Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Return to the Throne?

With a little over a month left in the season, the most important races are becoming the Wild Card ones, as the division leaders are becoming pretty solidified (Cubs notwithstanding), and the guys on the bottom are realizing they still have a shot. Right now the AL Wild Card spots are being held by the New York Yankees, who, barring catastrophe, will be hanging onto it in September, and the Minnesota Twins, who've gotten hot again.

There are three, well, wild cards in this Wild Card race- the Angels, Royals and Mariners. They're the three guys who're still over .500, and still have a shot. The Angels have been getting hot as of late, and the Mariners have been receding backward. So where does that leave the Royals? Exactly where they want to be.

The Royals probably have one of the more complete teams of this race. The lineup is pretty on, with performances from Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Whit Merrifield and Lorenzo Cain that are definitely career highs, a nice return engagement from Melky Cabrera, a rejuvenated Salvador Perez, and some other cool bats in the bench. Yes, Alex Gordon and Brandon Moss are definitely disappointing people this season, but there's enough going on in the lineup that it's not a big loss.

The rotation's not bad either. Danny Duffy and Jason Vargas have strongheld things, while Jason Hammel has done slightly better than expected, and newcomer Jake Junis is slowly improving. Ian Kennedy and Eric Skoglund have had a few too many bad starts to really shine, but they're not truly bad.

This is a well-formed, solid squad that needs to get lucky in order to get back to the postseason. This luck may need to include some losses from the Angels and Twins, and maybe some more offensive streaks.

Coming Tonight: Speaking of Wild Cards, a guy that pitches for a great NL Central team that, thanks to the general meh-ness of the NL Central, might need to fight a bit harder than expected to nab a Wild Card spot.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Vanishing Mets

Granderson, Duda, Walker, Reed and Rene Rivera are gone. Harvey, Thor, Wright, Reyes, Lugo, Wheeler, Matz and TJ Rivera are injured.

...what exactly does that leave for the Mets?

It's funny. Earlier this season, I was worried that there were too many outfielders, and now there's not enough. The Mets' decline has robbed the team of leadership, purpose, and most of the 2015 squad.

So what's left? Michael Conforto, Yoenis Cespedes, Jacob deGrom, Wilmer Flores, and pretty much nobody else that's relevant. I understand that they're trying to build up the youth movement, by throwing Gavin Cecchini, Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith into the mix. It's...sort of working? Like, it's hard to tell, because really nobody's left right now. The Mets don't have a ton to work with, in terms of pitching, the lineup, everything. It's a barren team, and right now they're just pushing people that might not be ready into positions.

I don't think this is gonna end well standings-wise, but at least Cespedes and Conforto are doing well.

Coming Tomorrow- A hard-hitting infielder for a team who...MIGHT have a postseason shot? MIGHT?

The Devers You Don't Know

August 1st 2017, I went to Fenway Park, and I was there specifically to see how the Red Sox were going to win the AL East.

Oh, I'm not stupid. The Yankees are beginning to run out their rope. I love them, I want them to do well, but this year they don't have enough to stay in first. So I needed to see how the Red Sox were going to stay there when the Yankees couldn't.

Well, I found out how. Rafael Devers was how.

Not since maybe Carlos Correa had I seen a rookie absolutely command the ballfield whenever he could. The guy had a fantastic night, always knowing how to get a hit out of Carlos Carrasco and company, and just owning the ball whenever he could. He and Eduardo Nunez were going crazy at the plate that night, and giving even more of a playoff edge to a team with a vendetta to get back.

In 22 games, Rafael Devers has more home runs than Chris Young, the guy they kept around to hit home runs off the bench. Not only is he a welcome solution to the Sox' third-base problem that had been plaguing them since April, but he also allows for Eduardo Nunez to play 2nd and the outfield, and still be a part of the lineup rather than just be the third baseman the Sox traded for him to be. It allows for flexibility and flux in one of the most impressive lineups in baseball.

I mean, sportswriters are making a big deal out of David Price's injury, but with Chris Sale, Drew Pomeranz, a slightly-more-human Rick Porcello, Eduardo Rodriguez, and...and, fine, Doug Fister, it's not a terrible loss.

This is a team that honestly should have gotten further in the last postseason. Maybe here they'll finally do something great. Maybe Rafael Devers will be a part of it.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the few veteran Mets that seems to be sticking around.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A Surprisingly Nice Blaster of 2017 Stadium Club

2017 hasn't been the greatest year for card-collecting. Not because Topps has only put out a few good products, but I haven't really had a great longing for a lot of what's on the shelves. Series 2 stopped being appealing to me, I've never been an Allen and Ginter guy, Panini's stuff still seems kinda bush-league, and Archives is somehow off the shelves.

Where does that leave Stadium Club? Well, front and center. This has been the only set I've actively sought more of. It's not perfect, but it's a fun, photography-based set that keeps my interest and makes me happy.

Without many options, I grabbed a blaster tonight. And let me tell you...usually on this blog I complain of getting blasters meant for Cardinals or Blue Jays fans. Tonight...this one was sent from the gods for me. It wasn't terrific hit-wise, but you'll see what I mean.

Pack 1-
67- Whitey Ford. A gorgeous black and white photo, and another great Whitey issue from SC. Already I'm happy.
45- Kyle Seager. Okay, I was expecting a few dupes, but this is one of the few that came my way this box.
199- Roman Quinn. I think my dad's still obsessed with this guy.
279- Trevor Story. Not having a great sophomore season, but still doing well enough. Great static headshot, too.
78- Denard Span. Gold parallel. Great, fun shot of him, too.

So, already I wasn't seeing a ton of dupes, and a lot I hadn't seen yet. And that would continue.

Pack 2-
264- Rougned Odor. More fun with the Rangers and their gatorade showers.
POWER ZONE insert...of Frank Thomas. Glad it's not the same two Jays ones I keep getting, and that it's a HOF hero like Thomas.
39- Bryce Harper. Don't think I have this one, and it's a great award shot of the guy.
175- Mark McGwire. Another singular dupe.
298- Ryan Vogelbach. I don't really know the guy, but the card looks really cool.

Pack 3-
231- Giancarlo Stanton. A terrific outfield shot of the ultimate comeback player for the year.
CHROME PARALLEL OF CLAYTON KERSHAW. I mean, of all gets for that type, Kershaw's an excellent one.
80- Henry Owens.
187- Dexter Fowler. Fantastic spring training shot.
256- Michael Fulmer, one of the few credible players left in Detroit.

Pack 4-
254- Maikel Franco, in a fantastic shot. Not having a great season, but still one of the closest things Philly has to a hero right now.
228- Gavin Cecchini
137- DEREK JETER. Glad to see the Captain's represented in this set.
91- Pat Neshek, still in a Philly uniform.

Pack 5-
124- Shawn O'Malley. Another case of 'great card, don't know who you are.'
245- CHRIS SALE. Fantastic studio shot, with a wonderful tint of red. Almost symbolic.
52- Jason Varitek
77- Rick Porcello. Okay, this photo's one of my faves from the set. Price, Porcello, Sale...and Hanley goofing off behind them. So much fun.
65- Zach Britton. Still one of the best.

Pack 6-
42- Justin Verlander
28- Joe Mauer. Dupe.
36- Willson Contreras. Also a dupe. Still, much less than I thought we'd be getting this box.
86- ICHIRO. Always fantastic getting cards of him.
3- NOAH SYNDERGAARD. Man, this box is just notching off all the guys I collected that I still needed.

Pack 7-
99- Paul Goldschmidt, in a FANTASTIC auto-signing card. Like, one of the greats
60- Clay Buchholz, as a Phillie...ORANGE AND GOLD PARALLEL. So yeah. Take that, Cardinals, Sox and Jays. I finally get a decent rare parallel in a box, and it's of a Phillie.....okay, a Phillie that hasn't pitched since April, but STILL.
258- Stephen Vogt. Dupe.
19- DJ LeMahieu. Forget if I have this one or not.
296- Shelby Miller.

Pack 8-
Contact Sheet of Jose Bautista. I might have this one.
198- Ryan Schimpf
2 last dupes

So before going a bit wobbly in the last bit, that was a pretty nice box, with a nice amount of Yankees, Phillies, and guys I collect, and not too many dupes. Nice surprise from a part of the card-collecting year that can be numbing sometimes.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Still #3 to me

Philadelphia is one of those cities where, if you're a sports player and you give a couple dimes, the city will make sure you never have to pay for a beer the rest of your life. It doesn't take much in Philly. Juan Pierre, Brad Lidge, Ricky Bottalico, Matt Stairs- they're all deified up here because they did very little...and it still meant a great deal to Phillies fans. I mean, there's the flip side, where you can be a Phillie for a decade, then go off to another team and come back to boos for absolutely no reason. So, Donovan McNab, Pat Burrell, Jaromir Jagr...we're still figuring this out.

The epitome of this 'short-lived tenure = lifetime appreciation' thing is Hunter Pence. He spent exactly one calendar year as a Phillie...and in that calendar year, he was one of the most beloved, entertaining guys to have on your team. He did some amazing things in the postseason, he had a great first half in 2012, and even in a month's time, everyone in Philly was wearing Pence shirts. Not just jersey shirts, but the ones with 'Pence-isms'.

And this was the same season I saw kids my age wearing 'Vanimal' it was definitely a year for short-tenured fringe Phillies. Remember, this was the tale end of the Ryan Howard dominance era, and Utley, Rollins and Victorino were still huge, so the fact that an outsider could enter into the fold and snag fans THAT QUICKLY...blew people's minds (then again, Yoenis essentially did the same thing in 2015, so it's not unheard of.)

Pence has been playing for San Francisco for 5 years now, he's snagged 2 rings, is mellowing out...and yet, to this day, I still see Pence Philly shirts every once in a while. When Pence retires, I'm guessing that the Phillies is only gonna be a speck on his career, because he won rings with San Fran, he had more good seasons with Houston. I don't think he's a Hall of Famer, but I think people are, at the very least, gonna remember him when he retires.

Also...I'm still collecting any and all Phillies Pence card issues. Somebody's gotta remember his Phillies tenure.

Coming Tomorrow- He came into the league in late July, and ever since he's been powering his team past the competition...including, sadly, my New York Yankees.

Someone Named Chapman Who's Actually Doing What He's Supposed To

Not that I'm bitter or anything.

Look, the A's are still a pretty dire bunch. Everyone who was doing well has either been traded to a contender (Sean Doolittle, Yonder Alonso, Sonny Gray), is injured (Andrew Triggs),  or is suddenly doing poorly (Sean Manaea, Khris Davis, Ryon Healy).

Where does this leave Matt Chapman? Well, despite a jilted average and some slim numbers, he's actually doing well in his rookie season at third. I know, this sounds like Ryon Healy last August, but this could actually work. The guy's only been around for a few months, and the attention in Oakland is beginning to draw towards him.

The A's, ever since the 2012-2013 squad dissolved, have needed a leader type to pull them through rough seasons and get them back on top. Since Josh Donaldson left, they've needed one, and, again, we thought it was gonna be Ryon Healy and that didn't exactly pan out entirely. Chapman seems like more of a well-rounded, savior-of-the-universe type player that could lead this squad if the numbers fell in their favor.

This season is basically a wash, as the A's are on the bottom of a division with a strong leader, and two teams (the Angels and Mariners) who might be making a run at a Wild Card spot. The A's don't have much else to do this year except finish strong, and start building up people for next season.

Coming Tonight: Forever one of my favorite players thanks to what he did in Philadelphia, still a heavy fan favorite in a team battling a serious aging problem this year.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Quit Your Pitching

Nothing new to report in Cincinnati. The lineup's phenomenal, the rookies are hitting well, Eugenio Suarez is having another nice season, Joey Votto's in MVP form, and there's still absolutely no pitching. ABSOLUTELY NONE.

So there really isn't much to say here other than to highlight the awesome custom. Wish I had more, Reds fans. The pitching's not giving me many good things to say about the team, guys.

Coming Tomorrow- A team that's only marginally better, and a rookie infielder who's trying his best to keep his young, dwindling team moving.

Indian Summer

Look at how happy Edwin Encarnacion is!

Sure, he may be away from Toronto, where he spent eight seasons and revitalized his career as one of the top DHs in baseball...but now he's on arguably one of the most likable teams in baseball, and on the team that won the American League last year (something the Jays haven't done since Edwin was a teenager), and may be on pace to battle Houston and the battling cousins in the AL East to do it again.

It took a little bit for it to show up, but this Cleveland Indians team might be better than the one that won the AL last year. Some elements are different, but the changes are welcome- Mike Clevinger replaces Josh Tomlin as a sturdier, more ferocious 5th man, among the still-dominant Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, Carlos Carrasco and a CAREER FORM Corey Kluber. The outfield may be battling injuries, but Bradley Zimmer has stayed firm, Austin Jackson's having a comeback year (complete with insane outfield catches), and the recent acquisition of JAY BRUCE has severely helped the lack of Lonnie Chisenhall and Michael Brantley. Jason Kipnis is slumping, but the rest of the infield sure as hell isn't.

This isn't a perfect team, but neither was the '16 squad. That squad was a ragtag group of aging vets, established Tribe members, and young talents waiting to break through. Now that the Indians know who they are, they're able to polish out some of the scratches and make themselves known as a powerful, perennial giant in the baseball world.

Towards the end of the season, they're gonna need to fight off the Royals and Twins, be honest, are a little too preoccupied with fighting themselves, as well as the inevitability of the Houston Astros. With the amount of firepower they have right now, as well as the trusty bat of Edwin Incarnation (being used for good), they've got more than a shot at getting back to October.

Coming Tonight: He's powerful, he cracks a mean bubblegum bubble, and he's one of the few reasons to go to Reds games this year.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Miami Heat

A lot has been going on in Miami, Florida, and a great deal of it has nothing to do with how well the Marlins are doing.

As you probably know by now, the sale of the Marlins had been bobbing up and down beneath the regular season conflict for a few months. Jeffrey Loria had spent enough time running the franchise into the ground, and wanted to give it up before it got unprofitable for, you know, him. This week, somebody finally bit- a group headed up by the great Derek Jeter bought the Miami Marlins from Loria, and are looking to clean house (including president and last-place finisher on Survivor, David Samson). Things are shifting and moving in the front office, and all the while the Marlins have to keep playing baseball amidst all the instability.

And...they're doing alright?

Okay, they're second in the NL East, which is a feat they'd been hoping to reach since 2015, when the youth movement was just beginning to crop up. They'd been spending years in third, and after a week featuring the Mets getting swept, the Braves crumbling, and the Phillies...being the Phillies, the Marlins cemented a second place spot.

The only problem is that they're a smidge below .500, they're 14 games behind the first place Nationals, and 8 games behind the Wild Card contenders. So's a pretty bittersweet outcome, the fact that they grab 2nd in the NL East the one year it doesn't amount for shit.

Even worse, Dan Straily and Jose Urena are singlehandedly holding up the pitching staff. The lineup's been fantastic, but the lack of pitching is keeping them under .500, and subsequently out of the conversation. And yes, both Straily and Urena are pretty good this year, but...two guys can't save a rotation. Ask Baltimore. They're in a similar rut right now.

So yeah, as much as I love Stanton's home runs, or the rise of Realmuto and Bour...I don't actually think they're gonna make a run at Arizona and Colorado for the WC spots. At least not successfully.

Coming Tomorrow- Last year he was indestructible, and the one DH that could have taken David Ortiz' crown. This year, in a friendlier city...he's still pretty damned good.

End it Like Beckham

...So maaaayyyybe I was wrong not to include Tim Beckham on my list of trade deadline deals. Because while this seemed inconsequential at first, giving another infielder to a fourth place team with next-to-no pitching, Tim Beckham has become the sole reason why the Orioles are still in the conversation. In his first few weeks as an Oriole, he's been batting .485 with 5 home runs and 12 RBI. Most players who've been on the team since April would kill for those numbers, and a suddenly-hot Manny Machado is beginning to get there himself.

Don't get me wrong, this is still a middle of the road team. The Yankees and Red Sox are still strong-holding the division. The Rays even have a shot, now bobbing back and forth between fourth and third. The O's, sad to say, don't have the pitching, or the sufficient roster depth, for the postseason, and are going to have to settle for the middle of the decision. But Beckham's exploits have extended the team's shelf life by another month. With out him, people would have counted the Orioles out by now.

It's definitely good for the team, seeing as their other high-profile acquisition, Jeremy Hellickson, is essentially just doing what he was doing for the Phillies (strikeouts with little-to-no run support and bloated ERA), just in an orange uniform. There's been injuries, and a ton of inadequacy from the guys putting the team on top in 2016 (looking at you, Trumbo). But with Jonathan Schoop, Trey Mancini and Adam Jones absolutely killing it alongside Beckham, there's a smidge of hope baked into the worry.

Again, not thinking much of this O's team, but it'd be nice to see a late push for the wild card.

Coming Tomorrow- Pitcher for a second place team that may seriously need to work in order to make the Wild Card themselves.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Blue Yu

Hideo Nomo. Kazuhisa Ishii. Hiroki Kuroda. and now Yu Darvish. Where those three Japanese pitchers failed, Darvish is gonna succeed...he might be the first Japanese pitcher to get the Dodgers a World Series ring.

As much as I love Nomo, and as much as I dug Kuroda's efforts as a Yankee, Yu Darvish has been lights out this season, in Arlington AND in LA, and he's been mowing down batters in an effort to, essentially, cover for an injured Clayton Kershaw, while simultaneously joining Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy and Kenta Maeda as part of the most furious pitching rotation in baseball. Even Hyun-Jin Ryu, who's been less than perfect recently, has been posting good enough numbers covering for McCarthy.

Literally everything is working for the Dodgers right now. The bullpen. The rotation. The rookies they're bringing in off the bench. The lineup. Weird part is that there have been a ton of injuries, and the team they're working with now isn't the team they thought they'd be competing with, especially without Adrian Gonzalez and Andrew Toles (yeah, and Kershaw), and they're still absolutely amazing.

The only sad part is that I'm not sure whether this all-out mastery of the game is going to amount to a World Series win. Last year we had the absolute best team win the whole thing, but that almost never happens, and even last year it was a stroke of luck that the Cubs managed to win that Series after the Indians had that 3-1 lead.

I hope for the best, because this team would make an amazing World Series champion...but I could also say that about 3 or 4 other teams. It's gonna get tough, and I'm hoping this momentum can keep going.

Coming Tomorrow- With the Rays, he was...solid. Not amazing, but pretty good. He lands in Baltimore, and he immediately becomes the very person that Tampa drafted 1st overall.

Adrian Beltre Deserves Better

Adrian Beltre's been speaking out recently, because he's been getting sick of the Rangers' antics and wants to play for a competitive team again, like...well, the 2016 Rangers. Beltre has every right to complain- he's one of the best hitters in the game, he just notched his 3000th hit, and he's relatively close to getting to his 500th home run (only 42 dingers to go, and for Beltre that's sort of within reach). He's also never won a World Series ring.

There's a ton of similarities to Carlos Beltran last season, the desire to ditch momentum and atmosphere in order to compete. Beltran was doing fantastic in the Bronx, but wanted a postseason run more than he wanted to stick with his newfound friends. Said postseason run was ultimately unsuccessful, but he's currently on a team that could be several times more successful than the 2016 Rangers ever were.

The fact that Beltran got out and might be getting a shot at a ring, and Beltre, who's arguably been the more consistent player, doesn't get that chance, is kind of sad. He's still wrapped up for another year in Arlington, and unless the youth movement decides to behave and not strikeout 100 times each next year, he might be in for more of the same.

The Rangers aren't a bad team, but the momentum they were trying to build last year is gone. Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor are strikeout-heavy home run machines, which are good for runs but aren't exactly making them well-rounded players. Delino DeShields and Nomar Mazara are promising, and Elvis Andrus has become the undisputed face of the team, but...for a team that had come close several times in the last few years, the future seems pretty bleak.

Honestly, a ring will basically be a cherry on top of a fantastic career, but I kinda want it for Adrian, because he's been frustrated as hell recently.

Coming Tonight: One of Beltre's former teammates, now playing for the best team in baseball.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

What Now?: Cubs Edition

The Chicago Cubs have spent the entire season 'not being good enough'. It hurts them that they won the World Series last year, but it hurts even more that their current team, especially compared to the 2016 squad is...okay. Not earthshattering, just...pretty good, and in first.

The Cubs teams of the last two years were phenomenal, destructive forces that took the league by storm and carried the season. This team is pretty good, and is a lot more flawed than the last two, even if they're still winning games. The pitching staff is less polished, there's less roster depth, and people are having good, not phenomenal seasons.

In the NL Central, that's enough right now. The Cardinals have crept up like crazy, and are doing their usual amount of threatening for the title (which, like usual, probably won't amount in a title or anything), and the Brewers and Pirates aren't out of the conversation yet either. The division's not locked in like it was last season, and the Cubs will need to defend themselves from oncoming enemies. With Willson Contreras injured and newcomers Justin Wilson and Alex Avila not impressing, they're gonna need to work extra hard to stay on top.

Even worse, their postseason rivals will include the Dodgers, who are insane this year, and the Nationals, who have an equally big lead over their division rivals. So the Cubs, if they win the division, will either have to play LA or Washington, and either one will be incredibly difficult if they don't catch fire like hell in the next few months. They're gonna have to rely on luck, rather than talent, if they want another ring.

Coming Tomorrow- Surefire Hall of Fame, and I don't think he's done quite yet, even if his team pretty much is.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Twins are Back!

The Royals-Twins thing has been pretty fierce over the last month. At one point the Royals were fiercely flinging themselves forward, hoping to take a stab at the Indians...and that's sort of backfired in the last week or so, as they're back in third, as the Twins have had an incredible week, and have managed to reclaim relevance again.

It's kind of odd, as they're basically the exact same team as before the incline, just without Brandon Kintzler and with without Jaime Garcia. In all theory, they should still be on the decline, but the bats have lit up, Joe Mauer and Brian Dozier have returned to dominance, and team that shouldn't have been a great one this year is slowly coming back.

Joe Mauer is a great story, because a lot of people counted him out after he stopped catching, and he's still been hanging on, becoming a great bat at first, and still retaining the leadership position he'd inherited once everybody left around the end of the 2000s. People trust Joe Mauer, because he's won an MVP, he's brought the team back from the depths, and he's still there, doing a pretty nice job. He's not a Hall of Famer, not anymore, but the Twins are probably gonna reserve some part of Target Field for him once he retires.

In terms of this Twins team, I'm not sure if they have it, not only in order to take down the Indians, but even to enter into the ever-shifting AL Wild Card race. Still, they're a sneaky little favorite, and I'd love to see them make a run at it.

Coming Tonight: A lot of people were asking where the Chicago Cubs, the ones that one the World Series, have been earlier this season. Well, they're showing up. This rookie's been helping.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Rendon Alone

The story so far: two days ago, Bryce Harper wound up on the 10 day DL.This had made people very angry and has widely been regarded as a bad move.

The Nationals have had the insane upswing of momentum since the top of the season, and have held onto the NL East with an iron fist, partially due to the return of Bryce Harper to the throne. Thanks to his injury...actually, I was gonna do a 'things have gone downhill', but this isn't a team that completely revolves around one player. Even with Harper gone, Anthony Rendon, Daniel Murphy, Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg are still playing some phenomenal baseball. This is the furthest thing from a one-horse team.

Last season, Max Scherzer won the Cy Young by winning 20 games, getting 285 strikeouts and finishing with a 3.00 ERA. Right now, he's on track to do even better, with a 2.25 ERA, 12 wins, and 220 strikeouts. With a month and a half left in the season, he could definitely top that, but even if he doesn't, there's still an insane Gio Gonzalez performance and a consistently-dominant Strasburg performance that will supplant it. I'm thinking this is another Cy Young year for Scherzer (the injury to Kershaw may have lessened his chances a bit), and he's showing no sign of slowing down.

Even more importantly, with the team's unofficial leader on the DL, Anthony Rendon is taking up the mantle and arguably playing better baseball than Harper did, with a higher WAR, and some better defensive abilities. If (god forbid) Harper doesn't get another MVP this year, Rendon could be a sleeper favorite.

The Nats are going into the last stretch of the season as the heavy favorites in terms of teams not named 'The Dodgers', and I'd love to see them get at least one playoff series win. They've been at this for years, and they deserve something to show for it, especially with the wide range of excellent performances this year.

Coming Tomorrow- That Twins player I thought I was supposed to post tonight.

Rays in the Middle (Once Again)

The Tampa Bay Rays, this decade, have been one of the sneakiest teams to be inconsequential in the playoffs.

Every year they'll just murk around, swapping between second and third and taking some games from the first place team (and/or the Yankees), and then when it actually comes time for someone to move onto the playoffs, they'll back away, as if their work has been done.

This year is no different. They've spent most of the year chasing the Yankees and pounding them whenever the Red Sox need to take a lead. They're also responsible for keeping the Orioles down for two months when they needed to be taken out of the conversation.

This year the Rays are actually pretty nice, with a solid core of hitters, a hot Lucas Duda, and Chris Archer still throwing smoke. This is still a really nice team, but once again the lack of pitching depth, and a few holes and slumps in major positions, is keeping them from making a serious jump on the race. But they can keep other teams from making the jump as well, which is essentially what they've been doing, getting some wins at third and jumping to second whenever the Yanks-Sox rivalry needs to heat up.

Mallex Smith, acquired from the way of Seattle, has been fantastic this year, stealing bases and hitting small stuff. He fits in well with the Kiermaiers of the team.

Hopefully this Rays team won't cause too much damage to the competitors...especially the Yankees..

Coming Tonight: Mr. Minnesota.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Still the Worst

The maddening part about the NL West this year is the drop-off.

You have three teams that are over 60 wins, running around having great seasons...then fourteen games behind them, you have the Padres and the Giants, two of the most pathetic teams in baseball this year not based in Philadelphia.

Right now the Giants have the worse record, because the aged interior of the team isn't amounting to crap this year. The Padres have the opposite problem. Whereas the Giants have developed this solid, World Series-winning core that's now disobeying them, the Padres have no core, they have pretty much nothing, and the guys they DID have that were good last year are disappointing this year.

There is a small core of youth beginning to form, with Jose Pirela and Manny Margot stepping up this year to join a still-alright Yangervis Solarte. The only problem is that a lot of the other guys that the Padres want to be part of this youth movement, like Cory Spangenberg, Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe, aren't hitting very well at all this year, at least not for average. Two players already have 100 strikeouts. Only one starter's over .300, and he started in, like, June.

It's not good, guys. Only a nice comeback season from Jhoulys Chacin is making this team anywhere near noteworthy. The guy had a few nice seasons in Colorado, bounced around for a few years unsuccessfully, and is now finally needed and trusted by a team this year. Even with all this crap that's going on with the Padres, you at least have to admire that.

Coming Tonight: He's fast, he's young, and he might be helping the Rays stay in the conversation.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Not All Seagers Are So Lucky

I don't think Kyle Seager has been handed the 'Jim Perry' effect, or the 'Paul Resuchel' effect, but it's looking pretty imminent.

This season, Kyle's brother Corey Seager is leading the Dodgers to an unprecedented victory, putting them miles ahead of any and all competition, and damn near ensuring their place in the upcoming playoffs. Meanwhile, Kyle Seager has found himself as one of the competitors for a very similar team, the Houston Astros. The Mariners are currently thirteen games behind the Astros, and tied with the Angels for second place, which has been a struggle that's been ping-ponging back and forth since June. To say that the Mariners' could use the Dodgers' luck is a grave understatement.

The Mariners have managed to build a fairly decent lineup, thanks to some more impressive home runs from Nelson Cruz, another grade-A season from Robinson Cano, rookies Ben Gamel and Mitch Haniger stepping up, some usual hitting from Kyle Seager, and a host of newbies like Jean Segura, Danny Valencia, Jarrod Dyson, and now Yonder Alonso, adding experience to the fold. Yet at the same time, they're holding onto three trusted starting pitchers because Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton are all injured. And while Ariel Miranda is doing pretty well, Yovani Gallardo's having a down year, and the guys they're bringing up and trading for can't keep runs from scoring.

At this point, the Mariners are competing against themselves. Half the team is going for the Wild Card spot, and half the team is giving the Rangers a run for their money at fourth place. It's this struggle that I'm worried isn't going to go well for them, especially considering how the Angels are moving so far this season.

Kyle Seager may not be Corey Seager, but he's gonna need as much luck as he can.

Coming Tonight: A reminder that the San Diego Padres still exist.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Buccaneer and Far

After a few years of contending, having some great teams, and making the playoffs, the Pirates have sadly faded back into the back half of the NL. This isn't to say that they're bad this year, just...not as good as a lot of the competitors.

It's not due to a lack of trying- Ivan Nova and Gerrit Cole have been great this year, and Felipe Rivero has stepped up in a big way as the closer. Plus, Andrew McCutchen's having his best season in years, Josh Harrison's making a case for Pittsburgh sans-Cutch, and Josh Bell's having a pretty damn nice rookie season. So, while good performances are being had, it's the weight of the three teams ahead of them in the standings, and the fact that way too many positions are marred with counter-productivity or injuries, that's keeping them this low this year.

The core of the lineup has aged a bit, as the Pirates have been relying more on older pickups and less on a farm system in terms of populating the lineup. Josh Bell is the first real sign of improvement on that end, though Josh Harrison and Gregory Polanco are young enough that they won't really show signs of aging for a while. It's people like Cervelli, Freese, Jaso, Sean Rodriguez, and, hell, even Cutch, that aren't at their peak levels, and are pulling the team down with them.

I want to see the Pirates improve, but I'm not sure how many rebuilding moves they are from that.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the many hitters trying to spin the Mariners back into the Wild Card race.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Tiger Food

Last year the Tigers were inches from qualifying for the Wild Card playoff, with a reformed team, some surging youth, and a core that hadn't really felt like it was aging yet. For a team that was very up-and-down since the World Series appearance, things actually looked promising for them.

This year...a lot of that went to the wayside. The heroes of yore, like Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, looked remarkably human, and the guys doing well, like JD Martinez, Alex Avila and Justin Wilson, were all traded away. Justin Upton and Michael Fulmer are doing their best to carry the team, in between injuries, but the depth is clogging up, and the team's looking pretty unremarkable for the first time since their dreadful 2015 season.

Ian Kinsler is, as usual, one of the guys pulling the team away from last place, as he's an incredible hitter and still a pretty great second baseman. I imagine his career's gonna be overlooked once the Cooperstown committee comes along, but i do think Kinsler's one of the most underrated second baseman in the game. The power he's able to exert when he wants is pretty impressive, and he's also a great leader and defensive force. Kind of odd to think that's he's actually older than Miguel Cabrera, though.

The AL Central isn't really the Tigers' story anymore, so all they can really do right now is play to finish strong, and not finish in last.

Coming Tomorrow- Reliever for a team I so desperately want to be good this year.

Saving Philly: Nick Williams Edition

Since the 2011 season, you know, when the Phillies were actually really good, every year of Philadelphia baseball has been met with sharp disappointment, save for one player who, halfway through the year, decides he must singlehandedly save the team.

In 2012, it was Juan Pierre, who decided to have one of the best seasons of his career as heroes, like Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino were being traded, and other heroes, like Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay, were heading towards career-ending injuries.

In 2013, it was Domonic Brown, who decided that the prospects had to be right for one year, and had an insane month of June, earning an All Star nod and, for a brief moment, making Phillies fans actually feel like they were right about him.

In 2014, it was Marlon Byrd, an old forgotten friend who'd made his way back to the top, and back to Philly, and proceeded to have the best year of HIS career, hitting 25 home runs, narrowly avoiding trade negotiations, and giving the fans something worthwhile to care about.

In 2015, it was Jeff Francoeur for most of the year, having an unbelievably fun season and getting some respect points before his 2016 final season. In August, someone usurped him for the title, as Aaron Altherr came up from the minors and subsequently started hitting like an absolute pro, phasing Francoeur off the title.

Last year it was Odubel Herrera, who had the best year of HIS career, and was literally the only player in Philly who did anything worth writing home about.

This year...Nick Williams, who came up in early July, has diverted all attention to himself. He's got a killer swing, can hit in the clutch, and has been farming in the minors for YEARS, finally getting a chance to show his worth (you know, after the Phillies have exhausted all of their aging free-agent pickup options). I say he's carrying the team because Aaron Altherr's injured, Herrera and Maikel Franco are having down years, and Aaron Nola can't carry the team if he's only there to do so every five games.

I still think it's frustrating as hell that we've GOTTEN to this point in Philly, that for the past six seasons the whole team's been on auto-pilot, and we have to rely on a single player to bring jolts of momentum and get everyone else to start working. This is an uninspired, less-than-boilerplate roster that's NEEDED to be great for a few years, and can't seem to get anything started. And as a guy who was really happy with this team at the turn of the decade, it frustrates the hell out of me. We were in a WORLD SERIES ten seasons ago! JUST TEN SEASONS, GUYS! I was hoping we'd hold out as a great team for more than a couple years.

Still, for right now, hopefully Nick Williams will keep it up for more than this one season. We need guys like him who can be on for a while.

UPDATE: Apparently the Phils have called up Rhys Hoskins. Maybe this team can be carried by more than one person after all...

Coming Tonight: One of the few major players on his team that was remarkably not traded, despite still being one of the most underrated second baseman in baseball.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

El Gary

Okay, not my favorite nickname on this current Yankees team (that would have to be Ronald 'Toe' Torreyes), but still an excuse to keep MLB nicknames alive. Also, Gary Sanchez is an excuse to keep the New York Yankees alive! Eh? See what I did there?

No, but seriously. With the Red Sox surging in the last week, and the Orioles trying to make a comeback, the Yankees have picked a bad week to be sort of okay. Judge is beginning to fade, some injuries are beginning to stack up, Todd Frazier's still striking out, and the momentum's sputtering. Yes, Didi and Gardner are still red-hot, and yes, Luis Severino is STILL one of the best pitchers in baseball, but the Yankees aren't the sure thing they were, especially considering how great the Red Sox are looking.

They need some miracles. And it's sad, because they traded for Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia to work some miracles, and so far they've been...alright...not terrific. Nothing's clicking. They're stop-and-go. This is the shit they were doing right before the break.

Unless the Yankees crank this season into full gear NOW and start playing like they want this, we can just hand the division to the Red Sox. Because I'm not 100% certain they're ready, and they NEED to be. They can't let the top half of this season down.

Coming Tomorrow- The sole reason Phillies fans have ANY REASON WHATSOEVER to watch games.

Clinging to Relevancy

And now, another moment with a good NL West team that isn't the Dodgers.

The D-Backs/Rockies thing has been going on all season, and it's been this endless train of one-upmanship between the expansion teams, to see which one has more depth and such, and right now the D-Backs are in third. However, the last time I did a post on the Rockies, THEY were in third, so this whole thing is just hella fickle.

I'll give the D-Backs some credit for taking a few more steps than the Rockies to repair the team, especially in the wake of some injuries. Adam Rosales, JD Martinez and David Hernandez plugged a ton of holes with the team, and they're all doing relatively well, with an emphasis on Martinez on his home run hitting.

Still, the core of the team has enough momentum that the deadline additions don't need to define them. Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, AJ Pollock and Zack Greinke are among the best in baseball this year, and they're all banding together to make the Diamondbacks relevant, even with Dodgers-mania going on nonstop.

I'm pulling for the D-Backs. It's gonna be tough, but I'm pulling for them.

Coming Tonight- This time last year, he was the rookie sensation lighting up the league. Now, in Judge's town, it's hard for him to compete, but he's still one of the best in the Bronx.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Three Cheers for the Birthday Boy

He just turned 26, he's in his 8th official season in the bigs, and he's just hit his 1000th hit. This year, there's a very good chance that he'll hit his 200th home run.

As if there was any doubt that Mike Trout was the best player in baseball.

Look, the injury may have set him back a few places in terms of a serious MVP run (Jose Altuve is still leading the pack on that front), but Mike Trout's still having a great season, he's still got 20+ home runs, and still has some insane average stuff going on. Even if the Angels are still doing fairly alright, the resurgence of Mike Trout has definitely done something to improve their standing.

Still, what's nice about this team is that they're beginning to evolve to the point where Mike Trout isn't the only strong guy in Anaheim. Andrelton Simmons has been having an unbelievable season, already hitting a 6.0 WAR, and playing some fantastic baseball all-around. Cameron Maybin's having another really nice season without doing too much in terms of power. So Trout doesn't have to be alone in excelling...even if they're a-ways from being a first place team again.

So right now is a nice time to be happy about Mike Trout, even if he probably won't be making it to the postseason. He's still one of the greats, and hopefully his career is going to get better and better.

Coming Tomorrow- An outfielder for a still-surging NL West team, just below the one the everyone's been talking about.

Cheese, Beer, and a Supposed Comeback

He was traded for Hunter Pence...then he was traded for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers...and NOW he's a part of one of the most shockingly good rosters in the game. Except, now that the Cubs have decided that they get to be the ones in 1st.


This is a bit of an abrupt narrative shift, as the whole season had the Brewers on top, and now, thanks to a post-ASG-break streak, the Cubs are holding onto first and not letting them back up. This is almost reminiscent of the 2014 season, where the Cubs spent most of the season in first...and then, with a month left to go, the Cardinals nabbed the division and didn't look back.

There are some qualities that make me think that the Brewers aren't going to plunge into nothingness like they did in 2014, one of which being the rise of Domingo Santana to the fold, becoming the hard-hitting outfielder that Ryan Braun hasn't been in years. Plus, the pitching's more complex, with more young arms than they had in 2014, and a strong closer in Corey Knebel. Everyone seems to be on the same page of progression, instead of relying on aging bats (like in 2014).

I'm not sure if the Brewers will end the year in first, but I doubt they're down for the count.

Coming Tonight: Best player in baseball. And he's only 26.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Royal Rumble

Just like that, after a year of inadequacy, after a year of everybody thinking the Kansas City monolith had ended...the Royals are trying to find their way back to the playoffs, and the Wild Card spot is looking relatively obtainable.

I think it's just the fact that last year, the core of the lineup wasn't really on, and a lot of the youth that they'd been secretly trying to set up throughout the 2014 and 2015 teams didn't really pan out (Whit Merrifield notwithstanding). It was also getting to a point where a lot of the core was beginning to age out, including Alex Gordon and Kendrys Morales.

The funny thing is that the Royals didn't really do a ton to fix these structural problems. Their DH is having the same problems Morales was having, with all home runs and no average. Their rotation has the same problems of having a few too many bloated ERA guys. The youth movement mostly got injured this year. And yet, the power of that core that got them to the World Series is plowing them past the Twins, and into 2nd place.

It helps that Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, the two guys that SI predicted would rule Kansas City back in 2011, are legitimately having the best seasons of their careers, and that newbies like Whit Merrifield and Jorge Bonifacio are lifting the team up.

It's honestly a case of the return of the heavy-hitters of the 2015 squad, like Danny Duffy and Lorenzo Cain, and with Kelvin Herrera doing a great job in the closer's spot. Everybody who was on then is on now, and it's showing.

And the trick is gonna be getting past the Indians, who, while pretty good, aren't as indestructible as they were in their World Series year last year. It'll be interesting to see how it happens, but I'm pulling  for the Royals, hoping they can be the underdog team they were in 2014.

Coming Tomorrow- They may not be in first anymore, but they're not out for the count, especially according to their hard-hitting outfielder.

Well, at Least One Brave is Doing Something Right

I don't even know how to talk about the Braves at this point, because I'm not sure if they're supposed to be classified as 'good' or bad'. Yes, they're far behind the Nationals, and are in the three-team deadlock for second in the NL East, but they still have people like Freddie Freeman and Ender Inciarte, playing really well, and they have finally developed something nice in Mike Foltynewicz. So I have no idea how to talk about them.

I mean, Folty, R.A. Dickey and Julio Teheran are making up this modest little brigade at the top of the rotation, despite the fact that there really isn't a back half. And while Dansby Swanson and Adonis Garcia have underwhelmed again, and as Matt Kemp has landed on the DL, the surprisingly adept roster depth has been saving them, thanks to a nice rookie season from Johan Camargo, some amazing bench work from Kurt Suzuki, and the emerging rookie talent of Ozzie Albies, which will hopefully improve over time.

The main core of the lineup isn't a problem, still, though. Freeman and Inciarte, as well as Matt Adams, Nick Markakis, Brandon Phillips and Tyler Flowers, have all been sharp, bringing momentum to a team that never should have had it in the first place, despite not all being terribly young.

This is a team that might be able to do something great soon if they build off this season. It's unlikely that this 2017 is gonna lead to anything immediately, and it's also unlikely that a majority of the older additions will still be here when the eventual playoff run happens, but some pieces are in place, and the Braves need to stick with them.

Coming Tonight: In 2014, his team came from the depths of third to make the World Series. CAN...THEY...DO IT AGAIN?

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Staying Dead

Yep. A guy dabbing on a baseball card. That's the reality we create here at Mint Condition.

To be honest, seeing Roberto Osuna dab on a custom card would be preferable for a lot of people to watching a Toronto Blue Jays game. For once, the team that always pretends to be a contender every year is legitimately staying in last.

The strong core of the team has finally dried up. Jose Bautista is useless this year. The pitching staff is a shell of itself (save for Marcus Stroman). Josh Donaldson's not himself. Russell Martin and Kevin Pillar aren't doing a great deal correctly. There's a nice amount of power coming from guys everybody else counted out, like Steve Pearce, Justin Smoak, Ezequiel Carrera and a not-Edwin-but-still cool Kendrys Morales. But the power can only be so potent when the team's incomplete, and the shell of its former self...which was itself a shell.

I'll give the Jays credit for trying, but the strong core they've been trying to build up with youth for the past 2 years hasn't really been working as well as they would have liked. Right now all the power is coming from a  bunch of guys over thirty, which...used to be the Yankees' thing, but I'm glad we passed it on.

Good news is there's two months left, and it's not really feasible for the Jays to make a playoff run, especially with the stuff happening at the top.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the players in the 'middle of the NL East free-for-all', this one a decent pitcher for a team lacking in it this year.

Not the Dodgers, but Not Out

Now back to the middle of the NL West, where even if it seems like all hope is lost, there's still hope for a team like the Colorado long as they can occasionally let their pitchers play in places other than Coors Field.

This is a fantastic year for them, in that the lineup is consistently great, and there's a ton of depth and promise in there, especially with the addition of Jonathan Lucroy to the fold. Plus, for the first time since 2007 there's a pitching staff that has legitimate talent and power across the board...that, yes, would do better with some lower ERAs, but it's Colorado.

The challenge, yet again, is to make the playoffs despite the Dodgers in first and the D-Backs in second. Being that the picture hasn't really changed, just...honestly for the worse for everyone who isn't the Dodgers, the situation's grown more dire. It's going to be tough for the Rockies to stay in this spot for 2 more months, without challengers like the Brewers and Pirates facing them off for the WC spots. It's even tougher, considering that the Diamondbacks are arguably better than they are, and arguably have a better playoff case.

So, once again, this is gonna go to a few divisional battles to see who actually deserves the playoffs. Until then, the scuffle continues.

Coming Tonight: The closer for a team that's usually pretending they're contenders at this point in the year, but have decided to stay in 5th for once.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Don't Stop Now

How Will the Astros Be Without Carlos Correa and George Springer? Well, this month we sure are finding out.

No doubt that those two players were responsible for a great deal of the momentum, but it's easy to get worried when both of them are on the DL. Yes, this is an amazing team with a ton of depth, but even the best of teams can be hopeless without its core stars.

Luckily Jose Altuve is still having a career year (I swear, if he doesn't get his MVP this year, the game's flawed), and Dallas Keuchel is back to absolutely MURDERING batters on the mound. Alex Bregman has FINALLY come around and is having a great season. The trio of new blood, including Carlos Beltran, Josh Reddick and Brian McCann, isn't doing half bad, with an emphasis on the revitalization of Josh Reddick. When even Mike Fiers and Charlie Morton are doing well for you, you know the momentum's on fire. Plus, the arrival of people like Marwin Gonzalez and Derek Fisher into the fold, guys that can play multiple positions and still hit well, bode well for this period of time without Springer and Correa.

This season's heading to a quick endgame, and someone's going to have to combat the inevitability of the Dodgers winning. In a perfect world, the Astros can do that. I know it's never likely that the top two teams will make it all the way to the end, but the Astros aren't giving me many reasons why not right now.

Coming Tomorrow- They may be in third place, but they're hugging the NL Wild Card like nobody else in baseball. Unfortunately, 'somebody else in baseball' is in 2nd place in their division.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Not in the Cards

The Cardinals are still in third place in the NL Central. This seems to be a theme with them.

i'll give the Cardinals credit for having the exact opposite problem from everyone else- they have a fantastic pitching rotation, and nobody who's willing to hit. Yeah, infield's great, fielding is fine, but there's been a shortage of real bats, as a number of guys are only hitting 14 home runs and only one starter has a +.300 average (and it's Tommy Pham).

Unlike most years, where the Cards have at least been competitive, we're dealing with a relatively inconsequential Cardinals team, one with a youth movement that's trying to emerge, and a core that's beginning to get too rusty. And finding a middle ground between those two components has become difficult for them.

Plus, the Cubs and Brewers have a ton more going for them than the Cards do. So they're kind of fighting a losing battle this year, regardless.

Coming Tomorrow: An outfielder for the still-unbelievable Houston Astros.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Red Sox Game vs. Indians 8/1/17- Ode to Despacito (or 'The Greatest Game I've Ever Witnessed Live')

Oh, I was there. You bet your sweet boots I was there.

Last night, one of the most absolutely unbelievable, competitive and suspenseful games in years happened in Fenway Park. And I was there to witness it, for my first Fenway outing.

First of all, Fenway Park, regardless of my Yankee bias, is one of the coziest, most fun places to watch a ballgame in the country. The food's great, the fans are fun, all of Yawkey Street is one of the craziest baseball environments, and you feel like you've earned something just being there. Our seats were on the right field line, a few rows from the action. We were relatively close to Mookie Betts, and could still see the action at home. Plus, I don't think there's a bad seat in the house at Fenway.

I was excited for the game thanks to the billed matchup between two of the best pitchers in the game- Carlos Carrasco for the Indians, and one of my favorites, Chris Sale for the Sox. I'd become a fan of Sale's thanks to the fact that he basically had my height and build, and was this big tall guy who threw fire. So I was anticipating the pitching duel of the century.

That...didn't exactly happen.

Sale pitched five innings of strikes, and occasionally balls that people got the better of. Edwin Encarnacion absolutely POUNDED a ball of his over the monster, and the heart of the lineup took some balls past the subpar fielding of Eduardo Nunez, giving the Indians a 5-0 lead, early.

Not that Carrasco fared any better. Mitch Moreland took a ball of his out, while Brock Holt and Nunez took some balls past the...somehow equally bad Indians infield, tied it at 5 after two. Carrasco left THEN, instead of staying in for a bit more like Sale. Thanks to the outfield wall, the pitcher's duel had been erroneously interrupted.

For a while, in the middle of the game, there was a lull. Back and forth little hits, a few Cleveland relievers coming in, constant playings of 'Despacito' whenever Christian Vazquez got up. The banality was beginning to set in, even in a packed night at Fenway. It was up to a semi-obscure Indians outfielder to stop this.

Bottom of the fifth, Hanley Ramirez is up for the Sox, and absolutely pounds one to the right field wall. Brandon Guyer and Austin Jackson go for it, and Jackson leaps. The ball plows Jackson and the glove over the wall and into the bullpen. For a minute, there was a confusion over whether or not he caught it, but thanks to a well-placed replay, we saw the shot of Jackson catching the ball, then bowing right over the fence. it was one of the most insane catches I'd ever seen, and the crowd even gave him a standing O for it. See, even the Red Sox can respect you.

After that, there was more competitive hitting, after Edwin's homer to make it 7-5. Mookie Betts had a nice hit that drove in a run, and Eduardo Nunez had a HUGE 3-RBI DOUBLE to make it a 9 to 7 game. Off of Andrew Miller, no less. Even worse, Addison Reed made his first appearance as a Red Sock, and promptly gave up another home run to make it 9-8.

Still, we were going to the top of the ninth, and Ted Nugent's Stranglehold was starting up, so it felt like the game was gonna be over real soon...

The second Kimbrel got up, we were all going 'aw, here we go'. Just watching him throw strikes like fire was a great experience.

Yeah, until Francisco Lindor hit a home run with one of them.

From, there, it didn't look good- Vazquez made a blunder at the backstop, causing a few more runs to come in. Heading to the bottom of the ninth, with Cody Allen on the mound, it looked even worse, even with two quick outs on the board.

And then 'Despacito' came on, and Vazquez got up. I'd become so tired of the song, and I just wanted the game to end, as it had lasted 4 hours and it was beginning to break into the 11:00 hour.


The second Christian Vazquez cracked the ball off the bat, we knew it was gone. The place went absolutely wild, even before the ball made it over the monster. The dancing officially commenced, as Betts threw gatorade at Vazquez, and the entire cavalcade of baseball had been worth it.

As we left, toward the car, myself, my dad, and my uncle were still in awe. Of Fenway, of the game, and of everything. It was that good.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Last Gun in the Meadows

It's sad to see the Mets, one of the foremost up-and-coming teams in baseball this decade, stoop to the level they're at now- injured, inexperienced, murky, and nearly lifeless. Syndergaard, Wheeler, Matz, Harvey and Gsellman are all injured. TJ Rivera, who was beginning to come into his own, also just landed on the DL. Yes, they have AJ Ramos now, but he had a nasty debut. Plus, now Lucas Duda's playing for the Rays, and the hitters they do have are getting more and more strikeout-prone.

So what DO the Mets have? Well...they have Jacob deGrom

As good as deGrom was in his rookie season, he might be even better right now. He's been flawless in his starts, has a 3.30 ERA, a 12-4 record, and 160 strikeouts. He's more than making up for a slightly injury-prone 2016, and he's making up for the fact that the rest of the rotation isn't really a factor right now.

I don't think this is the new normal for the team, with deGrom solo standing above the rotation, with everybody else injured. I think Thor and Harvey and the rest of the gang will be back next season, ready to go...but at the same time, this is the second season in a row where the Mets' rotation has taken a hit thanks to injuries. The fact that this is consistently happening makes me think the theory that all these young arms were just gonna blow their pitching arms out early might be coming true. And it's sad, because this was an insanely strong rotation that earned a World Series spot.

Hoping this isn't the case, but happy deGrom's still pitching like a champ.

Coming Tonight: Not sure. I'll be in Boston to see two of the best pitchers of the league square off. Might do a write-up immediately after.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Top 10 Trade Deadline Deals of 2017

...whew, that was a nice one, wasn't it?

Unlike previous years, where everything kinda kicked into high gear towards the end, this trade deadline-era deals went from post-ASG-break up until the wire, with a ton of huge deals along the way, and no real lulls or disappointments. This list is kinda an odd-one, because there's a clear division between 'nice pick-up that rectifies a hole' and 'HOLY SHIT THIS CHANGES THE ENTIRE PICTURE' deals. 

This year had so many nice ones that I had to include a few Honorable Mentions.

-Jeremy Hellickson to the Orioles, Hyun-Soo Kim and prospects to the Phillies. 
Nice little swap here, as Hellickson gives the O's some much-needed rotation help, but all-in-all the deal doesn't mean much if the O's aren't especially going to compete as much as the top 3 this year. Nice deal, but won't really impact the season's finale.

Brandon Kintzler to the Nats, prospects to the Twins.
While this takes a big tool away from a heavy favorite and gives it to a team that desperately needed a closer, I honestly preferred another deal Washington made this deadline, one that made the list. 

AJ Ramos to the Mets, prospects to the Marlins.
Like with the O's deal, while this definitely helps the Mets by FINALLY handing them a closer (even better now that Addison Reed's headed to Boston), it doesn't make an impact as the Mets aren't really a favorite to win this year, and have sold a few players away anyway. 

Pat Neshek to the Rockies, prospects to the Phillies
While this was a nice little move for the Rox, what worries me is that Neshek, a lights-out reliever in a pitcher-friendly park like Citizens Bank, is gonna get swallowed alive in Coors Field, a place more in favor of bats. I don't know, he could be fantastic, but I'm not 100% certain. 

Trevor Cahill to the Royals, prospects to the Padres
While this, in theory, was a nice deal to finally get the Royals some pitching help, the quality of Cahill's first start as a Royal worries me greatly about the quality of the rest of his starts. 

Alright, enough of that. Onto the countdown.

#10- Lucas Duda to the Rays, prospects to the Mets
Who wins? Rays
The Rays have been the most under-the-radar competitive team this year. Even when the Yankees and Red Sox have been battling it out for the title, the Rays have slowly been creeping up and stocking their team with prospects and cheap veterans. Adding Duda adds a steady bat that needed to be around the numerous base-runners and great fielders- the triple threat now of Duda, Dickerson and Morrison is probably going to make things a ton harder for Boston and New York in the coming months.

#9- Jamie Garcia to the Yankees, prospects to the...TWINS (?!?!?)
Who Wins?: Yankees
Even if the Yankees show up a few spots later on the countdown, this is the deal that I'm still kinda surprised they were able to pull. The Twins had already procured Garcia, after a painstakingly long deal with the Braves. Then, over the next few games the Twins slipped lower in the standings, figured they wouldn't be competing after all, and Cashman was the first to give them a call. Jaime Garcia isn't supposed to be the first starter in New York, but he's definitely been brought on to help the rotation become even stronger, and iron out some kinks in order to bring the heat in one of the biggest stages in baseball. 

#8- J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks, prospects to the Tigers
Who Wins? D-Backs.
In concept it looks simple, give the surging NL West team another bat, but when you look closer it gets even better. Chris Owings and Yasmany Tomas are on the DL, and the D-Backs have a hole in the lineup that can definitely be filled by JD Martinez, while giving another member of the team's large depth of a bench a chance to jump into the roster full-time, without there being a real decrease in quality. Martinez is still a nice home run hitter, and a great all-around player who was kinda wasting away in Detroit, so getting him into the Arizona lineup was a nice move.

#7- Eduardo Nunez to the Red Sox, prospects (and incidentally Pablo Sandoval) to the Giants
Who Wins? Giants
Never thought I'd see the day where the GIANTS would be selling at the deadline. Nunez was one of the few parts of the lineup that was working, and the Red Sox needed a third baseman before things got truly out of hand with Deven Marrero. So, in concept, this one was a fantastic fit. The reason I moved this one down a bit since I initially drafted the list is because Rafael Devers came up, hit beautifully, and brought into question whether going for Nunez was the best idea. Now Devers is hitting beautifully, Nunez...I guess can float around the infield or outfield. It complicates the situation a bit, but it's still a nice enough deal.

#6- Jonathan Lucroy to the Rockies, prospects to the Rangers
Who wins? Rockies
Lucroy makes his second consecutive appearance on this list, and while he doesn't rank as high this year, his deal is still an important one, as it gives a borderline competing team like the Rockies another reason to chase the Wild Card spot. Their only option at backstop up to this point was Tony Wolters, and while he was doing alright, he wasn't really screaming 'starter', so Lucroy was added, in the midst of an alright season. This is a nice deal, and bolsters an already-packed lineup. The question remains of whether or not the pitching staff is going to hold long enough for the Rockies to gain a playoff spot, but Lucroy gives them a bit more assurance. 

#5- Howie Kendrick to the Nationals, prospects to the Phillies
Who won? Nats
I loved seeing Howie Kendrick on my team, so while this one stung a bit, I can definitely see why the Nats did it. With Jayson Werth, Adam Eaton and Michael Taylor injured, the Nats needed outfield help fast, and with Howie Kendrick, they get outfield help...AND infield help...AND lineup help. It's a three-for-one, essentially. Kendrick's been having a great season, hitting like he's not hit in years, and he'll be a great fit for Washington. My worry is that Kendrick's not great at staying healthy, but hopefully DC will be a better environment for him in terms of healthiness.

#4- Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees, Tyler Clippard and prospects to the White Sox.
Who won? Yanks
Talk about a blockbuster. Not only does Todd Frazier give the Yanks the third baseman they've needed since the beginning of the season, but it gives them two insanely strong relievers to wield alongside some of their already-accumulated strong relievers. It bolsters one of the best lineups in baseball, and fine-tunes one of the best rotations in baseball. Plus, Robertson obviously knows the team, knows the roster inner-goings-on, and will fit right back in with Betances, Adam Warren and Aroldis Chapman (ironically only Betances hasn't been traded to another team, then immediately back to the Yankees). It looks like a simple bat-bolstering, but it's so much more, and is probably the most complex trade on this list.

#3- Jose Quintana to the Cubs, prospects to the White Sox
Who wins? Cubs
The Cubs didn't especially need to do much at the deadline, as their lineup was juuuuust coming back to life after a murky first half, but they needed a slight bit of rotation reassurance. While Eloy Jimenez is another top-prospect inexplicably sequestered in the South Side, Jose Quintana's a grade-A starter, and his numbers as a Cub are already just what the doctor ordered. Putting him with still hot Jon Lester and improving Jake Arrieta was a nice idea, and if everyone else will continue the momentum, Quintana won't have to change things up too much to finally see playoff action.

#2- Yu Darvish to the Dodgers, prospects to the Rangers
Who wins? Dodgers.
The Dodgers were already the best team in baseball, and on top of everything, now they get one of the nastiest pitchers in the game to cover for Clayton Kershaw while he's on the DL. Darvish is already having a great season, but combining him with Alex Wood, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda and the eventually returning Clayton Kershaw (and Brandon McCarthy) is absolutely brutal. The Dodgers' rotation is going to be absolutely unhittable going into the playoffs. 

So, what tops the best team in baseball becoming even better? Well...a great team becoming a truly great one with just one move.

#1- Sonny Gray to the Yankees, Jorge Mateo and 2 other prospects to the A's.
Who wins? Yankees
I don't know HOW they did it. I have no idea Brian Cashman convinced Billy Beane to do this. But after hours of deliberation, it happened, in a huge way. To put it simply, this deal pushes the Yankees over the edge. They were already a good team, but adding Gray gives them a definitive ace, and some leverage over the Sox in order to make the playoffs. Their rotation's a ton stronger now, with all five guys playing really well right now, and combining with the retooled bullpen and re-jiggered lineup, we may have an indestructible Yankees team heading towards the last two months of the season. 

So...those are the 10 best trade deadline deals. Let's see how they change things.