Wow, the MLB season is flying by! The All-Star game has come and gone (thank god) and now we can get to the dog days of summer. The first few months of the baseball season were absolutely terrific. New York has two competitive baseball teams, there is unbelievable rookie talent in the league, there are teams that have overachieved so far and a handful of teams which have been huge disappointments. Below are the five stories I am most excited to watch unfold and my prediction to how they will all play out. Enjoy the free education!
Kevin Youkilis will lead the White Sox to the playoffs while Boston watches from home. In the first half, the Boston Red Sox traded away Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox. It is assumed that the main reason for this trade was Kevin’s inability to coexist with new manager Bobby Valentine, but the Red Sox are trying to sell their reason to be that they are excited about rookie 3rd baseman Will Middlebrooks. Either way, Youkilis has showed the baseball world that he still has a lot left in his tank, as it appears a change of scenery was the best thing that could have happened to him. With Boston this season, Youk was batting .233 with 4 HRs and 14 RBIs in 42 games. In only 15 games with the White Sox, Youkilis already has 3 HRs and 15 RBIs and a strong .316 average. More importantly, the White Sox are in first place by 3 games and Youkilis provides veteran leadership and a winning pedigree for a team entering a tight pennant race. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are currently 44-44 and tied for last place in the AL East, 10.5 games behind the Yankees. As a Yankee fan, Youkilis always scared me in the big spot so I’m more than glad to have him out of Boston.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will make the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Pirates are easily one of biggest surprises in the baseball world and have a chance to do something they haven’t in 20 years…MAKE THE PLAYOFFS!. They are currently tied for the NL Central lead and are in position to win the Wild Card. I firmly believe that Pittsburgh will hold onto at least one of the two Wild Card spots. Outfielder Andrew McCutchen is having a MVP type season, batting .366 with 20 HRs and 63 RBIs. Pedro Alvarez has supplied Pittsburgh with 17 HRs and 51 dingers despite a pedestrian .228 batting average. Pittsburgh’s real strength is their pitching, as AJ Burnett has proved to be the pitcher the Yankees thought they were gaining 3 years ago. He’s pitched to a 10-2 record and a ver solid 3.68 ERA. The ace of the staff has been James McDonald, who has pitched to a 9-3 record and a great 2.59 ERA. The Pirates entire team is pitching to a 3.52 ERA, which is good for 5th in all of baseball. If there is anything all baseball fans can agree on, good pitching always beats good hitting. The Pirates have the arms to compete in the National League.
The Nationals will sit Stephen Strasberg and it will cost them the pennant. Other than the Pirates, the Nationals are easily the biggest surprise in the league this season. Youngsters Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasberg have come to the big leagues and have performed above and beyond all expectations. The Nationals figured they would be competitive this season but the organization was really looking ahead 2-3 years, which was when they really felt they would be legit Championship Contenders. Well, the Nationals have demonstrated that they are ready now. They are leading the Braves by three games in the National League East and have been on top all season. However, management will have an incredibly difficult decision to make in the near future, and they have pretty much let the baseball world know what they intend to do. Along with Harper, they view Stephen Strasburg as the future and face of their franchise. GM Mike Rizzo has placed a 160 inning limit for Strasburg, who is coming off Tommy John surgery to repair his shoulder. Strasburg is 9-4 this season, with a 2.84 ERA and they plan on sitting him in the middle of a pennant race. Think about how manager Davey Johnson, who might not be around for the future feels about this decision. Think about players like Ryan Zimmerman, who has been on nothing but losing teams, and now that he has a chance to make some serious playoff noise, management is taking away one of the teams biggest weapons. The Nationals have a chance to do something special for the first time since they’ve been in DC, and if they really take the ball away from their ace it will be detrimental to everything they have built. They appear to be sticking to their guns and it will be fascinating to watch as they falter down the stretch.
Mike Trout will win the AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP. While Bryce Harper has been getting all the headlines as the best Rookie to enter the league, Mike Trout has quietly performed as not only the best rookie, but the best player in all of baseball. If you haven’t seen this guy play, you must tune in. Trout leads the AL with a .348 batting average, which is 20 points higher than the next closest player, Miguel Cabrera. He leads the league with 30 steals, and might be the most prolific base stealer since Ricky Henderson. He also has incredible power, smacking 12 HRs and 40 RBIs in just 66 games. Did I mention that he 20 years old?!?! The Angels have to be thrilled about the upside this guy has. Albert Pujols was brought into Anaheim and they paid him to win the MVP, but Trout has taken the spotlight off Albert’s struggles and has allowed Pujols to straighten out under the radar. Though the Angels play in a division with the mighty Texas Rangers, they are a safe bet to lock up at least one of the Wild Card Spots and with their pitching and offensive fire power, I could easily see Trout leading the Angels deep into the playoffs.
The New York Yankees will win the World Series. Yeah, this might be predictable since I am a die-hard Yankee fan, but I truly feel this team is destined this season. They have battled through devastating injuries and slow starts by some core players, and at this point the Yanks have the best record in all of baseball and a 8 game lead in the AL East. The Yankees lead the league in home runs, which analysts around baseball are saying is a negative? I may be wrong here, but isn’t the purpose of baseball to score as many runs as possible, and aren’t home runs the quickest and best way to do that? The Yankees also have a team ERA of 3.78, which is good for 4th in the AL. They lost two of their starting pitchers on the same day, and still haven’t missed a beat. Rafael Soriano has filled in for Mariano Rivera to the tune of 22 saves and 1.51 ERA. The bullpen is actually going to get stronger in the second half, as Joba Chamberlain is said to be getting very close to coming back from his ankle injury. Robinson Cano has quietly turned a slow start into an MVP type season as well, batting .315 with 21 HR’s and 54 RBIs. The Yankees have incredible veteran leadership with players like Jeter, Pettitte, Granderson, Teixeria and Rodriguez, have been through all the battles before and will once again prevail as baseball’s best team.
Enjoy the second half and I’ll see you in the Canyon of Heroes for the World Series Parade!
A few days ago, I wrote about how much I enjoyed the Major League Baseball All-Star game. Seeing the greatest ball players in the world battle it out first in the Home Run Derby, and then the game itself has always been something I’ve found special. Players who don’t often play each other compete while other players who are used to competing with each other team up for one night. In the American League dugout you’ll find rivals like Derek Jeter and David Ortiz playing and cheering on their team for the same purpose. It has always been a lot of fun to watch for me, an avid baseball fan. However, this All-Star game did not live up to my expectations what so ever. In fact, I’ll go even further to say that it absolutely sucked and I had a hard time sitting through and watching the action (even though I saw damn near every pitch).
First of all, the All-Star game itself was boring as hell. Justin Verlander came in and gave up five damn runs in the first inning and the game was pretty much over. All the life was taken out of the game at that point. As a Yankee fan, the fact that my team may finish with the best record in baseball but not get home field in the World Series thanks to Mr. Verlander is a fucking joke. Bud Selig really shit the bed when he made that rule up a few years ago following the infamous tie in 2002. At least if the Tigers make the World Series and don’t get home field, they can look at their own player as a main reason why. However, if any other team like the Yanks, Angels or Rangers make it through to the Fall Classic, how does it make any sense that they won’t get to host the deciding Game 7 in their building. Just look at last year as an example, as the Texas Rangers had to play Game 7 at St. Louis in the World Series and lost to the Cardinals on the road as a result of an exhibition game result. The fact that it was a blow out, and a first inning blow out makes the result even harder to swallow. Major League Baseball, you better check into this and fix it.
Also, why the hell is Tony La Russa managing the NL team? First of all, he is a miserable looking man, with a face that not even his own mother could really love. I understand his team won the World Series last year and that the World Series managers get the privilege the following year, but he retired! Why should he be allowed to call the shots when he doesn’t really have a dog in the fight? Now I know that he won the game but imagine he had to make a decision at the end of the game that would cost a rival of his the ability to play Game 7 at home? What if La Russa had an opportunity to screw over the Brewers or Cubs? Since he has nothing to really gain from any managing decision, there is no reason he should be pressing the buttons in this game. If MLB is going to make the game actually mean something, then they need to be consistent and treat it like it does. La Russa retired from baseball and should have watched the game on his couch like all the other ex managers did.
One of La Russa’s decisions that pissed me off, though ultimately didn’t effect the game too much was not starting R.A. Dickey. Now I am not a Mets fan, but as a fan of baseball, how could anyone not enjoy the year and story that Dickey has put together? Even if La Russa thinks that starter Matt Cain is a better pitcher, he has to understand that everyone wanted to see Dickey come in and throw his knuckleball out of the gate. R.A. got into the game in the middle innings, but by then it was already decided and the anticipation and excitement wasn’t there. Dickey’s numbers dictate that he should have 100% been the starter, as his ERA, WHIP, wins, K’s per 9 innings and hits per 9 innings are all superior to Matt Cain. Awful job by La Russa to not only disallow the best and most deserving pitcher an All-Star start, but by ruining the greatest story in baseball to come around in a long time.
As for the Home Run derby, how the hell can Kansas City Royal fans boo Robinson Cano during the entire competition? Actually, allow me to correct myself. They cheered when he made outs. Robinson, as the AL Derby captain didn’t pick Kansas City Royal Billy Butler to participate in the competition. I understand that fans can be disappointed, but to show the lack of class they did during the Derby is a travesty. Robinson Cano has never said or done anything offensive to anyone. He is a fun loving player who happens to be one of the top 5 in the world. For the Royal fans to boo him to the extent they did during an All-Star game competition which is supposed to be fun is bull shit. Cano tried to play it off like it didn’t bother him, but how could it not? Yesterday at the actual game, Royal fans continued to heckle Cano, even messing with his family in the stands. Now I know that the Royals won’t make the World Series (probably ever in my lifetime), but shouldn’t they be rooting for the American League? Also, it is never acceptable to go after a player’s family for any reason. If the reason is over Billy Butler however, it makes the Royal fans the biggest bunch of morons I have ever witnessed. Billy fucking Butler! Butler’s career high in HR’s is 21! Also, Cano’s American League picks ended up winning the competition so it looks like Robinson made some good decisions. Kansas City Royal fans showed they are the type of fans who breed losing baseball. Is there any wonder that as soon as any Royal player gets good and enters their contract year, they run the hell out of there as fast as possible. If George Brett was a Yankee he wouldn’t even be in their all time top 10. Your team is a joke and so are you.
With that all said, I’m ready for the second half of baseball to kick off. I hope Robinson Cano gets fueled by the haters and explodes in the next few weeks, which I totally expect. I hope the American League World Series representative destroys whoever comes out of the weak National League. I hope R.A. Dickey continues to pitch better than Matt Cain. I hope Tony La Russa finds something else to do with his spare time. I hope Bud Selig grows a brain. But mostly, I hope that Billy Butler and the Kansas City Royals don’t win another game for the rest of their year. Their fans 100% deserve it!
The Home Run Derby will take place tonight at 8 p.m. from Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City. It is one of the sporting events that people either love or hate. Personally, I am infatuated with the Derby. I was brought up in a generation in which we grew up loving the long ball. The longer, higher and farther the ball is hit, the better as far as I am concerned. I am one of those fans who enjoys getting to the park hours before to watch teams taking batting practice and tonight is a glorified, elongated version of that. The contestants are taking their practice cuts and the fans sitting in the outfield are oiling up their gloves. The other All-Stars who are not competing tonight are getting set to sit on the sidelines and watch their peers put on a show. MLB changed the format last year, making the derby a team competition and allowing a team captain to pick the contestants. The captains for this year’s team are Robinson Cano of the Yankees and Matt Kemp of the Dodgers. Each captain asked players around the league and the collection of power that will be on display tonight is fantastic.
For the American League, Jose Bautista, Prince Fielder, Mark Trumbo and Cano will be taking the hacks. Though Bautista, Fielder and Cano are the better known players in the AL, Trumbo is really the player to watch. Of all the competitors, Trumbo averages the longest homerun on the season as his 22 jacks have travelled an average of 419.5 feet. He has also managed to hit the longest homerun of the AL competitors, as he hit a blast 459 feet earlier this season. He is thought to be one of the best raw, young power hitters in the game and if he gets on a roll, watch out!
Last year Robinson Cano won the competition, edging Adrian Gonzalez in a classic final. It was a truly special moment for Cano since his father was throwing the pitches to his son. As a Yankee fan, I am more than aware that Cano is one of the best talents in the league and when he is on a good streak, he has the potential to be as good as anyone. I can easily see him taking this competition again, though I have to give Trumbo the edge because he has power that hasn’t been seen in the league since McGwire and Sosa were hitting 500 ft. shots (that were steroid induced) in the late 90’s.
The National League team will consist of Carlos Beltran, Carlos Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen and Matt Kemp. Kemp jumped out to an early MVP campaign this year, but has been slowed for the past month and a half due to a hamstring issue. I am shocked that the Dodgers are going to let him compete in the competition, as he hasn’t been playing in any games for them in over a month. He is unquestionably a candidate to win the contest if he is healthy, but I don’t understand the risk involved. The player I am most excited to see is the Pirates youngster Andrew McCutchen. McCutchen is by far the smallest player in the field but he has such unbelievable power due to ridiculous fast twitch muscles that remind me of when Alfonso Soriano was in his prime in the early 2000’s for the Yankees. McCutchen is single-handedly leading the Pirates to a first place record, and his 18 homers are only a small part of his all around game. If the season ended today, he would have to be in the conversation of NL MVP, along with David Wright and the shocking Melky Cabrera. Though McCutchen excites me, I think the top NL performer will be Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, as his 17 homers this year travel further than the other NL players, averaging 412.8 ft per shot, probably aided by Coors Field conditions.
WIth that said, I think the AL players will dominate tonight and I wouldn’t be expected if every AL player finished with higher totals than the NL’s best. Either way, I’ll be at the edge of my seat and though I am not certain about who is going to win, my official prediction will be Mark Trumbo, followed by Cano (though I will 100% be rooting for Robbie to prevail). With the said, I wouldn’t be shocked if any of the AL players took the trophy home tonight. I am so excited for the competition that I will watch it even though I am subjected to listening to Chris Berman utter the words “back, back, back, back, back…..gone!” 500 times. Even though Berman can be irritating during the broadcast, there is nothing else I don’t love about the Derby and I can’t wait to tune in tonight. Enjoy!