Sunday, July 29, 2018

These Guys Just Won a Series Against the Phillies

The Cincinnati Reds are the best bad team in baseball. No matter what, even if they're in last and being decimated, they won't...stop...taking wins away from people.

I saw this team up close back in June, and their under-the-radar prowess can't be underestimated. They still have a killer core of Eugenio Suarez, Joey Votto, Scooter Gennett and Scott Schebler, the best defensive catcher in the NL in Tucker Barnhart, one of the best base-stealers in baseball in Billy Hamilton, an up-and-comer like Phil Ervin, and Jose Peraza playing some decent defense as well. The lineup is strong, and it doesn't look like it's going to be split up a great deal.

The pitching is still a weak point, but at least Tyler Mahle has emerged as someone who can go 6 innings without getting completely clobbered. I feel like Mahle would be a decent third-or-fourth starter on a better team, but here, where he's one of the sole good starters, he's been comparatively great. So has Matt Harvey, but a lot of people reportedly want to trade for him, so it may just be Mahle and the mess of undercooked youngsters from here on in.

The Reds have a possibility of chasing the rest of the division next year...but the problem is, I feel like all 4 want to compete, and the Reds would be infringing on that. It could be very complicated, but if something in that rotation FINALLY clicks, we could be onto something for 2019.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the Rangers' last few lines of defense as the deadline approaches.

The Stars are Out: Hall of Fame Induction Edition

It's becoming pretty weird to me that a lot of the guys I saw play baseball when I was a kid get inducted into the Hall of Fame. I've made customs of a lot of these guys, and now here they are, in Cooperstown, getting inducted. Crazy stuff.

So, here are some more additions to the Stars are Out series I've been doing, showcasing all three of these guys throwing out the first pitch at games. I couldn't get photos of Vladimir Guerrero, Jack Morris or Alan Trammell, so we'll just feature the other three.

Trevor Hoffman goes first, because it took him the longest of the core four to get here. Hoffman is a San Diego legend, one of the greatest closers of all time, and deserves to be here.

And here's Larry Jones. Looking laid back, yet still owning his achievements in Atlanta as a landmark third baseman and legendary hitter. He also deserves this induction.

And this of my childhood heroes, and a guy who got me into the Phillies as a one of the strongest hitters I ever got to see live, and was a Hall of Famer even before he wore a Phillies uniform. I'm glad he finally got there. Jim Thome is a legend, and deserves to be enshrined, even if he's not a Phillie on the plaque.

So, congrats to all Hall of Famers. They all deserve it.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Brian Dozier Should Have Left While He Could

A couple years ago, all the steps were in place for the Dodgers to trade for Brian Dozier. The steps were being taken, the paperwork was being signed...and then, it didn't happen. Either Dozier refused, or the Dodgers regrouped and figured that Logan Forsythe was the better option (Ron Howard voice: he wasn't).

Right about now, Brian Dozier must wish he got out back then. Because Eduardo Escobar is getting his ticket out, Ervin Santana's first start was a disappointment, and even if the Twins are five games under .500, they're still 7 games behind the Indians, who essentially have the AL Central locked up. Brian Dozier and the Twins are probably the closest they're gonna be to a shot at anything more than 'second place in the division'. Even the Angels have a better record, though. Baseball doesn't even list the Twins in the 'Wild Card race' column. That's how out of it they are. The Wild Card is 100% not going to come from the AL Central.

So what's left for Brian Dozier to do? He's hit a bunch of home runs, but he's got a low average. He's not leading the team in WAR (that'd be Steady Eddie Rosario), and he's not really as indispensable as he was. So...does this mean it's his turn to go? I mean, do the Dodgers still need a second baseman? Do the Nats need Murph insurance? Somebody could steal him, but...they'd be wanting a Brian Dozier that hasn't showed up this year yet. So I don't even know if he'll go. They'll want someone like Rosario or Hildenberger or something.

The Twins aren't in THE WORST shape, but they do have the distinction of being the worst 2nd place team in baseball. Which isn't a great thing to be.

Coming Tonight: The one good, non-Matt Harvey starter for the Reds.

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Braves Probably Should be in First About Now

If you compare the Braves to the Phillies right now, the Braves are the more consistent team- they have more positions hitting over .250, more good pitchers, and a solidified closer in Arodys Vizcaino (who is currently injured so I guess it's A.J. Minter, then). The Braves are also the team that's more likely to have postseason success.

And I'd be a bit more concrete in that if the Phillies weren't beating them by 5 games.

The Phillies aren't the better team, sad to say. And I'm saying this as a Philadelphia resident, and I'm trying to keep the bias out of here. Right now, the Phillies are losing to the Cincinnati Reds. That shouldn't be happening. It wouldn't happen to the Braves; their pitching staff is a little more durable than Nick Pivetta looks right now.

The Braves have undergone a lot of retooling and upgrading to make this current incarnation of the roster great- Johan Camargo took Ryan Flaherty's place as the starting third baseman, Kurt Suzuki usurped Tyler Flowers as the starting catcher, and Max Fried snuck his way into the rotation thanks to Brandon McCarthy's injury. Heck, this team even survived an injury to May's top rookie, Ronald Acuna. He's back to his old tricks, thankfully, and the team is trying to get back to rolling after the disappointing last week or so.

The Braves have the advantages of a good anchor, in Freddie Freeman, a great outfield, a definite ace, this time in Mike Foltynewicz, and one of the most deadly bench players in baseball in Charlie Culberson. They may not be in first right now, but a return is definitely not out of the question.

Coming Tomorrow- Power-hitting second baseman for, at the present moment, the Twins.

Houston Belongs to Alex Bregman

When the Astros won the World Series last year, if you were to pinpoint one specific star of the team, odds are it'd have been someone like Jose Altuve, George Springer or Carlos Correa. Now? Even when there are people like Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole surging, or if Altuve and Springer are still doing well...this is Alex Bregman's team. The man has come up in such a big way that nobody could have anticipated, making appearances in the All Star Game and Home Run Derby,

Bregman is leading the team in home runs, WAR, and RBIs. He's also leading all Astros that are not Jose Altuve in hits, which is a nice achievement. But also, he's excelling in a way that has outlasted any previous indication. Like, in 2017, he was alright, and had a very slow start, but here...he's just been fantastic from the getgo, and has been a strong, consistent presence on this still-amazing roster.

How do I sum up how great this team is? Uh...every starter has over 8 wins, the most being Charlie Morton's 11. Every starter has 100+ strikeouts except for Dallas Keuchel, who'll cross said mark with his next start. They have three relievers with lower than 2.00 ERA. 7 players have WAR higher than 2. It's late July. They're too good.

Being this good, the Astros run the risk of peaking too early, but...with talent like this, I don't see that happening. I honestly think they're a bit more well-rounded than they were when they won the title, and I think they're going to be dangerous in the playoffs.

Coming Tonight: The Braves' third baseman. Like everyone else, he's doing really well.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Don't Count Out the Rockies (or their Pitching)

The Rockies have won 8 out of their last 10 games. Their pitchers have higher WARs than their hitters. And they're still technically in the race. Weird stuff.

Kyle Freeland, Tyler Anderson and Adam Ottavino are having fantastic seasons, the latter coming from the still-alright bullpen. Anderson, coming off a disappointing 2017, has mastered his fastball, and is looking pretty consistent. Kyle Freeland is still the staff ace, though, and is probably the sharpest pitcher, and the one that would probably do the best if he didn't pitch in Coors Field. I'll also say that Jon Gray and German Marquez, while not faring well at Coors Field, are still fantastic strikeout artists. Gray is averaging 11 strikeouts per game, which is...for a Colorado Rockie, pretty unheard of, even if his ERA is, once again, too high. And Chad Bettis, when healthy, is still pretty nice.

The lineup, aside from Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story, pale in comparison. There's just not a lot of positive momentum here, and this is in a stadium built for home run hitters. Ian Desmond's still slumping, Carlos Gonzalez has gone the way of Jose Bautista, none of the trio of rookies has done anything remotely good in the majors, and neither option at catcher can hit for average.

The Rockies' offense has been coming alive as of late, but I don't think this roster has enough to hold a substantial lead, or to make a playoff effort. There are too many problems, and too many people in the lineup that aren't on. Arenado and Blackmon can't carry the team, and the pitching can't do most of the work, at least at this state.

Still, the race is close enough that anything could happen with this team. I'm just not thinking it'll go well.

Coming Tomorrow- The aforementioned Astros hitter I was supposed to post before the JA Happ thing messed up the order.

Are You Happ-y Now? depends...

The Yankees did make a smart decision in dealing for J.A. Happ, in exchange for two guys, Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney, who didn't fit into the overall picture of this year. They needed pitching, and they needed someone who could go 6 innings without getting clobbered, and J.A. Happ is definitely that kind of pitcher, especially up against teams like Boston (who we NEED to get back against)

But what worries me is J.A. Happ's ERA, which was high in the 4.50 zone, even as he got the ASG gig. He definitely earned a fan following in Toronto, and he was rightfully leading the rotation this year, but at 35, his dominance and consistency has every right to be called into question. His best years were in the middle part of this decade, with Seattle and Toronto, and also his stellar rookie season in 2009. I worry that, despite his all-star start to the season, J.A. Happ's tenure in New York may not be indicative of his prime years.

Again, this is J.A. Happ we're talking about here, so I could be wrong. And yes, he is better than the alternative we have for a fifth starter. But...I'm just a little concerned. Hopefully he'll prove me wrong.

Knight of Cubs

It's two years after the title, and the Chicago Cubs are still in first place. Now, granted, it's a lot closer than most people would like, but it's still a definite statistic. There they are, Cubs, first place, above the Brewers and Pirates.

But...I'm not exactly sure how concrete this 1st place status is. For a few reasons:

1. The Brewers, when they have momentum, are deadly. They've snatched first from the Cubs at pivotal moments all throughout the season. They have a ton of healthy players, and a lot more people doing 'WELL', rather than 'okay', than the Cubs. The Brewers do lack the pitching the Cubs have accumulated, but they arguably have the more consistent lineup. And if they get first, they could potentially build a stronghold.
2. The Brewers and Pirates are so close to the Cubs that it just could turn into a game of musical chairs in a week or two.
3. The Pirates lost last night for the first time in twelve games. That is the kind of momentum to be scared of. Things are suddenly clicking- the meek-looking lineup is beginning to take shape, and the back end of the pitching is beginning to come alive. The Pirates, like it or not, may be a playoff contender. And the Cubs may not be able to stop that.

It's a lot that's coming up behind Chicago to try and stop them. And also the Cardinals. Maybe?

The Cubs do have a strong lineup, with a ton of people, like Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, and, yes, Addison Russell, playing their hearts out. The pitching's improved greatly, with Mike Montgomery becoming a steady fifth, Jon Lester back on top, and Tyler Chatwood keeping things relatively constant. Jesse Chavez has been a great bullpen addition, and I'm guessing there will be at least one more high-profile acquisition soon.

The Cubs are in pretty good shape. I don't know if they'll keep the lead in the next week or so, but they're perfectly capable of regaining it.

Coming Tomorrow- Power hitter for the World Champs. Though, that could be half the team.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

There are Some Who Call Me....Tim

So. The White Sox are one of the four teams in the AL Central that are not the Cleveland Indians. So naturally, there's really not much to write about here.

The team is, if you can believe it, even more dilapidated than it was last year. Less pitching, less solid offensive work, less promise. The youth movement that was supposed to be kicking in this year, with guys like Nicky Delmonico and Yoan Moncada, has...sort of worked? I'm not sure. And I don't think the team's sure if it wants to be led by young guys like Moncada, or vets like Jose Abreu. There's some major identity dissonance going on, especially when neither one is performing perfectly.

Tim Anderson appears to be the standout this year, and it's about time; Anderson is still a nice defensive piece, and he's become a pretty nice power-hitter, learning to hit a bit more for average. I'm not sure if he can carry the team yet, and he's certainly not one of the elite shortstops in the game, but...for a team that doesn't have much at all, he's a nice enough constant. Abreu is fine, and he's a crowd-pleaser, but Anderson is doing a lot of the work, and he's doing a nice enough job of it.

...Look, what d'you want me to say? This team feels burned out, and it's not even August.

Coming Tomorrow- Someone I definitely can write about; another shortstop for a Chicago team.

Overstaffed yet Underwhelmed in Washington

Looking at this team, it's honestly baffling that the Washington Nationals are in third place, and six games behind the offensive.

Pretty much everyone is back and healthy, including Daniel Murphy, Stephen Strasburg and Ryan Zimmerman, who were all gone for a while. There are SEVERAL options for positions, with backups being just as good as starters; Daniel Murphy is great, but so is Wilmer Difo; Adam Eaton is great, but so is Michael Taylor; Matt Adams and Mark Reynolds are on FIRE this year, but it's technically Ryan Zimmerman's position. It's not COMPLETE overflow, but at times it can be a bit tricky to fit in the starters AS WELL AS the people playing well.

The pitching is pretty stellar all the way through, and even in Sean Doolittle's absence there is a heir apparent at closer, in the talented Kelvin Herrera, thankfully kept in the bullpen since June just in case. I honestly think the only problem is that they just haven't been on as much as the Phils and Braves have. And, also, their main central leader, Bryce Harper, has been VERY OFF this season, only truly excelling in the home run derby. Anthony Rendon is comparatively human, and the strength of the lineup must rest on Trea Turner's shoulders, and he can only do so much.

So even if Max Scherzer wins another Cy Young, or Juan Soto goes high in the ROY voting, I don't know if the Nationals can figure out how to catch up to the top two. I'm not saying it's unheard of, and I'm not saying it can't be done,'s looking very tricky.

Coming Tonight: To quote a joke from Frankie Boyle, "Not all of the news coming out of the recent lootings is bad news--for instance, I found a guy's wallet!" Tonight, the loaded wallet of the Chicago White Sox.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Settling for Second (Again)

Here's the difference between the Yankees and Red Sox, this season. The Red Sox is a ton less likely to drop a game to a sub-.500 division rival. The Yankees? That's kinda their thing.

The problem with being home-runs-or-bust is that you run the risk of letting wins go by and giving them to teams like the Rays and Orioles. The team strikes out too much, their pitching has too many guys who COULD give up like 7 runs, and post-injury Aroldis Chapman might be scaring people. The Red Sox, catching notwithstanding, don't have many flaws, don't strikeout too much (other than JBJ), and have a wholly fantastic pitching staff. So OBVIOUSLY they're well into first.

The Yankees do have a ton of problems that I don't think the trade deadline could solve, but damn if they're trying. Gary Sanchez is on the DL (or benched, depending on what you'd like to believe), so Austin Romine FINALLY gets to be the everyday, and Kyle Higashioka is a pretty sturdy backup (never thought I'd say that). Domingo German is, at the moment, fulfilling a demotion, which either means someone's getting called up or someone's moving in. Also, and this is slightly-off-topic, but the bullpen is REALLY DAMN GOOD. Not too many bad eggs there at all. This is a team that can hold a lead, and recover if Aroldis' initial post-break woes end up being a regular thing (and literally THE NIGHT I POST THIS, we get our hands on Zach Britton).

The toughest obstacle will be getting over the Red Sox permanently. It may be tough, and the Yankees may have to settle for rolling the dice with the wild card game again. It's not the ideal route, but the Yankees need to make sure it's not the only option.

Coming Tomorrow- In the absence of their all-star first baseman, the Nationals have employed two big, strong guys who hit home runs for average. Here's the backup.

Where There's a Wil, There's...Not Much Else

After a month or so of listless, grueling baseball, the San Diego Padres' defacto leader, Wil Myers, finally made his season debut.

Unfortunately, that didn't help especially much. The Padres are still in last place, and are still one of the most pathetic teams in the majors. Aside from Myers, Eric Hosmer, and Christian Villanueva's home runs, there's not really a lot to report about this season.

It's even sadder when you realize that the entire youth movement the Pads tried to set up last year, including Manny Margot, Carlos Asuaje, Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe, has been doing poorly, and refusing to improve on itself. Yes, Travis Jankowski and AJ Ellis are doing fine off the bench, but...the lineup...the YOUTH-LED lineup, is deferring to the two hired guns.

The pitching's not much either. Tyson Ross and Clayton Richard make the veteran presence, but the younger arms aren't very impressive. The bullpen's a ton weaker after the losses of Adam Cimber and Brad Hand.

It's just...not pretty. The other four teams in the NL West are all making efforts to improve, or at least have more than 3 players playing well. You hope for improvement in San Diego, but you also hope such a thing is possible.

Coming Tonight: One of the many Yankee home-run hitters. This one's among the few that don't make all the headlines, but still deserve respect.

Monday, July 23, 2018


Any other year and the Mariners would be in a pretty great spot, at 60-40 right after the All Star break. However, they have the Astros five games ahead of them, and the A's three games behind. If the AL East wasn't so overpowered, then they'd be able to breathe. But thankfully, they're overpowered too.

Nelson Cruz, Mitch Haniger, Ryon Healy, Kyle Seager and SOMEHOW Mike Zunino have all been hitting for power, Cruz, as usual, is one of the best power hitters in the game, and can hit home runs like no one else. Thankfully there's also the middle infield duo of Dee Gordon and Jean Segura, two guys playing beautifully, and proving that hits and average are just as valuable. Segura might be carrying the team about now, in the absence of Robinson Cano.

Hell, the pitching's improved as well. James Paxton's leading things, Marco Gonzales is an impressive second-in-command, Mike Leake is still pretty elite, and Felix Hernandez...while not to 2012-caliber, is still good enough. Wade LeBlanc has also been a great help as a fifth starter, as there's clearly enough bullpen help. Edwin Diaz is the best closer in the AL, and Alex Colome has become an impressive setup man. There's not a lot that's terribly wrong with this team.

...except for Mike Zunino, but the Mariners seem to think everything's fine with him.

The Mariners, as stacked as they are, aren't as balanced as the Astros, and don't have the upward momentum the A's have had. But they are still dead in the middle of the race, and they can still work their way into the heart of the postseason talks. They may need one or two small fixes from the trade deadline (including POSSIBLY A NEW CATCHER), and they'll work on notching, at least, that last Wild Card spot.

Coming Tomorrow- He's the star of one of the weakest teams in baseball, but don't let that stop him from hitting well.

Theoretically Within Reach

The Pirates are one game over .500, one game behind the Cardinals for third place, and eight games behind the first place Chicago Cubs. You wouldn't think that a division featuring the Brewers and Cubs can BE this close...and yet the Bucs and Cards are RIGHT THERE.

Without the present context, it would seem odd, look at the Bucs' lineup, and they're not doing too badly. What, with Startling Marte and Corey Dickerson playing like pros? Josh Bell and Colin Moran are hustling from the corners. Elias Diaz is a surprisingly potent backup catcher. Jordy Mercer, despite hitting the same average he hits every year, is picking up some slack at the end of the lineup.

Again, only Dickerson and Marte are TRULY standing out in the lineup, but nobody's doing poorly, either. Same goes for the rotation- Jameson Taillon has the best stats, and everyone's pitching around 4.00 ERA. Nobody's completely divebombing, but there's also no real standout. A lot of people, like Nick Kingham, Joe Musgrove, Ivan Nova and Trevor Williams, just aren't throwing anything too special. Not bad, but...not memorable, either.

Again, it could be a lot worse. They have more pitching than the 5th place team. And the bullpen is surprisingly nice, even with a chance of Felipe Vazquez getting flipped.

The problem here is that, even if they are in position to make a run, they may not have as much going for them as someone like the Cubs or Brewers...or even the Cardinals, who have a few more standouts. They may lose out on competing simply by lack of key pieces. Unless they'd truly like to pick someone up in the next week or so, they might need to see what kind of momentum they can pick up.

Coming Tonight: Quite possibly the single most consistent home run hitter of this decade. And here he is, leading another Mariners team to glory.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

No Contest

The Indians are the only team in the AL Central with a record over .500, they're 9 games ahead of the pack, and they just got Brad Hand. I don't think anything else needs to be said.

The Indians don't NEED to be fantastic...and yet they are. It's already been established that the core group, of Lindor-Brantley-Ramirez-Edwin, is furious, and capable of serious harm. Jose Ramirez is a low-key MVP threat, which could be dangerous in a year where Mike Trout, a guy with two MVPs, is a heavy favorite. The rotation is also strong as hell- the Kluber-Carrasco-Bauer-Clevinger core is still potent as hell, with the recently-demoted (for some reason) Shane Bieber being a very nice fifth man.

The previously-problematic bullpen is...still kinda problematic. Brad Hand gave up a home run in his first start. I don't know what it is about the Progressive Field bullpen, if it changes pitchers this year, but ONLY OLIVER PEREZ has come out of this season unscathed, as the O-Man is mowing them down in middle relief. Still, Cody Allen is mediocre as closer, Neil Ramirez is effective enough in middle relief, and the once-sturdy Dan Otero and Zach McAllister have been futile. It's going to take more than just Brad Hand to save this bullpen.

The good news is the little things are helping this lineup. Rajai Davis is having pseudo-2016 numbers, back in his old position. Yandy Diaz and Erik Gonzalez have been effective off the bench. Even Tyler Naquin is enjoying some nice numbers taking over for Lonnie Chisenhall. This is a team that can get numbers from the oddest places, and can be very dangerous when you don't expect it to.

The Indians are going to definitely push through the next few months, even if they statistically don't have to.

Coming Tomorrow- He swears he's not juicing anymore, and his team really needs his genuine power about now.

The Marlins AREN'T in Last???

It's funny. To write this post, I pulled up the Marlins' page on Baseball-Reference, and was confused that the Mets' page kept showing up. 'Why the hell are the Mets showing up whenever I click on the team that's in last??'

And then it hit me. The Marlins...had made it to fourth place. How crazy is that?

Now, ain't pretty. The Marlins have a serious shortage of good talent, especially considering the guy they primed from Milwaukee, Lewis Brinson, has been plowing through a TORRID full season, barely hitting above the Mendoza line, and leading the team in strikeouts-by-a-non-Justin-Bour. Some of the one-prime talent, like Martin Prado and Cameron Maybin, is now over the hill, and some of the younger talent, like Garrett Cooper and Yadiel Rivera, are disappointing. Only Brian Anderson is making any good rookie progress, but he's just one guy. A lot of the major players, like J.T. Realmuto, Justin Bour, and possibly Starlin Castro, might be gone soon.

The pitching's a mess, which is something even the last-place Mets can't say, Familia-loss notwithstanding. There's no ironed-down closer, a bunch of starters without impressive stats, and a lot of question marks. Even if the lineup does have some impressive pieces, the pitching holds them back. It's simply too mediocre to compete.

I'm not sure what the Marlins will retain after next week, but hopefully they'll have enough to EVENTUALLY return to glory. And if not...maybe they can figure out how to get rid of the guy that made this awful season possible in the first place.

Coming Tonight: If he were still in Toronto, he'd be leading his team in home runs. But...he's beginning to figure out that he may not be the center of power on his team, and that's perfectly alright.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Third Basemen Out for Blood

Last year it was Travis Shaw; a third baseman traded from his old team for practically nothing due to lack of faith, and becoming a fixture in his new city, right when everyone counted him out. Shaw has been lights-out in Milwaukee, and has been one of the main figures in the revival of this Brewers team.

This year...Matt Duffy is attempting to do what Shaw did. Matt Duffy was traded to Tampa Bay two years ago, in exchange for Matt Moore (and that certainly went well for him). The Giants were relying on Duffy as their third-baseman, but felt like they could survive without him, and...they sort of have? We're back to Pablo Sandoval covering third for the Giants, so this essentially put them back further than they were before the trade.

Duffy, meanwhile, after taking a season to recover from injuries, is hitting over .300, is covering third base after the departure of Evan Longoria (and that certainly went well for him), and is helping the most unlikely competitor squeeze over .500 at the top of the second half of the season.

Duffy gives the Rays what they've been needing for a while- someone well-rounded, who can play good defense, hit for average, and stay healthy. Kevin Kiermaier has turned out to be less reliable in the latter division, and Mallex Smith isn't as well-rounded as the Rays would like. So, that means Matt Duffy has to lead by example.

He picked the perfect year to do it- Joey Wendle, Daniel Robertson and Jake Bauers are all playing in the majors this year, and are expected to be the foundation for the next Rays dynasty. And Duffy has been the leadership figure for them all. It's been illuminated that some of the contract-players, like Denard Span, Carlos Gomez and Adeiny Hechavarria, aren't going to last very long (and Span's already gone), and they'll only be there until they get the call-ups, or bigger contracts, that they need. And with the unusual strength of the Rays' pitching, and the return of Duffy's former teammate Sergio Romo in the ninth, it's looking like the Rays might be a sleeper pick over the next few months.

I don't think they're ready for the playoffs yet (and with the Yankees and Mariners covering the WC spots, and the A's chain them, they won't have room this year), but they could definitely trip up some teams that want to compete. They could be very dangerous down the line, and they could challenge the Yankees and Red Sox next year.

Coming Tomorrow- Another Florida team trying to rebuild. This one's....not so lucky.

It's All Fun and Games Until the Dodgers Show Up

The Diamondbacks were having a pretty nice season back there. Goldschmidt was surging, Greinke and Corbin were pitching well, the bench worked, and David Peralta was continuing his reign at the top of the lineup.

And then a funny thing happened. Well, aside from the D-Backs dropping a week's worth of games every once in a while. The other thing. The Dodgers. Out of nowhere, they got healthy, and they started climbing back to first place. And now that the season's back on, the Dodgers are trying to keep a hold on 1st place.

I'd say that the Diamondbacks can challenge them, but they're way too inconsistent. They've blown too many big games, and lost too many division leads. Their starting catcher, J.R. Murphy, is a last-minute choice, as their other options, including Alex Avila and Jeff Mathis, have been very disappointing. They've only won six games in July so far. The once promising trio of Ahmed, Owings and Lamb have come up short. And Shelby Miller, ONCE AGAIN, has proven how ineffective he's become since joining the Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, the Dodgers now have Manny Machado, they have their whole rotation back, and...they're only going one direction, and that's up.

So, unless the D-Backs can turn the deficit around somehow, they may be headed for second place at best. And remember, this is a division where the Giants and Rockies are surprisingly close behind, so no lead can be too impenetrable here.

Coming Tonight: He was injured all of last year. And then, this year, he finally came back and started playing like his old self, even if this meant less of a chance at a ring.

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Second Half Begins

In a division that features the World Champion Astros, the organizationally stacked Angels, and the dangerously hot wanna know what team had the best record during the last ten games of the first half?

Yep. The Oakland Athletics. Who are in third place, and are three games behind the Mariners to take second. Of all teams you'd think would be gunning for competition in the second half of the 2018 season, the A's wouldn't pop up at the top of the list. And yet here we are.

The fact is that the A's have a surprisingly compact base, not just with home run hitters like Khris Davis, but with well-rounded athletes like Jed Lowrie, Matt Chapman, Matt Olsen and Marcus Semien. Plus, the bench is stacked- Mark Canha and Chad Pinder have been pretty potent, and Franklin Barreto's been hitting for power. Even the bullpen has been strong; Lou Trivino, Ryan Buchter and Blake Treinen have been lights-out in protecting the leads of surprisingly strong starters like Trevor Cahill, Edwin Jackson, Sean Manaea and Frankie Montas.

What I'm saying is that this team has more of its shit together than you'd think from...a late-2010s-era A's team. They have enough to chase the top two teams; now, whether or not they'll be successful is another thing entirely, but pretty much anything is possible in the second half.

Coming Tomorrow- A strong-hitting outfielder who doesn't have much left to do now that the Dodgers are back in first.

The Stars are Out: All-Star Celebrity Softball Game Edition

As this ongoing subset continues to showcase celebrities in MLB action, doing MLB-related things, I figured a showcase section on the recent All-Star Celebrity Softball game that happened after the Home Run Derby wouldn't be the worst idea. As usual, they get a bunch of MLB-fan celebrities, and some former MLB players, and people like Jennie Finch who actually know how to play softball, and they do a goofy little pickup game. Managers and some players are mic'd, there's great camaraderie, and it's just a good time all-around.

 The types of celebrities varied from all areas of relevance, from people with Academy Awards to that mildly fun guy who hosts HQ trivia, to people like Christopher Jackson, the guy who played George Washington in the original run of Hamilton.

 They also had people who played sports other than baseball, especially around the Washington area (lots of guys in Nats hats that night)--John Wall, Wizards whiz kid, was the most prevalent of the Nats-leaning sports stars (there was no Ovechkin sighting, I think)

 ...annd, of course, one of the more prevalent former-NBA-ers right now was front and center, as Shaquille O'Neal was running around doing Shaq things. I don't think I'd want to pitch against a guy as big as strong as Shaq.

 The influx of Washington people in the game, including Tim Kurkjian and Josh Norman, gave me an opportunity to make a custom of Bill Nye, one of the leading voices of my childhood, and one of the heroes of any middle-school science teacher's classroom. Anybody who doesn't like Bill Nye doesn't like fun.

The biggest star there, in a Rangers cap, was Oscar winner, game-show host and occasional music personality Jamie Foxx (probably the more surprising get of the ones I customized). He seemed to have a nice enough night at the plate, despite this stern look he's giving Jennie Finch.

More, non-softball-related customs will be here soon. I've got a few prepared for Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Hand, We're Off to the Races

Apparently it only takes 12 hours for the trade market to go from 'dormant' to 'the stock market frenzy at the end of Trading Places'.

After the Machado deal essentially opened up the floodgates on the trade deadline deals, we got the OTHER big ticket piece, Brad Hand, sealed up in a trade, this time to the most logical destination for a successful reliever in 2018: Cleveland.

Cleveland's bullpen has been extraordinarily bad this year. Like, 2017 Phillies bad. Their only successful reliever so far has been Oliver Perez, which means actual great players like Dan Otero, Cody Allen and Andrew Miller have been having down seasons, so they NEED good, new blood in there. So, getting Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, two guys who've been doing quite well for San Diego so far this year, is a great deal. Both will bolster the bullpen, and Hand may take over from Allen as closer if they get particularly fed up with him.

They did have to give up Francisco Mejia for him, and he's their big catching prospect, but seeing as Yan Gomes is having a career year, and they haven't really found a place to put him, it sort of works out. Mejia could eventually take over for Austin Hedges, who's an alright catcher but isn't exactly starting catcher material.

But yeah- sound trade all around. No real qualms here. Helps both teams. Ensures that the Padres are gonna be stacked in like 2 years. Bring on some more trades.

Another Blaster of 2018 Topps Big League

It's inoffensive, it's new, it's cheap, so I got more.

I'm not head-over-heels in love with this set, but its simplicity, and its mid-2000s-esque feel, has won me over, and it's definitely worth buying more of.

Pack 1-
382- Adeiny Hechavarria
296- German Marquez
56- Wil Myers
115- Dexter Fowler. Dupe
27- Patrick Corbin. Dupe
360- Landmarks card of McCovey Cove in AT&T Park. I love this subset.
390- Jedd Gyorko. Hey, remember where I ripped 2 blasters of ZERO CARDINALS? I wish I was there.
322- Leaders Gold Parallel

Pack 2-
332- Roger Clemens. I still don't think steroid abusers belong in Legends portions of current sets
176- Lucas Duda
116- Walker Buehler rookie. Hey, that's a nice one. I don't know what he'll be doing once he gets off the DL though. Rotation's pretty crowded
13- Chris Archer
187- Matt Kemp, Comeback Player of the Year. Dupe though
184- Lorenzo Cain. Dupe
42- Hector Neris. ...why does HE get a base card? Nobody in Philly likes him.
132- Kevin Kiermaier

Pack 3-
358- Ballpark Landmarks of THE GREEN MONSTER. VERY NICE.
92- Eric Hosmer
105- NEWLY-TRADED MANNY MACHADO. I'm gonna miss seeing him in Baltimore.
39- Dansby Swanson. Dupe
241- Justin Turner. Dupe
167- Jack Flaherty. Dupe
113- RHYS HOSKINS RC. Hell of a performance in the Home Run Derby
30- Andrew Miller
1- ALL RISE Aaron Judge Nicknames subset. I approve of this one
328- Leaders Gold Parallel

Pack 4-
320- Leaders
158- Chris Davis. I guess he's Baltimore's flagship guy now? Good gosh.
17- Eric Thames. This card looks awesome.
211- Kendrys Morales
291- Brian Anderson
88- Russell Martin
230- Adrian Beltre
239- Jon Gray and his uncontrollable strikeouts
MINISTERS OF MASH insert of Bryce Harper. After the HRD, that's warranted
86- Ken Giles Gold Parallel

Pack 5-
380- Dylan Bundy
310- Leaders
99- Jose Abreu
232- Marco Estrada
276- Andrew Benintendi. NICE SHOT HERE
110- Richard Urena
148- Dustin Pedroia
201- Cole Hamels
270- Jose Iglesias
37- JD MARTINEZ Gold Parallel

Blue Pack-
78- Brad Ziegler
86- Ken Giles. Dupe
301- Leaders
295- Zack Cozart

Wellllll, not quite as noteworthy as the first blaster, but this is still a charming-ass product, and has some definite high-points to it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Dodgers Don't Need a Shortstop...and yet...

[puts R.E.M's 'Everybody Hurts' on in the background]


The Dodgers...didn't need Manny Machado. At least not as a franchise piece for a time longer than November 2018. They didn't need him for the reason that a lot of the other teams, like my hometown Philadelphia Phillies, needed him, which was as a boost to the next level of competition. The Dodgers didn't really need a boost. They're already one of the best teams in baseball, which has been cemented by the return of half the team from injuries, as well as the come-up of Max Muncy, and the return of Matt Kemp to fame and glory.

The Dodgers didn't need Manny Machado to simply compete. They needed him to win the World Series this year. Right now. This was a 'screw the future' kind of move for the Dodgers. A gamble. Sort of like the move that got them Yu Darvish last year, in exchange for a few players that haven't exactly blossomed for the Rangers. However, the Dodgers couldn't lock up Darvish (which, in hindsight, was a good idea), and they returned to the point they're at now...where they need to try the exact same move again, only this time at shortstop.

You can tell this is a 'right now' kind of move, because the Dodgers already have a shortstop. A rather good one. Corey Seager. But he's injured right now, and will be until next year. They also have a guy who's rather good at playing shortstop covering the position right now. Chris Taylor. But, to the Dodgers' credit, Taylor can play like 5 different positions, and it's better than giving a starting position to Enrique Hernandez.

So, this wasn't a desperate need for the Dodgers. And yet this movie still makes sense, as it's a one-upmanship move, a show of superiority over teams that have been borderline good in their division. It's a move that says they're ready to compete for this fall.

And it's also a move that destroys any chance of underdog classification they had going into the playoffs. So I'll continue to root for the team that actually might wrap Machado up for more than 4 months. Go Phils.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Your 2018 All-Star Game Starting Lineups

A routine on the blog. Every year, I don't just say 'Happy All-Star Game day'. No, I roll out the starting lineups like it's my damn business. As if you're in the stadium, which I wish I was right now.



Leading off for the AL, the right fielder, from the Boston Red Sox...MOOKIE...BETTS.

Batting second, playing second base tonight, from the WORLD CHAMPION HOUSTON ASTROS....JOSE ALTUVE!

Third tonight for the AL, the centerfielder...from the Los Angeles Angels...MIKE...TROUT!

Batting cleanup for the AL, the designated hitter, from the Boston Red Sox...J.D. MARTINEZ!

Batting fifth, the third baseman, from the Cleveland Indians...JOSE RAMIREZ!

Batting sixth tonight, and playing left field...from the New York Yankees....AARON...JUDGE!

Batting seventh, the the moment, from the Baltimore Orioles....MANNY MACHADO!!

[Phillies and Dodgers fans begin brawling in the stands. Renegade Baltimore fans cheer, as it is Washington after all]

In the eighth spot tonight, the first baseman, from the Chicago White Sox....JOSE ABREU!

Batting ninth, and catching this evening, from the Kansas City Royals...SALVADOR PEREZ!

And pitching tonight for the American league, from the Boston Red Sox...CHRIS...SALE!


First, leading off tonight for the NL, the second baseman, from the Chicago Cubs...JAVIER BAEZ!

Batting second, and starting at third base tonight, from the Colorado Rockies...NOLAN ARENADO!

In the third spot, acting as the designated hitter tonight for the NL, from the Arizona Diamondbacks...PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT!

Batting cleanup for the NL, the first baseman, from the Atlanta Braves...FREDDIE FREEMAN!

Batting fifth tonight, the left fielder, from the Los Angeles Dodgers...MATT KEMP!

[the crowd already is going apeshit]

[Applause eventually dies down]

At seventh in the lineup tonight, the right fielder, from the Atlanta Braves...NICK MARKAKIS!

Batting eighth tonight, playing shortstop, from the San Francisco Giants...BRANDON CRAWFORD!

Batting ninth, and catching this evening, from the Chicago Cubs...WILLSON CONTRERAS!

[More immense cheering from the audience]

Those are your lineups. Let's hope for a fun little game tonight.

Nostalgic Box Break: 1991 Stadium Club Series 2 (Part Two)

A little while ago, I posted 9 packs from a box of 1991 Stadium Club I posted a while ago. It was a fun, nostalgic look at the early machinations of the set, even if the photography wasn't always at STADIUM CLUB levels of awesomeness.

Today, as it's the ASG break and I've got time, we've got 9 more packs. Here we go:

 Pack 10-
Needs: 12/12
Hall of Famers: 1/12
Borderline Hall of Famers: 1/12
Steroid Abusers: 1/12

 Very nice dugout shot of Sam Horn, with a good emphasis on the reds and lighter colors. The Rob Deer's a nice one too, coming off his best home run hitting years.

 Jack Clark in Boston...forgettable from a baseball standpoint, but we sure got a lot of cards of it. Also, a fairly pedestrian card of Mark McGwire, even if he was still riding high on his youth numbers.

The real main event in this set, a rookie card of the legendary Astros slugger, Jeff Bagwell. Yes, it may be a staple of 10 cent bins, rather than a rookie card behemoth like other Topps rookies had been, but it's still an amusing, and important, card, as it's Topps' attempt at answering Upper Deck's use of Ken Griffey Jr. as a rookie selling point. And while this may doesn't work quite as well.

 Pack 11-
Needs: 5/12
Dupes: 7/12 (Ugh)
Hall of Famers: 1/12
Steroid Abusers: 1/12

 Again, relatively nice photos from this set, emphasizing colors and shadows, as well as showcasing this on wider photography and different cardstock. Compared to the more tame 1991 Topps, this was revolutionary.

An early, yet still career-indicative, card of Tom Glavine, as well as an early-Texas-era card of Rafael Palmeiro. The latter is still trying to play. [Embarrassed sigh]

 Pack 12-
Dupes- 1/12
Needs: 11/12
Team Legends: 2/12
Guys Who Stayed With One Team for Most of the 90s: 2/12

 Ramon Martinez' very long arm kept things going for LA, even letting another Martinez go to Montreal. Meanwhile, Greg Swindell shows off the cool early-90s Indians jerseys (that they should totally bring back as throwbacks one of these days)

 Two smiling faces in unfamiliar uniforms: Pedro Guerrero's out of LA, and Juan Samuel's out of Philly. And yet they're so happy.

Two 90s stars- Ray Lankford, soon to carry the Cardinals on his back, and Ivan Calderon, approaching another ASG start.

 Pack 13-
Dupes: 6/12
Needs: 6/12
Hall of Famers: 1/12
Guys With Awesome Nicknames: 1/12
 HARD HITTIN...MARK WHITEN. Now that's just awesome.
And Junior Felix and his sturdy little batting helmet running around in those old 90s Angels uniforms.
Two guys who stuck with one team for the whole decade. Kevin Appier, premier starter for Kansas City, and John Smoltz, Hall of Fame fireballer for the Braves.

 Pack 14-
Needs: 8/12
Dupes: 4/12
Borderline Hall of Famers: 2/12

 Ed Nunez looking pretty classy against a black backdrop, and Mitch Webster with a really nice sideways shot in Pittsburgh.

 Two enemies of the 2001 World Series. Knoblauch lost, while Gonzalez came in with the series-winning homer.

Danny Darwin being interviewed, being asked if...he's the guy from off the Beagle, while Albert Belle hits one of his zillion home runs.

 Pack 15-
Needs: 11/12
Dupes: 1/12
Hall of Famers: 1/12
Guys Looking Pensive: 2/12
Guys Looking Confused: 1/12
 Steve Olin, pre-accident, hurling like hell. Rene Gonzales just looks really concerned, as if he knows.
 Terry Steinbach and Dave Gallagher look loose, surly. Roger McDowell looks like somebody from the Mets just shouted out his name as he's giving autos to kids.

Tony Pena's excited to be still catching. Jack Morris, in his lone, excellent season in Minnesota, sees a bit perturbed to be out of a Tigers uniform.

 Pack 16-
Dupes: 6/12
Needs: 6/12
Guys From Teams That Wear Primarily Blue: 4/12

 Not a lot to write home about in this pack, so here's Candy Maldonado and Jeff Montgomery, summing up most of 1990.

 Pack 17-
Dupes: 7/12
Needs: 5/12
Future Yankees: 2/12

Gene "No, I'm Not Dennis Eckersley" Nelson, and John Olerud in his early years of excellence.

 Pack 18-
Needs: 8/12
Dupes: 4/12
Former Yankees: 1/12

 Just a pair of smiley Reds- Charlton and Reed- post WS win.

Mo Vaughn, right before going on a tear for the remainder of the decade, looking youthful, next to Willie Randolph, in one of his last few seasons, as a Brewer, still hitting well.

We're halfway through the box, so I'll try and post another quarter of this thing in a few days.