highlights of the week: Lindor

This week’s MLB highlights

As kids growing up as sports fans, we have at one point dreamed of playing in the big leagues. We have also imagined ourselves creating big performances that would attract the attention of the masses. We watched highlights of our favorite teams on TV or online. Our eyes remained glued as players came in clutch to lead their teams to victory. Baseball is no stranger to this scenario.

In the words of Billy Beane (portrayed by Brad Pitt) from the 2011 film MoneyBall, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?” Every week of baseball yields opportunity for players to step up and create waves throughout the league. No matter the team, no matter the player, no matter the circumstancesm anyone can create highlights by doing their part.

American League highlights

Arguably, the American League highlight of the week comes to us from the Cleveland Indians.

MLB highlights

(Photo by Getty Images)

On April 17, The Indians kicked off a two-game series with AL Central rivals, the Minnesota Twins, in the island of Puerto Rico. For Cleveland shortstop, Francisco Lindor, it was a homecoming game to remember. Born in the city of Caguas, it was there the two-time All-Star began his baseball journey. Lindor also played for the Puerto Rican National Team in last year’s World Baseball Classic.

Returning to his home turf, Lindor lit up the ballpark with a two-run homer. These were also the first two runs scored in the game. Other Indians pitched in, giving the Tribe a 6-1 victory. Cleveland now sits on top of the division.

Elsewhere, Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox is creating highlights of his own. The 25-year-old right fielder has been incredible in the month of April. Facing the Los Angeles Angels, Betts belted three home runs in Boston’s 10-1 victory over Los Angeles. According to NESN, Betts’ performance has put him in the record books. Betts has tied Red Sox legend, Ted Williams, for the most three-homer games in franchise history. Not to mention, the two-time All-Star is only 25 years old.

Currently, the Red Sox have a three-game lead over the rest of the AL East.

National League Highlights

The Miami Marlins are bulling through their rebuilding process, and have had it rough in 2018. Sitting at the bottom of the NL East, Miami visited the Bronx for a two-game series with the Yankees. In addition, this was the first time the Marlins would have to play against Giancarlo Stanton. The Pinstripes blazed the Marlins 12-1 in the first game.

MLB highlights

Photo from fishstripes.com

But the Marlins fought back in the final game of the series. Starting on the mound for the fish was left-hander Jarlin Garcia. Through five innings, Garcia blanked the Pinstripes. In addition, run support did more than well for Gracia, with help from Derek Dietrich, Starlin Castro and company. In his 2018 season debut, J.T. Realmuto also joined in with a three-run homer.

Through it all, Garcia cashed his first win of the 2018 campaign. The highlights here are the efforts of the Marlins pitching staff. They finished what Garcia started and suppressed an intimidating batting order. Furthermore, the Marlins split the series with New York after winning 9-1.

The Marlins will once again take on a former Marlin as they travel to Milwaukee to take on Christian Yelich and the Brewers.

Over the NL West, the Arizona Diamondbacks are continuing their strides. On April 17, left-handed pitcher, Patrick Corbin, remained undaunted, as well as undefeated against the San Francisco Giants. the 28-year-old ace pitched a complete game and cashed his third win for 2018 via a shutout. The Diamondbacks only dished out one run in the game, but it proved to be enough. Furthermore, Arizona remains comfortably at the top of the division. They will also have to keep momentum building as they continue the three-game series with the Giants.

Looking ahead

As the season continues, the league will be watching as more players look for chances at stardom. The season is still young, and there will be enough chances for other stars to make highlights. Each team has its own mountain to climb, but a breakthrough performance can help build morale and set the tone for games to come.

 

Featured image from Cleveland.com

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2018 MLB postseason predictions

Early 2018 MLB postseason predictions

It is only a matter of time before Opening Day arrives. All 30 franchises will take what they learned from spring training to the big stage. 40-man rosters will showcase what each player brings to the table as they brave through another 162-game season.

Although the regular season hasn’t started yet, some experts and fans have already picked their favorites for the 2018 postseason. Who will take control of their divisions? Will upsets abound? Which two teams will duke it out for the World Series?

Here are some very early predictions for the 2018 MLB season.

National League Early Predictions

Many predict the Los Angeles Dodgers will reign supreme in 2018. ESPN rates them as the best odds to win the World Series this year.

However, the road will not be so easy. As unforgiving as their pitching crew has been to other teams, Los Angeles’ offense needs to catch up. Last season, the Dodgers recorded a .249 batting average, which ranked 22nd out of 30 teams.

2018 MLB postseason predictions

Photo Courtesy of CBS Sports

Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner had solid outings at the plate last year. But more work must still be done.

As for the rest of the NL playoff picture, my early predictions include the Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers in the two Wild Card spots.

Last season, Colorado posted the second-highest team batting average. Although their pitching rotation needs improvement, solutions are sure to be found.

As for Milwaukee, similar to the Dodgers, the Brewers landed in the top 10 last season in ERA. But offensive production couldn’t quite catch up.

Perhaps the additions of one or two more big names will help them get to October.

In addition, I will pick the Chicago Cubs to win the NL Central Division and the Washington Nationals to win the East once again. The Nationals are working in their new skipper, Dave Martinez. Martinez was previously the bench coach under manager Joe Maddon both with the Tampa Bay Rays and the previously mentioned Chicago Cubs.

My boldest prediction for the National League is the Miami Marlins going over .500 in 2018. Yes, I said it. They have young players hungry to make a name for themselves, and manager Don Mattingly will find a way to turn the team around despite the offseason drama of the rebuilding process.

American League Early Predictions

In the American League, the Houston Astros reign as not only kings of the AL, but also all of Major League Baseball. One of many questions is can they win back-to-back rings? According to ESPN, the Astros and the Cleveland Indians both have the second best odds to win the title. Given how well Houston has been doing in spring training, it’s easy to see why their opening odds are 6-1.

2018 MLB postseason predictions

Photo from MLB.com

There is no doubt the Astros will have stubborn obstacles on the road to repeat as champions. The first among which are the New York Yankees. With the addition of Giancarlo Stanton, the Pinstripes are a pitcher’s nightmare. However, their success this coming season will depend on how well new skipper, Aaron Boone, can manage this team.

If spring training is showing us anything, Boone is capable of doing well. But I do not see a round two between Houston and the Pinstripes. I predict that Houston will defend their AL title, but against the Cleveland Indians.

Here is why. Manager Terry Francona no doubt has seen this situation before. Francona will find a way to adapt against the more imposing foes in the AL. Last season, statically, the Indians were among the best in the MLB in hitting, pitching and fielding. I say how Cleveland’s defense backs up the pitcher will be the big factor for their success.

For the rest of the AL playoff picture, I see the Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox in the Wild Card spots. The Red Sox will be taking the field with a new manager, former Astros bench coach, Alex Cora. In addition, slugger J.D. Martinez will call Fenway Park his home in 2018

Looking Ahead

As predictions are made, many do not stand understandably. If professional sports has taught us anything, it’s that anyone can beat anyone at any time. However, baseball is among the most stats-driven of all North American sports. It could very well be that Wild Card teams surprise us all and end up winning the league pennants.

Come March 29, each team will begin new chapters in it’s own story. Come Opening Day, the race for October begins.

 

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Spring training games

Spring games opening weekend

This past weekend, all 30 MLB teams took the field in the states of Arizona and Florida. For some, it was about new or lesser known names looking to make first impressions in new uniforms. For others, it was about repeating the success of the previous season. Both Cactus and Grapefruit Leagues showcased the first of things yet to come.

For the fans, it was a sight for sore eyes, seeing their favorite teams hit the diamond. America’s pastime is almost in full swing. But for the franchises, careful analysis must take the lead in order to maintain success. Which players are hungrier for a starting spot? Is the team chemistry where it needs to be? How much attention does each position still need?

More questions will need answering in the future for each team. For now, let’s take a look back at the first few days of exhibition.

Spring Games: GrapeFruit League

This past Friday, the rebuilding Miami Marlins squared off against the St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter, Florida. For now Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna, it would be the first of many games against his former team. At first, the Cardinals assumed control of the game, and it would appear that they’d remain with it.

Spring training games

Photo from MLBshop.com

But then, along came a Marlin named Scott Van Slyke. Previously, Van Slyke spent his entire tenure in the big leagues with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In his Marlins debut, the 31-year-old outfielder sought to strike big. In the bottom of the sixth inning, he put the Marlins on the board with a solo home run. In the bottom of the seventh, he smashed a grand slam giving the Marlins a 6-4 lead.

Miami ended up winning the game 6-4, though much work still lies ahead. The Marlins received their first defeat of the exhibition games on Sunday, courtesy of the New York Mets.

Meanwhile, the Houston Astros are hitting the ground running with a repeat World Series in mind. Houston snagged wins against the Nationals, Braves and Cardinals for a 3-0 start.

Both Houston and Miami squared off in Jupiter, Florida on Monday. There, the Marlins routed the Astros 11-0. Seven of those runs came in the sixth inning, therefore delivering Houston its first loss.

Spring Games: Cactus League

Spring training games

Photo from MLBshop.com

Over in the Grand Canyon State, the Oakland Athletics and Milwaukee Brewers started their spring seasons strongly.

Oakland looked to remain undefeated against the Kansas City Royals, but the game ended in a 4-4 tie, without any team able to break the tie in the 10th inning.

Coming against the Chicago White Sox on Monday, the A’s couldn’t quite keep the streak going. Although they narrowed the margin in the ninth inning, they couldn’t force a bottom of the ninth. They received their lost by a score of 7-6.

On the other hand, Milwaukee was near inches away from Wild Card contention in 2017.

In these 2018 sessions, the Brewers went 2-1 in their first three games before facing the Arizona Diamondbacks. Utility player, Hernán Pérez, put the Brewers ahead by driving in three runs, two in the second inning and one in the sixth. Milwaukee improved their record to 3-1 following their 5-1 victory.

While facing the Cleveland Indians on Monday, the Brewers were eyeing their fourth victory of the spring games. The two teams traded leads throughout the game. In the end, the Brewers got that fourth win by a score of 7-6. Milwaukee will host the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday, while Oakland will hit the road to take on the Cleveland Indians.

The rest of Spring

Although the spring games do not affect a team’s regular season record, their progression from now can set the tone for April. Will adjustments be made to improve production? Sure. How should the batting order look to gain the most runs? Which pitchers will find themselves in the starting rotation?

More of these questions are sure to pop up. Taking matters one game at a time will be the best approach in answering them. Of course, when the regular season starts, it will become a much different ball game (no pun intended). With it comes a bigger question: Who responds the best under pressure?

With a new season on the horizon and the Spring exhibitions in full swing, answers will soon arrive.

 

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2018 Cleveland Indians preview

2018 MLB Preview: Cleveland Indians

2017: 102-60 (first in the AL Central)

Last postseason appearance: 2017

Last World Series title: 1948

2017 Recap

After falling one win shy of winning the 2016 World Series, the Indians were looking for revenge in 2017. Not only did they win 102 games, but Cleveland also won 22 games in a row, which is now the longest winning streak in American League history.

Unfortunately, their incredible regular season may have actually hurt them in the playoffs. After going up 2-0 in the ALDS against the underdog New York Yankees, Cleveland lost three straight games to end their season.

2018 Cleveland Indians preview

The Indians were feeling 22. (Photo from The Week)

Although the season did not end the way Cleveland had hoped it would, let’s not forget how good this team really was.

Let’s start with the pitching. As a staff, it finished first in ERA, strikeouts and walks. The rotation was led by Corey Kluber, who was the best pitcher in the MLB in 2017. He won the AL Cy Young and finished first in WAR for pitchers, ERA, wins, WHIP, complete games and shutouts. Kluber was unstoppable all year, but in the second half alone, the right hander posted a 1.79 ERA. His slider was the best pitch in baseball in terms of pitch value.

Not only did they have the best starter in baseball, but they also had a top-10 arm in Carlos Carrasco, who finished ninth in WAR for pitchers, eighth in WHIP and posted a 2.65 ERA on the road, which was top-10 in the MLB for starters. While Carrasco and Kluber tallied 18 wins apiece, the 27-year-old Trevor Bauer finished with 17.

While the rotation flourished all season, one could make a case that the Indians’ bullpen was even better than their starters. Zach McAllister, Dan Otero, Nick Goody, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen all had sub 3.00 ERA’s while appearing in 50 or more games. As a unit, Cleveland’s bullpen finished first in ERA with a 2.89.

Pitching, of course, was only part of the reason Cleveland was able to win 102 games. Their offense finished second in the AL in batting average, OBP, SLG, OPS and walks. The ringleader in the lineup was Jose Ramirez, who was one of the 10 best players in baseball. Ramirez finished tied for first in extra-base hits, fifth in total bases, sixth in offensive WAR, seventh in slugging and ninth in batting average and runs scored.

The Dominican-born star hit .329 against lefties and .312 against righties, proving to be almost impossible to deal with. On 0-1 counts, Ramirez batted .301, which was top-10 in the MLB. Think about that, when already down a strike, he was able to hit over .300.

2018: Around the Diamond

After spending his first eight seasons with Cleveland, Carlos Santana was signed as a free agent by the Philadelphia Phillies. Santana hit 23 home runs and finished ninth in walks in 2017. He has a career OBP of .365, so Cleveland will definitely miss the powerful switch hitter.

To replace him at first base, Cleveland signed Yonder Alonso, who was an All-Star last season. After not eclipsing nine home runs in his previous seven seasons, Alonso hit 28 home runs. If he can be anything close to what he was last season, the Indians will be happy.

2018 Cleveland Indians preview

Jose Ramirez was sensational in 2017. (Photo from NEO Sports Insiders)

Jason Kipnis looks to bounce back after he played in only 90 games because of injury in 2017. The two-time All-Star second baseman hit just .232 with an OBP of .291. Cleveland will need him to tear it up with his double-play partner, Francisco Lindor, one of the best shortstops in the game. Last year, playing in nearly every single game, Lindor finished sixth in extra-base hits and eighth in total bases. He also slugged a career high .505.

With a healthy Kipnis, Ramirez will be playing all his games at third base. Behind the dish will be Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes splitting some time. Michael Brantley, who was an All-Star in 2017 but missed a good chunk of the season due to injury, will be ready to go in left. In the first half, Brantley hit .304 with 17 doubles.

No more Austin Jackson means Bradley Zimmer will be the starting centerfielder. Zimmer stole 18 bases, but had an OBP of just .307. He fell apart in the second half, hitting just .196 with 56 strikeouts in 46 games. He is still only 25 years of age and could turn into something special.

Lonnie Chisenhall, who has been with Cleveland his whole career, will man right field. Guys like Brandon Guyer, Tyler Naquin and Abraham Almonte should also get some reps in the outfield. Keep in mind Cleveland also brought in Melvin Upton Jr. as a non-roster invitee to Spring Training.

Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 38 home runs last season, will remain at DH. Encarnacion finished fourth in walks and had the best walk rate of his career, while also posting his second-best OBP.

On the Bump

2018 Cleveland Indians preview

Klubot. (Photo from Cleveland.com)

Cleveland’s elite starting rotation will remain intact for 2018. Kluber, Carrasco and Bauer will be followed by Josh Tomlin and Danny Salazar. Salazar has had a tough time staying off the DL his whole career, but could be a sleeper in fantasy baseball. Mike Clevinger and Cody Anderson, who is coming off Tommy John, should also get some starts.

McAllister, Otero, Miller and Allen are all returning, which is unfortunate for opponents. No reason to think this pitching staff won’t dominate again, especially if they can get something out of Salazar.

 

The Future

According to MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospect’s list, the Indians have two of the top 25 prospects in all of baseball. At No. 11 is the No. 1 catching prospect, Francisco Mejia. Mejia is a switch-hitter, who has also spent the entire Arizona Fall League practicing at third base. In just 92 games at Double-A, Mejia hit 14 home runs and batted .297 in 2017. He also got 13 at-bats in the MLB. We will most likely see the 22-year-old at some point playing consistently for Cleveland in 2018.

Cleveland’s other top prospect is pitcher Triston McKenzie. McKenzie flourished in A-ball, going 12-6 with a 3.46 ERA and an opponent batting average of .203. He stands tall at 6-foot-5, and according to MLB.com, McKenzie has “all the ingredients to develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter.” He has great command and has posted a .99 WHIP over three professional seasons.

2018 Prediction: 95-67

No reason to think that the Indians won’t win the AL Central for the third year in a row. Chicago and Detroit are rebuilding, the Royals will lose Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas to free agency and Minnesota is not nearly as talented as the Indians. This team will again be in the chase for their first World Series title since 1948.

 

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Top MLB players

Top MLB players age 35 or older

Every year it seems that baseball is getting younger and younger. Prospects all over baseball are proving to be more than ready for the show.

But what about the guys that have put in their time and then some? Veterans seem to have never been more undervalued (e.g. the free agent market), but they are getting their due here. We will take a close look at the best players over 35 years old.

Nelson Cruz

The Spanish Conquistadors searched years for the the fountain of youth in Latin America. It seems it was in Seattle the whole time.

Nelson Cruz has mashed ever since arriving in the Pacific Northwest. In three seasons, he has hit 126 home runs, averaging 42 home runs per season. He has also driven in 317 RBIs with the Mariners, proving to be an elite run producer in his late 30s.

Cruz will be 38 years old in July and shows no signs of slowing down. With a deep Mariners roster around him, Cruz should continue to produce. He is still one of the elite power hitters in the game, proving that he can still be productive in the twilight of his career.

Robinson Cano

Top MLB players

Robinson Cano will continue to produce for Seattle in 2018 and beyond. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America)

It seems that the Mariners are onto something. Even though Robinson Cano struggled in his first two seasons in Seattle (by his standards), his mid 30s have been plenty productive.

He has averaged 24 home runs and 90 RBIs in his four seasons in Seattle and boasts a .295 batting average. Cano has also earned three All-Star appearances in four seasons in Seattle, proving to be a force in the Mariners lineup.

Now at age 35, Cano is well on his way to cementing himself as one of the better second basemen in baseball history. He continues to hit for solid power and average, and has played a good second base since signing with the Mariners.

If he continues to drink from Seattle’s fountain of youth, there is no telling how much longer he can be productive.

Edwin Encarnacion

Many were weary of signing an aged slugger like Edwin Encarnacion last offseason. However, all the 35-year-old did last season was mash.

Top MLB Players

Edwin Encarnacion will prove to be a great signing for the Indians. (Photo from WKYC.com)

In his first season with the Indians, Encarnacion hit 38 home runs and drove in 107 RBIs. While he did only hit .258 (his lowest since 2010), he still proved to be an elite power hitter for the Tribe. But with Encarnacion’s track record, his power should remain well into his late 30s.

 

Encarnacion has been an elite power hitter since arriving in Toronto, but his 30s have been impressive. He has averaged 38 home runs and 109 RBIs since turning 30 in 2013.

Age certainly hasn’t been a factor for Encarnacion. He was a late bloomer, not finding consistency at the plate until his age-29 season. But with his elite power and proven track record, his age shouldn’t catch up to him anytime soon.

Albert Pujols

While Albert Pujols may have fallen a long way from being the best player in baseball, he is still a productive hitter. At 38 years old, that is almost as impressive as his younger achievements.

Last season, Pujols hit .241 while mashing 23 home runs and driving in 101 RBIs. Those are solid numbers for a player of Pujols’ age. He will look to improve on those numbers in 2018, although he will have Father Time to contend with, and Shohei Ohtani.

The 2017 season was the first in Pujols’ 17-year career that he was a below average hitter. His 81 OPS+ was well below average, as his lower half began to fail him last season.

Even so, Pujols still has a chance to be a productive player for the Angels. With a career .305 batting average and 614 home runs to his credit, “The Machine” could very well flip the switch in 2018.

Fernando Rodney

As the oldest player on our list, 40-year-old Fernando Rodney proved to be a solid reliever last season for the Minnesota Twins. He went 5-4 with a 4.23 ERA for a surprisingly good Twins team, helping them to a Wild Card berth. While his surface numbers may not be that impressive, a deeper look reveals much more.

While pitching 55.1 innings last season, Rodney struck out 65 total batters. That was his second highest total since the 2014 season. He also limited batters to a 1.19 WHIP last season, his best mark since 2012.

As Rodney has aged, he has seemed to get better and better. And his numbers prove that to be true. While his ERA may have increased this past season, his WHIP and total strikeouts still bear him as one of the better relievers in the game.

And with baseball moving ever closer to the super bullpen, Rodney could stick around for a while. Don’t be surprised to see Rodney still making the trot from the pen to the mound for the next several years.

 

Feature image by Jae C. Hong/ Associated Press 

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A trail of tears from Cleveland

Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland natives tend to feel the cold fronts coming off of Lake Erie this time of year. Unfortunately, what seems of late, they can settle for the bitter cold feeling of their once beloved football team. For at least a half a century, the city has been on the wrong side of history. Fortunately, recent success has come from the anchors of The Land, the Indians and the Cavaliers.

For the Indians, who haven’t had scent of a world title since the Truman administration, the tide is turning for the Wahoos. The past seasons have been pretty fortuitous to say the least. Coming off of a 100-win season in 2017 and World Series appearance the year prior, the Indians’ future looks brighter than ever. This upcoming season, the Indians are predicted to compete for a title as a top baseball club.

The Cavaliers have been through their own personal battles but still hold their position as Cleveland’s best export. The return of LeBron James has been filled with fortune and serendipity. The Cavs Captured a title in 2016 and ended the championship the fifty-year drought for the city. As long as King James and the Cavaliers are one of the heavyweights in the NBA, they will forever be the epicenter of Cleveland sports.

However, the Browns are at an all time low. Coming off a 2016 season that only amounted to a single win, 2017 couldn’t be any better. In fact, it wasn’t. The worst team of the past became the worst team of the present. And at this rate, they look to be the worst of all time.

On January 7, 2018, along Alfred Lerner Way, Brown fans celebrated their “perfect” season. Instead of cheers, cries for help were heard adjacent of the FirstEnergy Stadium. A parade that mirrored a funeral buried the 2017 Browns along with the NFL’s list of deplorable winless teams. With a platform built by greats including Ozzie Newsome, Lou Groza and Jim Brown, Cleveland has yet to return to such heights.

Enveloped in the lingering scent of their 1964 championship, which unfortunately now has only seen by a handful. The majority of the fan base still cringe over the most gut wrenching moments as the world recognizes them as miracles. The Fumble, The Drive, The Move, all still remain in many fans’ hearts as the lowest points in the franchise. Since the golden ages of the 80’s, the Browns haven’t been able to capitalize in the turn of the century.

Scott R. Galvin/USA TODAY Sports

Without a playoff birth in almost two decades, fans questions have turned to prayers. With a lack of a notable franchise star, a questionable and ever-changing coaching staff and poor management, the future looks pretty dim as of right now. Even at the franchise’s lowest point, it seems that it is going to get worse as the years go by. Only thing that is safe to say, is that the Browns are here to stay. The efforts of Art Modell in moving the team to Baltimore in 1995 was disastrous. Other than setting precedent for franchise relocations and expansions of the future, for Cleveland, it was futile.

With that being said, Cleveland will have to bare what is to come. In doing so, the seasons of the future might mimic the franchise’s lack accomplishments like the display this past year. For Cleveland to turn things around, this particular off-season will prove to be detrimental for the squad.

 

A star…?

In the past, Cleveland has harbored quite a few franchise cornerstones. Some of who were regarded as not only arguably the best in their respective position like Ozzie Newsome, Bernie Kosar and Lou Groza but also the best player in the league. From 1957 to 1965, Jim Brown reigned as the best player in all of football. Bringing home a rookie of the year trophy, three NFL most valuable awards, and garnishing the franchise’s last championship in 1964.

At the height of his career, Brown retired from professional football in 1965, leaving the franchise in search for a new star. Spurts from Hall of Famers like Bobby Mitchell, Greg Pruitt and Leroy Kelly proved to be promising. Unfortunately, the void left by Brown became too hard to fill. That void still plagues the franchise fifty-years later.

An addition of a prominent all-pro player or an emergence of a young star may speak vibes for the team going forward. After an impressive season by the Buffalo Bills that ended in a playoff berth, the Browns now have the longest current playoff drought in the NFL. In other words, the way the organization is going, the Browns won’t be seen in the winter anytime soon. Great confidence, effort and camaraderie comes from leadership, something the Browns lack. A star could be the epitome of these components and their focus and pursuit in becoming a contender.

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

A bright spot in the tumultuous past has been the career of all-pro left tackle Joe Thomas. Thomas, who holds the NFL record for most consecutive snaps played, has proven to be remarkable with nine all-pro selections and ten Pro Bowl appearances. But questions mount as the organization looks to move on from arguably the best lineman in football. According to Cleveland.com, reports show that the 33 year old might consider retirement after a ten year career with the Browns. On a laundry list of problems, this holds as the highest priority for the franchise.

Let’s be honest, Cleveland isn’t the most attractive destination for a free agent or even a draft pick. It does not have the appeal of Los Angeles, Miami, New York or even Texas. The golden age of the city is long gone so a potential of a star wanting to play in Cleveland is slim.

When asked about Cleveland, New York Knicks center Joakim Noah said during an interview with TNT in 2009, “I don’t know about this place, man. I just stayed in my hotel room, man. Every time I look out my window, it’s pretty depressing out here, man.” He reiterated his position in a later press conference season after facing the Cavaliers. He was asked if he had regretted his comments, he replied, “Not at all. You like it? Do you think Cleveland’s cool? I mean, I’ve never heard anybody say ‘I’m going to Cleveland on vacation.’ What’s so good about  Cleveland?” The franchise has to offer more than just Cleveland to reel in targets.

 

A move in Free Agency

The Browns’ organization has been in a rebuild mode since the beginning of their playoff drought. Though certain components of the franchise might seem unattractive, it can be a valuable home for player looking to revitalize their career. A quarterback is  probably the most inconsistent position for the franchise since the departure of Bernie Kosar… literally. Since Tim Couch, the last quarterback for the Browns to start an entire season in 2001, the Browns have started 25 different quarterbacks in 16 seasons, the league’s highest.

This one seems a bit far fetched, but any big name potential targets in this years free agency wouldn’t be any different.  Drew Brees, who has plagued the NFC South Division with four division titles and a Super Bowl in 2009 might look for a change in scenery. After an astounding season with 4,208 passing yards with 23 touchdowns on 73% completion, an NFL record, Brees looks better than ever. The only ones looking forward to Brees departure are the Buccaneers, the Panthers and the Falcons. More than likely, if Brees is to leave, he would want to play for a contender. As tough as the AFC North is, contending for a title isn’t in the team’s imminent future. Brees would be the best case scenario. His pedigree would add appeal for free agents to come to Cleveland.

Patrick Smith/Getty

Kirk Cousins at the moment, is having a difficult time with management of the Redskins. During an interview on the Pritchard and Cecil Hour Podcast, former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan told the tandem when questioned about Cousins, “He’s a good player. Is he special? I don’t see special”. McCloughan was responsible for putting the two franchise tags on Cousins. For that, Cousins has something to prove, something he won’t get from a contender. Cousins has to prove he is a legitimate franchise player.

A career in Washington may not be the answer. With franchise tags it seems that Washington is not 100 percent sold on Cousins. NFL analysts expect the ‘Skins to take a quarterback in this upcoming draft. The only downfall is that Cousins has dealt with a shifting front office. His trust of Cleveland management might not be enough to sign and he’s not wrong for thinking so. To counter that, Cousins play has reflected the ‘Skins success. But it seems a contending team’s management may not think so. Cousins might have to settle with a rebuilding franchise.

Cleveland as a destination could be in consideration. Not only for the money, but a list of players who also have a chip on their shoulder. Browns receiver Josh Gordon is looking to prove the critics wrong and have his named edged in consideration as one of the league’s top wideouts. Also free agent pick ups like Marquise Lee or Terrelle Pryor could be a good addition to the core. Pryor/Lee and Gordon could be wonderful targets for Cousins or Brees or even a younger quarterback.

The Draft

Luckily for the Browns, bad seasons return great draft picks. The team gets an A+ for drafting Myles Garrett last year. After tallying seven sacks in only ten games, the rookie out of Texas A&M might break the chain of poor draft picks for the Browns. This year, they have a chance to do the same as they have the first and fourth pick (via Houston) of the first round in the draft.

Free agent targets like Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees might be out of reach for the Browns. Because so, the organization might have to settle for drafting a quarterback. Luckily, a whole slate of quarterbacks can fit the bill. Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Heisman trophy winners, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson all look promising for any team. The only problem is the fourth pick, which is a good problem to have. A perfect execution can be the foundation for the future and help pull the Browns out of this hole.

As a prediction, in the first round, the Browns are getting a quarterback and a running back. If the Browns are sold and solely want a particular quarterback, they should pick him first.

Jeff Roberson/AP

As the mock boards have it, the Giants have their eyes on Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold. If the Browns want Josh Rosen, they should draft him. However, that leaves a home run hitter like Penn State’s Saquon Barkley on the board. If Josh Rosen is taken first by the Browns, the Giants or the Colts could take Barkley for the second and third picks respectively. If that’s the case, the Browns should draft Barkley first. The Giants will probably take Rosen, but the Colts won’t draft a quarterback. This leaves Darnold, Mayfield and others on the board for the fourth pick which should be suitable.

Injuries make most players question their futures but ultimately the doubt will fade. More than likely, Joe Thomas will stay with the Browns. He has a lot more football to play and like the Browns, he has something to prove. With that being said, the Browns should look to fortify their defensive line or secondary instead. Best bet is defensive tackle, Trenton Thompson from Georgia at the 33rd pick and Mike Hughes, defensive back from UCF with the 35th pick to replace the released Joe Haden. If the future of Joe Thomas fears the organization, Offensive tackle Connor Williams from Texas looks valuable at the 63rd pick. In the end, Spencer Drango looks promising after filling in for the injured Thomas this year if Thomas decides to hang it up.

 

The fan base

As the transportation hub of the Great Lakes, Cleveland rose to prominence in the mid nineteenth century. By the 1920’s, it became the nation’s fifth largest city. The progressive era brought on businesses and businesses brought a booming economy that welcomed an influx of people. This economy aided the birth of sports as Cleveland was dubbed, City of Champions.

Matthew Emmons- US Presswire

Because of these roots, the love for sports have seeped into the culture. There is no discussion, no fan base is more loyal than Cleveland fans. When most of our country’s industries of energy, automobile manufacturing, and agriculture slowly left the region, the residents of the 216 embraced sports. As the surrounding area seemed to deteriorate, Baseball, Football, Basketball, were seen as beacons of hope for natives of northeast Ohio. Camaraderie means everything to a team. A mystery lies whether if there is enough among the players. However, the fans show to not disappoint.

Over the last seven seasons from the ball club, the team’s record has only amounted to an abysmal 89 loses and 23 wins. However, the Browns fans have been able to keep up almost a full attendance at FirstEnergy Stadium over those years. That can be music to a free agent’s ears. There is nothing like home, but a place where you are wanted can move mountains. A free agent like Kirk Cousins, who has been doubted by  his own ball club’s fan base would instantly be accepted among the dawg pound.

Cleveland’s downfall has come by its own merit. Poor management, lack of a stable roster, and a questionable coaching staff have prevented the franchise from reliving those glory days of the past and give what their respected fan base deserves. To no surprise, the Cleveland Browns’ organization is moving toward being the worst franchise, not only in the NFL but in professional sports. Not only because of its dysfunctional team’s performance, but the potential the team should have based upon the foundation it lays upon.

Despite all of this and what their record was this past season, there should optimism in Cleveland. It literally cannot get any worse than this. Anything is better than current situation of the franchise. And there’s hope. The region was built on determination and grit. The energy and commitment of the fans exhibit those roots. As grim as it may seem, light is always at the end of tunnel. But there aren’t any miracles in northeast Ohio, at least not in favor of Browns. No magical superstar is going to fall out of the sky and it’s unlikely LeBron James will take his talents to the Cleveland backfield.

With that being said the Browns are all they got. There are going to be desperate changes. Maybe a couple drifter-like free agents ever now and then, a couple of hiring and firing of coaches and questions of leadership will still linger. But maybe some advice from it’s parallel sport franchises in the Indians and Cavaliers might be of some help. As they’ve been able to pluck themselves out of their downfalls. It is well known the teams are built around stakeholders and the community. If any motivation the Browns are going to get, it lies within the roots of the fight that the city of Cleveland is willing to put up.

 

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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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“From Our Haus to Yours”

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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“From our Haus to Yours”

Jim Thome

Jim Thome by the numbers

Along with Chipper Jones, the former Cleveland Indians star, Jim Thome, will most likely be voted in as a first ballot Hall of Famer in January. Thome, who played on six different teams during his 22-year career, is one of the greatest power hitters of all time. His 612 home runs are the eighth most all-time. Unlike the majority of sluggers during his time, Thome was never linked to PED use.

When God created Jim Thome, he constructed someone who comes across as a lumberjack, but hits mammoth home runs with a crazy uppercut swing. If you remember watching him get ready for a pitch, you would recall that he held his bat out with his right hand and would point it towards the outfield. When asked about this, Thome claimed that he acquired this approach from The Natural.

During his career, Thome led his league in home runs eight times. He had 12 seasons with at least 90 walks, which is good for fifth all-time behind Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Thome also had 10 seasons with at least 25 home runs and a .400 on-base percentage, which is sixth all-time behind Bonds, Williams, Ruth, Gehrig and Mel Ott.

PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 600 HR, 2,300 HITS, .400 OBP
BABE RUTH
BARRY BONDS
JIM THOME

 

Career

James Howard Thome grew up in Peoria, Illinois. As a high school athlete, Thome was all-state in basketball and as a shortstop in baseball.

To say he was born to be an athlete would be an understatement. Thome’s grandmother was hired at a Caterpillar plant merely to play for the company’s softball team. Thome’s dad played slow-pitch softball, and his aunt is a member of the Women’s Softball Hall of Fame. His two older brothers played baseball at the local high school. Apparently, Thome learned how to play baseball from his father on a tennis court.

Jim Thome

One of the best power hitters of all time (Photo from Cleveland.com)

Weighing only 175 pounds, at 6-foot-2, Thome got very little looks from MLB teams as a high schooler. In 1988, he enrolled at Illinois Central College, where he played both baseball and basketball. After just one season, Thome was drafted in the 13th round in the 1989 MLB June Amateur Draft. Clearly, he was heavily slept on.

Thome started out as a third baseman before converting to first. In his first minor-league season, he managed to hit just .237 with no home runs. After this rough season, Thome met Charlie Manuel, who would eventually become his head coach and mentor. Manuel helped fix his swing, and in the next season, Thome hit .340 with 16 home runs.

In 1994, Thome was finally a full-time big-league player. In the abbreviated season, Thome batted .268 with 20 home runs. Little did anyone know this would be the first of 17 seasons in which Thome eclipsed 20 home runs, which is tied for fourth all-time with Willie Mays and behind Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds and Frank Robinson. In 1995, Thome hit .314 with 25 home runs and was a major contributor to the Indians winning the American League pennant. In the fourteen playoff games, Thome hit four home runs and drove in 10 runs.

Breaking down the Stats

From 1997-2004, Thome hit 330 home runs, which was the most by any first baseman during that span. The only players to hit more than him were Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds, who were all heavily linked to PED usage. During this same time period, Thome led all first basemen in offensive WAR. In 1996, Thome finished sixth in the AL in WAR, and in 2002, he finished second.

2002 was also the year in which Thome had one of the best offensive seasons we have seen. He hit 52 home runs, batted .304 and led the league in walks, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+. Thome became one of four players to have a season at least a .300 batting average, 52 home runs, 120 walks and an OPS+ north of 197. That list includes Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds and Mickey Mantle.

Throughout his career, Jim Thome had 12 seasons of at least 30 home runs and an OBP of .360. The only players with more than 12 seasons are Barry Bonds, Mike Schmidt, Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Thome had eight seasons of at least 25 home runs, a .280 batting average, .410 OBP and a .995 OPS. He is tied for sixth all-time behind Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.

PLAYERS WITH SEASONS OF AT LEAST 40 HR, .385 OBP, .570 SLG # OF SEASONS
BABE RUTH 11
BARRY BONDS 8
ALBERT PUJOLS 6
ALEX RODRIGUEZ 6
JIM THOME 6
MARK MCGWIRE 5
HANK AARON 5
JIMMIE FOXX 5
LOU GEHRIG 5
WILLIE MAYS 4

 

Later years/ off the field

At age 35 as a member of the Chicago White Sox, Thome had one of his best seasons as a professional. He hit .288, 42 home runs and had an OPS of 1.014. He joined Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth as the only players, 35 or older who comprised a season of 42 home runs, an OPS over 1, an OBP above .415 and a batting average of at least .285. Thome is currently ranked 10th all-time in home runs after turning 35. Simply put, the guy had power throughout his entire career.

Jim Thome

A true professional on and off the diamond. (Photo from MLB.com)

For the entirety of his career, Thome was known as someone with a positive attitude and a gregarious personality. He received two Marvin Miller Man of the Year Awards and a Lou Gehrig Memorial Award for his involvement within the community. In a 2007 poll, he tied with Mike Sweeney for second-friendliest player in baseball.

As a child, Thome snuck into the Cubs clubhouse in hopes of getting an autograph from his favorite player, Dave Kingman. Although he received a handful of autographs from several Cubs, he was unable to retrieve Kingman’s. Because of this, Thome was extremely openhanded with signing autographs for fans during his career.

Thome has two children, and by 2012, had already established funds to put his 10 nieces and nephews through college. Jim and his family, who spoke in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, try “to stay connected with at least one or two organizations in each of the cities” that Thome has played in.

Not only is he a member of the 600 home run club, a five-time All-Star and a Silver Slugger Award winner, Thome is one of the most respected and humble players to ever step on the diamond. Thome is a lock for the Baseball Hall of Fame, and if there were a Hall of Fame for professional athletes based off personality and friendliness, Thome would be a first-ballot selection.

 

Featured image from YouTube

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“From our Haus to Yours”

Nolan Ryan record 108 mph fastball

Nolan Ryan’s record 108 mph fastball

Big league pitchers have heard the phrase “Throw him the heat!” perhaps more than any other phrase. Baseball fans have long had an infatuation with the game’s signature pitch, the fastball. There’s no doubt that for many who’ve played baseball, the pitchers that stand out the most are the ones who threw the hardest.

One of the burning questions at any one snapshot in baseball history is the question of who throws the hardest. At this snapshot in time, Aroldis Chapman is the game’s preeminent fireballer. When Chapman blistered the radar gun at 105 mph a few years back, many were calling him the fastest thrower of all time.

But this isn’t correct. Thanks to the scientific and mathematical analysis done in the documentary Fastball, we know it’s not correct. The distinction of fastest fastball belongs to Nolan Ryan’s record 108 mph fastball.

Why we love the fastball

Nolan Ryan record 108 mph fastball

Bob Feller showcasing his iconic high leg kick. (Photo from baseballheritagemuseum.org)

It’s the element of confrontation that the fastball brings to the game. The struggle between hitter and pitcher is one of the ultimate showdowns in sports, especially in those many instances where the hitters know what’s coming, and the pitcher knows exactly what he’s throwing. There’s nothing more primal in baseball than the predator-prey aspect of facing a hard fastball. It tests the very limits of what’s humanly possible.

The science of the fastball has been well studied, and Fastball does a wonderful job of putting it all together. One of the most striking comparisons made is the difference between a 92 mph fastball and 100 mph fastball. By the time a pitch thrown at 100 mph crosses home, a pitch thrown at 92 mph would still have 4.5 feet of travel left if thrown at the same time. At 100 mph, the batter has 0.396 seconds to process the pitch and make his decision to swing. Putting that in perspective, it takes a human being longer to blink.

This puts the hitter in a unique position that sets him in a situation where he must confront a cognitive dilemma of what’s humanly possible. For the pitcher, the dilemma is the same extreme, but it puts him in a unique position where it sets him at his limits of what is physically possible.

It’s even better when it’s late in the game and there are runners on the bases. Going beyond the science, there’s just something about watching a flame-throwing pitcher put the clamps down on the opposing lineup.

Debating the fastest

Discussing which pitcher is the hardest thrower in the modern game has long been settled by the radar gun. All MLB radar guns are set to record pitch speed at the 50-foot mark between the mound and the plate.

Until Nolan Ryan ushered in the “radar” age in 1974, there were only two other pitchers in history that were clocked using various devices. These pitchers are Walter “Big Train” Johnson, and Bob “The heater from Van Meter” Feller, or Rapid Robert for short. These are two of the best pitchers to ever take the mound, and arguably the best pitcher of their respective era. What’s unique about these three pitchers, however, is they were the first to have their pitches “clocked.”

Johnson’s pitch speed was calculated on a gun range, because where else would you test it? The Remington Arms Co. used a device that was normally used to measure the speed of a bullet. In summation, the calculation they arrived at, 83.2 mph, was flawed. Based on the design of the apparatus used, 83.2 mph is a calculation of how fast his pitch was travelling at 7.5 feet behind home plate. Adjusting pitch speed to meet modern standards, Johnson’s pitch was much closer to 93.8 mph.

Feller also threw a pitch through a device as did Johnson. However, this time the speed was measured right at home plate. Feller clocked in at an astonishing 98.6 mph on his fastest pitch of the test. Adjusting Feller’s pitch to align with today’s standard, he was closer to 107.6 mph. That’s 2.5 mph faster than Chapman’s officially recorded fastest pitch of 105.1 mph. Neither of these two pitchers have anything on Nolan Ryan though.

Nolan Ryan’s record 108 mph fastball

Nolan Ryan record 108 mph fastball

Nolan Ryan’s seventh no-hitter. (Photo from star-telegram.com)

The year 1974 was a watershed year of sorts for how we have come to measure the speed of a pitch. This was the year that the concept of the radar gun was established. A bunch of smart people decided that if you use an infrared beam, you can quickly get an accurate reading of how fast a pitch is moving. It can also be set to read the same point of measurement repeatedly, giving a fair assessment of the speed. Nolan Ryan became baseball’s first pitcher to ‘light up” the radar at a major league park.

On Aug. 20, 1974, in a game against the Detroit Tigers, then Angels pitcher Nolan Ryan pitched an 11-inning complete game 1-0 loss. As a quick note, Nolan Ryan’s career is marked by playing on teams that weren’t all that good offensively. He truly is a case study in why wins aren’t the best judge of a pitcher’s worth in every instance. Not wanting to stray to far off topic though, in the game against Detroit, Ryan was clocked at 100.9 mph, in the ninth inning. That means that he was getting stronger as the game wore on!

But like Feller and Johnson before him, Ryan’s measurement needs to be adjusted too. Ryan’s pitch was measured at 10 feet in front of home plate. When the proper adjustments are made, his 100.9 mph fastball becomes closer to 108.5 mph. If you are keeping score, that is about 3.5 mph faster than Chapman’s fastest pitch on record. All hail the Ryan Express!

 

 

Feature image from baseballhall.org

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