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Ask the Reports: Saturday December 3rd

Saturday December 3, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen:  Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to mlbreports@gmail.com, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!

Let’s get to your top questions of the week:

Q:  I just read your article about expansion. This is my most favorite topic in baseball. I have an idea. Tell me what you think of it.

American League

East
New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

North
Minnesota Twins
Chicago White Sox
Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers

South
Kansas City Royals
Houston Astros
Texas Rangers
Tampa Bay Rays

West
Los Angeles Angels
San Diego Padres
Portland Athletics
Seattle Mariners

National League

East
New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Pittsburgh Pirates
Washington Nationals

North
Milwaukee Brewers
Chicago Cubs
Cincinnati Reds
St. Louis Cardinals

South
Charlotte Knights (Expansion Team)
Atlanta Braves
San Antonio Colts (Expansion Team)
Miami Marlins

West
Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies

-Joe (via e-mail)

MLB reports:  Radical realignment and expansion Joe.  Love it!  I am a BIG fan of adding 2 new expansion teams to Major League Baseball.  32 teams, 16 teams per league, 4 divisions per league and 4 teams per division makes perfect sense to me.  I am sold.  Now the magical question is which cities would be included and how to realign the divisions.  Under your proposal, San Antonio and Charlotte would get expansion teams, while the A’s would be relocated to Portland.  All three cities are top contenders for MLB teams, so I have no issue with having Major League Baseball in those cities.  For this scenario to work, the A’s would need to exhaust the option of moving to San Jose or any other city in California before being fully relocated.  I don’t see the A’s in Portland personally.  I see them staying in California.  But stranger things have happened.  Interesting that you did not relocate the Rays in your proposal.  I see them having an equally high chance of being relocated as the A’s.  So assuming that we accept your relocation and expansion plans, the last issue will be the alignment of the divisions.  The AL South and NL South need work.  If we are putting a team in San Antonio, let’s put them in the same division as the Rangers and Astros and make a nearly all-Texas division.  The Rays and Marlins should also be in the same division.  I agree with Charlotte and Atlanta together.  Consider as well putting the Dodgers, Giants, Angels and Padres together in an-all California division.  You have a great basis for changes though…well done!  Thank you for the comment and giving us some food for thought.  Please click here to read our previous report on MLB Expansion.

Q:  Just want to say that I’m glad other “unknown talented” Countries are going to have an opportunity to participate.  My mother is from Nicaragua so it’s awesome to know Nicaragua AT LEAST has an opportunity. Maybe in the near future, the WBC should consist of more than 16 teams….maybe a total of 24?  Joshua (via e-mail)

MLB reports:  Thank you for the question Joshua.  You know we love talking about the World Baseball Classic!  Please click here to see our previous report on the upcoming 2013 WBC.  The initial 2006 and 2009 WBC editions consisted of 16 total countries.  In 2013, there are changes to the tournament.  12 holdover countries are guaranteed to play in the tournament itself.  Prior to the WBC, there will be a qualifying tournament between the remaining 4 holdover countries and 12 new countries introduced to the WBC.  Thus the total amount of countries that have a chance to play in the WBC is 28.  I think that the 16 country format works very well.  What MLB officials will look to do is to continue to expand the amount of countries worldwide that will compete in the qualifying tournament.  We could easily see in the next decade 24 new countries competing for WBC supremacy.  I don’t see the tournament itself changing from the 16 team format, but definitely expect the field of 28 eligible countries to expand further.  Another great question, thank you for sharing!

Q:  A few months ago I called Pujols in Chicago! They have the $ and could use the leadership.  Aaron (via Twitter)

MLB reports:  I seem to recall you saying that.  There were many pushes to start the offseason for Albert Pujols to join the Cubs.  At the time I wrote them off as impossible.  But with the Cubs new management team on board led by Theo Epstein, I am not quite as sure.  I still see Pujols back with the Cardinals.  He has spent his whole career in St. Louis and has roots now in Missouri.  At similar or equal money, I see him staying.  The more likely move for the Cubs is to pick up Prince Fielder.  I think the fit is better overall from an age perspective for Chicago.  But if there is any team that will be able to “woo” Pujols, it could very well be the Cubs.  The Cardinals faithful would be devastated if Pujols was to leave.  We shall see how this all plays out- but I give a 99.9% chance of Pujols staying put.

Q:  I’ve run out of patience with (Phil) Hughes.  David (via Twitter)

MLB reports:  I won’t dispute you David…and many Yankees fans would agree.  But not all has been bad about Phil Hughes.  He had a strong 2009 season pitching almost exclusively out of the pen, followed by an 18 win season in 2010.  Last year was an injury filled season for Hughes that never got on track.  Hughes has battled injuries and inconsistencies throughout his career.  The million dollar is whether Phil Hughes will ever be able to complete a full season healthy.  The Yankees have to decide ultimately if he is best suited to the rotation or bullpen.  While he has enjoyed success in both roles, his arm may not be ultimately be able to hold up the grind in the rotation. He is still young (25) and will not be a free agent until 2014.  The former 1st round pick from 2004 presents a huge dilemma for the Yankees.  Can he be counted to on to be a future ace?  That is unclear at best.  I am prepared to give Hughes until 2014 before passing final judgement.  If it were up to me, the Yankees should carry 6 starters with the hope that Hughes could become a strong #2 and at worst, a viable reliever in the pen.  Phil Hughes definitely deserves the opportunity to show his worth…just don’t count on him yet at this point.

Q:  Hope the Halos did not give away a young arm w/big upside (Chatwood) for a backup catcher (Iannetta)   John (via Twitter)

MLB reports:  We get to end today’s Ask the Reports with my favorite topics:  Angels’ catchers.  The Angels made an interesting move this week, trading former 1st round pick hurler Tyler Chatwood to the Rockies for catcher Chris Iannetta.  Looking at the numbers for Iannetta and Chatwood…it makes me wonder what the Angels were thinking in moving Mike Napoli before the 2011 season.  Let’s compare Napoli and Iannetta.  Napoli is a year and a half older…but about 100x the player.  I will point to a very important piece of evidence:  the home/road splits.  Both played in great hitter’s parks (Texas and Colorado respectively).  But on the road, we really get a true sense of each player.  Napoli hit more home runs on the road (17 to 13), had a higher batting average (.332 to .307) and maintained a .414 OBP and .663 SLG.  The point?  Mike Napoli is an effective hitter, no matter where he plays.  Had he received the same opportunity in Anaheim, the Angels would have ensured a top catcher for themselves and been able to keep Chatwood.  Iannetta, while younger, pales at the plate compared to Napoli.  In 2011, Iannetta hit a solid .301 at home, while only batting .172 on the road.  Iannetta also hit 10 home runs at home, while only 4 on the road.  On the road Iannetta drove in 16 RBIs (39 at home) and scored 15 runs (36 at home).  OBP was .419 at home (.321 on road) and SLG was .557 at home (.266 on road).  This is a small sample of one year, but Iannetta at home is another Mike Napoli…while on the road he becomes another Jeff Mathis.  I am a support of Iannetta, but in Colorado.  I am seeing another Vernon Wells blunder, of a hitter taken out of a hitters’ ballpark that cannot adjust to more difficult hitting conditions.  Iannetta’s bat does not appear to be a good mix with Angel Stadium.  In return for Iannetta, the Angels had to give up Chatwood, their 2nd round pick from 2008. With pitching being a premium in today’s game, it is sad that the Angels had to give up a strong viable arm that I projected as a likely #3 starter for a catcher that will likely not fill in well in their system.  The team already tried that least year, when it chose Mathis over Napoli.  What happened?  Both catchers were not far off defensively, but Napoli became one of the best hitting catchers in baseball.  The Angels hope they are getting the next Mike Napoli.  In truth they should have kept the original.  Now they will have Iannetta (Mathis clone) and Wells clogging up their batting order.  While I am left to continue scratching my head in disbelief.

(Editor’s Note:  Ironically just as this article was just published, the Angels just traded Jeff Mathis…to the Toronto Blue Jays for Brad Mills.  The same Jays that the Angels traded Mike Napoli to almost a year earlier for Vernon Wells.  The Jays would have been smart to hold onto Napoli and kept a prize hitting catcher for themselves who could also DH and play 1B.  Now the Angels take the other half of the Angels catching tandem as their new backup catcher.  Funny how everything comes full circle).

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Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports:  You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)

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