Cleveland Indians Winning Big

The Cleveland Indians have been on a tear lately and they are slowly gaining momentum in the AL Central and they are becoming contenders. Being in the same division as the defending champions the Kansas City Royals is a challenge, but the Indians are looking like the team to beat right now. Cleveland has great run support for their pitching staff which is a key to any team’s success.

If they can keep up this great pace and continue to put multiple runs on the board they will be able to extend their lead in their division. They are only up by half a game, but they can continue to climb and gain a healthy lead before the all-star break.

In their last six wins only two of those games were decided by 1 run. Their hitting has been great that is why the other four games of those six wins were not in question.

Their division rivals the Royals have been battling with them all season. In their 2 most recent series Cleveland swept the Royals in 4 games, but the Royals would return the favor with a 3 game series sweep of their own. Both of these teams will give problems to each other throughout the remainder of the season, and it will be a battle to the end.

Cleveland swept a series against the Chicago White Sox and they showed that they are a great offensive team in a couple of different ways. In game 1 they held on to the lead till the 9th inning and then won on a walk off hit. In game 2 they outscored the White Sox by 11 runs, and in game 3 another walk off win.

There is one player that has been coming up big for the Indians and that is Mike Napoli. He had 4 RBI’s in those 3 games. He has been producing in his role as DH this season. Napoli is hitting .229 and he seems to be in a great rhythm as his team continues to win.

Stating pitching for Cleveland has been another key to their success. In their last 3 games all starting pitchers have worked through 6 innings. That efficiency can preserve the bullpen and keep everyone healthy which is important especially with the second half of the season coming up.

I think this team has the potential to be one of the best teams in baseball, but they need to continue win more of the series they play. Each series is different and Cleveland has made adjustments to keep winning, but Terry Francona and his coaching staff need to find a way to not get swept as often.

Cleveland is 8 games over .500 and they are trying to pull away from the rest of the pack in the AL Central. They are playing like a team with a purpose and they do have playoff aspirations.

Now that the Cleveland curse has been broken due to the recent NBA Finals victory, the Indians want to bring a pennant back to their fans. If they keep winning they will put themselves in a better spot to become World Series champions.

Cuban INF Yulieski Gourriel Available For Hire

According to MLB.com, Cuban infielder Yulieski Gourriel has been cleared to become a free agent and could sign with a team as early as this season. The 32-year-old has primarily played third base over his career (13 in the CNS and two in the JPL). He has also played at second base and short stop.

Gourriel has repeatedly expressed a desire to leave Cuba with permission of the Cuban government. He and his younger brother Lourdes (22-years-old) left Cuba’s Ciego de Avila team following its Caribbean Series back in February of this year in search of MLB contracts (per Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com).

Gourriel is regarded as the best baseball player in Cuba and it’s easy to see why when you look at his numbers.

Last year with the Industriales, Gourriel slashed a ridiculous .500/.589/.874 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI in just 49 games. Throughout his professional career Gourriel has a slash line of .335/.417/.580 with 1,585 hits, 250 HR, 1,018 RBI, and 611 BB.

Given that Gourriel is considered by many to be Major League-ready right now, I thought I would provide a look at one team from each division who could potentially sign him.

 

National League East: New York Mets

According to ESPN, the Mets may pursue Gourriel aggressively (and understandably so).

With perennial third baseman David Wright likely sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a herniated disk, the Mets could use someone with Gourriel’s experience who’s ready to make an impact.

Gourriel would also have a clubhouse friend in countryman Yoenis Cespedes, so this would seem like a match made in heaven on paper for both sides.

 

National League Central: Pittsburgh Pirates

Sitting at third place in the NL Central and two-and-a-half games back for one of the two NL Wild Card spots, the Bucs could use a potential offensive boost and change of pace in their infield.

Currently Pittsburgh is comfortable at third base with David Freese and Jung Ho Kang. They also seem comfortable at second base with Josh Harrison, but Gourriel could possibly platoon at short stop with Jordy Mercer.

If nothing else, Gourriel would be welcomed infield depth and could add some needed pop into the Pirates’ lineup.

 

National League West: San Francisco Giants

I’ll admit, the Gigantes are a bit of a stretch here when you consider their more than serviceable starting infield comprised of Matt Duffy (3B), Brandon Crawford (SS), Joe Panik (2B), and Brandon Belt (1B).

However, it wouldn’t hurt to have Gourriel behind any of those guys or allowing them to rest come the dog days of August.

With Hunter Pence possibly out of the everyday lineup until after the All-Star break with a torn hamstring, San-Fran could use a batter of Gourriel’s caliber.

 

 

(Photo Credit: Nati Harnik, AP Photo)

(Photo Credit: Nati Harnik, AP Photo)

 

 

American League East: Baltimore Orioles

The O’s aren’t exactly in dire need for an infielder either (see Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Jonathon Schoop, and JJ Hardy).

Nevertheless, with JJ Hardy still out and rehabbing a fractured left foot and the flexibility of the DH position, Baltimore could use Gourriel as infield depth in a platoon with Alvarez. The O’s could also put him at the hot corner over current starter Ryan Flaherty (while Machado covers at SS in Hardy’s absence).

As you can see, Baltimore would have options by signing Gourriel. And when you are trying to stay atop the AL East, having options is quite the luxury.

 

American League Central: Cleveland Indians

The Tribe, in my opinion, is the AL team who would benefit most by signing Gourriel now. Cleveland currently has a solid middle-infield with short stop sensation Francisco Lindor and veteran second baseman Jason Kipnis. However, the corners of their infield are getting a bit old (Mike Napoli, 34) and worn out (Juan Uribe, 37).

At 32 with 15 seasons under his belt, Gourriel isn’t young either but would seem more serviceable than Uribe at third. Though the Indians do have another promising young talent in Jose Ramirez (currently starting in left field but a third baseman by trade), the addition of Gourriel would give the Tribe more flexibility.

Cleveland is on top of the AL Central by a thin margin and Gourriel could offer assistance in helping distance that lead (you’re probably sensing an AL pattern by now).

 

American League West: Texas Rangers

The Rangers have been red hot lately and have a seven-and-a-half game first place lead in the AL West over the Seattle Mariners. A large part of that success stems from one of the more crowded infields in the majors (see Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, and Jurickson Profar).

However, they could make room for Gourriel at first base by rotating with Mitch Moreland.

At the very least, Gourriel could share DH responsibilities with Prince Fielder while also acting as infield insurance.

 

Honorable Mention: Los Angeles Dodgers, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, New York Yankees

 

Final Thoughts:

While I feel the Mets or Indians will make the most aggressive run at Gourriel, you never know who might throw their hat in the ring.

This development will be one to keep an eye on in the coming weeks. It would be surprising not to see Gourriel on a Major League roster by the All-Star break.

Top Ten Current MLB Droughts

It’s been said time and again that “Good things come to those who wait.” and “Patience is a virtue”. While those statements can certainly prove themselves to be true for most people, fans of the teams listed in this post may have a bone to pick with those proverbs. Heck for some fans, their patience has been stretched so thin, you could use it as fishing line.

WARNING: Astros, Brewers, Cubs, Indians, Mariners, Nationals, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, and Rangers fans may not wish to continue reading (and nobody would blame you). For everyone else still reading, I won’t keep you waiting. Lets dive into the top ten MLB droughts:

 

10. Baltimore Orioles

While the O’s were able to end a post-season appearance drought of 17 years back in 2014 (previous appearance was in 1997), they are still enduring a World Series title drought dating back to 1983 (32 years). Couple that with the string of last and fourth place finishes throughout their previous 17 year playoff drought, and the fans of Camden Yards are left clamoring for a championship. If nothing else to finally have some bragging rights over the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who have won four of the last 10 World Series.

Finishing last year at 81-81 (.500 on the dot) and in third place in the AL East, Baltimore’s chances of ending that 32 year drought, in my opinion, is much like last years finish, 50/50.

 

9. Pittsburgh Pirates

Much like the Orioles, the Bucs ended their previous playoff drought of 20 years back in 2013, and just this past season had fans thinking they’d be raising the jolly roger flag in the World Series for the first time since 1979. Pittsburgh won 98 games in 2015, but saw their impressive season end abruptly after a 4-0 loss to the Cubs in the National League Wild Card game. This caused a 35 year old World Series drought to turn 36.

Despite being cellar dwellers in the National League Central during the majority of that previous 20 year playoff drought, the Bucs are now making the playoffs consistently. So maybe, just maybe, their World Series drought is close to being quenched.

 

8. Seattle Mariners

While the Mariners may have recently had another former star enter the Baseball Hall of Fame in Ken Griffey Jr., something  you won’t find in Cooperstown is a Mariners World Series trophy. That’s because since entering the league in 1977 (39 years ago), Seattle has never won the fall classic.

The Mariners 2001 season in which they won an MLB record 116 wins, along with the National League West division, is by far the franchises one shining moment amongst a collection of otherwise forgettable seasons. With 2001 being the last time the M’s made the playoffs, they currently have the longest post-season drought at 14 years. Despite some nice off-season acquisitions over past few seasons, and a solid pitching rotation headed by “King” Felix Hernandez, Seattle fans will likely remain sleepless for years to come.

 

(Todd Warshaw/Allsport)

(Todd Warshaw/Allsport)

 

7. San Diego Padres

Padres fans share a similar pain with Seattle in that they too have never experienced their team winning a World Series. Fans of the Fathers have suffered a bit longer though than the folks in Seattle. With the Padres entering the league back in 1969, San Diego’ drought stands at 47 years. To make matters worse, unless the Padres can pull of their best season since 2006 in 2016, it will be 10 years since San Diego last won the NL West.

San Diego can take some solace in knowing that they aren’t the only team to have a 47 year old championship drought. The next two teams on this list also have never won the big one in their franchises existence either.

 

6. Milwaukee Brewers

Like San Diego, Milwaukee has also never won a World Series since entering the MLB in 1969 (47 years). Additionally, the Brewers have never won a National League Pennant since joining the NL in 1998. The last time the Brewers did win a Pennant (1982), they were still in the American League. Bringing the total pennant drought for Milwaukee to 33 years.

As if those stats aren’t sad enough for fans of the Brew Crew, Milwaukee finished last years tumultuous, injury riddled 2015 season at 68-95 in fourth place of the NL Central. What’s ahead for 2016?

All signs point to them battling for who gets top bunk at the bottom of the division, with the Cincinnati Reds this year. My prediction, more of the same pain for the foreseeable future.

 

(Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

(Susan Walsh/AP Photo)

5. Washington Nationals

Entering last year, the Nationals were odds on favorites to win their first World Series in franchise history. As you’ve probably caught on to the theme of this post by now, things went sour for Washington in 2015. By the time the post-season arrived, the Nationals were on the outside looking in.

Like the aforementioned Brewers,  Washington has also never won a National League Pennant. Bringing their drought total to 47 years for both a pennant and a title. Fans of this franchise are used to waiting however.

This is because there was a 33 year absence of the teams existence in our nations capital from 1972-2005 (In 72′ the Washington Senators left DC for Fort Worth to become the Texas Rangers).

2015 aside, I feel that Bryce Harper & Co. can certainly rebound in 2016 and vie for the franchises first championship.

 

4. Houston Astros

After losing to the Chicago White Sox in the 2005 World Series, the Astros started to slip in the standings steadily from 2006-2010. Then from 2011-2013 they managed to finish last in both the NL Central (2011-2012) and American League West divisions (2013, switching from the NL to the AL). In 2014 they avoided a fourth straight last place finish by placing fourth a few games ahead of the Rangers.

When you add that slump to a 54 year World Series drought, it doesn’t exactly cause your fan base to believe it will end anytime soon. However, finishing in last place year after year doesn’t have to be all bad.

The Astros have used their top draft picks and made a few savvy free agent signings over those years, to build a playoff caliber team that surprised many last year. Houston bowed out, however, in the American League Divisional Series to the Kansas City Royals (The Royals would go on to win it all and end their 30 year title drought) .

Only time will tell if the Astros can continue their 2015 success story and possibly put an end to their Texas sized title drought.

 

3. Texas Rangers

The Rangers surged last year on their way to edging the Astros in the AL west to claim the division for the third time in five years. Coincidently, they also edge Houston on this list by one year as their drought for a World Series title stands at 55 years.

Although fans have been experiencing a yo-yo affect with Texas’ seasonal outcomes of late (Nearly winning it all in 2011, then finishing last in 2014), the Rangers seem to be only a few pieces of the puzzle away from putting together a championship team.

It will certainly be interesting to see if these Texas teams continue to shine in 2016, as both fan bases could use some reassurance that things are looking up.

(Photo Courtesy of ESPN)

(Photo Courtesy of ESPN)

2. Cleveland Indians

There’s no denying the state of Texas has suffered over the years when it comes to professional baseball, but no sports city in the country has suffered more than Cleveland. Enter the Cleveland Indians, whose fans are apart of a Tribe that’s endured a 67 year long World Series drought. The last time the Indians won a World Series, was way back in 1948.

Despite multiple fall classic appearances in the late 90’s, the Tribe tripped and stumbled each time leading them to an 18 year AL Pennant drought as well. The closest Cleveland has come recently to ending both droughts was in 2007, when they lost a seven game ALCS to the Boston Red Sox.

Hope, however, may be on the horizon for Chief Wahoo and the city of Cleveland. According to another Sports Rants contributor, the Indians  are the AL’s sleeper team in 2016.

 

1. Chicago Cubs

If I had a dollar for every year a Chicago Cubs fan said “This is the year, we’re winning the World Series” I would have $107. When you have to go back farther than an entire century to find your teams last World Series title (1908), superstitions, curses, even supernatural events start to become believable.

To put this into perspective, the last time the Cubs won a title the president was Theodore Roosevelt, gas was 20 cents a gallon, and the number one song was “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” by Jack Norworth and Albert Von Tilzer (per the Huffington Post).

Chicago like Cleveland, has also suffered playoff collapses and heartache during their drought (see the Steve Bartman Incident from 2003). To make matters worse, as if the drought and playoff fiascos haven’t been enough, the city of Chicago has already seen a drought end. The Cubs longtime rival Chicago White Sox  (mentioned earlier in this post) defeated the Astros in 2005 to end their title drought of 87 years.

Despite all of this, the 2016 Cubs actually appear to be in a position to finally put that old Billy goat to bed. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see, but at least fans of this franchise have some hope again.

 

Final Thought:

While these droughts have no doubt been daunting for each respective franchise, we’ve seen a number of teams end their  post-season and World Series woes over the last 15 seasons. So, whether it’s been a few decades or over a century, just remember, there’s always next year.

 

The 2016 Cleveland Indians are the Sleeper Team of the AL

The Cleveland Indians will be a playoff team in 2016. Now i’m not saying that it will be a cake-walk for them to make the playoffs, but with a couple breaks, and some regression from the other teams in the AL Central, I believe the indians will earn a playoff berth.

Now first let’s look at the American League Central. The Royals are the defending World Champions, but I believe that they will take a step back in 2016. Fangraphs predicts the Royals to win 79 games this year , but they also predicted the Royals to win 79 games in 2015, and we all know how that ended.   Now while I don’t think that they will finish with a win total as low as 79, I do think that will drop down a little bit in the standings, as the loss of Ben Zobrist will come back to hurt them more than they expect.

(McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

(McClatchy-Tribune News Service)

The Tigers went all-in on Justin Upton, but that could very well come up and bite them back. They don’t have the youth that they once had, and in my eyes will be lucky if they even reach .500. The Twins are on the opposite end of the youth spectrum. One of the reasons that the Twins burnt out towards the end of last year was because they did not have any veteran leadership, and while they will have Ervin Santana for the whole year this year, they still don’t have that piece that will push them over the hump. The White Sox also appear to be a couple years away from contending, as they are still gelling as a team.

 (AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

Now onto the Tribe. The Indians have one of the best rotations in baseball right now. It all starts with 2014 AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Kluber has some of the best stuff in baseball, and Terry Francona knows that he has a guy that is going to give him a quality start every five days. But that is not where the pitching dominance ends.  Carlos “Cookie” Carrasco had a breakout year last year, going 14-12 with a 3.63 ERA and coming within one out of a no-hitter against the Rays.   If Carrasco can find consistency on a start to start basis, then the Indians could have one of the best 1-2 combinations in baseball. Behind Carrasco is Danny Salazar. Salazar went 14-10 last year with a 3.45 ERA in 2015, but there is still room for improvement. Salazar started the Indians wild card game in 2013, but it looked like the pressure of the big game got to him, as we only lasted 4 innings and gave up 3 runs and was tabbed with the loss. In 2014 he started out with a 5.53 ERA, and a .295 batting average against, and was subsequently sent down to the minors. Salazar found it again though in 2015 finishing with a 14-10 record and a 3.45 ERA, and he hopes to build on that in 2016.

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

Trevor Bauer is the Indians wild card. Bauer still has yet to finish a big league season with a winning record, as he finished last year with a 11-12 record, to go along with a 4.55 ERA. Consistency is something that has plagued Bauer throughout his young career, as you never really know what you are going to get from him on a start by start basis. If Bauer is able to put it together and be a reliable fourth arm, it would drastically help Cleveland playoff chances.

The fifth spot in the rotation is up for grabs. The early front-runner is Cody Anderson, who had a stellar rookie year, going 7-3 after a June call-up, and even winning AL pitcher of the month in September. The Indians also have veterans Josh Tomlin and T.J House competing for the fifth spot, and the loser(s) of that battle could very well see extended time in the bullpen if they don’t make the cut for the rotation.

The Indians bullpen should be solid as usual. Cody Allen (34 saves last year) is an above-average closer, with an overpowering fastball and good breaking stuff. The rest of the bullpen is solid, with Bryan Shaw,Kyle Crockett, Austin Adams, Jeff Manship, and Zach McAllister holding down the fort. McAllister has really made the transition from starter to reliever, as last year was his first year as a reliever and he put up good numbers, finishing the year 4-4 with a 3 ERA. The Indians also signed longtime Yankee reliever Joba Chamberlin in the offseason, so it will be interesting to see how he fits into the Tribe’s season plans.  The Indians ‘pen is solid, it does not have many eye-popping names, but it will win them more games than it will lose them.

The real test for the Indians will be offense. The Tribe had a relatively quiet offseason, as their biggest signings were the likes of Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, and Colin Cowgill. And with it looking more and more like Michael Brantley’s injury will seep into the regular season, the Indians will need some help manufacturing runs. Second baseman Jason Kipnis had a great 2015, and he will hope to build on that into 2015. Having a healthy Yan Gomes will go a long way to helping the Indians score some runs, as Gomes sprained his MCL on April 11th last season, and was never the same player when he got back.

(USA Today)

(USA Today)

Pitching will be no problem for the Indians this year. If they are able to find a way to score some runs until Brantley comes back, and maybe even make a trade or two, I can almost guarantee that you will see the Indians playing in October.

Are the Mariners Contending?

The Seattle Mariners are actually contending, I know, the 66-71 Mariners are just going to do what they always do, drop a vital series and this article becomes useless. I probably would agree with you if you thought that, but something is different about this team, maybe it’s the September call ups and this is just a good ride for a short time. Maybe it’s the hot bats of Trumbo, Seager, and Cano combined with a solid closer taking over in Tom Wilhelmsen. Whatever it is; they need to ride what it is that is making them win and take it all the way to October.

They will be opening up a 4 game series against the second place (Wild Card and A.L. West) Texas Ranger tonight, and with the Rangers coming off a series lost in LA, they look to bounce back from that so they can regain some of the ground they just lost. What gives them the sense that they will be fine is just how poor Seattle plays in Safeco Field (29-36) in contrast to just how well Texas plays on the road this year (39-32).

In a recent 13 game stretch, the Mariners have gone 9-4 in that stretch, improving their record to 66-71. The Mariners have not been over .500 since May 26th. With less then a month of baseball left; Seattle doesn’t have any room to lose, but they have the biggest and most unsuspecting chance ahead of them; Seattle will face Texas 7 times, Anaheim 6 times, Oakland and Houston 3 times. Currently, Seattle is 9 games behind Houston, and just beat them in Houston, which is really hard to do, let alone was the first team to take Dallas Keuchel yard in Houston(Mark Trumbo). I’m not saying they are going to money ball their way into 1st place in the A.L. West, but they have a great opportunity to make the post season via the wild card.

It’ the strength of schedule for the remaining wild card teams that start to make you think; Seattle might have the best chance to do something here.

Texas faces Houston and Seattle 14 times between the two, and play two series against Oakland and one against Detroit and finish the season against Anaheim.

Anaheim faces Houston and Seattle 6 times and will open a series against the Dodgers tonight; they will also play against fellow wild card contenders Minnesota for a 4-game series. They will then finish the season against Texas.

Baltimore who is sliding and sliding fast, will have two series against New York, one four game series against Toronto, 2 against Boston, one against Washington and a four game series against Tampa Bay.

Chicago, Cleveland and Minnesota will face off against each other 5 times for the rest of the season, making the change of positions between the three in the wild card race so fluctuating that unless one of them run the table they will just keep beating each other up and remaining where they stand. They also will play Kansas City and Detroit 5 times between the three as well.

When you balance the schedule’s of all the remaining wild card teams, and look at the Mariners, who haven’t lost in September so far, you can’t help but think, something special could really happen if the Mariners don’t cool down.

http://SportsRants.com

The Perils Of Preseason Predictions

We do it every year. It’s March or early April and we are excited about the upcoming season of our favorite baseball team. We read any article we can get our hands on about playoff predictions, hoping our team will be considered by the experts around the baseball universe as playoff-worthy. We get excited when we read that multiple experts pick our team to win the division and make a playoff run. Our expectations rise and rise as the season approaches.

As someone who has been a lifelong San Diego Padres fan, I say…”never again.”

Things have not gone according to plan so far in the MLB season. The New York Mets are on the brink of winning the NL East, Yasiel Puig has missed about 50 games and is hitting under .250 and the Boston Red Sox are in dead last.

According to an ESPN article in April , almost half of the writers picked the Washington Nationals to win the World Series. They are .500 and at risk of missing the playoffs altogether. The Yankees and Blue Jays were picked third and fourth most likely to win the AL East and now it looks like a two-horse race between those two teams.

Jun 13, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon (3) and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) collide while trying to catch a foul ball during the third inning of game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-215208 ORIG FILE ID: 20150613_blue_jays_vs_red_sox_066.jpg

Jun 13, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox catcher Sandy Leon (3) and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (48) collide while trying to catch a foul ball during the third inning of game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports ORG XMIT: USATSI-215208 ORIG FILE ID: 20150613_blue_jays_vs_red_sox_066.jpg

Boston Red Sox

The team that everyone was picking to win the division was the Boston Red Sox. With the additions of Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, they looked to be in for another worst-to-first season. Things have not worked out. Sandoval has been hovering around .250 and finally hit his 10th home run.

Ramirez has been nothing short of a liability defensively in left field and is hitting .200 without a home run since the All-Star break. The Red Sox are also dead last in the AL in pitching with a 4.75 ERA with one of the worst starting rotations.

By USA Today

By USA Today

Cleveland Indians

The Indians were the majority pick to overthrow the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central. They were also picked by Sports Illustrated to win the World Series.  They currently sit dead last in the division, seven games below .500. Their pitching has been almost as expected but the offense just has not been there.

They have not been able to hit when it counts (.239 avg w/ RISP, 26th in MLB and at .185 w/ RISP and two outs, dead last in AL). Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes have been disappointing, both hitting below .230. They are 16 games back of a Royals team that is over 12 games better than anyone else in the division.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners were picked by many, including ESPN and Sports Illustrated to win the AL West. The Houston Astros didn’t even receive a single vote. Houston currently holds a 3 1/2 game lead over the Angels and the Mariners are all about out of it sitting 11 1/2 games back and 11 games below .500.

They put Nelson Cruz on a team that was nearly fully intact after missing the playoffs by one game. Surely this meant they would get over the hump and make the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. Not so. However, it  isn’t Cruz’s fault who leads the universe with 37 home runs and is hitting .322, a rare combo of power and average.

It has been the rest of the lineup and the pitching that has sunk the Mariners (pun intended). For the majority of the season their $200 million second baseman Robinson Cano was hovering around .240 with hardly any power to show for it. He finally has snapped out of it but it’s too little too late.

Felix Hernandez has had a good season but he has been absolutely shellacked on multiple outings. Most recently, he allowed 10 earned runs in 2 1/3 innings against the lowly Red Sox. That is how 2015 has gone for the Mariners.

By Associated Press

By Associated Press

Miami Marlins

This is not the first time the Marlins have flirted with us. They acquired Mike Morse, Mat Latos, Dee Gordon among others for a big playoff push. Only the latter remains on the team as they other two have been shipped off. They fired their manager after 38 games.

Dan Jennings is 34-50 after replacing Mike Redmond. Miami is 26th in runs scored this season. They also rank 21st in starting rotation ERA. The Fish received multiple votes to win the division and many votes to win a Wild Card spot. However, things have not clicked at that circus of a ballpark in South Beach.

(By USA TODAY)

(By USA TODAY)

San Diego Padres

As a native San Diegan, this one hurts. We all saw the offseason shopping spree that GM A.J. Preller went on, acquiring five All-Stars and a former Rookie of the Year. A year after having one of the worst offenses in major league history, the Padres finally had a lineup that would make opposing pitchers sweat a bit. They were picked to challenge the Dodgers in the NL West and more than likely win a Wild Card spot.

That lineup has delivered, at least better than last year’s dumpster fire. They have already surpassed their home run total from last year (109 last year, 111 in 2015). This year they are in the middle of the pack in many offensive categories as opposed to last.

The lineup has not been the issue. Oddly, it has been the pitching. They are 21st in bullpen ERA, a rare sight for a team normally in the top 10. Craig Kimbrel had a rough start but has settled down and now is third in the MLB in saves with 35. Bud Black was the casualty of a mediocre season and Pat Murphy has taken over for the recently fired Padres skipper.

(By USA TODAY)

(By USA TODAY)

Washington Nationals

Bryce Harper asked for his World Series ring after the Nationals acquired starting pitcher Max Scherzer. They may not even win the division much less make the playoffs now. Bryce Harper has been playing out of his mind (.329 avg, 31  HRs) and Max Scherzer has been pitching lights out (no-hitter, 201 Ks, 2.79 ERA). That’s about it. They have not gotten much help.

They are at risk of losing the division to the Mets. They are shockingly struggling to be at .500 and look up to the Mets with a gap of 5 games. If this team can’t gel in the next 6 weeks, this could be one of the biggest disappointments in recent memory.

If I have learned one thing this year, it is that preseason predictions mean nothing and we should not get ourselves all worked up if our team is picked to win the division or more. The expectations only get higher and the disappointments that much more bitter when things don’t go according to  the experts’ picks.

So, let’s all apply what we have learned this season. If you have a favorite NFL team or college football team about to start their respective seasons in the coming weeks, this applies to you as well. Preseason hype believers beware.

 

 

Learn To Swim in the Comfort of your Own Pool - Book Now

Future Homes For Potential Trade Players

(Associated Press)

Cole Hammels

With $70.5 Mil still left on his contract with a 2019 $20 Mil Team Option, $24 Mil Vesting Option, and this interesting clause; $6 Mil Buyout Vests if he, 1) has 400 IP in 2017-18, including 200 IP in 2018, and 2) is not on the disabled list with a shoulder or elbow injury at the end of the 2018 season. Philly will have to absorb some of it, but they really can’t keep paying him this kind of money when they keep finding themselves in the basement of the N.L.

I think he would fit best in with Houston or Baltimore. Houston has one of the smallest salaries in the MLB, so it wouldn’t be a shock if they took on half of his contract with Philly and moved some of the young talent they have in their farm to make a really strong playoff push. Baltimore lacks a true Ace in their rotation, so Hammels could come in take on the same responsibilities he had in Philly if he were to come to Baltimore. They also have a comfortable cushion in their salary to take on some of Hammels contract and could hold him for the rest of his contract.

Potential Home:  New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Toronto Blue Jays, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Angeles, Baltimore Orioles.

Justin Upton

The lone offensive Padre All Star is playing to his usual numbers, despite playing in a pitcher friendly ball park. It’s bizarre to comprehend that he wasn’t an all star for either year he was in Atlanta, but when he came to San Diego, and the team started losing, the one thing that stood out was Upton; and he finally got paid out for his success this year because of his surroundings.

I could see Upton playing in a Minnesota,  Houston, New York(Mets or Yankees), or Washington uniform. Minnesota and Washington could use Uptons bat and have room to put him in the outfield. Minnesota could rotate him with Torii Hunter between DH and OF to get the most from both. Houston could use his bat and with Springer on the DL, he could start helping now, and until Springers return they could ease him back with some time in the DH role, and allow Upton to see some of the field.

Potential Home: New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals, New York Mets, Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays.

Johnny Cueto

The sterling ace for the Reds will be a free agent next year, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cueto help another team for the return of some promising future players. Johnny has been nothing but a true professional for Cincinnati and will be dealt in a professional manor. A real All Star snub this year, the 29 year old Dominican could be the biggest pitcher on the trading block.

His name is rumored with the Yankees right now, he is having another great year, not quite like last year where he was 2nd in the N.L. Cy Young and could have made a strong case to start last years All Star game instead of Kershaw. It looks likely he will go to an A.L. East team, Toronto really needs an arm to make a push for the post season as does Baltimore. Yankee scouts have already been spotted at Reds games, so it could be just a matter of time.

Potential Home: New York Yankees, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs.

 

Mike Leake

A solid arm that can win in any league, on any team, anytime. The 8th overall pick from Cincinnati in 2009 draft, Leake has been improving yearly, posting an ERA of under 4 for the last 3 seasons now. He will be a Free Agent next year, and could be involved in the same trade as Cueto, the return would be greater in a combined package and would be less work for Cincinnati to move both in one motion. Perhaps a three team trade could be in the works.

Tampa Bay is the type of team that would take on Leake in a trade and would sign him after the season, Tampa is an organization that likes to work big with little. Leake would fit into Tampa really well, he would have a guaranteed spot in the rotation and could help them win today. The A.L. East is up for anyone(except Boston), and the one thing Tampa Bay does well is win on the road, and that fits really well with Leake, as he is 4-2, 2.57 ERA, 0.89 WHIP on the road this year.

Potential Home:  Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City, Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Chicago Cubs.

 

Gerardo Parra

The recent trade product of Arizona is becoming more likely to be moved again this year. He has a smoking hot bat this year (.313/ .348/ .500 9 HR, 30 RBI) and Milwaukee is so far in the toilet already they really have no benefit to holding the upcoming free agent unless they want to hold onto him for the future. I imagine the offers are going to outweigh the thought of keeping Parra.

A lot of teams are in the market for a well hitting outfielder. The Yankees could benefit a lot from having Parra platooning with all of the outfielders, given their history of poor health, Parra would be a huge asset for them. I could also see St. Louis taking a swing at acquiring the 28 year old left handed Venezuelan, they could use a nice complimentary bat to go with Randal Grichuk in the outfield.

Potential Home: New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, St. Louis Cardinals, Kansas City Royals, San Francisco, Chicago Cubs, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Mets.

 

Zach McAllister

Cleveland isn’t having the season they or anyone else thought would happen. McAllister is arbitration eligible after this season, and is only making half a million, but has been really good this year, since moving to the bullpen in April, McAllister has posted a 2.19 ERA,  1.08 WHIP, 50 Strike Outs over 37 innings, batters are only hitting .212, and only has allowed 2 home runs. He can be a starter, but has been very special coming out of the bullpen this year.

Some teams are going to be willing to add him to the starting rotation, but some teams don’t want to mess with success. I could see either LA teams acquiring the 3rd round 2006 pick for some more stability in the bullpen and the possibility of starting or long relief. They all could use a boost in the starting rotation and the bullpen. Dodgers are without Ryu for the remainder of the season, their bullpen has a 3.73 ERA with a  1.27 WHIP. While the Angels bullpen have a better ERA than the starting rotation(3.43/3.56) they could still use the talented arm of McAllister, either from the pen or improving the rotation.

Potential Home: San Francisco Giants, Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles.

Matz of Action for a Sunday

Steven Matz impresses on the mound and at the plate in his debut.
Photo Courtesy: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke/NY Daily News

Baseball sure knows how to wrap up a week.

Sunday featured two doubleheaders created by mother nature the day before.

The Nats and Phils split a pair. Ryne Sandberg quit as the Phillies manager on Friday. Come to think of it, the Hall of Fame second baseman also quit the Cubs as a player in 1994 and was a DNP in 1995. If memory serves me he had some family concerns to address. He did resume his Cubs’ career for two more years in 1996-1997.

I can only guess red hot rookie Maikel Franco (.304/349/.559), who drove in three more runs on Sunday, wasn’t exciting enough to keep Ryno (119-159) around as the talent dwindled and losses mounted. Bench coach Pete Mackanin is the interim manager for the Phillies. Somewhere, Jeff Francoeur is homering and singling in a run against Stephen Strasburg, but struggling to find the handle on the ball in right field. It’s been that kind of year for last place Philadelphia baseball.

The other doubleheader saw the Orioles blanking the Indians 12-0 over two games as Jason Kipnis’ (.342/.418/.503) 20-game hitting streak came to an end. The doughnut for the Indians clearly hints that the Orioles had strong starting efforts. Eight scoreless innings for Ubaldo Jimenez in game one. Seven scoreless innings for Chris Tillman in game two. Just like that the Orioles and Rays are tied for first in the AL East.

Two more homers were hit by Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado.

Ho-Hum. Arenado (.293/.326/.632) had three two-homer games this past week and seven total. The 24-year-old has hit eight home runs since last Sunday as his breakout season chugs along. Arenado had 28 home runs in 2013-2014 combined spanning 244 games. This season he’s hit 24 round trippers in 73 games. The Rockies still lost on Sunday to #MadBum who hit his second home run of the season.

Two extra inning games.

The Angels beat the Mariners 3-2 in 10-innings because the M’s waste most of King Felix’s scoreless efforts. “The Bartender” Tom Wilhelmsen threw a wild pitch with Kyle Kubitza batting, allowing Kole Calhoun to run home for victory. Really wanted to use Tom’s nickname from his closer days as a Mariner and the word Kubitza in a complete sentence.

The Mets began their day by winning the conclusion of a suspended game against the Reds in 13-innings on the always exciting Lucas Duda walk-off fielder’s choice to score Dilson Herrera.

AND there was another impressive MLB debut.

It seems like every week another freshly minted major leaguer makes an impression during their debut or shortly thereafter. Sunday it was the New York Mets turn after they completed their extra inning affair.

Steven Matz, pronounced Not-Dill-on-Gee, made his major league debut for the Mets as part of that six-man rotation they have going on in Queens. Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Sid Fernandez, Bartolo Colon, Jon Niese, Noah Syndergaard, and @Smatz88.

The Long Island native only surrendered runs on a leadoff homer to the Reds’ Brandon Phillips and on a fourth-inning dinger by the ToddFather, his 25th, who homers just as much a Arenado. At some point during All Star weekend Todd Frazier and Nolan Arenado need to square off in the new home run derby format that will still consist of eight sluggers, but will be a head-to-head single elimination tournament with timed matchups.

Back to Matz. He featured a 96-mph heater and high-70s curve. He went 110-pitches, which allowed him to complete 7.2 IP with six strikeouts to earn his first major league victory. What seemed to excite his family the most was his three hits at the dish, including a two-run double in his first major league at bat. Ultimately he netted four RBIs to aid the Mets 7-2 win.

Matz is the first pitcher and first Mets player to drive in four runs in his debut. In case it matters, Doc Gooden drove in four runs for the 1990 Mets. The southpaw Matz will be sticking around to face the Dodgers next weekend. He was previously discussed here at SportsRants.com by Mike Addvensky. The Mets (40-37) trail the Nationals by two games in the NL East. The Mets recently lost seven in a row, but have won four straight.

 

Topps

Gotta Go to Mo’s! - THE online store for All Your Footwear Needs! Modells.com – Shop Footwear, Running Gear, Sporting Goods, Licensed PRO apparel. Find hats, t-shirts, and collectibles from your favorite teams!Click Here!

Big Fish Games

Shiny New Toys – Correa, Buxton, and Lindor

Astros’ SS Carlos Correa sparked a big week for prospect call ups.

(Photo Courtesy: Paul Beaty/Associated Press)

What a week for the prospects of baseball’s future! Somewhere you could hear real baseball fans and fantasy baseball keeper league owners shouting “finally”, while redraft league owners raced for their mobile devices to search and maybe find that they could invest in MLB’s latest and greatest toys in the form of Carlos Correa, Byron Buxton, and Francisco Lindor.

Carlos Correa – Houston Astros

Last Sunday the Houston Astros purchased the contract of shortstop Carlos Correa from Triple-A Fresno. All they were putting in their shopping cart was the top overall selection from the 2012 draft. Correa was slashing .332/.402/602 with 10 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 52 games between Double-A and Triple-A this season.

The 20-year old Correa debuted last Monday hitting out of the six-hole against the White Sox Chris Sale. In the 4th inning he collected his first major league hit on an RBI infield single to shortstop, but only after a replay review reversed an out call against him. He drove in Houston’s only run in a 3-1 loss.

Tuesday night Correa collected two more hits, his first stolen base and his first home run, which was a two-run shot against Zach Duke in the 9th inning of a 4-2 loss.

Friday night, playing in front of the home folks for the first time in Houston, Correa hit a solo homer that was part of an eight-run 1st inning blast off against the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez who recorded just one out. The 10-0 win ended the Astros seven-game losing streak.

Following an 8-1 loss Saturday and 13-0 win on Sunday the Astros (36-28) enter the week with a 2.5 game lead in the AL West over the Texas Rangers.

Mason Williams – New York Yankees

Shockingly, the Yankees have a prospect under the age of 35 25. OK, 24-year old outfielder Slade Heathcott got a little action earlier this season and picked up a half dozen hits and a homer run before he got hurt.

Friday night 23-year old center fielder Mason Williams made his major league debut. His first career hit came in his second at bat when he hit a two-run homer against the Orioles’ Ubaldo Jimenez. Williams had ZERO home runs in 235 plate appearances at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilke-Barre this season. Williams will get a shot against right handed pitching with Jacoby Ellsbury still injured. The home run in his debut has been Williams only hit through three games.

Toybox Adds Two More

The highlight of the weekend concerning shiny new toys came on Saturday when it was reported the Twins and Indians were going to give their fans a treat by calling up the team’s top prospect to the big league level. Wind up race car Byron Buxton and action figure Francisco Lindor were unboxed during Sunday’s action.

Byron Buxton – Minnesota Twins

Buxton, the #25 car with speed to burn, was selected 2nd behind Correa in the 2012 MLB draft. Following a superb 2013 in Single-A, Buxton dealt with injuries (wrist and concussion) in 2014 that limited his playing time to only 31 games. He was healthy and productive at Double-A Chattanooga this season. @OfficialBuck103 was well on his way to a quadruple double with 7 doubles, 12 triples, 6 home runs and 20 steals in 59 games resulting in a .281/.351/.489 stat line.

Batting ninth and playing in centerfield, Buxton went 0-4 with a couple strikeouts in his Twins’ debut Sunday. He did however score the winning run in the 9th by easily scoring from first on a double by Eddie Rosario to help Minnesota to a 4-3 win over the Rangers. That Gallo guy pounded a Phil Hughes offering for his third home run in the losing effort . The Twins (34-28) enter this week tied atop the AL Central with the Kansas City Royals.

Francisco Lindor – Cleveland Indians

Terry Francona’s Text Message – “Come on, Frankie. Get up here. Congrats.”

Lindor is praised for his defensive game at shortstop, but his offense rounded into form well enough (.281/.348/.399) to earn him the promotion from Triple-A Columbus.

Sunday, Lindor did not start the game, but came on as a pinch hitter in the 7th inning. He stuck out then, but did pick up his first career hit on a single to right. He was thinking about going for two, but when rounding first Lindor fell down.  He lived to laugh about it telling MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian “I didn’t feel my legs.”

Can you name the Indians’ starting shortstops this season? Probably not so don’t look for Lindor to just be a pinch hitter for DH David Murphy. The fourth place Indians (29-33) are looking for a spark as they are five games back in the AL Central.

Lindor was the 9th overall selection in the bountiful first round of the 2011 draft behind top pick Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Anthony Rendon, and Archie Bradley. Drafted after Lindor in the initial round was Javier Baez, George Springer, Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray, Kolten Wong, and even Blake Swihart and Joe Panik.

Highly touted prospects Noah Syndergaard and Archie Bradley made it to the major league mound this season, while stepping to the plate have been Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Blake Swihart, Joey Gallo, Byron Buxton, and Carlos Correa. That’s a pretty nice haul as we hit mid-June.

Who’s Next?

Might the Dodgers join the fun and call up 21-year old shortstop Corey Seager? J-Roll is still flirting with .200 and the Dodgers have already had success with both rookie Joc Pederson and the limited duty they assign Alex Guerrero who provides timely home runs. Seager has a .909 OPS from splitting his time between both Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City this season. I’ll save the references to the guy who plied his trade with the Silver Bullet Band until Seager is part of those Hollywood Nights at Chavez Ravine.

Mr. Underappreciated: Players that NEED to be starting in MLB ALL STAR GAME

(Barton Silverman/The New York Times)

The first official vote tally of the MLB ALL STAR GAME was released last week and the voting showed that the voters for the most part know what there doing. There is no Derek Jeter who hits .220 but needs to be in the all star game for the sake of baseball. Baseball highest talent level needs to be shown off this year in order to get the best show. Here are the players that are NOT starting as of now and CERTAINLY deserve your vote.

  • PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT 1B ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS-   Goldschmidt is growing on me as one of my favorite players in the league and a guy who I would argue is a top 5 player right now. Goldy’s resume is more than worthy he is currently hitting at a .354 clip (2nd in NL) with 15 HR (T-3rd in NL) and 43 RBI (T-2nd in NL). All this is saying is he is a Triple Crown threat this year this guy is that good. Goldy isn’t done there, he has an OBP of .463 2nd only to Bryce Harper and a WAR of 3.5 also second to Bryce Harper and those are just SOME of his eye popping offensive numbers that he is Top 5 in. Fielding he is a perfect 1.000 % and has flashed Gold Glove defense throught this season, he can also run the bases for a Power threat 8 SB’s is alot and his 39 runs scored is second to…..well you could probably guess who. So what is his downfall? He plays in Arizona an average MLB team with a small market following. If Paul Goldschmidt was in pinstripes this guy would be talked about every day, for the sake of baseball this guy needs to be starting and hitting 4th in the All Star Game.

 

  • JASON KIPNIS 2B CLEVELAND INDIANS –       Kipnis ever so quietly is becoming a dynamite offensive weapon at 2B out in Cleveland. Kipnis holds a .340 AVG (second in AL) is his most impressive numbers but how dominant he is leading offensive catagories among 2nd baseman. Kipnis leads all second baseman in the AL in the following catagories: hits, runs, doubles, triples, RBI (T-1st), AVG, OBP, OPS, SLG. Jason Kipnis with a 3.4 WAR  Leads the AL, which means in terms of W/L record he is the biggest positive difference maker in the American League. Altuve, Cano and Pedroia are all ahead in voting and although I understand these players get attention. However, with the resume Kipnis produced thus far, it is his year.

 

    • STEPHEN VOGT C OAKLAND A’S-        Vogt even to the most die hard baseball fan is probably a guy who you did not expect to make the kind of noise he has this year. Vogt plays on a really bad Oakland team and is keeping them afloat thanks to his unreal offensive production from the catcher positi0n with a .322 AVG (7th in AL) 11 HR  and 38 RBI (T-2nd in NL) and a 2.7 WAR (5th in AL). Just like I did with Kipnis here are the number of offensive stats that Vogt leads all Catchers in: games played, hits (T-1st), triples, HR, RBI, BB, AVG, OBP, OPS, SLG. Salvador Perez has put up a great season on one of the best teams in baseball, but Vogt is literally carrying Oakland give him your vote.

ALL STATISTICAL INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND HERE AND HERE