Barry Bonds number retired

Does the Giants retiring Bonds’ number change anything?

The San Francisco Giants announced this week that they will be retiring the No. 25 this summer in honor of Barry Bonds. Bonds, who has one of the most complicated careers in baseball history, is still being kept out of Cooperstown by his peers.

Bonds finished eighth in the Hall of Fame voting this year, bringing in a 56.4 percent, just three percent higher than 2017. With that small of a change, it does not look like he will be getting in any time soon. His stats and accolades are there, but the hall still eludes him.

Does the Giants’ acceptance help his case?

Barry Bonds number retired

The steroids didn’t fully account for the time Bonds stole 40 bases in a season. (Photo from SI.com)

The announcement that the Giants stand with Bonds comes over a decade after he ended his career. With the accomplishments Bonds had, you would think that San Francisco would not hesitate to honor him. However, the amount of time it took to reach this point symbolizes just how iffy they were on the whole thing.

The fact that the Giants will spend a day this summer honoring Bonds’ career does mean something. It means that there are parts of the baseball community that accept the situation and still feel that he deserves to be honored, and they are right. Barry Bonds absolutely deserves his day because even before he became a juiced up version of himself, he was still playing at Hall of Fame standards.

The question at hand though is whether or not the Giants changed anything by planning to retire his No. 25. The answer is yes.

San Francisco has accepted Bonds for who he is and all the luggage and flak that comes along with supporting the all-time home run king. Yes, there are reasons to keep him away from the hall. However, they are not good enough to warrant some of the other players getting in over him.

Should the steroids matter anymore?

Many players have been thrown in with lots of guys that were users during the steroid era. Even Edgar Martinez may be feeling some of the repercussions of the steroid era as he has falling just short of reaching the hall, despite never being accused of taking performance enhancing drugs.

Many baseball fans are quick to call steroid users cheaters and disgraces to the game. Yes, many performance enhancing drugs are banned by baseball. Many of these give guys more energy, drive and an extra kick to go even harder in the gym.

All the lifting and working out is absolutely going to make it easier for players to get stronger and hit the ball a lot further away. It may not be fair to players who do not have the same access to these drugs or do not want to break the rules. However, do these drugs really warrant keeping some of the best players ever out of the hall?

Many people who are already in the Hall of Fame have had sketchy pasts. There are all sorts of cheating, immoral racists in the hall as it is today. Cap Anson is largely responsible for segregating baseball, as he would not step on the same field as an African-American player.

Of course everybody lived in different times and by different standards. But why should the writers ignore that, but focus on the performance enhancing drugs?

Steroids rejuvenated baseball

Barry Bonds number retired

The 1998 home run chase did wonders for baseball. (Photo from SI)

This is going to be an unpopular statement, but steroids helped bring baseball back.

After the 1994 strike, baseball was suffering some of its worst support in history. Before the strike, there was no doubt baseball was still towards the top in popularity in the United States. However, the strike did not help their cause as many players were deemed greedy for wanting to boost their already enormous paychecks.

Steroids, while they may have been unethical, brought a new sort of excitement to the game. Guys were hitting balls out of the park like never before, and it filled the stadiums back up again. The home run chase between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, along with Bonds’ chase to catch Hank Aaron, brought in all sorts of viewership.

The steroid era in baseball may be looked back on as controversial, but it did provide a necessary boost for the game.

This all comes back to whether or not the Giants have done something to help Bonds this week. Well, of course it is nice that he will be getting a day to be remembered. It will also serve as a signal that some of baseball is willing to let bygones be bygones though.

 

Featured image from CBS News

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MLB free agency

The current state of baseball

The players union is at odds with MLB ownership over the free agent stalemate. According to super agent Scott Boras, the market is six weeks behind schedule. This is unprecedented for baseball, which typically has many exciting offseason wheelings and dealings. With this stalemate in mind, let’s look into what exactly has been going on.

Teams have had enough

MLB free agency

Albert Pujols has become the poster boy for bad contracts (Photo by SI.com)

Baseball is in a real precarious situation. For the past decade, ownership has been giving out contracts of 7-10 years to premier players with copious amounts of money.

Most notably, Albert Pujols received a 10-year, $254 million contract from the Angels in 2011. That contract has not worked out for the Angels whatsoever and is going down as one of the worst in recent memory. The contract is even starting to take away from Pujols’ legacy, which will be one of the greatest of the last century.

But I digress, as there are plenty of other players such as Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder and Joe Mauer, who got massive contracts and didn’t play up to them. Since baseball has a rule for teams controlling players for the first six years of their career, it becomes a situation where they are paying them for what they did in the past.

A remedy for the situation would be to allow the players to have the opportunity to reach free agency earlier in their career. However, things like that would have to be negotiated over a long period of time. This is where the threat of a lockout may come into play.

The players want their fair share

MLB free agency

Martinez reports that talks with the Red Sox are going well, but no deal seems imminent (Photo by the Detroit Free Press)

This precedent that owners have set is really biting them in the rear right now. It makes sense that we are hitting a wall right now as contracts seemed to be getting bigger and bigger. What the owners have an issue with is the seven or eight-year contracts to players that are on the wrong side of 30 years old.

Reports have come that Eric Hosmer and J.D. Martinez are looking for contracts that are going to last until they are in their late 30s. Now that owners are standing up and saying enough is enough, these guys are thinking that they are getting the raw end of the deal.

On one end, it makes sense for the owners to say enough is enough and not allow these large contracts to be signed.

However, with all the money that baseball teams bring in, it also makes sense for the middle or top-tier players to want a good chunk of that revenue, especially because of the other contracts that have been given out before.

What will happen?

Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next week, and some of the top dogs remain unsigned. At some point you would think that at least one team would want to sign a Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta because of their excellence in the past. However, that has to tell you about how they think they will not play up to their contract in the next four to six years.

If Darvish, Arrieta, Martinez and Hosmer stay unsigned, we could be in for some real trouble. We have seen players of this caliber go unsigned as long as they have in recent memory. The first games of the spring start in just three weeks, so these are a lot of big names that need to go in order to get things moving.

The MLBPA released a letter last week showcasing their displeasure with the situation. It certainly looks like the rest of the players are willing to stand with the unsigned free agents to show solidarity. If the players stick together and support these free agents, we may have to wait for baseball longer than we expected.

 

Featured image from The Chicago Tribune

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Yu Darvish free agency

Why Darvish to the Brewers makes sense

As we all know, the hot stove has been rather cold this offseason. Scott Boras, agent extraordinaire, stated that this free agent market is about six weeks behind schedule. Almost all the big name free agents are still on the market as we have now entered February. We once thought that Giancarlo Stanton was holding teams up as they waited for him to move, but that does not seem to be the case as he was traded over six weeks ago.

Yu Darvish is one of the top three free agents still on the market, and he is expecting a big payday despite his World Series collapse. He has been connected to several teams, Milwaukee included. Here is a look as to why the Brewers may make sense for Darvish more than any other team.

The Brewers are hunting

Yu Darvish free agency

The Brewers made an aggressive move for Christian Yelich. (Photo from CBS Sports)

Milwaukee had a very exciting season last year despite not making the postseason. The Cubs were coming off a historic World Series and were primed to continue their dominance. Nobody saw what was coming from the team just north of the north-siders from Chicago.

The Brewers had the lowest payroll in baseball in 2017, yet competed with the Cubs until the very end. Now that they know they have what it takes to compete, it is time to build up and go for it.

The Brewers showed last week just how serious they are about competing. The signing of Lorenzo Cain was one of the biggest free agent moves of the offseason thus far. Not but on the same night, they also traded for the last Marlins outfielder left, Christian Yelich.

The move for Yelich was a good one. Yelich had the most team-friendly contract in that Marlins outfield from 2017, and he shows signs of getting even better. The only thing is that the Brewers gave up their top prospect, and the No. 13 overall prospect in baseball, Lewis Brinson. On top of that, they gave up three other young talents from their system. This move shows just how serious they are about competing now.

The need for pitching

Yu Darvish free agency

Jimmy Nelson had a breakout year in 2017. (Photo from The News and Observer)

One of Milwaukee’s biggest surprises of last season was the performance of Jimmy Nelson. Nelson has solidified himself at the top of the rotation in along with Chase Anderson.

The only thing is that he damaged his shoulder last September. Nelson is apparently ahead of schedule, but it is unknown when he will be ready to rejoin the rotation.

The Brewers offense looks like a strong one at the moment. With the emergence of Eric Thames and Travis Shaw, coupled with the new improvements to the outfield, Milwaukee has an offense to be feared. An addition to the rotation could compliment these improvements very well.

This is where Darvish comes in. The 31-year-old would fit perfectly into the team and could slide them right into a neck-and-neck competition with the Cubs. The addition of Jhoulys Chacin certainly helps, but Darvish would really solidify their position and make their rotation a strength as well.

Will Darvish go for it?

Darvish has not been afraid to address rumors on Twitter. There have been several instances of him responding to reports of him talking to teams and alluding to who he may be interested in. Many reports suggest that he is still very interested in returning to the Rangers or the Dodgers. The Yankees have also been mentioned, along with the Chicago Cubs.

Yu Darvish free agency

The baseball world has its eyes on Darvish to make a decision (Photo from the Star-Telegram)

None of these teams come as a surprise as they are going to be contending in 2017. This race is a big deal in the National League especially though. With how tight the NL Central race will be, along with the desire to catch the Dodgers, teams are desperately trying to do whatever they can to not allow the Dodgers to run away with anything once again.

Milwaukee does not provide the same sort of big market draw that Chicago and Los Angeles offer. However, the Brewers may have the leg up in terms of payroll. At the moment, Milwaukee is under the $100 million threshold for payroll in 2018. They have not been afraid to go over that number in the past, so they ought to have the budget to do so.

Chicago and Los Angeles do not have the same sort of flexibility. The Dodgers already had the highest payroll in baseball in 2017. The Cubs, while having a large payroll already, still need to save some money for when their players need to be paid. Chicago has also been heavily tied to Bryce Harper for free agency next year. If they are seriously interested in signing him, it is unlikely they will give a six-year contract to Darvish.

Only time will tell if the Brewers will be able to bring in the Japanese ace. These dominos ought to be falling soon though, as we are just a couple of weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training. Darvish has to have that in mind, as he just so happens to be a pitcher himself.

 

Featured image from Newsweek

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NL Central face of the franchise

The current face of every NL Central team

One conversation that will never get old is talking about who the cornerstone player of every franchise is. Some teams have an obvious representative, others not so much. Here is a look into the face of the franchise for every team in the NL Central.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Josh Bell

If we were to have this conversation two weeks ago, then there would be a much more obvious answer for the Bucs. However, the Pirates’ front office thought it was time to do some shuffling. Even though Pittsburgh fans are upset about giving up Andrew McCutchen, who has been an icon in the Steel City for some time, it was a good move to show concern for the future. It just looks especially bad because of what the Marlins have been doing this offseason as well.

NL Central face of the franchise

Josh Bell represents a changing of the guard in Pittsburgh. (Photo from Rumbunter.com)

Some may be wondering why Starling Marte is not in this spot. His 80-game suspension does not help his cause here. He also is an All-Star and two-time gold glove winner who can steal bases with the best of them. However, he does not represent the future for the Pirates. He is 29 years old, and the Pirates are not going to be contending anytime soon.

Josh Bell just finished third in the NL Rookie of the Year voting. If it were any other year, Bell would have had a much better chance of bringing home the award. With Cody Bellinger breaking out in LA though, the race was much more clear cut. Bell has the chance to be a prototypical slugger in Pittsburgh for a while, as he is only 25 years old.

In the future, Bell could be a force in the middle of the lineup with 30 home run potential. He provides more pop than Marte does, and is already a threat in the middle of the lineup. His young age coupled with his power is the reason why he has the opportunity to take the place of Cutch in Pittsburgh.

Cincinnati Reds: Joey Votto

No argument here. If you were to argue faces of the franchise around baseball, this may be one of the easiest.

Joey Votto has been a fixture at first base for the Reds for over a decade. He has won the NL MVP and made it to the All-Star game five times. Not to mention, there may not be anybody better at getting on base than Votto.

Votto also has a set of intangibles that would make any manager salivate. He is the kind of guy that can lead a young group of guys into the big leagues, and that is what he is doing now as the Reds have a wave of young players coming up. His baseball smarts along with his excellent talent make him one of the best hitters in the league.

Another thing about Votto is that he is not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon. He is heading into his age-34 season and coming off a year where he could have easily won the MVP. Yes, Giancarlo Stanton had the power numbers that make anybody go nuts. However, if you are looking at the full package, Votto is much more valuable.

If Votto keeps up the pace he is at for another couple of years, there is a solid chance he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he is eligible.

Chicago Cubs: Theo Epstein

NL Central face of the franchise

Theo led the charge to break the curse in Chicago. (Photo by John Arguello)

Chicago is still fresh off a World Series title in 2016. It is still crazy to say considering many Chicagoans went a lifetime without seeing their lovable losers make it all the way.

Epstein made his way to the Windy City in 2011, and from the start there were many who were certain that it was their time because of it. After he masterminded the destruction of the Boston curse, this seemed like a doable task for the 44-year-old president of the Cubs.

With apologies to Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo, Epstein is a favorable choice for this title. He is the one who orchestrated the revival of success in Wrigley, and many knew that as they chanted, “In Theo we trust.”

While Rizzo has become a poster boy for the Cubs, and Bryant has won an MVP at third base, it is impossible to not credit Epstein with the Cubs’ success.

As a baseball executive, there is no doubt that Epstein has already earned himself a spot in Cooperstown.

St. Louis Cardinals: Yadier Molina

NL Central face of the franchise

Yadier Molina has been the most important face in St. Louis since the departure of Albert Pujols (Photo by Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports)

Ever since the departure of Albert Pujols, Molina has done an excellent job of stepping into the role of leading this storied franchise. While Molina may not be the best player in the league by a long shot, there are things that he does that put him above most.

He has those intangibles that his NL Central counterpart Joey Votto has. Molina’s ability to call a game is second to none, while he also knows exactly how to make a young ballplayer feel comfortable on the mound.

Yadi doesn’t have those offensive stats that pop out on the box score, but Tony La Russa made it clear when he was manager of the Cardinals that it didn’t matter. La Russa once stated that even if Molina hit .000, he would still have a spot in the lineup. Now that says something about a player.

While it is not clear if Molina will make it to Cooperstown, he will certainly be remembered as one of the greats to wear the Cardinals uniform. He stated earlier this offseason that he will not play after his contract with the Cardinals expires in 2020. These three years we have left with him will be pivotal in determining his place among the greats.

Milwaukee Brewers: Bob Uecker

The Brewers have made big moves this offseason for Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich. They also have their eyes set on locking up Yu Darvish in a long-term contract. As a result, the name on this list may be different in a few years. Despite a great year from Travis Shaw and Jimmy Nelson, it doesn’t come close to the reputation that Bob Uecker has set for himself.

Uecker is getting close to Vin Scully territory with his broadcasting. He is being held back from that status though as he is not in a place like Los Angeles, and also spent a decade playing professional ball in the 50s and 60s. Shortly after his playing days, he joined the Brewers broadcasting booth in 1971.

After many successful years in the booth, Uecker earned an iconic role as the broadcaster in the Major League movie franchise. Many don’t realize that you can still tune into his legendary broadcasts to this day. He also won the Ford C. Frick award in 2003 in recognition for his broadcasting, cementing himself among the legends in the game.

While the Brewers are making moves to compete on the field, Uecker always makes it entertaining to tune into the game. It will be a sad day when the 84 year old will have to hang up the mic and retire from the booth.

 

Featured image by Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

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San Francisco Giants offseason

Have the Giants done enough to reach the postseason?

The San Francisco Giants finished 2017 with an abysmal 64-98 record, which tied with the Detroit Tigers for the worst record in all of baseball. Funny enough, the Giants and Tigers met in the World Series in 2012, so it goes to show how quickly things can turn around. San Francisco thinks they can turn its losing ways around even quicker in 2018 though.

2018 is an even year, so you don’t know what might happen.

What went wrong in 2017?

San Francisco Giants offseason

Madison Bumgarner’s shoulder injury in April was a sign for things to come in the Bay. (Photo from MLB.com)

Not many people saw this epic collapse of a successful franchise coming. The Giants have been one of the best teams in recent memory, and nobody could have seen them finishing as one of the worst teams in all of baseball in 2017. The Giants themselves didn’t expect it as they had made the playoffs just the year before.

San Francisco had a slew of injuries in 2017. There is no doubt that the health of the team significantly impacted its performance. Madison Bumgarner hurt himself in a dirt bike accident and missed most of the season. Other players such as Brandon Belt and Michael Morse missed a lot of time due to head injuries, which are not things you want to mess around with.

The rotation underperformed as a whole with the loss of Bumgarner. Johnny Cueto did not play up to his contract, and Jeff Samardzija was nothing to write home about.

The pitching was not the main issue though. They finished middle in the road in pitching at eighth in the National League. The problem was the offense, which finished second to last in runs scored in all of baseball.

What have they done this offseason?

San Francisco Giants offseason

Andrew McCutchen is a sign that the Giants expect big things in 2018. (Photo from Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports).

Bobby Evans and the Giants have not been shy about addressing the offensive issues they faced in 2017. San Francisco has been at the forefront of all trade rumors and have been wildly aggressive on all fronts. They have garnered results by being aggressive, as they have nabbed two cornerstone players from teams on the East coast.

Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen are now a part of the Giants organization. Both of them fill up needs on the Giants offense and create a much more threatening lineup. Although both of these players are on the wrong side of 30 and have played their prime, they can still do some serious damage.

The two combined for a 6.1 WAR last year, along with 48 home runs and 174 RBIs, so there is no doubt they add some punch to the lineup. If you look at the team as a whole now, they look like a team that can compete. They reassured the outfield this week as well by adding the veteran services of Austin Jackson. Now the outfield consists of Jackson, McCutchen and Hunter Pence.

Top to bottom, the Giants look solid, which bolsters an NL West division that is going to look to brawl. The question is, can the Giants really make a run for it in the loaded West?

The NL West: Best division in baseball?

If the Giants just happened to be in any other division in baseball, they may have a better shot of returning to the postseason. However, the NL West sent three teams to the postseason last year, and none were from the Bay area, which is unusual. With the Dodgers being the best team in the National League, it is hard to imagine them making a run for the division. Do they have a shot at the Wild Card though?

With the Nationals and Cubs likely holding onto its division title spots in 2018, the main competition for the Wild Card will likely be coming from Arizona, Milwaukee, Colorado and St. Louis. The real question here is whether or not the Giants are better than three of the teams mentioned on this list.

Arizona and Colorado are both in the West, so the Giants will have a chance to prove that they can go toe to toe with postseason teams from last year. It will be an interesting race out West as San Francisco has done enough to show that they can compete. The question is whether or not it is enough to make it to October.

Only time will tell if this wild offseason for the Giants is enough for them to return to its past success. Then again, it is an even year, so is there anything to really worry about?

 

Featured image from SF Chronicle

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New York Yankees all-time roster

New York Yankees all time roster

The New York Yankees have set the mark in baseball that looks as if it will never be matched. The Yankees have 27 World Series titles while the next most has just 12. With those championships comes a great deal of extraordinary talent.

For the purposes of this list, players will only be designated to the positions they play. Outfielders can only be used in the outfield, while the designated hitter spot can only be taken by someone who played designated hitter for the majority of their time with the Yankees.

With that said, lets take a look at who their ideal roster with all these legends would be. Keep in mind that the accolades mentioned for these players are only applicable to their time with the Yankees. The dates next to their name is their time with New York, not just their time in the majors.

Catcher: Yogi Berra (1946-1963)

18x All-Star, 13x World Series Champion, 3x AL MVP

The Yankees have several legendary catchers. From Bill Dickey, Jorge Posada and Thurman Munson, the Yankees have had an excellent catching core. However, there is no doubt that the best catcher in Yankees history is Yogi Berra.

Berra is known for his quick wit and powerful bat. What some people may not know either is that Yogi Berra has won more World Series than any other team in baseball other than the Yankees. He is not only a great catcher in terms of his ability, but a great face to put on the franchise. Berra was entertaining on and off the field, and is one of the greatest ballplayers to ever play the game.

First Base: Lou Gehrig (1923-1939)

New York Yankees all-time roster

Lou Gehrig is a legend of his own alongside his teammate, Babe Ruth (NBC Connecticut)

7x All-Star, 6x World Series Champion, 2x AL MVP, Triple Crown (1934)

The Iron Horse was perhaps the best part of the historic 1927 Yankees. He also gave one of the most iconic speeches of the 20th century. He stated he was the “luckiest man on the face of the earth” during his retirement speech due to what is now called Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Gehrig may be one of the best hitters to ever play the game, as his career .340 batting average along with 493 home runs proves that.

Second Base: Robinson Cano (2005-2013)

5x All-Star, 1x World Series Champion, 5x Silver Slugger, 2x Gold Glove Award

Cano is one of the best power hitting second basemen of the 21st century. He has had sustained success and landed one of the largest contracts ever with the Seattle Mariners.

Cano was a perennial MVP candidate with the Yankees, finishing in the top six in voting for four seasons in a row. He has remained healthy through the years and can hit for power with the best of them for middle infielders. Don’t be mistaken, he can also flash some leather. He may not have as many World Series titles as other people on this list, but he fits right in with them.

Third Base: Alex Rodriguez (2004-2016)

7x All-Star, 1x World Series Champion, 2x AL MVP

Here we go. Perhaps one of the most controversial figures in baseball history. Rodriguez’s career is plagued by performance enhancing drugs and a negative reputation. For the purposes of this list though, we will leave the controversies in the rear view mirror.

Rodriguez signed the largest contract in sports history with the Yankees in 2004. His best year was in 2007 when he hit 54 home runs and a staggering 156 RBIs. He hit at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in the first seven years of his Yankees career. Despite all the hate that is steered his way, he had one of the greatest careers on the field in baseball history.

Shortstop: Derek Jeter (1995-2014)

New York Yankees all-time roster

Not many would debate Derek Jeter being the face of the Yankees success in the 21st century (MLB)

14x All-Star, 5x World Series Champion, 5x Gold Glove, 5x Silver Slugger, AL Rookie of the Year (1996)

What else is there to say? The Captain fits right in there with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig as one of the best to put on the famed pinstripes. He is in the Yankees top ten list for batting average, runs, total bases, doubles, home runs, RBIs, walks and extra-base hits.

Surprisingly enough, Jeter is the only Yankee to reach 3,000 hits while in a Yankees uniform. Phil Rizzuto won more titles in New York, but Jeter was a key cog in the 1990s and early 2000s powerhouse in the Bronx. The future Hall of Famer will go down as the greatest shortstop of all time.

Left field: Mickey Mantle (1951-1968)

20x All-Star, 7x World Champion, 3x AL MVP, Triple Crown (1956)

Mickey Mantle played his career in center field. However, it is too difficult to leave him out of the starting lineup. Mantle and DiMaggio are right on par and their careers coincided with each other, so the center field spot was taken care of by hall of famers for over 30 years.

Mantle holds the record for most home runs in the World Series with 18 over his career. His triple crown year in 1956 is also one of the greatest seasons in Yankees history.

Center Field: Joe DiMaggio (1936-1942, 1946-1951)

13x All-Star, 9x World Series Champion, 3x AL MVP, Record 56 game hitting streak

All of DiMaggio’s stats have to be taken with a grain of salt. Not because he cheated or anything, but because they are lower than what they could because of World War II.

It cannot be stated enough how incredible DiMaggio and Mantle were in center. You cannot go wrong with either guy, but someone has to have the upper hand. If it was not for the war, DiMaggio may have the clear path to deserving the center field spot of Mantle. However, even with the time off, he proves his position with his nine World Series titles and his unbreakable 56 game hitting streak.

During that famed summer of 1941, DiMaggio set what may be the most unbreakable record in baseball with that 56 game hit streak. No player has come within 10 games of that hit streak since he set it. With this day in baseball too, it is unlikely that it will be reached again.

Right Field: Babe Ruth (1920-1934)

New York Yankees all-time roster

Babe Ruth may be the best to ever play the game (Fameology)

7x World Series Champion, AL MVP, AL Batting Champion (1924), AL ERA Leader (1916)

The Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, the Behemoth of Bust. Babe Ruth is widely considered to be the greatest to ever play the game due to the fact he could pitch and hit with the best. He was the first player to really introduce home runs to baseball at all as well. He brought the game out of the dead ball era and revolutionized the game of baseball all together.

Ruth is a big reason for who the Yankees are today. He is an immortal that would be found on the Mount Rushmore of baseball, and we will likely never see a player like him in our lifetimes.

Designated Hitter: Don Baylor (1983-1985)

2x Silver Slugger

There are plenty of guys that could fit into this designated hitter role who didn’t play the position. The designated hitter was not introduced until 1973, so the only people in this position are people who played a majority of their games at DH.

The late Don Baylor was only with the Yankees for three seasons, but he left his mark at DH during those three years. He provided some pop to the lineup but only eclipsed the .300 mark once.

As stated before, there are greater Yankees hitters of course. However, Don Baylor is the best to occupy the DH position.

Starting Pitcher: Whitey Ford (1950, 1953-1967)

10x All-Star, 6x World Series Champion, Cy Young (1961)

The Yankees have a staggering amount of Hall of Fame pitchers that could take the mound for them. However, Whitey Ford shines above them all. He leads the Yankees in several career stats such as wins, pitcher WAR, starts, strikeouts, and innings pitched.

He has the most experience as a pitcher in pinstripes, and was the best at it while doing it. Despite the fact that the Yankees have so many other pitchers that could top this list, Ford was an easy choice.

Closing Pitcher: Mariano Rivera (1995-2013)

13x All-Star, 5x World Series Champion, 5x Rolaids Relief Man of the Year, All time saves leader

Mariano Rivera is the greatest closing pitcher ever. The role wasn’t really established until the 70s and 80s, but since then there is no doubt he has been the best.

He had one of the best cutters the game has ever seen which was devastating for left handed hitters. Rivera was also one of the best pitchers to ever play in the postseason. He was the World Series MVP in 1999 and established himself as the go to guy at the end of games. He was also the last player ever to wear the number 42 as it was grandfathered in after baseball retired it for Jackie Robinson.

Everybody else on the roster

Starting Rotation: Andy Pettitte, Lefty Gomez, Red Ruffing, Ron Guidry

Relievers: Sparky Lyle, Goose Gossage, Dave Righetti, John Wetteland, David Robertson, Dellin Betances

Bench: Bill Dickey, Phil Rizzuto, Dave Winfield, Bernie Williams

 

Featured image from NY Daily News

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New York Mets team profile

New York Mets team profile

The New York Mets finished in fourth place in the NL East with a 72-90 record. They were a team that dealt with a plethora of injuries, and it ended up costing them its season. David Wright has not been able to get over the injury bug, and the team’s two best hitters, Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto, saw extended time on the disabled list.

It was not only at the plate, but on the mound the Mets saw its fair share of issues. Matt Harvey has not been able to break out of his rut, and Noah Syndergaard was only able to start seven times. Jacob deGrom was the only one that was able to cross the 25-start threshold in 2017, so the Mets have a fair amount to deal with before being able to compete in the near future.

Offseason moves

New York Mets team profile

Jay Bruce will reunite with the Mets in 2018 (Photo from FanRag Sports)

The New York Mets have taken strides to improve in the near future. It was reported on Wednesday that Jay Bruce would be returning to the Queens with a three-year contract. This is a solid signing that is lighting a mini spark into the hot stove. Since not many other moves have been made, the Mets look serious about improving in 2018.

So far, the only loss for them has been Jose Reyes, who did not have a great 2017 season. It was also reported that the Mets were very close to a deal with the Cleveland Indians for second baseman, Jason Kipnis. While he may not have provided the impact that the Mets need, it would have been a step in the right direction to show they are serious about improvements.

The three-year contract that Bruce signed also shows that the Mets are nowhere near thinking about a rebuilding phase despite its current place in the division. The rest of the NL East is in for some trouble with how successful the Nationals have been during the regular season. This move shows that the Mets want to try their hand though, and they may not be that far off.

The pitching

The New York Mets ranked 28th in pitching in 2017. This is nowhere near the expectations for the players they have on the team at the moment. New York has some of the best young pitching in the league, but due to injuries and underperforming, they took a step in the wrong direction.

The Mets have built a very good base in the rotation with Syndergaard, deGrom, Harvey, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler. As mentioned, due to injuries and poor performance, it does not look as solid as it once did. The top two in the rotation still look like they have a promising future, but Harvey, Matz and Wheeler will have a pivotal year in 2018. If they don’t show signs of improvement, the Mets will know it will be time to move on.

Anthony Swarzak had the best year of his career in 2017. He may have been one of the better middle relievers in all of baseball. He, along with A.J. Ramos and Addison Reed, should provide a reliable core to the bullpen.

2018 outlook

New York Mets team profile

Matt Harvey needs to get back on track in 2018 (Photo from USA Today)

As stated previously, the Nationals are still at the forefront of the NL East, and the National League as a whole. No team from the East will most likely compete with them for the division.

This is a year for the Mets to build up and see if they are ready to compete by 2019 perhaps. Washington is leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, and even the Wild Card is going to be tough to come by as it will take more than 87 wins most likely.

This is a big year for Matt Harvey as well. After stellar seasons between 2012-15, Harvey looks like he has lost his touch. This especially looked to be the case last year after finishing with a -1.1 WAR and 6.70 ERA. Something has to change in order for him to stick around the team. Whether it is mechanical or mental, the Mets can not afford to let him throw games away much longer.

With Noah Syndergaard coming off injury and deGrom looking to improve, there is a lot of room to improve. Their health is key too, as we may see a much better team in 2018 if the Mets are able to keep guys on the field.

 

Featured image by Al Bello/Getty Images

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Top MLB prospects 2018

Four prospects to watch for in 2018

With spring training just a few short weeks ahead, it is time to start thinking about this year in prospects.

For this article, we will be looking at four prospects that could make a big league impact in 2018. Not only that, but they could be players to keep an eye out for rookie of the year.

Nick Senzel: Cincinnati Reds

Top MLB prospects 2018

Senzel is the brightest name in the Reds’ farm. (Photo from Cincinnati Enquirer)

Senzel, the second overall pick of the 2016 draft, will likely be making his major league debut in 2018. He is a plus defender at third base and has excellent speed that can turn him into a base-stealing threat.

Senzel also possess an excellent batter’s eye and should be able to draw walks at the big league level. There is no doubt that he is the best prospect in the Reds ranks, so he will be an excellent addition to an already solid Reds offense in 2018.

The Reds, and the rest of the MLB, considered Senzel to be one of the most big-league ready bats in the 2016 draft. This is a big reason why the Reds took him so high, along with the fact he may be the best bat in that class. Expect him to make a large improvement to a Reds offense that could possibly go toe to toe with anyone in the league.

Ronald Acuna: Atlanta Braves

Acuna is one of the younger prospects that could be making a difference in 2018. He is just 20 years old, but may have one of the brightest futures. He has the chance to be one of the next great five-tool players. Although he has power potential, he has yet to show it too much in the minors. He has lots of time to get stronger and develop that potential power down the road.

What Acuna has been able to show in the minors is ability to hit well to all fields. He has hit for a high average and is a great base-stealing threat.

Acuna was named the Arizona Fall League MVP in 2017. In 23 games, he was able to hit for .325/.414/.639 along with seven home runs. The potential is great for the young Braves phenom, and he could force himself to be in contention for Rookie of the Year in 2018.

Alex Reyes: St. Louis Cardinals

Top MLB prospects 2018

Alex Reyes still has some time before he reaches the starting rotation. (Photo from ESPN)

Reyes is one of the top prospects in the Cardinals system and already had major league time in 2016. In 12 games, he was able to post a 1.57 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 46 innings. He would have played in 2017 as well, but he missed the whole year after getting Tommy John surgery.

The 23-year-old out of New Jersey has a stellar fastball that has already been able to blow away major league hitters. His fastball coupled with an 88-90 mph changeup has high strikeout potential. He will be an excellent major league starter given the opportunity.

In the case of 2018, Reyes may not get many extended looks at the starting role. Since Reyes is still very young and is coming off a big surgery, the Cardinals are going to be very careful with him in 2018. They have already stated that he may not get work until late April, and at that point will get a bullpen role.

The Cardinals are in need of a closer at the moment. If they do not trade for one or sign someone like Greg Holland, there are rumors that Reyes could get looks in the closer role. Either way, Reyes is going to be a big name in the big leagues.

Michael Kopech: Chicago White Sox

Kopech is the kind of starter that tops out at 100 mph that can still reach the high 90s late in games. He is ranked as the second best prospect in an absolutely stacked White Sox system.

Kopech has been compared to Noah Syndergaard due to his wide arsenal. That is largely why he was a centerpiece in the Chris Sale trade with the Boston Red Sox.

He still has some work to be done before he is the fine tuned starter that he could be one day. Kopech can strike guys out like no other, but still has some control issues that can be worked on over time. It is nothing that you don’t see with high-velocity young pitchers. Chicago still has time before they are where they want to be on the big league level, but Kopech will get some solid time in 2018 where he can prove his star potential.

 

Featured image by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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Atlanta Braves team profile

Atlanta Braves team profile

The Atlanta Braves finished third in the NL East with a record of 72-90. What makes things difficult for them is the current state of the division. The Miami Marlins have decided not to be a competitor anytime soon, so that has opened things up a bit. However, with the Phillies on the rise and nobody playing close to the same level as the Washington Nationals, the Braves don’t look close to competing for NL East supremacy.

Let’s not forget though, the Braves have some pretty solid talent coming up. They have had a pretty eventful offseason as well.

Scandal in Atlanta

Atlanta Braves team profile

John Coppolella is banned from baseball for life (Photo from SI.com)

The sanctions against the Braves came down from the commissioner’s office this offseason. It had been revealed that the Braves had been dodging some international signing bonus rules over the past few years. The league did not take kindly to the Braves reporting less money than they really paid for some of their players. As a result, they punished the organization accordingly.

The Braves were stripped of 12 prospects, and their former general manager, John Coppolella, was banned from baseball. The ban adds Coppolella to a short list of people who have been banned from baseball for life. The 12 prospects that Atlanta was stripped of will be free to sign elsewhere.

Out of the prospects Atlanta lost, 17-year old Kevin Maitan is the most notable. Maitan signed a $4.25 million contract in 2016. He was considered to be one of the best international prospects at the time. Only time will tell how big of a blow the sanctions will be on Atlanta.

The prospects are here

Atlanta Braves team profile

Ronald Acuna is one of the bright stars of the future (Photo from Baseball Reference)

Atlanta has a ripe young crop of players that are about ready to make a major impact. 23-year-old shortstop, Dansby Swanson, has been considered one of the better prospects in all of baseball. That is why the Braves traded for him and sent away the disappointing Shelby Miller. Swanson has still yet to make a big impact at the major league level in his 182 games played, but he still has lots of time to develop.

Ozzie Albies, the 11th overall prospect according to MLB.com in 2017, did make a good impression in the last three months of the season. His slash line was a solid .286/.354/.456. He is proving to be more than a reliable option at second base for the Braves, especially considering he is only 20 years old.

The duo of Swanson and Albies may be a fixture it Atlanta for years to come. 2018 may be the first time that they both get good playing time in the infield, so it is a moment for them to prove that they are as good as everyone thinks they will be.

Swanson and Albies are not all the Braves’ farm system has to offer though. Ronald Acuna, the sixth best prospect, and Kolby Allard, the 22nd best prospect, are anticipated to make their debuts in 2018.

Acuna is only 20 years old and was named the Arizona Fall League MVP in 2017. There is a chance that he could be the next great five-tool player in the majors. He may not be able to reach a 20-20 mark as he does not possess great power, but he could hit over .300 along with 30 stolen bases. One thing he could work on is his strikeout to walk ratio. However, that comes with the territory with any young prospect. It will improve in time.

2018 Outlook

The NL East is still under the Nationals reign, especially with the demise of the Marlins. The Nationals still have the best chance of winning their division in all of Major League Baseball.

2018 is a key year for the Braves as it is a year for their young prospects to learn from the pros already on the team. Several of their best young players will be joining the club in a more permanent position, so guys like Freddie Freeman will play a key role in making these guys true ball players.

Don’t expect the Braves to be buying or selling at the trade deadline. If you are to follow the team, keep an eye on the young players mentioned earlier. Once they reach their potential, they could be a very solid team in the near future.

 

Featured image by Brett Davis-USA Today

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MLB Game 162 2011

Remembering baseball’s best night ever: Game 162

It is times like this when the average fan will look back and remember some great moments in baseball history. The hot stove is rather cold, and we are still six weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting in the spring.

One of the greatest moments of the 21st century, if not ever, was the 162nd game of the 2011 regular season. I am not talking about one game in particular. I am talking about four different games that all led to one of the greatest finishes to a regular season ever.

Before we can focus on game 162, we need to know the context of the season.

September 2011

On Sept. 1, 2011, the Boston Red Sox were in first place of the AL East and were nine games ahead of the third place Tampa Bay Rays. In the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals were 7.5 games back of the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central and 8.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves in the Wild Card. Remember, this was the year before there were two Wild Card teams accepted from each league.

At the beginning of the month, everything was perfectly laid out for teams that looked playoff bound. Boston was a favorite to go to the World Series at the beginning of the year, and they looked poised to make another trip. However, they went 7-18 going into the last game of the season, and the Rays went 16-9 going into game 162. They were tied for the Wild Card with one game left, and everyone knew it would be exciting night just on that front.

The Cardinals were long shots for the postseason at the beginning of September. They were further back in the Wild Card than they were in the division. Luckily for them, the Braves went 8-17 going into game 162, while the Cardinals went a solid 16-10. This also left Atlanta and St. Louis tied for the NL Wild Card, just like the American League.

The hype for these games was there, and luckily for us, they did not disappoint one iota.

What was the situation for game 162?

Where even to start? The Cardinals were playing the Astros in Houston in what would be the last time Minute Maid Park would ever be a part of the National League. The Astros were also the worst team in the league with a lowly 56-105 record.

The Braves, on the other hand, were playing at home. The only problem is that they were playing the best team in the majors, and their bitter rival, the Philadelphia Phillies. Even though the Phillies had clinched the division and home field advantage through the entire postseason long before this game, they still had every intention of keeping their division rival out of the playoffs.

Much like the Cardinals, the Red Sox were on the road and they were playing one of the worst teams in the league in the Baltimore Orioles. Baltimore had lost the previous game, but were treating this last one like it was their World Series. Under no circumstances were they going to let Boston have a free ticket into the playoffs.

Down in Tampa, the Rays were playing the New York Yankees, who already clinched the AL East as well as home-field advantage through American League playoffs. The Rays had won five games in a row and had Boston sweating up in Baltimore. A Boston loss and a win against New York would give the Rays their third playoff birth in franchise history.

The National League

MLB Game 162 2011

The Braves collapse will go down as one of the “greatest” ever (Photo from NY Daily News)

The first domino to fall on the historic day was St. Louis beating Houston 8-0. It was a straight forward game that left the Cardinals confident they would have a ticket to the postseason. The problem was that the Phillies were down to the Braves 3-2 going into the ninth inning. It looked like the Braves would hold on amidst their September collapse.

Not so fast. Chase Utley flew out to left field to allow Pete Orr to score and tie the game. They were on the way to extra innings.

The Braves were not able to muster much of anything in extras. The closest they got was in the 12th where they had runners on first and second with two outs. Martin Prado proceeded to ground out, and they went to the 13th.

Hunter Pence came to bat in the 13th and was able to drive in the go-ahead run on an opposite field single. That gave the Phillies a 4-3 lead going into the bottom of the inning where the Braves would fight to stay alive.

Due up in the bottom of the inning were three of the Braves best hitters in Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman. Jones began the inning by striking out, followed by Uggla being walked. It was a runner at first with one out with the young Freeman at the plate. He then grounded to first base, where John Mayberry and Jimmy Rollins were able to turn the double play, and Freeman slammed his helmet on the ground in disgust, finishing off what was an epic collapse to miss the postseason.

The American League

The results of the day are not the only thing that makes these games incredible, but it was in the manner in which it happened. Fangraphs did an excellent piece on the timing and odds that went into the regular season finale in the American League.

To sum up the games, New York had taken a 7-0 lead over Tampa, while Boston had a 3-2 lead over Baltimore. It looked like Tampa had no chance of coming back and that Boston would hold on. The stadium had emptied out as all hopes of the postseason alluded the Tampa faithful. About half the stadium looked emptied out at this point. All those fans forgot the wise words of Lenny Kravitz.

It ain’t over til it’s over.

The Rays burst out for a six-run bottom of the eighth, largely thanks to a three-run home run by Evan Longoria. The only problem was that they were still down 7-6 going into the ninth inning. They were down, but not out.

MLB Game 162 2011

The Rays react to a stunning home run from Dan Johnson (Photo from mlb.com)

The Rays found themselves down to one out in the bottom of the ninth. Joe Maddon used Dan Johnson as a pinch hitter to try and save their season against Cory Wade. Johnson fell behind and eventually reached a 2-2 count. The season was all but lost. Then, something magical happened.

Johnson roped a ball around the right field post for his second home run all season long.

Johnson trotted around the bases taking in what would be one of the greatest moments of the year. Everyone in Tropicana field went nuts, except for the skipper, Joe Maddon, who was stunned beyond belief.

It wasn’t over yet though. Boston and Baltimore had been in a rain delay, and they were just beginning to resume their game with Boston leading 3-2. They went to the bottom of the ninth, and Jonathan Papelbon had retired the first two hitters, and Baltimore was down to their final out.

Chris Davis was at the plate and was able to rope a ball down the right field line and get to second base for a two-out double. Nolan Reimold proceeded to drive a ball into the right-center gap for a ground-rule double to tie the game. Papelbon was just trying to get out of the inning at this point with Robert Andino at the plate. Andino was batting just .262 and was not a big threat at the plate. No problem for Papelbon, right?

MLB Game 162 2011

Mike Aviles walked off the field watching Baltimore celebrate their improbable victory (Photo from New York Times)

Wrong. Andino hit a line drive to the left fielder, Carl Crawford. Crawford bobbled the ball on the hop as he tried to make a play to catch the ball. That brief moment where he could not gather the ball led Reimold to round third base. Reimold steamrolled into home and just beat the throw. You might have thought that Baltimore had just won the World Series after that play.

Even after the blown save by Papelbon, the Red Sox still had hope. Hope that relied on the dreaded New York Yankees taking an extra-inning lead against the Rays. A moment where the Red Sox and their fan base would pray all they could for the Yankees to win, a true once in a lifetime moment. That moment was short lived.

It was not but three minutes later that those hopes would go down the drain.

Evan Longoria, the cornerstone player of Tampa Bay, perfectly fit a baseball just over the 315-foot marker on the short left field wall. The Rays came back from the grave in the Wild Card race in game 162 to stun the Boston Red Sox, who had just lost a heartbreaker 1,000 miles away.

The Aftermath

Terry Francona left as the Red Sox manager shortly after they blew their postseason chances. The Tampa Bay Rays lost in four games to the Texas Rangers, who eventually went on to the World Series.

The Philadelphia Phillies played the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS, the very team they allowed to enter the postseason after they stunned Atlanta. They lost the series to the Cardinals after a stunning performance by Chris Carpenter, outdueling the great Roy Halladay.

St. Louis went on to beat the Texas Rangers in seven games in the World Series in stunning fashion. That story is for another day though.

 

Featured image from the Tampa Bay Times

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