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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.

The Astros Move To The AL West

Sunday  October 30, 2011

MLB reports – Sam Evans:  As an amazing 2011 MLB postseason has come to a close, it’s time to look ahead to next year. The Houston Astros have been,” looking forward to the next year,” since the last time they made the playoffs in 2006. It’s time for a change in Houston and Bud Selig and Jim Crane are currently working on a plan to make a big-time change for baseball’s future in Houston.

Times have been hard recently for Astros fans. Widely considered the worst team in baseball, the Astros home attendance has steadily decreased every year since 2006. They haven’t had a winning season since 2008 and their minor league system shows only small glimmers of hope on the way.

In the middle of June, rumors began  floating around that the Astros would move to the American League, as early as the 2013 season. This would provide each league with an even fifteen teams and six five team divisions. Also, you have to think that Major League Baseball wants to start a rivalry between the Astros and the Rangers. Well now in October, these rumors have become more serious and now it appears inevitable that the Astros will be realigned to the American League West.

Although we don’t know when exactly this move will take place,we have figured out that it will happen. It will be interesting to see if the Astros shop for a DH this or next offseason because if they do move by 2013, having nine Major League quality hitters in their lineup would be a big asset. It would make sense for them to bring back Carlos Lee if they were indeed moving to the AL, because he would be a much more productive DH than an outfielder.

I actually think that this would be a good move both for MLB and for the Astros. For MLB, they finally fix the glaring trivia answer which is, why there is an uneven number of teams in each league.  Balanced divisions, until increased to 32 Major League teams by way of expansion, will lead to an unbalanced schedule.  15 teams per league means that there will need to be an interleague game scheduled every week.  Some love the concept of interleague play, while other detest it.  But for whatever people think of it, interleague is here to stay in the world of Major League Baseball.  Having weekly interleague match-ups will actually help solve the unbalanced interleague issue.  In current play, some fans have complained that the same interleague match-ups are in place every year- with not all teams from each of the different leagues matching up.  Having weekly interleague games means that all AL and NL teams will face-off during the season at some point.  Greater exposure for each of the teams in each MLB city should lead to greater enthusiasm for the fans and a more balanced approach to scheduling interleague games.  It is not a perfect system- far from it.  But until Major League Baseball brings in 2 more teams and creates a 16/16 league split, having the 15/15 split will at least allow for balanced divisions and equal chances to make the playoffs.

For the Astros, I seriously believe they could start one of the best rivalries in baseball with the Rangers. This would be beneficial not only for the Astros as an organization, but their fans and attendance as well. Let’s make one thing clear though in the interim: the current “rivalry” between the Astros and Rangers is a joke. The ony time they face off is in interleague games, and neither team has any more incentives in those games as compared to any other games. However, I think if they actually played each other as division rivals frequently, and the fans became passionate about those games, then they could actually start a strong rivalry for years to come.

Astros fans have been against this move for two main reasons. The first is that they would lose their history with the National League (and specifically, NL Central teams). The main reason however, is that they would play West Coast teams more, which would mean that games against Seattle, Oakland, and Anaheim would start at a later time. I can fully understand and appreciate the Astros fans feelings on the subject. The only counterexample I can offer is what Rangers fans already go through with this same dilemma and they same to have done just fine.

At the end of the day, I think the Astros should move to the American League West. It makes sense for the current MLB system. Furthermore, this franchise looks in need of a fresh start and maybe a new division could help provide that.

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.

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter and become a fan onFacebook .  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.

Doug Booth: An Inside Look at the 2011 World Series Ballparks

Sunday October 23, 2011

 

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  We are very fortunate today to have author Doug Booth of “The Fastest 30 Ballgames”, join us today with a Guest MLB Blog.  Doug, an expert on major league baseball parks, shares his knowledge on The Ballpark In Arlington (Texas) and Busch Stadium (St. Louis)- the sites of the 2011 World Series.  We appreciate Doug taking the time out of his schedule to articulate his knowledge and experiences of these amazing ballparks.  Enjoy.      

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It’s Antlers & Claws vs. The Squirrel in the World Series

(AL)TEXAS RANGERS VS. ST. LOUIS CARDINALS (NL)

The 2011 World Series features the second ever meeting of a series between the two clubs, with only a 2004 series in Texas has been played in the whole history of interleague.  The Fall Classic may display some of the unique characteristics each city, park and all of the fans to display to the rest of the world.  From the new tradition of the faithful Rangers fans joining in with players to do the antlers/claws celebration when powering up-or the entire Cardinal team taking the good luck pet squirrel-(both the real live one and the stuffed squirrel that was tossed into the Cardinal bullpen-and participated in the champagne celebration of the NL Champs,) this series will be entertaining.

First you have the Texas Rangers, formerly the Washington Senators, who moved to the state of Texas in 1972 only to wait for almost forty years for their first World Series appearance and have since gone back to the second time-to the Cardinals 3rd trip since 2004-and them trying to add to their 11 World Series titles already.  Ballpark fans will tell what to look for if you listen.

In Texas, and of course everything is always bigger in Texas, there will be sunny warm weather, plenty of cowboy hats and Stetsons, whereas the Cardinals fans will be decked out in their best red team shirts and jerseys.  The Ballpark in Arlington will play the ‘Natural’ movie theme song every time their player takes the ball yard, while St. Louis will cheer their players for a homer with the warmest of exuberance while the weather may surface near freezing temperatures.  The Rangers fans, with their loud and boisterous ways-will cheer for the Cardinals to fail at defense, meanwhile the Cardinals fans will always cheer a great baseball play even if it costs their team a chance to score and win the game.

There is plenty of tiered parking at ‘The Ballpark In Arlington.’  It is a price structure that is the fairest in the majors.  The more you are willing to walk, the less you have to pay to watch an event there.  Then you have the NL version of the ‘Yankees’, so much like downtown New York, in St. Louis you will be lucky to find a spot-and worst yet-you may miss your turn-offs from the highway.   Busch Stadium displays one of the best iconic visuals in the Arch for the back drop of the park, in contrast-The Ballpark in Arlington has the biggest space in the outfield bleachers with the corporate offices staring down at the field. That means that the like of Nolan Ryan will always be watching even if the Cards are just practicing. If that doesn’t intimidate you at all you can always see the 1.2 billion dollar Cowboys Stadium across the street.

The fans will sing ‘Deep in the heart of Texas’ after the seventh inning stretch in Arlington.  The Busch fans will probably blast ‘thank god I am a country boy, or cotton-eyed Joe’ on the loudspeaker.

After the games at Busch Stadium, the downtown district and especially Mike Shannon’s steakhouse, they will celebrate their team playing in the playoffs.  In Texas, the streets that lead to the highways will be jammed causing some of the people to carry-on the partying in the parking lots or wait for other form of ground transportation by celebrating with other fans.

This series represents the 29th and 30th ballparks I ever saw.  I had seen all other 28 ballparks in less than a month in 2008-and was delighted at the style and professionalism each ballpark displayed.  The staff at Busch Stadium had my dad and me on the field being interviewed by Fox Sports-Midwest.  It was an incredible gesture on their part.  As for attending The Ballpark In Arlington right after, I was blown away by the size and structure of this behemoth park.  I watched a game where the temperature soared into the 100’s, but don’t be afraid of attending the game-you can always cool off in centerfield by having an ice cream or smoothie in the little kids indoor concession stand that has air conditioning!  Just always know what the score is because the concourses are so big you can’t see the game or scoreboard from them

So sit back and watch the baseballs fly out of both parks with what may be the best ever NL offence, and the best AL offence since the 1927 Yankees.  I warn you, be prepared for all possibilities, I witnessed a 15 inning game at Busch in 2009 where they actually ran out of pop and the game ended at 1:15 Am in the morning, oh yeah and I witnessed a torrential down pour at the Ballpark In Arlington to add to my ballpark viewing resume.

The moral of the story is eat lots of food of water, be caught up in the parks different traditions-and finally stay until the final pitch is made.  If the game happens to be in St. Louis and the Rangers win the World Series-watch how the ‘classiest fans in baseball’ will show the nation yet again of how nice they are.  I am sure they would rather win still though.

DCB

*** Thank you to Doug Booth for joining us today on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com***

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.

Interview with Doug Booth: Author of “The Fastest 30 Ballgames”

Sunday October 9, 2011

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  I recently had the pleasure to share my book review of “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” on MLB reports.  Following my review, I had a chance to correspond with one of the authors of the book, Doug Booth.  We discussed the book, the life and times of Doug Booth, ballpark chasing and much more.   Sit back and enjoy my interview with a man who epitomes baseball fandom- Author Doug Booth, in discussing his recently published book, “The Fastest 30 Ballgames:  A Ballpark Chasers World Record Story”.

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MLB reports:  It is a pleasure to have you on the Reports Doug.  Thank you for joining us today.  Tell us a little more about who is Doug Booth.  How did you get involved with the great game of baseball? 
 
Booth:  I am a 35-year-old courier from Vancouver B.C Canada.  When I was 18 years old I had a chance to play NCAA Baseball Division 1 for Liberty University, but had suffered 7 concussions and multiple knee injuries from playing various sports-so I retired from baseball prematurely.  While I still followed MLB on TV and radio for the next decade, a little piece of me lost the zest for the game because I couldn’t play it anymore. To this day, I still can’t even play the game as the symptoms from my previous concussions come back with too much exertion.  In 2005, I attended my first MLB Park in the USA at Safeco Field in Seattle.  I had only been to Olympic Stadium in Montreal-and The Rogers Center previously as a teenager, so it was nice to find my love for the game re-invigorated.  ‘It all escalated into the extreme chaser I am now.’

 
MLB reports:  I very much enjoyed reading “The Fastest 30”, as our readers could tell from my recent book review.  Considering the work and effort involved, how does it feel seeing the book as a final product- published book?
 
Booth:  I have to tell you, there were moments where this whole book concept really frustrated me to no end.  It was a lot harder to write this baseball book than it was to write my first two books that I have in circulation.  It was hard trying to write a novel based on a true story.  Having said that, I am very happy that I completed this journey and have all of the memories of the trip chronicled and categorized, but most importantly that there are pictures of journey with my family and friends that will be forever cemented in literature.

 
MLB reports:  The first part of “The Fastest 30” chronicles your two attempts to set the Guinness World Record for attending all 30 MLB parks in the shortest amount of time.  Why this record Doug? Why did you want to reach this particular goal so badly?
 
Booth:  The trip originally was going to be 48 states and 30 ballparks in 45 days, but once I had enough money stored for the trip I heard my inspirational ‘hero’ Jim Maclaren had been sidelined with a devastating injury-and his foundation was raising money for him.  For those that have not read the book.  I heard Jim interview on the ‘Jim Rome Show’ back in 2004.  Jim was a quadripeligic motivational speaker who inspired others by his ‘choose life’ motto.  It took Jim hours each day to do menial tasks, but he was at a place in his life where he was happiest because he made peace with himself.  Each day he would defy the odds of doctors testing his own physical and mental fortitude.  But his spirits had been dampened by an accident, and I wanted to do something.  I investigated about the world record for this given category and found out the record at that time was 29 days.  With some quick re-tooling, and armed with a drive to raise money for the Head North Foundation, (A charity championing the cause for spinal research) I was able to put a streak chase together that would use this charity as my motivation to break the World Record.  Much like Jim, I would have to tests the limits of my physical and mental capabilities to pull this off.

 
MLB reports:  After your first unsuccessful attempt at the record in 2008, was there a thought to taking a break or perhaps giving up?  What motivated you try again so quickly- no burn out?
 
Booth:  I chased the record for 41 days in the summer of 2008.  I used up every ounce of my physical being, and tapped every resource of the money I had saved up in order to break the record.  I had put forth a 30-29 record attempt-only to find out the record had been newly set that summer by a man Josh Robbins.  The new streak record was 30 games in 26 days.  I did not have to submit the record to Guinness because I was not even tied as the record holder anymore.  It was all because I had a 3 day break for the All-Star Break that was unavoidable 2 weeks into my trip.  I had booked off the time from work, and had bought countless plane fares, baseball tickets and hotels stays-so I was stuck with the 3 day break.  That 3 day penalty, plus another day penalty I had received when I met my mother in Toronto, (instead of carrying onto Cleveland from Chicago for a game) when a plane was delayed to Toronto-thus killing my chance for to make it to the Rogers Center for first pitch.  If you took those games off-I could have put a 30-25 streak submission up in the 1st year.  I did complete 5 doubleheaders in the 29 day trip.  It ate at me for 2 months until the schedule for 2009 came out.  I saw a perfect schedule looming if it all worked out.  When I put together the finances by April of 2009, I knew I had a shot at breaking the record.  When an early season rainout added a 7th doubleheader attempt at Yankees Stadium for a 30-23 attempt, I knew I had an opportunity at history.

 
MLB reports:  Please describe your feelings after you set your goal.  Did you achieve fulfillment?  Any other emotions kick-in post-record?
 
Booth:  In contrast to 2008, when I felt empty and had a downward spiral for about 2-3 months, I was elated beyond control for setting the record on Aug.14/2009 at Comerica Park in Detroit.  It was a 1-0 walk off homer by the hometown Tigers in the bottom of the ninth.  In somewhat fitting circumstances to the journey’s end, fireworks were shot off at the park for what seemed like an eternity.  I had a 10 hour drive back to my brother’s house in New Jersey the next day, during this time I contemplated what had taken place.  For me, and this is what people could not understand because they could not fathom a trip of this magnitude-was that this was not the hardest part of the journey.  It was the 308 days I had worked in a row in order to secure the money I needed, the rigorous schedule of 90 hour work weeks in which I battled the physical and mental fatigue-and all the times it looked bleak moving towards this , that was the hard part.  Once I was out at the ballparks, I was in my world.

 
MLB reports:  Looking back now, if you could do anything different from the second world record-setting journey, what would it be? 
 
Booth:  Not much, although I will always wonder what would have happened in Pittsburgh had I received a fluid sedan pick-up?  I would have liked to have had the opportunity to make that 5:15 PM flight from the Pittsburgh Airport, leaving downtown at about 3:40 PM instead of 4:15 PM.  I will tell you from that point on all of my transportation drivers were probably sick of me going over the game-plans of the pick-up/drop-off strategies.
 

MLB reports:   The second part of the book is the Ballpark Chasers guide to all 30 MLB parks, with ratings.  From your own experiences, what was your top five favorite MLB parks and why?
 
Booth:  My top 5 parks in order are:  1. AT&T Park-because it is a beautiful park in the best city, and has the best food, climate and value out of all of the parks;  2. Yankee Stadium-I am a Yankees fan and nothing beats a game in the ‘Bronx’ with the fans.  The steak sandwiches and Nathan’s hotdogs do a considerable amount for the park-while New York is also an awesome city to visit;  3. Wrigley Field-It is the best place to watch a game for just the game period.  The Ivy, the scoreboard and the history and a little known fact, I spent more time there during the streaks than anywhere else;  4. Fenway Park-Even as a Yanks fan you have to marvel at the history of this Park.  ‘The Green Monster’ is the best iconic visual of a Park anywhere in the majors; and 5. Busch Stadium-I enjoy the backdrop of the ‘Arch,’ the baseball fans in St. Louis are the classiest in the majors-and it was the only field I was interviewed on.

 
MLB reports:  To let readers know, you had two other authors assist you with “The Fastest 30”.  Why these two particular individuals?  How did they get involved in the project?
 
Booth:  My co-authors (Craig Landgren and Kenneth Lee) and I met online at http://www.ballparkchasers.com/ after the 1st streak chase in 2008.  Over the course of the next year I would make my way onto the ballpark chaser scene in writing blogs, being involved in major discussions and talking about baseball.  At first everyone did not know what to think of me because they had all followed Josh Robbins’30-26 trip.  I had joined way after Josh at the site.  Soon it would be that I gained some respect from Craig and Ken.  Like me, Ken Lee has been to all 30 ballparks-and was most active with the other members.  I asked him to help me chronicle my streak by writing blogs-and help post pictures/verify that I was legitimately at all of the parks for evidence reasons.  We hit it off right away.  It was nice to have a friend keep you motivated on this kind of record.  When I decided to write the book I asked for Ken’s write-ups of the 2009 streak to be part of the novel.  Craig Landgren is the founder of Ballpark Chasers.  He has spent much time and devotion plying his craft of being a website master.   The kind of information on all of the 30 parks come directly from all of the diligent work Craig has done in interacting with all of the members-and his own personal research.  I knew the novel would be too short with just my streak attempts, and since I never spend too much time in one particular city, it was only natural that we enter this book as a partnership.  I was able to add some of my own expertise to each ‘ballpark chaser guide’, so it made the work so much more rewarding.  If you added all of our write-ups of expertise it made for a ‘super’ guide.

 
MLB reports:  For readers that starting their own baseball trips, what advice would you give in “how to become a Ballpark Chaser?”
 
Booth:  The first thing I recommend any potential chaser to do is sign up at www.ballparkchasers.com , we have some of the best traveling experts in North America offering free advice and information in a friendly manner.  Ballpark Chasers also had a Facebook Group to sign up for.  Also buy my book.  I hope that is not too direct here, but honestly this book represents all of its members and people that have contributed to these guides via Thousands of games attended.  Other than that, always budget $250-350 per road game, book your plane fares in advance, sign up for all of the MLB’ teams newsletters-that automatically send out ticket deals, learn your rewards programs for all of your car rentals, hotels and other travel partners.  In addition to this, have a full schedule itinerary 24/7/168 time planner set out for your trip.  Have backup plans for each city when it comes to weather, travel delays and fatigue.  Doing a little bit of research goes a long way.

 
MLB reports:  Doug, if you could do this all over again: would you?  Was achieving the World Record worth the time, money, blood, sweat the tears that you invested in your journey?
 
Booth:  Absolutely it was worth it.  There is not a day that goes by when I don’t thank the game of baseball for molding me as a man in this journey-and also for the newly found friends I found.  Baseball is truly the game that defines ‘pastime.’  I can’t think of another sport that can unify generations of families to be at the same place and same time.  It is ageless and timeless. I have seen infant babies to a 100-year-old men and women at the game. Each of one of them at the game represents something different, but they all come for the experience.  This journey has challenged me to rise up to the occasion and fight for what I believe in.  I have a focus like I have never had ever before in my life.

 
 
MLB reports:  What does the future hold for Doug Booth?  Will we see any follow-ups to “The Fastest 30” and what are your goals professionally in the world of baseball?

Booth:  I am putting together another ‘ultimate road concept’ in 2012-that will make my other baseball journeys seem like a kindergarten class for longevity.  I implore anybody to follow my future journeys at my website www.fastestthirtyballgames.com.  I also plan on asking MLB for a job, in firing up people in some kind of motivational capacity.  I will be attending Broadcasting School in the near future and I will always continue to write about the game of baseball in some manner.  My life as a ‘ballpark chaser’ has just started!

 

 

**The photographs in today’s feature are courtesy of Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth**

 

*** Thank you to Doug Booth for joining us today on MLB reports.  To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com***

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap Tuesday October 4th

Wednesday October 5, 2011

MLB reports:  While three teams on Tuesday could have moved on to the next series, only one team did. Here is a recap of the scores and highlights from Tuesday’s games: 

 

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Four

With A.J. Burnett on the mound, Yankee fans were on the edge of their seat in anticipation for the game against the Tigers. They knew they needed a win, and a big one.

Well, they got exactly that.

Derek Jeter started the scoring in the third inning with a double that scored Russell Martin and Jorge Posada.

They would hold the 2-0 lead until the bottom of the fourth, when Victor Martinez launched a solo homerun to make it a 2-1 game.

That would, however, be the only run that the Tigers would score as the Yankees scored another run in the 5th, when Curtis Granderson doubled Brett Gardner. Later in the inning, Alex Rodriguez would score Derek Jeter to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

And they never looked back.

In the top of the eighth, Al Alburquerque, facing Jesus Montero, balked which allowed Alex Rodriguez from second. Montero would later single to score Mark Teixeira. Daniel Schlereth would then come in for the Tigers, but it didn’t get any better, as he threw a wild pitch that scored Montero and then gave up a 2-RBI single to Robinson Cano. After a 6-run inning the score was 10-1.

Evidently, that would be the way the game ended as Boone Logan struck out the side in the ninth, as the Yankees forced a game 5. Burnett went 5.2IP allowing one earned run on four hits, three walks and one strikeout. From then on in, the collective bullpen pitching, including Rafael Soriano, Phil Hughes and Boone Logan pitched 3 1/3 of no-hit baseball, allowing no walks yet striking out six.  Game five goes tomorrow night in New York, Fister vs. Nova for all the marbles.

 

Texas Rangers at Tampay Bay Rays:  ALDS Game Four

The Rays had been in this position not too long ago – one loss away from not being able to move on to the next step. Recognizing this, they sent Hellickson to the mound against Rangers’ Harrison.

That said, after already winning two games in a row, the Rangers were not going to go down easy as Ian Kinsler hit a home run in the first at-bat of the game.

In the 2nd, the Rangers added to their lead with another home run, one from Adrian Beltre, and already Texas was up 2-0.

In the bottom of the inning, the Rays cut the Rangers lead in half thanks in part to Matt Joyce’s RBI double.

Adrian Beltre, did not give up easy and in the forth, launched another solo home run. His 2nd of the game.

But again, the Rays fought back and again, Sean Rodriguez scored, this time off the bat of  Casey Kotchman.

Adrian Beltre though would not allow the Rays to catch up as, in the top of the seventh, he launched his THIRD home run of the game.

In the bottom of the 9th, with the score 4-2, Sean Rodriguez once again told his team he wanted to cross the plate once again. So sure enough, Casey Kotchman singled him in with one out in the ninth, making the score 4-3.

But the third Beltre homerun proved to be the difference, as Alexi Ogando got Matt Joyce to pop out and Desmond Jennings to ground out.

Harrison got the win, going five complete innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits while walking two and striking out nine.

With the win, the Texas Rangers move on to the next series, facing off against the winner of the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers.

 

Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals:  NLDS Game Three

Everyone loves great baseball and that is certainly what was received when Phillies’ Cole Hamels faced off against Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia.

There was no score until the seventh inning as both pitchers were cruising along. Much like what occurred in all other aforementioned games, a home run proved to be the difference as after Shane Victorino singled and Carlos Ruiz was intentionally walked, Ben Francisco was placed in to pinch hit and he did not disappoint – launching a three run home run to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead.

The Cards fought back in the bottom of the inning as David Freese hit an  RBI single that scored Allen Craig.

They would carry this momentum into the ninth inning as Albert Pujols led off the inning with a double off Ryan Madson. Pujols would later score off of a Yadier Molina single but that would be all they would get as Ryan Theriot grounded out to end the game, enabling the Phillies to win by a score of 3-2.

Cole Hamels got the win, going six complete innings without a run, allowing five hits and three walks, but striking out eight.  Game four goes tonight in St. Louis, Oswalt vs. Jackson.

 

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Three

In a must-win game for the Arizona Diamondbacks, they sent Josh Collemeter to the mound against Brewers’ Shaun Marcum and Collemeter did not disappoint.

Arizona got on the board early against Marcum thank in part to a RBI double from Miguel Montero and an RBI single from Paul Goldschmidt.

Both of these scoring plays were fielder by centerfielder Corey Hart, so Hart felt he needed redemption. When he got up to bat in the third, he did exactly that, hitting a homerun to left field, and cutting Arizona’s lead to 2-1.

The damage, however, had already been done. In the bottom of the inning, Arizona added to their lead when Aaron Hill scored on Montero’s second RBI of the game. On the play, Nyjer Morgan got Justin Upton out on a close play at the plate.

With the score 3-1, Arizona knew they needed a few more runs to ensure a game four. Evidently, Paul Goldschmidt was thinking the same thing as in the fifth inning, he hit a GRAND SLAM (GOLDSCHMIDTTTTT!). Kameron Loe would then come in to pitch and replace Marcum, but Arizona was much too dominant, scoring another run in the inning from a Ryan Roberts RBI single, giving the Diamondbacks an 8-1 lead.

This evidently would be how the game would end as Milwaukee managed only three hits in the game. This can be attributed to Collemeter’s fantastic game as he went seven complete innings, allowing only two hits, one earned run on two walks and six strikeouts.

Marcum’s outing was not as great, as the ex-Blue Jay went 4.2 innings, allowing seven earned runs on seven hits and three walks while striking out three.  Game four is the late game tonight in Arizona, Wolf vs. Saunders.

 

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2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap Sunday October 2nd

Monday October 3, 2011

Sam Evans (Intern – MLB reports):  The first Sunday of postseason baseball didn’t have any letdowns for viewers.  Starting at about noon, I watched and listened to roughly ten hours of baseball.  Usually after I spend one of my Sunday’s watching baseball, I wish I could have those hours back because I really didn’t have the free time to watch all those games.  The postseason is way different.  No matter what I have to do, I always try to make sure watching the games is my top priority.  After Jason Motte recorded the final out of the day, I felt like that was the best way I could’ve spent my day.  Albeit from my couch, there’s nothing like cheering on your favorite teams and players during October.  Enough rambling, let’s get to the games.

Detroit Tigers at New York Yankees: ALDS Game Two

In the top of the first inning, Miguel Cabrera hit a 2-0 changeup from Freddy Garcia 337 feet into the right field bleachers.  Only at Yankee Stadium is that a home run, the short porch in right field gives hitters an almost unfair advantage.  Max Scherzer was terrific, not allowing a hit until Robinson Cano singled in the bottom of the sixth.  Scherzer finished the game after throwing six shutout innings striking out five.  Freddy Garcia didn’t pitch that bad he was just made a couple of mistakes and had some bad luck.  After six innings, the Tigers appeared to be in control.  Then, the rain started coming down.   I can’t believe that the Yankees spent 1.3 billion on a new stadium but they couldn’t even construct a retractable roof.  Anyways, Joaquin Benoit twirled two innings, just giving up a Curtis Granderson homer.  Jose Valverde didn’t make it look easy in the ninth, allowing a Nick Swisher dinger, then a Jorge Posada triple!   Nonetheless, “Papa Grande” got Robinson Cano to ground out with runners on first and second to end the game.  On the offensive side of this game the Tigers star was Miguel Cabrera.  Cabrera went 3 for 4 with 3 RBI.  Cabrera showed how versatile of a hitter he is hitting an opposite field homer, poking an RBI single up the middle, and pulling a single to left field.  Now the series will head to Detroit tied up 1-1.  Game time is Monday at 8:30 PM ET.

Arizona Diamondbacks at Milwaukee Brewers: NLDS Game Two

Ryan Braun got things started with a two run homer off Dan Hudson in the first.  However, in the top of the 2nd Paul Goldschmidt took Zack Greinke deep.  I have no idea why Kirk Gibson didn’t start Goldschmidt in the first game, as he obviously deserves to be in there.  In spite of both teams starting talented pitchers, this was not a pitcher’s duel.  Milwaukee took a 4-1 lead in the third thanks to Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder driving in the runs.  By the sixth, Arizona had tied it up at 4-4 largely in part to Chris Young and Justin Upton going deep.  However, in the bottom of the sixth everything fell apart for the D-Backs.  The Brew Crew had runners on first and third when catcher Jonathan Lucroy shocked the Diamondbacks by laying down a suicide squeeze to score Jerry Hairston.  After that, things just fell apart from Arizona’s pitcher Brad Ziegler; he gave up three straight singles to Corey Hart, Nyjer Morgan, and Ryan Braun.  By the time Ziegler was pulled, the Brewers had a 9-4 lead.  The Brewers relievers combined to throw four shutout innings, and the Brewers won by the final score of 9-4.  When asked after the game, Willie Bloomquist A.K.A Willie Ballgame had this to say, “We’re going to come out fighting on Tuesday. It’s a tough position to be in, but you know what? We’re comfortable with the uncomfortable.” The series is now 2-0 Brewers and the two teams will meet in Phoenix on Tuesday at 9:30 PM ET.

St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies: NLDS Game Two

To lead off the game Rafael Furcal tripled but then the Cards ran into Cliff Lee, who retired the 2-3-4 hitters without allowing a run.  The Phillies delivered a big blow in the bottom of the first, with Ryan Howard coming through with a bases loaded single.  Chris Carpenter, pitching on three days’ rest, had a rough day, only lasted three innings while giving up four runs.   In the fourth inning, the Cardinals scored three times, and would’ve scored four if it weren’t for it weren’t for Raul Ibanez gunning down Jon Jay at the plate.   Jay tied things up in the sixth with a single to score Ryan Theriot from second.  The Cardinals bullpen threw four consecutive 1-2-3 innings baffling Phillies hitters.  I was impressed by Tony LaRussa’s methodical use of his bullpen.  Some games LaRussa looks like an idiot, some games he looks like a genius.  I guess that’s just the way he works.  In the top of the 7th Charlie Manuel decided to leave Lee in despite him being over 100 pitches.  The decision backfired when Shane Victorino misplayed an Allen Craig line drive.  Craig was in at third with a standup triple and he didn’t have to wait long before Albert Pujols drove him in.  Jason Motte needed only six pitches (all of which were over 90 MPH) to earn the save.  The Cardinals finished with thirteen hits to the Phillies six.  The series will switch to St.Louis all tied up.  The next game is on Tuesday 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.

Baseball Book Review: The Fastest 30 Ballgames

Tuesday September 27, 2011

 

THE FASTEST 30 BALLGAMES – A BALLPARK CHASERS WORLD RECORD STORY; BY:  DOUGLAS ‘CHUCK’ BOOTH, CRAIG B. LANDGREN & KENNETH A. LEE

(AuthorHouse:  2011)

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  As you have probably guessed from my previous reviews, I have a great love for baseball books.  I have read hundreds of them over the years and will read hundreds more before my time is done.  As baseball seasons have gone by, it seems that the market has become more and more saturated with baseball reading material.  With so many options and so little spare time, many baseball readers have a difficult time choosing which books to add to their collections.  I can completely relate to this dilemma.  Speaking from experience, when I select my next baseball book- I always look for an original and fresh concept.  I look to learn, laugh and get lost in time.  Let’s face it: with our hectic schedules, reading is supposed to be our time to unwind, relax and have an escape.  I recently uncovered a baseball book that provided all of the above and more.  A book that will become a must-own for every serious baseball fan.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” is the title and is the subject of today’s book review.

Every baseball fan that I know has either just come back from a baseball trip, is going on a baseball trip or is planning to one day take a baseball trip.  The bottom line is that baseball fans love their baseball outings.  Fans from all corners are discussing as we speak their dream of visiting Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field…and so on.  We read about all of the major league stadiums.  We listen to different teams play on the radio and watch their games on television.  The next logical step is to visit those same parks in person.  For most, if not all baseball fans, the dream of visiting new major league parks represents the ultimate dream vacation.  In his book, The Fastest 30 Ballgames, author Doug Booth takes his readers through his tour of every single MLB stadium.  What fans dream of experiencing, Booth has lived it.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” provides readers with a journey through a baseball odyssey that has never been seen before.  We get to live vicariously through Doug Booth.  If a great book is to be an escape for its readers, then this book is just that.  A really great book.  When you finally complete this book, you will not only feel like you know every baseball park, but you will also have the sense of having been there.  I got completely lost in the world of Doug Booth and the wonderful universe that is baseball.

I have never read a baseball book that is as expansive as “The Fastest 30 Ballgames”.  This book works on so many levels.  The first part walks us through Doug Booth’s attempts to set the Guinness World Record of watching games at all 30 major league parks in the fewest amount of days.  Think baseball’s version of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” meets “The Amazing Race”.  Sometimes an exercise in frustration, while other times an exhilarating ride.  Booth does it all and sees it all, in setting out to fulfil his goal.  What I most enjoyed about Booth’s writing style is his honesty, passion and heart.  To me, the first part of  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” is a raw diary of the life of Doug Booth.  From picking his mode of transportation, tickets, accommodations and route to each city and ballpark, Booth recounts in great detail his life and experiences in hopping from one baseball park to another.  Booth does not hold back from sharing the personal details of his life, which make his legend and tale that much more real and rewarding to read.  I felt that I was with Booth every step of the way.  Booth’s use of imagery was so vivid that I could literally picture his words in my mind, creating a sense that I was along for the ride.  A sign of a talented author and one that believes in his work.

Did Doug Booth set the world record you ask?  Yes he did.  After narrating in detail his near record-setting attempt in 2008, Booth went on to set the Guinness record the following year by watching baseball games in all 30 parks in only 24 days.  If you do the math and take a look at a map, that is a very impressive feat.  With weather, traffic, plane delays and countless other factors always lurking, Booth’s feat is mind-blowing.  This book is worth reading just to find out how he was able to accomplish such an impossible feat.  The reality is that very few of us, if any, will ever attempt what Doug Booth accomplished.  When I completed “The Fastest 30 Ballgames”, I have to admit though that I felt the urge to continue my own baseball journeys.  I started to calculate in my head all the baseball parks that I had already visited in my lifetime, and the ones that I still had left on my list.  I started to visualize geographically where each stadium was located and how many I could visit per trip.  From there, I calculated the number of trips and period of time I realistically thought it would take to complete the mission.  As I was doing this, I realized that I was beginning to channel Doug Booth.  I had the itch… and the only known cure was ordering tickets and getting on the road.  Doug Booth had inspired me.  I would assume that this was one of Booth’s goals in writing this book.  By stirring the baseball excitement within me, I appreciated Booth’s own baseball travels and wanted to further trips of my own.  Not only did I enjoy the book as a relaxing escape, but I was inspired and motivated.  Another sign of a successful writer.

It is one thing to say that a person wants to achieve a goal.  It is another thing to actually do it.  Armed with my the drive to see every major league park, part 2 of the book lays out how to make it happen.  Co-author Craig Landgren prepared a detailed listing and ranking of all 30 MLB parks.  From where to park, sit, buy tickets, food, best months of the year to attend, nearest attractions and closest stadiums, Landgren provides the perfect “AAA” type guide to visiting baseball stadiums.  A book within a book, Landgren provides the ideal cheat sheet for every stadium in the “Ballpark Chaser Guides” section, as it is referred to in the book.  For those that are interested (and if you are a baseball fan, you will be), be sure to visit Landgren’s site:  http://Ballparkchasers.com.    Ballpark Chasers is an on-line community of baseball die-hard fans, sharing information, stories and pictures on baseball travelling.  For “The Fastest 30 Ballgames”, Landgren lays out beautifully the information and images of all 30 MLB parks.  In essence, Booth sets you up by inspiring you to follow his baseball trips, while Landgren teaches you how to make it happen.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” is part autobiography and part baseball travel guide.  But fully 100% baseball.  Just the way we like it.

The last part of the book is real life stories of “Ballpark Chasers”, real people like you and I, telling the story of their stadium trips.  Reading each of their stories, I started to think and plot in my head what story I would be telling one day on the Ballpark Chasers website.  I could identify with all of the individuals, as they were the same as me.  Baseball fans who loved the sport passionately and enjoying watching the games immensely.  I could identify with each of these Chasers and felt that I could one day be one of them.  That at the end of the day was likely the reason for including their tales.  Now I was inspired by Booth, had the guide to travel from Landgren and the reinforcement from other Chasers that my planned travels could one day come true.  Like Booth, it was extremely enjoyable to read each and every one of these baseball tales.  This part added to the authenticity of the book that its authors strived towards.  I was glad to read all of the Chasers’ tales and look forward to one day writing a baseball travel story of my own.

I have a deep dark secret I need to share.  Most baseball books take me several days to complete.  With professional and family commitments, I will usually take 1-2 weeks to complete a book.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” took me several weeks to complete.  This was the longest amount of time I have ever taken to complete a baseball book.  This is a compliment though to how much I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” travelled with me everywhere this summer.  From my bedside, to doctor’s offices, the cottage and even my trip to Cooperstown, it followed me each and every step of the way.  When I picked this book up, I could literally not put it down.  I found myself going back to certain chapters and sections, reading and re-reading certain portions.  When I was watching ballgames on television, I would pull out the book and compare its descriptions to what was seeing before me in real-time.  It takes a lot to get me excited and gushing.  Booth and his co-authors were able to accomplish that in their baseball masterpiece.

With the playoffs around the corner, the MLB 2012 schedule was recently released this month.  Perfect timing to pick up “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and start planning your next baseball trip.  After reading all the tips and insights into each major league city and park, I would not dare to plan a meal, hotel reservation or purchase ball tickets without consulting this book.  The book is an enjoyable read and provides hours of fantastic baseball tales.  But at the end of the day it is not just a storybook, it is also a key reference tool.  With so much baseball information and knowledge available in this book, I am certainly glad that I read it.  If you are a seasoned veteran or someone just introduced to the game:  do yourself a favour and pick this book up.  “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” will be one of the most enjoyable baseball experiences that you ever experience.  Until you get to all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums yourself one day!

 

**The photographs in today’s feature are courtesy of Douglas ‘Chuck’ Booth**

 

*** To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Doug Booth, you can follow Doug on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and click here for Doug’s website, fastestthirtyballgames.com***

 

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The Curious Case of Carl Crawford

Thursday September 23, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): When the 2010 season concluded, many people looked at the trio of Cliff Lee, Carl Crawford and Jayson Werth as easily the most sought after players.  Lee has not disappointed in Philadelphia, where he will garner serious attention for the NL Cy Young Award.  Werth and Crawford, however, have been pretty big disappointments after signing extremely lucrative contracts over 7 years.  Werth received $126M, while Crawford made the biggest splash, inking a deal worth $142M.  While Werth has been lucky to play in front of smaller crowds playing in Washington DC, Crawford has had to endure the masses of critics in Boston.  This is on top of playing in the AL East, battling for the division title, while the team is in a free-fall where the Tampa Bay Rays are gaining ground in the AL Wild Card race.

Crawford came to the Red Sox with HUGE expectations.  Fans of the Red Sox expected him to not only repeat his career season from 2010, but exceed his statistics.  In 2010 with the Rays, Crawford surpassed most of his best seasons in almost every statistical category.  He hit .307 with 19 home runs and 90 RBI, while scoring 110 runs and stealing 47 bases.  His on-base percentage was .356 and he slugged at a .495 clip, giving him an OPS of .851.  In 2011, surrounded by all-star and MVP caliber players, he has struggled to gain any kind of consistency.  He has limped into the end of September with a .255/.292/.401 slash line.

Crawford has only been able to steal 18 bases, which is by far his worst full season total in the MLB.  On June 17th, Crawford sustained a grade 1 strain of his hamstring, and did not return to the lineup until July 18th.  At the time, Crawford’s OBP of .275 and slugging percentage of .384 were near the bottom of the league.  If Crawford had been hot until the injury, and simply fizzled out after he came back, we would have a simple answer.

Crawford has actually fared better since the injury, but I believe he has lost a step.  Crawford relies on speed, and hamstrings often take a very long time to heal.  His game is based on slapping balls through the infield and driving balls to the gaps, turning singles into doubles and doubles into triples.  Many people thought that the Green Monster would be peppered with line drives off Crawford’s bat, as well as triples going into the deep right-center field gap.  With Crawford’s hamstring issues, he doesn’t seem to be able to drive the ball as well as in recent years.

Another issue with Crawford seems to be that he has been slightly unlucky compared to other years.  His BABIP over the course of his career is .329, while 2009 and 2010 it had been .342.  This year, the stat sits at .300.  Often, when seeing a dip in BABIP, you can look at a player’s line drive rate and see that the player is not hitting as many line drives.  Crawford’s line drive rate is 17.8%, which is actually up from last year’s 16.5%.  His fly ball and ground ball rates have also mostly gone unchanged.  One thing I did notice was that his percentage of bunts for base hits is 0.  Early in his career, Crawford would attempt to bunt upwards of 15 to 18 times per season.  This year, Crawford has only attempted three bunts.  This could be due to his hamstring not being 100% also.

Crawford’s dWAR, (or defensive Wins Above Replacement), which is a defensive stat that shows how a player is able to field balls inside and outside the zone of his position, has always been one of his strong points.  For outfielders, he has been near the top of the league regularly over the last five years.  This season, however, his dWAR is at -0.5, which negates entirely his limited offensive production.

With such close similarities in his batted ball rates, one would expect a slight drop in production due to his lower BABIP.  However, with such a large gap in last year’s production to this year’s, despite a better overall line-up batting around him, one has to really think about what has happened to Crawford.

Crawford may be a multi, multi-millionaire that most of us would give up anything to be, but what most of us forget is that these MLB superstars are human.  Hitting in front of 40,000 screaming, raving Red Sox lunatic fans surely cannot be an easy task.  When playing in Tampa for the first 6 years of his career, he rarely faced hostility or scrutiny at home.  The media has scrutinized every little move he has made this season, because he is under a microscope now.  All this pressure and expectations after signing such a huge contract can take a toll on a player both psychologically and physically.

Here is a radical thought: Fenway’s odd dimensions have actually hurt Crawford offensively.  Left fielders play shallower in Boston than in any other park, due to the Green Monster.  This means that shallow flares, bloop pop ups and even live drive singles are taken out of the equation.  While you can argue that this would then alter every other hitter’s stats, I think that the style of offense that Crawford plays, combined with bad luck, and a slight drop off in actual performance have been the main contributors to his poor statistics. 

Look for Crawford to settle into the Boston atmosphere and return to his career averages in statistics in 2012.  If he doesn’t, there will be many Sox fans clamouring to get rid of him at any cost.

***Today’s feature was prepared by 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.***

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E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday August 10th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to mlbreports@gmail.com and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.

 

 Wednesday August 10, 2011

 

 

Q:  Once Anthony Rendon signs with the Nationals, do you see him moving to 2B?  What’s your best guess?  From Flips, parts unknown.

MLB reports:  The Rice product, drafted 6th overall by the Nationals this year is likely to sign with the Nationals by the August 15th deadline.  In the unlikely event that he does not sign, then the Nationals would get a compensation pick next draft.  But luckily for Washington, Rendon is expected to join the club this year.  With Ryan Zimmerman entrenched at 3rd base, many people have speculated at which position Rendon will end up.  I have heard 2nd base tossed around, but the smart money is 1st base.  Adam La Roche is a temporary solution for the squad and not the long-term answer.  The Nationals appear to be set up the middle with Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond.  Rendon’s bat has never been a question.  To get him quickly into the lineup, expect the Nationals to move him to 1st base right away after being signed.  The outfield is another option, but more of a last resort. 

 

Q:  Will this be the year that the Texas Rangers win the World Series?  From Anne, Dallas. 

MLB reports:  If the Rangers had been able to sign Cliff Lee, my answer would have been yes.  But they did not and the Halladay-Lee combination will lead the Phillies to victory in the fall in my opinion.  Don’t get me wrong, the Rangers have an excellent team.  An offense led by Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler, Michael Young and company.  C.J. Wilson as the ace.  The bullpen trio of Neftali Feliz, Mike Adams and Koji Uehara.  The Rangers can do it all.  But firstly, just to make it to the World Series the Rangers will need to pass the Yankees and Red Sox.  Even then, the Phillies if they end up as their opponent will be tough to beat.  The Phillies have a solid offense core of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Hunter Pence.  The bullpen has been steady, led by closer Ryan Madson.  But it is the starting pitching that will see the Phillies through.  With all the roadblocks in the Rangers path, I see them as a strong contender but not necessarily the favorites to win the World Series this year.   

 

Q: Why is it legal to bulldoze a catcher when he clearly has the ball, but not a fielder at any other base?  From G Homan, Ohio.

MLB reports:  You will have to check the rule book on this one.  It is just as legal to take out a catcher as it is an infielder during play, but it depends on the nature of the play.  A baserunner cannot run outside of the baselines to purposely run over an infielder or a catcher.  But in the course of running the bases, runners can collide with an infielder as they would a catcher.  Now the runners cannot purposely injure a defensive player, like using the spikes or an elbow to the face.  But to reach base safely, a strong slide or collision is a part of the game and can happen at second base the same way it can at home.  Despite cries to change the rules after the Buster Posey injury, strong and aggressive base running remains a vital part of the game.

   

Q:  Will the Phillies get an arm for their bullpen through waivers?  From Miguel, Philadelphia.

MLB reports:  Last time I checked, your team was stacked fairly well at the back-end of their pitching staff.  Ryan Madson as closer.  Brad LidgeAntonio Bastardo, Jose Contreras (when healthy) and Kyle Kendrick.  I wouldn’t be too worried about the pen.  Some people are calling for Heath Bell still to go to the Phillies.  But with the waiver process in effect, I can’t see Bell falling to the Phillies before getting snapped up earlier on waivers.  Another arm or two might out there, but nothing too special.  The Phillies most likely go with what they got and that is still much above most other pens in baseball.   

 

Q:  If you look at the numbers, you will find out that Indianapolis, IN and San Antonio, TX are the most populous cities without a MLB team.  I would think size of market would drive who gets the next teams.  It is obvious that MLB is financially doing really well.  I would keep two leagues, and give the expansion teams to the AL, since they are the league with only 14 teams.
 
American League:

West                       Midwest                   East                 Atlantic
LA Angels                    Rangers             Indianapolis     Yankees
Oakland A’s                  KC Royals        Tigers                   Red Sox
San Antonio               Twins                  Indians                Orioles
Mariners                    White Sox           Rays                    Blue Jays
 
National League:

West                             Midwest                  East            Atlantic
Dodgers       Colorado Rockies        Chicago Cubs        NY Mets
Padres          Houston Astros           Cincinnati Reds    Phil Phillies
Giants           St. Louis Cardinals     Atlanta Braves     Florida Marlins
Dbacks         Brewers                           Pitt Pirates            Wash Nationals
 
I tried to used a US map,and place teams in divisions according to how the line up East and West.  From Tom, Orange CA.

MLB reports:  Very interesting alignment Tom.  Indianapolis and San Antonio have been two very popular destinations for our readers in selecting the next two expansion MLB cities.  There has been resistance by Bud Selig to further expand baseball.  However, as discussed in our previous articles on the subject, baseball needs to add two more teams to balance out the leagues to 16-teams a piece.  Also realignment is in order to create better geographical rivalries and even out the number of teams per division.  So far, the most that we have heard is that baseball is planning to realign by moving one NL team to the AL by 2013 (as the 2012 regular season schedule has already been prepared in draft format).  The problem with the 15/15 split is that an interleague game would need to be played most days, which does not seem like a worthwhile proposition.  Houston by most accounts is the team most likely to move.  So while we appreciate your thoughts, the expansion and radical realignment ideas are unlikely to happen… yet.  If and when they do, we would like to see more shifting of teams to create new excitement and rivalries in baseball.  But the framework you have laid down is a very good start.  Thank you for sending it in.     

 

 

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Ubaldo Jimenez to the Yankees? Rockies May Move Ace to the Bronx

Saturday July 16, 2011

MLB reports:   As an unbelievable as it may seem, there has been talk in baseball circles that the Rockies are taking calls on their ace pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez.  Start after start, game after game last year, Jimenez for the majority of 2010 was as unhittable as they come.   Despite coming back down to earth in the 2nd half, Jimenez last year appeared in his first All-Star game and finished 3rd in the NL CY Young voting.  He also pitched the very first no-hitter in Rockies history on April 17, 2010.  With a young Rockies team that was expected to contend in 2011, the 27-year old Dominican Jimenez was expected to anchor the team.  Now sitting with a 45-49 record, 8.5 games out of 1st in the NL West, the Rockies are on the fence as to whether they still have playoff aspirations this year.  Further, the team’s brass needs to decide whether Jimenez is a part of those aspirations and future playoff runs.  Media outlets have speculated that the Yankees are quietly making a run at Jimenez.  There is a strong probability the trade could happen, but in my estimation, the Rockies would be making a colossal error if they do.

There is no denying the strength and ability of Ubaldo Jimenez.  As the pitcher has slowly improved every year, especially noting his strong 2009 and 2010 campaigns, the hurler clearly has a world of potential.  Taking a look at his numbers, the results speak for themselves:

Year W L ERA IP H BB SO WHIP
2006 0 0 3.52 7.2 5 3 3 1.043
2007 4 4 4.28 82.0 70 37 68 1.305
2008 12 12 3.99 198.2 182 103 172 1.435
2009 15 12 3.47 218.0 183 85 198 1.229
2010 19 8 2.88 221.2 164 92 214 1.155
2011 5 8 4.08 110.1 101 43 99 1.305
6 Seasons 55 44 3.60 838.1 705 363 754 1.274
162 Game Avg. 14 11 3.60 212 178 92 191 1.274

With pitching at such a shortage, many baseball analysts are scratching their heads as to how the Rockies could possibly think about trading Jimenez.  The San Francisco Giants proved last year that the World Series could be won almost exclusively on the strength of pitching.  Tim LincecumMatt CainMadison BumgarnerJonathan Sanchez.  The Giants had so many weapons to throw against its opponents every night and good young pitching at the end of day beats good hitting much of the time.  The Rockies, ravaged by injuries and inconsistent performances, are unlikely to reach the postseason this year.  But in the management of the team, the present and future must be considered.  Look at Felix Hernandez on Seattle, Roy Halladay on the Phillies and Lincecum on the Giants.  Every team that is trying to build a winner needs a stud pitcher at the top of its rotation.  Jimenez is that guy for the Rockies and losing him on the roster will be a hole that will be difficult, to impossible to fill.

So given the positives that Jimenez brings to the table, the issue remains how and why the Rockies could possibly consider moving him.  There are a couple of main reasons in my estimation.  Part of the equation is the performance of Jimenez this season.  While he has been good, Jimenez for the most part has not been great.  His record this year is far off from his most recent seasons, despite a strong rebound in his last few starts.  Given his inconsistencies in 2011, the Rockies may be getting a little worried and looking to sell high before Jimenez starts to decline and/or injured.  But given his strong resume to date, young age and rebound recently, I would like to think the Rockies are more intelligent than that.  Players have their ups and downs, at all levels.  It happens.  Without a larger body of work for reference, it is almost impossible to reason that Jimenez is on his way down.  His recent numbers tend to show otherwise.  So while Jimenez may not be the same pitcher that we saw in early 2010, he is still the ace of the team.

So why the reports of trade talk with the Yankees?  I will give you two words.  Cliff Lee.  The same Cliff Lee that was all set to be traded last year from the Mariners to the Yankees in a package including Jesus Montero.  The deal was completed to the level that major media outlets were announcing the trade as fact.  As the story goes on that one, the Mariners played the Yankees against the Rangers and took a package from Texas built around prospect Justin Smoak at the very last-minute.  The Yankees were fuming to the level that they contacted the higher-ups in Seattle to complain about the conduct of their GM, Jack Zduriencik.  The fallout was the Rangers making it to the World Series and the Yankees left at the altar without their prize.  As a further dagger, Lee in his decision to sign with the Rangers or Yankees this past offseason, ended up going to the Phillies at the last-minute.  Again, the mystery team coming at the last second out of the woods and the Yankees were left standing with egg on their face.

Do not underestimate the New York Yankees.  They are the strongest and one of the proudest teams in baseball.  The Yankees and their fans do not like to be left disappointed in the constant search for top talent.  With Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia sitting in their rotation, the Yankees are clearly itching to make a move to bolster their rotation.  While names like Jeremy Guthrie, Derek Lowe and Bronson Arroyo being thrown around, it starts to shed some light as to where the Jimenez talk is coming from.  This is the Yankees and they do not like shopping at the Ford dealership.  This is a team built on Mercedes and BMW’s.  The problem is that the top cars, i.e. ace pitchers, are not readily available.  After making runs at Felix Hernandez and Francisco Liriano, the Yankees are still in search of a strong #2 to compliment ace CC Sabathia.  Considering that Sabathia can opt out of his contract during the coming offseason and possibly leave New York, the pressure is even greater to land a top starting pitcher.  From all the names that have been tossed around, the one that makes the most sense is Ubaldo Jimenez.

When Jimenez is on his game, he is as Cliff Lee-like as you can get.  Jimenez is a horse that has the potential to pitch a complete game shutout almost every game out.  This is the type of numbers that the Yankees are looking for.  Rather than waiting to what comes in free agency, the Yankees are trying to hedge their bets and make a run now.  Any package for Jimenez will be built around uber-prospect Jesus Montero.  Considering his strong bat, Montero could move from catcher to first base to replace the aging Todd Helton.  The Rockies still have faith in their own young catcher, Chris Iannetta, who has taken longer to develop than expected.  Montero would be great insurance and an almost guaranteed monster bat, in addition to the other prospects that would be headed to Colorado.  A win-win for both teams if it happens, considering the bodies that would be moving as part of the trade.  But still not quite if you consider the value of Jimenez to the Rockies.

Other teams  will sniffing around Jimenez as well.  The Red Sox, Indians, Tigers, Angels and Rangers could all be considered in the mix.  Jimenez would not come cheap and if the Rockies are smart, they will auction him off to the highest bidder.  At the end of the day, this is a trade that the Yankees have to make.  With little to no other options on the market, the Yankees have to overpay for Jimenez or risk failing to win a World Series despite the highest payroll in business.  The Yankees lost out twice on Cliff Lee and need to do everything in their power to land an equivalent pitcher to their fold.  While Ricky Romero or Jered Weaver would be nice acquisitions, realistically neither one will be made available by their respective teams.  With Carlos Zambrano overpriced and inconsistent and Johan Santana a question mark for the season, at this point it is Jimenez or bust for the Yankees.

In considering this trade from a Rockies perspective, think how long the organization suffered from a pitching perspective.  Despite always having strong hitting, the Rockies as an organization have been challenged to develop and maintain reliable pitching.  Now that the Rockies have an ace in place, the team should be focusing on building around Jimenez rather than moving him.  If the Rockies build their core of hitters and fail to have a deep and consistent starting rotation, the team will mean little come playoff time.  The team will simply fall back into old habits and fail to adapt to the new Major League Baseball.  With the steroid era past us, baseball is built around pitching and defense now for the most part.  The Rockies, like every other team, needs good young pitching to contend.  Jimenez has the potential to give them a high level of pitching for at least the next five years.  If the Rockies feel they have a chance to contend during that time, they must hold onto him or risk setting themselves back even further.

Knowing that this is a trade that Yankees must make and the Rockies should pass on, the final question is whether this trade will happen.  My heart says no, but my brain says yes.  Despite all the reasons that the Rockies should hold onto Jimenez, it appears in my estimation that the Yankees will make an offer that Colorado cannot refuse.  In fighting for World Series titles in New York, all necessary resources have to be acquired at any cost.  Considering that the Yankees will include Montero and 2-3 more top prospects, the Rockies will have a hard time saying no.  Perhaps the Yankees will include a couple of top pitching prospects in the package that will allow for a smoother transition for Colorado.  But the reality is, that while prospects are intriguing and desirable, they are far from a sure thing.  For every Derek Jeter that is drafted, developed and becomes a future Hall of Fame player, there are 1000’s of Todd Van Poppel clones that come highly touted and burn out just as quick.  Ubaldo Jimenez has the experience and numbers that are proven.  While I am always skeptical of pitching, based on injury risk (see Stephen Strasburg), the potential risk in this case by keeping Jimenez is worth the reward of the potential for future playoffs.  This will be the one case where I advocate that a team hold onto their starting pitcher rather than cash in for prospects.  But it is also the case where there is extreme speculation and rumors and I foresee the trade occurring.  The Yankees are the Yankees for a reason.  They usually get what they want.  They want Ubaldo Jimenez and before July is done, he very well could be in pinstripes.

 

 

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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.

MLB All-Star Futures Game 2011: World Team Preview

Thursday, July 7, 2011

 

Rob Bland (Intern Candidate for MLB Reports):   Since its inception in 1999, the Futures Game, now sponsored by XM Satellite Radio, has grown steadily in popularity.  The players involved are split into two squads:  USA and the World team. The rosters comprise of 25 players each, with every MLB organization represented, and no more than two players from each team.  This year’s game will be played at Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field on Sunday, July 10th, a day before the MLB All-Star Homerun Derby.

Previous editions of the Futures Game has been littered with immense talent, and this year is no exception.  The MVP of the inaugural event was Alfonso Soriano, and in other years it was Jose Reyes (2002), Grady Sizemore (2003), Aaron Hill (2004), and Billy Butler in 2006.  Other notable past participants were superstars Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, Robinson Cano of the NY Yankees, and Clayton Kershaw of the LA Dodgers.

This year’s game is no different, as 14 of MLB.com’s Preseason Top 50 Prospects List will be participating in the event.  That number could very easily be higher, but more than a dozen of those 50 are currently playing in the MLB.  This year’s USA crop is highlighted by Mike Trout, #1 on the top 50 list, (LAA) and Bryce Harper, #3, (WAS) sharing the same outfield.  The World team boasts a strong pitching staff, led by Julio Teheran, #10, (ATL) and Henderson Alvarez of the Toronto Blue Jays. 

Let’s take a close look at the featured players that will be respresenting this year’s World Team:

 

WORLD TEAM

 

PITCHERS

Henderson Alvarez – RHP -Venezuela– TOR –New Hampshire Fisher Cats – AA – Eastern League

Alvarez is a right-handed starter who is in his second turn at the Futures Game. He has always possessed plus command, walking only 1.8 batters per 9 innings in his 5 year minor league career.  An increase in weight over the offseason has also helped increase his velocity, as he touches 98 mph.

 

Liam Hendriks – RHP -Australia – MIN –New Britain Rock Cats – AA – Eastern League

Had an appendectomy just days before last year’s game, so this is a reprise for him.  Not unhittable, but throws a ton of strikes; just 18 walks in 90 innings so far.  Sits in the 87-91mph range with average secondary offerings.

 

Kelvin Herrera – RHP -Dominican Republic – KC – Northwest Arkansas Naturals – AA –Texas League

Diminutive right-handed reliever who has been almost untouchable this season. Since his call-up to AA early in the season, he has walked 2 batters to 35 strikeouts in 26 2/3 innings.  He sits around 95-96mph with a plus change-up.

 

Gregory Infante – RHP -Venezuela – CHISox – Charlotte Knights – AAA – International League

Another flame-throwing righty, he has managed to lower his walk rate and raise his strikeout rate in getting to AAA this year.  He gets enough groundouts and doesn’t give up many homeruns.  His lack of a consistent second pitch is holding him back, although his curve shows flashes of brilliance in the low 80s.

 

Jhan Marinez – RHP -Dominican Republic –FLA –Jacksonville Suns – AA – Southern League

Another righty reliever that can touch 98, with an exceptional 2-seamer that sits at 92.  His problem, as most young arms, is control.  Over his career he has average 6 BB/9, and has so far managed 7.9 BB/9 this year.  He has struck out almost 12 per 9 innings though.

 

Carlos Martinez – RHP – Dominican Republic – STL – Palm Beach Cardinals – A – Florida State League

A Latin pitcher, thin and wiry who sits mid 90s with his fastball which has a good late cut.  He has given up only 31 hits in 44 2/3 innings pitched, and is able to induce a lot of ground balls.

 

James Paxton – LHP -Canada – SEA – Jackson Generals – AA – Southern League

A tall, strong lefty, who didn’t sign after being selected in the supplemental first round in 2009, got a later start on his professional career after three years at the UniversityofKentucky.  He sits 92-95mph with an above average curve, a power slider and average change-up.  As a starter this year, he has struck out 81 batters in 60 2/3 innings.

 

Martin Perez – LHP -Venezuela –TEX – Frisco RoughRiders – AA –Texas League

A left handed starter with a fastball that sits around 92mph, his bread and butter is his sharp, hard-breaking curveball.  His command is average, as he walks close to 4 batters per 9 innings.

 

Julio Teheran – RHP -Colombia – ATL – Gwinnett Braves – AAA – International League

It’s not often you see a 20-year old in AAA with his numbers. 9-1 with a 1.79 ERA in 90 2/3 IP.  He possess a plus fastball that sits 92-94, with a plus plus change-up with great sink.  Projects to be a #2 starter, if not a true ace in the big leagues.

 

Arodys Vizcaino – RHP -Dominican Republic – ATL –Mississippi Braves – AA – Southern League

Strong, well developed legs allow him to sit in the 91-94 range, topping at 95. His curve and change have yet to fully develop, but show flashes of promise.  He has the ability to miss bats, as he has compiled 76 K in 78 2/3 IP.

 

CATCHERS

Willin Rosario – C -Dominican Republic –COL -Tulsa Drillers – AA –Texas League

He possesses 30+ HR power, but lacks discipline and doesn’t walk.  He has power to all fields but strikes out in almost 20% of his at bats.  If he can learn some patience, he could be one of the top young catchers in the game.

 

Sebastian Valle – C -Mexico – PHI –Clearwater Threshers – A –Florida State League

Valle is a catcher who has hit at every level so far, yet still lacks patience, which is very common with young backstops.  If he can raise his walk rate, and keep hitting the ball to all fields, he could be a special catcher in the Phillies organization.

 

 

INFIELDERS

Yonder Alonso – 1B/OF -Cuba – CIN –Louisville Bats – AAA – International League

Alonso is a very polished hitter.  He has begun to play more innings at left field, because the Reds have Joey Votto as a lock at 1B.  He hits to all fields, with some pop, and he walks a fair amount, which has led to his .861 OPS in AAA.

 

Jose Altuve – 2B -Venezuela – HOU – Corpus Christi Hooks – AA –Texas League

Listed at 5’7”, but plays as if he was 6’3”.  Altuve is currently hitting .362 with 4 HR and 22 RBI in 31 games in AA after starting the season in A-ball, where he hit over .400 in 52 games.  He doesn’t walk much, but when he is hitting everything thrown at him, he doesn’t really need to.

 

Hak-Ju Lee – SS -South Korea – TB – Charlotte Stone Crabs – A –FloridaState League

He is a plus defender at shortstop with good speed.  Lee needs to work on his base stealing to better utilize that speed.  He is having the best offensive season of his career, and is really looking like a steal in the Matt Garza trade with the Cubs.

 

Francisco Martinez – 3B -Venezuela – DET –Erie Sea Wolves – AA – Eastern League

Martinez is a prototypical third baseman with a quick bat and strong arm.  Once he fills out his athletic frame, he should develop plus power.  He still strikes out too much as he adjusts to AA pitching.

 

Alex Liddi – SS -Italy – SEA –Tacoma Rainiers – AAA –PacificCoast League

As the first Italian position player to sign a professional contract, he was seen as a bit of a project back in 2005.  He has begun to develop his power, bashing 15 HR so far this season, but strikes out a ton; around 30% of his plate appearances end with him walking back to the dugout.

 

Jeffry Marte – 3B –  Dominican Republic – NYM – St. Lucie Mets – A –Florida State League

Marte has good gap power and has a decent eye at the plate, as well as being smart on the base paths.  May not be able to stay at 3B long term, but as long as his bat continues to progress, could make it to the big leagues as an outfielder.

 

Jurickson Profar – SS – Curacao –TEX –Hickory Crawdads – A –South Atlantic League

Premium defender at shortstop, with speed and the ability to drive the ball all over the field.  He walks more than he strikes out, and once he fills out his 165lb frame, he could eventually become a 20/20 shortstop in the big leagues.

 

Jonathan Schoop – 3B – Curacao – BAL –Frederick Keys – A –Carolina League

Possesses the skills to play anywhere in the infield, his long term future looks to be 3B.  He has quick feet and a good arm, with a quick bat.  As he gets stronger, he could be a 20 HR guy that can drive in a ton of runs.

 

OUTFIELDERS

Chih-Hsien Chiang – OF -Taiwan – BOS –Portland Sea Dogs – AA – Eastern League

After five years of mediocrity in the minor leagues, he seems to have put it together this year.  Hitting in the middle of Portland’s line-up, he has not only driven in 58 runs and hit 14 homeruns, but also hit 26 doubles, giving him a .618 SLG.  Over half of his hits have been for extra bases, with gap power, he could prove that Boston’s roots in Asia are only getting stronger.

 

Reymond Fuentes – CF – Puerto Rico – SD –LakeElsinore Storm – A –California League

One of the pieces in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, he should be able to man center field at Petco Park for years to come with his speed.  He already has 34 stolen bases, and he gets on base quite frequently.  He may never hit for power, but could be a leadoff type hitter in the big leagues.

 

Starling Marte – CF -Dominican Republic – PIT –Altoona Curve – AA – Eastern League

There aren’t many players in baseball that could push Andrew McCutchen to a corner outfield position, but Marte could be one of them.  He possesses the speed to cover a lot of ground, and although his power hasn’t quite developed, he could be a 10-15 HR player with a good OBP if his discipline continues to progress.

 

Alfredo Silverio – LF -Dominican Republic – LAD –Chattanooga Lookouts – AA – Southern League

Silverio has always seemed ready to be the power/speed combination outfielder the Dodgers envisioned when they signed him in 2003, and almost eight years later, he may finally be hitting his stride.  If his discipline can improve, he could be in the big leagues quickly.  Lacks a good arm, so he is basically destined for left field.

 

Dayan Viciedo – RF -Cuba – CHI Sox – Charlotte Knights – AAA – International League

Finally moved to the outfield this year, he has a solid arm for right field, and he flat out mashes.  Many see a 30 HR player in the near future, as he uses all parts of the field with a quick compact stroke.

 

The World team is comprised of players from twelve countries: eight from the Dominican Republic, five from Venezuela, two from Cuba and Curacao, and one each from Canada, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, Italy, Colombia, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

Stay tuned for analysis on the US roster.

 

***Thank you to Rob Bland for preparing today’s article on the All-Star Futures Game, preview of the World Team.  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.

 

 

E-MAILBAG: Ask the Reports, Wednesday June 29th

Thank you for reading the E-mailbag.  Please send all your questions to mlbreports@gmail.com and please include your first name and City/Country.

We will be compiling a list of your questions from our e-mailbag and posting the responses on Wednesdays.

 

Wednesday June 29, 2011

Q:  Money aside, who do you sign Prince or Pujols?  From:  Barry, New York.

MLB reports:    The debate that has been raging from the last off-season continues.  Going into the year, most would have chosen Albert Pujols.  Great track record, monster numbers to the point of being a cut above Prince Fielder.  Now with the Pujols injury and Fielder strong season, many are starting to lean towards Prince.  Regardless of money, if I had a crack at either superstar first baseman, I would go with Pujols.  Despite being older and having to come back from injury, Pujols is still Pujols.  He is this generation’s Babe Ruth in my estimation and at his peak, brings a higher level of play than Fielder.  Both will get their money, no doubt.  Based on historical performances, I expect Pujols to still receive the higher payday unless he cannot return successfully from injuries.  The ironic part is that the Cardinals will most likely retain Pujols, while Fielder will depart Milwaukee as a free agent.  But if I had to choose one, Pujols on my team please. 

 

Q:    Will my Orioles ever contend?  You live in Toronto so you know what I mean.  From:  Gary, Baltimore.

MLB reports:  I hear ya Gary.  I hear the moans and groans throughout the Rogers Centre on many nights about the inability of the Toronto Blue Jays to compete with the money of the Yankees and Red Sox.  But often lost in the discussion is the Tampa Bay Rays.  Last I checked, the Rays have been contenders for some time on a minimal budget.  Yes, your Orioles can compete, even in the AL East.  But the team will need to be built around strong homegrown prospects.  With all the young Orioles players coming up and in place, the future is bright.  Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and company will complement Adam Jones and Nick Markakis well.  Plus you have young pitching coming up in every level.  The future is bright in Baltimore and the team is being built the right way.  Give it time, hope is there. 

 

Q:  When are the All-Star team rosters announced?  I can’t wait!  From Liz, Toronto.

MLB reports:  The All-Star game will be played in Arizona on Tuesday July 12th.  The rosters for the AL and NL squads will be announced on Sunday July 3rd.  Then from July 3-7, fans will be able to vote on-line for the final player for each squad.  Ballots need to be in by tomorrow so make sure to vote for your favorite players soon!  

 

Q:  Are you a Phillies fans?  You talk about the team ALOT on twitter!  From:  Mary, Florida.

MLB reports:  Hi Mary.  Thanks for the question.  I am a baseball fan in general (thus the “MLB reports” name).  As far as favorite teams, as most of the readers know, I tend to lean towards the Tigers.  I also show the Jays love as well.  I talk about the Phillies quite a bit because they are very good.  Look at their record.  From there, I tend to focus on Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.  What the two of them could accomplish in the playoffs together is scary.  I have never seen a 1-2 punch at the top of a rotation like this ever.  Halladay may be the best pitcher of our time and Lee is unhittable when he is on.  My heart may not be in Philadelphia, but my respect surely is. 

Q:  How do I join MLB Reports?  I love baseball and writing.  Please help!  From Catherine, Seattle. 

MLB reports:  Thank you for the inquiry Catherine.  We have people contributing to MLB reports in many ways.  We are looking at taking on a couple of Interns.  Click here to learn about the position and to apply.  We also encourage readers to e-mail us about writing guest spots.  As part of the MLB reports mandate, we look to help develop and assist young baseball writers in developing their craft.  You can also “like” us on Facebook and contribute posts/pictures on our wall.   We love our readers to get involved, as the Reports should be for the fans and by the fans.  Let me know and we will get you involved!  If any readers are also interested in applying for the Intern positions or contributing to MLB reports, please see our contact information below.

 

 

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