Thursday, May 31, 2018

Austin Meadows Rules Pittsburgh (or Cutch who?)

The bad news is that the Pirates are 6 games behind the Brewers for first, and are in fourth place. The Pirates, Cubs and Cardinals have been left behind by the surging, insanely powerful Brewers team, who are 4 games ahead of any opposition. So the Pirates' month or so of dominance has reached a momentary close.

The GOOD that Austin Meadows exists, and he's been on fire ever since being promoted by the Pirates. So, suffice to say, things are beginning to pick up.

Meadows was brought in as a momentary replacement for Starling Marte, and plugged in so well for the Pirates that once Marte eventually came back, and Meadows was out of a job...people wanted him NOT to be. And look, right now, the Pirates' lineup doesn't have too many bad eggs in it, with Cervelli, Marte, Dickerson, Colin Moran, and countless others doing good work. But...I don't think the Pirates should send a guy hitting over .400 back down to the minors. I'm still bitter about Ronald Torreyes. We don't need a similar case.

At this point, there aren't any real weaknesses with this Pirates team. The only issue is that while they're GOOD, they're not breaking out of that distinction yet. They're not great, which is a shame, as three other teams in that division ARE great, and are currently ahead of them.

I'm waiting for something to click with this Pirates team, because they could be right back up there with everyone in an instant. They just need something big to happen, or someone to lead the team past Chicago. I'm just not sure who, or when...or whether or not it'll be Meadows.

Coming Tomorrow- Best shortstop in baseball right now.

KC Not-Quite-A-Masterpiece

So yeah...Kansas City Royals. Remember when they were really good? Like...2 years ago?

Hosmer and Cain are gone, yeah...but so is the intensity. So is the fire. It's clear that Ned Yost doesn't as good of a hand to work with, and the once monolithic, methodical bullpen has been whittled down to a couple of guys that are good and a bunch of people that get put in for lack of a better choice. I mean, Yost was putting legitimate thought and talent into that bullpen, and rotation for that matter, 4 years ago. And now it's all been depleted.

The lineup, as well, is made up of a few contracts, a few disappointing youngsters, and the last stragglers of the 2015 team. Some of those guys, like Mike Moustakas and Salvador Perez, are doing pretty great. Some, like Alcides Escobar, have forgotten how to hit. The team is being carried by guys like Jakob Junis and Whit Merrifield, guys that are barely household names anywhere, let alone KC (cue the comment or two claiming that Junis already has his own brand of grass seed or something).

There's just not much to talk about. Everyone here is either too old, too young, or on the way out. It's not Yost's fault, either, as he's doing all he can with this group. The team won a World Series, then got old and dissolved. It happens to the best of teams, even the 2010s Giants. The only problem is that, after waiting so long for 'the big Royals team' to happen, there's the fear that there won't be much left after this one passes, and we'll be right back where we were in 2006.

Meanwhile, the bright side here is that they're not in last. They're in fourth, in front of the White Sox. So, until they grab 4th back, it's at least a reason to be thankful.

Coming Tonight: A rookie standout for a still-good-but-not-AS-good NL Central squad.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Pileup on the Schuylkill

Right now, there are three teams battling it out for dominance in the NL East. All of them have 22 losses, and all of them are within one win of each other. One of them is the Washington Nationals, but you knew that was going to happen. The other two...are the Braves and Phillies, some of the most unlikely power teams in baseball right now. And they're showing Washington the ropes most of the time, too.

There's something about this Phillies team that has a scrappy, underdog quality to them that hasn't been felt since, oh...2007 maybe? But where that team had defined stars, here anyone can have a hero moment. Odubel Herrera has cooled down a bit since his crazy start to the month, but he's still leading the team. Rhys Hoskins isn't doing perfectly, but he can still hit in the clutch. Even Maikel Franco or Carlos Santana, both of whom have improved significantly since their Philly low-points, can give you power.

The rotation has evolved to the point where the top three options, Nola, Arrieta and Pivetta, have all been lights-out, and keeping the team strong. And yes, I realize that Vince Velasquez is leading the team in strikeouts, but unless he gets his wins up that won't really matter. This is a strong, varied team that can be good at a bunch of things at once. They're not overpowered, they're not stacked, they're not trying too hard. They're just pretty good, and that's enough right now.

The NL East stalemate might not have a definitive winner, but whoever eventually reigns will have earned it. All three teams are pretty great, but, as a Philadelphian, I have a tiny bias.

Coming Tomorrow- The catcher for a team that has fallen rather far, but thankfully isn't in last anymore.

Somebody Stop Boston (and by that I mean the Yankees)

One of things about this current incarnation of the Red Sox, led by Chris Sale, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and a cavern of raw talent, is that it's one of the hardest-to-hate BoSox squads in years.

I don't know why this is, though I credit the presence of a certain large-scale Papi, or any steroid abusers, but...everybody is not only really good, but really likable. I really like Mookie Betts, and I think he's having an MVP-caliber year more than he has previously. I think Xander Bogaerts is finally back to his best stuff, and I'm so happy that Andrew Benintendi, Mitch Moreland and JD Martinez are all having fantastic seasons.

...I just wish they weren't currently 2 games ahead of the Yankees.

I say this mostly because I was just spending time with my relatives from Boston this weekend, and they're all overjoyed. They love the team, they love the strength of the pitching, they love what Rafael Devers can do in the clutch, and they have so much to be proud of. this point I'm getting worried that there's more to this BoSox team than there is to my Yankees team...and that might be the deciding factor.

The Yankees are currently dropping some games to some west coast teams, while the Red Sox are quarreling with the Braves and Mets, the former they trounced to give the Phillies the lead, and the latter...just trounced them last night? Alright, but still. The Sox have the more varied team, with more people doing things right. Not even some below-Mendoza performances from Jackie Bradley and Christian Vazquez can deter them.

I don't know if the picture will change at all in the next few weeks, and I don't know if the Yankees will even up, but...the Red Sox look GOOD. Too Good.

Coming Tonight: They were in first place for a split second, and now they're back in third, which shouldn't AT ALL deter them from their fantastic season so far, especially with their promising third-starter.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

They Might Be (Third-Place) Giants

(Music Pun #5- I'd try harder, but none of their songs fit.)

The Giants right now are the epitome of okay. The lineup's alright, the rotation's meh, the bullpen's good, and a lot of people are injured.

Still, it's not stopping Brandon Belt from having another great season. Right now he has his best average in years, is off to a nice start with home runs. He's having his most consistent, most powerful season yet, and he's surging on a team with Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey. Three 'face of the team' type guys, and he's outhitting them all.

The 'core of the team' that has stuck around, which is Belt-Crawford-Posey, is still doing pretty nice. It's just kind of sad that anyone else who gives a significantly good performance seems to get injured immediately afterwards. Johnny Cueto and Joe Panik especially.

The hope seems to be returning, as Madison Bumgarner is set to rejoin the rotation soon, and take the reins of the top starter spot from...Ty Blach? Derek Holland? I don't know, somebody.

The upsides are that the offense is doing well enough to keep them ahead of the Dodgers in the standings, regardless of occasional stumbles. This team isn't great, but they could be doing a ton worse.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the best players in the AL right now. Yeah, I'm getting some serious MVP vibes from this guy.

Trout in the Streets

(Music Pun #4, going with some vintage Who just to spice things up)

Mike Trout is still the best player in baseball. Were you honestly expecting that fact to change???

Not only is Trout still capable of all those things that won him 2 MVPs and a ROY award, but...the other day, against the Yankees, he had one of the best days a batter can have, going 5-for-5 with 4 extra base hits. He's also leading the American League in home runs and On Base Percentage, and he's part of an Angels squad that's slightly less reliant on his sole achievements.

Now that the Angels have Shohei Ohtani, Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons all playing well, they have a more varied, and more powerful roster, that's been doing well in the offensive category as well as in the pitching category, with a number of powerful starters all doing well at once. Yes, the bullpen is a little messier than they'd like, and may be giving some games away, but the team as a whole is stronger than it's been in years.

The only problem is that this team is in third place. Behind the Mariners. A team that's not as well put together, but have won 9 of their last 10 games and have some killer, Cano-less momentum. The Angels, who just dropped a few to the Yankees, have slightly less momentum, and are 5 games behind the opposition. So if they'd like to keep being a presence in the league as a consistent, strong, team, it'd help if they won some more games. Easier said than done, I know, but this stretch is saying more about the Mariners than it is the Angels, a team that spent a ton more money this offseason.

Trout, however, can pull the team back into the race. After all, he's done it before.

Coming Tonight: His team's doing...rather okay right now. And he's having another nice season.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Baseball Road Trip 2018: A Preview

I haven't been doing a ton of posts that aren't customs thus far, and I'd like to apologize for that, as a lot of my creativity has been funneled elsewhere, especially since graduation. I am trying to go towards other places, like bringing back Nostalgic Box Breaks, as I do have a few cued up ready to go.

But, as this is a week out, and I don't like doing things like this without telling you, readers, I feel as though I should inform you that starting next week, I, along with my folks, will be embarking on a weeklong baseball road trip. And a pretty cool one at that.

Long-time readers (wait, shit, DO I EVEN HAVE THOSE??) may remember I did a similar trip in 2011, touring the parks of Washington, Pittsburgh and well as doing a Chicago-style trip in 2015. But...I figured I'd get a bit more ambitious. So, in addition to hitting 3 major league parks I've never been to, I'll be notching off a bunch of minor league parks I've never been to as well. Because, despite living near Trenton, I've never really taken advantage of local minor league baseball teams. So, in addition to MLB parks, I'll be getting cheap MiLB tickets, scouring gift shops for affordable cards of prospects, and taking it easy.

An agenda of sorts:

Tuesday 6/5: Hagerstown Suns (Nats A affiliate), Hagerstown MD.
Wednesday 6/6: West Virginia Power (Pirates A affiliate) , Charleston WV
Thursday 6/7: Cincinnati Reds (vs. Rockies) at Great American Ball Park
Friday 6/8: Toledo Mud Hens (Tigers AAA affiliate) (Toledo, OH)
Saturday 6/9: Detroit Tigers (vs. Indians): Comerica Park
Sunday, 6/10: Toronto Blue Jays (vs. Orioles) at Rogers Centre
Monday 6/11: Syracuse Chiefs (Nationals AAA affiliate), Syracuse, NY
Tuesday 6/12: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders (Yankees AAA affiliate, Scranton, PA

That is a lot of baseball packed into a week's worth of entertainment, and although not all of it will be good baseball, it'll still be entertaining. Bet on some recap posts with pictures to follow each game, at least eventually.

This won't start until next week, but I'm alerting you all now, in case you wonder why blog activity will be more unusual starting then.

The Bauer and the Passion

(Okay, I've unwittingly done 3 music puns in a row, so I guess the streak is at 3 again, thanks to this insanely 80s one.)

Once again, your defending AL Central champion Indians are in .500, and are in first place. That's as good as we're getting right now, sadly, because as good as the Indians are, so many teams from other divisions, like the Yankees, Astros, Angels, Mariners and Cubs, are capable of overpowering them.

This may not translate to the postseason, because that's the time when underdog teams can come alive regardless of win percentage, but we're halfway through the year and the Indians have yet to truly break ahead of the rest of the AL. And the tough part is that they have the exact materials to. They have Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez surging. They have an entire rotation of strong arms (now that Adam Plutko has effectively replaced Josh Tomlin). They have range, and depth, which has been aiding them now that the outfield has landed on the DL in its entirety.

They are definitely a great team, but they're unfortunately one that hasn't figured out how to win against potential playoff opponents, rather than division rivals (who are comparatively easy to defeat). This isn't a bad problem, but it's slightly concerning. It's early enough that Francona and friends can work on fixing the problem in time for the ASG break, but it may cost them a few more important series' if they can't figure it out.

Also, a note that Trevor Bauer has slowly been building into a consistent, strikeout-friendly pitcher, despite finding a home in the middle of the rotation. He's a nice secret weapon to have.

Coming Tonight: A likable infielder from the worst team in the NL.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mets Go Crazy

The Mets are currently 25-23. In a division like the NL West or AL Central, that'd be admirable.

But, since they're playing in a division with the (GASP) FIRST PLACE PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES, the surging Atlanta Braves, and the still-technically-there Washington Nationals, 25-23 gets them fourth place. And some sympathy.

The Mets...don't deserve the crap luck they've been getting. Juan Lagares goes on a tear? Gets injured. Todd Frazier goes on a tear? Gets injured. Matt Harvey slumps like hell and gets released? Starts pitching well in Cincinnati. Travis D'arnaud remembers to hit? He, and apparently every other catcher we had, gets injured. Yoenis Cespedes has his best numbers since 2015? HE gets injured.

Thus far, the pitching staff has narrowly avoided serious injury, and with strong performances from Noah Syndergaard AND Jacob well as Steven Matz and a surprisingly strong bullpen. Plus, the youth, like Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto, as well as the veterans, such as Asdrubal Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez, are mending some gaps in Flushing right now. And need I even mention that Amed Rosario is finally learning how to hit consistently?

There are definitely good things happening on this Mets team right now, but enough is going backwards for them to keep them from moving forwards in the standings. Perhaps when the injuries wear off we'll get some progress, but it may be tricky.

Coming Tomorrow- It should be no surprise to you that the Indians' rotation is doing well right now, but perhaps it's surprising that one of their breakouts is a guy who usually can't control his range.

Jagged Little Pillar

Well. What did you think was going to happen?

The Blue Jays arranged a number of established stars, with a minimal youth movement, to form a playoff squad for 2015 and 2016. The PROBLEM WITH THAT, however, was the basis on people over 30. Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki, Edwin Encarnacion, Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson were all over 30 upon recruitment to this squad. Now, Joey Bats and Edwin are hitting elsewhere, Tulo and Martin haven't been worth their contracts, and Donaldson's having a down year. So, the minimal youth movement has to carry the team, along with some fledgling signings like Curtis Granderson, Yangervis Solarte and J.A. Happ.

This is a flawed team that wasn't especially trained for long-term success. So now, here they are, treading along in fourth place.

I mean, good thing Kevin Pillar's turned into a nice little player, or else they'd be farther gone. Pillar is essentially carrying the team right now, with a nice average, a nice amount of hits, and a general surge in ability since taking a backseat on the 2015 team. Yes, Solarte and Teoscar Hernandez are also aiding in terms of power, but Pillar is one of the sole sources of leadership that isn't hit/miss like Josh Donaldson.

I don't think this team is going to RULE THE DIVISION like they did in the early part of the decade...solely because Yanks-Sox is ruling the conversation this year. They don't have a ton to contribute, but they seem to have more of a drive than Baltimore right now.

Coming Tonight: They were off to a nice start until May happened and everyone got injured. They've enlisted a surprising amount of power in order to get back to the top.

Coors of Action

The NL West, while not quite at AL Central levels of ineptitude quite yet, is still not exactly a pristine division. The Diamondbacks were once leading the charge in the wins column, but once Pollock got injured, a chain reaction was set off leading the Rockies to eventually ascend to 1st.

Now...they're doing alright. They have a .500 record, and they have Nolan Arenado playing pretty damn well right now, as per usual. But...they're not completely amazing yet.

For one thing, the lineup is striking out too much, especially CarGo, Desmond and Story. There's not enough people hitting for average. The reliance is once again on Arenado and LeMahieu, and the latter is currently injured. Blackmon's doing well enough, but his outfield numbers have gone down. The horde of new wave position players, like Ryan McMahon and Pat Valaika, is not working, and David Dahl is just beginning to show promise.

At least the pitching's doing well. Kyle Freeland, Jon Gray, Chad Bettis and closer Wade Davis are all doing good work, despite...essentially rehaulng the new wave of pitchers they brought in last year.

This isn't a bad team, but for a first place team, they need to do a little more in order to prove themselves. They can't win a division with just this. They need to work harder, improve some numbers, and shore up some positions. Or else the Diamondbacks, or Giants, will attack from behind and make them regret not doing anything.

Coming Tomorrow- Surprisingly the best player on the Toronto Blue Jays right now.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Mariners Update: Running from the DL Edition

It is nearly June, and James Paxton is not injured, nor is he slumping. This is an anomaly.

Paxton has it easy, though. Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger and Robinson Cano are all out with injuries, or, in the latter's case, possible steroid use. This is also a year where two team heroes, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez, aren't playing like themselves, and their team's biggest legend just retired halfway through the month (sort of like the last Mariners legend who retired with the team).

So...while the Mariners are currently in 2nd place, in front of the Angels (currently faced with a series against the Yankees), they're partially waiting for the other shoe to drop. Yes, the team is better than expected, with a definite push from the youth movement, and FINALLY a star turn from James Paxton, but their shortcomings right now are their lack of a leader, since all three possible options are on the DL (or slumping). Kyle Seager's been with the team longest out of this current lineup, but he's forgotten how to hit for average, so by default Jean Segura's been dubbed the leader, which he's been doing fine with.

A helpful move, though, was yesterday's trade for Alex Colome and Denard Span. The former will be a nice setup man for Edwin Diaz, one of the best closers in baseball right now, while the latter will be a nice source of leadership and a trusted, surging presence in the outfield. It definitely helps the cause.

I'm not sure how much longer the Ms will be in 2nd place, but I doubt they'll be completely out of the race anytime soon.

Coming Tomorrow- Surprise! This guy's team is now in first, after the previous 1st place team completely fell apart. Now he's got to help them earn it.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Chicago Justice

(As long as Dick Wolf keeps making shows about Chicago, I'll have pun post titles for the Cubs for the next 30 years)

The Chicago Cubs have made it to the NLCS three years in a row. Unlike the Cardinals, they're not being complete dicks about it.

The trick may have been Joe Maddon cementing his status as one of the best managers of his generation, and going one step further than he did in Tampa Bay, as well as cementing the dynasty he always wanted to jumpstart in Florida. It also may have been the arrival of youth in the manner that it did- first with Anthony Rizzo's leadership role, followed by Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber, and later Albert Almora, Javier Baez and Willson Contreras. This is STILL a very young team, which has relied on a ton of homegrown talent (okay, fine Russell came up with the A's), and a lot of small moves, to keep winning all these years.

However, their BIG MOVES, such as signing Jason Heyward and Yu Darvish, haven't worked as well. Heyward at least is fine, and is recovering from a concussion, but Darvish is having his worst season yet, giving a full turnaround from his insane numbers with the Dodgers last year. Heck, even Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood haven't worked 100% like they wanted them to. This team's main problem is adjusting other people to their way of life. The only signing/trade since 2016 that's really worked is Brandon Morrow, who's been a great closer for them this year.

The team's not doing terribly, but they're in fourth place behind three ferocious teams, and their losses column is beginning to catch up to them. And yes, Bryant, Almora, Baez and Willson Contreras are all playing pretty well, but the back half of the rotation is sucking up wins, and some guys in the lineup aren't producing as well as we want them to (cough*HEYWARD*cough)

It's definitely a process with these guys, but since they're the Chicago Cubs in this decade, they definitely have an advantage.

Coming Tomorrow- His ENTIRE TEAM is getting injured...which means, if this was a horror movie, he'd be next....but mostly because he always gets injured around this time of year.

Twins and Needles

So yeah. The good news is the Twins are doing pretty well, and are in second place. The bad news is they're still under .500. The worse news is they're not far enough under .500 to deserve scathing media attention. They're just somewhere between good and okay, floating along.

The Twins are in desperate need of help at catcher thanks to Jason Castro's season-ending injury, and Joe Mauer's been on the DL. It's not, like, Seattle levels of injuries, but it's some pretty big pieces, too. At least Miguel Sano gets off the DL today and jumps right back in there to save the lineup a bit. And yes, while it's not especially bad, there's a noted loss of a power hitter...mostly because Logan Morrison has SOMEHOW forgotten how to hit for power. To this point, it's been Brian Dozier, as well as unlikely home run hitters like Eduardo Escobar and Eddie Rosario, both of whom are having their best seasons to date.

It's a bit jarring that the youth movement that was supposed to revamp the team, led by Sano, Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Jose Berrios, has mostly been keeping to the background and letting veterans take the reins, but they're still working sort of hard. Berrios, though his number have gone down since April, is still a sturdy enough starter, even if he's been deferring to Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi lately. Additionally, look at out-of-nowhere rookie Fernando Romero go, off to an impeccable start after 4 games.

This team is not in dire need of anything except for time. Mauer will jump back on, as will, eventually Ervin Santana (and maybe even Michael Pineda!). This team can very quickly shift from a poor 2nd place to a ferocious 2nd place. They just need a little push, and I can only imagine that said push is coming.

Coming Tonight: His team's technically a bit far out of the divisional race, but his sharp stuff is helping them crawl back into it.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The Voyage of Sean Doolittle

From closing for the classic 2010s A's teams to getting injured for a few too many years, to winding up as the closer for the nearly-classic 2017 Nationals, Sean Doolittle has already had a journeyman, wild career. And right now, as the Nationals begin to trickle back up the standings, he's penciled in as their trusty closer, which is nice, as he's filled a hole the Nats have been scrambling to fill since Rafael Soriano left.

He's a chief member of a Nationals team that SHOULDN'T BE winning games...yet is. Half the team's injured, including Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Eaton, Howie Kendrick, Daniel Murphy, Matt Wieters, Joe Ross and Brian Goodwin. That's half the lineup...and Joe Ross. That's a certifiable chunk of people that were saving the team last year, so...what are they doing?

Well, they signed Mark Reynolds, and he's been playing great 1st base...and they've been using Matt Adams as backup, which is still good as he's still hitting well. They also signed Jeremy Hellickson late, and he's been pitching like a pro so far (which is odd considering his Baltimore stint). They've also called up Juan Soto, who's been playing pretty well for a 19-year-old (take that, Julio Urias).

The only 3 starters that are still in the lineup from April are Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner, and thankfully they're all still healthy and playing well. The pitching staff is still intact and playing beautifully. It's just this team's ability to revive themselves from near-universal injuries that will mark their season, and so far, they're doing well. True, they're in 3rd behind two vastly superior teams, but they're still playing alright enough to begin to chase them.

Coming Tomorrow- Someone from a second place team that's under .500

Bird Brains

Whelp. I guess we're back in 2008 again. The Orioles and Royals are tied for worst in the AL.

The sad part is, you can honestly say more about this O's team than the '08 one. This one at least has Manny Machado giving career numbers, future O's HOFer Adam Jones, Mark Trumbo trying to give a damn, and Kevin Gausman pitching on target. That's more than the '08 team had, I think. They had a bunch of struggling players trying to hit for average, a bunch of pitchers with inflated ERAs save for like one that actually knew what he was doing, and approximately two people that figured out how to hit again. One of those two is currently playing for a first place team, and that's something I wish that Manny Machado could eventually achieve.

There's just a lot of dead weight on this team, and like the '08 team, a lot of it is coming from people who are either too old or too inexperienced. You have someone like Pedro Alvarez batting .198, as well as someone new like Anthony Sandander batting under .200. Old and new can disappoint fans together.

To be honest, at this point, I don't know what can be salvaged from this team. I imagine they're gonna start pawning people off, at least the ones that can be pawned off. The Machado question's going to pop up again, and they're going to need to figure out whether they want to trade him this year or let him go next year, because it may need to happen rather soon.

Coming Tonight: After years of injuries, the Doctor is back in, in Washington.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Draining Arizona

Well, what a torrid two weeks the Diamondbacks have had.

They lose their surging outfielder AJ Pollock to injuries, their star first baseman, Paul Goldschmidt, is having his worst season to date, their 2nd starter, Robbie Ray, is injured, and the momentum the team had for most of April has been completely wasted. The Rockies are now in first, and the Diamondbacks, while close enough behind, might need to do a ton more work in order to stay afloat.

Perhaps the biggest problem was the fact that the lineup wasn't exactly pristine to begin with. Yes, David Peralta and Jake Lamb are giving some fine stuff, but the rest of the lineup consists of a bunch of people batting below .200, and this includes veterans like Chris Owings, Jarrod Dyson, and Alex Avila. And...sadly, Paul Goldschmidt, who is not hitting for average, and who might not have recovered from a late 2017 injury. Even bench players like Daniel Descalso aren't helping.

Thankfully, the pitching staff is still in nice enough shape. Zack Greinke is still the ace, and he's still giving Grade A material, along with a still-sturdy Patrick Corbin and consistent Zack Godley. Some experiments have been working, though, as Matt Koch has worked well as a late-rotation replacement, and somehow Clay Buchholz is back from the dead as a fifth starter. Heck, even the bullpen is in pretty great shape. So, the main problem is the general inconsistency of the lineup, and it's been costing them lately. A ton of these losses haven't been blowouts- they've just been games where the pitching gave up some runs and the hitters couldn't exactly catch up. It's not a HORRIBLE conundrum to be in, but it's not pristine either.

The Diamondbacks may need to figure out a solution that doesn't involve waiting for 2 people to get off the DL. Perhaps there's someone waiting in the minors who can save this team? Or perhaps it's not worth saving.

Coming Tomorrow- Another fairly-put-together pitcher, only this one's pitching for one of the worst teams in the AL.

The New Nomar

I did not miss somebody named Nomar beating down on the Yankees. So last night, needless to say, was not fun.

Look, it was nice that we got to beat up Bartolo Colon for a bit, but Cole Hamels is pretty unbeatable. I don't care who are you. It's hard to do. Even worse, the offense that only occasionally comes on was on last night, featuring newbies like Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Ronald Guzman, and....Jurickson Profar for some reason. People who I'd never really heard of were attacking the Yankees' offense, and battering down Domingo German. And Nomar Mazara was the ringleader.

To be fair, it's very easy to hit a ton of home runs on this team without being seen as a good player. Guzman, Rougned Odor, and ESPECIALLY Joey Gallo are guilty of this. None of them can hit for average, and none of them are particularly good position players (Odor notwithstanding), but they sure can go for long balls. Mazara has the range, though, and can get by on hits and RBI as well as hitting 10 home runs. He's got the range that nobody that's healthy on this team wants to have. And yes, there's promise in this roster, but Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus are both injured, so only Mazara seems to have the right idea.

The pitching's fine, though. Colon, Hamels, Fister and occasionally Mike Minor seem to be working pretty well. Keone Kela's a good enough closer, but he's not used a ton because they're the Rangers and they don't win games unless they're against Domingo German apparently (OKAY, FINE, I'M STILL A LITTLE BITTER).

With Mazara, the Rangers will at least avoid being a completely lifeless last-place team, though if he gets traded anytime soon, I at least hope Andrus and Beltre will still be around to carry the team.

Coming Tonight: The ace for an NL West squad that's quickly losing momentum.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Rolling Brewers

They're in first place, the lineup's in pristine condition, the pitching's not bad, and the bullpen is one of the most ferocious in baseball. And all the guys in the division that mean business are enough games behind that they can't do anything right now. It's gotta be good to be the Brewers right now.

The outfield of this team might be the biggest indicator, as it's been able to adapt to changing times and customs. Last year we were looking at an outfield of Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana and Keon Broxton, with occasional sub-ins from Hernan Perez. Now Broxton's been released, Braun's a first baseman (on the DL), and Santana is holding court along with two new, fiery additions, Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. The two of them, along with Travis Shaw, are helping carry the team offensively, and they're bringing a spark to the team that wasn't there for the 2017 playoff run.

Yelich's best skill is his versatility. He can hit a bunch of home runs, or be on hits duty, or just play the outfield pretty well. Whatever they need him to do, and he's doing it all right now. He's definitely come a long way since his opening numbers, but he's evolved into the player he was when he was in Miami, and he's a great tool for the Brewers to use in the coming months, along with Lorenzo Cain and Travis Shaw.

The Brewers are ahead right now, but the Cubs, Pirates and Cardinals are within 2 games, which is a start but not preferential. The force that the Brewers are riding right now might last them another few weeks, but they're going to need to be careful on division matchups, because any one of those four could be a first place team at this point.

Coming Tomorrow- His team's currently beating the shit out of my Yankees, so I'll try not to be too petty.

Tigers Without Identities

Miguel Cabrera. Justin Verlander. Victor Martinez. Three guys that helped the Detroit Tigers make a World Series in 2012, and helped cement a near-dynasty over a five-year period in Detroit.

One's injured. One's in Houston. And one hasn't been playing especially well since 2014. What's more, the people they thought that the new era of Detroit baseball would be resting on, like Jose Iglesias, Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann and James McCann, haven't even come close to delivering, especially this season. Even if the team's in third, they're still ineffective, and trying to figure out what works and what doesn't.

There have been some minor breakthroughs- Jeimer Candelario has been a fixture at third, while journeyman utility player John Hicks is covering mighty well for Cabrera. Meanwhile, Matt Boyd is beginning to ascend to ace status in Michael Fulmer's place, while Niko Goodrum and JaCoby Jones are finally beginning to hit in the majors. Things are far from perfect, but the mid-2010s team is beginning to make way to the team that will make up the better part of the next decade. And this, of course, means learning to live without Miguel Cabrera, which will unfortunately have to happen soon.

Fortunately, the bridge between both of these teams is Nicholas Castellanos, who came up as a strong third baseman in the playoff teams, then got switched to the outfield, watched his bat finally come alive, and became one of the few highlights of the lineup. He's doing pretty well so far, and may be relied upon to carry the team in the absence of Candelario and Cabrera, which he can certainly do.

It's not looking great in Detroit, but it's not horrible either.

Coming Tonight: One of the new outfielders in Milwaukee who've been doing pretty well so far this year.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Making the Mark in Atlanta

The Braves are one of the most powerful teams in the AL. And I'm saying that in 2018. Wow.

The odd part is that not a lot has changed since the last team, the one that made 3rd/4th last year. The only thing that's changed is that all the elements that were sort of working over the last few years are REALLY working right now. For instance- have you seen Nick Markakis in an Atlanta Braves uniform looking THIS POWERFUL before this year? He's evoking serious memories of his Orioles self, not just in his incredible numbers in the hits and average categories, but in how consistent and durable he's seeming, after showing only one dimension the last few years. The guy's finally on, and perhaps he deserves his first-ever All Star Game nomination.

That's not all, though. Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, Sean Newcomb and a newly-revitalized Dansby Swanson are all playing beautifully, and are lifting the team above the Phillies for the 1st place standing at the moment. This is a team that is withstanding competition from Philly, as well as from the down-but-not-out Washington Nationals. It's a crazy year to be in the NL East, because even the unlikely heroes, like the Braves and Phillies, can do well, and they certainly are.

The series is Braves-Phillies right now, and it could decide either the way of the rest of the season, or the way of, like, a week or so. I'm not sure how long the Braves will hold onto the lead, but I have a feeling they'll definitely be in the race for a while.

Coming Tomorrow- An infielder for a wild but ineffective AL Central team.

The Gleyber Torres Era Begins

Well, Yankee fans. We've been waiting for this for a year or so, but it's finally happened. Gleyber Torres is starting games in New York, at second base. And he's doing a fantastic job so far.

Of course, then again, so is the rest of this landmark Yankees team. I know it's tough to separate the Yanks from the Red Sox at the top of the division, but the Yankees are doing some incredible stuff in ways we may not have completely predicted. We all thought the infield situation would be messy, but Torres and Miguel Andujar have become fixtures, and Tyler Austin had a 2-homer day while playing first. We were worried about Giancarlo Stanton's early strikeouts, but he's been doing a ton better, and his home run totals are helping his average a ton.

This is the kind of team that might be better than the one that took down the Indians last year. There's more spontaneity. When you think Sonny Gray will disappoint you, he pitches a gem. When you think you'll ease into extras, Neil Walker will hit an RBI single to win. And when it feels like Greg Bird's injury will doom the team, the flexibility of Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar will make the infield feel fresh again.

Right now the Yanks and Sox are technically tied for first, despite the fact that the Sox have played more games, and I imagine it'll stay this close for the entire season. They're both THAT GOOD. They're both October ready, like now. And it's only gonna get more heated as they go along.'s nice that Gleyber Torres is succeeding in the majors. It was something the Yankee fans only dreamed of happening.

UPDATE: He's hit 2 home runs against Bartolo Colon tonight. So I guess this was kinda timely.

Coming Tonight: The talk in his town is of some rookies who are playing like champs, but he's in his mid 30s and having his best season in years.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Tyson Ross Deserves Better

Tyson Ross is having his first positive season since 2015, with a decent record, a nice amount of strikeouts, and ungodly work compared to anyone else currently employed as a starter in San Diego. He's not showy or completely unstoppable, but he's a nice pitcher that gets the job done for you, and the Padres need one of those, especially considering Clayton Richard's current failings.

It would, however, be nice if Tyson Ross could get some run support. Or a team that's trying as hard as he is.

Look, you can tell that this team would have been something if everyone had stayed healthy and consistent. But Manny Margot and Carlos Asuaje aren't hitting, Wil Myers and Joey Lucchesi are injured, and Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe weren't hitting...and then got injured. So the team's a mixed bag of disappointment.

And aside from Tyson Ross, there are people like Eric Hosmer, Christian Villanueva, Brad Hand and Travis Jankowski, who are doing well and trying their best to keep the team afloat, but when the base of the lineup is kind of disappointing, and if only one starter is actually keeping runs from scoring, then it's a futile effort. And this is the umpteenth year where the Padres, regardless of effort, have wound up on the wrong side of things. They've had horrible luck, and they've rested their laurels on unreliable people.

I don't know how much better this is going to get. They're close in proximity to the Dodgers, but I don't know how long that will last. They're not as dire as usual, but the Padres aren't looking great, even with Eric Hosmer and Tyson Ross.

Coming Tomorrow- The infielder of the future...and the Yankees' current option at 2nd base.

The New Mega-Rotation for 2018

...but first, a moment with Dallas Keuchel.

Dallas Keuchel, copious strikeouts aside, has been fairly human this year. Today he delivered a loss against the Indians, and he has a 3-5 record. He still has a low ERA, and he's still very much able to strike people out, but he's bringing up the rear in the Astros' rotation this year.

...Although, it's safe to say that Dallas Keuchel would probably be bringing up the rear of the rotation even if he was pitching as well as he did in 2015.

This is a year where Lance McCullers, with a 5-2 record and a 3.68 ERA, is the FOURTH-BEST pitcher on the team. Where Collin McHugh's success as a reliever isn't being drawn into question. Where not even Brad Peacock's absence is being felt.

The Astros have a 3-man team that's scarier than arguably any other in the AL. Justin Verlander is having his best season in years, with a 1.05 ERA, 84 strikeouts, and a great record. He's the ace that Dallas Keuchel should have been, and the Astros are fortunate to have him. GERRIT COLE, meanwhile, has 94 strikeouts, which is the MOST IN THE MAJOR LEAGUES RIGHT NOW, and has a 1.75 ERA with a 4-1 record. Cole is having his best season yet, and all of the control woes he had in Pittsburgh haven't showed up yet. And then there's Charlie Morton, an unlikely fireballer who's won 6 games and hasn't lost one yet, with a 1.94 ERA and 70 strikeouts. This guy's career essentially started the second he picked up an Astros uniform, and he's been just as awesome as he was last year.

Even better, the lineup's not doing too bad either; Altuve, Correa and Springer are back to their old tricks, Brian McCann's hitting, and Alex Bregman's continuing his 2017 work. This is a tighter, more fearsome roster, arguably, than the one that won the World Series. And even if the Angels keep bobbing back and forth with them at the top of the AL West, they have a serious leg up in this rotation, which is the best in the MLB, outside of maybe Washington.

This is the kind of rotation where, if they keep it up, some huge things could happen around October.

Coming Tonight: A veteran pitcher that's probably the only arm on his western team that seems to know what he's doing.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Jordan Hicks and the Rise of the 8th Inning

This is one of my favorite trends of this year, and it's one that's been building up for a while. This season, Jordan Hicks and Josh Hader, two tough-as-nails setup men, have become among the highest commodity in the league- the necessity of an eighth-inning fireballer.

This isn't exactly a new development, as people like Andrew Miller, Chad Green and Archie Bradley have been proving their worth for the last few years. But since the devaluation of the save, and the conversion to the 'hold' as a more prevalent statistic, the closer has become less important, and the eighth-inning reliever's price is growing.

When you look at Jordan Hicks, you immediately see promise. He's 21 years old, he's playing for one of the most promising rosters in the bigs, and he throws absolute smoke, bringing back memories of 2011-era Aroldis Chapman. But the Cardinals are doing something wise in keeping Hicks as a late-innings reliever, because it gives less work to the closer, a role that has become more fickle in nearly every major league team. Instead of putting everything on the ninth inning man, Hicks stymies an offense first, strips them of hope with some strikes, and finishes the offensive before someone else can finish them off. Or, in a losing game, Hicks can strike out 3 guys and stop the blood flow. He's crafty, and useful, solely because of how good he is.

The Cardinals, as good as they are, will need bit players like Hicks if they want to establish dominance in this division. The Brewers, Pirates and Cubs want it just as bad as they do, and Jordan Hicks may be the secret weapon that pushes them over the edge.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the numerous INSANELY AWESOME PITCHERS in Houston right now.

Graduation and the White Sox

I'm gonna talk about the 2018 Chicago White Sox in just a second, but perhaps you can forgive me for holding off just for a moment to focus on something slightly more important.

Yesterday, I graduated from college.


It was a four-year excursion at a nice little arts school in Westchester County, New York. I did some nice work, made some friends, hit a few White Plains shows, and I was done. I just made it official yesterday. It was surreal, insane, and totally worthwhile.

So, now that I'm technically classified as a responsible adult (HA!), you're probably wondering if this blog is going to change at all, or if I'm going to post less or not at all. And the answer to that...has to do with the White Sox, actually.

The White Sox are a team that has been coasting for the past decade or so, and it's because they haven't especially been trying to do something new. They haven't made a conscious effort to compete, and when they do, it's squashed in a month's time by their own endeavors. They're already in last, and it's looking pretty embarrassing for them, outside from Yoan Moncada and Reynaldo Lopez.

I don't want the blog to end up like the White Sox. The last few years, I feel like I've been putting less and less effort into posts, been doing less and less archived box breaks, and mailing it in a lot, which one does when they're going to college during the day. So, while I am going to work full-time this year, I am still going to try to make more thought-out posts, better content, more non-custom-of-the-day stories/columns, and make this a sharper blog...nearly 10 years in.

So yes, I'm sticking around for the foreseeable future, and the content's only gonna get better...unlike the White Sox.

Coming Tonight: Another in a long line of insanely fast-throwing relievers.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Marlin's Beard!

If you can believe it, the Marlins might be worse than that pun.

Thanks to some pre-season trades, and...drunk boating, sad to say, this is a Marlins team without an identity, and without a sole reason to succeed. The only player making any positive process is J.T. Realmuto, and it's become clear that he won't be staying on the team for much longer. The entire team is just full of rookie trials, aging veterans that can't function anymore, players that were fine last year that are tanking now, and just a large cloud of pessimism. And of course there is- with Derek Jeter now running the team, it's become clear that he's not putting his best ideas forward, and the team is suffering because of it.

Caleb Smith was called up this year, and has become a major part of the rotation, solely because the majority of the rotation, including Trevor Richards, Dan Straily and Wei-Yin Chen, have been slumping. With only Jose Urena doing marginally alright, the Marlins are calling up people like Caleb Smith, Jarlin Garcia and Elieser Hernandez in order to strengthen the rotation, and it's working with all three, even if they are sort of inexperienced. Garcia is heading up the rotation, solely because Jose Urena's pitching poorly this year.

I'm not sure what can become of this Marlins team, or if this new breed of rookie pitchers will give way to another breed of rookie pitchers, and if the cycle continues until Jeter sells the team to some Montreal businessman who moves the team there and ends this colossal strife, but...I'll try to keep optimistic.

Coming Tonight: Speaking of inexperienced pitching staffs, the sole promising arm from a trashfire of a team.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Inexplicably Odd Tampa Bay Rays

So, let's run this down:

  • The top pitcher and hitter from 2017 are both either injured or slumping
  • The team is being led by a strong, power hitting infielder, but it's a rookie that's not Evan Longoria
  • Absolutely no one in the team's starting lineup came up through the farm system. And none of them were on the team in 2015.
  • The team's oldest starter is Chris Archer, who was once considered the face of youth on the aging roster
  • The team's closer, once-reliable, is now slumping for the first time in his career.
  • The only person on the team with more than 5 home runs is C.J. Cron, with 9.
  • The team features 2 members of the 2010s Nationals squads, and 2 members of the 2010s Giants squads. 
  • Jonny Venters
  • The player with the highest WAR is a skinny little pitcher that no one has heard of.
So...this team is friggin weird. People like Denard Span and Blake Snell are doing great, in lieu of actual team leaders like Kevin Kiermaier and Chris Archer. And while it's not COMPLETELY working, and while they're still in 4th place, the team isn't doing especially badly, and is doing their best to stay afloat within the odd circumstances. 

I sincerely hope the team stays this weird, because it's all I've got to write about.

Coming Tomorrow- A rookie pitcher for the Marlins. No...not the one that stymied the Dodgers tonight. A different one. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The NL West Moves Pretty Fast

(Had to. HAD to.)

So, take. The Dodgers aren't doing too well this year.

I don't know how it happened. They didn't make a great deal of changes from the WS-contending 2017 squad. They added a still-hot Matt Kemp, they called up a strong Walker Buehler, and they put less of an emphasis on Pederson.

And yet...Kershaw, Ryu, Turner and Seager got injured, Bellinger slumped, the pitching staff inflated, and the rest of the NL West rose above them. The Dodgers, who have been consistently good for the past decade, need to cope with impending inadequacy.

The core of the team has descended into an okay bunch of players who've done better elsewhere, and they're resting on the laurels of people like Yasmani Grandal and Alex Wood, who can only do so much. This honestly proves how ineffective the Dodgers can be if the star players are removed...and if Kenley Jansen is off to a bad start. And it's sad, because there's a lot of passion on this team, and this is a team that, if everyone was healthy and playing well, could be right there with them. But the D-Backs, Rockies, and even the Giants, have a leg up on the Dodgers, and unless there's a sharp change, this is how it's going to be.

It's sad, because Walker Buehler just pitched a combined no-hitter, and he's got some legitimate promise as a pitcher. I sincerely hope he can help the team pick it up.

Coming Tomorrow- Catcher for...well, there's no other way to put it- the weirdest team in baseball this year.

In Between A's

Having seen this A's team, and having gone in thinking that they were a little better than their 4th-place in the AL West marking...nah, they earn it. As many good things there are on this team, there's always like 4 or 5 crappy ones to balance it out.

For instance, Sean Manaea is having a great season, after already pitching a no-hitter (against BOSTON!) and having a fantastic month of April. Yes, he's had some losses recently, but it's mostly been thanks to poor run support or better teams. The rest of the pitching staff hasn't been so lucky, with people like Andrew Triggs, Daniel Mengden, Kendall Graveman and Brett Anderson falling victim to the other team's offense more times than not. And these guys aren't bad, either...they just can't seem to stop some of the major offenses out there, which is...kinda their job.

The lineup is also mostly 'alright', with a lot of middle of the road performances from people like Khris Davis, Matt Chapman and Matt Olsen, all three of which were holding up the team. Yes, Jed Lowrie and Jonathan Lucroy are playing really well, but there's not a ton of roster depth, and there's not a unified offensive force. So they're really only playing with individual performances, like the last few years.

I'm not sure when we'll get an A's team that's ready to compete again, and how many more youth movements will have to be squandered in order to get there. Which is sad.

Coming Tonight: Speaking of no-hitters, this guy's no-no has been one of the few highlights of his team's poor, sad season.

Monday, May 14, 2018

No Cutch? No Problem!

The Pittsburgh Pirates spent the weekend playing against the San Francisco Giants, and any other year that fact might be random. But, the year after trading Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco for some prospects while doing some major roster-dumping, it's a big deal. Especially considering that said roster-dumping that was supposed to prepare for a losing season has culminated in the Pirates currently holding a winning record and chasing the Cardinals and Brewers for 1st.

So...needless to say, it went well for Pittsburgh, who won 2 games out of 3. They're tied with the Cardinals for 2nd, and the Giants are heading back to the West with their heads hanging low.

The Pirates, so far, have managed to make a lot out of nothing. Instead of McCutchen, the Bucs signed Corey Dickerson and he's been hitting beautifully. Instead of Gerrit Cole, the Bucs called up Trevor Williams and he's been doing beautifully in the rotation. Francisco Cervelli is having his best season since he joined the team, Colin Moran's having a solid rookie year, and Felipe Vazquez is doing fine in the ninth. This isn't an especially showy team, but they're all doing a solid job, and they're bringing some inoffensive charm to a division where the Cubs have gone over the top the last 3 years.

Again, with the Brewers and Cardinals in front of them, and the Cubs slowly catching up, an inoffensive, tight team like the Pirates might get lost in the shuffle, but I'm confident they can hold onto the momentum for a bit longer.

Coming Tomorrow- His team's doing slightly better than expected, and he's throwing absolute fire in one of the best divisions for pitchers in baseball right now.

What the Hell is Going on in the AL Central?

...Nobody is doing well.


I don't know what it is about this division. Maybe it's the fact that most of the teams were slightly drained of their talent. Maybe it's the fact that a lot of the Twins' signings haven't amounted to anything. Maybe it's the aging core of the Indians' team. But...something's affecting all five teams in the AL Central, to the point where the first place Indians have a .500 record. The first place team is literally even. So yeah. That's what we're up to.

And it's kind of sad, because in spite of all of these losses the Indians have racked up, they're still a pretty good team. The Lindor-Ramirez combo is still one of the most impressive ones in the league. The rotation (AGAIN, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF JOSH (*^(&^(& TOMLIN) is stellar, with some awesome strikeout work coming from those four guys. Andrew Miller's back, and he's right back to where he left off. Heck, Yan Gomes AND Michael Brantley are both healthy AND playing well. That almost never happens.

It's just...a good portion of the lineup isn't playing well, and a lot of games have been blown by a surprisingly limp bullpen. The surefire success that this team has dealt with for two seasons is a bit harder to come by....however, it's not like anyone in this division is stopping them from staying in first. And that's honestly where I think we're gonna stay for a while.

Coming Tonight: This team had a fantastic week, and they've been cruising back into the top of the standings with the help of their new outfielder, who's been hitting for average better than he ever has.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

El Torito Stikes Again

(Yeah, this one's going on my wall.)

How weird is it that in 2018, a Philadelphia Phillie is currently leading the NL in Batting Average with a .360 at the moment?

Odubel Herrera, after becoming one of the faces of the team after only a few seasons on the club, has reached peak numbers, hitting really well through the first 1 and 1/2 months of the year, and lifting his team up through the standings. Right now the Phillies are tied with the Nationals for 2nd essentially, which is definitely a start, as I don't think anybody thought the Phillies would tie the Nationals for anything this decade.

The entire team isn't perfect, and some guys, like Carlos Santana and Jorge Alfaro are JUST NOW getting to the offensive abilities we thought they'd be hitting from the start. But still, the core of Herrera, Hoskins, Hernandez and Franco has been pretty productive, there's a minimal bench, and Pedro Florimon and Scott Kingery have filled in admirably for J.P. Crawford. Meanwhile, Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta are both pitching like pros, Nick Pivetta isn't far behind, and Zach Elfin has been fantastic in two starts. Brilliant developments are happening in Philadelphia, and it's about time.

The trick here, as the Mets are no longer an obstacle, is fighting the sudden incline of the Washington Nationals, who thankfully have to play the best team in the NL this week in Arizona, as well as the impenetrable lead of the Atlanta Braves and their rookies. They're in the middle of a three-team blockade, and I sincerely hope they have enough momentum to stay with it. Especially for Herrera's sake. He deserves a break.

Coming Tomorrow: Talk about an April-to-May glowup. We were all worried this guy was going to have a down season, but, as his first-place team hangs around .500, he's just getting started.

Yankee Game 5/12/18: Triumph of the Clanking

Ten dollars.

My college was giving out 25 tickets to whichever seniors wanted to go to a Yankee game...for TEN DOLLARS.

This was something that I never thought would happen with Yankee Stadium. If I'd have gone to school near Philly, I imagine there'd be like 70 trips to Citizens Bank Park, but I've already been there a ton. So going to the most renowned baseball stadium in the country, even if the seats are up a bit, for a manageable fee? That was worth it.

The seats, while 400 level, were not bad, and we could still see the action pretty well, while not getting headaches. I attended with my beautiful, Yankee-loving girlfriend, who, while not 100% adept in baseball knowledge, loves the team, and obviously loves the experience of being at the Stadium.

The big giveaway today was a miniature Didi Gregorius replica bat to all attendees under 12, which already was an inspired idea, arming little kids with bats. Brings a whole new meaning to the term 'Baby Bombers'.

The lineup, vs. the surprisingly potent Athletics, was the standard band of Yankees: Judge, Didi, Stanton, Sanchez and Hicks, plus Andujar and Torres late in the lineup, and Neil Walker low. I was initially fearing Walker's lineup presence, but I'd heard he was doing well lately, so I went with it.

The pitching matchup was Domingo German vs. Andrew Triggs, and it was...alright for a bit. German had a nice start, with a few strikeouts and some nice moments. Triggs also had a nice amount of strikeouts throughout the day. But...this was hardly a pitching duel.

Halfway through the second inning, Gary Sanchez cracked a Triggs pitch HARD into the outfield. If that wasn't enough, Aaron Hicks followed up with a blast of his own, putting the Yankees up 2-0, which was a pretty nice start.

Yes, eventually Khris Davis had to follow up with a 3-run home run, once German had cooled off exponentially. And some more renegade A's followed up to eventually lead the A's to a 6-2 lead. Which the crowd of mostly Yankee fans, needless to say, did not enjoy. We booed German after a while, because we're also impatient.

Fortunately, our impatience worked to our advantage, because not too soon after the 6th A's run, the Yankees got back on the board. First Aaron Judge rocked a 2-run home run off a tired Triggs, followed by some relievers mucking up the hold and letting Neil Walker get some RBI numbers and Miguel Andujar continue his reign.

However, for a few innings, it was still. The bullpen went to work. Both bullpens, that is. I went to get food and didn't miss anything substantial. However, by the time I got back, there was a starling development...there was a perennial clanking from a few sections over. It was the sound off...some passionate fans using the souvenir bats to clank on the plastic seats, in a 'let's go' chant sort of way. It was like a Tomahawk Chop, but from a Mad Max movie. Every time, there'd be loud, excited, rhythmic clattering, and I wasn't sure to be amused or horrified. Yes, eventually some site personnel came over to talk, but...surprisingly, that did not stop them.

The ninth came quickly, and Aroldis Chapman did his best despite the lack of a lead, but...the yips got to him, and runners ended up on third and second. The A's sent in Jonathan Lucroy, eerily absent from the game thus far, and he had a fielder's choice that sent the runner on third galloping towards home. The throw game in, Sanchez braised a tag...and it was safe. The crowd was in anguish, and it was safe.

...that is, until Aaron Boone called for a review. And after a few tense minutes...the runner was out. And soon, the extras began, and the clanking continued.

Extras were, as the rest of the last half of the game, uneventful, but well-matched. The A's were giving some strong competition, and they're a pretty well-formed team for a .500-level one. However, as the extras went on, the bullpen work of Chris Hatcher of the A's began to wane, as A.J. Cole's Yankees stuff was really strong.

And then...with two men on...Neil Walker got up, with two outs. And did all he needed to do...bop a single into the outfield, which gave Sanchez the go-ahead to cross home and FINALLY end the game, as the crowd went wild. Walker got his gatorade both, Sinatra played, and all was finally right in the kinda-cold Yankee Stadium.

It wasn't an easy win, but it was a rewarding one, with great stuff from all around. I'm glad I went, especially considering the price of the ticket.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Yanks-Sox: Dawn of Justice

Yeah, this is where we all kind of figured the Yankees and Red Sox would be after a month and a half. Tied with each other atop the AL East.

It doesn't help that both teams have easy squads to square off against this weekend, but...tonight, both teams lost to them. The Sox lost to Toronto, which is understandable, as they're a borderline good team. The Yankees lost to Oakland, though...which is slightly more maddening, as it illuminates that Sonny Gray just can't seem to get it together in the Bronx for some reason.

However, we may be figuring out that this...might be where the stands are gonna go this season. Maybe the Sox AND Yankees are both really good this year. It might not even be like last year, where one takes the division while the other loses a bunch of games...and then lather, rinse and repeat. It might not be that simple. Maybe both teams are gonna want it as badly as each other, and show equal signs of humanity and dominance.

It's tougher for the Red Sox, who are dealing with more internal injuries, especially to their unofficial captain Dustin Pedroia...and yet their core, of Betts, Bogaerts, Moreland, Ramirez and Martinez, is powerful as all hell this year, and their pitching staff, of Sale, Porcello, Rodriguez, and Price when he's not playing Fortnite, has been equally stellar. The Sox have more of a collaborative sort of thing go on, where packs of people will all be doing well, whereas the Yankees will have a 'who's going to have the best game today?' quality to them, where it could be anyone.

Either way, it's looking like both teams are gonna take this as far as they can. The Sox are versatile, intimidating, and ready to go. As for the Yankees? I'm heading to the game right now. I'll tell you guys if they're any good later tonight.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Revenge of the Cutch

Okay, so the Giants are .500, and they're not doing great, be honest, they're still doing better than we all thought.

To be honest, the main kryptonite for this team has been injuries to the few younger players that have been doing well, like Johnny Cueto, Evan Longoria and Joe Panik, leaving the older understudies to be thrown into the mix. And yes, while this team is still very much the Buster Posey and Brandon Belt show, the lack of experienced call-ups is debilitating for this team, as a lot of the people being brought up to replace these guys aren't great. There's nobody on this roster younger than 25, so this is a ton of people in their late 20s and early 30s writhing around, which isn't a great combination.

At least Andrew McCutchen's not doing too badly in his first year in San Francisco, bringing some much needed life to the lineup, and continuing his decent run of seasons. There is a noticeable amount of 'okay' on this team, and Cutch, at times, succumbs to this distinction, but for the most part he's playing like himself, giving some great outfield work and hitting pretty well.

There's not a lot else to talk about with the Giants, but to be honest they're the single most middle-of-the-road team out there this year. At least the Dodgers are noticeably bad in comparison, but the Giants haven't really decided if they want to be good or bad, and that may cost them in the long run.

Coming Tomorrow- Shortstop for one of the dueling titans in the AL East.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

More Power Out of Anaheim

The Angels couldn't be more stacked. They already have Mike Trout, the best player in baseball. They already have Albert Pujols, who just hit his 3000th hit. They already have Shohei Ohtani, one of the most impressive rookies in the game. They already have Justin Upton, who's back to his old self at the plate. And in addition to all of that, they have some insanely good stuff from Tyler Skaggs, who's been waiting for an opportunity for a few years.

Even if the rotation is supposed to rest on Ohtani and Garrett Richards, it's Skaggs who's been striking out people and racking up wins like it's his business. This is his first exemplary season like this since arguably 2014, his first season with the Angels. And the fact that his games can catch eyes even when Mike Trout has 12 home runs proves how for-real this team is.

Now, I understand the Astros are still pretty strong, and are reigning on top of the division, but the Angels are right there with them, to the point where they've traded positions once or twice out of necessity. I imagine this is going to keep happening throughout the year, as both teams are equally powerful, and either one could take the division in the end.

It'll be interesting to see how all of this shakes out. I'm hoping Skaggs can stay this hot, though

Coming Tomorrow- One of my favorites, now playing for a slightly-less-cool team.

Underdog Cubs Yet Again

We've lapped ourselves. We've gotten to the point where the Cubs are no longer the overpowered NL Central favorites, but instead the still-good-but-under-the-radar team that could take it at any second. Which...isn't the worst thing.

The NL Central is crazy right now, because the Cardinals, Brewers, Pirates and Cubs are all playing to win, and switching off division spots. They're all pretty good, but only the Cardinals and Brewers are making a big deal about it.

The Cubs, despite sweeping the Marlins, still aren't a perfect team. There are areas of this team, like Anthony Rizzo and Yu Darvish, that could be a ton better than they are, but...on the whole, everybody's doing pretty well. Kyle Schwarber's been consistently good, which is rare for him. Bryant, Baez, Zobrist and Almora are all playing like their peak selves, the pitching staff is definitely coming around thanks to some much-needed material from Jon Lester, and they're just playing solid baseball.

This is a different approach for the Cubs, especially after the superior, best-team-in-baseball 2016 season. They're not used to keeping a low profile this decade, but they're doing a nice enough job of it, and they're still winning games. The only problem is that it's looking like the Cardinals and Brewers are gonna be ruling the division, and I'm not sure how far the Cubs can push those two.

Coming Tonight: Ohtani may be the newsmaker and Richards may be the ace, but this guy is playing like a pro this season in a dominant AL West squad.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Royal Flush

(And once again the streak ends at 10)

We bring you back to where we were...nobody in the AL Central is doing especially great...including the Royals, who are in fourth, and who are still in disarray even after Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon came back. And yes, to be fair, both Perez, Gordon and Mike Moustakas are all playing well. The fault of this team should not be on the members of the 2015 WS squad that stuck around. They're all doing pretty well.

It's the attempts to lengthen and buttress the reign of this squad that are failing, like Lucas Duda, Abraham Almonte and Cheslor Cuthbert. Heck, the rotation, while not terrible, still has people like Eric Skoglund and Danny Duffy who could be playing better?

So who does that leave? A few stragglers who aren't playing too badly, like Jakob Junis, who has somehow ascended to ace status, throwing some great game and being one of the more reliable arms on the team (along with Ian Kennedy). There's also a surprising comeback performance from Jorge Soler, an outfielder we thought was washed up post-Cubs-trade, and some generally alright stuff from Jon Jay.

So while the team is far from perfect, there are still some sprouts of promise that are essentially keeping them out of last. And I'll expect them to throughout the season.

Coming Tomorrow- Speaking of the Cubs, their perennial ace.

Familia Affair

(Music Pun #10- This could be Sly and the Family Stone or Mary J. Blige.)

Okay. So the Mets aren't in first anymore. We kind of knew that was coming. But...they're in fourth, behind the Nationals, who have snuck up and reclaimed power like we knew they would, while the Braves and Phillies tussle for first.

To be honest, the Mets' fourth-place slide makes sense, because while a lot of people are playing well, the main core of the team is striking out too much. Their two best players, Jacob deGrom and Todd Frazier, are currently on the DL. They have no catcher, because their usual option, Travis d'Arnaud, is literally made of glass, and their newest option, Devin Mesoraco, is JUST AS INJURY-PRONE! You couldn't have written that if you tried. I'm gonna time this. I'm gonna time how long it takes for Devin Mesoraco to land on the DL again. I give it ten days. It might be less.

The rotation, even without deGrom, is still alright, with Syndergaard and Matz doing well enough, and Wheeler slowly improving. Jason Vargas, meanwhile, despite still holding up Seth Lugo for a rotation spot, is pitching...quite poorly, completely erasing his 2017-era credibility, and essentially just existing to piss off Lugo and Rafael Montero who should be starting. Hell, at least Jeurys Familia is back to his 2015 self servicing the ninth, throwing smoke and nabbing 10 saves already. I don't know if his personal woes are completely behind him, but the Mets fans have seemed to forgive him.

Look, it's tough to call, because so many teams in this division are legitimately good, and even if the Mets seem to be sliding back to normal, it's tough to count them out because they still have people like Cespedes and Jay Bruce who can push them back to where they were. So I'll at least say that I'm expecting something to happen.

Coming Tonight: He's giving off some serious ace vibes in a city that seriously needs some good baseball mojo right now.