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Time Has Come For the Royals to Trade Soria

Tuesday November 15, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  With the free agency season in full swing, some teams may not be happy with the sticker prices on available players.  Especially when it comes to pitching, including closers.  Jonathan Papelbon recently grabbed $50 million from the Phillies and reports have Ryan Madson looking at a deal in the $40 million range.  These figures make existing closers signed to reasonable deals an attractive trade commodity, despite the amount of available relief pitchers on the market.  There may be a quantity of closers, but certainly not quality.  Outside of Mariano Rivera and Papelbon, there are few sure-fire closers currently in baseball.  Enter Joakim Soria of the Kansas City Royals.

A 2-time All-Star, Soria has put up some impressive numbers in his 5 seasons in Kansas City.  Two seasons of 40+ saves, Soria has a career 2.40 ERA and 1.043 WHIP.  Soria will only be 28 next year and could theoretically be a building block for the next few seasons in Kansas City.  However, closers are generally considered to be foundational players.  Soria is no exception.  2011 was his most difficult seasons in the majors, as he did save 28 games but put up a 4.03 ERA and 1.276 WHIP (all career worsts).  Soria is signed for $6 million this coming season and has 2 more team options at roughly $8 million per season.  The Royals are faced with a decision: hold onto their star closer, or cash in while his market is at its peak.

The Royals are on the way up.  No doubt about it.  Mike Moustakas, Erik Hosmer, Wil Myers, John Lamb and company are expected to come together at the same time to make the Royals the next powerhouse squad.  By my estimation, they should be World Series contenders by 2015.  But with a couple of more seasons of growing pains ahead, can they afford the luxury of Soria?  My argument is no.  Soria’s salary in 2012 is still considered a “deal”, but from 2013 go-forward at $8 million, the Royals would be wise to spend their salary dollars in other areas.  There are still holes to fill on the squad, including 1-2 more bats and starting pitching.  The team will also need to lock up some of its young star players early to avoid unaffordable contract demands down the road.  Joakim Soria can bring back a nice haul to fill needs and stock the team for a future championship.  The team needs to be realistic of where it is today, where it is going in the future and the players it needs to get there.

The Royals also have options to replace Soria.  Aaron Crow (if he is not moved into the rotation) and Tim Collins could all get a shot.  Luke Hochevar, who has been hot/cold during his career in the rotation may eventually settle into the bullpen.  Options are there.  Heck, the Royals plunked Soria from the Rule-5 draft and transformed him from a Padres outcast into a star closer.  With the risk of injury and ineffectiveness always hanging over closers, the Royals may be gambling if they hang onto Soria much longer.  Another season like 2011 could severely damage his trade value, while he could bring in a nice crop of 2-3 prospects if traded this offseason.  The Royals need to do some soul-searching and realize that Soria is worth more in a trade than on their roster.

Teams will surely line-up if Joakim Soria is made available.  The Blue Jays, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Angels, Tigers, Rangers, Nationals and Cardinals would all surely inquire as to his availability.   From all reports, the Yankees and Blue Jays are the strongest contenders to land the Royals closer.  Don’t get me wrong- I am a Joakim Soria fan.  I believe the kid is immensely talented and has the talent and determination to remain a top MLB closer for another decade (health permitting).  But on a losing ballclub that is rebuilding, Joakim Soria is a luxury that the Royals simply cannot afford.  If the team has to trade a Moustakas or Hosmer given their budget but retain Soria, that would be a big mistake in my estimation.  The team needs to build for 2015- not 2012.  This offseason represents a golden opportunity for the Royals to continue to replenish its roster and fill more holes.  The Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez was that type of step in the right direction.  If Melky was a Prince, it is time for the Royals to flip their King for a pair of Wild Cards.  It could prove to be their ultimate winning hand.

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

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

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Phillies Sign Papelbon Over Madson: The Stare Arrives in Philadelphia

Saturday November 12, 2011

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  The Philadelphia Phillies seemingly fooled everyone this week.  Earlier in the week, reports indicated that the team had locked up its incumbent closer, Ryan Madson for a 4-year, $44 million contract which could climb all the way up to a $57 million deal with an additional option year.  Reactions were for the most part negative, as the baseball world could not believe that the team would pay (overpay) for a reliever coming off his first season as a full-time closer by handing out one of the largest contracts ever to a non-starting pitcher.  At that money, people began to wonder why the Phillies did not seek out the best closer on the market and one of the best overall in the game, Jonathan Papelbon.  The Red Sox closer, after endless 1-year pacts with Boston was in his first free agency period in 2011.  But then something interesting happened.  The Madson deal, which required the approval of the team’s higher brass all of a sudden was delayed and then fell apart.  A couple of days later, Papelbon became a Philly!  At 4-years and $50 million, Jonathan Papelbon finally received the long-term deal he has craved all of these years and Philadelphia signed a lock-down closer.  But what happened?  How did the Phillies switch to Papelbon mid-stream after coming so far along in negotiations with Madson?

The marketing term for what the Phillies did is called a “bait and switch”, meant when a retailer will advertise a discounted product and will then offer you a higher priced replacement when you arrive at the location to find that the advertised good has mysteriously sold out.  Often, that discounted good was never actually available, but was a merely a ploy to get the consumer to first get to the store and secondly, buy a more expensive product.  In the case of the Philadelphia Phillies, I do not believe that the team ever planned on signing Ryan Madson to the reported high-end contract.  While being groomed to be a future for many seasons, the team was never completely sold on his true sustainability at the position.  While Madson received the occasional closing opportunities in his 8-year career leading up to 2011, he actually converted only 20 saves going into this season.  But something funny happened this season.  Madson became solid.  So solid, that he saved 32 games with a 2.37 ERA and 1.154 WHIP.  With Scott Boras as his agent, the Phillies knew that Madson would not come cheap.  But the Phillies faithful for the most part loved Madson and would mourn his departure.  The Phillies needed to secure themselves at the closer position while softening the blow of not signing Ryan Madson.  The team’s actions this week were a stroke of genius and the team played its cards perfectly.

The plan for 2011 was to have Brad Lidge close for 1 more season, with Ryan Madson as the set-up man and fill-in closer.  In the offseason, the Phillies were going to target Jonathan Papelbon and sign him to a  large pact.  But Lidge was injured and ineffective in 2011, forcing the Phillies to use Madson as their primary closer for most of the season.  The reliever that they were hoping to sign for a reasonable 3-years, $21-$24 million deals was about to cost them almost double to retain.  But how could the team sign another reliever and let their incumbent closer go?  Simple.  Propose a deal with Ryan Madson and float the scenario out to the public to record and evaluate the reaction of the public.  The possibility existed that the fans, writers and analysts would applaud the deal, in which case the Phillies could consider actually proceeding with it.  But in all likelihood, the team knew that the outcry would be against the deal.  By then pulling the Madson deal and reaching out to sign Papelbon, the approval rating would be through the roof.  It is almost the same as proposing a 20% tax hike and then only increasing taxes by 5%.  Throw out a worst-case scenario and set expectations low- then substitute a better plan and watch people jumping for joy.

The Phillies in my estimation used Ryan Madson as a pawn.  While Scott Boras has been the master for years at playing teams against one another to benefit the pocketbook of his clients, the Phillies in this case used Boras and Madson to get what they wanted.  If the Phillies had gone out right away at the start of free agency to sign Jonathan Papelbon, fans and critics would have blasted the team for overpaying and proposing that the team should have kept Ryan Madson at a hometown discount.  The Phillies were able to eliminate such sentiments by showing that Madson would have cost them top dollar to stay put.  At an additional $1.5 million per season for the same 4-year contract, the Phillies replaced a closer with 1 full year of closing experience with a closer (Papelbon) who is the same age (31), has 6 full years of full-time closing experience in one of baseball’s biggest and highest pressure markets (Boston) of 30+ saves per season, to go along with an almost perfect postseason resume.  The Phillies traded in a solid Buick for a Mercedes, with still plenty of mileage to be driven.

For those of you that may doubt the “conspiracy theory”, just take a close look at the Phillies rotation.  Since Spring Training, I have been calling for the Phillies to sign Papelbon.  The team has shown to seek out the best pitchers on the market and bring them on board.  Roy Halladay.  Cliff Lee.  Now Jonathan Papelbon.  When the Phillies go shopping for pitching, they do not shop in the bargain bin.  Aside from obtaining Mariano Rivera, the team signed the best available closer for their staff.  So while Ryan Madson would have been a nice luxury to keep on the staff for insurance and to set-up, the team knew it would be seeking Jonathan Papelbon all the way.  The plan would have worked to have both Papelbon and Madson on the team, had Madson not closed out so many games this past season.  As a middle reliever setting-up, his contract would have been affordable.  But an outstanding closing record in 2011 along with Scott Boras as his agent, meant that Madson was priced out of the Phillies budget.  With Papelbon set to come on board, there would be no room for Madson.

The Phillies faithful have to be pleased today.  While they will miss Ryan Madson, most will know that there was no guarantees he could duplicate his numbers over the life of a 4-5 year contract.  At the numbers that were tabled for him to stay in Philadelphia, the team by all accounts did the right thing to sign the superior Papelbon.  While he will cost the team its 2012 first-round pick, a pick should be recovered, along with a supplemental pick, when Madson is signed by another team.  The cost/benefit of this move was essentially a no-brainer.  The Phillies went with more of a sure-thing by signing Papelbon.  While there are no guarantees in baseball, especially with pitchers (arm problems) and especially closers (who can lose their jobs at a moment’s notice), Jonathan Papelbon is as money in the bank as they come.

A couple of last points that helped trigger the change of closers.  By continually signing 1-year deals in Boston, many expected Papelbon to bolt once he was eligible for free agency.  The team could not lock the player down to a long-term deal and with the max-exodus of players during this past offseason, it seemed that Papelbon was another candidate to seek a change of scenery.  But some people may not remember that not too long ago that Ryan Madson’s wife, Sarah, making negative comments on Phillies fans.  At the time, it seemed like a ticket out-of-town for Madson, but his success this season seemingly made the comments disappear.  Except that the Phillies brass did not forget and the publicity that surrounded the event at the time was one that likely set a chain reaction for the plan for Madson to leave at the end of the season.  Baseball is a game of short-term memories, but not for all.

When I floated the idea of a Jonathan Papelbon signing all season long, Phillies fans did not have one positive comment back to me.  Their fans, as well as most in baseball, had very negative things to say about Papelbon.  Outside of Boston it seems, many were unable to or refused to recognize his talent.  But while Papelbon was beloved in Boston until now, those sentiments will transfer over to Philadelphia by next season.  The stare, as it is known, will become one of the most famed times in Philadelphia Phillies history as the team and its fans get revved up watching Jonathan Papelbon close out games for the next 4-seasons.  There is a changing of the guard in Philadelphia.  The Phillies have Halladay, Lee and Hamels to start things off and now can rely on Papelbon to close them out.  The stare now makes its residence in the city of brotherly love.  Another World Series may not be far behind.

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

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Brewers and Cardinals Advance to 2011 NLCS, Plus Recap of Carpenter vs. Halladay

Saturday October 8, 2011

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  In what had been shaping up to be very tight league division series, MLB fans were treated to not one or two, but rather three game fives this year.  With the Tigers advancing last night to face the Rangers, it was time for the National League to decide its championship series competitors.  The Diamondbacks were in Milwaukee to face the Brewers, while the Phillies were at home to host the Cardinals.  Both games ended in on run leads, with the Cardinals and Brewers pulling out the wins.  Let’s recap the MLB action from Friday night:

 

St.Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies: NLDS Game Five

The best way that I can sum up this game is as follows.  Chris Carpenter was taking the mound, facing off against ex-Blue Jays teammate Roy Halladay.  This was a game that had a great deal of hype and buzz and excitement surrounding it.  Games of this nature usually end up disappointing.  I have seen all too often two great pitchers matchup, with one of the starters leaving early or getting hit hard.  This one was one of those games though that ended up exceeding expectations.  Carpenter won it, pitching a complete game shutout, three hitter, no walks and three strikeouts.  About as good of a performance as you will see in baseball, let a lone the playoffs.  Halladay on the other hand was just as strong, finishing with 8 IP, 6 hits allowed, 1 ER, 1 BB and 7 strikeouts.  Ryan Madson came in for a clean 9th inning, striking out a pair.  The only blemish for Halladay came in the first, when he gave up a leadoff triple to Rafael Furcal, who proceeded to score on a Skip Schumaker double.  An Albert Pujols intentional walk- otherwise, an almost perfect day as well for Halladay.  The Cardinals stranded more runners on base (7), while the Phillies only left 4 on base.  Carpenter did hit Chase Utley, but managed to complete the game unscathed.  Carpenter was very efficient in this outing, requiring only 110 pitches for the complete game.  Halladay on the other hand needed 126 pitches to get through six.  It is rare to get only one run in the 1st inning and to make the lead stick.  But Chris Carpenter did just that.  Now the Cardinals advance and continue their Cinderella run (blame the rally squirrel).  Given the importance of the game and intensity, you would be hard-pressed to find a better pitched baseball game.  Hats off to both starters, as each had an incredible outing last night.  But Carpenter was the better arm on this day and as a result, the Cardinals break through while the Phillies stun the baseball world by exiting the playoffs in the first round.   

Howard to have MRI:   After the game, the baseball world was buzzing about Ryan Howard.  Requiring help to get off the field, Howard was on crutches.  Reports indicate that he may have tore his Achilles tendon.  Howard will have an MRI today to confirm the severity of his injury.  This type of injury can typically take 6-9 months approximately of recovery time.  With the Phillies possibly losing their top star for a good portion of next season, things just back to worse for the one time heavy favorite to win the 2011 World Series.  Roy OswaltJimmy Rollins, Ryan Madson may all not be back, and Cole Hamels also has an impending free agent status that will need to be dealt with.  For a team that was expected to do so much, greater uncertainly lies ahead as the team attempts to recover and figure out what went wrong.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Five

 The second battle of the aces of the day featured Yovani Gallardo opposing Ian Kennedy.  Both pitchers did their jobs in this one, going six inning apiece.   Kennedy giving up 2 runs on 5 hits, Gallardo 1 run on 6 hits.  Both walked 2 and struck out 5.  Gallardo’s only blemish on the day was a solo home run to Justin Upon in the 3rd.  The Brewers led this one from the 6th on, until the 9th.  Saito and Rodriguez each earned holds with a clean inning of work each.  With closer John Axford on to pitch the 9th, he gave up the tying run to send this one to the 10th.  Axford ended up pitching 2 innings for the win.  After setup man David Hernandez pitched 2 clean innings, it was up to closer J.J. Putz to hold the Brewers in check in the 10th.  The unlikely hero was Nyjer Morgan, who got the game-winning hit to score Carlos Gomez to send the Brewers to a 3-2 win and a meeting with the Cardinals in the NLCS.  While the Diamondbacks were the feel-good team of this year’s playoffs, the clock struck midnight on them.  The Brewers, stocked to make a run this year, fulfill a part of their destiny by advancing.  The Diamondbacks go home feeling good about themselves.  A team that was expected to continued rebuilding grouped together, and made a run that few if any in the baseball world could have expected.  Kirk Gibson and his boys should proud when reflecting their on season.

The Cardinals are Flying in:  The Brewers get to stay home for game one of their NLCS matchup with the Cardinals.  Zack Greinke is set to go for the Brewers, with the Cardinals starter still TBD.  The Brewers are the favored squad, with their balance of sluggers, top starting pitching and lockdown bullpen.  The Cardinals now take on the role of the Diamondbacks, the underdogs that everyone is rooting for.  With the Rally Squirrel being the talk of the town (don’t ask…), do the Cardinals have the firepower to match up with the powerful Brewers?  This series will come down to managing.  Tony LaRussa vs. Ron Roenicke.  While Roenicke has an extensive coaching resume, he is still a fairly raw manager.  LaRussa is as crafty as they come and my money is on St. Louis making a return trip to the World Series.  The Cardinals have a strong offense, led by Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.  The team has received good to great starting pitching and their bullpen gets the job done.  The Brewers are the favorites on paper.  I see this one going the full seven games, with the Cardinals moving on to face the Rangers in the World Series.  The road to the World Series begins tonight in Arlington, as Detroit and Justin Verlander take on C.J. Wilson and the Rangers.  A great postseason so far, that only promises to get better.

 

 

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Tigers advance to ALCS, Yankees Go Home and Ventura Named White Sox Manager

Friday October 7, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  Thursday was an exciting day in the world of Major League Baseball.  The Detroit Tigers were set to face-off against the Yankees in New York.  Game five of their ALDS series, all tied up 2-2.  Winner moves on to face the Texas Rangers, loser goes home.  The Yankees has their AL ROY candidate Ivan Nova on the mound, with the Tigers relying on Doug Fister.  In the wake of the only game on Thursday’s schedule, Kenny Williams and the Chicago White Sox shocked the baseball world by naming Robin Ventura their new manager.   A wild and crazy day indeed.

 

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Five

 The highly anticipating pitching matchup never took place in this one.  Fister did his part for the Tigers, tossing 5 innings, giving up 5 hits, 1 ER, 2 walks while striking out 5.  Max Scherzer and Joaquin Benoit earned holds while Jose Valverde earned the save with a lockdown 1-2-3 9th inning.  Ivan Nova lasted only 2 innings, giving up 2 runs (back to back solo home runs in the first to Don Kelly and Delmon Young), while allowing 3 hits and striking out 3.  Not taking any chances, Joe Girardi was active with his bullpen all night, sending out Phil Hughes, Boone Logan, C.C. Sabathia, Rafael Soriano, Dave Robertson and Mariano Rivera.  This game boiled down to execution and squeaking out runs.

The Tigers, underdogs going into the series, were able to pull out a 3-2 win.  Fister got the win while Nova took the loss.  Sabathia, ironically enough, ended up giving up allowing the game winning run in the 7th.  Despite getting more hits than the Tigers (10-8), the Yankees left a whopping 20 men on base last night, while the Tigers left 13.   The Tigers did lose Delmon Young during the game to injury (apparent oblique strain), making his status for the immediate future uncertain.  Young, along with Fister, were the difference makers in this game.  Both mid-season acquisitions by GM Dave Dombrowski, helped the Tigers win the Central and advance to the ALCS.  Brian Cashman and the Yankees stood pat at the trade deadline, and were left standing in the wings once again in the playoffs. 

The game marked the likely end of Jorge Posada‘s Yankee (and possibly major league) career.  The future hall-of-famer endured his toughest year ever in the majors.  But for all his troubles in the regular season, Posada ended up shining in this year’s playoffs- finishing with a .429 average.  The game also possibly marked the last game of C.C. Sabathia’s tenure in New York.  With his opt-out clause looming this off-season, there is a chance that Sabathia may jump ship to another team.  Highly unlikely, given his apparent love for New York and the Yankees dire need for his arm.  But as Alex Rodriguez proved yet again this year (.111 AVG in the playoffs, with 3 strikeout on the night, including the game ending at-bat), big contracts do not necessarily guarantee victories.  With 6 years and approximately $143 million left on the books (excluding incentives), the Yankees will likely be eating A-Rod pie for some time to come.

With this game in the books, questions now centre on the immediate future of each team.  The Tigers move on to the ALCS, to face the Texas Rangers.  This will be an exciting series and a big challenge for the Tigers.  With the Texas-sized offense in place, the Tigers’ pitching staff (led by AL pitching triple crown winner and likely Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander and Fister) will need to be stellar.  Both teams have strong bullpens that will be relied upon heavily in the series.  This series will boil down to whether the Tigers offense can muster enough runs to compete with Texas, and on the same token, how well the Texas rotation can contain Detroit.  The Tigers have enjoyed a great run to-date, but my crystal ball is showing a Texas return trip to the World Series.  One year wiser and more experienced, Ron Washington’s team should be able to win this out in six games.  But keep one thing in mind:  whenever Jim Leyland is involved, anything can happen.  The Tigers made it this far for a reason and in a short series…. you never know. 

 

Robin Ventura Named Chicago White Sox Manager

The talk of the day yesterday was the White Sox big announcement.  GM Kenny Williams announced that the team had hired former third baseman, Robin Ventura as the White Sox new manager.  Ventura, 44, spent 10 years with the White Sox as a player.  Most recently he was retained by the team as a “Special Advisor”.  Now, Ventura with no managerial experience to his resume, takes over control of the team on the field.  Many names were thrown around as possible candidates, including former Red Sox skipper Terry Francona, former players and currently employed coaches Sandy Alomar Jr. and Dave Martinez, as well as hall of famer and current minor league manager Ryne Sandberg.  Personally, I expected the White Sox to hire Martinez or Sandberg.  Given the success of the Rays, Martinez as bench coach to manager Joe Maddon is highly considered in the game.  Sandberg, on the other hand, has a proven track record managing in the minors and has strong ties to Chicago (obviously).  Why then the choice of the inexperienced Ventura?

A couple of reasons come to mind.  Firstly, the White Sox endured a very difficult 2011 season in missing the playoffs, despite heavy preseason expectations.  Nothing distracts a fan base better than brining in a well known and loved name.  Ventura was one of the most popular White Sox players in his day, and his hire at some level will help appease the fans.  As well, a shocking signing of this nature has an effective way of masking the results of the season gone by, as well as steering the press to focus on 2012 and how Ventura will perform as a manager, rather than analyze the season that had just been completed.  A stroke of genius in my book.  Another reason to consider, which is a guess on my part, is that Williams is not interested in hiring a big and powerful name that will overshadow him.  After enduring years of arguments and power struggles with former manager Ozzie Guillen, Williams was looking for a manager that would first and foremost listen to him and know his role in the organization.  While Ryne Sandberg is my book is a far more qualified individual for the job, his stature in the game (as well as Chicago) would have relegated Williams to the back seat, had Ryno been named the new White Sox manager. 

The ironic part is that while hiring Ventura clearly solidifies Kenny William’s place in the White Sox food chain, it may have the strongest effect of sweeping him out of town soon.  The lustre of the White Sox 2005 World Series championship has long faded.  With a large payroll and unsuccessful ballclub, it is “put up or shut up” time for Williams and the White Sox.  If the team gets off to a slow start, and/or has another failed campaign, I fully expect Kenny Williams to be reassigned or dismissed from his post.  If results on the field are the most important factor for Williams to keep his job, then he should have looked for the best candidate to guide his team.  The Ventura signing may make White Sox fans feel all soft and cuddly at the onset.  But losing games will change that in a hurry.  With Frank Thomas being discussed as a possible candidate for a role on the squad, the 2012 White Sox coaching staff may look like a reunion from years gone by.  I enjoyed watching Ventura as a player and had he been groomed as a coach for this position, perhaps he would have been prepared to succeed.  But coming in raw, the new manager will have to learn quickly on the job.  A move made by Williams’ ego, but not his sensibility in my estimation. 

 

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap of Wednesday October 5th

Thursday October 6, 2011

 

 

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  Wednesday was a fun night of playoff baseball.  We saw two close games for teams on the verge of elimination, and unusual players stepping up to take the spotlight and assist their team to victory.

Philadelphia Phillies at St.Louis Cardinals: NLDS Game Four

Going into the game, I thought that the superior team, the Phillies, would win and advance to the ALCS.  However, in baseball the best team doesn’t always win.  What the Cardinals showed tonight is that they weren’t ready to have their season come to an end.  They’ve come so far this year and they weren’t going to go home without a good fight.  What was impressive to me is how clean of a ballgame they played.  Nobody wanted to make a mistake, as evidenced by the Cardinals zero errors.  They just seemed upbeat and confident that they’d win.

The Phillies got off to a fast start in the top of the first with a double, followed by a triple, followed by a single.  However, Lance Berkman came through in the bottom of the inning with a two out RBI double.  Edwin Jackson turned in an impressive performance going six innings while only giving up two runs.  Jackson only gave up two hits, singles, after the big first inning.  In the fourth inning, Oswalt walked Berkman then hit Matt Holliday.  To make things worse, David Freese crushed a one out double down into the left field corner to put the Cardinals up 3-2.  You could tell Oswalt didn’t have his best stuff tonight.  Sometimes pitchers have those days where it looks like they are only seventy percent of what they should be.  Well, Oswalt had one of those days.

Then, in the fifth inning something magical happened.  If you missed it, on Tuesday a squirrel ran across the field at Busch Stadium in St.Louis.  Well today, either the same squirrel or one of his relatives made another unwelcome appearance.  This time, the squirrel actually ran across home plate during Skip Schumaker‘s at bat.  When asked about the incident after the game, Charlie Manuel had this to say,” “There’s not too much I can do about a squirrel running across the field, I don’t know what I can do about that. Of course, being from the south and being a squirrel hunter, if I had a gun there, might have done something. I’m a pretty good shot.”  Hopefully, the Busch Stadium squirrel family will make a surprise appearance Friday in Philadelphia, where most likely, they’ll be booed.

Even after his RBI double, David Freese’s day wasn’t done yet.  In the bottom of the sixth, Freese got a 0-1 fastball, which he belted to center field to add two more runs to the Cardinals lead.  Guess you could say he really iced the Phillies chances, eh? Anyone?  Moving on, the Phillies scored one more run in the eighth off of a Fernando Salas wild pitch but the Cards held on for a 5-3 win.  The series moves back to Philly for Game 5 Friday at 8:30 PM ET.  Roy Halladay takes the mound against Chris Carpenter tomorrow in a one of the better pitching faceoffs in baseball.  It’s sure to be an exciting, pressure packed game which will determine which team will continue their season in the NLCS.

Milwaukee Brewers at Arizona Diamondbacks: NLDS Game Four

Out of all of the first round matchups this year, there’s no doubt that this one has been my favorite.  Both teams play with such crazy energy and enthusiasm unmatched by any other two teams.   If you like watching offense, this was the game for you.  These teams have some pretty interesting stories of how they got to this point in the playoffs, but I can’t put enough emphasize on much fun these teams are to watch.  Both teams have a player the fans love, in Nyjer Morgan and Ryan Roberts, and great position players to build their team around.

The Brewers led things off with a Ryan Braun RBI double in the top half of the first.  When the Diamondbacks came up to bat, everything went wrong for Randy Wolf.  He loaded up the bases and with two outs, Ryan Roberts A.K.A Tatman poked a grand slam just over the left field fence.  Then the next at-bat, on a 3-1 pitch, Chris Young homered.  The rest of the game was a slugfest, with D-Backs players crushing the Brewers pitchers.  Aaron Hill homered and Colin Cowgill brought in two runs with a single.  Chris Young finished 2 for 3, with 2 HR, 3 RBI, and 1 BB.  In my opinion, the hero of the game was Ryan Roberts.  His grand slam gave the D-Backs an early lead and their pitchers a nice cushion to work with.  Even though the Brewers scored six runs, it wasn’t enough to get the win.  Final score: D-Backs: 10 Brewers: 6.  The series is tied up 2-2 and will head back to Milwaukee where Yovani Gallardo and Ian Kennedy will face off in a battle of two of the game’s top righties.  Game time on Friday at 5:00 PM ET.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter.***

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Game 162 and Beyond – Can MLB Top That?

September 29, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): In order to write all of this, I needed to step away from my TV and computer, take a deep breath, and sleep for a while.  The excitement of last night was almost too much for my fragile heart to bear, so the time away to clear my head was necessary.

I find myself repeating, “What just happened??” in my head.  What happened last night was unfathomable.  Not only were there two teams in each league tied for the Wild Card, but both teams that had been leading, suffered epic failures along the way.  Go back to September 1, and the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  The Atlanta Braves held an 8.5 game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. Both teams chances of reaching the postseason were over 99%.  Nobody could have actually predicted seriously at that time, that both the Cards and Rays would win the Wild Card on the final day of the regular season.  Especially not the way that the AL Wild Card was eventually decided.

The Rays started David Price against the Yankees.  Sounded promising enough, until Price gave up 6 runs in 4 innings.  The game was pretty much over with the score at 7-0 in the Rays’ half of the 8th inning.  3 runs plated in the bottom of the 8th, then Evan Longoria took over the game.  A 3-run home run put them within one run, and Tropicana Field exploded.  Then with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th, Rays manager Joe Maddon made one of the gutsiest calls I have ever seen: pinch hit with Dan Johnson.  Johnson was 9 for 90 this season.  He hadn’t gotten a hit since April.  He had 36 hits since 2008.  With one swing of the bat, the pandemonium levels in Florida had never been so high.  Then, as if he hadn’t done enough already, Longoria blasted another home run, this one of the walk-off variety that would vault the Rays to the postseason.

What hasn’t been said about Boston and their collapse? It has been covered by so many people from so many angles.  You could blame the whole organization from top to bottom, and you wouldn’t be wrong.  What happened was an epic collapse, capped off by a 2 out rally by the Baltimore Orioles of all teams in the bottom of the 9th inning of game 162.  The Orioles had nothing to play for but pride, and the love of the game.  Robert Andino’s walk-off single to win the ball game will be remembered by Boston fans for years to come.

Hunter Pence hit a bloop-ish 120 ft infield single to win it for the Phillies over the Braves.  In the 13th inning.  After Craig Kimbrel, the super rookie, blew a lead in the 9th inning.  The game saw the Phillies march out nine pitchers and the Braves used 8, including Scott Linebrink, who eventually gave up the winning run in the 13th.

Chris Carpenter twirled a gem for the Cardinals, a 2 hit shutout with 11 strikeouts and 1 walk against the Astros.  This performance sealed at the very least a one-game playoff game against the Braves had they won.

Wow what a night.

Now onto LDS matchups:

Rays vs. Rangers

The Rays come in with unlimited momentum, and a pitching staff that is so deep, that manager Joe Maddon is having a difficult time naming the starter for game 1.  While Matt Moore seems to be the obvious choice to me, Jeff Niemann or Wade Davis could be viable options as well.**  James Shields would have to go on short rest, and Price pitched last night, so one of the other three will be chosen to go against C.J. Wilson and a Rangers offense that is ready to take on all comers.  Shields will go game 2 and Price go the 3rd.  Beyond that is a toss-up.  For the Rangers, Wilson will go Game 1, Derek Holland game 2, and still undetermined the rest of the way.

Adrian Beltre had a phenomenal September, earning AL Player of the month, and Mike Napoli has been dominant all year, bashing home runs all over the field.  Michael Young worked his way into the MVP race after a tumultuous offseason that saw him switch positions yet again.  Josh Hamilton is as dangerous as ever, and Nelson Cruz and Ian Kinsler are still hitting home runs at a high rate.  Kinsler actually became only the third 2nd baseman to join the 30-30 club, with 32 HR and 30 SB.  The Rays may not have the prodigious bombers that the Rangers have, but they have athletic, smart ballplayers that never say die.  They ultimately seem like a team of destiny, and I will not discount the fact that they may have the best manager in all of baseball at the helm.

** Note: Matt Moore has been named the starter for game 1.

Rays in 4

Yankees vs. Tigers

So the Yankees have the highest payroll in baseball, and the Tigers have the 10th, about $100,000 between them.  Should be easy, right? Yankees should take this series in 3 games.  Wrong.  Detroit has one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball in 2011 in Justin Verlander, who should win the Cy Young vote unanimously.  He should also garner serious MVP interest.  Against him will be CC Sabathia, who has been one of the best starting pitchers in baseball the last 7 or 8 years.  Doug Fister was brought in to shore up a shaky Tigers rotation, and with Max Scherzer, the Tigers look like they have a pretty decent chance.  Behind Sabathia will be rookie Ivan Nova, who I am not sold on, and after him is Freddy Garcia, who is having a fine year, but is nowhere near the pitcher he used to be.

Robinson Cano has been his usual stellar self playing 2nd base for the Yankees, but there were a lot of subpar seasons by other Yankees.  Derek Jeter was better than last year, A-Rod was almost nonexistent for a lot of the season, and aside from Curtis Granderson, the lineup struggled to find consistency.  The Posada soap opera continues, but giving Jesus Montero more at bats needs to happen.  The kid can swing it.  The Tigers have another MVP candidate in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez has been stellar, and they have a young kid behind the plate named Alex Avila who could be in line for a Silver Slugger award.  The Tigers are younger, and hungrier to win, but the Yankees have more overall talent.  Even if their roster is aging, and this one should go down to the final out.

Tigers in 5

Diamondbacks vs. Brewers

The two best managers in the NL this year; Kirk Gibson of the DBacks and Ron Roenicke of the Brewers square off in this ultimately tight series.  Arizona did it this year with a cast of relative nobodies and no real superstar other than Justin Upton.  The Brewers have Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, Zack Greinke, John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez.  They have star power up and down the lineup and rotation, and they have a great fan base.

Ian Kennedy may be a Cy Young candidate, but the Brewers have more depth in their rotation.  Yovani Gallardo will oppose him in game 1, followed by Shaun Marcum and Greinke, who will be opposed by Josh Collmenter and Daniel Hudson.  The Brewers also have the dominant back-end of the bullpen in K-Rod and John Axford, who was 46 for 48 in save opportunities.

Brewers in 5

Cardinals vs. Phillies

Prince Fielder just missed his 11th straight season of .300/ 30 HR/ 100RBI.  He hit .299 with 37 home runs and 99 RBI.  The cards are not just a one trick pony, however, as Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, and Yadier Molina have been stellar all season long.  If they can get solid contributions from their secondary players they could make the series interesting.  The Phillies, like the Brewers, have tremendous star power in Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.  Not to mention one of the best deals of the year in Hunter Pence.  They have a veteran presence filled with guys who have been to the postseason five years in a row, and have the ability to hit any team’s pitching.

If you ask anyone who knows anything about baseball what team has the best pitching, the unanimous decision would go to the Phillies. The 4 Aces look to lock up Philly’s second World Series in the last 4 seasons.  Led by Roy Halladay, or Cliff Lee, or Cole Hamels, every team in the postseason should be scared.  It is not very often that a team could have 3 pitchers in the top 5 for the Cy Young Award, but it could happen this year.  Roy Oswalt will pitch game 4 if necessary.   Tony La Russa has decided to open the series with veteran Kyle Lohse, which seems asinine.  Edwin Jackson will go Game 2 and Chris Carpenter game 3.  Jaime Garcia, who could be their most talented pitcher, will throw game 4 if necessary.

Phillies in 4

All 4 series should play pretty close, and the series I am most excited to watch is Arizona vs. Milwaukee.  If Game 162 was any indication of what is to come of the postseason this year, then everyone needs to grab their popcorn and beverages, get bunkered down, and get ready for a long, gruelling, exciting month of baseball. 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Rob Bland.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Rob on Twitter.***

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox , click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

2011 MLB All-Star Game Recap: National League Defeats the American League for 2nd Year in a Row

Wednesday July 13, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern Candidate for MLB Reports):  This year’s edition of the Midsummer Classic, the 2011 MLB All-Star Game, had a record-setting vote-getter.  Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays received over 7.4 million votes in fan voting.  This game was said to have lost some of its lustre due to the amount of players who elected not to participate.  A total of eight players that were voted in by fans or chosen by coaches dropped out due to injury, timing or just plain wanting to rest.  For the American League, David Price (TB), Derek Jeter (NYY), Mariano Rivera (NYY), Alex Rodriguez (NYY) and  Jon Lester (BOS) all withdrew due to various ailments and injuries.  Chipper Jones (ATL), Jose Reyes (NYM), and Placido Polanco (PHI) were the players who bowed out in the National League.  One of Major League Baseball’s rules pertaining to eligibility for pitchers is that they must not start on the Sunday prior to the game.  Due to this rule, CC Sabathia (NYY), James Shields (TB), Justin Verlander (DET), Felix Hernandez (SEA), Cole Hamels (PHI), and Matt Cain (SF) were ruled ineligible and unable to participate in the game.

Surely not having Price, Sabathia, Shields, Verlander, Hernandez and Rivera hurt the AL.  Although he has had an impressive start to the season, CJ Wilson (TEX) probably should not have been pitching when he gave up the 3-run home run to Prince Fielder (MIL).  It easily could have been one of those more accomplished aces as mentioned.  However, that is the way it turned out, as the National League took advantage early and defeated the American League by a score of 5-1.  The MVP of the game was Fielder, because of his huge home run that put the NL on top early and as it turned out, for good.

My pick for MVP was Roy Halladay (PHI), as he started for the National League and was dominant as only the Doc can be.  He faced the minimum six batters over two innings, including Curtis Granderson (NYY), Adrian Gonzalez (BOS) and Jose Bautista (TOR); all potential MVP candidates.  Halladay managed to throw only 19 pitches as part of his historical pitching performance.

In the 2nd inning, the defensive play of the game occurred when Brian McCann (ATL) hit a towering flyball in foul territory that Bautista caught as he slid into the wall.  Aside from being one of the top home run hitters in baseall, Bautista is also an accomplished fielder who is capable of winning a gold glove at either third base or right field.

The scoring in the game started in the top of the 4th inning, when Adrian Gonzalez blasted a Cliff Lee (PHI) cutter over the right center field wall for a solo blast.  The AL followed with three straight singles, the last of which was off Tyler Clippard (WAS).  Hunter Pence fielded the ball and threw a laser to the plate to catch Bautista who tried to score from second for the third out.  In the bottom of the inning, Carlos Beltran (NYM) and Matt Kemp (LAD) hit singles to set up Fielder`s massive bomb.

Jordan Walden (LAA), another player who probably didn`t deserve to play as much as the other big name starters, began to light up the radar gun last night, hitting 100 mph on his first four fastballs.  Starlin Castro (CHC) came in to pinch run at first base after Troy Tulowitzki (COL) hit a leadoff single.  Castro proceeded to immediately steal second and third base.  He then set up another play at the plate, where Walden bare handed a weak ground ball by Rickie Weeks (MIL) and threw Castro out.  Weeks stole second and came around to score when Andre Ethier (LAD) hit a single to right field, making the score 4-1.

The scoring continued in the bottom of the seventh inning when Pablo Sandoval (SF) hit a ground rule double over the wall in the left field corner.  This scored Hunter Pence (HOU) after his leadoff single and a passed ball that allowed him to move to second base, and eventually score.

Fan favorite Brian Wilson (SF) came in the top of the nineth inning with runners on second and third.  A fly out and ground out later, and the game was in the books.  Make the final score 5-1, as the National League wins for the All-Star Game for the second year in a row and secures home field advantage for its league in the up coming World Series in the fall.

This year`s All-Star Festivities were enjoyed by so many fans, and continually impressed me.  I have had a great time covering the 2011 All-Star Game, everything from the Futures Game, Home Run Derby and of course,  the All-Star Game itself.  With Major League Baseball now entering the dog days of summer and the secon half of the season, it is time to speculate on trades and the calling up of prospects.  Pure heaven for this baseball writer! 

 

***EDITOR’S NOTE:  With Chase Field still buzzing, the trade market has already begun.  The Milwaukee Brewers announced right after the game taht they had acquired closer Francisco Rodriguez and cash considerations from the New York Mets for two players to be named later.  With the Brewers acquiring Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum in the offseason, clearly Milwaukee is going for it.  Will be interesting to see if Brewers allow K-Rod’s $17.5 million option to vest for 2012, which is based on number of games finished in 2011.  If K-Rod finishes 55 games, the option will vest.  As he has already finsihed 34 this season, so the option could vest depending on how the Brewers use K-Rod and how close they remain to a playoff berth.  It will be interesting to see what prospects go from Milwaukee to New York.  Long-term this deal could hurt Milwaukee depending on which top prospects they give up.  But in the short-term, this deal will make the Brewers’ fanbase happy and their slugging free agent to be, Prince Fielder, may have more thinking to do before selecting his new team for 2012.  The ground work has been set with respect to the trade market.  Now we will see if the K-Rod deal has indeed open the trading floodgates for the rest of baseball. ***

 

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
American 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 6 0
National 0 0 0 3 1 0 1 0 - 5 9 2

W: T. Clippard

L: C. Wilson

S: B. Wilson

 

National All-Stars

Hitters AB R H RBI BB SO #P AVG OBP SLG
R Weeks 2B 3 1 0 0 0 1 12 .000 .000 .000
B Phillips 2B
1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
C Beltran DH 2 1 1 0 0 1 7 .500 .500 .500
a-A Ethier PH-DH
1 0 1 1 0 0 8 1.000 1.000 1.000
b-G Sanchez PH-DH
1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
M Kemp CF 2 1 1 0 1 0 15 .500 .667 .500
A McCutchen CF
1 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
P Fielder 1B 2 1 1 3 0 0 6 .500 .500 2.000
J Votto 1B
2 0 0 0 0 1 9 .000 .000 .000
B McCann C 2 0 0 0 0 0 8 .000 .000 .000
Y Molina C
1 0 1 0 0 0 1 1.000 1.000 2.000
c-J Bruce PH-RF
1 0 0 0 0 1 6 .000 .000 .000
L Berkman RF 1 0 1 0 0 0 3 1.000 1.000 1.000
J Upton RF
2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
M Montero C
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000
M Holliday LF 1 0 0 0 0 1 7 .000 .000 .000
H Pence LF
2 1 1 0 0 1 10 .500 .500 .500
T Tulowitzki SS 2 0 1 0 0 0 5 .500 .500 .500
S Castro PR-SS
1 0 0 0 0 1 3 .000 .000 .000
S Rolen 3B 2 0 0 0 0 2 8 .000 .000 .000
P Sandoval 3B
1 0 1 1 0 0 6 1.000 1.000 2.000
Totals 31 5 9 5 1 9 126      
a-singled to right for C Beltran in the 5th
b-popped out to second for A Ethier in the 7th
c-struck out looking for Y Molina in the 8th
BATTING
2B: Y Molina (1, C Perez); P Sandoval (1, B League)
HR: P Fielder (1, 4th inning off C Wilson 2 on, 0 Out)
RBI: P Fielder 3 (3), A Ethier (1), P Sandoval (1)
2-out RBI: A Ethier
All-Stars RISP: 3-8 (P Fielder 1-1, J Upton 0-1, S Rolen 0-1, B Phillips 0-1, R Weeks 0-1, A Ethier 1-1, G Sanchez 0-1, P Sandoval 1-1)
Team LOB: 3
BASERUNNING
SB: S Castro 2 (2, 2nd base off J Walden/A Avila, 3rd base off J Walden/A Avila); R Weeks (1, 2nd base off J Walden/A Avila)
CS: L Berkman (1, 2nd base by D Robertson/A Avila)
FIELDING
E: S Castro (1, throw); J Bruce (1, throw)
Outfield Assist: H Pence (J Bautista at Home).
 

National All-Stars

Pitchers IP  H  R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
R Halladay 2.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 19-14 0.00
C Lee 1.2 3 1 1 0 0 1 25-16 5.40
T Clippard
(W)
0.1 1 0 0 0 0 0 3-3 0.00
C Kershaw
(H)
1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 8-6 0.00
J Jurrjens
(H)
1.2 1 0 0 0 1 0 23-15 0.00
C Kimbrel
(H)
0.1 0 0 0 1 0 0 14-8 0.00
J Venters 0.2 0 0 0 0 1 0 4-4 0.00
H Bell 0.1 0 0 0 0 0 0 5-2 0.00
J Hanrahan 0.1 1 0 0 0 1 0 14-9 0.00
B Wilson
(S)
0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 7-5 0.00
Totals 9.0 6 1 1 1 5 1 122-82  
PITCHING
First-pitch strikes/Batters faced: R Halladay 4/6; C Lee 4/8; T Clippard 1/1; C Kershaw 1/3; J Jurrjens 5/6; C Kimbrel 0/2; J Venters 2/2; H Bell 0/1; J Hanrahan 1/3; B Wilson 2/2
Called strikes-Swinging strikes-Foul balls-In Play strikes: R Halladay 4-3-2-5; C Lee 4-1-3-8; T Clippard 1-1-0-1; C Kershaw 1-1-2-2; J Jurrjens 3-5-3-4; C Kimbrel 1-2-4-1; J Venters 1-2-0-1; H Bell 1-0-0-1; J Hanrahan 1-2-4-2; B Wilson 1-1-1-2
Ground Balls-Fly Balls: R Halladay 3-2; C Lee 4-1; T Clippard 0-0; C Kershaw 2-0; J Jurrjens 2-2; C Kimbrel 1-0; J Venters 1-0; H Bell 0-1; J Hanrahan 0-0; B Wilson 1-1
Game Scores: R Halladay 57
 

American All-Stars

Hitters AB R H RBI BB SO #P AVG OBP SLG
C Granderson CF 2 0 0 0 0 0 3 .000 .000 .000
J Ellsbury CF
2 0 0 0 0 2 8 .000 .000 .000
A Cabrera SS 2 0 0 0 0 1 6 .000 .000 .000
J Peralta SS
2 0 0 0 0 0 8 .000 .000 .000
A Gonzalez 1B 2 1 1 1 0 0 6 .500 .500 2.000
M Cabrera 1B
1 0 0 0 0 0 5 .000 .000 .000
M Young 3B
1 0 0 0 0 1 5 .000 .000 .000
J Bautista RF 2 0 1 0 0 0 5 .500 .500 .500
C Quentin RF
2 0 0 0 0 0 8 .000 .000 .000
J Hamilton LF 2 0 1 0 0 0 4 .500 .500 .500
M Joyce LF
2 0 1 0 0 0 7 .500 .500 .500
A Beltre 3B 2 0 1 0 0 0 10 .500 .500 .500
K Youkilis 3B
1 0 1 0 0 0 4 1.000 1.000 1.000
M Cuddyer 1B
1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000
D Ortiz DH 2 0 0 0 0 1 10 .000 .000 .000
a-P Konerko PH-DH
1 0 0 0 1 0 13 .000 .500 .000
R Cano 2B 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 .000 .000 .000
H Kendrick 2B
1 0 0 0 0 0 7 .000 .000 .000
A Avila C 2 0 0 0 0 0 7 .000 .000 .000
M Wieters C
1 0 0 0 0 0 1 .000 .000 .000
Totals 33 1 6 1 1 5 122      
a-walked for D Ortiz in the 7th
BATTING
HR: A Gonzalez (1, 4th inning off C Lee 0 on, 2 Out)
RBI: A Gonzalez (1)
2-out RBI: A Gonzalez
All-Stars RISP: 2-5 (M Joyce 1-1, A Beltre 1-1, H Kendrick 0-1, M Cuddyer 0-1, P Konerko 0-1)
Team LOB: 6
FIELDING
DP: 1 (A Avila-R Cano).
PB: M Wieters.
Outfield Assist: J Bautista (A Ethier at 2nd base).
 

American All-Stars

Pitchers IP  H  R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
J Weaver 1.0 0 0 0 1 1 0 14-8 0.00
D Robertson 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 14-7 0.00
M Pineda 1.0 0 0 0 0 2 0 10-8 0.00
C Wilson
(L)
1.0 3 3 3 0 1 1 22-14 27.00
J Walden 1.0 2 1 1 0 1 0 20-13 9.00
C Perez 1.0 1 0 0 0 1 0 15-9 0.00
B League 1.0 2 1 1 0 1 0 19-13 9.00
A Ogando 0.2 0 0 0 0 0 0 6-5 0.00
G Gonzalez 0.1 0 0 0 0 1 0 6-3 0.00
Totals 8.0 9 5 5 1 9 1 126-80  
PITCHING
First-pitch strikes/Batters faced: J Weaver 4/4; D Robertson 1/3; M Pineda 3/3; C Wilson 3/6; J Walden 2/4; C Perez 2/4; B League 3/5; A Ogando 2/2; G Gonzalez 1/1
Called strikes-Swinging strikes-Foul balls-In Play strikes: J Weaver 3-3-0-2; D Robertson 2-1-3-1; M Pineda 3-3-1-1; C Wilson 4-2-4-4; J Walden 2-3-5-3; C Perez 2-2-2-3; B League 1-4-4-4; A Ogando 2-0-1-2; G Gonzalez 2-1-0-0
Ground Balls-Fly Balls: J Weaver 1-1; D Robertson 0-1; M Pineda 0-1; C Wilson 0-2; J Walden 1-0; C Perez 0-2; B League 0-2; A Ogando 2-0; G Gonzalez 0-0
Game Scores: J Weaver 53

 

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the All-Star Game.  You can follow Rob on Twitter.***

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook .  To subscribe to our website and have the daily Reports sent directly to your inbox, click here and follow the link at the top of our homepage.

Jeter vs. Swisher: Love and Baseball – Friday Faceoff

MLB reports:  This week’s edition of the Friday Faceoff was originally scheduled to be a battle between the Cincinnati Reds top catching prospects or two of the Oakland A’s mega hitting prospects.  We get many requests for stories and updates on prospects on MLB reports and try to accommodate whenever we can.  We love the MLB stories but stories of up and coming players always carries a soft spot for us.  But then an e-mail came through this morning from Jenny in Texas as follows:

” Derek Jeter should have never gotten engaged.. Since his engagement he has been in a slump…. Ha .. Happy Friday.”

Simple and to the point, a classic message.  It got me thinking about Derek Jeter and his love live vs. his baseball performance.  I had read before that Jeter was engaged to actress Minka Kelly sometime during the past few months and was dating her since 2008.  Then I thought about one of my personal favorites, Nick Swisher.  Swisher married actress Joanna Garcia this past off-season after getting engaged in mid-2010.  Two Yankee players, both in serious relationships and both mired in deep slumps.  I started thinking that Jenny was on to something.
 
In comparing the Jeter/Swisher relationships and baseball performances, let’s take a deeper look into each story:
 
Nick Swisher
Swisher has been linked in the past to dating a model, but otherwise his love life has been kept fairly private compared to Jeter.  From his Oakland and Chicago days, Swisher was known as the long-haired party guy who liked to have fun and bring excitement to the clubhouse.  Following Swisher on twitter and facebook, he kept very active in the social media corresponding with fans and was not afraid to hold back.  2009 and 2010 were solid campaigns for Swisher, as he immediately adjusted to the Bronx and brought his “A” game to New York.  At the tender of age of 30, nothing appeared to hold him back.  Then Swisher met actress Joanna Garcia, got engaged during the 2010 season and got married during the past offseason.  From there, I started to see a new Nick Swisher emerge.
 
As soon as Swisher got married, I noticed that his twitter and facebook accounts were not very active.  When Swisher would make any posts, they would be of the generic variety, very plain vanilla so to speak.  Swisher appeared in two different television series before the season: Garcia’s “Better with You” and “How I Met Your Mother.”  I could smell trouble a mile away, as spending more time behind the camera and not focusing on baseball is never a good thing.  While Swisher is extremely popular on twitter (1.3 million followers makes him more popular than MLB on twitter), he has evolved from fun-loving single guy to serious, concerned and calculated married man.  The results show on the field.
 
29 games into the season, Swisher has a grand total of one home run, .214AVG and .614 OPS.  Brutal numbers for a man who averaged 29 home runs over the last two seasons and .869 OPS.  At 30 years of age, Swisher has not lost his skills…but rather his mojo.  There was talk that Swisher is continuing to look for acting opportunities and may get a part in a movie in the future.  Great for his acting resume, bad for his baseball career.   In my estimation, fair or unfair, he has to get his priorities in order and focus on what pays the bills: baseball.  Acting may be fun and works well with his wife’s career, but Swisher needs to get back down to basics to what brought him MLB success.  I do not profess to know Swisher personally and do not spend time with him in the batting cages, weight room or at home.  But something is going on with Swisher that has caused a dive in his numbers and it appears that his personal life may be playing a part.
 
We have seen over the years how divorce can affect a player’s performance, especially in athletes (see Jeff Gordon and Chipper Jones).  When someone has a distraction at home, it can create chaos in that person’s job.  Baseball is no different and distractions, good or bad, can affect play on the field.  In the case of Swisher and as we are about to see Derek Jeter, a change in relationships and lifestyle can possibly have a detrimental effect on playing performance.
Derek Jeter
When researching and writing this piece, I had an instant issue with categorizing Jeter as suffering on the field by scoring off the field, so to speak.  A long-time playboy, Jeter has been linked with many famous females including Mariah Carey and Jessica Biel.  The golden boy of endorsements as well, George Steinbrenner criticized Jeter at one point for worrying too much about his life off the field and should focus more on his baseball play.  While some critics blasted Steinbrenner, I agreed with the statement.  Although Jeter has had solid numbers in his career, I believe he could have done more if he had partied less and worked harder at baseball. My opinion, right or wrong, is how I have always felt.  Now watching the Derek Jeter of 2011, I believe lifestyle has finally caught up to him.
 
Jeter got involved with Minka Kelly according to reports in 2008 and became serious in 2009.  According to reports, the pair got engaged in recent months with a wedding date still unknown.  This is where the tricky part lies.  Jeter started his deterioration in 2010 and has been abysmal to-date in 2011.  This year, Jeter has no home runs, .250 AVG and .577 OPS.  He is on pace to set career lows in many categories.  This comes after a 2010 campaign where he hit .270 with a .710 OPS.  At 36 years of age, is lifestyle or age the culprit for the decline in Jeter?  I would argue likely both, but for the purpose of this article, I will focus on lifestyle.
 
Jeter has his own cologne line “Driven”.  He was rated this year by a marketing firm as the most marketable baseball player.  He has endorsements with Gillette, Nike and Gatorade, just to name a few.  While Swisher learns to become an actor, Jeter is going strong as a pitchman.  I don’t think Yankee fans appreciate the extra-curricular activities if it takes away from their playing performances.  Based on the start of 2011 and judging by the numbers, I am convinced that both players are guilty of a lack of focus and drive.  The fact that Jeter has gotten engaged and planning to get married to Kelly says that there is something different about her for him compared to other relationships.  Whatever that it is, I do not see it helping his performance on the field.  As soon as things got serious for Jeter off the field, his play on the field declined.

The Verdict:

My message to Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher is quite simple.  Go rent the movie “Major League 2″ and recall what happened when Ricky Vaughn cut his hair, wore suits, dated an executive and was featured in his own television commercials.  Willy Mays Hayes starred in his own action movie in the offseason and came to camp with a new attitude and approach.  Both players failed miserably and had to go back to basics and lose “the attitude” so to speak to get back to playing at a high level.  Still not convinced?  Take the case of real life baseball players Kris Benson and Cole Hamels.  Each married a celebrity, a model/playmate and reality star respectively and each began to change.  Both became focused on marketing themselves and building their image than playing the game of baseball.  Look a the stats, the numbers do not lie.  I see the same slippery slope for both Jeter and Swisher.  My verdict is that both players are guilty of letting their love lives and off-field careers interfere with their baseball play.  My hope is that both will shape up before it is too late.  At Jeter’s advanced age and rise in the marketing game, he is likely not going to rebound much.  I do not see much hope in his case.  Maybe Swisher stands a chance, but if his acting career does take off, prepare for the new and declining Swisher to hang around.  It goes to show you:  love and baseball do not always mix.

 

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