Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Cano Reservations

It's very easy to spent a decade with one team, and then spent the rest of your career coasting. Albert Pujols, essentially, has been doing this. Ken Griffey did this. Robinson NOT doing this. He's still having amazing seasons, a few years removed from his numerous playoff appearances in New York. He's still one of the best 2nd basemen in baseball, he's still getting countless ASG votes, and he's still one of the better contact hitters in the game.

You can chalk it up to consistency, luck, or pure talent. Cano was ferocious as a member of the Yankees- I don't think he had a single 'bad year' while he was in the Bronx. Now he's in Seattle, and while his 2015 season was, by comparison, a disappointment, he's still cranking out great numbers without any sign of tiring. The Mariners got him in 2014 with the premise of building a team around him, and while this has taken a bit longer than they'd have liked, the 2017 squad is slowly coming along, thanks to the youth movement of Mitch Haniger and some last-minute acquisitions like Jean Segura, Danny Valencia and Yovani Gallardo.

However, the injuries are killing this squad. Cano, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager can hit all they want- if they don't have any competent starting pitchers, it doesn't mean a thing. They need to figure out how to work around these injuries, and not completely fall apart...which is what they're coming close to doing.

With Robinson Cano on this team, they're worth more than they would be without him. He brings leadership, talent and passion to a squad that desperately needs it.

(Note: With this 62nd post in May 2017, not only do I break my own personal posts-per-month record, but I also break Roger Maris'.)

Coming Tomorrow- June. And a willing-enough rookie in a sorry-looking roster.

Exactly .500

I feel bad for Jason Heyward, to be honest.

Last season his team won the World Series, and after a while all he could do was just be on 'moral support duty'. Now, he's actually doing well in a Cubs uniform, and the team lands at exactly .500, games below the first place Brewers. Can't catch a break, poor guy.

The Cubs do have a lot going for them this year, but they aren't as ironclad and perfect as they were in 2016...or even in 2015. The flaws are becoming clear, and it's mainly due to people not being as good as they were last year. Jake Arrieta, Ben Zobrist, Kyle Schwarber, John Lackey, Addison Russell...they're all bringing up disappointing offerings to follow incredible 2016 seasons. Plus, the Brewers have the momentum they should be having, and are speeding along with it.

It's sad, because Jason Heyward, Kris Bryant and EDDIE BUTLER are all having really nice seasons. This isn't a bad team, they're just having a bad month. They need to sort out their problems and figure out if they have what it takes to get back into first. It's very sad to see a Cubs team like this look human, but this is sadly what 2017 is giving them, and they need to saddle up.

Coming Tonight: One of the best-hitting 2nd-basemen of all time?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

As if the Indians' Rotation was Incomplete...

It's funny that we're looking at the Indians' rotation, which last year had SIX DIFFERENT AMAZING PITCHERS throwing down across the postseason, and going '...yes, but how could that be better?'

Carlos Carrasco's the only guy from last season who's currently making any progress. Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer are struggling, Danny Salazar's been moved to the bullpen, and Corey Kluber's injured. So the tribe had to think of some ways of perfecting what was...basically perfect last year.

I imagine one of the questions posed was 'what don't we have yet? We have 'bearded fireballer', 'Dominican fireballer', 'fireballer the Phillies foolishly gave up', and 'former prospect fireballer'. And Josh Tomlin. What else could we possibly add to that fold?'

And somebody at the back of the room must have yelled 'WE NEED A FIREBALLER WITH LONG HAIR!' And thus, Mike Clevinger was thrust into the rotation!

I'm pretty impressed with how well he's doing so far. He's only a few starts in and he's been in complete control, with a low ERA and a high strikeout level. With a ton of people in this rotation NOT doing that, it's a breath of fresh air. Having him, Kluber and Carrasco, all pretty on, at the same time, is gonna be a nice experiment.

The Indians are still a great team, but they're lacking the indestructibility they had last fall. This pitching staff isn't as good as last year, and may actually hinder them from doing truly great things this year.

Coming Tomorrow- FINALLY having another good season, even if his team is beginning to lose its momentum.

What IS Working in Miami?

It's gotta be tough. Winning the best of the April matches, then falling completely limp in May. That's gotta suck, especially for all the guys who thought they'd be chasing the Nationals this season.

Yes, the Marlins managed to win against the Phillies last night, but...let's be honest, pretty much anybody can do that. And the Marlins actually have a ton of talent left- Marcell Ozuna, Justin Bour, Giancarlo Stanton, J.T. Realmuto, Christian Yelich. All of them are playing really well, and hitting their worth.

It's everything else that's doing them in.

Thanks to some injuries, their bench isn't working for shit, with even Ichiro Suzuki having a lackluster season. The pitching is...scary-looking, quite frankly. Dan Straily's doing pretty well, but Edinson Volquez is 0-7. Everyone else that could potentially give good starts is injured. They're trying EVERYTHING to figure out how to fill the starting rotation, giving relievers like Jose Urena a shot, and EVEN SIGNING VANCE WORLEY! Someone actually signed Vance Worley. This makes me happy, even if he's not doing too great.

With the exception of the bulk of the lineup, the Marlins are falling apart, and it's pretty sad. Any other season, with a better hand, and better luck, they'd be able to chase the Nats. But they're stuck in 4th behind the Braves. It's gotta suck.

Coming Tonight: The Indians' rotation is ailing! Quick! Throw in a long-haired fireballing rookie!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Big Mike in the Big City

In a season where the Yankees have captured the attention of the league, it's only fitting that they use a pitcher capable of leading them further. And while CC Sabathia has been good enough, and still works in that leadership-type role...Michael Pineda is having a heck of a season so far.

This is a guy who we were all worried about 5 years ago, and took some time to recover and get his arm back...and once he got back to business and took some starts in the Bronx, his career blew up in the best way possible. He hasn't especially been perfect, and he's been more of a strikeout supplier than an all-around pitcher, but he's been fantastic so far this year, with a low ERA, high strikeouts, and the same ferocity he's been dealing on a larger scale.

Pineda's not alone- Luis Severino, who lost control last season, is back in amazing form, throwing beautifully and keeping people down. Jordan Montgomery's having a great rookie season, and CC Sabathia, while not perfect, is still doing well enough. Yes, we're all puzzled by how many runs Masahiro Tanaka has been giving up, but we're pulling for a turnaround. Besides, there enough power in the rotation AND the bullpen that we're doing pretty well right now. For a Yankee team in the post-09 era to have a consistently great rotation is a pretty great miracle.

I'll just have to hope for the miracles to keep coming in the Bronx. This team is so much fun to watch.

Coming Tomorrow- Home run hitter and masked-helmet-wearer extraordinaire.

Raising Arizona

Last night I talked about a team that had a starting lineup of 90% guys over 30. Today...I get to talk about the Arizona Diamonbacks, and 90% of THEIR starting lineup is UNDER thirty. And it sure as hell is paying off.

I've talked about guys like Paul Goldschmidt, Robbie Ray and Zack Greinke, those types, guys who are building on foundations, building consistency. Jake Lamb was good for a month last year before falling back off, and now he's figured out what the problem is. I say that mainly because he's hit 14 home runs already (MORE THAN ERIC THAMES!), and he's already looking to top his 30-home run year last year. He's doing this with more average stability, less strikeouts, and a different outlook. The position's absolutely his, which is more of a certainty than it's been in a while. He's confident, and he knows how it feels to lose control, so he's just enjoying himself.

Position stability isn't a guarantee, by the way- Chris Owings is having a phenomenal season off the bench- he was supposed to start at shortstop, but Nick Ahmed nabbed the starting spot in the last seconds of Spring Training.  Owings isn't holding back, hitting insanely for average and aiding the team whenever he can. The other pieces, like Yasmany Tomas, AJ Pollock, David Peralta and Brandon Drury, are also impressing this year.

Plus, the pitching staff has so much depth that even if someone like Shelby Miller has to go for Tommy John surgery, Zack Godley can ascend from the bullpen and become an outstanding starter. I'm going to take a wild guess and say Archie Bradley will take over for Taijuan Walker while he's on the DL, but the four-piece of Zack Greinke, Robbie Ray, Zack Godley and Patrick Corbin has become pretty ferocious.

The D-Backs are right behind the Rockies for the division...and the Dodgers are right behind the D-Backs for second. This is becoming a pretty evenly-matched battle for first, and I'm excited to see how things turn out.

Coming Tonight: Big Mike.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lowrie Point

Funny that this pops up while the A's are just rounding out a series with my beloved New York Yankees. Funnier still that I post this right after Aaron Judge hits a grand slam off of Andrew Triggs.

Funny, funny, funny stuff.

In all seriousness, we may be witnessing Jed Lowrie's best season ever. Since he came up in Boston he's flirted with consistency, having a few different injury-plagued seasons, then proceeding to ping-pong back and forth between Oakland and Houston for a few years. Now, currently settled in Oakland, he's hitting for average, he's playing swell in the infield, and he's trying to raise the spirits of a team that's just disheveled this year.

The strangest part of this A's team is that, while they're trying to build, only two members of their starting lineup are under 30- Ryon Healy and Khris Davis. Everyone else is in their 30s, and have been in the leagues for a while- people like Lowrie, Trevor Plouffe, Adam Rosales and Rajai Davis are making up this team. Instead of stocking the lineup with rookies and benchmark prospects, the 2017 A's have become a collection of starters who should just be bench players on any other team.

I don't wanna discredit people like Yonder Alonso and Jed Lowrie, who are actually doing well, but this owes to the fact that the youth-movement project that occurred around 2012 has sort have dissolved, and all the young, hip stars they were stockpiling from the farm system have all pretty much left. Until we get a new wave of solid starters, this is what the A's are going to be- they're gonna be the 2006 Pirates. Not necessarily stars, just guys that needed a roster spot.

I do hope things turn around, especially with Sonny Gray on the upswing, but it's not looking good.

Coming Tomorrow- As if there weren't enough hot streaks in Phoenix, a guy that was on top for a good month last year finally proves he has legs.

Special Brew

The Brewers are becoming, just in time for Memorial Day weekend, the Band of Brothers of the MLB. A bunch of people no one's ever heard of, no one ever thought of, all pooling their resources together to fight the good fight.

The best part of this Brewers team right now is that it's not just Eric Thames anymore. Travis Shaw, Chase Anderson, Hernan Perez, Jesus Aguilar, and a SURPRISE RETURN from Eric Sogard. And the best part is that these are all people that most MLB households have never heard of, with the exception of Ryan Braun who, shocker, isn't even part of the team right now! He's injured! He's letting all the no-names get far this year without him.

Hernan Perez, Jesus Aguilar and Eric Sogard are performing well off the bench, while Travis Shaw has climbed to the forefront with the skills he'd only brushed the surface of in Boston. At the same time, you have Junior Guerra coming back off the DL and throwing fire, and Matt Garza having a pretty nice comeback season himself. Things are coming together at once for the Brewers...which is insane, considering how terrible they were last year.

The problem is that the Cubs, the...OTHER really good team in the NL Central, is back at first place, and they seem to have the momentum back. So...any chance of somebody else being 1st in the NL Central has grown very slim. The Brewers are instead going to prove they have staying power by SECOND. And fending off the Cardinals, which is arguably tougher than fending off the Cubs, because unlike the Cubs, the Cardinals aren't actually good...but SEEM TO THINK that they are.

I'm still happy the Brewers have gotten this far, man.

Coming Tonight: Spontaneously awesome infielder for a middling AL West team.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Falling Down

I spent most of late-April talking about this deadlock in the AL Central, between the top four teams (read: everyone but the Royals). And now, about a month later, we finally have something resembling a resolution. The Twins and Indians are on top, the Tigers are swimming below them in third, and the White Sox...weren't really cut out for the whole thing, were they?

A majority of the lineup is doing well enough, but the people on this team who're doing disastrously badly are the ones yanking them towards the Royals. Cody Asche had a dreadful run as their DH, and Todd Frazier is having a horrible season, batting nowhere near the Mendoza line and striking out like it's his job. The majority of the team is hitting around .250, and while there are some good hitters, like Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu, people aren't...doing well.

The pitching's equally vexing- James Shields was having a comeback season until he landed on the DL. Derek Holland's having a great year so far, but the rotation has a ton of people who are pitching pretty alright, but have inflated ERAs. Jose Quintana falls under that category- he throws strikes and is still a good pitcher, but people are still finding ways to hit him. This is a problem, especially considering that Quintana, in Chris Sale's absence, is the uppercase ACE this year.

A very soggy mixed bag for the White Sox, but not without positive momentum.

Coming Tomorrow- The Brewers spent a good week on first, thanks in part to this versatile bench player.

Nostalgic Box Break: 1999 UD Choice (Part Two)

Previously on 'Jordan Comes Close To Bashing a Hobby Box with a Sledgehammer'...

Two days ago, I posted the first part of this UD Choice break. I absolutely loathe this set, with a burning passion, like no other baseball card set. There are three more pieces to this box, and we should get the next nine packs over with today.

Pack 10-
Hall of Famers: 2/10
Future Hall of Famers: 3/10

In terms of star power, this was a pretty nice pack. Both my StarQuests were MLB legends, in Mike Piazza and Chipper Jones. Neither were especially rare StarQuests though.

On the plus side, we get a rare 'David Ortiz in Minnesota' card, and a Cover Glory subset (that, again, WE CAN'T FRIGGIN' SEE) of Cal Ripken.

And we finish off the 'postable' portion of the pack with a card of Trevor Hoffman. I swear, if people continue to keep him out of the Hall of Fame for ridiculous statistical reasons, I'm gonna throw things.
Pack 11-
Steroids: 4/10
Future Hall of Famers: 1/10
Hall of Famers: 1/10
First of all, this Wally Joyner card isn't too bad, with a nice photo. Though the 'good' photography in this does sort of channel what Topps had been doing by that point.

More common StarQuests. Bonds' doesn't piss me off, but Johnson's....oh, boy. He's credited as a Seattle Mariner, he's pictured as a Houston Astro, and he'd already signed with Arizona by the product's release. So that is a TRIPLE-Screw-up. That is a new level of patheticness.

Vladdie and his surprisingly cool 90's Expos duds keep the momentum rolling along, along with the also-cool purple D-Backs uniforms.

McGwire gets a Cover Story. For once I'm glad I can't see this one. Troy Glaus gets a pseudo-rookie here, as well.

Pack 12-
Hall of Famers: 2/10
Borderline Future HOFers: 3/10
Future Hall of Famers: 1/10
Another particularly nice photo from this set, zoomed out just enough, but the border kind of kills it, to be honest. And possibly the fact that it's a photo of Moises Alou.

Vladdie again, this time with a slightly-rarer StarQuest. The problem with the StarQuest set, for me, is that the general-base set is so small that I keep getting the same ones in blue, and when I get one in green or's the same photo and everything. They get less and less exciting as the rip goes on, which is the opposite effect of the 1998 version.

Two Hall of Famers. One got in on the first ballot, rightfully. The other, Jeff Bagwell, is getting in on his SEVENTH YEAR on the ballot. I'd have thought he'd have been in a few years ago.

Rolen again, with an assist by a 2nd-year Todd Helton card, which is a nice touch.

And, as it was 1999 and he was still cool, a relatively nice shot of Alex Rodriguez.

Pack 13-
Non-dupes: 3/10
Hall of Famers: 1/10

Can't complain about a base card of Ken Griffey Jr., even in his last season before leaving the M's. Glaus' would be better if...I'm gonna stop saying it. I have the same complaint with every Cover Story card, and it's getting tiring for me AND for you.

As an added bonus, Boomer Wells, a year after throwing a no-hitter.

Pack 14-
Steroids: 2/10
Ton of Kerry Wood in this product. You pitch one amazing game, and everyone wants to make a card of you. Him and Strasburg should be buds.
...and Barry Bonds is also here. Yaaay.

Larry Walker's probably never gonna be a Hall of Famer, but he was a great player, and helped the Rockies elevate from 'sucky expansion team' status.
Jason Giambi's career lasted 5 years more than it honestly should have. I'll give him credit for trying.

Brad Radke pitched in one place for 12 seasons, and did a pretty nice job of it. Can't say much more than that.
My these photos are boring.

Pack 15-
Guys who are STILL PITCHING TODAY: 1/10
Hall of Famers: 1/10
Racists: 1/10

Two common StarQuests. Curt Schilling pissed away all of his credibility, so I don't really need to talk about him. I've already seen that Vlad in green. Sure does take the fun out of it.

CAL! Never not happy with pulling a Cal Ripken card. All class.
Bartolo Colon was still a pretty big deal in 1998, two years after his rookie season. If you think that's crazy, imagine if he'd be a big deal 20 years after his rookie season...

Another 'Heads Up' insert, this one of Aramis Ramirez.

Pack 16-
Hall of Famers: 1/10
Future Hall of Famers: 2/10
Steroids: 3/10
Greg Maddux gives us another pretty nice StarQuest common, along with Larry Walker.

In 1999 it was still a pretty big deal that Clemens was pitching for the Blue Jays, so imagine the division's surprise once he was traded to the Yankees, which would be not too long after this card was produced.
Two Yankees I feel better about- Jeter does manage to make this base card look awesome, while Carlos Beltran, while looking slightly odd in a Royals uniform, does still look great as a rookie.

Annnd two steroid-abusers. Sosa was still riding high from his 1998 season, while Drew was just heading up the ramp to momentary stardom.

Pack 17-
Fun fringe players: 3/10
On the plus side, this product did manage to throw in a nice Bobby Abreu in Philly card, as well as giving me another likable John Olerud issue.

Garret Anderson I always thought was overrated. Buhner had some good years in Seattle, and essentially bowed out with the decade.

Pack 18-
Hall of Famers: 2/10
Future Hall of Famers (I hope): 1/10
Steroids: 1/10
Oh, hey, what feels like the millionth Mark McGwire card this box!
Thankfully, here's a Frank Thomas, equal rarity, StarQuest to even things out.

By the time of this release, Will Clark was already a member of the Baltimore Orioles, and Randy Johnson was already suiting up for Arizona. Nevertheless...I do take in any 'Big Unit in Houston' cards I can get.

And we end this excruciating part of the box with a base card of the greatest DH of all time, Edgar Martinez.

I will probably get to Part 3 relatively soon...but I do need to come up for air a bit.

Two Guys Named Aaron and Fifty Feet of Crap

It's,'s not getting any better for the Phillies.

You can truss it up, you can make them look cool...but last night, the Phillies' twitter was more interested in showing pictures of dogs than actually reporting on how badly the team was losing. It's frigging MAY and the PR staff has exhausted every possible measure.

"...maybe CUTENESS will distract them?"

I'm serious, they're all grasping at straws. And yes, there are people, such as Aaron Altherr, Cesar Hernandez, Jeremy Hellickson and Tommy Joseph who ARE, in fact, doing well. But the other teams just have NO TROUBLE in beating the crap out of the Phillies' pitching. Remember that this team came into the 2010's with one of the most impressive rotations in baseball. Now, the fans pray for the 5th game to come so Nola or Hellickson can pitch again. Watching Phillies games has turned into Russian Roulette. Just praying that the wheel doesn't land on someone who gives up home runs.

Look, Aaron Nola's been up for 4 games, and I'm...worried. Because he's been great so far, and I'm worried that staying in the majors for long enough is going to corrupt him, and his ERA's gonna inflate to match the other four. I'm fearing for Aaron Nola's safety, because he's a great pitcher who could become truly great someday. And I feel SO BAD for him that he has to pitch for the 2017 Phillies.

I'm gonna be at some barbecues with a bunch of Phillies fans this weekend, and i'm gonna have to put on my 'optimistic stupid sports fan'. People are gonna say 'oh, things are gonna turn around', and I'll smile and nod. Uh, sure, boss. Whatever you want. Pass me another frank, would'ja?

Coming Tonight: Speaking of inflated ERAs, another strong pitcher for a team that's found itself in a similar rut to their 2016 squad.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Dylan Bundy (FINALLY) Rules

Some rookie prospects pay off 5 years after they were supposed to be rookies.

In 2012, even while a certain third baseman named Manny Machado was roaming around the base paths at Camden Yards, everyone was pulling for a pitching prospect named Dylan Bundy to ride in and take the reins of the still-shaky rotation. The minor leagues were buzzing, especially after the high drafting, and people were really excited to see what he had to offer.

They got to see it shortly...though, in relief.

As the rotation was filled with surefire guys like Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez and, later, Dylan's superior Kevin Gausman, there was never enough room for Bundy, and he was forced to stick in the bullpen until he got truly hot.

Last year he got truly hot, and snuck his way into the rotation. He actually showed up in time for me to watch him pitch in Baltimore, and while he was a bit shaky the day I was there, and gave up some runs to Washington, he still threw a ton of strikeouts, and surprised me.

So far this season he's been surprising even more people, taking command of the Baltimore rotation and helping the O's circle first, even with the Yankees battling for the spot as well. Bundy definitely has the talent and materials that people were talking about 5 years ago, and he's helping others in the rotation, such as Wade Miley and, yes, Chris Tillman, excel in the rotation as well.

So yeah, I'm pretty happy that Dylan Bundy's having a great 2017. It is about time.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the few things Phillies fans have to look forward to.