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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Larry Walker Hall of Fame

Larry Walker by the numbers

One of the most complete baseball players of this generation, Larry Walker could do anything on a baseball field. He hit for average, winning the batting title three times. He hit for power with over 380 home runs. He was an outstanding fielder with seven Gold Glove Awards. He could even run the bases with 230 steals to his name.

Yet somehow, he has come up short on the Hall of Fame Ballot for seven straight years. Last year, Walker received just 21.9 percent of the vote, which is not very close to the 75 percent mark. Some may hate on the fact that his career was cut short due to injuries, or even the fact that his best years were played in Colorado, the most favorable hitting park in the MLB. But when it comes down to the numbers, Larry Walker is a Hall of Famer.

The Come-up

As a kid growing up in Canada, Larry Walker liked to play hockey more than he did baseball. Walker dreamed of becoming an NHL goalie and would always practice with his pal, Cam Neely. Some NHL fans may have heard of him. Since his high school did not have a baseball team, Walker would only play a few baseball games in the summer.

Larry Walker Hall of Fame

(Photo from The Trading Card Database)

At 16, Walker tried out for two Junior A hockey teams, but was cut from both. From this point on, baseball became his main focus. In fact, Walker can be credited for dramatically increasing the popularity of baseball in Canada. The shorter summers in Canada made it hard for Walker to get the experience he needed, but he clearly made it work.

Walker made this statement in an interview according to Society of American Baseball Research (SABR).

“I’d never seen a forkball, never seen a slider. I didn’t know they existed. I had never really seen a good curveball. In Canada, as a kid, we’d play 10 baseball games a year. 15 tops. Some pitchers had a thing they’d call a spinner, but nothing like this. Baseball just wasn’t big. The weather was against it. Nobody ever played baseball thinking about making the major leagues.”

Walker also was unfamiliar with a lot of the rules in baseball, further showing his lack of experience.

Although Walker went undrafted (Canadians were not yet eligible to be selected in the MLB draft), Montreal Expos scouting director, Jim Fanning, saw potential in him at 18 years old when Larry was playing for the Canadian team in the World Youth Championships in Saskatchewan. Fanning was in awe when Walker hit a home run with a wooden bat, mainly because all of the others players were using aluminum bats. He was signed as an amateur free agent to a contract worth $1,500, which is $3,457.9 in USD today.

Pro Ball

In his first spring training, Walker showed right away that he was not used to the pitching. He was looking for a fastball every time and would swing at basically anything. In the New York-Penn League, an independent league team made up of rookie league prospects who got cut, Walker hit .223 with two home runs in 62 games.

After this disastrous season, Walker was sent to the Florida Instructional League to develop his game. A tough, hardworking kid, Walker wound up becoming a top prospect in the Expos’ system. As a 19-year-old in A ball, Walker hit .288, with 33 home runs. The following season, in AA, he hit .287 with 26 home runs and stole 24 bases. He struck out over 120 times in both seasons, which wound up being something Walker never did in his 17-year MLB career.

After missing the 1988 season due to reconstructive knee surgery, Walker was sent to AAA, and it was clear he was ready for the show. For a kid who barely played baseball growing up, Walker ended up alright, hitting 380 home runs and making around $110,466,931 in the big leagues.

Numbers never lie

Larry Walker Hall of Fame

(Photo from SI)

Walker played for the Expos, Rockies and Cardinals. As an Expo, he had two seasons in which he finished in the top 15 in MVP voting. In 1994, during the strike season, Walker hit .322 with 19 home runs, a league-high 44 doubles, 86 RBIs and stole 15 bases in just 103 games. Had the season not been cut short, Walker was on pace to hit around 30 home runs, 69 doubles, 24 steals and 135 RBIs. In his six seasons in Montreal, Walker made one All-Star team and won two Gold Glove Awards and a Silver Slugger Award.

His best seasons were, by far, as a member of the Colorado Rockies. He made four of his five All-Star teams as a Rockie and was named the NL MVP in 1997. Among position players in 1997, Walker was clearly the best player in the league. He led the league in WAR at 9.8, and his stats were outlandish. In 153 games, Walker hit 49 home runs and batted .366 with a .452 OBP, a .720 SLG and a 1.172 OPS. He led the league in all of those categories except batting average, finishing second behind Tony Gwynn, who hit .372.

Players to have a season of BA>=.365, HR>=49, OBP>=.450 and SLG>=.710 YEAR(S)
BABE RUTH 1920, 1921
LARRY WALKER 1997

 

Players who had seasons of: BA>=.350, HR>=35, OBP>=.420 and SLG>=.600

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 8
LOU GEHRIG 5
LARRY WALKER 3
TED WILLIAMS 3
JIMMIE FOXX 3
ROGERS HORBSY 3
ALBERT PUJOLS 2
BARRY BONDS 2

Even in his later years as a member of the St Louis Cardinals for his 37 and 38-year-old seasons, Walker continued to find success. In 144 games with the Cardinals, Walker hit .286 with 26 home runs. In 2004, in his only World Series appearance, Walker hit .357 with two home runs and three RBIs.

 

Seasons in the Top 10 by Statistic

STAT NO. OF TOP-10 APPEARANCES
WAR 3 (1ST in 1997)
Batting Average 6 (1ST in 1998, 1999, 2001)
OBP 6 (1ST in 1997, 1999)
SLG 8 (1ST in 1997,1998)
HR 5 (1ST in 1997)
OBPS 8 (1ST in 1997, 1999)

Here are two tables to illustrate how amazing this guy was.

PLAYERS WHO, FOR THEIR CAREERS, HAD: BA>=.310, HR>=380, OBP>=.400 and 2B>=470
BABE RUTH
MANNY RAMIREZ
LARRY WALKER
TED WILLIAMS
LOU GEHRIG
STAN MUSIAL

 

PLAYERS WHO, FOR THEIR CAREERS, HAD: TB>=3900, OPS>=.965 and SLG>=.560
BARRY BONDS
BABE RUTH
MANNY RAMIREZ
JIMMIE FOXX
TED WILLIAMS
LOU GEHRIG
LARRY WALKER
JOE DIMAGGIO
ROGERS HORNSBY

 

Featured image by SI.com

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Top 10 MLB franchises of all time

Best baseball franchises of all time

Normally, this is the time of year when big-time moves are made. Free agents are signed, general managers are wheelin’ and dealin’ and there is a constant buzz around baseball.

This year? Not so much. The free agent market has been relatively stagnant, and trades are few and far between. So I’ve decided to actually put my history degree to use and list the top 10 baseball franchises of all time. Clubs will be ranked by World Series titles, Hall of Fame players and overall success. We will start at No. 10.

10. Detroit Tigers

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 9,235-8,979 record, nine Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAs one of the oldest teams in baseball, the Tigers have to find a way onto the list. They were a charter member of the American League and have been in Detroit since 1901.

But they don’t earn a spot on these rankings from their age alone. They have the 13th most Hall of Fame players in baseball, accumulating nine spots in Cooperstown. They also have four World Series titles to their credit, good for ninth most in baseball. But it’s the stories, myths and legends that help give this team an edge over the others.

As one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Ty Cobb was a menace in Detroit for 22 years. Stories of his aggressive demeanor are only overshadowed by his prowess on the field. He lead the American League in hitting nine years in a row and batted over .400 twice within that span. He also holds the all-time highest career batting average at .366. If that wasn’t enough, he was also an inaugural inductee into the Hall of Fame in 1936.

The Tigers never won a World Series with Cobb, but broke through in 1935 to give the city its first championship. They did it again in 1945, 1968 and 1984. Their 2012 trip to the World Series has been their most recent appearance.

The Tigers also have some greats to rely on in the 21st century, with Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera leading the way. Even in the midst of a rebuild, the Tigers can still lay claim to baseball royalty.

9. Chicago Cubs

Statistics: Three World Series titles, 10,803-10,258 record, 14 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeIf the Tigers are considered an aged franchise, the Cubs are ancient. You can trace their playing history all the way back to 1876, only 11 years after the end of the Civil War. They are a charter member of the National League, and assumed the Cubs name back in 1903.

As one of the best in baseball history, it’s not surprising to find that they hold multiple records. One of those is the modern-era single-season winning percentage of .763 in 1906 when they went 116-36. But the franchise’s history goes much deeper than the team level.

Perhaps one of the more overlooked Hall of Fame players for the Cubs is third baseman Ron Santo. Playing in the 1960s through mid-70s, he teamed with Ernie Banks to return hope to the Cubbie faithful. Even though the duo wasn’t able to bring a title home to Chicago, Santo still played at a high level. He was a nine-time All-Star and five-time Gold Glove winner for the Cubs, providing stability at the hot corner.

One thing Santo couldn’t provide was a regular World Series contender, as the Cubs would have to wait until 2016 to earn their third title. With players like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ian Happ, Jose Quintana, Jon Lester and a multitude of others, another World Series title in the near future is not out of the question.

8. Oakland Athletics

Statistics: Nine World Series titles, 8,834-9,322 record, five Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeThe Athletics are another one of the old-guard franchises, joining the Tigers as an inaugural member of the American League in 1901. Unlike the Tigers, the Athletics have had multiple homes. After starting out in Philadelphia, the team moved to Kansas City in 1955 and then to Oakland in 1968.

They are also one of the few teams on this list with a losing record, posting a .487 win percentage. However, with so many World Series titles (third most in baseball history), they easily find themselves among the top ten teams all time.

One reason for their World Series dominance is Mr. October, Reggie Jackson. Before Jackson was shining under the bright lights in New York, he was blasting away at the bay. Jackson played 10 seasons for the Athletics, leading them to back-to-back-to-back titles in 1972, 1973 and 1974. He was also a more balanced player in Oakland, hitting 269 home runs and stealing 145 bases.

Just like many of Oakland’s stars, the Athletics weren’t able to retain him. This developed into a common theme for the A’s.

That is one reason why their win percentage is so low. The Athletics experienced multiple runs of success, winning five World Series titles from 1910-30, three in the 1970s and one in 1989. With the introduction of free agency, the small-market Athletics weren’t able to compete in the bidding wars their stars warranted.

Even so, the A’s have been one of the best franchises of all time, and could be on the verge of another dominant run with a loaded farm system and young major league club.

7. Pittsburgh Pirates

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 10,394-10,233 record, 13 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAfter joining the National League in 1887, the Pirates took baseball by storm, representing the National League in the inaugural World Series in 1903. It wasn’t until 1909 that the steel city could boast its first World Series title though.

Led by players like Honus Wagner, the Pirates of the early 20th century dominated baseball. With pennants in 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1909, the Pirates established themselves as one of the dynasties of baseball.

They continued that legacy well into the 20th century, relying on one of the greatest Pirates of all time to guide the franchise. Roberto Clemente started for the Pirates at the ripe age of 20, but didn’t establish himself until he turned 25. In the following eight seasons, Clemente earned eight All-Star appearances, seven Gold Gloves and one AL MVP award. He also led the Pirates to two World Series titles, cementing himself as a legend in Pittsburgh.

His legend ended spreading far beyond Pittsburgh or baseball, as he was an avid humanitarian. That, coupled with his skills on the diamond, makes him one of the most beloved Hall of Fame players the Pirates have had. As such, a new generation looks to carry on the legend he left behind. Players like Gregory Polanco, Starlin Marte and a cast of young Pirates will look to right the ship and return to the franchises’ former glory days.

6. Cincinnati Reds

Statistics: Five World Series titles, 10,457-10,211 record, 10 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAs one of the charter members of the American Association in 1881, the Reds have played ball in Cincinnati for 136 seasons. In that time, some of the greatest players and teams have called the queen city home.

Unlike the other ancients of baseball, the Reds did not have much early success. They boast one World Series title in the early 20th century, winning the fall classic in 1919. Even so, their dominance in the 1970s is the stuff of legends, as only one of the greatest teams of all time can be worthy of such a title as “the Red Machine.”

At the heart of the red machine was none other than Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench. He helped propel one of the most dominant teams of the modern era, and caught one of the better pitching staffs baseball has seen. He played his full 17-year career in Cincinnati. In that time, the Reds won back-to-back World Series titles in 1975 and 1976. With a rare blend of power and defensive skills, Bench became the standard bearer for elite catching. But a machine isn’t made up of just one member.

Pete Rose, Joe Morgan and Dave Conception were all vital cogs in the big red machine and were integral parts to their two World Series titles in the 1970s. Now a new machine is being constructed in Cincinnati led by All-Star Joey Votto. With a young core and stacked farm system, the Reds will try to emulate the success of the 1970s.

5. San Francisco Giants

Statistics: Eight World Series titles, 11,015-9,513 record, five Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeOne of the first things that catches your eye with the San Francisco Giants is their gaudy record. Since their inception in 1883, they have posted a .537 win percentage. That includes stints as the New York Gothams, New York Giants and San Francisco Giants. While fans may have more fond memories of New York than San Francisco (five World Series titles in New York, three in San Francisco), San Francisco does have much more recent memories to draw upon.

One of the most dominant and bizarre runs baseball has seen belongs to the San Francisco Giants. In 2010, 2012 and 2014 the Giants were able to bring San Francisco a World Series title. Led by one of the best pitcher-catcher combos in the game, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey were vital to the Giants prolonged success.

In his rookie season, Bumgarner pitched eight shutout innings against the Texas Rangers in the World Series. Posey was also solid as a rookie in the World Series, batting an even .300. Now both grizzled veterans, they look to bring San Francisco back to its former glory.

With a strong supporting cast, they may make another run yet. Joining Bumgarner and Posey at the core of the Giants roster is Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence, Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen. All in the prime of their respective careers, the Giants should definitely be feared. But it remains to be seen if they can make a return to their former glory atop the throne of baseball’s elite.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

Statistics: Six World Series titles, 10,776-9,691 record, six Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeAnother former New York team claims a spot on our rankings, as the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in baseball’s elite. After undergoing nine different name changes since their founding in 1884, the Dodgers moniker finally stuck in 1932. The team went on to win all six of its World Series titles as the Dodgers, bringing one home for Brooklyn in 1955, two years before their cross-country exodus. Even with five titles won in Los Angeles, Brooklyn will always be able to boast one of the greatest players of all time, Jackie Robinson.

Robinson broke onto the major league scene in 1947. As a 28-year-old rookie, Robinson won Rookie of the Year. He also added an MVP to his trophy case, bringing home the award in 1949.

Even as a six-time All-Star, MVP and World Series champion, Robinson’s biggest impact has come after his playing days. As one of the first African-Americans to play Major League Baseball, Robinson opened the door for thousands of African-Americans to follow in his footsteps. That distinction, coupled with his stellar career, made Robinson a slam dunk first-ballot Hall of Famer in 1962.

While the Dodgers haven’t won a World Series since 1988, they are not far off from earning another one. With a core of Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Yasiel Puig and others, the Dodgers are believed to be perennial World Series contenders. And with future Hall of Fame lefty Clayton Kershaw as the ace, the sky is the limit for these Los Angeles Dodgers. Look for their number of World Series titles and Hall of Fame players to increase in the coming seasons.

3. Boston Red Sox

Statistics: Eight World Series titles, 9,410-8,776 record, 12 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeNow we enter some rarefied air. The Boston Red Sox are one of the younger franchises on this list, debuting in 1901. Even so, they have made good use of their time. With a glut of World Series titles and Hall of Fame inductees, the Red Sox have put together a .517 win percentage. While part of that is due to their large market status that lets them spend freely in free agency, it’s also owed to some savvy drafting and player development.

One example of the Red Sox keen eye for talent is one of the best baseball players of all time, Ted Williams. Williams made his Red Sox debut at 20 years old, and led the American League in RBIs with 145. He hit .406 in 1941, while leading the league in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging. Even with a three-year hiatus in the midst of his career to fight in World War II, Williams is easily a Hall of Famer. That was proven by his first-ballot induction in 1966.

With all of Ted Williams’ heroics, he could not bring Boston a World Series title. It took 86 years for Boston to be title town again in 2004. What has followed has been a successful run. With two more World Series titles in 2007 and 2013, it seems the curse had finally been lifted. It will be up to Mookie Betts, Rafael Devers and Chris Sale to continue to prove the curse broken.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Statistics: 11 World Series titles, 10,739-9,918 record, 17 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeVery few teams have been as good as long as the St. Louis Cardinals have. Founded in 1882 and joining the National League in 1892, the Cardinals have been one of the most dominant teams in baseball.

In a span of 20 seasons (1926-46), the Cardinals amassed six World Series titles. Their 11 total World Series titles gives them the second most in baseball history. It hasn’t just been World Series titles that has made them great though, as the Cardinals have a slew of Hall of Famers.

Perhaps the greatest was Stan “The Man” Musial. Musial entered the league in 1941, and by 1943 was a perennial MVP candidate. He won the award three times in his illustrious career and brought St. Louis three World Series titles.

Perhaps his most amazing accomplishment was his 24 All-Star selections, garnered over a 22-year career. That career includes 475 home runs and a .331 batting average, making Musial one of the best of all time.

Cardinals greats aren’t limited to just Musial though. Players like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright have helped carry on the Cardinal’s legacy. And with players like Matt Carpenter, Marcel Ozuna and Dexter Fowler joining them, the Cardinals are set to continue their run among baseball’s best.

1. New York Yankees

Statistics: 27 World Series titles, 10,175-7,719 record, 24 Hall of Fame inductees

Top 10 MLB franchises of all timeWas their ever any doubt who No. 1 would be? The New York Yankees aren’t just one of the best franchises in all of baseball. They are perhaps the best professional sports franchise in history. With 27 World Series titles, 53 playoff appearances and 40 pennants, it’s hard to argue against it. With such a dominant history, one would believe it would be difficult to sift through all of the greats to don the pinstripes. However, one stands out among the rest.

George Herman “Babe” Ruth was the man that built the New York Yankees dynasty. Ruth wouldn’t become a full-time hitter until his move from the Red Sox to the Yankees in 1925. Prior to the move, Ruth amassed 94 wins and a 2.24 ERA as a starting pitcher with the Red Sox.

But it was at the plate that Ruth made the biggest impact. He earned seven World Series titles with the Yankees, hitting 714 home runs and batting .341 in his career. When the Yankees moved to Yankee Stadium in 1923, it was nicknamed “The House that Ruth Built.” No other man has had such an impact on baseball history. A fitting distinction for a legendary franchise.

That’s not to say that others haven’t tried. In fact, the Yankees boast two of the best power hitters currently in baseball in Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. Both have 50-homer power, and will be the driving force behind another great Yankees team.

The major league club also has a loaded farm system, something past Yankees teams haven’t had. With so much talent throughout the organization, the Yankees are primed for another dynastic run.

 

Feature image from Cool Old Photos.

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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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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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Chicago Cubs offseason moves

Have the Cubs done enough to solidify their position?

The Cubs have been busy this winter. They have made it evident that despite the fact they have made the NLCS four consecutive years, they need to do as much as possible to fend off competitors in the Central. Here is a look at their moves this offseason thus far:

Additions: RHP Tyler Chatwood, RHP Steve Cishek, RHP Brandon Morrow, LHP Drew Smyly

Lost: RHP Hector Rondon, RHP Wade Davis

Free Agents: RHP Jake Arrieta, RHP John Lackey, OF Jon Jay, C Alex Avila, LHP Brian Duensing

The Cubs’ competition is coming

Theo Epstein acknowledged during the winter meetings that the Cardinals have done a lot to improve their roster. He knows that they have lots of prospects to play with and the money to afford the big-name players. Their addition of Marcell Ozuna, along with another probable improvement to the roster, gives them the edge to make things a bit more competitive.

Surprisingly, the Milwaukee Brewers ended up being the Cubs toughest competition in the Central last year. What is tough to believe is that the Brewers had the lowest payroll in baseball last season. They have a young team and could only get better next year. Thus far, they have signed mostly pitchers, just like the Cubs. Chicago shouldn’t think last year was a fluke with the Brewers either. They should still be in the thick of things.

Are the pitching additions enough?

Chicago Cubs offseason moves

Brandon Morrow should fill the void left by Wade Davis (Photo from ChicagoNow)

Cishek and Morrow are good improvements to the bullpen with the departures of Wade Davis and Hector Rondon. According to all of their performances last year, Cishek and Morrow had a better combined WAR than the former Cubs pitchers. The bullpen should be even better than their sixth ranked bullpen last year.

Looking at the Cubs’ lineup, it is hard to find better replacements for their offense than they already have. What they are banking on is a better season from some of their hitters. Chicago still had the fourth most runs in the majors last year, but their team batting average fell down to 16th.

Kyle Schwarber turned out to be a disappointing aspect of the Cubs season last year, despite the fact he hit 30 home runs. We are in an era now though where home run hitters are a dime a dozen.

Schwarber’s average was under .200 for a good amount of the season. This led to his demotion to the minor leagues where he was retooling his game. With the potential he has in his bat, the Cubs are going to look for more from him. If he does not show many improvements, he may be on the move before the end of next year, as there has been interest in him from other teams around the league. This will give them the opportunity to find another bat that may be on the market. Bryce Harper may be a name the Cubs could be interested in come free agency next year.

What will happen in 2018?

Chicago Cubs offseason moves

Lester and Hendricks will have more important roles if Arrieta leaves (Photo from WGN)

It is hard to believe the Cubs will not be able to hold onto their NL Central supremacy. St. Louis has been doing all they can to return to their perennial playoff contenders, as they want to compete right away. While the Brewers have not done as much, the team can still give the Cubs some trouble.

2017 was a year where the Cubs were not able to pull away from the competition nearly as much as they did in 2016. The question is, was that year as good as they are going to get? With how young the Cubs are and the potential they have on the roster, nobody would have told you they would take steps back. It is extremely difficult to repeat as World Series winners two years in a row, so it was not a surprise they were not able to return.

The race for the NL Central should come down to the wire in September. While the Cardinals may be able to pull into a few games of the Cubs, they should be able to repeat and get to the postseason once again.

One improvement the Cubs should make is another pitcher into the rotation. They added Tyler Chatwood, and Drew Smyly won’t be available until 2019. Mike Montgomery also wants to be figured into the rotation in Chicago.

The potential loss of Jake Arrieta could have a big impact on the team though. Watch for Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks to really carry the load to keep Chicago as a World Series contender.

 

Featured image by AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

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NL Central division

New Year’s Resolutions for NL Central teams

2018 is upon us, and that means it is time to look forward to the year ahead. The NL Central division proved to be one of the most lackluster divisions in 2017, with the Cubs not quite hitting their stride until September, and the Cardinals floating around .500.

With that being said, here are New Year’s resolutions for the five teams in the NL Central to make it a more exciting year.

Cincinnati Reds: Get extended work from young starters

The Reds finished in last place with a 68-94 record. That would make you think they are an all around bad team right? Well, not exactly.

The Reds had a pretty good offense. Joey Votto may have won the MVP if the Reds had more wins, and Scooter Gennett had a breakout year at the plate. They ranked 14th in runs and still have the potential to be one of baseball’s better teams.

What the Reds struggled with was pitching. They were second to last in ERA and could not get much of anything from anybody. However, 2018 is the year where many of their young pitchers should be getting a full season worth of work. Their young core is highlighted by Brandon Finnegan, Luis Castillo and Robert Stephenson.

If these three guys can start to put together a full season worth of solid work, the Reds may be closer to competing than most think.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Plan for the future

NL Central division

Andrew McCutchen may be in his final year in Pittsburgh (Photo from Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports).

Andrew McCutchen is entering the final year of his six-year, $51.5 million contract. He finished 2017 with a respectable .279/.363/.486 slash line, along with 28 home runs and 88 RBIs. Those are stats that can help any team in the majors. The reason I say that is because the Pirates ought to seriously consider moving him before he hits free agency next winter.

The Pirates have a couple good players coming up through their system, such as Austin Meadows, who is the the ninth best prospect in baseball according to MLB.com. Josh Bell also had a great rookie year, and Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte add to a solid outfield.

The only problem is that this team does not seem to be getting anywhere. Pittsburgh finished at 75-87 and fourth in the Central. Marte being suspended for half the year may have had something to do with that, but his presence for a full season alone won’t help them compete for the NL Central crown.

There have already been intense discussions about Gerrit Cole moving to New York. The move does not seem as serious as it once did, but just the fact that there are credible talks out there speaks as to what the Pirates think they can accomplish in 2018. With some of the young talent they have, this is a good opportunity for them to build up for 2019-21.

This coming year looks to be more of a year in limbo for Pittsburgh, so it would be best to get what they can for McCutchen and Cole.

St. Louis Cardinals: Add another bat and a reliever before the regular season

NL Central division

The Ozuna trade shows how serious the Cardinals are about winning now (Photo from Walsh Sports Analytics)

The Cardinals have been the center of multiple rumors this offseason. They were able to land Marcell Ozuna from the Marlins for a fairly reasonable price, so they have that to be happy about. They also signed a pitcher from from the NPB not named Shohei Ohtani in Miles Mikolas. Both acquisitions should make an immediate impact on the ball club.

With Trevor Rosenthal released from the team, the Cardinals are in search for a closer. There are still plenty of names available. Alex Colome has been brought up in multiple trade rumors with the Cardinals, and Greg Holland and Wade Davis are still on the market as well. Any of these three guys would bolster the back of a bullpen that does not have a closer at the moment.

St. Louis should also be in search for one more impact bat. Adding Ozuna was nice, but the front office knows that there is more work to be done.

With the outfield in a comfortable position at the moment, the Cardinals ought to be looking for corner infielders. Ideally, they would like to have Matt Carpenter move around the infield and have Jedd Gyorko as a utility man. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are two free agents that come to mind that fit the mold. The only problem is that these two do not provide any extra pop that the Cardinals don’t already have. It would just clutter the infield more.

The Cardinals are still looking for a team to trade with. Manny Machado and Josh Donaldson are both on their radar, but it seems they won’t be traded at least until the All-Star break.

The Cardinals may have to wait until 2018 free agency to add one of these guys, but that should not stop them for looking for a bat this offseason. They are not that far off from competing with the Cubs for the NL Central title in 2018.

Milwaukee Brewers: Build off 2017 success

NL Central division

Travis Shaw was a first time All-Star in 2017 (Photo from Pintrest)

Even though they did not make the playoffs, the Brewers were a pleasant surprise in 2017. Travis Shaw and Eric Thames emerged as above average hitters and made the Brewers a threatening lineup. Jimmy Nelson also broke out as a potential ace in the rotation. They were able to give the Cubs fits and were neck and neck with them until the end.

The organization knows that this is not the time to take any steps back. The Brewers have real potential to make the playoffs, so they are doing what they can to ensure they play at the same type of level they did last year. They have not landed any big name free agents, but the signings of Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo show they are serious about improving their rotation and doing what it takes to stay in the thick of things.

Although it is unlikely, signing an arm like Jake Arrieta or Yu Darvsih would be tremendously helpful. The Brewers had the lowest payroll in 2017, so that says a lot about what they were able to accomplish in the NL Central. If they were able to spend a little more money, who knows what they might be able to do.

Chicago Cubs: Stay separated from the rest of the pack

After the Cubs broke their legendary drought in 2016, it looked as if it would be impossible to dethrone the Cubs for the years to come. After 2017, it is evident that is not the case. Kyle Schwarber struggled at the plate greatly and Jason Heyward is not playing up to his contract. Now that Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis have hit free agency, the Cubs look vulnerable.

It is still important to remember the Cubs have the best pieces out of anyone in the Central. There is no reason they can’t make 2018 the fourth consecutive year they make the NLCS. However, the Cardinals look like they have a decent shot at making things more difficult for the Cubs. The Brewers also may be even better next year.

The Cubs have had some solid signings thus far. They signed Tyler Chatwood and Brandon Morrow, who are two excellent pickups for their rotation.

What the Cubs are hoping for is continued growth from the 2016 MVP, Kris Bryant. He still had a great 2017, but he has the potential to be a perennial MVP contender. Along with Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs have a lot of pieces in place for success. They just need to make sure it is enough to fend off the Brewers and Cardinals.

Either way, this should be an exciting year in the Central and could lay ground for what happens in the future as well.

 

Featured image from letmebefrankblog.com

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Manny Ramirez Hall of Fame

Manny Ramirez by the numbers

The year is 2004, a year Boston Red Sox fans will never forget.

In July, at the MLB All-Star Game, Boston Red Sox star Manny Ramirez hit a two-run home run off of Roger Clemens in the top of the first inning. By the end of the regular season, Ramirez was first in the AL in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS. He finished third in RBIs, fourth in doubles and total bases, sixth in on-base percentage, eighth in walks and tenth in runs. Manny wound up finishing third in AL MVP voting.

Manny Ramirez Hall of Fame

2004 World Series MVP (Photo from MassLive.com)

A year after the infamous Aaron Boone walk-off home run sent Boston home for good, the Red Sox were back in the postseason. Eager to end the Curse of the Bambino, Boston came out with a bang in the ALDS. They swept the Anaheim Angels, and Ramirez hit .385 with seven RBIs in the three games. This win set up a rematch with the New York Yankees in the ALCS. We all know how that one went.

In the most unforgettable ALCS in baseball history, Ramirez hit .300 and had an OBP of .400. Boston was just four games away from breaking the 86-year-old curse and had to go up against the St. Louis Cardinals, who won 105 games in the regular season. Manny and the Red Sox were not fazed by St. Louis’ success and swept the Red Birds in four games. In the 2004 World Series, Ramirez hit .412 with four RBIs and an OBP of .500. He was named World Series MVP.

Ramirez finished his MLB career with 2,574 hits, 555 home runs, and a batting average of .312. He was a 12-time All-Star, two-time World Series Champion, nine-time Silver Slugger and even won the AL Batting Title in 2002. He is one of five retired players to be a member of the .300/500HR/5002B club, an elite list of players that includes Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

PLAYERS WHO HIT AT LEAST: .310, 550 HOME RUNS, 2,500 HITS, .410 OBP
BABE RUTH
MANNY RAMIREZ

Controversy

His career WAR of 69.2 ranks 106th all-time, ahead of Ivan Rodriguez, Tony Gwynn, Al Simmons, Tim Raines, Carlton Fisk, Eddie Murray and Ernie Banks to name a few. Arguably the best right-handed hitter the game has ever seen, Ramirez, because of multiple failed steroid tests, will most likely not be voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

If you can’t talk about the history of stars in baseball without mentioning Manny Ramirez, then he belongs in the Hall of Fame. With guys like Mike Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez and Jeff Bagwell, three stars who already have been elected into the Hall of Fame despite possible steroid use, how could Ramirez not be a member? It would make sense if nobody from the steroid era was voted in, but they have already crossed the line. Ramirez put up numbers that we have only seen from Babe Ruth, and he belongs in the Hall of Fame if Piazza, Rodriguez and Bagwell are in.

Here is an excerpt from Jeff Pearlman’s book about Roger Clemens, The Rocket that Fell to Earth:

“There was nothing more obvious than Mike on steroids,” says another major league veteran who played against Piazza for years. “Everyone talked about it, everyone knew it. Guys on my team, guys on the Mets. A lot of us came up playing against Mike, so we knew what he looked like back in the day. Frankly, he sucked on the field. Just sucked. After his body changed, he was entirely different. ‘Power from nowhere,’ we called it.”  When asked, on a scale of 1 to 10, to grade the odds that Piazza had used performance enhancers, the player doesn’t pause.  “A 12,” he says. “Maybe a 13.”

In an interview with 60 Minutes, Jose “The Godfather of Steroids” Canseco, talks about his own experience with anabolic steroids and human growth hormones, as well as other players in the MLB:

“Rafael Palmeiro, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez,” says Canseco. “I injected them. Absolutely.”

Whether or not the BBWAA figures out how to properly vote or not, numbers never lie.

Manny being Manny

Manny Ramirez was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, but moved to New York City at 13 years old. He went on to attend George Washington High School and was a star on their baseball team. In the 1991 MLB Draft, Ramirez was selected 13th overall by the Cleveland Indians. He went on to play for the Indians, Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Tampa Bay Rays and Chicago White Sox.

Some of his best seasons came as a member of the Indians. In 1999, he became one of five players (first since 1938), to hit at least 44 home runs, 160 RBIs, .330 batting average and a .440 OBP. Joining Ramirez on this list is Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Hack Wilson and Jimmie Foxx.

Manny Ramirez Hall of Fame

In 2008, Ramirez hit .396 in 53 games with the Dodgers (Photo from Zimbio.com)

In 2000, Ramirez became one of 10 players to have a season of at least a .350 batting average, 38 home runs, OPS of 1.150 and 85 walks. The nine others who accomplished this were Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas, Hack Wilson, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams and Todd Helton.

In 2008, at 36 years-old, Ramirez was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a three-team deal. The Red Sox acquired Jason Bay and Josh Wilson, and the Pittsburgh Pirates received Andy LaRoche, Bryan Morris, Craig Hansen and Brandon Moss. In his 53 games as a Dodger in the 2008 season, Ramirez hit .396 with 17 home runs. His totals from that year were .332, 37 HR, 183 hits and a .430 OBP.

Ramirez joined Babe Ruth as the only players to bat at least .330 with 35 home runs, an OBP of .430, and 180 hits at age 36 or older. During the 2008 postseason, the Dodgers made it all the way to the NLCS before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies. Ramirez, in the eight playoff games, hit .520, with four home runs and 10 RBIs. His .667 OBP in the 2008 postseason ranks fifth all-time, while his 1.080 SLG is 10th all-time.

For his career, Ramirez ranks fifth in postseason games played, and is arguably one of the best October players we have ever seen. He ranks first in home runs with 29, first in walks, second in RBIs and total bases, third in runs and hits and fifth in doubles.

Here are three more tables that show just how great this man was at hitting a baseball.

PLAYERS WHO HIT AT LEAST: .410 OBP, .580 SLG, 500 DOUBLES
BARRY BONDS
BABE RUTH
MANNY RAMIREZ
TED WILLIAMS
LOU GEHRIG

 

SEASONS WITH AT LEAST: .290 BATTING AVERAGE, 30 HR, .950 OPS

PLAYER NUMBER OF SEASONS
BARRY BONDS 13
BABE RUTH 13
MANNY RAMIREZ 12
JIMMIE FOXX 10
ALBERT PUJOLS 10
LOU GEHRIG 10
HANK AARON 9
WILLIE MAYS 9

 

SEASONS WITH AT LEAST: .320 BATTING AVERAGE, 30 HR, .425 OBP

PLAYER NUMBER OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 11
JIMMIE FOXX 9
LOU GEHRIG 8
TED WILLIAMS 7
MANNY RAMIREZ 6
ALBERT PUJOLS 6
BARRY BONDS 5
STAN MUSIAL 5

Featured image by The Boston Globe

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Manny Machado top destinations

Top destinations for Manny Machado

The dust from the Giancarlo Stanton hot stove has settled, but the rumor mill is not slowing down. It seemed like Stanton would be the biggest name on the trade block, but Manny Machado is a name of similar star power with only one year remaining on his contract.

Baltimore would be wise to move Machado as their AL East rivals are pulling away from the competition. With the acquisition of Stanton, the Yankees are all in for October this year. It has become evident that the Orioles do not have what it takes to compete with them or the Red Sox at this point. With only one year of control over Adam Jones and Zach Britton as well, it is time to see what haul of prospects they can bring in for the future.

Any contending team could use Machado’s services in 2018. General Manager Dan Duquette has stated there will be no open window for teams to discuss a contract with Machado, so odds are he will hit the free agent market next winter. With that being said, here are the most likely destinations to land his services.

5. New York Yankees

Manny Machado top destinations

Even after the Stanton acquisition, the Yankees are still hungry for more (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

The Yankees have emerged as suitors for Machado in 2018. However, the Orioles do not believe it is in their best interest to trade their cornerstone player to their division rival. Even if they are to trade him elsewhere, they believe there is a possibility he could still be flipped to New York.

Baltimore is in the market for some young arms, and New York has that in their farm system. That has to be attractive for them as New York is always the team to go after the big name players. Landing Machado would immediately make them World Series favorites for 2018.

The largest hurdle they will have to jump is the Orioles’ reluctance to hand him over within the division. The Yankees would have to give up a serious haul to get them on board.

4. Chicago White Sox

The White Sox are not a conventional team to find on this list. There is no real chance for them to even win their division in AL Central. Reports have emerged, however, that they have the most intriguing offer for the Orioles. Even if that is the case, it still does not make sense.

The guys from the south side have been wheeling and dealing to the point where people fear they will be one of the most dangerous teams in baseball come 2021. They have six prospects in the MLB Top 100, and that doesn’t include former No. 1 prospect, Yoan Moncada.

Since Machado is only under contract for one year, there is no guarantee he will stick with the team long term. It is hard to believe that he won’t test the free agent market, so it does not make sense for the White Sox to give up more than one of these Top 100 prospects. The only way this will work is if they are confident that he will sign with them after 2018.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks

Arizona lines up well with Baltimore in the sense that they have the arms Baltimore wants. One name that has popped up onto the market is Zack Greinke. He is owed a salary of $34 million each of the next four years and is already 34 years old, so it is not exactly what Baltimore may want. However, he is still proving to be a viable option in the rotation.

The Diamondbacks are not far off from competing either. While they may have been swept in the divisional series by the Dodgers, they still have what it takes to do well in October. Again, this may come down to whether or not the Diamondbacks feel they can keep Machado past 2018.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Manny Machado top destinations

It will take a lot for the Cardinals to part with their top pitching prospect,
Alex Reyes (Photo from ESPN)

The Cardinals are back into the mix in the rumor mill. Although they did not land the 2017 NL MVP, they did land his outfield counterpart, Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna provides a good punch to the lineup, but General Manager John Mozeliak has expressed that he is not done adding pieces to his lineup.

The Cardinals are thought to be the perfect fit for the young superstar. They have the most attractive pitching prospects for the Orioles and have a place for him at shortstop, which is where he would like to move. St. Louis had a surprise from their rookie shortstop last year, but he is able to play third base as well.

St. Louis knows that if they add Machado, then they will have enough to compete with the Cubs in 2018. However, the prospect cost may be too much for the Cardinals to go for. It will be difficult for the Orioles to get Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver or Jack Flaherty without any guarantee that he will stay past 2018. What happens in the next few weeks may determine how much the Cardinals, or other teams value one year of a superstar player.

1. Baltimore Orioles

Even with all of the rumors floating around, the Orioles are still the most likely place Machado will play. Between the Orioles not wanting to trade with the Yankees and the high asking price for Machado, it is doubtful that anything will be able to get done. If the Orioles realize that it will be hard for them to get a trade done with the current asking price and lower it, then it will be more likely for him to go St. Louis or Arizona.

If the Orioles can settle with two higher-end pitching prospects, then something will be done. Only time will tell if the Orioles bargain for the 25-year-old free agent to be.

 

Featured image from Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

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