Sunday, July 31, 2022

Keller Elite


...yeah, the Pirates are weird this year. 

You know, most years where the Pirates do a bit to compete from below .500, they get everything that made them compete picked off at the deadline, but here? I'm not so sure. For one thing, there's no way they're getting rid of Ke'Bryan Hayes, Oneil Cruz or Mitch Keller, Bryan Reynolds is injured and therefore kinda protected, and even if Bednar, Quintana and Kevin Newman get dealt, or more, I don't think it's going to stunt the 2022 growth of this team, especially considering what they're building for the next few years.

And it's weird, because Mitch Keller continues to be a strong strikeout artist in search of more run support. He's been disappointing the last few years because he's been the victim of disappointing teams without really doing too badly himself. This season, his best to date, he's got a 4.55 ERA, 84 Ks and a higher WAR than J.T. Brubaker, who's honestly having the better season. I want people to pay attention to Keller's numbers during the last two months of the season, because that's when the deadline vipers will be put away and he'll be able to pitch without much pressure. I reckon he'll finish pretty strongly and make a strong case for 2023. And then...maybe be a valid trade deadline pick in 2024 if they haven't figured it out by then.

Like, that's the thing about this Pirates team. You are seeing the pieces of the future regime get put into place. Cal Mitchell is starting in the outfield. Bligh Madris and Roansy Contreras are in and out of major league spots. Oneil Cruz is starting at shortstop. And they're all kind of...not doing too much, figuring it out, farming for the next stage. I do envision a team where all of these players are doing well, and I sincerely hope it is soon, but as of now, where the emphasis is just filling roster spots and not earning them, we're just sort of...watching them slowly come into their own. Cruz is pretty much there but he's not hitting for average. Contreras has gotten the hang of starting but now there's no room for him [Quintana will be gone soon, he'll be back up]. 

And then there's the question of 'does Reynolds get dealt at the end of the season?', and honestly...he probably does. I think we're at the point where we're building the team around Hayes and not Reynolds, and I think freeing up the outfield and letting Mitchell and Suwinski come into their own is the better plan. Maybe they keep him and he sticks with it, but I'm not certain that they will.

With all the Pirates are setting up for the next few years, there's not a ton for them to accomplish this year, but like the last few years, maybe someone big will get brought up in the last month or so. 

Coming Tomorrow- A strong, consistent pitcher who's happy to be out of the pitching hell that is Denver.

Down Under .500


I never thought I'd say this going into the season, but I'm running out of things to say about this White Sox team. They're still losing, they continue not to fire Tony LaRussa and are expecting a different result. That is the definition of fanaticism. That is...not a good strategy.

Last year, I praised this team for having tremendous depth, and having numerous inner options as a result of injury. This year, I realized the problem with this- when the top players either get injured or don't play well, and you're stuck with the depth options, and they don't play well either, you're stuck with a b-team where an a-team should be. What the hell can I say about a team where Gavin Sheets, Reese McGuire and Seby Zavala are being relied upon for big roles on this team? Whatever happened to just...getting Yasmani Grandal, bringing up Robert and Jimenez and having a good team with all that?

The catching race is between McGuire and Zavala, and...look, remember a couple years ago when it was Yasmani Grandal and James McCann switching off, and now we have the one-dimensional domestic abuser vs. the perennial backup? Thrilling. Grandal's hurt, and when he's not hurt he's really not to all-star levels. Luis Robert is also hurt, and Eloy Jimenez, while healthy, is only hitting .224 in 25 games. The outfield is Jimenez-Pollock-Sheets. That is...not a 'come one, come all' outfield at all. Even Adam Engel isn't factoring too much into it.

And it's sad to see the White Sox banking so much into Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn only to see them struggle this year. Lynn missed time due to injury and now has an ERA over 6. Giolito has remained healthy all year but has an ERA over 5, making him a rumored victim of the tack ban. Cease, Cueto and Kopech are holding it down, but it's unwise to rely a great deal upon someone like Johnny Cueto to pin your rotation down.

Thank god Liam Hendriks is still a top-tier closer right now. Guy's been fantastic the last 5 or so years, I'm glad the White Sox have a steady guy like him to get 19 saves and also be a ton of fun. Just watching him at the All-Star game mic'd up was a blast. We need more everyman Australians running around the MLB. It worked so well with Dave Nilsson and Grant Balfour. I hope he keeps it up, he's one of the most memorable closers in the game right now.

I'm not really sure if there's much the White Sox could do right now. The team's the victim of bad luck and putting their eggs in the wrong baskets. I hate to say it, but I don't even think firing Tony LaRussa would help anymore. Couldn't hurt, of course, but...this isn't his fault entirely. It's just rolled out wrong for the White Sox, and it's sad to see the Twins take the glory that should have been theirs this year.

Coming Tonight: A young pitcher with no run support hoping his team will build a bit this year.

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Ranger Danger


Right now, the National Sports Collectors' Convention is happening about 45 minutes away from Philadelphia. I don't know what it is about homey but uneventful baseball environments getting to host the national these days, be it in Chicago, Cleveland or Baltimore. I am very thankful that the National gets to be in my area every so often, and rest assured that I will be going tomorrow and seeing what the deal is. But I wonder how pressing it felt for National attendees to make a Phillies game while they were in town earlier this week. Yes, the Phillies are still in the playoff hunt, are working on some major acquisitions and have a Cy Young contender in the mix, that the Phillies you get when you go and see them? It's hard to say.

I've been to three Phillies games so far this year, and so far my record is 1-2. The win was a glorious one over the Rockies, the losses were humiliating ones over the Rangers and Braves where it felt like the team refused to show up. I like this team. Of course I like this team, they're my hometown team and they put in the effort, but man is it hard to get everyone on the same page.

The Phillies are working with a rotation of Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler, Kyle Gibson, Ranger Suarez and Bailey Falter. Nola and Wheeler I have literally no issues with, they're doing great and I hope they keep it up. Suarez has lowered his ERA to a 3.84, isn't too flashy and just eats innings. He's not as dominant as he was last year, but he's helpful in that he stops runs and doesn't require too much upkeep. Kyle Gibson is trying a similar strategy but it's clearly not working as well, as he's given up the most earned runs out of everybody and, despite 84 Ks, is having a disappointing year. Falter is finding his comfort zone, but he's not the most ideal fifth man, and it wouldn't shock me if the Phils try and swing somebody for the rest of the season. 

What they've already done is trade JoJo Romero to St. Louis in exchange for Edmundo Sosa. Sosa is the kind of guy the Phils needed, an infield bat who can play a variety of places, can contact-hit like the best of them, and can play multiple roles for this team. This is what I assumed Johan Camargo would be for this team before he got hurt. And with no offense meant towards Bryson Stott, guys like Sosa are a bit more useful than inflexible, unpolished infielders right now. Now, granted, fans have already complained that we need to fix the bullpen, which is also a bit true, but that could honestly be fixed simply by cutting Jeurys Familia and bringing Mark Appel back up. Or...y'know, if you want to get Andrew Chafin or somebody like that, I won't complain.

People genuinely think this Phils team have a shot, and while I am a bit worried about this lineup core without Bryce Harper...I can sort of see it? Rhys Hoskins has been playing pretty well recently, Darick Hall has become a nice mid-lineup bat, and Schwarber can obviously still hit. I do think we need one more sure thing in the lineup, but...we could go for a wild card spot if things line up correctly. I'll say again that it'd be very nice if we get Harper back heading into the stretch, but I don't know how possible that is. Then again, the Braves did win without Acuna.

Coming Tomorrow- A big Australian guy who throws fire in the ninth, aka the single most underrated type of reliever in baseball. Grant Balfour and Graeme Lloyd have paved the way for somebody like this guy.

Taking on Dirty Water


On June 5th, the Boston Red Sox, after struggling for most of the season and nearly dropping to the Orioles in the standings, made it to .500 after a win against Oakland. With Trevor Story finally hitting, Eovaldi hot, and the core delivering promising stuff, it was the sign of an all-but-predictable uprising for the team, one that would lead them to 2nd place in the AL East.

On July 24th, after a third-straight loss against the Toronto Blue Jays, the Red Sox found themselves at .500 again. 48-48, circling their main competitors for the spot, the Baltimore Orioles, were themselves getting exceptionally hot. As I write this, the O's have lapped the Red Sox, the Boston squad is at 50-50, and all hope seems lost. 

So, naturally, with the team sinking around July and the AL East picture revising around them, the Red Sox are seriously consider dealing people. They've already notified Xander Bogaerts that he's staying in Boston for the time being, and while I wouldn't put it past the team to renege on this, I don't see them dealing Bogaerts this week. At the same time, there are people on this team, namely J.D. Martinez, Christian Vazquez, Nate Eovaldi and currently-injured Michael Wacha, whose contracts are up after this season and could feasibly be dealt. 

Martinez is probably the biggest one of these. Yes, he's been wonderful ever since arriving in Boston, he's solidified his career and made some all-star teams, but this is a team that, I'm guessing, is going to need the DH position freed up down the line, and having the flexibility to start Bobby Dalbec, Franchy Cordero or Rob Refsndyer at DH for the rest of the run could be helpful. Martinez could be of use in places like LA, Tampa or Seattle, who don't have the DH position firmed up and could always use another surefire bat. And I'm sure that, with a .293 average and 9 homers, he's got enough in the tank to help someone compete.

The thing about how well-built this Red Sox team is, as well as how far ahead Chaim Bloom is thinking, is that even if the Red Sox lose some pieces this month, it won't be like the mass exoduses from Washington and Chicago that have happened recently. I don't think the Sox will sell the whole farm. They're losing games now, they don't plan to lose them for the next 2 years, they have people like Jarren Duran, Jeter Downs and Kutter Crawford who are nice future pieces. If people leave, I'm sure there'll be people around to take over and terrorize the AL East for the next few years.

Coming Tonight: One of the many strong arms trying to get Philadelphia into the postseason for the first time in 11 years.

Friday, July 29, 2022

Profar, So Good


What a weird little team this Padres squad has become.

I knew that Tatis being injured would lead to a lot of new faces taking over and running the team, but I wasn't expecting people like Nomar Mazara, Jorge Alfaro and Nick Martinez to play major roles in this team's wild card campaign. How weird is this? 

Profar having a comeback season I could have guessed. He had a nice couple years at the end of last decade and has become a really nice defender and contact guy. A lot like Jake Cronenworth and Ha-Seong Kim, a lot of what is making Profar so valuable this year is his insane defensive abilities, and his usual speed and dexterity. Profar isn't doing terribly offensively, but he's being used mostly as a defensive tool, which the Padres seem to have tons of right now. So him returning to form, yeah, of course, that could happen.

But I did not think we'd ever see Nomar Mazara's better numbers again. I thought he just couldn't get it together anywhere since leaving the Rangers, and it is odd but great to see him hitting .288, and BATTING CLEANUP, for the Padres this year. He's not perfect, and as per usual his defense stops him from being a truly terrific right fielder, but at 27 he fits right in with the core of the team and is still younger than third-year Jake Cronenworth, so...I mean, sure, give Mazara a chance.

Speaking of people I feared were done producing, Mike Clevinger has built back up to pre-surgery numbers, and is finally delivering some material a year and a half into his two year contract with San Diego. Clevinger's strikeout numbers are, understandably, down comparatively, as he only has 53 in 11 starts compared to Snell's 75 in the same number of games, but he's got a 3.38 ERA and is tying the rotation together even in the absence of Mackenzie Gore. Clevinger, Darvish and Musgrove are all having very nice seasons for the Padres, and Snell and Manaea, while unlucky, aren't doing the worst behind them. It's the kind of varied security I'd always hoped this team would figure out, and they sure have.

The Padres are 12.5 games behind the Dodgers for the division, but have a pretty good hold on a wild card spot, and if nothing goes disastrously wrong, could make the playoffs yet again. They have Machado, Darvish and Musgrove rolling, and they could get Tatis back relatively soon. It'll take something truly special to unseat the Dodgers, but with the momentum this team has, and the unpredictable versatility, it's not out of the question.

Coming Tomorrow- A hitter who won a World Series ring the year he arrived in Boston, and is pondering the risks of sticking around.

Kirby and the Forgotten Competitor


After ending the first half with a 14-game winning streak, the Seattle Mariners returned from the All-Star break by dropping a three game series to the Astros, and sweeping a three game series with the Rangers. They have already lost the first game of a four game series with the Astros, and it will be followed by a series against the Yankees.

I have just one question for the baseball gods...WHY ARE YOU SO INTENT ON MAKING IT SO THE MARINERS DON'T HAPPEN?

If the season ended right now, the Mariners would be right there in the wild card race, and, yes, would make the playoffs for the first time in 21 years. And now they're on a slope which might result in someone else taking their place if they're so unlucky. Why must this always happen to the Mariners? Haven't they suffered enough?

This is undeniably one of the best teams they've produced to this point, even better than last year's. Ty France, Julio Rodriguez, J.P. Crawford, Eugenio Suarez, Cal Raleigh and now apparently Kyle Lewis have become an insanely strong core. Multiple people have had opportunities to be the hero this year- Mitch Haniger took April, Ty France took May and June, and J-Rod has been taking July, leading to some of the most electrifying baseball Seattle has seen since Ichiro left town. 

What's the gods, the rotation of Ray-Flexen-Gilbert-Gonzales-Kirby is actually really damned good. Gilbert is approaching ace levels, Ray has caught his 2021 momentum, Gonzales has a 3.66 ERA despite some bad luck decisions, Flexen has 75 Ks, and George Kirby, the rookie, has usurped Matt Brash as the fifth man and is pretty solid so far, with a 3.50 ERA in 13 starts. Plus, nobody in the bullpen has an ERA higher than 3.93. Paul Sewald, Penn Murfee, Erik Swanson and even Ryan Borucki have provided major bullpen stability to this team, and it's incredible to see.

I think the Mariners can land one more big piece, probably one more bat [perhaps Nelson Cruz could retire in Seattle], and then they can be a little more prepared for the stretch. I think the postseason is very attainable for them, especially right now. Like the Yankees, they just can't seem to get past the Astros, and they need to figure it out very soon, or else the Rays, Red Sox or Guardians might lap them before they can enjoy their season. 

Coming Tonight: One of the most versatile players of the last decade, finally delivering to his potential.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Prince's Victory Lap


In looking at potential Baseball Hall of Fame candidates, I look for cumulative WAR totals around 69 or higher. I remember Mike Trout hitting 69 a few years ago and going against some HOFers down the line, so I point to that total as a 'you're probably in' total. 

Between 2003 and 2010, Albert Pujols has a 69.3 WAR. Albert's peak numbers alone are as much as most players can muster over the course of an entire career. And then you add everything else and he has 99 altogether. That type of career, one with some insane numbers during the 2000s and some huge moments even up to today, doesn't come around very often. I was worried they wouldn't make much of a celebration of Pujols' retirement across the league, but now people are definitely handing him gifts, and honestly? He deserves them. For someone to have played as hard as he has for 21 years and do what he's done so well, he deserves it all. And I think people should treat him like somebody like Willie Mays or Cal Ripken, like 'we got to see him play in our lifetime'.

What people will bring up when they try to contest not Albert's induction, but a unanimous induction, into the HOF will be the last 10 years of his career, the Angels years on. They will say Pujols was great, but during the last half of his career, he was just good. Since joining the Angels in 2012, Pujols has posted 241 home runs, 845 RBIs and 1323 hits. That's...not terrible. Let's compare that to another decade-long phenom with a similar second-half drop-off, Ken Griffey Jr. From his Reds deal onward, Griffey hit 232 home runs, 684 RBIs and 1039 hits. Maybe the injuries had something to do with it, but because Pujols has avoided injury time his entire career, and because he's still been a major producer even as his average came down, he may have accomplished more than even Griffey.

Admittedly, there's not a ton for Pujols to do on this current Cardinals team. The lineup's pretty packed, there's youth coming up every so often, and the team has a decent shot at a wild card spot. Pujols was signed to sort of retire as a Cardinal, let the fans see him perform one last time, all of that. He's not doing too badly, hitting .241 with 7 homers and 24 RBIs, which isn't too bad. Everything he's doing now is just icing on the cake, and all he's really doing is inching further up the home run leaderboard. He's in sole possession of fifth place all-time, and if he somehow hits 11 more homers he puts himself in fourth ahead of Alex Rodriguez. It could happen. Who knows?

It's just been a joy to watch Albert Pujols play all these years. However he wraps it up, I'm sure it'll be entertaining and worth it.

Coming Tomorrow- Another young starter for a team that's still building right before our eyes.

Always Be Closing: Stay Clase


Alright. So. Rumors of the Guardians' ascent have been greatly exaggerated. I don't think this team has what it takes to be the spoiler in the AL Central anymore, they've had a very unlucky few weeks. But at the same time...look at what Emmanuel Clase is doing and tell me they have no shot.

The Guardians have a lot of heroes this year, and have gotten great seasons out of Jose Ramirez, Andres Gimenez, Shane Bieber and Amed Rosario, but perhaps the most promising great year has been coming from closer Emmanuel Clase, who the team got in exchange for Corey Kluber a few years ago. I saw his 2021 numbers and was intrigued, though as Clase and James Karinchak went back and forth as closer, I worried that Clase didn't have what it took to carry the ninth alone. This year there has been no Karinchak, at least not until recently, and Clase has had no real rivals in the ninth. As a result, Clase has 20 saves, a 1.34 ERA and a 1.9 WAR. He's still chasing his 2021 final numbers, but he's looking really good so far, and he's already got an ASG nod under his belt.

I think what makes Clase so valuable to the Guardians is that they're such a middle of the road team, and that sometimes somebody like Clase is the make-or-break guy for them. It's why a lot of the best closers this year have come from teams like the Padres, Braves and Blue Jays, lots of second or third place teams who need a strong closer to get them out of tight spots more than first place teams that are prone to more blowout victories. Clase guarantees them the ninth, there's four starters that guarantee them 6 or so solid innings, and four or five lineup guys that can deliver every night. It's the areas beyond that which sink this team more often than not. The Guardians are a good team, they are not a complete team, and having to hope that their fifth starter, who is currently Kirk McCarty, or any of their catchers get it right when the game's on the line is...not the best place to be in.

Clase is also at the head of a Guardians bullpen that isn't as composed as it usually is. These bullpens have the tradition of guys like Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Oliver Perez, Nick Wittgren and Andrew Miller. Now only Shaw remains, and he's not doing too great. What's funny is that a lot of the guys that are working bullpen innings this year, like Nick Sandlin, Eli Morgan, Sam Hentges and Enyel de los Santos, are all former starters just trying to stay in the league. And while it is possible to convert starters into great relievers [Perez and Miller alone], there's a surprising lack of true relief specialists on this team. Maybe one will come by at the deadline, but it's really just Clase, and that's only so comforting.

While I do think Clase will finish the season strong and prove to the club that he's worth keeping, I'm still not convinced that the Guardians can continue to be players in the wild card race. The White Sox have more assets and could get hot. The Guardians have to figure out what they're missing and stop them.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the all-time greats, getting in his last reps.

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

A Big Week for the Contreras Family


Earlier today I was talking about the Gurriel brothers, and how Yuli's waning numbers could pave the way for Lourdes to become top dog. The Contreras brothers do not have that problem. Both of them were all-stars for the NL this year, both are among the best hitting catchers in the majors, and both are coming upon similarly big weeks- Willson is waiting to see which contender will be trading for him, be it Houston, Minnesota, Tampa or the Mets, while William is waiting to see if his Braves are going to lap the Mets to take the NL East.

William's conundrum is simpler. The Mets are in the midst of an evenly-matched battle with the Yankees that they have the edge on because they're starting two of their best pitchers and the Yankees are not. The Braves have already dropped two games to the Phillies, and will have to play them again after a series with the Diamondbacks, which they should be able to make quick work of. The problem is that the narrative of the Braves creeping up on the Mets from the end of last week seems to have dissipated, and the Braves, while in good enough reach, are being blocked from really making a move on the division. It hasn't helped that Adam Duvall's injury has given left field to people like Marcell Ozuna and Eddie Rosario, and that they keep having to give out lineup spots for people like Mike Ford and Robinson Cano.

The good news is that William Contreras has been one of the better aspects of this team, and is hitting better than he has in either of his first two seasons. While he's not exactly rivaling Travis D'Arnaud for the catching spot, he's helping the Braves' flexibility, and playing games at DH when he's not catching, and allowing d'Arnaud to do the same. Plus, Contreras's .870 OPS is the second highest on the team, behind Austin Riley. Once D'Arnaud eventually leaves, Contreras will be a suitable replacement and a great piece to build on. Even if this division run doesn't lead to anything this season, the possibilities are endless for future seasons.

As for his brother Willson in Chicago...I assume there exists a very strong possibility that he finishes the season with the Cubs, but I think the fact is that he wants to compete again. The Cubs will be fine, they'll either keep Yan Gomes and start him or just start P.J. Higgins, who feels like the next in the long line of old breakout Cubs after Wisdom, Schwindel and Ortega. Between Contreras, David Robertson, Mychal Givens and Ian Happ, the Cubs certainly feel like they're willing to deal again, and I think they'll find a suitable home for Contreras. I just really, really hope it's not the Astros, even if I'm guessing they'll get a catcher in return, be it Korey Lee or one of the veterans who aren't hitting.

I'm glad the brothers have had a productive season, and I'm glad there exists a possibility of the brothers competing against each other in the postseason. Hopefully this will be the first of many seasons where both Willson and William Contreras are both major factors in the game.

Coming Tomorrow- A pitcher traded to Cleveland for a Guardians legend, and who's already becoming just as beloved by the fans.

The Piña Legacy


In Houston, 38-year old Yuli Gurriel is finally playing like a 38-year-old. This is his last year on the contract, and while he could try the free agent market next year and see if anyone wants him, this very could be the last year for the legendary Astros 1st baseman. Though he only has 7 seasons under his belt, he's got years of baseball experience and has plenty to speak for.

His younger brother Lourdes, on the other hand? No signs of slowing down, at 10 years Yuli's junior. He's also got a nice piece of an up-and-coming AL squad, even with one of Yuli's old teammates George Springer hanging around...and he's even begun to form Yuli's trademark hairstyle. So I don't think the Gurriel legacy is in any immediate danger.

Lourdes was already having a nice season, but the recent series against the Red Sox catapulted him over the edge. In the infamous 28-5 win, Gurriel went 6-for-7, with 6 hits, 5 RBIs and 3 runs. Yes, he was one of many Jays to attack the Sox that night, but Gurriel had the biggest night, and boosted his average to a .318, which, while it's gone down since, rivaled only Alejandro Kirk for the top of the team. This is a guy who's always seemed like a background player on the Jays, especially compared to Guerrero, Bichette and Springer, but he's building on a great year and has been looking really impressive since the break.

As have the Jays, honestly. Not just with the aforementioned Sox series, but they seem to be the only AL East team heading upward as the Rays, Red Sox and even Yankees fall. The Jays have always been postseason favorites, and while they may still have to settle for a wild card spot, I'm still thinking they're gonna be dangerous in a few months. First of all, Kirk, Guerrero, Springer and Manoah have shown no signs of slowing down. Chapman and Hernandez have gotten a lot hotter in the last few months. The bullpen still looks pretty good, and Romano's still a great choice in the ninth. And while the team is relying on Max Castillo in Kikuchi's absence, you never know if they'll swing somebody at the deadline that no one's expecting. 

Plus, it's been established that even great teams are gonna be without crucial players for Jays home games, so they've already got that advantage. It's the modern baseball equivalent of NFL teams having to play postseason games in Minnesota or Buffalo. 

I think the Jays are an unlikely favorite in the AL East race, and could outlast even titans like the Astros or Yankees. If this team can do to the rest of the league what they did to Boston, it's not gonna be close.

Coming Tonight: Speaking of younger brothers of major leaguers...

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Least Untrustworthy Will Smith


What a turn of events for the Will Smith on the Dodgers. His two competitors for Most Liked Will Smith have had terrible years. One of them has been very inconsistent in the Braves bullpen, and I think the other guy did something bad too.

Smith, ever since coming up in 2019, has been a very nice choice at catcher for the Dodgers. I don't think Austin Barnes holds any ill will, he was already leaning towards a backup anyway in the year without Yasmani Grandal, and he's still a perfectly suitable backup even now. Smith is just not only the better all-around defender, especially this season, but he's a pretty nice hitting catcher, with 47 RBIs and 14 home runs so far this season. What I find fascinating is that LA is a city of stars, and a city of big players, and when the All-Star rosters came out, a lot of big Dodgers missed the cut. Freddie Freeman eventually got on, so did Tyler Anderson, but the big cry from Dodger fans, as well as sports fans, was 'where is Will Smith?'. And that speaks volumes. Smith may not be as starry as Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman or Clayton Kerhsaw, but I cannot imagine this team without him. And while Buster Posey's retirement made the NL catching field slightly less crowded, you still have great catchers like Will Smith, J.T. Realmuto and Tyler Stephenson missing out.

Again, I blame Brian Snitker putting BOTH of his catchers on the roster, know, it's almost August, so what's the point.

Smith is a major contributor for a Dodgers team who has slowly caught up to the Yankees in dominance. Both teams have 31 losses as I write this, and while the Yankees have more wins, the Dodgers arguably have been stronger lately, only losing three games since the month began. Unlike the Yankees, the Dodgers haven't lost a starter in this time, and have relied upon Kershaw, Anderson, Gonsolin, Urias and Mitch White the entire time. Even Kimbrel's beginning to pick up.

And while the Yankees have come out with a bench player that no one expected to perform again in Matt Carpenter, the Dodgers have one of their own. Trayce Thompson was a bench favorite in 2016, and has bounced around the leagues like clockwork ever since. Now, after reuniting with the Dodgers, Thompson is batting .300 with 3 home runs and 14 RBIs in 26 games. He may not have the brunt force of Carpenter, but he's a standout that can really help this team down the stretch if he keeps it up. And seeing that Chris Taylor is out for a little while, Thompson might be starting a ton more games in left. How about that in 2022?

I think the Dodgers are a comfortable favorite in the NL, but like the Yankees, they come with the predictability quality. If they're the best in July, there's no way they'll be the best in October, right? The Dodgers do have a strong enough overall group, but they need to start tightening in areas like the lower lineup and bullpen before they can reliably coast in September. I'd be fine with this team making another World Series, possibly even doing a rematch of the 1978 World Series [please not the 2017 one though]. But they need to outdo everyone who wants to be the guy that knocked off the Dodgers, because if they blow another lead like this, well...they'll have more in common with the Yankees, I suppose.

Coming Tomorrow- A powerful outfielder who made the Red Sox pay this past week.

Houston is the Problem


The Houston Astros took another two from the Yankees and swept the feel-good streaking Mariners. So no, they still have no idea what the proper narrative of an MLB season.

I'll stress again that I know that the Astros organization has been built in order to sustain the success they had in the late 2010s, and to ensure they never have to be the oft-tanking, bleeding organization they were before they moved to the AL. I am glad they've been able to bring up new players to lead the team as the foundational ones like Correa, Springer and Gurriel bow out. But it doesn't make it any more exciting to me to see a host of new storylines pop up every damn year and the Astros continue to make it to the end. It's boring when the same team makes it to the end every year. That's why I disliked the Cardinals in the early to mid 2010s, because they were ALWAYS in the NLCS, and they never seemed to let more deserving competitive teams like the Pirates, Braves and Nationals through. 

Yes, I realize the Yankees are competitive every year, but at least they switch things up with some losses in the ALDS every so often. The Astros just...make it to the ALCS every year. Even in 2020, when they were a last-minute playoff addition with a negative W/L ratio, they still made it to the ALCS and nearly advanced. This is just what they do now. And in 2022, once again they're leading the AL West, will likely be seeded against two teams they can handily defeat in postseason combat, and have been the only team in baseball to really be a match for the New York Yankees.

I know everyone's predicting the Yankees to make a World Series because they're really good right now, but you have to look at both the Yankees and Astros contemporarily. The Yankees in October tend to choke. The Astros in October tend to take advantage of that. And therefore, I think the Astros have a better chance of making the postseason, based on nothing but acquired knowledge. I have been burned MANY TIMES BEFORE by this damned team. And now that Dusty Baker is managing them, and doing a pretty nice job honestly, it's gotten to the point where sportswriters have begun to discuss the possibility of the Astros winning the World Series being a good thing.

Which is probably the sportswriting equivalent of the Washington Post having articles about how billionaires are actually good for the lower classes. 

This is a good team this year. Cristian Javier and Framber Valdez are providing homegrown support as opposed to Verlander doing his thing. Jake Meyers, Chas McCormick and Korey Lee are getting in playing time underneath the massive. Alvarez and Altuve and Tucker and Bregman are doing their thing. It'd be admirable if it wasn't a leadup to another predictable postseason.

I just want...someone else to win instead of the Astros. For once. One time. I want this season to have an interesting ending instead of being interesting until like September. I'm a writer, I like setups that have payoffs. And I like when the guys that did bad things get what's coming to them. I want the rest of this season to deliver on that.

Coming Tonight: A pretty strong catcher for a major competitor.

Monday, July 25, 2022



At the moment, the Brewers are still in control of the NL Central. The Cardinals are a few games behind them and within striking distance, but the Brewers, like the Cardinals, have been no stranger to losing streaks in addition to dominant streaks. 

The problem I continue to have with the Brewers is, despite their superior managing, superior pitching and superior bullpen in opposition to the Cardinals, the Brewers really don't have a strong core like they used to. Hell, with Yelich only doing so well, they don't really have a great tentpole player right now. And it does help that there's a lot of not-too-showoffish players like Willy Adames, Kolten Wong, Victor Caratini, Hunter Renfroe, Luis Urias and Omar Narvaez just doing their thing, does that compare to a Cardinals lineup where 7 out of 9 guys are hot as hell right now? This is a team that can hit for power, but only Yelich and Andrew McCutchen have over 80 hits. And yes, there's 6 guys with over 10 homers, but a lot of them are kind of one-dimensional hitters. At the very least, Hunter Renfroe, who's a one-dimensional hitter but he's one of the best of them, is doing well right now.

I mean, I don't want to prescribe this team to just leave it to the pitching, because that's what's shutting teams down and winning games, but...I don't know if the lineup's gonna be anywhere near as good as the pitching this year. Corbin Burnes might be up for another Cy Young, that's honestly where we're at. If sportswriters voted properly, he'd be up for his first one, but you know, something about Wheeler not being dominant enough, I dunno. Lauer, Woodruff and Ashby are right there with him. And yes, Hader's been a bit unreliable as of late, but he's still got 28 saves and he's still Josh Hader. Not sure if he's at Chapman 'what the hell do we do with this guy' mode yet.

The Brewers could very well take the division and ride it towards glory, but I'm not seeing the momentum-energy and roster-packing this team had even last year. I assume they're gonna make some deals at the deadline? It'd certainly help to pick some people up, bolster the lineup and outlast the Cardinals. I bet the Cardinals are gonna go for pitching, though, so it's really gonna be who can outmuscle the other, and right now I still think the Cardinals can outhit the Brewers. I'd like to be proven wrong.

Coming Tomorrow- A guy who no-hit my team earlier this year.

Catching the Twins


The Guardians tried to even things up at the top of the AL Central. It didn't go so well for them.

Now it seems to be up to the Chicago White Sox to try and take on the Twins. Not that the Guardians are out of it, they're just...still a bit stung by those losing streaks last month. The White Sox are looking to build momentum and have finally got themselves back to .500, and they're trying to take back the division they thought was theirs at the beginning of the season. 

However...if it's been this hard to stop the Twins to this point, I don't think it's gonna get any easier.

What has helped this team this year is that the core of the team, where maybe one or two players would succeed and the others would hang back, is all working right now. Byron Buxton, Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Luis Arraez, and now Carlos Correa, Gio Urshela and Gary Sanchez, are all powering this team and are all pretty reliable. Buxton's having another career year and has stayed relatively healthy, Correa is picking up where his Astros numbers left off, and Polanco, still incredibly reliable, is 2nd in homers this year. It's to the point where even bench guys like Jose Miranda, Gilberto Celestino, Alex Kirilloff and Kyle Garlick can join in on the fun and keep the momentum rolling.

The thing is that there's a few members of this core that are injured, like Trevor Larnach, Ryan Jeffers and Miguel Sano, and that's not keeping them down. The Twins traded away two of their extra catchers during the offseason and are now digging up people like Jose Godoy and Caleb Hamilton from the minors in a conscious effort to keep Gary Sanchez from getting behind the plate. And while this team has a lot of outfield depth and infield depth, little spots like catching where they're grasping at straws are unsettling as this team moves towards a playoff run.

This is why I'm glad their incredibly low-key rotation of Sonny Gray, Joe Ryan, Dylan Bundy, Chris Archer and Devin Smeltzer is working so well. You have Bundy and Archer, known for being fireballers, being focused more on control and less on throwing hard, and that's helping them. Ryan's the ace and he's just being helped along by the veterans. Gray is still in good shape and is helping the team out by knowing what he's doing. And I'm just glad Smeltzer, a local boy, is getting to start games for a 1st place team.

There's a lot of interesting pieces of this Twins team, and I'm honestly happy it's leading to success. I am wary of other teams trying to compete, and the team should be as well. But if all of this understated, trusted stuff is working, then maybe it'll continue to work.

Also, someone like Rocco Baldelli outmatching someone like Tony LaRussa is good for baseball.

Coming Tonight: Ironically a catcher, this one for another 1st place competitor. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Starling Stability?


Since leaving the Pirates before the 2020 season, Starling Marte has played for exactly four teams. In the cases of the Diamondbacks, Marlins and A's, he wasn't there for any longer than a year. But finally, Marte has decided to think long-term residency, and has picked a place that will reward him for good work into his 30s as well as value his efforts to help them compete.

I never would have thought this was the case this offseason, but Starling Marte and the Mets are a perfect match. Because look at what they're doing together.

Regardless of whether or not the Mets' lead over the NL East comes crashing down this week with the help of a subway series, you have to hand it to Starling Marte for keeping his 2021 going as a member of a much starrier team. Marte is in an outfield alongside Brandon Nimmo and Mark Canha, both of whom are having great seasons, and where old Marte would outclass his teammates, this Marte is right there with them and helping make a consistently great roster. And while Marte leads the team in steals with 12, this is not the stolen-base-prone guy that the Marlins and A's employed last year. This Marte is a bit more focused on power hitting and stifling opposing defenders. I'm so glad he's working in New York, and that there hasn't been much of a learning curve.

It's also promising that the Scherzer return didn't provide too much of a transition for the Mets' rotation. Scherzer fit right back in where he was and is still in peak form, while Taijuan Walker, Chris Bassitt, Carlos Carrasco and David Peterson are an excellent rotation around him. The question obviously is what happens when deGrom returns in a week or so, and it may have to be Carrasco who takes the relief spot, despite his 10 wins. The other question is what if deGrom shows up, pitches well, and then immediately lands back on the IL, commonly known in Washington as the Strasburg conundrum. If that happens, they've still got enough potential starters to not panic. The Mets have really improved their depth this year, and I'm very happy they've figured that out.

Of course, all this may be for naught given that the Braves have caught fire and don't seem to be letting up anytime soon. As I write this, the Braves have failed to take advantage of the .5 deficit, but the Mets are still scoreless with the Padres, could remain at .5. Meanwhile, the Mets have to play the Yankees and Marlins this week while the Braves are similarly balanced against the Phillies and Diamondbacks. It could go either way. I do want the Mets to stay on top, because I'm honestly sick of seeing their huge division leads completely dissipate halfway through the year. 

Coming Tomorrow- A likable infielder for a surging AL Central squad.

Five Years into the Giancarlo Deal


In the winter of 2017, when it became clear that the Yankees were going to go for Giancarlo Stanton, I was a bit baffled. Yes, he can hit home runs, yes he'd be a wonderful addition to the lineup...but there was no consistency. He'd hit nearly 60 homers one yet, be injured for half the next year, skirt around 30 the next. And for a Yankee team to be worth it for me, you needed a level of consistency, because I didn't know how many good years Aaron Judge was gonna give us at that point, or who'd be behind him. So I didn't know if Stanton was the right choice.

We're currently around 5 years into the supposed 10 year contract in New York for Giancarlo Stanton. So far, he has been responsible for 104 home runs, not quite the 267 he hit in 8 years in Miami, and 282 RBIs. What is slightly alarming is that he's only accumulated a 9.6 WAR in these 5 years, as opposed to his 35.7 WAR with the Marlins. You can attribute this to a lot of things. 2022 is essentially only Stanton's third full season since joining the Yankees, even if both full seasons so far have come with 35+ homers, which are to Stanton's prior standards. His 2018 came directly after his massive 7.9 WAR 2017, so it would be hard to compare to that anyway. And he's been playing in the shadow of Aaron Judge, who's younger than him and also is still in his peak. 

I still think that Giancarlo Stanton's an excellent player, we're lucky to have him, and I'm thrilled that he got to start an All-Star Game this year as a Yankee. I think that he's capable of keeping the consistency going as he rounds out his contract, and if Judge leaves, he'll be a perfectly fine offensive producer to rely upon. Right now Stanton has 24 homers, and so he's on track for another 35+ homer year if he stays on pace, as well as ensuring that the Yankees will have at least 3 25+ homer guys this year [if Rizzo similarly stays hot]. I think that, while he hasn't been perfect, he's been a suitable addition to these teams, has hit wonderfully when we've needed him, and has followed through on the promise of his Miami years. 

Speaking of promise...yeah, Yankees are still looking pretty good. They've been a bit more loss-prone in July than they have for most of this season, and it's clear that the Astros are the only team that's definitively figured out how to beat them. much is still working. Severino's out, but J.P. Sears isn't the worst replacement for him. Michael King is out, but Marinaccio, Schmidt and Abreu are perfectly capable of filling the void. And thank the baseball gods that Judge is getting hot again. I was worried for a second.

The Yankees have a lot to make good on, and hopefully they can stay hot as the other AL East teams retool and tough it out to the finish. It will be difficult, especially considering the unsinkable narrative the Yanks are trying to sell, could happen. With an offense this powerful, it definitely can happen.

Coming Tonight: An outfield jack-of-all-trades who's doing exactly what the Mets signed him to do.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

A Different Rodgers Center


2022 was supposed to be the season of Kris Bryant in Denver. It...really isn't. And I think the Rockies are content enough with the player this season has become based around, though.

What's important to remember is that the Rockies' homegrown infields have defined the last decade or so of play. Having people like Troy Tulowitzki, Nolan Arenado, D.J. LeMahieu and eventually Trevor Story in the same infield boosted the defensive and cohesive appeals of a Rockies team, and let to them competing a great deal in the mid-to-late 2010s. Then, once those piece all left, the worry was that they wouldn't be able to recapture the cohesion of those earlier teams. Having Ryan McMahon, Garrett Hampson and Brendan Rodgers on the same team is one thing, but actually making a consciously strong infield is another thing entirely.

I honestly think that this season has illuminated how good the Cron-Rodgers-McMahon core is as a formative infield combo. I think right now Garrett Hampson is feeling less like a sure thing than he did before, and therefore Jose Iglesias and his less-comforting defensive abilities have to fill the void, but...Cron, Rodgers and McMahon all playing well is a nice start. Brendan Rodgers is having the kind of early season that people have wanted from him for years, with 84 hits and 48 RBIs in 82 games. His average isn't perfect, and he hasn't mastered the long ball yet, but he's feeling more confident than he has thus far, and is reassuring the team that giving him 2nd over Hampson was a good idea. Cron is not only surging but he seems like he's sticking around for at least another year or so. And Ryan McMahon is still an excellent foundational piece that will be here for another 5 or so years.

This is, I assume, the smart thing about this Rockies team, and the thing that will likely keep them out of last for a bit: they have a lot of players nailed down for a little while. McMahon, Bryant, Kyle Freeland, Antonio Senzatela and Elias Diaz are all here for the next few years at least, and while Diaz seems like a puzzling investment right now, they're making sure they at least have something to build off of. I imagine in the next year or so they'll lose Blackmon, and they might trade German Marquez eventually, but having those people who are ensured on the team for a little longer definitely helps. 

I don't think the Rockies are going to compete at all the rest of this year, but they at least have a team they know they can build off of in the future, which is more than a lot of lower-rung teams have right now.

Coming Tomorrow- One of the many home-run hitters for my team.

Wrong Elvis at the Wrong Time


One of the biggest movies of the summer is about a guy named Elvis. Unfortunately, it's not the one playing shortstop in Oakland. And if it was, it would get about as much people to show up as most A's games. I don't think any movie would want that.

I get the sense that I've already run out of things to say about this A's team. Look, the cycle keeps repeating itself. They build a team up, bolster it with smart GM moves, go for broke, lose, then let everybody go and start again. We are in the latter stage of this plan. And right now, they don't even have much to start with. Two of the pieces they received in exchange for their stars, Cristian Pache and Kevin Smith, are in the minors right now. And two of the pieces that are performing well this year, Frankie Montas and Paul Blackburn, might be gone in a week or so. 

And what will remain? Not a whole hell of a lot. But I am relatively certain that Elvis Andrus is gonna stick around. Yes, this is the end of his contract, and yes, he is still a relatively decent defensive player, but...I don't know if any teams want him. There are better SS options out there, I think. I don't exactly look at 2022-era Elvis Andrus as someone who can help teams compete. I think he's needed in Oakland helping these kids round out the season, and maybe ending this A's run with a little dignity. I could be wrong, somebody could snag him for one-upmanship's sake. Hell, maybe Dombrowski tries to get him. Who knows at this rate? 

But then if Andrus leaves, they have even less. I don't really think Seth Brown and Sean Murphy are the best remnants of a past movement to keep around. Laureano, Pinder and Kemp are having down years. A lot of the best performers on this team are bullpen pieces like Sam Moll, Domingo Acevedo and AJ Puk,'s good that this team has a decent bullpen, but I'd really have hoped the rest of the team would be decent as well first. At least Stephen Vogt can stop by and hit some home runs or whatever, but I think he might be done after this year. There really just isn't a lot going on here, and I don't think anything's gonna emerge once the deadline ends. 

It's sad that the A's are so miserable right now, especially after the last few years. But that's where this team is at- the emphasis is on a new stadium, not a new world series ring. And so they'll get the stadium first.

Coming Tonight: His team was getting hot before the break, and he's just solidified his spot as a key member of the infield.

Friday, July 22, 2022

Call to the Hall: 2022 Edition

 I've ended up doing a post like this every three years, so I thought it was high time for another one.

This weekend is Hall of Fame induction weekend, and you'll see people like David Ortiz, Tony Oliva and, begrudgingly, Jim Kaat get inducted into Cooperstown, and it'll be a wonderful celebration of baseball's best [and also Jim Kaat]. I'm always thinking about which players are the next to be selected to be enshrined at the Hall, and which players have the best cases as the crow flies. It's a very subjective process, but one that doesn't exactly have wrong answers.

So, since it's been three years since I last did this, I'm gonna go down all 30 teams and pick out the player with the strongest HOF case out of everyone. Some of these teams have easy candidates. not. 

ANGELS: Mike Trout. There, folks, is an easy one. I think it's a little easier because Trout is having such a great season, and seeming to outdo the Ken Griffey comparisons by performing into his second decade, but with everything he accomplished in his 20s, this was a foregone conclusion.

ASTROS: Still Justin Verlander. Doing what he's doing at 40 is just icing on the cake, but the guy's had a hell of a career and he's still in peak form.

ATHLETICS: Elvis Andrus. There's not a ton of competition, but Andrus has been in the league since he was 20 years old, and has been a consistent defensive shortstop for some great teams. I don't think he's going to have much of an actual HOF case, but he's the best of a very young A's team.

BLUE JAYS: In a very young team, I'm going with George Springer, who was a standout for those excellent Astros teams, and is now a sharp point of leadership in Toronto. It remains to be seen if the rest of his career will match up, though.

BRAVES: This one very quickly became a race between Robinson Cano, Kenley Jansen and Charlie Morton. I ruled out Morton due to his first decade or so in the league being a bit uneventful [til he gets to Houston things are quiet], and then it was Cano and Jansen. The obvious edge should go to Cano for his excellent hitting 2B numbers, rivaling Jeff Kent...but there's also the HGH charges, the career drop-off, and the limping he's been doing lately. Meanwhile, Kenley Jansen has been a consistent closer for his entire career, has a World Series ring and will likely break 400 saves before his career is out. Therefore, I am giving it to Jansen.

BREWERS: Andrew McCutchen narrowly beats out Christian Yelich for having slightly less of a career drop-off post-MVP. Yelich's was a bit steeper, while Cutch has mellowed into a solid back-lineup bat that can get the job done if need be. Also, Cutch was an asset for so many different competitive teams. I want Yelich to outdo Cutch so badly, but I'm not sure if he will.

CARDINALS: ...I don't even know if I should fill this one. It's kind of a dick move to assume that only one member of this team is going to the Hall of Fame, isn't it? So okay, you limit yourself to three, you have Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. But then you leave out Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, both of whom have excellent HOF cases even now. There are FIVE viable answers for this category. And I don't think any of them are wrong. Ultimately, I think Waino has the weakest case of these five, but he's probably still gonna get in. Maybe not first ballot, but I think he's got a good shot. The other four, I think, are definites. Unless Arenado really screws the pooch. 

CUBS: Am I really gonna say that Willson Contreras has lapped Jason Heyward in his full-career trajectory for this spot? I think I am. Mostly because I'm not sure if I'll be able to put Contreras here in a week and a half. 

DIAMONDBACKS: Madison Bumgarner, ultimately. I don't think the last 5 or so years have done him any favors, but he still has more of a case than a lot of these guys. I hope that Marte and Gallen can have strong full career stats, but until then, it's gotta be MadBum.

DODGERS: Clayton Kershaw, obviously. Like the Cardinals, maybe it's a disservice to say there's only one, cause Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel have great cases, but...I mean, Kershaw's an absolute legend, and he's still serving some pretty peak-Kershaw stuff.

GIANTS: Evan Longoria. I honestly wonder what the hell the sportswriters are going to make of his Hall of Fame case when he retires. Incredible player, helped the Rays get to a World Series, a perennial star for them and the Giants, but the man could never stay healthy, and that is gonna probably cost him the nod. Still, I think he has the most accolades of anybody on this team, even Brandon Crawford.

GUARDIANS: Another very young team, but this spot goes to Jose Ramirez. The fact that I'm pretty sure about this at 29 says a lot. Again, it's all down to the rest of his career, but he's been wonderful for the Tribe ever since the 2016 season, and he's become a reliable leader for a lot of young players. I hope he becomes the next one-team hero like Gwynn or Puckett. 

MARINERS: Well, I guess since Justin Upton just elected free agency, I have to go with Carlos Santana. Longest tenured MLB-er left on the team with the most career accolades. Robbie Ray would have gone here had I seen a bit more long-term stability.

MARLINS: Jorge Soler. The man led the league in home runs in a season and has two World Series rings, and that's more than a lot of Marlins have right now. Who else was I gonna put here? Billy Hamilton? The hope is that in three more years I can put Sandy Alcantara here...that is, if he's still in Miami then.

METS: Max Scherzer. Not a particularly hard one. If it wasn't for him, I'd put deGrom again, but...with all these injuries, the Hall is becoming less of a certainty. 

NATIONALS: Nelson Cruz, also not particularly difficult. It will be interesting to see what happens when Cruz goes up for induction. I think he's a hell of a hitter, but is that enough for some voters? Will the HGH allegations hurt him? 

ORIOLES: Out of everybody here, it's Trey Mancini. Longer-tenured, yeah, but also a lot of recent success as he begins his thirties, which is an indication of longevity. Not a surefire case, as he's still kind of lacking in some categories, but has more than a lot of this very young O's team.

PADRES: Manny Machado. Not hard, especially. A few close ones, like Hosmer and Darvish, but Machado already has a 49 career WAR, and he's showing no signs of slowing down. I kinda have to put him here.

PHILLIES: ...I did have to check here and see if there were any options that were more valid than Bryce Harper, because that's your easy answer right there. And there really weren't. So I don't feel as bad about this one. Bryce Harper has 2 MVPs and is an exceptional hitter, and I can't wait for the Phillies to get him back. 

PIRATES: Oof. I guess Jose Quintana, who has the most career stats, and the most great seasons to fall back on, but man is this a tough one.

RANGERS: Corey Seager. Like Soler, I have to go with career accomplishments, and a Rookie of the Year, an NLCS MVP and a World Series MVP by 28 is pretty damned good. Also, he's still in a pretty good spot career-wise, and is one of the main contributors for this Rangers team. 

RAYS: Corey Kluber. Nobody else on this team has 2 Cy Youngs. Honestly should have been 3 if it weren't for Rick Porcello and, honestly, Verlander. But yeah, what a career he's had, even if it might be a bit too short for a lot of HOF voters.

RED SOX: Injuries aside, right now it is Chris Sale. If he continues to be this snakebitten for the next few years, he is in danger of being lapped by Xander Bogaerts, Trevor Story or Rafael Devers. But as of right now, he's got some pretty nice stats, and he needs to get back on track to conserve what he was accumulating last decade.

REDS: Well, seeing as he's at the top of the post, I have to say Joey Votto. Joey Votto is baseball, a lot like Willie Mays is baseball and Ozzie Smith is baseball. One of those players you can't help but love. Also, mostly because I want to see the people of Cooperstown try to put a TikTok on display.

ROCKIES: It's Kris Bryant at the moment, but he is in danger of losing this spot if he doesn't have a career stretch worthy of his Cubs years. I loved him in Chicago, and now he's seeming a lot more human and a lot more tangible, and he could make the Rockies regret picking him up for all that money. 

ROYALS: Zack Greinke. Not a particularly hard one. If he wasn't there, it'd be Salvador Perez easily, but Greinke is a first-balloter and an all-timer cerebral fireballer. 

TIGERS: Miguel Cabrera. I've put him here in all three of these, because it was a given even in 2016. 

TWINS: I am going to surprise some people by saying Sonny Gray. Taking the Yankees years out of the equation, Sonny Gray has been a wonderfully consistent starter for some excellent, competitive teams, and while I could have put Carlos Correa or Byron Buxton, I felt like Gray had a bit more career accomplishments at the moment. Maybe if I was in my right mind, I would have put Correa. 

WHITE SOX: I think I have to put Jose Abreu here, and even if Johnny Cueto is fierce in opposition, Jose Abreu has been a wonderfully consistent hitter, and has been a constant for the White Sox from 2014 until now. The man has an MVP, a Rookie of the Year, and will hit 250 home runs this year probably. That level of production doesn't come around too often.

YANKEES: ...lots of candidates here. I could honestly go with anyone of Anthony Rizzo, Gerrit Cole, Aaron Judge, Josh Donaldson, Aroldis Chapman and D.J. LeMahieu...but I will instead go with Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton's going to hit his 400th home run in his age-33 season most likely, and has a large probability of going for 500. Those injury-prone years slowed him down a bit, but his offensive production in his first decade of service was incredible, and he's already led the league in homers twice [would have been thrice if not for that injury stopping him cold in 2015]. I think he's got the best case of any of this group, and that's saying something.

So yeah, a lot of bold words. Not all of these guys may get in, but they've got a lot of potential right now. See you in 2025. 

Coming Tomorrow- Ironically, someone else I mentioned in this post

Rise of the Sit-Outs


So. Here's what went down.

On July 14th, prior to a series in Toronto, the Royals placed the following players on the restricted list: Brad Keller, Brady Singer, Kyle Isbel, Michael Taylor, Andrew Benintendi, M.J. Melendez, Cam Gallagher, Whit Merrifield and Hunter Dozier. 

So...if you are keeping track, that is two crucial starting pitchers, the entire outfield including a backup outfielder, both backup catchers in the absence of Salvador Perez, and altogether SIX CRUCIAL MEMBERS OF THE LINEUP. 

Ten guys altogether. All out because none of them wanted to get the COVID vaccine. 

I've had my rant on here about this, and I don't like making it because I don't like getting into political stuff on here because the blogosphere is large and represents the entire makeup of America, and therefore lots of different beliefs and religions and upbringings, and I don't like coming on here and going 'people abstaining from the vaccine is wrong', because a lot of people have justification for it, and I don't wanna sit here and tell people how to live your life.


If your job requires you to do should probably do it. If the one thing that comes between you and a win over the Blue Jays is a vaccine, I get that vaccine every time because I want to win. It saddens me that ten Royals didn't have that same belief. I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm just saying it's not what I'd do. It saddens me that people I root for like J.T. Realmuto and Anthony Rizzo haven't gotten it either. And I will say that two of these Royals that didn't make the trip to Toronto, Michael Taylor and Andrew Benintendi, were among the potential deadline targets that Brian Cashman was looking at. And if they're not gonna want to make the trip to those crucial divisional matchups against the Blue Jays, I don't want 'em on the Yankees. I didn't want Taylor on the Yankees anyway because I thought he'd be a disappointing choice, and I worried a lot of the same habits that stopped him from completely dominating in Washington and KC would strike in New York. But now I really don't want either of 'em. Go to the NL, you'll be safe there.

What's most interesting about the '10 guys miss the trip' gate for the Royals is that they actually took a game away from the Jays. Lost the other three, yeah, but of the guys they brought up for this trip, people like Dairon Blanco, Angel Zerpa and, yes, super-prospect Nick Pratto, do point towards the next era of Royals baseball, and it doesn't look half bad. I think it'll be a little while until we get a team that is ready for full MLB stints from these guys, but I think they'll help a lot.

It will be interesting how the rest of the Royals season goes. I think if Scott Barlow sticks around, which is likely but not 100%, they'll keep their standard of strong bullpens in the wake of disappointing teams. Barlow has, in addition to being an excellent reliever, become a great closer, and is helping them out quite a bit this year. If Benny leaves, Barlow will be the top WAR earner on the team, AND he got vaccinated. So maybe the Royals will be alright. 

Coming Tonight: A guy I'm hoping enjoys every last second he can of his career before it ends.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Beginning of the End in Washington


The trade deadline is August 2nd this year. That leaves teams 12 days to either deal for any pieces that can help them compete or get rid of any pieces that could ensure a quicker rebuilding process. The Washington Nationals are expected, like last year, to sell at the deadline, and are looking to move pieces like Josh Bell, Nelson Cruz and Carl Edwards.

And then there is the Juan Soto factor. Soto just turned down an offer to stay in Washington. The Nats denied him the use of their planes to make it to the All-Star Game. Soto has made it clear that he wants off the Nats, and whether it will happen this month or during the offseason is up to what teams are willing to offer. I do think that...pulling together a Soto deal in 15 days when teams weren't sure he'd be on the block at all is a bit tricky, but it could definitely happen. If Soto changes hands this deadline, I won't be too shocked. 

But the thing is...where does that leave the Nationals? Uh...not in a great place.

I think that getting rid of Bell and Soto could free up a bit of room for them in terms of budget. The team misguidedly has two more years of Patrick Corbin and FOUR MORE YEARS of Stephen Strasburg. Keep in mind, he hasn't pitched a full season for the Nats since they won the World Series. They re-signed him thinking they'd compete for years, he IMMEDIATELY lands on the IL, and has pitched 31.1 innings in the entire time he's been on that 2020 contract. He pitched ONE START this year, and he might not get another one. And the Nats have four more years to hope that he shows up again. 

Then, at the same time, they don't have a lot of true lineup heroes left. Yadiel Hernandez is a decent outfield bat with a .264 average and 33 RBIs, but he's a 34 year old sophomore who seems to have passed his peak years in foreign leagues. Victor Robles is a great defender but he still can't hit. Keibert Ruiz is decent but is still building towards his peak. Luis Garcia is hitting .294 but his defense is dragging him behind. And there are so many replacement players here that it's kind of puzzling that the Nats are still keeping some minor league pieces down. Of course, you look at the Rochester Red Wings and you see a team filled with lots of career minor leaguers and late-20s/early-30s guys. The Nats are being careful with Cade Cavalli, but are they more eager to end the season pitching people like Joan Adon and Erick Fedde? Probably.

I don't think this team's gonna get any better if Soto leaves. I don't know if a trade piece is gonna land their way that's gonna change everything, because Keibert Ruiz is not that guy and neither really is Josiah Gray. I think they might need to tank for a few seasons and see if that leads them anywhere. Sucks that teams still need to do that, but hey.

Coming Tomorrow- A long-haired reliever for a short-staffed team.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

The Stars Are Out: 2022 All-Star Celebrity Softball Game


I've become quite fond of the ASG's trend of playing a celebrity softball game prior to the main festivities, as it's a great opportunity to see great subjects for Stars are Out. And with the All Star Game in LA this year, there was definitely more of an emphasis on pure celebrity than in years past. So, here are some highlights of people who suited up either for the Brooklyn squad or the LA squad at Dodger Stadium.

First of all...not too many former MLBers worth making customs of. Hunter Pence showed up, but I'd done one of him. Shawn Green and Andre Ethier played, but I didn't feel like doing either of them. C.C. Sabathia also made it, but I think I'd done him as well. Adrian Beltre was a nice one, as he's usually pictured as a Ranger, and I'm glad he's reconciled with the Dodgers fans after leaving for Seattle. Beltre will likely be going into the Hall of Fame in two years, but it's gonna be interesting whether he chooses to go in as a Ranger or a Dodger.

Most of the participants of this play-in game chose Dodgers gear entirely, as opposed to the option to use other teams. A few participants managed to sneak in their own team colors underneath the Dodger stuff, like J.K. Simmons and his Tigers shirt under his main uniform. Simmons had a card in 2016 Topps' First Pitch series, so there was no use making one of him. Simu Liu, best known for Kim's Convenience and for starring as Shang-Chi last year, is notably a Toronto resident, and while he did wear Dodgers colors during the game, I kinda figured he belonged more with a Jays color scheme.

Same with Joel McHale, the former host of The Soup and star of Community, who is notoriously a Seattle sports fan. Figured it wouldn't make sense to give him a Dodgers scheme, so here he is with M's colors. 

The rest of these guys I didn't have much to go by, so they're all Dodgers customs. We start with Yahya Abdul-Mahteen II, a recent standout in Aquaman, Candyman and probably something else ending in 'man'. Seems really happy to be there, too.

There was one cool other-sport pick here [in addition to Jennie Finch, who has become a staple of these events because she's a rare celebrity get who can actually pitch softballs], and it was olympic snowboarder Chloe Kim. Kinda cool, there. 

I was surprised to see Jimmy Kimmel's sidekick Guillermo Rodriguez as a participant in the game, I thought Jimmy would have him doing the roving reporter schtick for a bit on the show. But the show's on hiatus, so here he is anyway.

The biggest current celebrity might have been Bad Bunny, whose music career has made him a true celebrity in the LA area, as well as an acting career that is taking off this summer. He looks pretty happy to be there, as well, and was all over ASG week in multiple capacities. 

Biggest one for me, honestly, was Walter White. Bryan Cranston's become an incredibly big star, and hasn't exactly skirted on his Breaking Bad success either. He's doing a lot more movies and a lot more respectable work right now, which is awesome. I honestly thought he was a pretty big get for this ASG event, so I'm glad he made an appearance and did some fun work in the outfield. I think I read that he got himself ejected for some silly reason. Hope it was just a bit.

A pretty cool bunch this year, honestly. Can't wait to see what celebrities they'll get next year in Seattle.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Your 2022 All-Star Game Starting Lineups

 I feel like every time I do this post, I have to specify that I do this every year. I do this every year.

One of the reason I love the All-Star Game so much is that it goes back to being a kid, seeing the best of the best on the same team together, and seeing all those stars together. I think I've talked on here about watching the 1999 All-Star Game in Boston and seeing the all-time team, people like Ernie Banks, Willie Mays, and, ultimately, Ted Williams, showing up and receiving the glory. And I've always gotten a kick about seeing all the icons together, hearing their names, and hearing the crowd go wild for them. 

And so I try to replicate that in these posts, just to bring on the ultimate feel of the actual game, as well as continuing my recent trend of making ASG customs specifically for this. So, without further delay, your starting lineups for the 2022 MLB All-Star Game.


Leading off for the AL, the designated hitter, FOR THE LOS ANGELES ANGELS [probably some applause already], SHOHEI OHTANI.

Batting second, and starting in right field, for the New York Yankees, AARON...JUDGE.

Third in the lineup tonight, and starting at third base for the AL, from the Boston Red Sox, RAFAEL DEVERS.

And batting cleanup for the AL, the first baseman, from the Toronto Blue Jays...VLADIMIR GUERRERO JR.

Fifth in the lineup for the AL, and starting in left field, for the New York Yankees, GIANCARLO STANTON.

Batting sixth tonight, and starting the game in center field, from the Minnesota Twins, BYTON BUXTON.

In the seven spot for the American League, the shortstop, from the Chicago White Sox...TIM ANDERSON.

Batting eighth tonight, and playing 2nd base, from the Cleveland Guardians...ANDRES GIMENEZ.

And batting ninth for the AL, starting behind the backstop, from the Toronto Blue Jays...ALEJANDRO KIRK.

And starting on the mound for the American League, from the Tampa Bay Rays...SHANE McCLANAHAN!


LEADING OFF FOR THE NL...starting the game in right field, from the Atlanta Braves, RONALD ACUNA JR.

Batting second for the center field...FROM YOUR LOS ANGELES DODGERS [crowd goes wild] MOOKIE....BETTS!

Third in the lineup for the National League, the third baseman, from the San Diego Padres...MANNY MACHADO.

In the cleanup spot for the NL, and starting at 1st base tonight, from the St. Louis Cardinals...PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT.

Batting fifth tonight, and playing shortstop...from YOUR LOS ANGELES DODGERS....TREA TURNER.

Sixth in the lineup for the National League, and starting the game behind the plate...from the Chicago Cubs [at the current moment]...WILLSON CONTRERAS.

And following him at the 7 spot, tonight's designated hitter, from the Atlanta Braves, Willson's brother...WILLIAM CONTRERAS

Batting eighth tonight for the NL, the left fielder tonight, from the San Francisco Giants [recognition applause anyway cause they still love him in LA] JOC...PEDERSON.

And finishing the lineup in ninth, the second baseman, from the New York Mets...JEFF McNEIL.


Those are our lineups. Hope they get a heck of a game out of 'em.