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By Nicholas Rossoletti (Yankees Correspondent/Trade Correspondent): Follow @nross56
As April came to a close and May began, the Yankees found themselves in an all so familiar place. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox were atop the American League East. It seems like this struggle between century old rivals has dominated the AL East for the better part of the last 15 years.
This year was supposed to be different as New York and Boston were both expected to cede the division to the Baltimore O’s, Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, and perhaps that will still be the case, but after five weeks of the season, it certainly seems like the demise of the Yanks and Sox was greatly overstated.
Part of the reason that the Yankees have managed to prove their naysayers incorrect has been their stellar starting pitching. Each of the top four Yankee starters has pitched well to start the season, but as the title of the article suggests, there is one pitcher who has stood out especially in the last several weeks.
His performance leads to this question: Is Phil Hughes finally becoming the pitcher he was always touted to be? Is the 26-year old right hander finally blossoming into a strong 1/2 starter? The numbers, at least early on, scream YES.
The Phil Hughes Question:
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Thursday January 3rd, 2013
Bernie Olshansky (Baseball Writer): Follow @BernieOlshansky
For the past few seasons, the Kansas City Royals have not had a lot of consistency. The pitching has been sub-par, and the hitting has been disappointing. But, there has been one guy the Royals have been able to rely on: Billy Butler. Butler, a First Round pick in the MLB Amateur Draft (14th Overall), is not the type of player that is a household name, but he gets the job done—very well for that matter. Not much attention has been paid to Butler, probably because of the lack of success that the Royals have had. From 2009 to 2012, Butler has played in no less than 158 Games—something that is very valuable to a team. His worst season (power-wise) in that 4 Year span was 2010, in which he hit .318 with 15 HRs and 78 RBI. In 2012, Butler was outstanding, hitting .313 with 29 HRs and 107 RBI. This season included his first All Star Game Appearance and a Silver Slugger Award.
In terms of defense, Butler has been squeezed out. The rise of star prospect Eric Hosmer eliminated any possibility of Butler playing First base. Butler did not play much defense before Hosmer came up anyway, but the call-up solidified this. Now, Butler is the everyday DH, similar to a David Ortiz-type. He occasionally gets some time in the field, notably in 2012 when Hosmer was mired in a deep slump. If Butler was more versatile, maybe he would be more recognized and could receive the attention he deserves. When Ortiz retires soon, Butler may take the reigns as the best DH in the game.
Billy Butler 2012 Highlights
Tuesday November 27th, 2012
Jake Dal Porto (Baseball Writer):
The Padres seem poised to eventually become mild-spenders. For an organization that’s highest payroll since 2002 has been roughly $73 million (in 2008), moving up in the spending chain would certainly be good for a change. This transformation could come as soon as 2013 or maybe a few years down the road.
But let’s be sure of something—the Padres have a steep hill to climb before they can compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers in terms of financial freedom. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t be able to compete with the newly labeled ‘Yankees’ of the West coast, but it surely prevents them from signing talented free agents. The A’s and Orioles are a pair of most recent teams to win on a cheaper payroll, while the Rays have been the very definition of that over the past few years. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday November 15th, 2012
Alex Mednick (Baseball Writer and Analyst)
Last week Jonathan Hacohen, the founder of MLBReports.com called to my attention that the Tampa Bay Rays are an anomaly. Ultimately, if you look at the way their team is structured and where their talent lays, and the kind of game that Joe Maddon manages the Rays are ultimately a National League team; displaced in the AL East. The Rays greatest strength is their depth of pitching that they can reach into the bowels of an amazing farm system ripe with young talent. But from there on out, they rely on an offense that generates runs due to other inefficiencies.
With B.J. Upton leaving town, and Carlos Pena only a carcass of what he once was, there is ultimately zero power left in their lineup. Their DH for the past two years have been the likes of an aging Johnny Damon, Hideki Matsui, and Luke Scott. Ownership is constantly complaining about attendance and looking for bargain free agents like Johnny Damon to bring in at the end of their careers and hopefully attract some Yankees and Red Sox fans to the stadium.
At this point, the Rays power hitters are Evan Longoria, Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist. They have an amazing nucleus of pitching talent, including David Price who just won the AL Cy Young, and they are mentioning trading almost all of their starting pitchers. This is understandable, as you have to dish out talent to bring back offensive talent that they are in great need of. But I still have major gripes with the way owner Stuart Sternberg has approached the past 4 seasons in St. Petersburg, and I will get into more detail about this in a little while. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday November 15th, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: Both Cy Young awards were announced yesterday. R.A. Dickey won in the National League and David Price won in the American League. Dickey won by a large margin; he had 209 points by 27 first place votes and five second place votes. This race was not even close. Price on the other hand, won by four points. He received just one more first place vote than Justin Verlander, who finished second. Here’s my take on how the voting went down.
Thursday November 8th, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: With center fielder B.J. Upton most likely leaving for free agency, the Tampa Bay Rays will have some gaps to fill in their lineup this offseason. Unless they sign a high-profile free agent like Josh Hamilton (which I discussed in my last feature), the Rays will need to make a move to land a bat. The Rays have a solid pitching staff. Some may even say they have a pitching surplus. With David Price and James Shields leading the staff that includes Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore, the Rays can say that pitching is their strength. Out of all these pitchers, one should probably be traded though in order to boost the offense.
The two pitchers that would carry the most trade value on the staff are Shields and Price. Hellickson and Moore are both young and somewhat unproven, so they would probably not provide much of a return. Shields is a pitcher I compare to Mat Latos, who was traded to the Cincinnati Reds from the San Diego Padres last offseason. The Padres cashed in big time. For Latos, the they got a haul including Edinson Volquez, the projected number two starter in the Reds’ rotation at the time, Yonder Alonso, a top prospect, and Yasmani Grandal, another prospect and first-round pick. If the Rays traded Shields and got a deal similar to that of the Padres, they would be set up quite nicely for future success.
Saturday November 3rd, 2012
Alex Mednick (Baseball Analyst and Writer): Both B.J. Upton and his younger brother Justin will be available this offseason. Bossman Junior (B.J.) will be a top centerfield free agent option, and Justin signed a lucrative 6-year deal just two years ago, is widely known to be on the trading block from Arizona. The Upton brothers are the two highest drafted brothers in sports history. B.J. was a second overall pick in 2002 and Justin, the first overall pick of the 2005 draft. They have both had ups and downs in their young careers, but both have performed extremely well and shown glimpses of brilliance. Justin has already cashed in on his first big major league contract, and B.J. is looking to so this offseason. Where B.J. will sign, we will find out over the next months. But one thing that is clear…he makes since for just about any team out there.
The Philadelphia Phillies are one of those teams that could envision B.J. Upton gracefully patrolling centerfield for 162 games. As a premier center fielder facing free agency, B.J. as become far too expensive a commodity for the Rays to retain going forward. He plays top-notch defense in centerfield and has a cannon for an arm. All he did in 2012 as 27-year-old (in his 8th year in the MLB) was hit 29 doubles, 28 home runs and steal 31 bags. Yes, with this amazing tool set that combines defense with speed and power comes a lifetime .255 batting average and about 150 strikeouts a year. There are weaknesses in every player’s game, but B.J. Upton’s strengths make him a very attractive target for any team that doesn’t have Joe DiMaggio manning centerfield.
There is no doubt that B.J.’s speed and power will fit very nicely into the Phillies lineup along with Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard. We have to also consider what it is going to take to get B.J. signed to a contract. Right now, we know that the Tampa Bay Rays have offered B.J. a qualifying offer. While the chances of B.J. agreeing to this are virtually ‘zero’, it does mean that whoever signs B.J. is going to have to sacrifice their first round draft pick next year to Tampa. For a team like Philadelphia that can afford to sign top free agents, giving up a top prospect is an acceptable part of doing business. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday November 1st, 2012
Sam Evans: Never before have the Tampa Bay Rays and Kansas City Royals swapped significant players. This could mean very little, but it could also mean these two franchises have no interest in doing business with each other. Nonetheless, with the Rays abundance of young pitching and the Royals lack of pretty much any pitching, a trade between these two would make perfect sense.
Speculating trades is not particularly an easy thing, nor does it have much meaning. However, I believe all baseball fans are born with a little chip inside them that requires them to come up with trades in their free time. Like I said, the chances of these trades happening are close to zero, but its fun nonetheless. (For the record, the only trade I have ever predicted correctly is the Carlos Silva/Milton Bradley trade in 2009). Without further ado, here is one highly unlikely yet not impossible trade scenario for the Royals and Rays: Read the rest of this entry
Thursday November 1st, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: What a great story it would be to see Josh Hamilton return to the team that drafted him. As a free agent this offseason, there is a possibility that this could be the case. Hamilton never played a Major League game with the “Devil Rays”. After he was drafted, he was the number one prospect in the Devil Rays’ organization. He had an extremely bright future, but unfortunately the money from the signing bonus combined with injuries sent Hamilton down the wrong path leading to his drug abuse and decline, eventually sending him out of baseball. Hamilton spent time on the restricted list and was suspended, and was eventually picked by the Chicago Cubs in the Rule 5 draft, subsequently being purchased by the Cincinnati Reds. Hamilton played part of a season with the Reds before being traded to the Rangers, where he was very successful, making the All Star team every year and winning the MVP in 2010.
The Rangers most likely will not pursue Hamilton, leaving him open for any other club. Hamilton would be great for the Rays. With B.J. Upton most likely leaving to free agency, the Rays will need to fill the center field position. Hamilton would bring a lot of excitement to Tampa Bay and would help bring the team back to the playoffs. A former MVP would tremendously improve the Rays’ potent lineup already including Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist, and Carlos Pena. Acquiring Hamilton would make a large statement to the rest of the AL East. With the Yankees as the only real threat, the Rays would be sending the message that they are ready to win. The Red Sox are rebuilding, so they probably will not be of worry to the Rays, and the Blue Jays are coming off a disappointing season in 2011. The Orioles could be playoff bound, but with Hamilton, the Rays would have an advantage. With the new Wild Card in play, the Rays will have a good shot of reaching the playoffs even if they do not sign Hamilton. But, signing Hamilton would make the Rays a powerhouse and could give the Yankees a run for their money. Read the rest of this entry
Thursday August 23rd, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: After the Red Sox cut ties with longtime manager Terry Francona, there were a few options for his replacement. Among those options were former pitching coach for the 2007 World Series Champion team John Farrell, and high-profile former-manager Bobby Valentine. Both seemed to be good options, and the Red Sox signed Valentine. Farrell won the managerial job with the Blue Jays after the retirement of Cito Gaston (Brian Butterfield, DeMarlo Hale, and Sandy Alomar, Jr. were also rumored to be vying for the position). Each team was poised to finish atop or close to the top of the AL East standings. This wasn’t the case for either team.
First I’ll cover the Red Sox. Their main problem was the lack of production. Adrian Gonzalez—who the Sox acquired to help carry the offense failed to produce at the beginning of the season. At the All Star Break, he had less than ten home runs. Jacoby Ellsbury was injured after only a few games, and the pitching was absolutely awful. Carl Crawford took a while to come back from his wrist and elbow injuries, and recently shut his season down to undergo Tommy John surgery. Jon Lester, the number one starter was up and down, and has had an off-year. Josh Beckett received boos after being accused of playing golf in between starts. There was obviously something wrong. The Red Sox fell out of contention fairly early—something that wasn’t expected. A lot of the criticism fell on the manager. Bobby Valentine was accused of demeaning the players, saying something along the lines of “nice inning, kid” to rookie Will Middlebrooks after he made an error. Another of Valentine’s slip-ups was calling into question Kevin Youkilis’ effort. This ultimately led to Youk being traded to the White Sox, ending his successful Red Sox career. Veterans such as Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez didn’t take kindly to this and sent a text to management, spurring a meeting between front office officials and players. The situation in Boston is not good; players are divided into players versus manager and players versus players that support the manager. A change in Boston seems necessary; the pitching coach has already been relieved, and it seems like Bobby Valentine may be next.
Wednesday July 25th, 2012
Bernie Olshansky: Some more trades came down, including one exciting blockbuster to report. One of the biggest names though that was supposed to be traded will now be staying put. Cole Hamels, the Phillies great young left-handed starter is expected to re-sign for 6-years and $144 million. But even with Hamels off the market, the trade winds are in full swing. Hold on to your hats…this is HUGE:
Hanley Ramirez to the Dodgers
Another blockbuster deal. Announced late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning, Hanley Ramirez is headed to the Dodgers with reliever Randy Choate for pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough. There were rumblings about a possible trade of Hanley, and it ended up happening. Hanley will start fresh on the west coast as the Dodgers are battling with the Giants for the NL West crown. The Dodgers started off hot with Matt Kemp leading the charge. Kemp went down with a hamstring injury and was re-injured in his first game back. After another DL stint, Kemp came back right after the All Star Break. Andre Either also had some time on the DL with an oblique injury, but he has since come back. Now, both are healthy and poised to help the Dodgers on a run down the stretch. With Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley heading the pitching staff, one of the Dodgers’ weakest positions was third base. Juan Uribe, the main third baseman for the Dodgers this year, is hitting a weak .190 with just two homers and 17 RBI. Dee Gordon, the primary shortstop and currently on the DL, is hitting .229. Needless to say, the Dodgers needed some help on the left side of the infield. Read the rest of this entry
Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- Raul Ibanez and Andruw Jones might only be hitting about .250 as a combined DH unit, however they are providing some much-needed power from the DH slot for the New York Yankees. Ibanez is batting .260 with 9 HRs and 27 RBI in 137 AB, Jones is .227 with 5 HRs and 10 RBI in 66 AB. The two totals combined equal 14 HRs and 37 RBI in 193 AB. This is really good production in the power department. This puts the duo on pace for about 45 HRs and 120 RBI out of the DH slot. These numbers are comparable to Chicago White Sox primary DH Adam Dunn, who is .240 with 15 HRs and 35 RBI, and Edwin Encarnacion for the Toronto Blue Jays, who is .274 with 15 HRs and is second in the AL with 39 RBI.
There are factors that cancel out the production of both Encarnacion and Dunn. The Blue Jays first base position has killed any type of edge that Encarnacion’s start should have provided. Adam Lind hit himself out of the Majors with his under .200 average, thus negating the production that the position of 1B needs to have in order to compete along with a DH. Adam Dunn has racked up 74 strikeouts to add to his power numbers. While this has been a renaissance year for Dunn so far, the all or nothing philosophy does hurt in the clutch sometimes. I think the White Sox have to be happy with his production, plus Paul Konerko has been the best player in the AL outside of Josh Hamilton. Read the rest of this entry
Monday May 14, 2012
Ryan Ritchey: The Tampa Bay Rays are a team to watch this season for sure. A 21-14 record has them 1 game back of Baltimore for first in the East. The Rays this off-season went out and got Carlos Pena back from Chicago and moved Fernando Rodney to closer. The Rays depend on pitching to carry them and they have the starting pitching to do it. Leading the way for this staff is James Shields. Shields is 6-1 with a 3.52 ERA. Not far behind is Jeremy Hellickson who is 3-0 with a team leading 2.95 ERA. Both of these guys are going to need to lead this team to the promise land. Read the rest of this entry
Tuesday April 24, 2012
Chuck Booth- (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twitter)- Today’s expert is Kurt Smith. Kurt will be the interview subject of the following parks: Citizens Bank Ball Park, Turner Field and today’s featured expert Article of Tropicana Field Kurt is highly respected in the ball park chaser community for his BallparkEGuides. After you are done reading this article I implore you trust in Kurt to deliver up tips and suggestive idea’s on how to make your stadium visits affordable and pleasurable. I had a chance to ask some questions of the man recently.
CB: “Welcome to the MLB Reports Experts Interview Kurt. Please tell us about yourself and then give us a bit of background information on your life as a Rays Fan?”
KS: “Well I’m not a Rays fan per se, but wouldn’t they be a fun team to root for? They consistently come out on top or near the top in a division that includes behemoth spenders like the Yankees and Red Sox; and last year’s finale was one of the most exciting regular season games in history. It’s too bad this team has so much trouble getting people to come out and see them, because they really are an exciting team to watch. And I love the cowbells. It’s great to hear the ringing in a dome when an opposing batter has two strikes on him.”
CB: “As one of the ballpark experts who takes it to the extreme, how do you rank Tropicana Field versus the rest of the Ballparks?”
KS: “Tropicana Field isn’t a great venue; of all the ballparks I’ve visited I’d put it at or near the bottom. I don’t like indoor baseball, and I really dislike artificial turf, probably like most fans. The Trop is the only non-retractable dome left in baseball now that the Metrodome is gone, so you’re inside regardless. It may be okay to have the air conditioning and protection from thunderstorms in July or August, but who wants to go indoors to see baseball on a beautiful April Florida day? The timing of Tropicana Field’s construction couldn’t have been worse. A dome seemed like a great idea at the time, but just a couple of years after it opened Camden Yards debuted and completely turned ballpark construction upside down. Suddenly indoor baseball on artificial turf couldn’t be less cool.
If the Tampa Bay area’s government had listened when baseball told them not to build a stadium, they would probably have a retractable dome today.But the Rays signed a lease, so for the moment they’re stuck with it. And it’s not all bad. The humidity of Florida summers is nothing to sneeze at, so the air conditioning can be pretty nice. And at least you know you’re going to see a game whatever Mother Nature says, which is of great benefit to a road tripper.”
CB: “Despite the Rays being one of the best franchises over the last 5 years, the team still does not draw well. Why do you think that is Kurt?”
KS : “Here are the reasons that I’ve heard, all of which I think have some merit:
1 – Location. The ballpark is in St. Petersburg, and it’s not all that close or easily accessible from Tampa, where much of the fan base is or should be. It’s also in Florida, where there are a lot of New York transplants, so Yankees games draw well but the team has had a hard time establishing its own fan base.
2 – Entertainment Competition. Tampa Bay is not far from beaches or from Orlando, so there isn’t much elbow room for promotional people to convince residents to come to a ballgame rather than go to Universal Studios. The venue doesn’t help; on a beautiful day most people might rather go to a theme park in Orlando or a beach than go indoors for a game.
3 – Venue. I don’t know if I necessarily buy this one; a good team usually draws no matter where they play. But the Trop isn’t on the bucket list of most ballpark trippers, so that doesn’t help matters any. People get enthused about a game at Wrigley Field or Camden Yards, they don’t get enthused about a game at Tropicana Field.
4 – Weather. The indoor venue notwithstanding, perhaps people just don’t want to go somewhere and be outside for at least a short time in a climate where they may be dealing with hurricane-level thunderstorms or oppressive heat.”
CB: “The Rays seem to have a lot of gimmicks to promote a family atmosphere what have you seen Tropicana Field do in order to boost attendance?”
KS: “It is to the Rays’ great credit that they’ve made the Trop more entertaining for families and adults. The Rays tank is an especially popular attraction. You can reach into this tank in right center field and pet the slimy rays that are swimming around in it—all while watching the game go on. The concourse areas of Tropicana Field are like nothing you’ve seen in baseball—comic book style murals of baseball history, picnic areas and tons of interactive games for kids. On my last trip there, the Jumbotron showed a hilarious video of a cat “mixing” on a turntable.There’s also several party areas, like the Everglades BBQ in the batter’s eye in center field, the Center Field Street Brewhouse (with drink specials before games!), and several lounge areas where people can enjoy a “Blue Storm” drink. Baseball buffs should get a kick out of the Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame, too. Unfortunately the Rays can’t do fireworks, but they do get some big name acts to play after games.
CB: “What is your favorite method of transportation to and from Tropicana Field?”
KS: “Well if I lived close enough, I’d ride a bicycle, because there’s a lot of nice bicycle paths in the area and a place to lock up your cycle at the ballpark. But as it is, the only way most people get to Tropicana Field is by car, and it’s right off the interstate and easy to find. So I’ll just add that I’d find some people to carpool with, because the Rays offer free parking to the first 100 cars with four or more people in them. Free parking is always a great deal.
There is a new service for Tampa area fans called the “No Excuses Tour”. It takes riders to the game from a couple of local taverns, and I think the price is very reasonable. I believe they serve beer on the bus but the bus doesn’t have a bathroom, so there’s some kinks to be worked out there, but it’s a great idea.”
CB: “Tell me something about the surrounding area of the Ballpark?”
KS: “Well, I haven’t heard any horror stories, but some people say it’s not a great neighborhood. You’re not far from the downtown pier and its attractions, so that’s a possible post-game hangout area. I would say that you’re better off staying east of the ballpark towards the pier, and perhaps it’s not so nice west and south of the ballpark.
The popular pre-and post-game venue is Ferg’s, an indoor-outdoor tavern that is converted from a warehouse. They have game day specials on beer, and I haven’t tried the wings but I’m told they’re very good. If you’re the type that likes a drink or a snack before or after the game, Ferg’s is as good as anything here. They are walking distance from the ballpark and have cheaper parking, too.”
CB: “What advice would you give for somebody experiencing Tropicana Field for the very first time?”
KS: “Don’t pay more than you have to for a seat. If you can live with anything in the upper level you can get tickets there dirt cheap directly from the Rays, and it’s usually not a problem to improve your lie during the game. Wander around and see all of the party areas and make sure you check out that big ballplayer sticking out of the wall. Get yourself a cowbell so you can distract the opposing hitters when they get two strikes on them. If you’re a history buff you’ll want to see the Ted Williams Museum.
And don’t complain about seeing baseball indoors, because it’s a mighty good thing during July and August in St. Petersburg.”
CB: “How is the food at Tropicana Field? What is your favorite ballpark food there?”
KS: “Tropicana Field has everything from soup to nuts in the food department, like most ballparks these days. The nice thing is that there’s a lot of brand names, for better or worse, at least with Papa John’s, Outback Steakhouse and Checkers you know what you’re getting. They have a deli with great Boar’s Head sandwiches, and they even have a gluten-free stand, great for celiacs like my wife. The hot dogs are from Kayem, the same purveyor of the Fenway Frank in Boston, although the dogs here are different.
When I’m in the Trop I go for a Cuban sandwich at the East-West Delicatessen near the main entrance; the Cuban is not something you find at a lot of ballparks. It’s a hot pressed sandwich of ham, pork, Genoa salami, Swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard. I don’t know that it’s the go-to item at the Trop, but it would be my first choice. Gooey cheese is always a winner.”
CB: “What is your favorite all time game that you have been in attendance for at Tropicana Field?”
KS: “Well unfortunately I wasn’t there for September 28, 2011, when the Rays came back from a 7-0 deficit to defeat the Yankees in 12 innings and take the wild card spot right out from under the Red Sox.
So I’ll just go with my first game there in 2002…the then-Devil Rays pulled off a 5-4 victory over the Orioles, and I was with a group of friends sitting down the right field line making jokes about seeing the relief pitchers from behind.
Despite being indoors on a gorgeous April day, a good time was had by all.”
CB: “Thank you very much Kurt.”
***Thank you to our Tropicana Field Expert- Kurt Smith for participating in today’s article. to learn more about Kurt Smith and his website click here***
***Thank you to our Lead Baseball Writer- Chuck Booth for preparing today’s feature on MLB reports. To learn more about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames” and Chuck Booth, you can follow Chuck on Twitter (@ChuckBooth3024) and you can also follow Chuck’s website for his Guinness Book of World Record Bid to see all 30 MLB Park in 23 days click here or on the 30 MLB Parks in 23 days GWR tracker at the Reports click here. To Purchase or read about “The Fastest 30 Ballgames Book, ” please click here ***
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The Streak stands at 23 MLB Parks in 18 calendar days!!
Chuck Booth: I am the World Record Holder for-Fastest to see all 30 MLB parks in 24 days (2009)!
In 2012, I am going for 30 MLB Parks in 23 days from: April 6th to 28th.
Follow me-@chuckbooth3024 on twitter
Follow my streak all the through to the bitter end. Schedule is this link:
http://mlbreports.com/gwr-tracker/ or at my official website for all updates!
MLB Park # 16 Day # 12
CHC 2 @ MIA 3
New Marlins Ball Park
‘Chuck Booth (Lead Baseball Writer and @chuckbooth3024 on twiter)- It was a great day for a new baseball park. During this trip, anytime that I have had a single game only for a day, I have felt a little bit more relaxed while watching the action. I flew into FLL (Fort Lauderdale Airport) really early and caught up on some writing. I was fully rewarded with my National Car Rental to the tune of a Chrysler 200 that was black in color. I made my way to my Best Western Hotel near the airport. Check in time was not till 3 PM, but I was able to coerce the staff to let me take a room early. I really appreciate the professional way the Best Western staff always helps me in the travels. Read the rest of this entry
Sunday January 1, 2012
Jonathan Hacohen: Posted every Weekend: Your top baseball questions from the past week are answered. E-mail all questions to email@example.com, message us on Twitter and post on our Facebook Wall!
Let’s get to your top questions of the week:
Q: With just 7 weeks until spring training, which teams are looking really good for the 2012 season? Heather
MLB reports: Great question Heather. I presume you mean which teams are playoff contenders for 2012. At this point, I really like the Rays, Tigers, Angels and Rangers in the AL. These teams have the best balanced rosters that are built to make it to the playoffs. In the NL, it’s the Phillies, Reds, Dbacks and Braves (maybe Cards). Those are the strongest 8 teams that I am projecting for playoff positions at this point. There will be many improved teams to keep an eye on. The Jays continue to be on the rise in Toronto. The Royals are slowly preparing to make their move. I like what the Nationals are building in Washington. The Pirates are slowly putting together a nice stable of young prospects. The Padres are going to be a serious force very soon, perhaps as soon as this year. The common theme is good pitching and depth within the lineup. The above teams are the ones that are getting it right in my book.
Q: Will the Baseball Writers snub Tim Raines once again? David
MLB reports: Raines since 2008 has his percentage of votes rise from 24% to 37.5%. This is a tough one for the voters. I have studied the numbers and I don’t give Raines a vote. He was very good…but not Hall of Fame good in my book. Ultimately Raines will get in, as he is more deserving that say Jim Rice in my opinion. But he is one of those slow candidates that will climb every year and get to 75% in the last couple of years of eligibility. Raines is a fringe hall of fame candidate and it shows in his vote totals. Keep in mind it is the hall of fame, not the hall of very good. If we are going to put only the best of the best in the hall, Raines should not be in. But considering the track records of some recent inductees, then yes, Raines should be in. But don’t expect it anytime soon and definitely not in 2012. Raines will have to play the waiting game like many other fringe candidates.
Q: Any chance the Mets sign Prince Fielder? I know- I doubt the money is there, but still… I’d also like to think they can win the WS… Jon
MLB reports: All I have to say is…huh? You must really love your Mets, but you need to get a reality check on their chances. To answer your questions: firstly, no chance the Mets get Prince Fielder. For so many reasons. They cannot afford him. Given the Wilpon financial issues and the fact that the team is looking for a minority owner for a bailout, the team cannot take on Fielder’s salary. All the money in the budget has already been spent, so the team will go with Ike Davis again at first base. Davis has been a pleasant surprise and should continue to develop. Secondly, no way that Prince will want to go to the Mets. The team is not a contender and has too many black eyes from an image perspective. Prince would not want to get caught in the Mets mess right now. Plus, even with the outfield dimensions changing, I doubt Prince will want to play in that ballpark. As far as winning the World Series, pop in a DVD and watch the glory year of 1986. It should give you some comfort until the team returns back to glory, sometime in the next 5-10 years. I don’t mean to be hard on you Jon, but sometimes in baseball the fans need some tough love. I am being honest because I care. Don’t stop supporting your Mets: just be realistic so that you are not in for a letdown. Expect nothing and you will have your expectations exceeded!!!
Q: What’s your opinion on how my Kansas City Royals will fair this season? Michael
MLB reports: Better than many people think Michael. The Royals will not make the playoffs, but they will be a .500 squad. The hitting is really coming together and could get the boost of Wil Myers in mid-2012 if he gets the call. Things are on the rise in Kansas City. The Royals will be finishing in 3rd place, behind the Tigers and Indians. I could even see a 2nd place finish if everything falls into place. The team just has so much talent at every position, with the rotation being the only question mark for me. Perez, Butler, Hosmer, Giavotella, Escobar, Moustakas, Gordon, Cain and Francoeur. A bullpen stacked by Soria, Broxton, Crow, Collins, Mijares, Wood and Holland. On the field and in the pen, the Royals have the power to succeed. The rotation is a little more of a patchwork job. The team needs Danny Duffy to put it together and top pitching prospect John Lamb to return to form after a lost year to injury. I see 2013-2015 being the Royals time to shine. But with the team set to host the All-Star game this coming year, they should have an exciting product on the field. This will not be their year, but the first real step towards respectability. Enjoy this young team, if nothing else they will be fun to watch.
Final Question: What are the chances of any of these guys coming to Boston: Oswalt(P) Garza(P) Saunders(P) Spilborghs(RF) Quentin(RF)? Rick
MLB reports: Great question Rick. Fans are wondering what the Red Sox have up their sleeve. Unfortunately, I don’t think you will like the response on this one. Matt Garza comes at a big price of prospects that the Red Sox will not likely pay. Plus considering how long it took for Theo to make the jump to the Cubs and the negotiation of compensation and movement of front office staff, I don’t see the teams matching up well for a trade. Roy Oswalt will have many options considering that he will only get a 1-2 year deal. I don’t think he will be that excited to play in Boston. I see him more likely ending up back in the NL, or going to Texas or the Jays. Carlos Quentin is already in San Diego and will be the team’s new cleanup man. A native son, Quentin could stay long-term in San Diego. Whether the BoSox get Ryan Spilborghs or not is irrelevant for me. He just doesn’t excite me as a player with much potential. I could see Joe Saunders heading to Boston as a middle of the rotation starter. He would be an innings eater more than anything, not a real impact guy. It looks to me like the BoSox are going with what they have for the most part, with only minor tweaks coming. The team has the talent, so the bigger question is how the players respond to new manager Bobby Valentine. How Bobby V gets his players prepared and focused will decide if the BoSox can return to their glory days.
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Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
Wednesday November 30, 2011
Sam Evans: Ever since the Rays organization eliminated mistakes from their front office, and combined traditional scouting with advanced numbers, they have produced a winning baseball team in the hardest division in baseball. Unfortunately for the Rays, nobody in Tampa Bay noticed. The Rays have only finished in the top-ten in attendance in the AL twice in their fourteen years of existence. Tampa Bay has the ugliest ballpark in baseball, and now the only question is: How long will they be able to stay there?
What the Rays have done in the last five years is extremely impressive. They have won the division twice and won the wild card once in the last five years despite having the second-lowest payroll in all of baseball. The Rays have discovered market inefficiencies and taken advantage of them. For example, after the 2010 season, the Rays let their top relief pitchers leave in free agency, and they not only received draft compensation, but they easily replaced them in 2011. Also, signing young talented players to long-term deals has been a huge factor in their success. Overall, the Rays have found ways
The Rays have no reason to worry about their on-field product. The team is 368-260 in the last five years, and they show no signs of stopping their pace. They have more pitching depth than almost any other team in baseball, and Evan Longoria is signed through 2016 in what is one of the most team-friendly contracts in all of baseball. Despite having a winning ballclub for four straight years, the Rays are barely filling half of the stadium’s capacity per game.
Low attendances lead to a low payroll, and while the Rays would certainly like a larger payroll, they have still managed to be competitive within the AL East. The new CBA will hurt the teams with the lower payrolls around the league, but it will hit the Rays especially hard. They will no longer be able to take chances on international free agents for a low-cost and they will still be competing with the Red Sox and Yankees revenues.
The main contributor to the Rays low attendance has been the stadium. Tropicana Field is, by far, the worst stadium in baseball. It is the only domed stadium in baseball that is not retractable. The blueprint for the stadium was not well thought out, as evidenced in the catwalks that hang down from the ceiling. The bullpen is are almost nonexistent, and the interior design is the worst in baseball. Not to mention, the ballpark is not at the center of the city’s population unlike most other ballparks in baseball.
After the 2011 postseason, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said that he was disappointed about the future of baseball in Tampa Bay. That is a very bad sign for Rays fans. Sternberg is not a bad owner, and has shown dedication to making the Rays a more popular franchise in Tampa Bay. The Rays have tried everything to get fans to come to the ballpark, from Vuvezelas to a touch tank to a new enlarged scoreboard. Sadly, none of those techniques have worked to this day.
The Rays technically are signed through 2027 according to St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster. This contract that the Rays have with the city states that the Rays cannot enter discussions with other communities. However, with the right lawyer, the Rays would be able to escape this lease agreement. If the Rays can’t find a place to build a stadium in South Florida, then there are many cities that would love to host a Major League franchise. If the Rays are forced to move, then Las Vegas is the perfect fit. It is very sad to watch a team not be able to sell out a game in the ALDS.
I really feel bad for those devoted Rays fans. Living in Seattle, I had to go through the process of losing our hometown basketball team, the Sonics. It was a very similar situation where you could sort of sense the relocation coming. The stadium was not up to par, and the league was impatient. I’m not sure if baseball will ever thrive in Tampa Bay, but I am definitely rooting for this organization to find a way to boost attendances and keep their team in Tampa.
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, 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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Tuesday November 15, 2011
Sam Evans:If you haven’t heard already, on Monday, Major League Baseball announced the rookie of the year winners. Craig Kimbrel won the NL ROY, and Jeremy Hellickson won the AL ROY. Let’s look at the winners and whether or not each deserved their respective awards.
Craig Kimbrel: National League Rookie of the Year:
Craig Kimbrel received a whopping 32 out of 32 first place votes, becoming the 17th player to receive all first place votes. In my opinion, the Atlanta Braves closer Kimbrel definitely deserved this award. He was not only extremely impressive to the eye, but the numbers backed it up. Kimbrel finished with 18 earned runs in 77 innings. He finished with 46 saves and struck out 14.84 K/9. Coming in second place was Kimbrel’s teammate Freddie Freeman with 70 votes, but no first place votes.
I would usually be hesitant to give a closer the award over a player who plays every day. However, Craig Kimbrel is just downright filthy. He might have the best curveball in baseball, and he is only 23 years old. It is impressive for a young flame throwing reliever to be consistent throughout the whole regular season. Not to mention, Braves Manager Fredi González, probably used Kimbrel more than he should have. This was evidenced when Kimbrel had a rough last month of the season with an ERA of 4.76. It should be noted that Kimbrel threw more innings in 2011 then he threw in any one year throughout the minors. Overall, I think that the voters made the right decision here. Kimbrel was the best reliever in all of baseball and was a very valuable asset to his team.
Jeremy Hellickson: American League Rookie of the Year
Hellickson received 17 out of 28 first place votes. This award was a surprise to a lot of people, including Hellickson,”"I guess I was a little surprised, there was a handful of guys I think all had the same amount of chance to win.” If you remember back to September, I wrote that I thought Mark Trumbo should win the AL ROY. Well, I admit that I changed my mind since then. I came to the conclusion that either Michael Pineda or Eric Hosmer were more deserving of the award. Trumbo came in second place with 63 votes (5 1st place votes), thirty-nine behind Hellickson.
I can’t say that I was surprised when I heard that Hellickson won the award. After all, he pitches in by far, the strongest division in the league, he almost threw 200 innings, and he had an ERA under 3.00. Unfortunately, when you take a closer look at his peripherals, Hellickson really didn’t have the year that his standard numbers suggest. He had a SIERA (Skill Interactive ERA) of 4.63 and a FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 4.44. Who knows what Hellickson’s numbers would have looked like without an outstanding defense behind him! He only struck out 5.57 batters per nine innings, and an 82 LOB %. What these numbers tell us is that Hellickson really had luck on his side and he likely wasn’t even the best rookie pitcher in his division.
I’m not so sure that Hellickson deserved this award. I’m not saying he didn’t have an amazing year helping lead the Rays to the playoffs. I just think that their were stronger candidates to win the ROY award in the AL.
Monday October 17, 2011
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: With the World Series all set to commence on Wednesday (Cardinals and Rangers)- our attention is slowly shifting to the upcoming free agency period. A big name (literally) of discussion has been David Ortiz, or better known in baseball circles as “Big Papi”. The rumor mill is running wild as to where Ortiz will play in 2012. Let’s shed some light on the subject and clear up the confusion.
The soon to be 36-year old Ortiz is coming off one of his finest seasons in recent memory. Papi finished with a steady all-around season: 29 home runs, 96 RBIs, 84 runs, 78/83 BB/K, .309 AVG and .953 OPS. Ortiz was named to his 7th all-star team and finishing up a 5-year, $64.5 million contract. For a player that appeared to be in decline back in 2009, Ortiz has shown the last two seasons that he has some juice left in the tank. But with the Red Sox in shambles, given the departure of long-time manager Terry Francona and soon to be ex-GM Theo Epstein, Ortiz himself has said that Boston has become too much of a soap opera. The question on every baseball fan’s mind: will he stay or will he go?
The Ortiz decision to stay in Boston will largely depend on several factors. Firstly, it is unclear whether the team wishes to retain him or go in a different direction. As an aging team with hitters that could use the rest from playing in the field every day, the Red Sox may not longer wish to commit the DH spot to one exclusive batter. Taking that into account with Papi’s streaks and slumps that past few years and recent comments, may be enough for the Red Sox upper management to wish to move on. But if the team does wish to retain him, or give in to fan pressure to keep Ortiz (which is likely to come given his immense popularity), will Papi himself want to remain in Boston? Only the man could answer that question. To know the answer, one would have to get into the player’s head. Does Otiz get along with his teammates or are there divided fractions? How much did the 2011 collapse take a toll on his morale? When will a new GM come into place and will he be able to have a good relationship with Ortiz? Same issue for a new manager…and you get the idea. There are many variables that put into question whether Ortiz could or would stay in Boston.
In my estimation, Ortiz is on his final contract. He will likely obtain a 2-year contract, with an option for a third. Based on his rich history and legacy in Boston, I think that when push comes to shove- the player will stay. Boston needs Papi; and Papi needs Boston. It would not feel right to see Ortiz in another uniform (check out highlights from his days in Minnesota and you will see what I mean). Major League Baseball also would love to see Ortiz remain in Boston for marketing purposes. With so many vested interests in getting this deal done, I believe it will happen. But what if it does not? What if Papi jumps ship? I see his options as far and few between.
The first option that jumped out was the Yankees. It will not happen. While the Yankees would love to stick it to Boston, they will not likely want another aging DH on their hands after the Jorge Posada fiasco this past season. The Yankees also have Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and company that need days off the field, A-Rod especially given his failing health. With A-Rod becoming a part-time DH as soon as next year, the Yankees cannot afford to take on Papi at this stage. Plus the team has up-and-coming superstar Jesus Montero that needs playing time and has nothing more to prove in AAA. So the Yankees rate as a no.
The next options for Ortiz? It will only be American League teams as he is only a DH at this stage of his career. The only realistic teams that have the open position and fit are Toronto, Tampa Bay and Anaheim. The Jays are being thrown around many circles as a possible destination. It makes sense for several reasons. Ortiz knows the ballpark well from his AL East days. He gets along well with Jose Bautista and would serve as a great mentor for the Jays young hitters. Toronto was missing production last season from the DH spot and would welcome Papi’s bat. But despite these factors, I don’t see this signing happening. Ortiz will want to play on a contender and fight for another ring. His career is winding down and so are his chances. While Toronto has a strong young nucleus, they are at least 2-3 years aways. As much as this would be a feel-good signing, I would rate is as another no.
Thus the battle for the services of David Ortiz will boil down to the Tampa Bay Rays and Anaheim Angels. Two strong playoff contending teams that desperately need his bat. Tampa Bay should be the favorite, given the familiarity of the AL East and the strong need of the team. The Rays have the lineup spot for Ortiz and should make a big push for him. The Angels have the same need, but not the best fit for position. The team has a logjam in the outfield with Mike Trout likely to be with the big club next year and Kendrys Morales returning to the team from injury. But when there is a will, there is a way. Like many other squads, the Angels would need to do some creative shuffling to make room for Ortiz. Vernon Wells may need to be moved for a bad pitcher’s contract in return (Carlos Zambrano anyone?) Kendrys Morales may not be recovered or Trout may not be ready. The Angels went through a desperate need all year in 2011 for runs and will not want to face the same issue come 2012. Papi could be the perfect short-term solution for the Halos.
The four-horse race to sign David Ortiz will come down to the Red Sox, Jays, Rays and Angels. The Rays are my dark horse favorite and best overall fit. The Jays would love to take him on, it will just depend on the confidence Papi has in the team’s ability to compete. Boston will hang in right till the end and the Angels will need to be aggressive to get him. If we are playing the odds, I would rate Boston as a 70% favorite, followed by Tampa Bay at 20% and the Jays/Angels at 5% each. Once the World Series ends, let the David Ortiz sweepstakes begin!
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Wednesday October 12, 2011
April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports): After losing the first two games of the series to the Rangers, the Tigers headed home, needing a win. Thankfully, with the hometown crowd of 41,905 behind them, they got exactly that. Here is a recap of ALCS Game Three:
New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers: ALCS Game Three
While the Rangers then had the 1-0 lead, Victor Martinez didn’t let it stay that way in the forth as he crushed a home run to right field to tie the game.
With Fister now in a groove, there was no looking back. Evidently, Jhonny Peralta thought so too, as in the sixth, he also belted a home run to left field. Still in the same inning, Austin Jackson scored Andy Dirk, and with that the Tigers had a 4-1 lead.
Cabrera wasn’t done yet, though, as in the seventh inning, he also hit a home run, the Tigers’ third of the game, and his third RBI of the game. With that the Tigers had a 5-1 lead.
The Rangers tried to catch up in the eighth when Yorvit Torrealba started off the inning with a double, and scored on Ian Kinsler’s groundout, but the damage had already been done.
Jose Valverde came in to pitch the ninth, allowing a leadoff double by Josh Hamilton, but nothing more, as the Tigers went on to beat the Rangers 5-2. They now trail 2-1 in the series.
Doug Fister earned the win, going 7.1 innings pitched, allowing two earned runs on seven hits while walking none and striking out three. Rangers’ Colby Lewis, on the other hand, received the loss, going 5.2 innings pitched, allowing four earned runs on eight hits and two walks, while striking out six.
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