Why You Should Root Against The Chicago Cubs

When the Chicago Cubs visited Miller Park earlier this year, I engaged in some discussions with their fans about the state of their franchise versus the Milwaukee Brewers. It’s obvious the “Lovable Losers” are in a far better position right now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the continued struggles to win (or even reach) the World Series.

Yes, they look like an unstoppable force right now, owning the best record in MLB at 47-22 entering play Wednesday. With a relentless offense ranked 2nd in scoring (5.35 runs/game) and a pitching staff on pace to break the single-season team ERA record (2.70), Chicago has outscored its opponents by 169 runs to potentially threaten the all-time record for run differential set by the 1937 New York Yankees (+411 runs).

With all these positive numbers coming out of Wrigley Field, it would be easy to crown the Cubs the champs now and stew about as Brewers fans – or fans of the St. Louis Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. Still, baseball is a funny game, so I would implore you to keep root, root, root against the Cubbies and feel no guilt about it.

Great team or not, there are reasons to sit back and soak in the Cubs’ past pain…for now:


Baseball Curses Are Fun To Believe In

While the logical side of my brain knows there isn’t an actual curse held over the Northsiders (or any team), it’s fun to find supernatural reasons a team can’t win it all. When the Boston Red Sox broke the “Curse of the Bambino” in 2004, it knocked off some of the mystique.

The Cubs, however, still have Steve Bartman with his infamous headphones, turtleneck and deflection away from Moises Alou‘s urine-soaked hands. They have the black cat that ran around Ron Santo, kick-starting the Cubs’ collapse, ultimately blowing a an 8.5-game lead in mid-August.

And of course, the actual curse supposedly has to do with a goat. A tavern owner and his goat were kicked out of Wrigley Field during the Cubs’ last World Series appearance in 1945. He cursed the team by saying “they’d win no more.” They haven’t even made it back to the World Series since.

In 2015, Chicago owned a paltry 97-65 mark, but still came short of their ultimate goal. They were swept by the 90-72 New York Mets in the NLCS to end the year with a thud. Adding more intrigue to the curse last season was the incredible performance of the Mets’ Daniel Murphy in the NLCS. He had a HR in all 3 games, adding a .417 average and 1.628 OPS.

In reality, the name Murphy might be the actual curse.

When the Cubs last won the World Series in 1908, the owner’s name was Charles Murphy. He was not a well-liked man and was left off the guest list for the celebration dinner, something he was quite upset about.

The famous goat in ’45? Well, his name was Murphy, too. In 1969 (the year of the black cat), the Cubs blew that big lead to the Mets whose GM was Johnny Murphy and broadcaster was Bob Murphy. Then in the 1984 NLCS, Chicago had a 2-0 series lead (best of 5), only to lose all three games at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego.

Hey, does anyone know what Steve Bartman’s middle name is?

Meanwhile, Game 5 of that ’84 series included a brutal error by first baseman Leon Durham, helping the Padres erase a 7th-inning deficit and go on to the Fall Classic. Durham was the first baseman because Bill Buckner was traded from Chicago to the Red Sox at the beginning of the season.

Buckner, of course, has the most famous between-the-legs error. When he committed that gaffe in the 1986 World Series, he was actually wearing a Cubs batting glove. Apparently curses have some crossover effect. Like I said…curses are fun! Why not keep the count going in the Windy City and make it 109 years – just for kicks and giggles.


From 2006-2014, The Brewers Had More Success

Since I was arguing on the side of Milwaukee against Cubs’ fans who would simply say the Brewers were awful, I made sure the have actual facts to shoot them down. Sure, the Cubs took an enormous step forward in 2015, but where were they the previous 9 seasons? From 2006-2014, the Brewers had 5 winnings seasons and went 740-718 for a .508 winning percentage.

In the same time, Chicago had only 3 winnings campaigns and went 677-779 (.465). Not to mention, Milwaukee also won more playoff series than the Cubs in that time frame.

In fact, Chicago never won a playoff game in that 9-year stretch, getting swept in both series they played. Milwaukee earned 6 playoff victories, and came just 2 wins shy of the World Series in 2011. The Brewers have no argument now, but how quickly Cubs’ backers forget.


Chicago Cubs Fans Are The Worst!

As a disclaimer, every fan base has their fair share of idiots and drunkards who can make games less enjoyable for everyone around them. With that said – Cubs fans are the worst. Well, technically the 2nd-worst behind Cardinals’ supporters (aka “Best Fans in Baseball” ).

Anyway, ask any Brewers’ fan how those Cubs’ backers act when they infiltrate Miller Park. Don’t get me wrong, a quality fan base will always travel well to opposing ballparks; however, I’ve never seen a group – as a whole – behave so ridiculously obnoxious that even I wondered if I’d ever go to a Cubs-Brewers game again.

For one, they barely know anyone on the team or actually understand what’s going on. During the hey-day of Sammy Sosa mania, they would jump out of their seats in exuberant joy anytime the ball went skyward. Never mind it was foul by 500 feet or that he catcher was camped under the ball.

Somehow it became cool to call yourself a Cubs fan, regardless of knowledge, loyalty or competence. There’s a strange arrogance and elitist attitude from the lot of them – odd since they haven’t won a title since 1908, and until last year, had won only one playoff series since 1990.

Of course, I heard from many “Cubs fans” in May tell me they “haven’t paid much attention to them in the last 5 or 6 years, but they’ve been glued to the guys the last couple of seasons!”

For being the 3rd-largest market in the US, they seem to have an inordinate amount of fans who are of the fair-weather variety.


The Cubs Are Going To Be Scary Good For Years To Come

Here’s the reality, and why you should embrace every Cubs’ failure as much as you can. Take pleasure in the Cubs’ pain right now, because they look primed to be one of the best teams for a decade or more. They already have stud, young hitters up and down the lineup, and a couple of good-to-great veteran hurlers.

With Chicago’s wallet size, you better believe GM Theo Epstein will be able to snag another pitcher or two that he thinks is worth the money. It might even happen this year or in the offseason.

They are also so stocked with young talent, giving Chicago multiple avenues to collect impact pitchers and hitters as needed via trade. The 97 wins last season – and NLCS appearance – were slightly ahead of schedule, so now there is little reason to believe the Cubs aren’t going full steam ahead. Considering how they look in the middle of June, it’s a bit frightening.

The Brewers are a number of years away from truly competing, so unless you really think the Pirates or Cardinals can catch the Cubs for the NL Central title this year (doubtful), we can only hope that either A) The randomness of the playoffs works against the Cubs’ talent or B) The Cubs truly are cursed and the “baseball gods” will intervene whenever they see fit.

Both are unlikely – so enjoy this as possibly the last moment the Lovable Losers moniker will make any sense.

A Look Back: Jim Abbott’s Second Greatest Feat

June 15th just passed, marking the 17th anniversary of a strangely inspiring play. Yes, I’m talking about just one play in a life of countless games.

A left-handed starting pitcher from the University of Michigan, Jim Abbott had a relatively successful first 7 years in the Major Leagues. He compiled a 78-82 record with a 3.77 ERA while finishing 3rd in the AL Cy Young voting in 1991, going 18-11 with a 2.91 ERA in 243 innings.

After playing for the California Angels in his first 4 seasons, Abbott was traded to the New York Yankees after the ‘92 season. On September 4th of 1993, he etched his name in the history books, tossing a no-hitter on the hallowed grounds of Yankee Stadium.

Associated Press

Associated Press

Abbott was coming off his worst outing of the season 5 days earlier when he allowed 7 earned runs on 10 hits in just 3.2 innings against the Cleveland Indians. Amazingly, in true baseball fashion, Cleveland was again the opponent as Abbott held them hitless with the aid of some terrific defense.

Of course, thus far I’ve left out the most astounding part: As I’m sure most of you know, Jim Abbott did all of this playing with one hand. Born with a right arm that ends about where his wrist would be, Abbott only had a stub where his right hand should exist. An inspiration to all who say, “I can’t.”

By deftly sliding his glove onto his left hand after each pitch – and a ton of work perfecting the move – Abbott silenced every doubter from Little League through MLB. His left arm fired bullets and his athleticism made him a strong defender, as he continually proved he had the skill to not only play, but excel.

While his accomplishments in the big leagues were somewhat surprising (after all, these are the best of the best), Abbott had been collecting accolades for years – more than most “two-handed” baseball players.

At the age of 11, Abbott threw a no-hitter in his very first Little League game. In his senior year of high school, he had a ridiculous 0.76 ERA, won 10 games, and struck out more than two hitters per inning.

Abbott beat out Basketball Hall-of-Famer David Robinson as the country’s top amateur athlete, becoming the first baseball player to win the AAU’s Sullivan Award, an award that has been handed out longer than the Heisman.

Abbott then earned baseball’s top amateur honor – the Golden Spikes Award – winning over another future Hall of Famer, Ken Griffey, Jr.

The following year, Abbott won the Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year award – the first baseball player ever to take home that honor. Later in 1988, the southpaw continued to impress by hurling a complete game in the Olympics to give Team USA a 5-3 victory over Japan to win the Gold Medal.



John W. McDonough, Sports Illustrated

Despite all of these amazing feats, the one thing Abbott had never done was collect a base hit in Major League Baseball – the toughest thing to do in all of sports. He played in the American League from ’91-’96 where the designated hitter stood in his way.

In 1997, MLB started Interleague play where AL teams would play in some NL ballparks, requiring the pitchers to hit. Unfortunately for Abbott, he went 2-18 with a 7.48 ERA the year before and struggled in the spring of ’97, prompting the Angels to release the 29-year-old before Opening Day.

He sat out all of 1997, but fought his way back to the Chicago White Sox in ’98 where he only got 5 starts, all against AL teams in September. However, he did go 5-0 with a 4.55 ERA, which led him to look for another starting gig in 1999.

Cue the 1999 Milwaukee Brewers, who just so happened to switch from the AL Central into the NL Central one year earlier.

Coming off their 6th straight losing season (out of 12), they needed a left-handed starter and Abbott needed a new club. Both player and team saw a fit and had no worries about Abbott’s ability to bat in the NL.

After a solid Spring Training on the mound, Abbott was awful in his first 3 starts, going 0-3 with an 11.20 ERA (17 ER in 13.2 IP). He actually pitched some in relief, but went back to starting full time and picked up his 1st win on May 30, “improving” his record to 1-5.

Offensively, Abbott started the year 0-for-12 with 7 strikeouts through June 4th, though he did get down 3 sacrifice bunts. Considering his poor pitching performances as well, you started to get the sense he’d never get that 1st MLB hit.

That’s one of the ways baseball is such a great game. On June 15, it seemed like just another game in the middle of the daily rhythms of baseball, though the unsuspecting crowd would bear witness to another fascinating athletic display that also speaks to the strength of the human spirit.

It was a normal evening for baseball at rundown Milwaukee County Stadium. Thanks to the fans of the visiting Chicago Cubs, nearly 41,000 fans were on hand to see Jon Lieber square off against Jim Abbott between the new NL Central rivals.

There were some interesting items related to the game. Geoff Jenkins, playing in his first full season with the Brewers, was batting 8th. It’s not often you see a player with a 1.050 OPS hitting in front of the pitcher nearly 3 months into the season.

For the Cubs, Sammy Sosa started in center field. Strange until you realize his fellow outfielders were Henry Rodriguez and Glenallen Hill. At shortstop, it was future Brewers’ strikeout king Jose Hernandez who would join Milwaukee the following year.

Otherwise, it seemed like an uneventful evening until the bottom of the 4th inning. With the game tied at 1, the Brewers had Sean Berry at 2nd with 2 outs and Jenkins due to bat. Despite being early in the contest, the Cubs elected to walk Jenkins to pitch to Abbott.

As fate would have it, I was in the stands that night. As the veteran hurler walked to the plate, a noticeable buzz went through the crowd. Whispers of “he’s gonna do it here” echoed throughout the old wooden seats. Of course, every time he batted fans spoke of a similar fate.

Abbott stepped into the box, wrapped his left hand around his right “stub” and the handle of the bat, and taunted Lieber with a pair of faux swings toward the mound.

On the first offering, Abbott ripped a frozen rope toward short – the crowd cheered, then went briefly silent, then roared again – as Hernandez came within inches of snagging the line drive. Berry rumbled around to score the go-ahead run, though Jenkins was gunned down at 3rd by Sosa.


But it didn’t matter, the damage was done. Another notch on the belt of a man who accomplished so much in baseball. With or without the hit, 1999 would be the last of his 10 seasons – and he left having proved he could even hit.

(He would actually get a 2nd hit later that year – also against Jon Lieber, because baseball is funny like that. That time it was at Wrigley Field to drive in a pair of runs, including Jenkins.)

The best part was, he did it all while countless others doubted him, either out of ignorance, envy or a simple lack of faith in the drive and ability of someone who loved the game.

Abbott’s first Major League hit wasn’t his greatest feat and it’s just a footnote in the history of the game; however, his lone season in Milwaukee – while mostly forgettable – should be remembered for one of the many terrific nuances of America’s Pastime.


Jonathan Lucroy: Why He’s Enjoying A Power Surge

Prior to the 2016 season, many wondered how effective Jonathan Lucroy would be coming off an injury-plagued season where he struggled to ever get his bat going. Lucroy played in just 103 games in 2015, posting his lowest batting average (.264) and OPS (.717) since 2011, the catcher’s first full season as a starter.

Not to mention, “Luc” just turned 30 on Monday, a concerning number for any player at his demanding position.

While the Milwaukee Brewers weren’t planning on truly competing this season, the hope was that Lucroy would bounce back to All-Star status in time for a trade deadline deal that would net Milwaukee a top prospect or two for their rebuilding efforts. Lucroy’s team-friendly contract is paying him $4 million this season with a club option for $5.25 million in 2017.

Those figures, combined with an elite-level bat and solid defensive skills at a premier position, make Lucroy extremely attractive to contending clubs if you trust that he’ll stay healthy and live up to those high standards.

Through the Brewers’ first 64 games, Lucroy has not only reached his normal hitting statistics, but he has added more power as well – something he hasn’t been known for in the past. Lucroy is on pace to surpass a handful of personal bests in these areas, ones he set in 2014 when he started the All-Star game and finished 4th in MVP voting.

If he continues at the current level, Lucroy would finish with a career-high 22 HR, a .519 slugging percentage, and an .883 OPS. As of June 14, he leads the team in triples (3), is 2nd behind Ryan Braun in SLG (.519) and OPS (.883), and sits 3rd on the club in HR (9) and doubles (12).

It’s fair to wonder if he can actually keep up the pace as we get into the heart of summer, especially playing such a taxing spot on the diamond. With that said, there are a number of reasons Milwaukee’s popular backstop is enjoying a power surge in 2016.


Hard Hit Ball Percentage

When putting the ball in play, 37.1% of Lucroy’s balls are considered “hard hit.” That number would be the best he has ever posted and nearly 5% higher than his career average. This obviously doesn’t guarantee more hits or additional home runs, but it does make it more likely to happen on a consistent basis.

His hard hit percentage is also part of the reason Lucroy’s batting average of balls in play (BABIP) currently sits at a career-high .343 this year. This stat tries to account for some luck in determining how many batted balls are landing safely. Of course, in theory, if you’re hitting the ball hard more frequently, they’ll be more difficult for the defense to catch.


Willingness To Strike Out

This one might seem counterintuitive, but it goes hand in hand with the hard hit ball percentage. While strikeouts can be extremely damaging in certain situations, trying to avoid the strikeout all the time can create even more outs. Instead of taking a normal, healthy cut at the baseball, a hitter may simply flick his wrists or punch at the ball to avoid the strikeout.

By trying to make ANY contact possible, it often results in softer hit balls that are just as easily turned into outs. By always taking a regular swing, you might whiff more often, but the balls you do hit will be caught less often.

Through 64 team games, Lucroy has struck out 43 times, putting him on pace for about 108 whiffs this season. That would represent the most in his career, topping his 99 punch outs in 2011. Since that time, the highest total he accumulated was 71 in 2014 – ironically, his best season.

Want more proof Lucroy has changed his approach and shed frequent contact for frequent pop? On pitches in the strike zone, Lucroy is only making contact 86.6% of the time. That is by far a career low and nearly 6% below his average. He has bought into a change in philosophy and it’s paying dividends in his power numbers.


Batting Cleanup

Most sabermetrics experts would disagree with me because they believe players don’t change because of the spot in the lineup. While it’s not always the case, certain guys will either mentally or physically (or both) alter what they do depending on where they hit in the order. This can definitely impact a players’ production over the course of a season.

Lucroy is the type of hitter who can produce anywhere in the lineup, and managers have done just that with him. He has at least 240 plate appearances in every spot from 2 through 8 in his career. However, entering 2016, Lucroy had just 231 plate appearances batting 4th – the fewest of those 7 spots he has hit frequently in.

That has changed this season as the 4-hole has been his primary spot in the lineup, and it’s altered his plan at the plate as well.

Holding down the premier run-producing role in the game – the cleanup hitter – Lucroy’s focus has zeroed in on driving balls to the outfield to knock in runs. Particularly with the frequency in which Braun and Jonathan Villar have been on base, it makes Lucroy all-the-more important as a power bat.


Keeping The Ball Off The Ground

With Lucroy’s approach as a run producer and his willingness to strike out to create consistent, hard contact, it’s enabled him to avoid hitting too many ground balls. With runners on base, he has made a concentrated effort to lift the ball to avoid double plays. He’s also not giving the defense easy, slow rollers by simply avoiding those strike outs.

The result has been a career-high 40% of his balls in play considered fly balls, and a 6% decrease in ground balls from his career average. His line drive percentage is also better than his average, sitting at 24.6% as of June 14. For reference, line drives are most likely to go for hits and fly balls are far more productive than grounders when they aren’t caught.

Lucroy’s hard hit percentage, combined with the increase in fly balls, has worked together to play a huge role in his power surge from a statistical standpoint; additionally, his mental approach to the game has had a positive impact as well.




Chicago Cubs Redefining the Term Slump

Recent Results

After coming out with one of the best starts in MLB history, the Chicago Cubs have slowed down in the past week and a half. After losing a double header to the Padres, the Cubs lost their series against the Milwaukee Brewers.

The team has lost 5 of its last 8 games against considerably weaker opponents and now will travel to San Francisco to the Giants and Saint Louis to play the division rival Cardinals. The level of competition is rising this week and the Cubs will have to adapt.

In their 5 loses, the Cubs have posted 4 runs or less. In their 3 wins, the Cubs scored a total of 19 runs, 17 of which came against the Pittsburg Pirates, a team the Chicago Cubs have dominated this season.

While individual players, such as Ben Zobrist, are hitting their stride, the Cubs offense is faltering. The Cubs have left a number of runners on base in scoring position. According to Carrie Muskat, the Cubs went 1-for-24 with men in scoring position against the Brewers. They left 24 runners on base in the series, 14 coming of Wednesday.

In the grand scheme of it all the Cubs still lead the NL Central by 6.5 games and still have baseball’s best record. Even the best teams have their slumps. Right now it doesn’t seem to be an issue for the Cubs.

Facing the Champs

On May 20th, the Cubs will begin their series against the defending World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants. The Cubs also played the Giants last year and swept the would be champions.

This will be a good test for the Cubs. If they can rebound from their recent slump and beat the Giants in the series, they will be a good place going forward. The Giants are the real deal and still are a very good team.

Adding A Reliever

The Cubs recently signed Joe Nathan to a contract. Nathan is on the wrong side of 40 and is coming off Tommy John surgery. He could be a good pickup if he still has something left in the tank. He is currently on the disabled list rehabbing his throwing arm.

The Cubs have most of their relievers returning from last season. Guys like Hector Rondon, Justin Grimm, and Travis Wood are still effective, but this move could further bolster their bull pen if Nathan pans out.

The Future Of Cubs Catching

This is David Ross’ last season in the major leagues. He has made it known for a while now that he won’t be coming back. How much of a priority will it be for the Cubs to replace Ross?

The Cubs still have Miguel Montero and Tim Federowicz who are currently listed as catchers. They also have Kyle Schwarber, who is naturally a catcher, but is versatile enough to play outfield. While it may seem like a rather obvious answer, there is more to it than what is listed on paper.

The Cubs will have a number of young studs to pay in the near future. Should salaries become an issue, the Cubs could consider trading Montero and his large contract. Montero is currently making $12 million this year according to mlb.com and that number will rise to $14 million next year.

Should it come down to it, and the Cubs do trade Montero, Schwarber could move back to catcher in order to keep Jorge Soler in the lineup who is currently filling in for Schwarber.





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.


James Shields, Francisco Rodriguez And Chase Utley Could Be Waiver Wire Options

Now that the trade deadline has come to pass teams will now look to scour the waiver wire to add assets for the stretch run.

While they may not be able to land a game-changing type of player, there are teams that could fill needs or add depth by looking at two potential names that could potentially end up available on the waiver wire. Take a look at 2 likely players and the teams that may be monitoring their status.

James Shields

It’s safe to say that the sentiment in San Diego regarding James Shields is that there aren’t any warm and fuzzy feelings over his performance.

After signing a hefty contract in the offseason and starting off fairly strong, Shields has been an overwhelming disappointment for an underwhelming Padres team that spent big in a failed effort to contend. Shields’ name was floated around in the rumor mill during the frantic last week of the trade deadline but was not moved.

Although Shields has been registering impressive strikeout numbers (144 in 126.2 innings) his walks have dramatically rose this year and for a player San Diego is paying to be an ace, Shields 3.77 ERA and 1.32 WHIP aren’t indicative of an ace.

Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal   reported that other general managers believe Shields could go unclaimed on waivers mostly due to a contract that will pay him $21 million for each of the next three seasons before a $16 million club option in 2019.

A waiver wire trade could allow San Diego to dump Shields and pick up a few assets in return (at least it’s something) but it’s unlikely teams will give up much value to acquire the veteran.

A team that could really utilize Shields is the New York Yankees who are rather thin in the rotation. With Michael Pineda heading to the DL and New York failing to make any big moves at the deadline, Shields could be an attractive option for the Bronx Bombers.

What will be appealing to the Yankees will be Shields’ playoff experience and AL East prowess.

It also makes sense for New York to chase Shields as it allows the team to lure in a starting pitcher without having to give up any prized prospects, which is something that Yankees refused to do this year.


Chase Utley

At this point in his career, Utley may be just a name at this point with his best days far behind him. Before shutting down in June, Utley tried to play through a high ankle sprain which effected his swing and contributed to a lowly .179 batting average and .532 OPS.

Philadelphia has been undergoing a youth movement after a dreadful season, highlighted by the trade of Cole Hamels to the Texas Rangers, and with Utley slated to return from the disabled list later this month he very will could be a candidate for a waiver trade.

Utley’s return won’t come with any heavy financial implications as he will fall well short of the 500 plate appearances he needs to make a $15 million vesting option for 2016, which would make a trade for Utley more attractive for interested teams.

With Cesar Hernandez clearly slated as the team’s future at second base the writing could be on the wall for an Utley departure.

Expect the Los Angeles Angels and the New York Yankees to be interested if Utley is healthy and available.


Francisco Rodriguez

The rumor mill when it came to relievers was headlined by San Diego’s Craig Kimbrel and Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman, but neither player was moved at the deadline which leaves the waiver wire ripe for the picking for bullpen-needy teams.

One name that could potentially be available is Milwaukee Brewers’ Francisco Rodriguez who is signed for $7.5 million in 2016, with a club option of $6 million in 2017. Ken Rosenthal listed Rodriguez’s contract as a concern among potentially interested teams.

Milwaukee may be motivated to move mostly due to some trouble numbers regarding what could be a decline in his fastball. Rodriguez who once averaged between 94-95 mph on a fastball has now been clocking an average of 89.6 mph.

What is of interest is Rodriguez’s production. Sporting a 1.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and with a strikeout to walk ratio of 40-9, the 33-year old could be a big pickup for a team looking to bolster their bullpen or in need of a closer.

The Houston Astros have been linked to Rodriguez and could be a team to watch.

Carlos Gomez to the Mets: The Most Interesting Trade That Never Was

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The trade deadline is known for its drama. Even as I write this, on deadline day, GM’s are hard at work trying to sell their good players for prospects, or buy up rentals for another World Series run. It’s one of the most exciting days in baseball. However, one of the interesting things that I have ever seen during the deadline happened in a trade that never was; Carlos Gomez to the Mets for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores.

The whole thing started when Mike Puma and Adam Rubin sent out tweets stating that the Mets were working on something, something big. Immediately, Mets fans were excited. Who could it be? Who were the Mets trading? Who cares about the game with the Padres right now? (Spoiler alert: not one person cared, even as Bartolo Colon was getting crushed). As the game went on, so did the speculation. The speculation began to steer the Mets and the Brewers together, with Gomez as the target.

All of a sudden, Joel Sherman tweets out that Carlos Gomez was a Met . And Mets Twitter was beside itself, with joy. As the game went on, we learned that Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores were the two going back to Milwaukee.

However, something weird happened. Wilmer Flores, who started at shortstop that night, was still in the game, despite multiple reports of him being traded. Innings and at bats went by, and he still was in.

The crowd started chanting “Car-Los Go-Mez”. Fans were giving Wilmer Flores standing ovations as he got up to bat. It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen, and Flores knew something was up too.

He learned that he was traded by “the fans”, and he began to cry at shortstop. It was an incredibly poignant scene; a kid who has been with the Mets since he was 16, getting traded from the only organization that he knows, the organization that gave him a shot to play Major League Baseball. Getting traded is already a traumatizing experience, and the Mets allowed him to have that experience in front of everyone, on television, without even alarming the manager that a trade had (supposedly) gone down. What the Mets were doing was wrong, and simply made no sense. Why would they keep Flores on the field, if he were to be traded? Something was off.

And it is true, something was off. As the game went on, and neared completion, there were tweets from sports writers saying the deal was considered official too quickly, and that nothing was set in stone.

Then, after the Mets lost a disappointing game to the Padres (and nope, not one person cared about it), Terry Collins told media that he had no knowledge of a trade, and then began to rip the media for its coverage. Wilmer Flores said that he was not told of a trade by the organization. Then Sandy Alderson spoke.

Alderson said no deal was done, emphatically at that . He drove home the fact that Carlos Gomez was not a Met and was not going to be a Met. Everyone was confused, and Mets Twitter was not even mad, just sad, and disappointed. Then, speculation began as to why this happened. And most people agreed that it was probably on Wheeler’s elbow and his Tommy John surgery recovery . Until the next morning.

Multiple reports came in that the Mets nixed the deal because of Carlos Gomez’s hip, a claim that was quickly shot down by Scott Boras, his agent, and the Brewers as a whole (although that is false, Gomez was complaining about being “afraid to run” on his hip six weeks ago). Then, reports that the Mets wanted money in the deal, didn’t get it, and then backed out and used his hips as an excuse came in . And the Mets looked awful at the other end of it.

Yesterday, Carlos Gomez was traded to the Astros (in a great deal for Milwaukee, I might add), and immediately the “Mets were too cheap to pay for Gomez” narrative looked like the real one, and the Mets looked even worse than the day before. It was a nightmare, from a fans perspective.

No one knows what really happened. Logically, I assume the deal was in place, then the Mets looked at his hips and decided they wanted some compensation for taking a less than 100% player and trading one of their more promising pitchers in Zack Wheeler. The Brewers turned around and said no, and that’s where the deal fell apart. It’s honestly the only thing that makes sense: Gomez’s hips are not a made up injury, and the Mets probably did ask for more money. Both sides can spin that against the other and come out looking how they want to (except nobody would believe the Mets, because why would they?)

As a fan, it was some of the worst 24 hours I’ve had in my 21 years of following the Mets religiously. The Mets lost, traded and lost Carlos Gomez (who was a perfect fit for them), embarrassed Wilmer Flores on television, lost the next day by blowing a 6 run lead, and looked bad when the Astros trade a haul of prospects for Gomez.

This was easily the most interesting, weird, confusing trade that never was.

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.

Scherzer is Baseball’s Best Pitcher

It’s been well documented since I began writing these articles that I am a passionate Phillies fan. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure of watching, in my opinion, the best pitcher to ever put on a Phillies uniform, Steve Carlton. Any Phillies fan worth his weight could tell you without hesitating that Carlton won 27 games in 1972 for a team that only won 59 total. That’s absolutely mind-boggling.

While it’s true, I never got to watch the best, I did get to see Roy Halladay pitch in a Phillies uniform, and he, for me, is the second best pitcher to ever put on the red pinstripes. With the exception of his final season+ with the Phillies, Halladay was the most dominating pitcher I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling one of my guys. A postseason no hitter, a perfect game, a Cy Young. Doc was simply the best, and more importantly, it seemed, at least, that it was effortless when he was out there.

And that’s what leads me into the topic of my article today. Over the last three weeks, I’ve really come around on the idea that neither Felix Hernandez nor Clayton Kershaw are the best pitcher in baseball anymore. That’s because that honor belongs to National’s ace Max Scherzer.

The last three weeks, Scherzer has been fantastic, putting together what some are calling the best consecutive starts since Johnny Vandermeer. Others, like Tim Kurkjian, and myself, for that matter, are calling it the best string of starts put together ever. Don’t agree with me? Let’s take a look back on the last three starts made by Scherzer.

Let’s start on June 14, when the Nats went up north to take on the Milwaukee Brewers. Scherzer was coming off back to back outings of allowing four runs, and his ERA had shot up from below 1.80 to above 2.10. But that was three weeks ago Scherzer. That was pre-the-god-like-run Scherzer.

Max took the hill and absolutely owned it, dicing up the Brewers for 16 strikeouts in a complete game effort, giving up just one hit and one walk. The next time out, he was even better, coming within one strike of a perfect game against the Pirates before plunking Jose Tabata. It sounds crazy, but Scherzer would have to settle for just the no-hitter. Just the no-hitter. Just. Let that sink in for a second. Or maybe two or three. That’s how good Scherzer was in those two starts.

It’s almost comical that his next start would come against the Phillies. Only once in the history of the game had a no hitter been thrown by a pitcher in back to back starts. That, of course, was accomplished by the aforementioned Vander Meer way back in 1938. Scherzer had a legitimate shot at becoming just the second guy to ever do it against the lowly Phillies lineup. To be honest, I was almost hoping for it.

Scherzer took not only a no-hitter, but a perfect game, into the sixth inning before Freddy Galvis’ double would ruin the dreams of all Nationals, and almost all baseball fans around the world. Max finished with another solid line to his credit, going eight strong, allowing just two runs and surrendering five hits.

Let’s put that into perspective. Three starts, 26 innings pitched, six hits allowed, zero walks, 33 strikeouts. That’s just unheard of.

But three weeks don’t make a players career. Dallas Braden had a decent stretch over which he threw a perfect game. So did Philip Humber. Neither of those guys pitch in the bigs anymore. It has to be more than just a nice little run that makes you the best pitcher in baseball.

Scherzer has had a nice big run over the last four seasons. In 2012, the rise of Scherzer became a little more obvious when the then-27-year-old righty posted a 3.74 ERA, winning 16 games and giving us glimpses of what he could be. The next season, Scherzer was downright flithy, dominating American League hitters to the tune of a 2.90 ERA, a sub-1 WHIP, 240 punch outs, and ooh, yeah, 21 wins. His final season with the Tigers would see another solid year from the righty, as he picked up 18 wins with a 3.15 ERA and an outstanding 252 strikeouts.

When Scherzer jumped ships this past offseason, and transitioned to the NL, we all believed things may become even easier for him, as he now no longer had to deal with power hitting teams and DH’s. He should dominate the National League, right? Exactly. Since joining the Nats rotation at the beginning of the year, Scherzer has given up no more than 10 runs in any month so far. He’s also struckout eight or more hitters nine times already this season, picking up 130 K’s as June comes to a close. With those numbers, Scherzer is on pace to strikeout an insane 260 hitters or more in 2015.

Two things stand out to me as Scherzer and the Nationals hit the halfway point in the season. First, it astounds me to think of where the Nats might be if they didn’t have Max Scherzer in their pitching staff right now. Remember, this is a team that was questioned for signing him with an already pretty loaded rotation of Strasburg, Zimmerman, Gonzalez and Fister. Second, it baffles me that Scherzer has lost five games already this season. That gives him more losses that T.J. House, Jason Marquis and David Buchanan, the best of which, Marquis, has a plus-six ERA. Scherzer currently sits at 1.79.

Things like this can be very subjective. I would never turn down starting a team with Hernandez or Kershaw or Cole, but right now, if I had to win one game, and you told me I could pick my starter, I’m going with Max Scherzer.

Thor Wins Home Debut



The New York Mets took on the Milwaukee Brewers in the rubber game of their three game series. The game featured Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard’s much anticipated home debut, and oh boy he did not disappoint. Thor (as he is widely known) tossed six great innings allowing 1 run, scattering three hits and striking out five. He had control over all his pitches and the velocity on his fastball reached 98 MPH. He earned his first big league win, and got to do it at home. He is big, strong, and intimidating, his only blemish was in the sixth inning when he allowed an RBI single to Ryan Braun.

The Mets took the lead early via a lead off HR by Curtis Granderson. In the bottom of the third Lucas Duda followed a double by Eric Campbell with a double of his own to score Campbell, making the score 2-0 Mets after three. Then came the recently magical fourth inning, after putting up a 10 spot last night in the inning, the Mets put up a three, via a Campbell RBI single scoring Lagares, followed by a Michael Cuddyer two RBI single putting the Mets up 5-0. The Mets needed to give Noah run support tonight, and they did exactly that, and Noah and the bullpen handled the rest.

Noah got to the Mets to the seventh inning with a four run lead courtesy of the Mets recently raking bats, then it was the bullpens job to handle the rest of the game and they did. The pen tossed a combined three innings using four pitchers, and Familia came in and closed the game. This is what an all around team victory looks like! The starting pitcher going deep into a game, the offense putting up run support and the bullpen finishing off the game, great TEAM win by the Mets. The Mets will have little time to rest and celebrate Syndergaard’s first win as the Cardinals come to town tomorrow. John Lackey will be on the mound for the cards, facing the Dark Knight Matt Harvey for the Mets. The Mets hope to keep up the momentum, and keep at least their half game lead over the surging Nationals. First pitch set for 7:10 Monday night at Citi Field. Let’s Go Mets!

Mets Win 5-1 (22-16)

W: Syndergarrd (1-1)

L: Peralta


Granderson: Lead off HR

Campbell: RBI single in the fourth

Duda: RBI double in the third

Cuddyer: 2 RBI single in the fourth


Syndergaard: 6.0 IP, 3 Hits, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K’s

Gilmartin: 0.1 IP, 1 Hits, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

C. Torres: 0.2 IP, 0 Hits, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K

Robles: 1.0 IP, 0 Hits, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K

Familia: 1.0 IP, 0 Hits, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K


Granderson: 1-5 HR, RBI

Campbell: 2-3 Double, Single, BB, RBI

Duda: 2-3 2 Doubles, Single, BB, RBI

Cuddyer: 1-4 Single, 2 RBI

Lagares: 2-4 2 Singles