New York Bans Smokeless Tobacco at Yankees Stadium & Citi Field

When the Houston Astros and New York Yankees took the field on Wednesday night they were the first players to be prohibited by law from using smokeless tobacco for a regular-season game, a ban covers every person (not just players) in the ballpark as well. New York mayor Bill de Blasio signed the ban into law just before 5:00 pm, a ban that immediately went into effect as soon as the ink was dried.

The new law applies to all sports and recreational areas that issue tickets. New York joins San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles in enacting such laws but the Yankees became the first team to exercise it as they were the first team to have a home game among the group.

“We don’t want our young people to think smokeless tobacco is a cool thing,” de Blasio said.

A ban approved by Chicago’s City Council is expected to take effect by midseason while California has enacted a ban effective in 2017. By that time, 10 of 30 MLB stadiums and teams will have the bans in place. Legislators in Washington and Toronto are also considering the same.

“The bill sends a clear message: Tobacco has no place in New York City professional sports” said New York bill’s sponsor, Councilman Corey Johnson.

The MLB Players Association has resisted a league-wide ban despite an estimated 30% of MLB players using, an issue that will certainly be a major debate topic during negotiations with owners over a new collective bargaining agreement.

Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids,  said his expectation is that MLB players and others will voluntarily comply with the regulations, as have most people when smoking bans have become law at athletic venues.

Johnson, who chairs the New York City Council’s Committee on Health, cited the late Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn and former All-Star pitcher Curt Schilling as prime examples of the dangers of smokeless tobacco and the long-term effects it can have. Gwynn and Schilling attributed their cases of oral cancer to smokeless tobacco.

Major League Baseball and the teams in cities with the new laws have expressed support for the legislation.

 

A-Rod Plans To Retire In 2017

According to ESPN’s Andrew Marchand, Alex Rodriguez says he plans to retire after his contract expires in 2017.

 

This should come as no surprise, however, considering A-Rod turned 40 last July, and will be 42-years-old after completing an atypical 23rd season in the majors by 2017. The New York Yankees slugger is set to earn $21 million both this season and next, as the teams designated hitter.

 

In his return to baseball last season (after serving a 162-game-long suspension in 2014 for the previous use of performance enhancing drugs) A-Rod posted his highest home run total since 2008 ( he hit 35HR that year) with 33. Listed at fourth all-time on the MLB’ career home run list with 687, passing the great Willie Mays (660) in 2015, Rodriguez could surpass another big name on the list when it’s all said and done.

 

A-Rod trails Yanks legend Babe Ruth (714) by only 28HR. Meaning he would need to average just 14HR over these next two seasons, in order to pass “The Sultan of Swat”. While accomplishing that feat is certainly doable for Rodriguez, passing Hank Aaron will be a much tougher task. To pass by “Hammer’n Hank” (755) he would have to replicate his 33HR from 2015 again this year, and then hit 34HR in 2017 (his retirement season).

 

In case you were wondering, to become baseball’s all-time HR king and pass Barry Bonds (762) A-Rod would have to hit 38HR in both 2016 and 2017. Something that I personally do not see happening. But the home run list won’t be the only career stat sheet Rodriguez will try and climb higher on.

 

As you can imagine, playing 21 seasons has allowed Rodriguez to be in or towards the top of multiple MLB statistical categories. Meaning he will have the chance to surpass a multitude of  other MLB greats over the next two seasons.

 

A-Rod currently ranks fourth all-time for RBI with 2,055, eighth for runs scored with 2,002, and 21st in career hits with 3,070 ( he also ranks first among active players for hits).

 

(All contractual information and figures courtesy of Spotrac.com. All statistical information and MLB all-time list rankings courtesy of BaseballReference.com)

 

Final Thoughts:

Rodriguez’ MLB career has been nothing short of extraordinary. Highlighted by hall-of-fame  statistics and lowlighted by his admission to using PED’s, A-Rod has basically done it all.

As to the legacy he will leave behind and whether or not he will ever be enshrined into Cooperstown, NY, that could be debated for the next decade at least.

For now we can only watch, wait, and eventually waive good-bye to one of the biggest names in the game.

 

 

 

Orioles Sign Former Pirates Slugger Pedro Alvarez

The Baltimore Orioles just added some more depth, despite Spring Training being in full swing. Last Tuesday, the team reached an agreement with former Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman/first baseman Pedro Alvarez.

Alvarez and the Orioles agreed on a one-year, $5.75 million deal. Signing a contract in March is obviously pretty late. However, Alvarez still has enough time to get acquainted with his new team. It’s unclear right now what his role will be with Baltimore. A good left-handed power bat, the Orioles are going to want to fit him in somewhere in the lineup.

The only positions Alvarez has played in his career are third base and first base. He has also served as the designated hitter when the Pirates faced AL opponents. There’s no way he’s going to play first base, as that’s where Chris Davis plays. Davis is one of the Orioles’ most dangerous hitters. Alvarez won’t play much of third base either. Manny Machado occupies that position for the Orioles. Machado played in all 162 games in 2015. Another reason he probably won’t be playing much of the field is the fact that Alvarez isn’t really a good fielder. He made 27 errors at third base in 2013, and 25 the following year. The Pirates decided to turn him into a full-time first baseman for the 2015 season. The move didn’t really help, as he still committed 23 errors at his new position.

If he’s not going to play the field, then the only other option will be to have Alvarez be the Orioles designated hitter. That is, unless they decide to use him as a bench player. Mark Trumbo was originally going to be the DH for Baltimore this year. However, he can also play the outfield. It’s now much more likely that the Orioles start Trumbo in right field so Alvarez can be the DH. Both players have a lot of power, so it wouldn’t make sense to put one of them on the bench.

The Orioles’ outfield situation then becomes more complicated. Trumbo would most likely start in right field. Adam Jones is the team’s starting center fielder. Nolan Reimold is probably going to be the starting left fielder. That leaves Dariel Alvarez and Hyun Soo Kim as backup outfielders. Kim played in the KBO League in South Korea until the Orioles signed him to a two-year, $7 million contract back in December. Alvarez was set to be the starting right fielder this year for Baltimore, but that all now changes because of the signing of Pedro Alvarez. Both outfielders will most likely still see some playing time, but not as much as they would if Trumbo was still the team’s DH.

There’s a reason the Orioles need to get Alvarez in the lineup. The 29-year old has put up good power numbers in his career. His best year came in 2013 when he hit 36 home runs, which was tied for the most in the National League that season. That year, he also collected a career-high 100 RBIs and was named an All-Star for the first time. Last season, he hit 27 homers and drove in 77 runs. The Pirates are definitely going to miss his bat. He was one of the biggest power threats in their lineup.

Pedro Alvarez is going to have a major impact on the Orioles. Something that brought them down in 2015 was not having enough left-handed hitters. They were too dependent on righties to carry their lineup. With Davis, Reimold, and now Alvarez, they now have a more balanced lineup. Not only is Alvarez a left-handed bat, he’s also a great power hitter. This was a very smart signing. The Orioles are now a better team than they were at the start of Spring Training.

What to Watch For With Trade Deadline Approaching

With the NBA Trade deadline approaching, teams are undoubtedly looking at their roster and contemplating possible moves both for this year and possibly more importantly for the future. For those teams making the playoffs or hoping to make the playoffs, the right move or two might push them in the right direction, while those completely out of it are looking towards next year.

With so many teams in the East in the playoff mix this year, most of the trade rumors involve teams from the Eastern Conference. The Western Conference on the other hand, might end up seeing most of their changes occur in the offseason, once free agency officially begins.

Will the Celtics Get Their Superstar?

For awhile now, the Celtics have been linked with almost every possible trade involving a big man as the popular consensus has been that Boston is in need of that one big name to bring them over the top in the Eastern Conference. Whether it was Demarcus Cousins or Kevin Love, the Celtics were apparently after them.

Since it seems for now, at least, the Cavs will keep Kevin Love (David Blatt obviously sacrificed instead) and Demarcus Cousins still in Sacramento after the whole will they or won’t they with George Karl, the Celtics might have to wait till free agency to get their big man.

Unless of course, those other rumors about Dwight Howard and the Rockets come to fruition. Before rumblings began about the Celtics being interested in Howard, I wondered what Dwight might look like with the Celtics given his apparent discontentment with Harden and the Rockets.

Like the Kings, it seems the Rockets would prefer to keep Dwight around, at least for now. Which in the end, might end up working best for the Celtics as David Lee didn’t exactly end up contributing much after they acquired him for the Warriors.

Will the Hawks Help the Knicks?

Not too long ago, I wrote about how it seemed the Knicks were finally on the right track, heading towards a possible fight for the last spot in the playoffs. Fast forward a month or so later, and the Knicks have since fired their head coach Derek Fisher, thanks to the Knicks losing nine out of their last ten games.

While definitely a shock to most, given the talent of the team, it was definitely understandable. With rookie sensation, Kristaps Porzingis, to go along with Carmelo Anthony and other quality players such as Robin Lopez and Aaron Afflalo, there really is no reason for the Knicks not to be in the playoff hunt.

Though Carmelo Anthony has had to miss a few games due to lingering injuries, the Knicks are talented enough to at least compete for the last playoff spot in the East with the likes of the Pistons and the Hornets. Of course, most people still think they need a quality point guard to truly compete, so in comes Jeff Teague and the Atlanta Hawks.

Since it appears the Hawks are looking to move Teague since Schroder is a younger and cheaper version of Teague, the Knicks are definitely towards the top of the list of those interested. With a new coach and hopefully an all-star point guard, New York might actually end up an enticing place for one of the biggest free agents this summer, Kevin Durant.

Durant and Griffin: Offseason Rumors Heat Up

With Blake Griffin out with both an injury and suspension (due to his altercation with a staff member), rumors have begun about the Clippers possibly trading Blake Griffin this offseason. If that ends up being the case because the Clippers aren’t able to compete with the top teams in the West in the playoffs, it seems the Celtics once again will be one of the teams most interested.

Since Griffin will become a free agent after next season, it might make sense to try get something for him before he possibly decides to move on himself. Whether Durant stays in OKC this offseason, might also have an impact on where Griffin ends up as Blake is from Oklahoma so returning home might be end up being enticing for him.

And speaking of KD, no rumor has caused as much controversy as the one that has Durant heading to the Warriors should he decide to leave OKC this summer. It almost seems preposterous for that to even be a real possibility, but it seems some want us to believe it is indeed a likely scenario.

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/sources–warriors-serious-threat-to-sign-kevin-durant-182559375.html

As a fan of Durant from his days at Texas, I can’t see Durant choosing to leave OKC to join a team that wouldn’t really need him should Golden State win another championship this year. I think he likes a challenge so unless OKC fails to compete in the playoffs, I think he remains in OKC since the only other team I thought he might leave for, his hometown Washington Wizards, have completely blown their chance to show that they could be a team to compete for a title this year.

OKC Thunder Tickets

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Piazza’s Election to the Hall of Fame Long Overdue

He had to wait a few years to receive the call, but Mike Piazza has finally been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The 47 year old former catcher received 83 percent of the vote, which was officially announced last Wednesday night. A player needs 75 percent in order to be elected. Ken Griffey Jr. was the only other player elected to the Hall this year, garnering a record-breaking 99.3 percent of the vote. This was Piazza’s fourth year on the ballot. In 2013, he got 57.8 percent of the vote. He inched closer to the necessary percentage in 2014, receiving 62.2 percent of the vote. Last year saw him amassing 69.9 percent of the vote. He finally broke through this year.

There’s no question that Piazza deserves his newly acquired Hall of Fame status. Over the course of his 16-year career, he was a 12-time All-Star who had a career batting average of .308. Piazza put up offensive numbers that were unheard of for a catcher. He hit 427 home runs in his career, 396 of which came as a catcher. No other catcher in MLB history has hit more home runs than him. Piazza also had 1,335 career RBIs.

Piazza was originally drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 62nd round of 1988 MLB Draft, a round that no longer exists today. He was originally a first baseman but was converted to a catcher while in the minor leagues. During his rookie year with the Dodgers in 1993, he batted .318 and hit 35 homers while collecting 112 RBIs. His stellar rookie season earned him the NL Rookie of the Year Award. Piazza went on to have a good career with Dodgers. He finished second in the NL MVP Award voting in 1996 and 1997. The 1997 season was arguably the best year of his career, as he batted .362 and belted 40 home runs while driving in 124 runs.

The Dodgers eventually traded Piazza to the Florida Marlins in May of 1998. The Marlins quickly turned around and traded him to the New York Mets a week later. Piazza quickly adjusted to playing in New York. He helped lead the Mets to the playoffs in 1999, a season in which he again hit 40 home runs and had 124 RBIs. In 2000, the Mets reached the World Series but lost to their crosstown rival, the New York Yankees. Piazza was a major reason why they got to the World Series, as he continued to be the Mets best offensive player.

Although he hit many big home runs as a Met, perhaps the most memorable one came on September 21, 2001. It had been just ten days since the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. The Mets were hosting the Atlanta Braves in what was the first major sporting event held in New York City since the attacks. The Mets were trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning when Piazza came to bat with a runner on base. He hit a long two-run homer to centerfield to give the Mets the late lead. Even though it was just a regular season game, the gravity of the circumstances surrounding New York City and everyone in it at the time made that home run mean so much more. It’s still considered by many to be one of the biggest home runs in New York baseball history.

Piazza played his last season with the Mets in 2005. He signed a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres in January of 2006. After playing in San Diego for a year, he signed a one-year deal with the Oakland Athletics. He became a designated hitter while with the A”s. Piazza officially announced his retirement following the 2007 season.

No one was surprised when it was announced last Wednesday night that Piazza had finally gotten into the Hall of Fame. The only thing that surprised people was that he didn’t get in the previous three years. What likely kept him out was suspicion about Piazza possibly using PEDs, even though the power-hitting catcher had never been found to have used illegal drugs. He was never linked to PEDs in any of the reports. However, it was the era that he played in that probably made the voters skeptical. So many people around him were using PEDs. That being said, it still wasn’t really fair for these voters to hold the era that Piazza played in against him, especially considering there’s absolutely zero proof that he ever took steroids.

Mike Piazza is arguably the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history. He definitely deserves to be a Hall of Famer. He’s said that he wants to go in wearing a Mets cap. In all likelihood, the Hall will honor that request. The only other Met in the Hall of Fame is Tom Seaver.

Congratulations, Mike. You’ve undoubtably earned this honor.

 

 

Roger Clemens & Roy Halladay Get Into War of Words Over Hall of Fame

Even though they are retired, two former Cy Young award winning pitchers are still throwing heat.

Former teammates (Toronto) and current Hall of Fame hopefuls Roger Clemens and Roy Halladay took to both social media and the airwaves to debate (that’s putting it lightly) the other’s legitimacy in the Hall of Fame with Halladay taking the first shot on Twitter:

Clemens fired back at Halladay on Wednesday night, saying it was “disheartening” to hear about “an ill informed player making an asinine statement.” Clemens didn’t choose to throw heat on social media but instead responded yn a statement released to KRIV-TV in Houston in which Clemens brought up allegations regarding Halladay’s own career. The pitchers were teammates with the Toronto Blue Jays during Halladay’s rookie season of 1998.

“Just to enlighten him, he was accused of using amphetamines by the ‘strength coach,’” Clemens said in the statement . “You should be very careful when putting tweets out while not having your facts on the matter at hand.”

Halladay took to Twitter to respond Thursday morning:

Making things even more interesting was some tweets directed towards Halladay’s statements on the social media platform, most notably from MLB Network and WFAN insider Jon Heyman, who shed some light on the a point of view shared by some in the media.

A player needs 75 percent of votes to gain entry into the Hall of Fame. Clemens’ totals rose to 45 percent, while Bonds’ rose to 44 percent, both numbers up from about 37 percent last year and while it may seem as those perception may slightly be changing regarding alleged (and proven) PED users, it appears not everyone is on board with the notion of either Bonds or Clemens earning a spot in a future Hall of Fame class.

Halladay, on the other hand, has to wait a bit as he will first be included on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2019.

Until then, things may get a bit chippy.

 

2016 MLB Divisional Power Rankings

2016 is finally here. And the start of the new year means that we are inching closer to the greatest time of the year, baseball season. This has been a wild offseason already, and it is showing no signs of slowing down.  There are still many big name free agents who have yet to sign somewhere, but for now, let’s look at how the divisions stack up in terms of talent at the start of 2016.

6. National League East

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

Now the NL East does have the defending NL Champs (Mets) and two of the best young stars in the game (Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton). But that is about all they have. The Braves are starting to rebuild, the Phillies have been rebuilding for the past five years, and the Marlins have dysfunctional ownership that does not seem to know how to make an intelligent baseball decision. While the NL East does house two very good teams, it also houses three teams that have a good chance to be close to the NL cellar.

5.  American League West

(USA Today)

(USA Today)

The American League West has arguably the best player in baseball in Mike Trout, and they came one game away from having three playoff teams in 2o15, so why are the ranked so far down? One simple fact, regression. The Rangers overachieved last year, and they lost Mike Napoli, Colby Lewis, and Yovani Gallardo this offseason, and I do not believe that they will win 88 games again. The Astros overachieved last year as well, and really cooled off down the stretch, and I think that trend is going to continue into 2016, and they are going to take a step back. The A’s are currently trying to find their footing again after having a down 2015, and the Mariners are trying to bounce back from the horribly disappointing 2015 they had. I think that after a one year hiatus, the Angels will be back on top the AL West.

4. American League East

(New York Times)

(New York Times)

The AL East is going to be fun to watch in 2016. The Blue Jays had an amazing run last year, and even though they lost ace David Price in the offseason, I think that they are still going to contend for the Al pennant, as they have an offense that can out slug anyone in baseball. The Red Sox signed the aforementioned David Price, but I still think they are a year away from truly contending for the World Series. The Orioles may end up losing Chris Davis, but they still have enough talent to remain competitive, and the Rays look like they are going to spend one more year trying to get back to peak performance.

3. American League Central

(Kansas City Star)

(Kansas City Star)

The AL Central only produced one playoff team in 2015. That team was the Kansas City Royals, who then went on to win the World Series. But the Royals have lost some key pieces this offseason, and might regress a little in 2016. The Twins had a magical first couple months last season, and appeared to run out of gas down the stretch. They added 1B Byung Ho Park from the Korean League, who could be a wild card this year, but they still will need to address their pitching problems before they can truly contend. The Indians drastically underachieved last year, and hope to take a step forward in 2016. They have one of the best rotations in baseball, and if are able to find some offensive production this year, they could make a run at the division crown. The White Sox made some key offensive additions this offseason, adding the likes off Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie, but they too need to focus on finding some pitching before they can think about contending.

2. National League Central

(USA Today Sports)

(USA Today Sports)

The NL Central is going to be one hectic division in 2016. The Cubs were able to steal Jason Heyward away from the rival Cardinals, and in turn, planted themselves at the top of the Central. The Cardinals are no pushover though, and will not give up the division crown easily. The Pirates are a dark horse in this division, as they lost the power bat of Pedro Alvarez, but gained the pitching experience of Ryan Vogelsong, the Pirates also have Andrew McCutchen, who is one of the best players in the MLB, and someone who can carry a team into October. The Reds are in all out firesale mode, and are starting to rebuild, and the Brewers are still a couple years away from being in the running for division leader.

  1. National League West
(Jim Louvau)

(Jim Louvau)

The NL West had one crazy offseason. The Diamondbacks went from a .500 team to a championship contender. The biggest acquisition that the Diamondbacks made this offseason was when they were able to wrangle Zack Grenkie from the division rival Dodgers. They then shored up their rotation by trading for Shelby Miller from the Braves. The aforementioned Dodgers made some moves of their own in regards to pitching, as their signed free agent Scott Kazmir, and also signed pitcher Kenta Maeda of the Japanese league. The Dodgers still have Clayton Kershaw, but he only pitches once every five days. The Padres have had a relatively quiet offseason, but you never know with A.J Peller, and the Rockies are still stewing the cellar, and it does not look like they will get out of it any time soon.

Mets Must Say Farewell to Daniel Murphy

After a historic postseason, it is doubtful that longtime Met Daniel Murphy will be returning to Queens this offseason.

That is for the best.

Daniel Murphy will always have a place in Mets fans hearts; he has the 8th highest batting average in team history, coming in at .288, over his 9 year stint in a Mets uniform. His 228 doubles is 2nd behind David Wright, and his 402 RBIs is 12th. He has been in the middle of some bad Mets teams, and bounced all around the field in order to find a place for him to play. He learned new positions, and he did it without complaint.

Regardless of this, he is not worth the projected price of 4 years-$60m ; and it is not even close.

His good batting average aside, he has a career high 14 home runs, which he hit this past year. The power surge of the NLCS and NLDS was a fluke, and nothing more. He also walks at an abysmal 6% for his career, which is unacceptable and is not how the Mets want to build their offense. His career wRC+ is 109, which is only nine points above the average wRC+; his one dimensional offensive output is the cause of this, and makes him a much worse offensive ballplayer. He’s good at hitting doubles, and that is about it.

However, where his value really drops in the field (since that 109 wRC+ is above the average 100, albeit barely above). At second base, his listed position, he has a career -20.2 UZR (ultimate zone rating, it takes what happened on the field, and data from other players of the same position to determine how much better the fielder is as opposed to an average player; average is 0) over 4343.0 innings; that is 5 points worse than -15, which fangraphs.com describes as “awful” . His UZR/150 (UZR over 150 games) is -6.3. His natural position, third base, he is a 0.0 in both UZR and UZR/150 over 713.2 innings; he is completely average (needless to say, David Wright is blocking him there). In 464.2 innings in the outfield, he has a -3.6 UZR and -0.7 UZR/150 for his career.

His only positive UZR rating, first base, comes with a 7 UZR and a 5.8 UZR/150. He did have two awful seasons at first (60+ innings in 2012, where he had a -0.7 UZR and a -22.9 UZR/150, and 2013, where he had a -1.2 UZR and a -18.3 UZR/150). Lucas Duda, the current Mets first baseman, has a career 0.6 UZR, and 0.3 UZR/150 in 1300 more innings than Murphy has at first; and the majority of Murphy’s positive UZR ratings at first come during 2009, where he had a very good 5.9 UZR and 8.8 UZR/150; he’s regressed badly at the position since that season.

For his career, he makes 97% of routine plays (90-100% expectancy), and only 68.6% likely (60-90%) plays; that is far too low, and frankly is not good enough a major league second baseman.

The Mets lost the World Series for a few reasons; two of which are a shaky bullpen, and poor fielding. For Daniel Murphy, his lack of defensive prowess and his one dimensional offensive output should write him a ticket out of Queens, and, if the National League teams were smart, right into the American League as a DH.

Cubs Skipper Joe Maddon Named NL Manager of the Year

He accomplished a lot in his first year in Chicago. Now Joe Maddon has been recognized for his success.

On Tuesday night, Maddon was officially named the National League Manager of the Year. The Chicago Cubs manager beat out Mike Matheny of the St Louis Cardinals and Terry Collins of the New York Mets for the award. Maddon received 18 first-place votes, while Matheny received 9 and Collins only 3.

This is the third time that Maddon has won Manager of the Year. He won the AL Manager of the Year Award in 2008 and 2011 while he was managing the Tampa Bay Rays. Maddon managed the Cubs to a 97-65 record this season. The team finished third in the NL Central, but captured the second NL Wildcard spot. They beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-0 in the NL Wildcard Game, and then went on to beat the Cardinals in four games in the NLDS. Maddon had the Cubs back in the NLCS for the first time since 2003. However, the team went no further, as they were swept by the Mets in the NLCS. Even though the season didn’t end they way they wanted it to, the Cubs definitely took a big step forward in 2015.

The Cubs won 73 games and finished in last place in their division in 2014. After Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays at the end of the 2014 season, the Cubs decided to fire their manager Rick Renteria and hire Maddon. While with the Rays, Maddon had established himself as one of the best managers in all of baseball. Over the course of nine seasons in Tampa Bay, he posted a record of 754 and 705. He managed the Rays to the World Series in 2008, but they lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. It’s easy to see why the Cubs were so quick to fire Renteria and hire Maddon.

Tasked with managing a young Cubs team, Maddon certainly had his hands full this past season. As the season progressed, more and more good young hitters were called up from the minor leagues. Young third baseman Kris Bryant was called up in mid-April. Going into the season, many baseball experts considered Bryant the best prospect in all of baseball. Addison Russell was called up by the team a few days later. Kyle Schwarber, the player the Cubs drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft, was called up in June. These three hitters all showed right away that they had tremendous offensive talent. They added to an already talented Cubs offense that included Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. Maddon did a good job of managing his lineup day in and day out. He made sure to use his young offensive talent in the most effective ways possible.

Even though the Cubs were loaded with talent in 2015, they didn’t have much experience. Maddon was able to guide this inexperienced team. They stayed a few games over .500 for the majority of the season, and then really took off the last two months. They won a combined 38 games in August and September while losing only 18. As the season went on, you could see the young players becoming more and more comfortable as they became acclimated with the Cubs and playing at the Major League level. By the time the regular season was over, Maddon had the Cubs looking like one of the best teams in all of baseball.

There’s no doubt that Joe Maddon deserved to win the NL Manager of the Year Award. He came to Chicago and completely turned the culture around. Under his leadership, the Cubs went from being a last place team to a legitimate World Series contender. With all the good young players the Cubs have, there’s a pretty good chance they’ll be back in the playoffs next year. After the success they had this year, the logical next step for this team would be to at least get to the World Series. Considering the players they have and who their manager is, it’s hard not to like their chances.       

 

 

The Flyers Fiercely Fight The L.A.Kings

Photo courtesy of www.kansascity.com

The Philadelphia Flyers had reason for both hope and caution going into the November 17th game against the L.A. Kings.  They gained a victory three nights previously against the Carolina Hurricanes in a 3-2 victory which saw Jakub Voracek score his first goal of the season.  Given their struggles this year, including their 6-8-3 record (pre-game), they had reason for apprehension going into Tuesday’s game against the Kings, who’s record was 11-6-0 pre-game.

The pre-game festivities included a lovely retirement ceremony for much lauded ex-Flyers Simon Gagne.

Flyers Prospect Shayne Gostisbehere was in the lineup and scored his 1st N.H.L. goal just 3:41 into the first period, on the power play goal, giving Philadelphia an early lead.  He was assisted by Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.  The lead was taken when the Kings tied the game at 15:06 by Jamie McBain.  The 1st period ended tied at 1-1.

The Ghost Bear shared his joy; “It was a dream come true.  Every kid who has ever played hockey wants to play in the N.H.L., let along score a goal.  I mean it’s really a dream come true.”

Below are game high lights

Video from Flyers Highlights  on YouTube.com

No additional goals were scored in the second period.

However, a goal deemed not a goal by Toronto would turn Flyers fans hair gray and increase facial wrinkles by 63%.  During the second, a goal by Brayden Schenn was deemed nonscore worthy as Toronto decided Schenn made a distinct kicking motion.  This is debatable by Flyers fans as Schenn was falling and it looked like a deflection with a distinct falling down motion.  The whole affair was quite stressful and contentious.

Brayden Schenn said of his mishap with gravity and distinct kicking motion; “The puck went off my chest and then I got a whack on it and the puck hit the post.  I was looking up at the ceiling.  I didn’t mean to kick it.  I didn’t even know where the puck was.  It just went off my skate.”

Jakub Voracek supported his team mate; “I don’t know why that wasn’t a goal in the second period, Schenner is laying on the ice.  I don’t know how it’s possible to kick the puck when you’re on the ground, but it is what it is.”

The 3rd Period also remained scoreless until 11:11 Claude Giroux  gave the Flyers back the lead with Jakub Voracek and Michael Del Zotto on the assists.  The win was in sight with less than a minute left when L.A.’s Milan Lucic tied the game at 2 – 2 with just 56 seconds left in the game and an empty net.

Captain Claude Giroux won 24 out of 28 face offs, to Philadelphia fans delight.

The wild and entertaining 3 on 3 overtime came and went scoreless sending both teams to the shootout.  Even though Flyers goalie Steve Mason has specifically worked on and improved on his shoot out game, Philadelphia ended the night with 1 point and a loss.  Sam Gagner , Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek were unable to get the puck past Kings Goalie Jonathan Quick.  Steve Mason made 38 saves throughout the night.

Though it was not a win, it was a solid performance against a better team in which the Flyers held their own throughout the game.

Dave Hakstol had this to say of his team’s performance:

“Our team played hard and we played well tonight… We’ll take the positives, push forward and have an effort that we can build off of…”

Goalie Steve Mason agrees; “I thought it was a well played hockey game.  They’re a tough team to play against but I think we matched them pretty good.”

In support of those affected by the terror attacks in Paris, below are links connecting you to organizations helping in the aftermath that could use support.

I am not affiliated with any of the below links and organizations.

For tee-shirts featuring the Paris/Peace sign logo with 100% of the profits going to help victims in the Paris Attack and support Paris.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/256222554/paris-solidarity-t-shirt-support-for

The Friends of Fondation de France program GIVE FOR FRANCE is an U.S. based foundation that supports organizations in France that provide aid and support to victims and their families.

https://www.nycharities.org/give/donate.aspx?cc=1598

The International Red Cross/Red Crescent supports many great causes including providing aid and support to those affected by the Paris terror attack.

http://www.ifrc.org/en/get-involved/donate/

If the kids are reading we love you, you’re fabulous and getting older entirely too quickly but it’s how life works.

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