Thursday, August 17, 2017
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
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 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
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
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.
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 Braves...by 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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 Rockies...so 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
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
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
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
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.