I attended, at the time, the smallest crowd in the Skydome’s history (uggh fine… Rogers Centre). The crowd was announced at 10,000, but I think everyone there knew there weren’t 5000 people at the game. At that game, Jose Bautista absolutely crushed 2 home runs to the same spot in left field. The Jays won the game, and this was only a sign of things to come for the team.  The next game I went to was against Minnesota when he hit his 11th home run of the year. At this point, I turned to my friend and said that this guy was pretty good. The next game I went to he hit another home run. The next one I went to, 2 home runs. This was the last game I saw before going away to camp for 2 months. Bautista was starting to raise interest in the Blue Jays. I brought my radio up to camp and stayed involved with Bautista. He was hitting home runs with such consistency. He hit 20 in 50 days I was away and was really giving fans a lot to cheer about every game. It was the day after I came back from camp when there weren’t many fans left who were in awe at Bautista. It was a Blue Jays vs Yankees game and Bautista hit a home run to deep left field. Later that game, Ivan Nova of the Yankees threw a head high fastball which Bautista wasn’t happy about. He exchanged some words with Nova and nearly led to the benches clearing. The next at bat, Bautista did this: http://mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=11294279 (please excuse Buck Martinez’s voice) and if you skip to 0:47, you will see Bautista stare down the Yankees reliever, David Robertson. After Bautista did this, I was only further convinced that this guy was for real. He ended the year off with 54 home runs, 100 walks and a .378 Obp. To start the season so far, Bautista leads the majors as of June 12th with 21 home runs, a .494 Obp, .340 avg.

Of course, with every great person’s achievements, there are always those who play it down, think it’s a fluke, or assume that the person who achieved it didn’t achieve their accomplishment properly. With Bautista’s sudden outburst, it leaves many fans across the league with the implication that Bautista is on some sort of “mystery” drug, or the MLB still hasn’t fully solved the steroid scandal. I am a believer that one is innocent until signs point that they are guilty. Not necessarily proven guilty, but that it all makes sense that they are guilty. And then they are guilty in my eyes, until proven innocent.  The arguments that people make against Bautista, are that “he never hit more than 16 home runs, how can he cleanly get to 54?” Although this argument sounds legitimate, it is not fair at all. The only thing people are basing their facts that it can’t happen are on old retired steroid users like Barry Bonds and Mark Mcgwire, who lied throughout their careers about being clean.  By them using steroids, it not only tarnished their names, but it tarnished EVERY future home run hitting star who may not necessarily be on steroids. So, most people base their arguments that he’s on steroids because most of the great home run hitters in the past 15 years have been on steroids.

I guess the MLB drug testing procedure has really lost the trust of all of the fans. Jose Bautista said that last year he got tested on three separate occasions in the same month. He passed all three tests and all the other tests all year. If that’s going to be taken for granted, then maybe the MLB has to prove the validity of their tests and show that what the players test is actually true and can be trustworthy information to every MLB fan.

Another fact to prove Bautista’s innocence is that his home run power has not changed at all. His average home run distance in 2010 was actually lower than it was in most of his other seasons according to http://www.hittrackeronline.com. I cannot tell you how far the average distance was for most players’ home runs who used steroids, since the site was only made in 2005.

Also, steroids tend to add muscle to a player. If you look at the pictures below, it is pretty evident that Bautista is the same weight and has no added muscle. (I know one picture is taller than the other, but you can look it up for yourself if these pictures aren’t good). He has weighed the same his whole career, and that weight is 190 pounds. I researched this, and there is NO P.E.D that doesn’t increase body mass. There is also no P.E.D that can have all traces removed quickly which would make Bautista vulnerable to fail a test which has failed 32 players in the last 5 years.  Also, using PEDs messes up the fertility of a male adult, and if you use a major P.E.D, you won’t be having a kid without lots of difficulty or complications. Yet, Jose Bautista had to miss 4 games in early April for his wife to give birth to a child. 9 months before April was the month of September. That was when he already hit his 54 home runs.

 

 

 

 

 

Jose’s pitch selectivity has also really improved. I’m pretty sure steroids don’t help you see the ball better. He’s also claimed to have worked on his swing for a long time and he simply sped it up and swung the bat earlier and harder than he ever did in his career. The fact is, that Bautista always had a dangerous swing throughout his minor league and major league career, but it was never perfected to the point where it is now.

Damien Cox posted a mindless article in the Toronto Star saying that there had to be some link to steroids and Jose in late August of last year. Mr. Cox, I’m sure you’ll never read this, but if you do, please know that you irresponsibly tainted baseball’s most exciting player’s name with the small proof of statistics.

Everyone who says Bautista is on steroids needs to stop and consider all the facts and maybe for once, trust the guy’s word that he is clean and just enjoy his unbelievable play in the field.

Why The MLB Needs Bryce Harper

Myles Dichter

Lebron James. Tiger Woods. Roger Federer. Tom Brady. These are the faces of professional sports in North America. From the NBA to the PGA, every has sport has its continental representative. These are the players that everyone knows about-even my mother. We thought LeBron was big in Cleveland, but his star shone even brighter after his polarizing Decision. Tiger, pre-scandal, was big because he was simply light-years ahead of anyone else in his sport, no one could compete with him. Immediately post-scandal, he garnered even more attention, albeit negative. Now, he has faded, along with the sport which he carried on his back. In tennis, Federer has broken records once thought unbreakable, and is being challenged now by Spaniard Rafael Nadal. Federer vs. Nadal keeps tennis afloat. Ditto to Manning vs. Brady and football in which a different guy seems to be ahead every year, and it keeps fans interested.

It has been argued that Derek Jeter is to baseball as James, Woods, Federer and Brady are to their sports (see “The Last Great American Ballplayer“). Though I see Jeter’s fame as a product of the city he plays in, I will admit that he has been a, if not the, face of baseball since his entrance into the league in 1996. Now the shortstop’s fame is dwindling, and a new star must emerge from the crapshoot, that is the MLB draft. Not just any star, though. The MLB is losing pace with the other major sports, as even the NHL in the USA is making ground (continuing in the theme of rivalries, Crosby vs. Ovechkin). The MLB needs a star, but not just any star. They need a guy who will bring attention back to baseball. A guy who we can’t help but watch, even if we hate him. A guy who is challenged for the title of the best player in baseball on a yearly basis, yet never is overtaken, like Phil was to Tiger. The MLB needs a player that my mom will know, and take interest in.

Right near the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania, there is a small settlement of 39 728 people called Hagerstown. It is here where Bryce Harper has started his professional baseball career, and his attempt at reviving baseball. Gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated at the age of 16,

Move over Lebron, there's a new "Chosen One"

Harper seems to have had the spotlight on him forever. But Harper will not allow himself only 15 minutes of fame. A lifetime would be preferred. It takes a lot for a high class-A player to receive this much attention, yet Harper seems to have mastered it, though in a different way than his soon-to-be teammate Stephen Strasburg. Last year, Strasburg’s AAA games were being televised live on ESPN. There was just one catch for those who were interested in enjoying a good baseball game: when Strasburg was not on the mound, the game was not on TV. ESPN actually did well doing this, because everyone with even the slightest interest in baseball wanted to see what all the hype about this pitching phenom was.

If Harper keeps making headlines at the pace he is, it won’t only be people “with the slightest interest in baseball” tuning in to see him. It will be everybody, and the sideshow will be Strasburg. Harper wants to be MJ, leaving Strasburg as Pippen, the loyal (until a week ago), somewhat jealous sidekick. Did you know that Harper took a summer course so he could skip grade 12, go to junior college and enter the MLB draft early? Fine, he was pushed, but is that okay? Did you know that when he was in the JC playoffs, he was suspended for the last two games and watched his team whither from the stands for arguing balls and strikes? Sure, this seems like a harsh punishment, but the guy drew a line in the dirt to show the ump where he believed the ball to be. The latest Harper scandal, but surely not the last, had him mockingly kissing the opposing pitcher as he rounded the bases after belting a home run. These have led to questions on his arrogance, and a general “who the fuck do you think you are?” from all those watching. Yes, he is still only in high class-A, but Harper is the next big thing. He is the future of Major League Baseball. And he knows it. He is the polarizing figure that will put baseball back on the map. Some will loathe Harper for his antics, some will love him. The one thing I know is that everyone will respect him, similar to the respect, yet utter hatred everyone (except Yankees fans) has for Derek Jeter.

Harper will be viewed as the biggest bust of all-time if he doesn’t live up to his 504-foot home run, 96 MPH fastball hype. And to live up to this self-created hype, Harper is going to have to be a perennial .330 player with 40 homers and 120 rbis every season. He should shatter Pujols’ record of 9 straight .300/30/100 seasons to start a career. Buster Posey should not even be in the discussion for best player in baseball by the time Harper is up, nor should Mike Trout, Brett Lawrie, Mike Moustakas or any other super-prospect. The Harper show will only keep entertaining if these guys threaten Harper’s status as the best all-around player since Bonds circa 2000. Then he should go beyond this, and do something Bonds never could do and win the World Series. Because greatness is measured in championships, and thats the reason Dan Marino isn’t viewed as the greatest quarterback in NFL history. Not only would this feed into the legend of Bryce, but it would be great for baseball too, seeing as they haven’t had a memorable World Series since 2001, when Mariano Rivera picked quite the time for his only career postseason blown save (2002, when it went 7 games between the Angels and Giants, and 2003 where Josh Beckett shut down a lethal Yankees lineup twice are also in the mix, but they simply weren’t as memorable as 2001. That was as exciting as it gets, and I was only 7!). Even if the series itself isn’t that great, Harper will make it worth watching like a novel with a mediocre plot but a riveting protagonist.

In Bryce Harper, we are already seeing flashes of greatness even while he toils in Hagerstown. Bud Selig knows it, the Nationals know it, Stephen Strasburg knows it, and the fans know it. He will bring baseball back to life, and there is no better time than now, as the NBA heads for an offseason of uncertainty and as a 2011 NFL season looks bleaker and bleaker with every day. The PGA had Tiger, the NBA James, the ATP has Federer and the MLB will have Harper. Mark it down, Harper is the next big thing. He will reinstate baseball as truly being America’s favourite pastime.

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The Last Great American Ballplayer

Noah Bronstein

As I lazily sat on my couch watching SportsCentre that morning, I was barely paying attention, just idly letting the plethora of baseball highlights cross my line of sight- but then that number popped up: 3,000. And with that number came with an internationally recognized face: Derek Sanderson Jeter, the last Great American Ballplayer. Over the last decade, baseball has been knocked off its perch atop American sport hierarchy by football (even a lockout won’t slow them down; what happened in 1994 to baseball will not happen to football), and basketball, in its new golden age, is gnawing at baseball’s heels. Baseball players, full of steroid scandals, have lost the aura they had only 15 years ago.  More people have jerseys of Marion Barber than Manny Ramirez. The decline is also showing itself at an amateur and youth level. Fewer Americans are playing baseball each year, especially African-Americans. It seems that baseball has in some ways lost its luster, especially on an individual player basis. Baseball has no divisive superstar like Lebron, no apotheosized genius like Manning, no singular image like Tiger.

But as Jeter’s face entered the television, all of that is easily forgotten. At some point this month he will reach 3,000 hits, a mark reached by only 27 others out of thousands of hitters. When he reaches that mark, sports fans should appreciate that he will likely be the last positive iconic sports figure in baseball. Yes, Lincecum, Howard, and Mauer are all iconic to baseball fans, but not to sports fans. At almost 37 years old, Jeter is still number one among players in jersey sales and has been the most marketable player in baseball over the last decade. In an age where winning is everything, Jeter is the definition of a winner. It seems like he shows up in every clutch situation (A highlight package featuring Jeter driving in the going ahead run in the last few innings or getting on base to start a rally would last longer than a Lord of the Rings movie) and never cracks under the scrutiny of the intense New York sports media. In an age where 24 hour sports networks blow up every inch of every scandal, Jeter is untainted. Derek Jeter, the son of a mixed race couple from blue collar Kalamazoo, Michigan who spent his summers in New Jersey engenders all the qualities fans look for in their sports heroes. His loyalty to the Yankees over the past sixteen years despite all the personnel mistakes they have made (Kevin Brown, Carl Pavano, Randy Johnson, Jose Contreras and that’s only the starting pitchers) is unfortunately rare in modern pro sports (Yep, Lebron we’re talking to you). He has earned over $200 million in salary yet never takes a day off. He has played over 92% of his teams’ games in all but one season (he separated his shoulder in ’03). He is candidly honest with the media, but never says anything stupid.

Okay that was enough praise a Blue Jays fan can give a Yankee (when writing about Jeter’s injury I sent a mental thank-you to Ken Huckaby). But in all seriousness Jeter has had a career that makes sports fans proud to follow. He had opportunities to demand a trade after the downfall of the early 2000’s dynasty as Kobe did on the post-Shaq Lakers. He could have demanded that the Yankees nix the A-Rod trade. It would have been understandable, as the team’s shortstop and face of the franchise why would you want the team to trade for the best shortstop/player in the league? But instead Jeter, classy as always, tried to welcome in the guy with the lowest talent-to-self-esteem ratio in the league. In a sports world of me-first ego fueled attitudes, Jeter is consistently in team mode. So when he hits that big number, whether it’s an infield single or a line drive to the gap, remember you are witnessing the culmination of a baseball player who has followed in the footsteps of many great sports personas, but sadly will probably have no other follow him.

The Wilpon Saga

Myles Dichter

Mets’ owner Fred Wilpon just made GM Sandy Alderson’s job a whole lot harder. Through interviews conducted with Tom Verducci of SI, and Jeffery Toobin of the New York Times, Wilpon revealed a whole lot about his team. Was this strategically smart? Absolutely not. He just destroyed the trade value of his two of his most valuable assets come the July deadline, Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran. While Beltran may still warrant a decent prospect or two, Wilpon may have cost his team dearly with his comments regarding the shortstop, Reyes.

Think about this. The Twins start to turn around their season, and realize that Trevor Plouffe (pronounced Ploof) is not the long term answer at shortstop. So they call up Alderson, and offer two mid-level prospects, SP Liam Hendriks and SS James Beresford for Reyes. Now a week ago, Twins GM Bill Smith would never have dreamt that these two average prospects could bring back an elite shortstop like Reyes, but think about the conversation:

“Hey, you guys need pitching. We’ll send Hendriks and Beresford your way for Jose Reyes. Beresford is a stud, and will replace Reyes in a couple of years”

“No way. Reyes is worth more than that. We need (top pitching prospect) Kyle Gibson if you wanna even think about Jose”

“But even your owner, Fred Wilpon, said that you won’t be able to re-sign him, and that he’s had “everything wrong with him”. How much could this guy possibly be worth?”

“F*cking Wilpon. I’ll consider.”

And just like that, Jose Reyes is a Twin. But even though Wilpon clearly didn’t follow his parents advice in thinking before he spoke, there is something somewhat refreshing about his comments. When was the last time we heard someone actually speak honestly to the media, and not just feed the media exactly what we know we’re going to hear? I suppose this is a type of answer to an article I wrote a couple of months ago. I wondered back then why more people don’t speak their mind. And I still don’t quite understand. But what I am seeing in the Wilpon situation makes me think that it is a matter of pride. Wilpon has been ripped apart in the media-deservedly so-even from the first rumblings that he had put the Mets in a hole by investing 700 million dollars into Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. Hell, after that, I don’t know how much pride Wilpon could have had left, considering he regarded Madoff as a GOOD FRIEND. Take the classic case of the bully you learned about in elementary school. This bully feels the need to put others down to make himself feel good. After the Madoff disaster, Wilpon needed to go off on someone, he just chose the wrong people. The Mets owner has now been driven to a new low by the media, who ate this story up. What little is left of his pride will now be taken by Bud Selig, in the form of the New York Mets, a baseball team with a proud, though troubled history.

So we know that Wilpon made a poor choice strategically, and a poor choice for himself. But isn’t it nice to see someone actually tell the truth about their own players? At the end of the day, these guys get paid millions of dollars to play a game for a living. And while I have no problems with this, I do enjoy seeing them being criticized by the people who pay them. He may have hit Carlos Beltran the hardest, when he said, ” We had some schmuck in New York who paid him based on that one [2004 postseason] series. He’s sixty-five to seventy per cent of what he was.” Who was that schmuck? None other than Wilpon himself (Beltran has since replied saying that he is at 100%. Maybe we can compromise at 85$?). What does Beltran do with this? Well, nothing until Alderson approaches him and tells him he has to up his game (Yep. I just used that phrase.) or else he’ll trade him back to Kansas City, since the same situation that occurred with Reyes above will repeat itself with Beltran if he doesn’t start proving that he is legitimately at 100%.

So what can we learn from this situation?

  1. Never invest $700m with one of your “close friends” who just so happens to be running a Ponzi scheme behind your back
  2. Honesty is not the best policy in many cases
  3. One such case is when dealing with players on your MLB team that you are looking to trade
  4. Don’t conduct a revealing interview unless you know it is off the record
  5. Just stay away from the Mets, nothing good ever comes from them

World Series Prediction

Myles Dichter

The way my predictions work, the following would be first round playoff matchups:

NL

Phillies vs. Cardinals

I think the Phillies will take this series, though it will go the distance. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday make life difficult for the Phillie Phour.

Phillies in 5

Giants vs. Rockies

No more magic here for the Giants, as the Rockies hitting in Colorado is too much to handle.

Rockies in 5

AL

Red Sox vs. Tigers

No-brainer here. Red Sox overpower the Tigers and former catcher Martinez to taake this one.

Red Sox in 3

Rays vs. Rangers

Rematch of ALDS last year, which the Rangers took in five. Life is a bit easier for the Rangers this year, as a solid dose of hitting and pitching wears down the young Rays and Ramon (Ramirez/Damon. It works for Pronk, so it can work here!).

Rangers in 4

And the conference series…

NL

Rockies vs. Phillies

The Phillie Phour (this is going to catch on, I promise) runs into the same problem in Colorado as the Giants did, and the Rockies continue their stellar run into the World Series. The Rockies actually have pitching too, between Ubaldo Jimenez, Jorge De La Rosa and Huston Street closing out games. They are a team to watch out for.

Rockies in 7

AL

Red Sox vs. Rangers

I just think the Red Sox are too good to lose to a worse version of themselves. Seriously, these teams on the surface both have awesome hitting with questionable pitching. Difference is that both the Red Sox hitters and pitchers are better.

Red Sox in 6

Your World Series…

Red Sox vs. Rockies

In a rematch of the 2007 World Series, the Rockies and Red Sox face off for the right to be crowned world champions. This is a great series between two very potent offenses, in two of the the most hitter-friendly ballparks. In the end, I believe that the free agent signings/trades beat out the homegrown talent, and the Red Sox win one of the best World Series in years.

Red Sox in 7

AL Preview

Myles Dichter

West

Texas Rangers: Fresh off a trip to the World Series, I think that the Rangers will be back with a vengeance. 1 through 9, this batting order is scary, with the likes of Adrian Beltre (though not in a contract year), Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler. Oh, and AL MVP Josh Hamilton. The rotation is looking good, though they are far from top-heavy without Cliff Lee. CJ Wilson is the ace this year, with Japanese import Colby Lewis behind him. They have to repeat their 2010 seasons if the Rangers want to repeat as AL champs.

Record: 95-67

Oakland Athletics: Polar opposites of the Rangers, in that their pitching is solid and their hitting is questionable. Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez (2.30 ERA post all-star break) could make a playoff series interesting. The addition of Hideki Matsui should help them, but their offense is still weak. The A’s probably regret trading Carlos Gonzalez.

Record: 91-71

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Owner Arte Moreno struck out on Carl Crawford. Then Adrian Beltre. So he settled on paying Vernon Wells what he refused to pay Carl Crawford. Huh? A confusing offseason for Angels fans will lead to another disappointing season. Look forward to lots of one pitch pop-outs by Wells, you’ll come to expect it.

Record: 80-82

Seattle Mariners: Felix Hernandez is perhaps the best pitcher in the AL. Past him, the Mariners do not look good. Period. Justin Smoak has potential but can he live up to it? Same goes for Michael Saunders. Big question: When will Ichiro finally go into decline? Is this the year he doesn’t get 200 hits?

Record: 75-87

Central

Detroit Tigers: I hate Miguel Cabrera. Why? Let me tell you a story. Norm and I were at a Jays-Tigers game a few years back, and as the crazy kids we were, we decided to chirp Cabrera. Eventually, our whole section joined us over the Tigers dugout. By the seventh inning, Miguel grew very annoyed with a couple 13 year old hooligans, so he did the thing any rational alcoholic would do: give us the middle finger. Miguel, I hope you never recuperate from your alcoholism and your career goes to shit. All kidding aside, Cabrera is a talented player, who if he can stay out of trouble, will lead the Tigers to an AL Central title.

Record: 89-73

Minnesota Twins: Their season hinges on Justin Morneau, and whether he can recover from his concussion. Joe Mauer is the best catcher in baseball but he alone will not lead the Twins very far, especially with Carl Pavano as there ace.I would love to ask Ron Gardenhire why Francisco Liriano isn’t slotted into that position, since he seems geared up for a big season.

Record: 87-75

Chicago White Sox: The White Sox also sport a player prone to flipping the bird at his fans in Alex Rios. The White Sox do have pieces in place, as well as a healthy Jake Peavy, so they should make things interesting in this division. We’ll see if Paul Konerko can come up with another 35 home runs a year older than he was last year. Carlos Quentin should not be forgotten either, this team’s got tons of pop in their bats.

Record: 84-78

Cleveland Indians: Will anything ever go right for this city? Between the Cavs, Browns and Indians, this city is in flux (at least re: sports). The Indians, for one, are going nowhere unless Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner (his nickname is Pronk, a mix between project and donkey) can stay healthy and play like the players they are, or at least used to be. Trades of CC Sabathia and Victor Martinez yielded little in return. This team has to blow themselves up if they have wishes of making the playoffs in the future.

Record: 70-92

Kansas City Royals: Despite my placing them last in their division, this team is set at practically every position in the future. The only reason the Royals don’t get more recognition for their futility is the impossibly more futile Pirates. The Royals, however, have a strong farm system while the Pirates don’t. Also, KC actually brings in fans, since there are no other sports teams in the city.

Record: 70-92

East

Boston Red Sox: They set three goals this offseason: get some relief help, get a premier outfielder and trade for Adrian Gonzalez. Give them three check marks. They brought in Carl Crawford, Bobby Jenks, Dan Wheeler and Gonzalez. Everyone is high on the Sox this year and for good reason-this team is stacked. Even Daisuke is pitching great this spring (though Josh Beckett isn’t). Gonzalez is going to light it up at Fenway. I’m calling .300 45/130. I don’t see this team not winning the AL East.

Record: 100-62

Tampa Bay Rays: I thought for a while about whether this team or the Yankees would finish second in this gruelling division. The Yanks have the edge in hitting, but the Rays are better pitching. So I went to the old cliche, defense wins championships and that gives us the Rays over the Bombers. David Price, James Shield, Jeff Niemann, Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson are all young promising (or have fulfilled their promise) pitchers who represent the Rays future. If they can get their bullpen sorted out, this team will be scary. (On a sidenote, I also visited Tropicana Field last year. For such a god team, it is a wonder that they don’t get more fans. Its too bad).

Record: 93-69

New York Yankees: Best infield in the league. It is scary. Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and A-Rod. It’s a shame that the Yankees can’t put out an even average rotation, since they would be shoo-ins for the playoffs if they did. Its weird to think about, but somewhat true this year: the Bronx Bombers actually enter this season as relatively under-the-radar, underdogs. Their big free agent signing was Rafael Soriano, which should tell you something about how they fared in the offseason.

Record: 91-71

Toronto Blue Jays: This hurts. AA has just done a spectacular job since being named GM, and yet the Jays still can’t crack fourth. When the MLB CBA expires in 2012, something has to happen, because clearly the luxury tax/revenue sharing doesn’t work when a team has an unlimited amount of money. The Jays boast lots of potential on their team, and if everyone comes through then I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jays gave the Rays a run for their wild card money. Did you know that in 10 games after his debut, JP Arencibia had 1 hit? Did you know that he is batting .172 in Spring Training this year? I hope JP comes around, because as we saw in his outstanding debut, he has the power, he just has to harness it. Oh, and remember, the Jays are coming home (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_veqh8b5eg).

Record: 82-80

Baltimore Orioles: If the O’s learned one thing from last year, it is that a few prospects and a core of veterans doesn’t work. So they went out and signed Vlad Guerrero, Derrek Lee and JJ Hardy and traded for Mark Reynolds. They’ll be better than last year, but I guess they didn’t learn after all.

Record: 69-93

AL West Champs: Rangers
AL Central Champs: Tigers
AL East Champs: Red Sox
Wild Card: Rays

AL MVP: Yoouuuk! Yoouuuk! Yoouuuk! Kevin Youkillis returns from injury and puts up a career year, leading the Red Sox to AL east glory and the best record in the majors. Transition from first to third is rough to start, but he gets accustomed and turns in a great year.

AL Cy Young: David Price. Remember how I said that the Rays will win the wild card with their pitching? Well, Price is the anchor of that pitching staff. I say he gets to 20 wins and goes home with a Cy.

NL Preview

Myles Dichter

East

Philadelphia Phillies: Despite some early injuries (see: Chase Utley), the Phillies four-headed pitching monster will propel them to the playoffs, and likely more. I don’t see this staff having an combined ERA over 3.50, and the top four should all be under that. The offense is going to have come at some point though, because as we see in Miami, a few stars and a bunch of hooligans doesn’t entirely work. Rollins and Howard have to have bounceback years.

Record: 93-69

Atlanta Braves: Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Tommy Hanson will be the core of this team for years to come. The only question is when they will dethrone the scary Phillies. Don’t expect it this year, though this team could make a run as a wild card. Dan Uggla was a big addition.

Record: 88-74

Florida Marlins: Significant drop-off from numbers 2-3 here. Florida has some stuff in place, but how long will it be until they have to trade HanRam and Josh Johnson? For 2011 at least, this team should hold its own. I was at a Marlins game last year, (this one:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k-_BCaxMnPg&feature=related) and their fans suck. I mean, it was dead silent in there. You could hear Nyjer Morgan from inside the clubhouse.

Record: 79-83

New York Mets: On paper, this offense is good, with the likes of Beltran, Bay, Reyes, Wright and Ike Davis sporting Mets uniforms. But their catcher is Thole, their second baseman is their Rule 5 draft pick from the Jays, and their ace is Mike Pelfrey. Sorry Queens, not this year.

Record: 75-87

Washington Nationals: Hope lies in the minors and the DL, with super-phenoms Stpehen Strasburg and Bryce Harper. Just a matter of waiting it out for them. While we’re at it, I’ll take the time to introduce the newest contributor, Alex Bogach, to the now three guy team on Two Guys and a Sports Blog. You can check out some of his other stuff on his facebook page, definitely worth a read.
Are the saviours here yet?

Record: 71-91, meaning the $126m man leads to two more wins.

Central

St. Louis Cardinals: Despite losing Adam Wainwright to the evil Dr. James Andrews, I think that the Cardinals will still take this division back, if not due to the futility of the rest of the teams here. Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia are still a great 1-2 punch, as are Pujols and Holliday in the field. Pujols will have a career year in his contract year, and lead the Cards back to the playoffs. (Sidenote: I think Pujols chases the money this year offseason, and I think that the Cards will appease to his $300m demands, because if they don’t, the Yankees will. I hope he doesn’t Lebron them though).

Record: 88-74

Cincinnati Reds: A year after a shocking division win and playoff appearance, the Reds regress a little bit. Last year the stars aligned, very unlikely two years in a row. Gotta love Joey Votto though, OH Canada!

Record: 85-77

Milwaukee Brewers: After giving up four prospects for Zack Greinke, they better hope he re-signs with them upon free agency after 2012. Greinke is hurt to begin the season, so sufficed to say it has not been a good start. Speaking of free agency, what are they going to do with the Prince? If they don’t start well, he will be gone by the deadline. Braun and Hart must step up.

Record: 83-79

Chicago Cubs: For the first time in a while, Cubs fans have some reason for hope (no Carlos Silva is a definite plus). Carlos Pena is a good replacement for Derrek Lee, and the pitching staff looks good, especially if Carlos Zambrano can control himself. Carlos Marmol is an all-star closer. The Cubs have quite the outfield, with Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and Kosuke Fukudome (talk about overpaid…).

Record: 78-83

Houston Astros: Wandy Rodriguez has some WANDerful stuff. Closer Brandon pitches like a Lyon. Michael was Bourn to be the starting centerfielder of the 2011 Astros. Catcher Humberto Quintero has a great name. If you haven’t already noticed, I know nothing about the Astros.

Record: 70-92

Pittsburgh Pirates: Too bad a nice stadium like PNC Park goes to waste on this bunch of bush leaguers. At least they have the Steelers and Penguins.

Record: 65-97. Hey, its an improvement.

West

San Francisco Giants: A murderer’s row in the rotation with Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez and Bumgarner (oh, and Barry Zito). Fierce Brian Wilson to close out games for them. Looking like their x-factor is the hitting, with the Sandoval looking for a bounce back season (or at least looking to lose weight). They are counting on an aging Miguel Tejada and washed up Freddy Sanchez in the middle infield. Buster Posey has got to have a good year if the Giants want to repeat.

Record: 92-70

Colorado Rockies: I think this team will give the Giants a run for their money in 2011. They have an extremely young and talented core, who are locked up for the lang haul. This is a team going in the right direction. Troy Tulowitzki and CarGo are special players. It will be a tight wild card race between the Rockies and Braves.

Record: 89-73

LA Dodgers: Its too bad you only hear about the Dodger owners, since their players are pretty good. Their starting rotation includes Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, both guys who continue to make strides in the National League. Outfielders Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp (who was with Rihanna) aren’t too shabby themselves. The Dodgers should not be overlooked this season.

Record: 85-79

San Diego Padres: Last year was probably more an illusion than anything else, and now they’re fighting without Adrian Gonzalez. Pitching will keep them respectable, but they do not have enough hitting to stay afloat this season. Not to mention a crushing end to 2010 probably means a bad start to 2011.

Record: 81-81

Arizona Diamondbacks: Worked hard in the offseason to shore up their bullpen, so that should be improved. Justin Upton has to get back into form. Kelly Johnson is a bright spot on an otherwise dark-looking season for the D-Backs.

Record: 74-88

NL East Champs: Phillies
NL Central Champs: Cardinals
NL West Champs: Giants
Wild Card: Rockies

NL MVP: Albert Pujols. He wins MVP, “proving” that he is worth $300m over 10 years. I say proving sarcastically since this is an absurd contract offer, and he will probably get it.

NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay. I know, these predictions are real original. Thing is, I think these two guys have to step it up this year, and I think both will. Plus, as a Blue Jays fan, how could I pick against Doc?

Jose Bautista Rebuttal

Norm

A couple quick points disagreeing with Myles post. First of all, he compares Batista to Adam Dunn. The flaw in this is Dunn is one of most consistent power hitter in baseball, while Bautista had one good season. Dunn has hit at least 38 home runs for the last seven seasons. Bautista has hit more than 16 home runs once. Dunn is Coldplay, a consistent hit maker, while Bautista had one good single, like a Billy Ray Cyrus. Maybe we should find Bautista’s daughter and sign her to a big contract, which knowing Rogers, we just might. Without even looking at advanced statistics, it’s easy to see Dunn is worth more than Batista, yet we are paying Batista more.

 

I agree Myles that we can’t yet evaluate the results, the only thing we can evaluate is how it compares to other contracts and past precedents. Dunn’s deal with the White Sox shows us it compares unfavourably to other contracts. Although, Myles says there isn’t a good precedent, I believe there’s a perfect one. In 1996 a 32 year-old leadoff hitter named Brady Anderson hit 50 home runs for Baltimore. He had never hit more than 21 before and never hit more than 24 again. Davy Johnson at age 30 in 1973 hit 43 homers, had never hit more than 18 before, and would never hit more than 15 again. So while we can’t criticize the results (yet) we can criticize it based on past examples and other contracts. I think we should have waited a few months to see if it could be repeated. Signing a $65 million dollar deal for a .260 hitter who hits 25 home runs is the exact thing that’s mired the Blue Jays in mediocrity. I can’t fathom why Alex Anthopoulos would make a move that will keep us there once again.