Rangers Ride Youth Wave To First Place

The Texas Rangers have been on a tear of late, going 15-4 in their last 19 contests and boast the best win percentage in baseball (.789) since May 20th. As a result, the Rangers are currently atop the American League West division, and they sport the AL’s best overall record with 37 wins and 23 losses.

The Texas sized takeaway from all those numbers, is how well the Rangers have responded to adversity this season by utilizing their younger players.

Earlier in the year Texas lost outfielder Josh Hamilton to a season ending knee injury, Shin-So0 Choo wound up on the DL due to hamstring issues, Shawn Tolleson tumbled from the closer role into a setup spot in the bullpen, and Prince Fielder was (still is) slumping something awful.

Then to add insult to injury, second year star Rougned Odor threw “the punch heard ’round the world” at Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista and was suspended for eight games. Odor appealed and had the suspension reduced to seven games.

The turning point for Texas has been backed by a rookie, a replacement, a former top prospect, and a returning starter.

 

(Photo Credit: USATDSI)

(Photo Credit: USATDSI)

 

Newcomer Nomar Mazara (22-years-old) has been nothing short of sensational this season, and is slashing for .320/.368/.490 with 10 home runs and 28RBI in 52 games thus far. Tolleson’s replacement, Sam Dyson, has been serviceable as a closer notching eight saves with a 1-1 record, a 2.12 ERA, and 27 SO in 29 innings of work.

Meanwhile, Jurickson Profar has served as an infield spark plug, playing multiple positions and posting a .389/.400/.611 slash line with two HR, four RBI, 12 runs, and 21 hits in his last 15 games. Add Yu Darvish’s 2-0 record, 2.87 ERA, and 19 SO in just 15 innings of work over three games, and you get to where the Rangers are currently, the best in the West.

It’s also important to note the Rangers have made the most of their divisional series play this year. Texas is currently 21-11 against it’s divisional foes, going 9-1 against the in-state rival Houston Astros. The Rangers have primarily had success against right handed pitching, as they are 28-15 when facing a righty (9-8 going against lefties).

Texas will have a chance to make their current four game lead over the second place Seattle Mariners, who have arguably been the biggest surprise in 2016, larger as they begin a three game weekend series with the M’s tonight at 10:10 p.m. EST (7:10 p.m. PDT).

Derek Holland (5-4/4.53 ERA/33 SO) will to the rubber for the Rangers, while Hisashi Iwakuma (4-5/4.13 ERA/60 SO) gets the home start at Safeco Field.

 

Final Thoughts:

More good news for the Rangers, Rougned Odor (nine HR, 29 RBI, and a .265/.290/.464 slash) has since returned from his suspension, Shin-Soo Choo is set to return to the team by the middle-to-later portion of this month, and they’ll play another divisional series at the beginning of next week against the Oakland Athletics (who are last in the AL West at 25-34), to try and build upon their first place lead.

One fun fact I almost forgot to mention, per ESPN Stats and Info: Texas has the most hits (160) and HR (22) from players who are 23-years-old or younger (Profar-23, Odor-22, Mazara-22) this season.

Whether or not these youngsters can continue to help carry the Rangers to their first back-to-back AL West titles since 1998-1999, remains to be seen.

 

http://SportsRants.com

Back In The New York Groove: The Yankees Are Rolling

This six game winning streak the Yankees have put together is building momentum for the team to be contenders in the AL east. This next series can put them over the .500 mark if they win 2 out of 3, so it is important that they take an aggressive approach to this series and they have.

At the beginning of the season the Yankees were not playing like this because of injuries and the suspension of Aroldis Chapman. Now that the bullpen is together and starting pitching has been solid the team is making their competition look rather easy.

Now that the team is playing as one they can help each other out on offense and defense and win big.

Great starting pitching has been a big help in their recent success and that has been supplemented by a high powered offense. In the past six games they have been scoring an average of 5 runs per game. 5 runs should be more than enough with the way the Yankees have been pitching. Making the load lighter on starting pitchers is paying off because they are allowed to have more efficient innings while they have a comfortable lead. The defense is feeding off of the offense and that strategy is the key to keeping a good balance on the field.

The Yankees have also been capitalizing with runners in scoring position. Earlier in the season they would strand runners on second and third, and sometimes with the bases loaded. That was a problem that could not continue or they would have remained in their losing rut.

At some point during the season all of the players will have a drought because it is hard and impossible to stay hot all 162 games. Other teammates are there to pick up the slack and get runs in.

Opposing pitchers should stay away from walking batters because the Yankees have been driving in those runs.

Another reason the run production has been so high is because of capitalization on errors. Errors don’t happen often maybe one or two a game, but when they do the Yankees have taken them and turned them into runs. During the series against the Oakland Athletics they had a total of 6 errors. They Yankees swept and that was a big reason why. Turning mistakes into runs is a different dynamic the Yankees have used that has given them insurmountable leads and helped them win games. Scoring opportunities are important and the Yankees are taking them every chance they get.

Joe Girardi deserves credit for this winning streak and the Yankees getting back to .500. The way he has been managing the pitching staff has helped the starting rotation and the bullpen. He has been using the big 3 when they are needed, but he has given them a chance to rest due to great starting pitching and run support. The Yankees have made winning look easy, but it all starts with the manager and Girardi has found what works for his team.

The Yankees will try to continue their winning streak tonight in game 2 of the Blue Jays series. They will have to be as great as they have been because Toronto can be dangerous with their power hitting lineup.

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 Youth Movement Taking Baseball By Storm

In the midst of a division race Friday night Bryce Harper hit his 30th home run of the season for the Washington Nationals, becoming one of seven players in the major leagues with 30 this year. Harper is only 22 and has not reached his ceiling yet, and is quickly already becoming one of the best players in baseball and a legitimate MVP candidate.

Joined by Bryce Harper at the top is 24 year old Mike Trout, who has hit 33 home runs this year. Trout has been off the chart for the Los Angeles Angels and is likely on his way to winning his second consecutive Most Valuable Player award. The Trout vs Harper debate will be around for years to come, but there are many other young superstars in the game that should be getting fans’ attention during this exciting season.

Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies is only 24 years old, but leads the National League with 86 runs batted in and has hitting 29 home runs on the season. The 24 year old third baseman might not even be the best young player at that position, with 23 year old Manny Machado also having a prolific year and Kris Bryant learning the ropes for the Chicago Cubs.

The 2015 season has been taken over by young players led by Trout, Harper, Machado and Arenado and baseball is seeing a movement that will make the game more exciting for years to come. In the national league 24 years olds Shelby Miller, Gerritt Cole and Michael Wacha have all put up great years and all have ERAs under 3 for the season. Wacha’s teammate for the Cardinals, Carlos Martinez, is only 23 years old and has a 2.59 ERA on the season for the St. Louis ball club.

Over in the American League Sonny Gray has dominated hitters and is leading the league in ERA at 2.06. At 25 years old he has a good shot at winning his first CY Young award for the Oakland Athletics. Gray has been overpowering and leads the league in ERA, WHIP and BAA.

In Houston we are seeing the emergence of a 20 year old shortstop that might already be the best at his position in baseball. Carlos Correa has been on fire since being called up by Houston this year and has 14 home runs in 227 at bats, good for a .537 Slugging percentage on the year. Correa has been a catalyst for the Houston ball club and is a big reason why the Astros are winning the AL West.

In Minnesota 22 year old slugging third baseman Miguel Sano has hit seven home runs and ten doubles in 125 at bats and is hitting .280 for the season. He is joined by 21 year old center fielder Byron Buxton, who when healthy, is one of the most exciting players in baseball and is a top prospect.

Giancarlo Stanton has not played since June 26, but is still tied for fourth in the National League with 27 home runs on the year. Stanton at 25 years old has more power than any player in the big leagues, and is joined by Jose Fernandez as two of the most exciting players in the game.

Over in Chicago the Cubs have a team stocked with young talent headed by 23 year olds Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler. At the age of 23 Bryant is already tenth in the majors in walks and has been as good as advertised. However as good as Bryant has been, he is not even the best young player on his team with the way that Kyle Schwarber has been swinging the bat since being called up.

Schwarber is a 22 year old catcher that is hitting .313 with 8 home runs in 112 at bats for the Cubs. He has been phenomenal and with Schwarber, Bryant, Soler and 21 year old Addison Russell the Cubs have their own young all-star roster.

In Los Angeles 23 year old Joc Pederson has had an impressive rookie campaign, hitting 23 long balls on the year for the first place Dodgers. Pederson is joined by 24 year old Yasiel Puig, who has had a down year, but still has managed to hit 10 home runs and when he is in the zone is one of the most dangerous hitters.

All around baseball young players are stepping up and making an impact for teams and the tide is changing in the major leagues. A game that was once dominated by veterans is being pushed aside as the exciting young superstars get their chance at glory and with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper at the helm, baseball is in great shape for years to come.

http://SportsRants.com

Three MLB Trades That Must Happen By Deadline

 (Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)

The dog days of summer are upon us, and as the MLB season and weather heats up, as do some of my favorite summer-time traditions such as hotdogs and hamburgers off the grill and  the unofficial neighborhood “cornhole” tournaments in the backyard. However, my favorite summer tradition, you ask? The MLB trade deadline.

With the inclusion of a second wild card, more and more teams have continued to stay in the race for the playoffs each year, and thus, the past few trade deadlines have been filled with nail-biting excitement as the midnight hour approached. This season is shaping up to follow suit as every American League team is within 6.5 games or less of a wild-card birth and the Senior Circuit(National League) finds 6 teams within 8 games or less of the exciting one-game wild card playoff.

So with that, here are three trades that I feel MUST happen as teams position themselves for either a playoff push or for a rebuild.

 

Trade 1: Johnny Cueto to the Dodgers for Grant Holmes and Cody Bellinger

It may seem a little light to Reds fans, but if they get the opportunity the Reds should jump on this trade. Johnny Cueto will be a free agent in the offseason and due to the premature, over-priced contract the Reds recently extended to Homer Bailey, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to resign him. With Grant Holmes the Reds get a 19 year old pitcher who is currently holding his own A-Ball Great Lakes, sporting an ERA of 3.13 with 80 strikeouts to just 33 walks in 60.1 innings pitched.

This kid is a stud with a fastball that has been said to reach 98 but typically sits between 92-94 while sporting a wicked curveball and a change-up that flashed above-average. Holmes was drafted number 22 in 2014 and has the potential to be a number 2 pitcher in the rotation when he reaches the big leagues.

Cody Bellinger adds a non-pitching, position prospect that is sorely needed in a Reds organization that sees a steep drop-off in their position prospects after Jesse Winker. Cody Bellinger is currently 19 but has already reached High-A ball and is more than holding his own. In 78 games this season, the 6’4 Bellinger is hitting .268/.332/.513/.846 and has blasted 15 Home Runs and has 58 RBI’s.He has even shown a little speed as he has 7 stolen bases in 8 attempts.

While it may be some time before either of these prospects see Great American Ballpark, this is a deal that would allow the Reds to get the players into their system and foster the talent with an eye towards the future as opposed to losing Cueto for nothing in the offseason.

For the Dodgers it’s simple. Good is not good enough, and Magic Johnson and company did not spend 2 billion dollars to NOT watch their team in the World Series. With Cueto in the rotation it provides the Dodgers with a 1-3 rotation punch that should be able to beat any National League team’s 1-3 pitchers in a 7 game series.

In addition, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for the Dodgers to build a relationship with Cueto now with an eye towards a long-term deal this offseason in case Zach Greinke decides to walk.

While the Dodgers have remained steadfast on not giving up super-prospects Julio Urias or Cory Seager, this allows the Dodgers to acquire a top-of-rotation talent that may get them over-the-top in the NL and into the World Series without risking any of their more immediate cost-controlled prospects.

By trading the two 19-year olds, it provides Andrew Friedman and the Dodgers front office plenty of time to find their replacements while solidifying their rotation for the playoffs.

 

Trade 2: Cole Hamels & Cash to the Rangers for Jorge Alfaro, Nomar Mazara, Jake Thompson, and Lewis Brinson

This is the price you pay for below-market price, elite pitching. While many Rangers fans will fear this move due to trades of seasons past, such as Matt Garza and Ryan Demptser, they shouldn’t. This deal will help the team not just this season, but at least through 2018 season, as well. Besides, there really isn’t anyone the Rangers gave up in those deals with the Cubs that would be a difference-maker on the current Rangers roster which sits 2.5 games out of a wild-card spot. The Rangers get Cole Hamels who is doing exactly what Cole Hamels does. Through 17 starts on the season Hamels has an ERA of 3.02 with an FIP and xFIP of 3.33 and 3.20, respectively.

Per fangraphs, Hamels has been worth 2.2 Wins Above Replacement Player on the year which is right in line with the 4.2 WARP Hamels posted in 2014. With Prince Fielder crushing the ball again at an elite-type level, the Rangers could be a dangerous team in the playoffs with a rotation led by Cole Hamels.

The best part about this move for the Rangers is that Hamels is leading their rotation at around 20 million/ year(depending on how much cash the Phillies throw-in to the trade) for at least the next 3 seasons, giving them immense value both on the field and off the field with a reasonable contract. After drafting Dillon Tate, Eric Jenkins, and Mike Matuella in rounds 1-3 of the 2015 MLB draft, the Rangers can afford to leverage some of their current prospect pool in exchange for a pitcher like Cole Hamels.

The Phillies rebuild gets a major shot in the arm with this deal. They already have Maikel Franco looking like the long-term solution at 3rd  base, and with this move the Phillies would have a chance to set their rebuild into overdrive. While they don’t receive any top 20-overall prospects they get 3-top 100 prospects and a player in Lewis Brinson who may be a fringe top 150 prospect.  With Jorge Alfaro, the Phillies get a 22 year old who is one of the top catching prospects in all of baseball.

With power to all fields, Alfaro posted 17 home runs while batting .261/.323/.440/.763 in 2014 at age 21 while reaching AA. He could end up being the Phillies catcher or 1st baseman over the next 10 years. Nomar Mazara may be the “get” of this trade. He is a 20-year old outfielder who has already reached AA, making him 4.5 years younger than the average age of his  league. So far this season against the older competition, Mazara is batting .287/.366/.455/.821 with 10 homeruns and 42 RBI’s. The 6’4, 195lb lefty would be in the driver’s seat for a corner-outfield spot at Citizens Bank Park by no later than 2017, and with the way he’s played since entering the Rangers system he may stand a chance to be in the lineup as early as opening day 2016.

Jake Thompson has prototypical size for a starting pitcher, standing at 6’4, 235lbs. This year in AA he has a 4.11 ERA to go along with a 1.396 whip and would be a nice pitching prospect alongside Aaron Nola in their system as they transition to a new era in Philly. Lewis Brinson is a 21 year-old centerfielder currently with the Rangers High-A affiliate team High Deserts Mavericks. So far this season, Brinson is hitting .306 and getting on-base at a clip of .396 this season. Brinson is a toolsy-outfielder that could join Mazara in the Phillies outfield in the years to come.

This is a type of move that puts the Phillies system, which already has Nola and J.P. Crawford, into the discussion for a top 5-10 system in all of baseball.

 

Trade 3: Scott Kazmir & Josh Reddick to the Cubs for Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach, Corey Black, Wilson Contreras, and Chris Denorfia

While it stands that Billy Beane may be apprehensive to deal with the Cubs after last years Independence Day heist of Addison Russell, and while it was recently reported that Theo Epstein indicated for fans to not get their hopes up, this deal just seems to make sense.

For the A’s this provides them with quality and quantity in a move for 2 players that are likely to not be on their team over the next couple of seasons. Reddick is arbitration eligible, however will be somewhat pricey for the cost-conscious A’s and Scott Kazmir is going to draw plenty of interest on the open market as free agent this offseason. In this deal, the A’s receive Albert Almora who was a top-100 prospect entering the year, and while his bat hasn’t translated in AA, he is still a gold-glove caliber centerfield prospect. His .264 BABIP also indicates that his average is due to rise as Almora had a BABIP of .304 last year in High-A Daytona.

With Dan Vogelbach and Wilson Contreras, the A’s get two of the best approaches in AA baseball. Contreras is hitting a staggering .326/.394/.492/.885 and recently moved back behind the plate as the Cubs promoted their mega-prospect Kyle Schwarber. Contreras has all the skills to be a solid defensive catcher as he has thrown out runners at a 38% clip this season, and will certainly be getting consideration as a top-100 prospect when updated rankings come out around the all-star break. Dan Vogelbach does exactly what the A’s covet so highly in their prospects, gets hits and takes walks. Vogelbach is hitting .284 with an on-base percentage of .410.

With both Contreras and Vogelbach, the A’s set themselves up to be able to turn both Vogt and Butler into trade chips in the coming years to continue to maintain one of the most consistently strong minor-league systems in all of baseball. With Corey Black the A’s get a strikeout-throwing machine(10.4/9 innings) who seems destined for the bullpen, though he did start this season in AA as a starter. Black has issues with controlling the strike-zone, as displayed by his 4.1 BB/9 innings, which is one reason he was moved to the bullpen.

At worst, Black can be a quality arm out of the bullpen for the Oakland A’s in the future, however if he is able to find his control of the strike zone he could be a very intriguing starting pitching prospect for an A’s organization that have found success with undersized starting pitchers in the past. Chris Denorfia is thrown in on the deal as proven MLB outfielder who is on a cheap contract as a replacement for Josh Reddick.

The Chicago Cubs are one year ahead of schedule in their rebuild as they currently sit in the National Leagues’ second wild-card spot. While the Cubs have been exciting to watch this year, they have glaring holes to fill in their lineup if they intend to be any more than a one-and-done in this seasons NL wild-card playoff game. Kazmir would step in ahead of Jason Hammel and make the Cubs starting 5 one of the most formidable in the National League.

By moving Kyle Hendricks to the 5-spot in the rotation, the Cubs make Jason Hammel arguably the best 4th starter of any team in the league. In doing so, the Cubs remove the Wood/Wada combo that has combined to post only .5 Wins Above Replacement Player per frangraphs, while adding Scott Kazmir, who has posted a 1.8 WARP year-to-date. This move adds another 1.3 wins, in theory, to the Cubs total which is critical in a playoff race.

The addition of Josh Reddick allows the Cubs to improve this seasons playoff chances while also helping their roster for a probable 2016 playoff run, as well.  Theo Epstein has always stated his belief that 2016 was when he felt the Chicago Cubs would truly begin competing for World Series titles . Josh Reddick won the 2012 gold-glove and would provide an improvement over Chris Coghlan in leftfield. The ripple-effect value of an addition like Reddick is that manager Joe Maddon can move Chris Coghlan to the bench which will provide him with more late-inning ammunition in a pinch. It’s a lot of volume to pay if you’re the Cubs, but it provides them with an increased probability to make the playoffs both this year and next.

 

So there you have it! The three trades I think MUST happen by the end of the month. Do you agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to add me to your roster so you can follow my rants as we approach the trade deadline. Now on to the hotdogs and hamburgers.
eSportsonline

http://SportsRants.com

Switch-Pitcher Venditte Impresses In Debut

(Photo courtesy of media2.wxyz.com)

It was a long journey to the big leagues for switch-pitcher Pat Venditte. A walk-on at Creighton University, he played there for four years before being drafted by the New York Yankees in the 20th round of the 2008 MLB Draft. After spending seven seasons in the Yankees’ organization, he became a free agent and signed a minor league contract with the Oakland Athletics this past offseason. He impressed in Triple-A pitching for the Nashville Sounds of the Pacific Coast League, posting a 1.36 ERA and striking out 33 batters in 17 appearances, 16 of which were in relief. Yesterday, General Manager Billy Beane decided to call-up Venditte to pitch for the Athletics. His time had finally come.

Venditte, 29, is obviously very different than most pitchers for one major reason: he can throw with both hands. He wears a special glove that allows him to switch it from one hand to the other. Pitching with both hands clearly gives him an advantage, as he can pitch left-handed when facing a left-handed batter and can pitch right-handed when facing a right-handed batter.

He appeared in his first Major League game last night at Fenway Park against the Red Sox. He entered in the seventh inning and the first batter he faced was left-handed Brock Holt. Pitching lefty, Venditte got Holt to groundout to first. The next batter was right-handed Hanley Ramirez, so Venditte put his glove on his left hand and threw right-handed to Ramirez. Ramirez singled, bringing up righty Mike Napoli. Still pitching righty, Venditte got Napoli to ground into an inning-ending double play.

After a successful first inning in relief, Venditte was left out for the eighth inning. He started the inning pitching righty to the first two batters, getting Xander Bogaerts to groundout to shortstop and Mookie Betts to fly out to right field. The next batter up was young catcher Blake Swihart, a switch-hitter. This is where the Pat Venditte rule came into play. This rule was created by the Professional Baseball Umpire Corporation after Venditte was drafted and basically states that the pitcher must indicate visually to the umpire before the at-bat which hand he intends to throw with. This can be done by  wearing his glove on the other hand while touching the pitcher’s plate. He must pitch with the hand he indicated before the at-bat for the entirety of the at-bat. Venditte chose to throw right-handed to Swihart, so Swihart decided to hit lefty. However, he still struck out swinging. Over his two innings of work, Venditte only allowed one hit. The Athletics lost the game to the Red Sox 4-2, but it was definitely a successful first outing for Venditte.

It was very interesting to see a switch-pitcher back at the Major League level. The last switch-pitcher to pitch in the MLB was Greg Harris for the Montreal Expos on September 28, 1995, almost 20 years ago. As Venditte continues to appear in games for the Athletics, we’ll see how much of an advantage he’ll have because of his ambidextrous ability. Obviously, switch hitters will have the advantage against him because of the Pat Venditte rule. We haven’t seen someone like Venditte in 20 years. Let’s see how his career turns out.

 

Managers Sitting In Hot Water

(Via Athleticsnation.com)

It’s really nothing new. A team struggles, and the first guy to take the blame, and subsequently the fall, is the manager. We’ve seen it time and time again. In fact, we’ve already seen it happen once this 2015 season. The Marlins, after winning 15 more games in 2014 than the year before, giving us all a false hope that 2015 just might be the year that the Marlins regain relevance and do what they do best: win the wild card and eventually win the World Series. That, however, simply hasn’t panned out quite the way we expected, and after starting this season 16-22, the Marlins fired manager Mike Redmond midway through his third season as the team’s skipper.

Redmond was just the first tree in the forest that is MLB managers to fall this season. While Redmond’s firing was much swifter than any other that we’ll see throughout the season and into the offseason, we’d be downright foolish to believe that he’ll be the only skipper fired for a poor 2015 season. Some managers, of course, are in far more danger than others of being canned at the end of the season or before. With that, here’s my take on the current state of a handful of managers currently at the helms for their clubs.

In Some Trouble

Bob Melvin, Oakland A’s

  • Melvin is the first skipper to make the list, but don’t panic too much A’s fans. There’s a reason Melvin is listed in the first category and not the second one that will come later. Yes, Melvin has won with very little in the past, as the Billy Beane scheme has worked for the most part. But let’s take a look at two things. First, Melvin has won fewer games in each of the past two seasons then he did in the previous one, and is on pace to do that again. From 94 to 88 to on pace for just 64 wins this season. Of course, that number should rise by the end of the year, but it’s still another fall for Melvin’s A’s. Second, While he has made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons, he’s yet to win a playoff series, exiting in the Divisional Series twice and the Wild Card round once. If things don’t turn around, Melvin may be updating that resume come October.

Robin Ventura, Chicago White Sox

  • Ventura inherited a team that was downright awful. Outside of his first season, the White Sox have stunk, winning just 63 games in 2013 and 73 games in 2014. But then you ask yourself, why is he on the hot seat if he’s raised that win total from 63 to 73? And now he has his team hovering right around .500 through 50 games? That has to be good enough for another year, right? I’m not so sure about that. Yes, his team was very bad the last two seasons, and yes, he’s made them somewhat better. But, the team he has this year is pretty darn good, at least on paper. They’re simply not playing to their highest standard right now. At 23-27, the Sox are in last in an ever growing AL Central. With a perennial Cy Young candidate in Chris Sale, followed by Jeff Samardzjia, Hector Noesi and Jose Quintana, the White Sox pitching staff is vastly under performing for the most part. The offense is better than what it’s been recently as well. Led by slugger Jose Abreu, this team should be better than what they are. They’re only four games under and 50 games in, but things need to shape up ChiTown soon.

The Water’s Boiling Now

John Farrell, Boston Red Sox

  • You’ve got one Sox team, I guess you have to get the other, right? John Farrell came over to the Boston Red Sox in 2013 in a rare manager trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. What he inherited was a team that finished with just 69 wins the year before and was muddled in controversy about the players drinking and eating too much in the clubhouse. He cracked down, and his team responded, winning 97 games in 2013, going on to eventually win the World Series. A World Series ring usually buys you an extra couple of years as a manager, but not in Boston. Red Sox fans demand victories year after year, and that simply hasn’t happen in Boston the last season and a half. Since winning the World Series, the Red Sox have gone 94-120, and things are starting to look bleak for the organization, as complacency seems to be taking hold. It’s nothing that Farrell has done, per se, but a new face and a fresh perspective may be good for the team as a whole.

Dead in the Water

Ryne Sandberg, Philadelphia Phillies

  • Just like Ventura, Ryne Sandberg overtook a team that really wasn’t any good. A group of aging veterans and young guys who weren’t ready for major league action were what Sandberg had to work with when the Phillies fired Charlie Manuel. What Sandberg hasn’t done that Ventura has, however, is make this team any better. Are they a playoff team? Absolutely not, making things tough some times to judge how good a manager really is. I can’t speak for other teams most of the time. I simply don’t consistently watch them enough to say if the ins and outs are executed well. With the Phillies, however, I can say with certainty that Ryne Sandberg has left the Phils out to dry on more than one occasion. His decision making leaves me scratching my head most times, whether it’s with a pitching matchup or a pinch hitter, Sandberg seems to constantly be making moves that backfire for the Phillies. Jake Diekman should not be coming in against a right handed power hitter with runners in scoring position late in the game. He simply should not. It just spells trouble with a power arm that can’t throw strikes. Sandy, it was nice to see you as the manager to get a reprieve from the same old schtick that was Charlie Manuel, but this season should be your last as the Phillies’ skipper.

 

 

http://SportsRants.com

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

Memorial Day 2015 – Two Wins in New York and Anaheim

The Kansas City Royals and all other MLB teams wore special attire on Memorial Day

(Photo Courtesy: sportslogos.net)

Memorial Day is officially the day to remember the people who died while serving in our country’s armed forces. The origins of Memorial Day are actually more complicated than the origins of baseball. It’s safe to say that memorials have been held since at least 1865 in Charleston, South Carolina after the end of the civil war. It was that massive conflict in our nation’s history that ironically helped spread the game of baseball across all areas of the north, south and parts in between.

When it comes to holidays in modern times the lines may respectfully blur. We may also chose to reflect on the personal stories we’ve been told by our immediate family and relatives who served in the military regardless of whether they gave the ultimate sacrifice. Chances are they were once alongside somebody who did. In hindsight, I wish I would’ve asked more questions of two Navy men I knew well who were able to live past their military days; my late grandfather Richard Johnson and late uncle Larry Phelps.

I recall as a child stepping aboard an aircraft carrier for a tour of the vessel after my uncle’s ship docked in Norfolk, Virginia. If memory serves me it was the U.S.S. Independence. I do remember thinking when walking on the flight deck that the ship was the most massive thing I’d seen in my life. The only comparable experience was when I ventured to the top of the World Trade Center a couple times as a youth.

Military families don’t need holidays to help them remember or appreciate their loved ones who served. It definitely can’t hurt the rest of to have these days marked on the calendar as Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day.

Baseball does a nice job of bringing awareness to the meaning of several federal holidays during the season and usually there’s a connection to a charitable effort.

Those MLB-issued Memorial Day jerseys featuring the USMC Digital Camo pattern for the logos, names, and numbers will be sold. All of MLB’s net proceeds from the sale of the caps and jerseys will be donated to the Welcome Back Veterans program, which provides grants to university hospitals throughout the U.S. to help veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. MLB has committed $30 million to Welcome Back Veterans.

This Memorial Day was once again a baseball filled day with ceremonies in all stadiums to help celebrate the holiday. There was also quite a bit to see on the field during the games.

The Mets’ Lucas Duda used his bat to send a souvenir home run ball to a sailor in a 6-3 New York win.

Also in New York, the Yankees scored 11 runs before any outs were recorded in the 2nd inning against the Royals Jeremy Guthrie in a 14-1 win. Yankees’ outfielder Slade Heathcott hit his first career major league home run.

The Cardinals’ Jhonny Peralta made 3-2 walk-off winners of St. Louis with a home run in the bottom of the 10th against the Diamondbacks’ J.C. Ramirez.

The Blue Jays’ Drew Hutchison silenced the White Sox bats during a 4-hit, 8 K complete game shutout in a 6-0 Toronto win.

Not to be outdone was the A’s Jesse Hahn who pitched a 4-hit, 1 BB, 5 K complete game shutout against the Tigers in a 4-0 Oakland win.

The Twins are 26-18 and passed the Tigers for second place in the AL Central standings after sending Red Sox starter Joe Kelly to the showers in the 2nd inning when they built a 7-0 lead. The Red Sox have very little starting pitching, although Wade Miley sounded really good on the radio against the Angels on Sunday.

Josh Hamilton returned to Texas where his season debut was an 0 for 3 with a walk and a run scored. He also got tangled up on a ball hit to him in left during a 10-8 Rangers win over the Indians. Ugly stuff as Texas started Phil Klein against Cleveland’s Shaun Marcum. That resulted in a combined 4.2 IP, 14 runs, 13 earned.

The Memorial Day baseball night ended when Hamilton’s former team and their neighbors across the street tried to win games late.

On the ice, the Anaheim Ducks built a 3-0 lead after the first period of their Game 5 Western Conference Final series against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Ducks quacked up things from there and couldn’t hold it. The Hawks Jonathan Toews scored twice in the final two minutes of regulation. The last of which was from an impossibly acute angle near the boards at 19:22 of the 3rd period to tie the game at four.

In overtime the Ducks only needed a Blackhawks turnover and 45 seconds for Matt Beleskey to slam home a rebound of Ryan Kesler’s shot to win it 5-4 and give the Ducks a 3-2 series lead.

Across the street at Angel Stadium, the Halos’ Jose Alvarez had already coughed up the 3-0 lead Jered Weaver had when departing the game with two outs in the 7th inning and the Padres’ Will Middlebrooks standing on second.

Tied at three in the 9th, Padres’ manager Bud Black turned to reliever Kevin Quakenbush to keep the game that way. A Matt Krauss walk and Johnny Giavotella,  single, yes these are real Angels’ characters in 2015, led to Craig Kimbrel being summoned to the mound for damage control.

Kimbrel struck out Erick Aybar for the second out, but intentionally walked Mike Trout to load the bases. Sure enough the most un-clutch “superstar” in 2015 east of David Ortiz, Albert Pujols, delivered a walk-off RBI single to left to score pinch runner Collin Cowgill.

The Angels 4-3 win gave Anaheim sports fans a second local win in skate-off/walk-off fashion to celebrate before going back to work on Tuesday. Enjoy the short week.

Microsoft Store

Fans With Pride

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

A Royal Pain In The A’s

(photo courtesy: Pete G. Aiken/USA Today)

The team that captivated baseball fans last postseason is off to a hot start this season, but they might be getting a little hot headed.

Remember the final day of last September when the Oakland Athletics held a 7-3 lead over the Kansas City Royals with six outs to go in the American League wild card game?

A 3-run 8th and game tying sac fly in the 9th allowed the Royals to push that dramatic game into extra innings, where in the 12th Kansas City again found themselves trailing. Christian Colon tied the game at 8 with an RBI single against Dan Otero. Following an Alex Gordon foul out and Colon steal of 2nd base, Salvador Perez won the game for Kansas City with an RBI single against Jason Hammel. The A’s went on home, while the Royals went on to eventually win the AL pennant.

This past Friday night the two teams met for the first time since that thrilling one game playoff. Everything was hunky-dory until the top of the 7th.

A’s third baseman Brett Lawrie, who had nothing to do with last year’s postseason because he was a Blue Jay, delivered an aggressive takeout slide at second base on Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar who had to the leave the game with a sprained left knee. The game rolled on.

In the 8th, the A’s Dan Otero didn’t have it on lock down against Paulo Orlando who delivered an RBI triple and scored on Omar Infante’s sac fly. Four of Orlando’s six career hits are triples by the way. Greg Holland saved the 6-4 win for the Royals before stopping by the disabled list with a right pectoral strain.

Saturday afternoon brought retaliation and fuel to the fire. In the 4th inning, Royals starter Yordano Ventura, fresh off allowing Josh Reddick to smoke a three-run homer to right to put the A’s up 5-0, drilled the next batter Brett Lawrie. The intense Lawrie took his base, but Ventura, who got frustrated and chatty with Mike Trout in his previous start, stared down and made his way toward Lawrie until Salvador Perez cut off his path. Ventura did what he felt he needed to do so I’m still confused why he needed to show additional bravado.

Lawrie took his medicine, but Ventura was fuming and got run from a game he was about to be leaving anyway. Let’s see, three starts for Ventura, which have ended with him being removed with a cramped right thumb, right calf cramp, and an ejection. Not a great start to the season for the talented 23-year-old righty.

The mini feud should have ended on Saturday, but it didn’t. Scott Kazmir of the A’s hit Royals center fielder Lorenzo Cain on the foot in the 1st inning of Sunday’s game. Warnings were issued and Kazmir was allowed to stay in the game. This did not please the Royals. Pitching coach Dave Eiland and manager New Yost were given the heave-ho by home plate umpired Greg Gibson. This of course led to Yost and Gibson yelling at each other which completely ruined the pace of play, but provided a good video clip to watch after the fact.

In the 8th inning, Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera escalated the situation by zinging a heater way inside to Brett Lawrie and then putting his next pitch behind Lawrie’s back. Herrera was immediately ejected as was bench coach Don Wakamatsu. Alcides Escobar wasn’t even playing today, but got ejected anyway.

Lawrie started the chaos on Friday with his hard slide, but has come across as taking responsibility for his actions. He’s still not thrilled about incoming projectiles as seen here speaking with the Kansas City Star.

 

 

Kazmir says the pitch that got Cain to dance was unintentional. Cain isn’t so sure. Meanwhile Herrera suffered a “grip slip”

Kendrys Morales broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the 8th with a two-run double. The Royals won 4-2 with Wade Davis nailing down his 2nd save. These two teams have definitely built some storylines since last postseason and sadly won’t meet again until late June in Oakland and then there’s always October.

AL NOTES

The Mariners Nelson Cruz has eight home runs in his last eight games including two on Sunday. He also delivered a walk-off win with an RBI single in Seattle’s 11-10 victory against Texas.

The Detroit Tigers Yoenis Cespedes hit a grand slam and a 2-run homer on Sunday. Detroit bulldozed the White Sox Jose Quintana for nine runs over 4+ IP. The Tigers Shane Greene moved to 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA. He allowed his first run of the season in the sixth. The Tigers are an MLB best 10-2, but it appears the feisty Royals (9-3) plan to hang around. Both teams will meet for the first time to close out April.

The Houston Astros lead the AL West at 6-6 after defeating a rusty Garrett Richards. The Angels righty was making his season debut eight months removed from rupturing his left patellar tendon last season. Luis Valbuena has three home runs for the Astros. Slugging first baseman Chris Carter has slumped his way to just three singles.

All five teams in both the AL East and AL West are separated by just 1.5 games after two weeks. The NL isn’t as tightly packed with all three division leaders having at least a 1.5 game lead over the 2nd place team.

NL NOTES

The New York Mets (10-3) lead the NL East and have won eight straight games following Matt Harvey’s third win of the season on Sunday against the Marlins (3-10). Sunday, the Mets did lose catcher Travis d’Arnaud (fractured right hand) and lefty reliever Jerry Blevins (fractured left forearm). Blevins has been perfect in his seven appearances spanning five innings.

The NL Central leading St. Louis Cardinals (8-3) are winners of five straight after a weekend sweep of the Cincinnati Reds that concluded with Waino’s 2-1 win over Mike Leake. Matt Carpenter led off the game with a home run for St. Louis. He’s hitting .400 which is 3rd best in the National League.

The Los Angeles Dodgers (9-3) lead the NL West and have won seven games in a row. Howie Kendrick (1.105 OPS) and Joc Pederson (.990 OPS) have been offensive supporting cast to Adrian Gonzalez. Yasiel Puig (hamstring) has only played in seven games.

The Milwaukee Brewers are an MLB worst 2-10 and are scoring just 2.5 runs per game which is also last.

The Cubs Kris Bryant followed up his 0 for 4, three-strikeout Friday with a two-hit, three-walk Saturday. His first career hit was a 5th inning RBI single to center against the Padres Tyson Ross.