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Scott Boras, Is He Good For Major League Baseball?

A man ahead of his time, Boras was one of the original moneyball players.  For his career, Boras had 133 walks and only 76 strikeouts.  Those numbers were for good for a lifetime .363 OBP, to go along with his .288 AVG.  Knee injuries unfortunately cut his career short and Boras only made it as high as AA ball.  With the baseball experience under his belt, Boras went on to practice law and from there become a full-time baseball agent in the early 1980s.

A man ahead of his time, Boras was one of the original moneyball players. For his career in the Minor League, Boras had 133 walks and only 76 strikeouts. Those numbers were for good for a lifetime .363 OBP, to go along with his .288 AVG in the Minor Leagues. Knee injuries unfortunately cut his career short and Boras only made it as high as AA ball. With the baseball experience under his belt, Boras went on to practice law and from there become a full-time baseball agent in the early 1980s. (Caption courtesy of Jonathan Hacohen).

By Patrick Languzzi (Cooperstown Correspondent)

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He has a billion dollar smile, a list of clients taller than Shaquille O’Neil and is considered Major League Baseball’s super agent.

In 2006 Baseball America named him the most influential non-player in 25 years, beating out Major League commissioner Bud Selig, yes, that Bud Selig!

Major League Baseball has had to change its rules in response to him on multiple occasions and he has a list of clients that include or have included Jayson Werth (126m), Matt Holliday (120m), Barry Zito (126m), Carlos Beltran (119m) and now the wealthier Jacoby Ellsbury (153m) – just to name a few, and the list goes on..

Fans, teams and general managers may despise him for fear that he is destroying Major League Baseball.

We’re talking about Scott Boras.

Boras Interview From 2009 (After being named the most influential non – player for last 25 years)

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Alex Rodriguez: Ready for 2013

Thursday October 25th, 2012

Bernie Olshansky:  Over the past couple of years, Alex Rodriguez has been a Yankee disappointment. For the humongous 10-year $275 million contract that he is signed to, his production should be a lot more than hitting .272 with 16 home runs and 57 RBIs. A-Rod was injured for a bit and played in only 122 games this year, but come on—someone with that type of contract should drive in 100 runs every year. Rodriguez is signed through 2017, so his contract is not one that another team would be excited to take on. Not by a long shot.

The Yankees will likely be paying Rodriguez the majority (or all) of the rest of his contract (no team in its right mind would trade for Rodriguez without making the Yankees pay for him). So at the end of the day, I think the Yankees will keep him. Without a much better option at third base (Eric Chavez), the Yankees will be forced to use Rodriguez. Although there is a lot of pressure put on Rodriguez and the Yankees after getting swept by the Tigers in the ALCS to end the season, the dust will eventually settle. This will provide Rodriguez with the environment he needs to make his comeback.

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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.

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.

Robinson Cano, Scott Boras and the Yankees: Time to Renegotiate?

 

Thursday October 27, 2011

 

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  An interesting news story caught my eye today.  Scott Boras, agent to superstar second baseman Robinson Cano, contacted the New York Yankees to discuss renegotiating Cano’s contract.  Cano signed a 4-year contract for $30 million, with a $14 million option in 2012 and $15 million in 2013.  A fair chunk of change in my estimation.  After successfully tweaking the Francisco Rodriguez contract upon his trade to Milwaukee, Boras is back at it again.  This time, he would like for the Yankees to rip up the team options for Cano and negotiate a new contract. 

After a down year in 2008, Cano has been climbing since to upper-ranks of baseball stardom.  This past season was one of Cano’s finest.  Cano hit 28 home runs with 118 RBIs, 104 runs scored, batting .302 with a .349 OBP and .533 SLG.  Fantastic numbers, without a doubt.  The only blemish in my estimation is the continued knock on Robinson.  He only walked 38 times while striking out a career high 96 times.  For Cano to reach the next level, his BB/K ratio will need to reach the next level.  But considering his overall numbers, the Yankees will live with Cano if he maintains his current levels.  The secret for Cano is that he plays a premium position (2B) and is young (29).  For an aging Yankees, Cano is a building block for the next 5 seasons.  The question is whether he is worth locking up at this point.

I don’t fault Scott Boras for attempting to get Cano a bigger contract at this point.  A down year could easily cost Cano tens of millions of dollars.  Cano is also comfortable in New York and the Yankees fans love him.  Boras is counting on the hometown team wanting to lock up its own rather than risk losing him to free agency down the road.  Scott Boras making such a call is a smart move- he is doing his job.  I am unsure if the timing is right though on this move.  We are entering a tricky time in baseball.  The Yankees were burnt by Alex Rodriguez in the past when he opted out of his contract and essentially forced the team to give him an exorbitant contract that has turned sour quickly.  The Yankees are facing the same dilemma with staff ace, C.C. Sabathia.  The big man can opt out of his Yankees deal soon and word is that he is looking for a bigger share of the pie from the Yankees to stay put.  The Yankees, in making the decision on Sabathia, are thinking to the past decision they made on A-Rod.  There are parallels to the scenarios and the team may not be so keen on pulling out the wallet this time around.  With the uncertainty and bad feelings surrounding the upcoming Sabathia decision, the last thing the team wanted or needed was the Cano headache.  The team knew that they could retain their player for 2 further seasons and delay contract talks for some time.  Demanding a new contract at this juncture may not be seen as favorable by the team’s brass.

On the other hand, Boras may have picked the perfect time to talk turkey with the Yankees.  Aside from the Sabathia decision, the Yankees have to decide whether to pick up the option on Nick Swisher.  Boras may have sensed that by waiting to bring up Cano’s contract, the Yankees may have proceeded to lock up Sabathia and retained Swisher, as well as signed a free agent or two.  By then, the team’s budget (yes, they do have one contrary to reports) would be squeezed and Cano would have been put on hold.  By raising the issue now, Boras may be trying to grab the wallet while the dollar bills are still warm.  An interesting strategy and one that may not be unreasonable.

No matter where this saga leads, we now one thing is certain.  Robinson Cano will be a New York Yankee for at least 2 more seasons- and likely longer.  I would like to raise the point that when an athlete like Cano is playing well, the player and agent have no issue trying to renegotiate terms and grab more money.  But when a player is playing poorly, he will usually have no problems to continuing collecting his paycheque no matter how large the contract with no refunds to the team.  The only exception is Kenji Johjima, who left millions of dollars on the table in Seattle to return to Japan, as he felt his play did not justify his pay.  A rare, honourable move by a classy individual, but definitely the exception to the rule.  Instead, we are in a different age of baseball.   Even general managers (see Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer), are moving on to new teams and bigger contracts despite having existing contracts in place with their old teams.  If management can break their commitments, surely players can as well. 

As much as we all love baseball, it is first and foremost a business.  Robinson Cano and Scott Boras are doing what is best for the player in this case.  In other years, I could see how the Yankees could give in to such a request.  But considering the blunder of the A-Rod deal and the issues surrounding Sabathia in his opt-out, my feeling has enough on its plate without worrying about Cano’s contract status.  I expect Robinson Cano to have at least one of his option years picked him.  Perhaps the Yankees will renegotiate with him in 2012 or wait until he becomes a free agent.  The dollars will come to Robinson Cano.  Just not in the timing that he and his agent hope.  At some point I would like to see players honor their contracts and let their play do the talking.  With solid numbers on the field, the contracts will inevitably follow.  But in the “pay me now” age that we live in, news of Cano’s request should come as no surprise.  But answer me this:  what is the point of signing long-term contracts if they rarely work?  One side will either want more money or the other side will end up regretting it.  Rarely are there two happy parties by the time the big deals are all said and done.   If Cano gets out of his deal because he deserves more money, can the Red Sox get out of their contract with John Lackey because they overpaid?  Welcome to the strange economics that is Major League Baseball.     

  

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports

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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David Ortiz to the Jays or Yankees? Try the Rays or Angels

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!

 

 

Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports

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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Tigers get the “Purr-fect” Comeback: Recap of Game 3 of ALCS

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

It didn’t start off good for the Tigers, however, as the Rangers started the game with three singles, the last of which was Josh Hamilton’s RBI single that scored Ian Kinsler.

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.

In the following inning, the Tigers added some more with three 2-out hits, one of which was a 2-RBI double off the bat of Miguel Cabrera that scored Austin Jackson and Ramon Santiago.

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.

Tigers’ Rick Porcello hopes to have a similar fate as Fister with the hometown crowd, but Texas’ Matt Harrison is hoping for a different outcome.  Stay tuned as game four is coming up shortly.

 

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Comment below, email MLBreports@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17.

 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) 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

Johnny Monell Interview: San Francisco Giants Catching Prospect

Thursday October 6, 2011

Jonathan Hacohen (Lead Baseball Columnist – MLB reports):  We are proud today to feature on MLB reports:  Johnny Monell, catching prospect for the San Francisco Giants.  The 25-year old Monell has the distinction of being drafted on three separate occasions:  by the Giants in the 27th round in 2005; Mets in the 49th round in 2006; and again by the Giants, in the 30th round of 2007.  Johnny from the Bronx- as I like to call him, finished off the 2011 campaign playing for Richmond in AA.  In his five professional seasons, Monell has a .349 OBP and .447 SLG, good for a .796 OPS.  Considered strong with the bat as well as the glove, Monell’s future looks bright as he works towards joining the big club soon.  With his season coming to an end, I had the opportunity to catch up with Johnny Monell and talk some baseball.  Here is our interview with Johnny Monell:

MLB reports:  Welcome to the Reports Johnny.  Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule for us today.  Let’s start with some background on you:  Who was your favorite baseball player growing up?

Johnny Monell:  My favorite baseball players growing up would have to be Ivan Rodriguez (Pudge) and Ken Griffey Jr.

 

MLB reports:  I would have to say that 90% of players we have interviewed all selected Griffey.  Popular choice!  Looking at active rosters, which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Johnny Monell:  Derek Jeter by far is my favorite player- just because of  the way he carries himself on and off the baseball field!!  He has accomplished so much in that Yankee uniform…He is just great!

 

MLB reports:  Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?

Johnny Monell:  I would have to say in 2010, I was invited to major league camp.  Just being in camp was an unbelievable experience.  I learned so much that year.  That year, I actually went on and played for San Jose and ended up having a very good year… You watch how these experienced major leaguers go about their business and how to get ready for a season.  We ended winning a championship and the Giants won the World Series at the same time, which is pretty awesome in itself!!

 

MLB reports:  What were your goals going into the 2011 season?

Johnny Monell:  Goals coming into this season were to play hard and just be ready to play everyday!!  Being in Double “A” for the first time, you realize a lot and see the best of the best!  There are many guys you come across that are ready to make that jump to the majors.  I’m happy with where I’m at and just ready to build on it every year to get where I wanna be!

 

MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what were your reactions?  Did those reactions change over time?  What was the process like being drafted originally by the Giants in 2005 and Mets in 2006 and not signing with either team?  What made you decide to finally sign with the Giants in 2007?

Johnny Monell:  The story of how I found out that I was drafted was pretty funny!  I was in a McDonald’s with some friends from high school and my college coach from Seminole Community College calls me saying “congratulations you’ve been selected by the SF Giants!”  I was definitely excited by the call.  I called my family to give them the news.  Not too many kids from the Bronx, let alone the inner city, get an opportunity like this.  So it was a big deal for myself, as well my family.  Reactions kind of changed with time to make a decision- because I wanted to sign!  But I knew in my heart that I wasn’t ready.  I was fortunate to have my dad on my side, who played pro ball over the course of 17 years, with the Mets especially.  Part of me did want to sign with the Mets based on that connection.  But at the end of the day, I knew I wasn’t ready and getting advice from my dad helped me to make my decision.  After my second year of Jr college, I knew that I was ready to play.  As a result, I am now where I belong.

 

MLB reports:  What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?

Johnny Monell:  I think I bring a lot to the table.  Whether it’s behind the plate or hitting!  I’m a left-handed hitting catcher.  I think that is one of my main traits.  There are not to many players out there that can hit and play this position.

 

MLB reports:  What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?

Johnny Monell:  At this point of my career, I think I would have to say being consistent and continue to get better.  I work every season towards retaining all of  my experiences of being a catcher in the minors.  I want to take those experiences with me hopefully to the major league level.

 

MLB reports:  How do strikeouts and walks figure into your game?  Do you see any of these items changing over time and to what degree?

Johnny Monell:  I think they play a huge part!  I always strive to being able to see a lot of pitches in the course of every at-bat.  This also shows the maturity of a hitter being able to stay back and hit the pitch you want to hit!  Walks also can help the batting average.  Big time!!  This year I wanted to cut down on strikeouts.  I did just that by laying off the pitchers’ pitches.  I also found that this helps when you come up to bat with runners in scoring position.

 

MLB reports:  Long term what position do you see yourself playing?

Johnny Monell:  I see myself behind the plate!  I just feel that with every year that goes by, I keep getting better behind the plate.  It’s just a matter of putting it all together and going out there and gaining that experience.

 

MLB reports:  If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues?

Johnny Monell:  That is out of my control.  I wish it was now, but all I can control is how I play on the field.  Knowing the type of player I am, if I keep going about my business as I always have- hopefully one day I can get an opportunity.  Someday, God willing of course!

 

MLB reports:  Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far?

Johnny Monell:  Pro ball has been an amazing experience! By being with the Giants, I have been able to meet many legends of the game of baseball, such as Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda.  I was just grateful to have the opportunity to be in their presence.  Words can’t express how much that means to me.  Also, it has been incredible to have roving coaches that have so many years of major league experience!  I think we are spoiled with the amount of knowledge that is given to us on a daily basis.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?

Johnny Monell:  For fun, I usually like to hang out with friends, family  and teammates.  I would say that I am a big movie guy during the season.  Also I was fortunate enough to play on the east coast this year, so I was able to spend time with many of my family members.  Being able to see them throughout the season was something that I cherished greatly.  Being able to play in front of family and friends was a nice treat!  I would say that I am a good teammate, because I try to hang out with everyone.  Team chemistry is a definite priority for me.  This is the only organization that I have ever been with.  Coming up with the same guys, I would say that our relationship only gets stronger.  Throughout each season and especially the last couple of years.

 

MLB reports:  As a catcher in the Giants organization, what was your reaction to the Buster Posey injury?

Johnny Monell:  The Buster Posey injury was devastating.

 

MLB reports:  Have your visited San Francisco the city yet?  How have you found the city thus far?

Johnny Monell:  After playing in San Jose last year, we had a few opportunities to visit San Francisco.  I visited as much as I could.  The city is great.  Food is awesome on the wharf.  Visited Alcatraz and took a lot of pictures.  Definitely a city I could live in!

 

Thank you again to Johnny Monell for taking the time to join us today on MLB reports.  We highly encourage our readers to post at the bottom of the article any questions and/or comments that you may have for Johnny.  As well, please feel free to contact Johnny directly by Twitter (@JMoE220).  He is very active on social media and welcomes your feedback!

 

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

2011 MLB Playoffs: Recap Monday October 3rd

Tuesday October 4, 2011

 

 

April Whitzman (Blue Jays Writer – MLB reports):  With the National League taking the night off, we were treated to game three in both ALDS series.  Here is a recap of the scores and highlights from Monday’s games: 

 

New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers:  ALDS Game Three

It may not have been the pitching duel that everyone expected, but Monday’s game between Yankees’ CC Sabathia, and Tigers’ Justin Verlander was still an exciting one.

While Verlander pitched a strong 120-pitches-eight innings hitting 100MPH continually, striking out 11 and allowing four runs, six hits and three walks.  Sabathia, on the other hand, never made it through the sixth, allowing four runs and seven hits with six walks in 5 1/3 innings.

After the first inning, however, one would not have expected that outcome.  Derek Jeter hit the first pitch he saw for a single, scored on Curtis Granderson’s triple, who then scored on Alex Rodriguez’s groundout. T he Yankees had an early 2-0 lead.

The lead didn’t last long as Sabathia had control issues right away, walking four of the first six hitters he faced.  Double plays proved to be the Tigers’ Achilles though, as they grounded into a double play to end both the first and second innings.

In the third, however, things turned around for the Tigers.  Brandon Inge started the bottom of the inning with a double, Austin Jackson walked, Santiago scored Inge on a single, then Young singled, loading the bases for Miguel Cabrera – who homered in game 2.   He grounded into the Tigers’ third double play of the game, but still tied the game at 2 apiece.

While the Tigers were continuing to put numbers on the board and grabbing the 4-2 lead, Verlander was dominating.  He also proved his excellence on this night by striking out the side on 10 pitches in the fifth.

Yankees’ Brett Gardner finally got to the 24-game winner in the seventh, hitting a two-run double.  Delmon Young, who also homered in Monday’s game off Sabathia, allowed the Tigers to regain the lead with a home run to right field that gave Detroit a 5-4 lead.

That would be the way the game ended, as a shaky Valverde struck out Derek Jeter with runners on 1st and 2nd to end the game, giving the Tigers a 2-1 series lead.  In today’s must win game for the Yankees, A..J. Burnett is on the mound against Tigers’ Rick Porcello.

 

Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays:  ALDS Game Three

The Rays and Rangers match was just as tight and nerve-wracking for the fans.  Tampa Bay’s David Price hit the mound against Texas’ Colby Lewis.  Both pitchers were dominant through seven, as the Rays held a 1-0 lead thanks to Desmond Jennings leadoff home run in the 4th.

But in the top of the 7th, the Rangers answered back.  Once Adrian Beltre got on with a leadoff single, Mike Napoli hit the next pitch he saw over the centerfield wall to take a 2-1 lead.  Josh Hamilton would later hit a 2-RBI double to increase their lead to 4-1.

But the Rays werenot going to go down without a fight.  They got a run back in the bottom of the inning, when Sean Rodriguez grounded out but scored Johnny Damon.  The Rays cut the Rangers’ lead to 4-3 in the eighth, when Desmond Jennings hit his 2nd home run of the game.

Neftali Feliz kept the score intact though in the 9th, inducing a Kelly Shoppach double play with Jennings on deck  to end the game, earning his 2nd save of the playoffs.  The Rangers took a 2-1 lead in their ALDS series.

In today’s game, Matt Harrison for the Rangers faces off against Tampa Bay and Jeremy Hellickson.  It is a must-win game for the Rays, but after their historic win against the Yankees to make it to the post-season, my gut says this series should go the distance.

 

As always, I look forward to hearing from you. Comment below, email MLBreports@gmail.com and follow me on Twitter at @Alleycat17.

 

 

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us on Twitter (@MLBreports) 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

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.

How Far Will the Yankees Go in the 2011 Playoffs? Prediction Time

Sunday September 25, 2011

 

 

Jeff P (Guest Writer – MLB reports):  The Yankees entered the season with a troubled rotation, some great bullpen signings from the offseason, and a star-studded lineup.

As the season commenced, the Yankees had immediate troubles in the rotation. The troubles in the rotation started with their former number two starter Phil Hughes, who seemed to be dominant going into the year, yet wasn’t able to play due to a “Dead arm”. The rotation ended up being filled by a rookie (Ivan Nova), C.C. Sabathia, a struggling A.J. Burnett, and two veterans who weren’t very successful in the past few seasons (Colon and Garcia).

The Yankees were up for the challenge, as they not only beat out the  nearly untouchable Red Sox in the AL East division race, but also had a season full of historical baseball moments. Derek Jeter, became the first player in Yankee history to reach the 3,000 hit mark, as for Mariano Rivera, who is now the all-time leader in saves in Major League Baseball history.

Bartolo Colon, and Freddy Garcia unexpectedly became huge parts in lifting Yankees until the day they clinched the division spot. As for Ivan Nova, he won 16 games for the Yankees in the “Journey to the playoffs”. Now the Yankees are finished with that chapter and are now on a new journey: the “Journey to the World Series”.

The playoffs are about to start soon, as the Yankees are in the process of last-minute preparations. Unnamed sources have leaked out that Ivan Nova will start game two, and A.J. Burnett will not appear as a starter in the playoffs. The Yankees’ playoff rotation is looking more favorable for Freddy Garcia to be the number three starter, as Bartolo Colon is going through a horrific slump. Colon’s ERA (earned run average) in September is well over a 6.50, resulting in his ERA surpassing 4.00 on the season. Therefore it is probable that Freddy Garcia will be named to start for the Yankees in the 2011 MLB playoffs.

There have been multiple questions concerning Jesus Montero’s spot in the Yankees playoff roster. To date, it seems likely Yankees will proceed to place him on the roster in place of Francisco Cervelli, as he is expected to come back later in the playoffs due to concussion symptoms.

Besides the rotation, bullpen, and the Yankees lineup, backups also take on a big role in the “Key to success”. The Yankees backups are looking extraordinary as the season is nearing an end. The backups will include a trio of Eric Chavez, Eduardo Nunez, Andruw Jones, and either Jesus Montero or Jorge Posada as of now. The backups are looking promising, and can take a big part in the “Journey to the World Series”.

The Yankees have a team full of playoff greats, such as Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, and others such as Alex Rodriguez, and C.C. Sabathia. There is a debate as to whether the veterans can lift the Yankees this year to championship Number 28. The answer is that the Yankees veterans have the promise playoff strength. Veterans such as Derek Jeter (also known as Mr. November), and Mariano Rivera, among others who have experience and the strength to lift the Yankees in the postseason. However, the Yankees veterans are aging, and as they age, they get less and less reliable. This leaves the backups with a huge role to fill.

The Yankees teams consists of youth, veterans, and a great deal of confidence. The confidence was within the clubhouse on Thursday, as C.C. Sabathia stated in an interview with MLB.com, that if he plays correctly he will win. With the attitude and the strength to do so, the Yankees could go far into the playoff race this year.

The Yankees will most likely play the Texas Rangers, or the Detroit Tigers. There is uncertainty which team as of yet, though each team has their ups and downs, and certain distractions they will have to face.  Let’s take a look at the potential matchups:

Detroit Tigers:  The Tigers have an outstanding rotation coming into the playoffs. Max Scherzer, is a strikeout master, while Justin Verlander is just about a master of everything. Verlander has produced great success this year, as he is seeking to win the AL Cy Young, and possibly become the first pitcher to win the AL MVP award in the last 20 years.

Doug Fister will be a huge part of the Tigers playoff plans, as his ERA dropped below 3.00 recently. His September stats consist of four wins and a 0.69 ERA. Fister’s streak is looking unstoppable, and will be a hard match for the Yankees. The Yankees pitching isn’t looking very promising as of late, and the Tigers clearly win that category. If the Yankees can’t produce runs against the hard throwing Tigers’ pitching staff, it may be hard to get by them. The Tigers key hitters are Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila, and Victor Martinez. With the Yankees pitching rotation banged up, the Tigers could prove to be a very difficult opponent.

Prediction: Yankees in five

Texas Rangers:  All eyes are on the Rangers banged-up rotation now. C.J. Wilson, who has been having substantial success this year for the Rangers, is facing a problem to think about. As the offseason approaches, so does free agency. Free agency can affect not only the thoughts of players, but how they are playing. Thoughts are a very powerful thing, as on different occasions it can be hard to think about free agency when playing.  The pressure is immense.  Although in Wilson’s case, the pressure could prove to be a motivator to pitch well.

Alexi Ogando, Derek Holland, and Colby Lewis are among the other probable starters. All of them are decent pitchers, though they occasionally rely on help from their offense for run support, which will prove to be the main problem for the Yankees rotation.

The Rangers lineup includes Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Ian Kinsler in the heart of their lineup. This will be an extremely difficult problem for the Yankees rotation, as Rangers seem to possibly have the best lineup in the majors. The Rangers offense may possibly even be better than the Yankees lineup. If the strength of the Rangers rotation and lineup continue to consume strength, the Yankees could be outmatched.

Prediction: Rangers in five

Assuming the Yankees play the Tigers, and proceed to the second round, with either the Red Sox/Rays (depending on who wins the wild card), or the Rangers, both series will be a close call and consist of exciting games to watch. The Red Sox are in a similar situation as the Yankees, as their pitching staff has averaged a 6.60 ERA in the last ten games played.  If we have a Yankees and Red Sox matchup in the ALDS, it will likely go the full seven games- where anything is possible.

The Yankees have made history this year and accomplished feats over the years that no team has ever matched. Most importantly, the team wants to succeed. Success is a big thing for the Yankees organization. The Yankees are survivors, never give up, and always look to come back when down. This year has already been one big accomplishment, as the Yankees surpassed the Red Sox in the standings and possibly in making the playoffs.  Now the team is looking for championship rings in the year of 2011.

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by Jeff P, Guest Writer to MLB reports.  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 Jeff 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.

 

The Hunt for Red Sox October

September 14, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): Red Sox Nation is panicking. On September 1, the Boston Red Sox held a 9 game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays.  Today, on September 13, they sit only 3 games ahead.  Since then, the Red Sox have gone 2-9, while Tampa has gone 8-3.  Many people believe that Tampa Bay has the pitching to get the job done.  Led by “Big Game” James Shields and David Price, they have a rotation that has been one of the top in the league all season.  As a team, they have given up the least amount of hits by 80 in the American League.  Their team ERA is also tops in the American League at 3.56.

Boston is limping into the end of the season, with 3 of their 5 opening week starters injured in some fashion in the last month.  Jon Lester has been every bit of the ace the Red Sox need him to be, with a 15-7 record and 3.07 ERA.  However, when the Sox leaned on him on September 11 against Tampa, he lasted only 4 innings, giving up 4 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks.  John Lackey has been awful this year.  I cringe when I look at his stats.  6.30 ERA, 180 hits in 144 innings, and 18 hit batsmen to lead the league.  How has he won 12 games?  Buchholz was solid before going on the disable list, giving up only 76 hits in 82 2/3 innings, but hasn’t pitched since June 16.  It is believed he could be back as soon as next week, but in a limited bullpen role at best, so his impact won’t be felt much.  Josh Beckett has been great this year as well, but rolled his ankle in the 4th inning of his last start. At one point, after throwing a complete game, 1 hit shutout on June 15, his ERA sat at 1.86.  He is currently 12-5 with a 2.49 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.985.  Daisuke Matsuzaka was a bust this year and required Tommy John Surgery in June.  In his place is knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, who currently sits at 200 wins on his career.  Wakefield hasn’t made it look pretty this year, but has put in 139 2/3 valuable innings to date.

Tampa Bay boasts one of the top rotations in baseball, with Opening Day starter David Price pitching very solid, without much run support.  He has a 12-12 record but his ERA is 3.40 and has reached the 200 strikeout plateau for the first time in his young career.  Big Game James doesn’t need much of an introduction, as his 11 complete games and 4 shutouts lead the MLB.  He has already thrown 226 innings, a career high, with 210 strikeouts, also a career high.  Wade Davis has thrown 165 solid innings as a follow-up to being 4th in Rookie of the Year balloting last season.  Jeff Niemann is really blossoming into a dependable middle of the rotation pitcher, going 10-7 with a 3.97 ERA in 129 innings.  He doesn’t strike out a ton of hitters, but doesn’t walk many either, shown by his 3 K/BB ratio.  One of the frontrunners for AL Rookie of the Year is Jeremy Hellickson, who has been pretty much lights out all year.  With a 2.96 ERA and only giving up 135 hits in 170 innings, he will surely garner some votes.  The one wild card that the Rays hold, however, is Matt Moore.  Moore was just called up to fill a role similar to David Price in 2008.  He will be electric out of the bullpen after a minor league season that will rank him in the top 5 of all prospects going into next season.

Boston’s offense is abound with potential MVP’s and great hitters.  1 through 9, the Red Sox boast one of the best lineups I can remember.  Jacoby Ellsbury may win the MVP, but he will have to go through Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez first.  Also, David Ortiz is again proving the naysayers wrong, as he is hitting .313 with 29 home runs and 92 RBI.  When a player of JD Drew’s caliber can go on the disabled list and be replaced with Josh Reddick, who is hitting .298 and slugging .491 in 250 plate appearances, it gives a lot of confidence to a pitching staff.  Catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia finally seems like the player who the Atlanta Braves envisioned when they drafted him in the 1st round in 2003.  Jason Varitek is also enjoying a fine season as a backup to Saltalamacchia, hitting 11 home runs in only 234 plate appearances.  This offense is one that no team will want to face in the final weeks of the season or the playoffs if they reach that far.

Tampa Bay may not have the “sexy” offensive players that the Red Sox do, but they have some players having mighty fine seasons.  Ben Zobrist has overlooked his mediocre 2010 season, and has put up numbers closer to his breakout 2009.  Although he probably won’t ever match that season, his 45 doubles lead the American League, and has a very good OPS of .820.  Casey Kotchman is still an on-base machine with little pop from first base.  He has hit at a .313 clip with a .382 on-base percentage, setting the table for the big run producers.  Evan Longoria may be having a down year by his standards, but most teams would be happy with a third baseman hitting 25 home runs and slugging .818.  Through May, Matt Joyce was an early favorite for AL MVP, but really tapered off in June and July, before turning it back up in the last month.  His .843 OPS leads the team, and he also has 12 stolen bases.  BJ Upton continues to be a low average, high power type of hitter, with 20 home runs and 27 stolen bases while hitting just .234.  The worst position in terms of offensive production has been shortstop, where Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez have handled most of the duties.  The Rays’ high-tempo style of offense has wreaked havoc on opposing batteries, as they have stolen 130 bases, good for third in the American League.

Both teams have completely different styles and techniques, but are successful in their own ways.  With the Rays aggressive style, and the Red Sox more reliant on taking pitches and making pitchers work, getting deep into bullpens early, this could be a battle to the bitter end.  The schedules they play the rest of the way will also dictate who is more likely to win the race for the Wild Card.

Boston:
1 vs Toronto
4 vs Tampa Bay
7 vs Baltimore
3 vs New York

Tampa Bay:
1 vs Baltimore
4 vs Boston
7 vs New York
3 vs Toronto

It is quite evident that Boston has a much easier schedule, and should win a fair number of them.  The Red Sox have gone 11-4 against the Yankees this year also.  Tampa has gone 5-6 against the Yankees, whom they see 7 more times.  Boston gets Baltimore 7 more times, and have beaten them 8 out of 11 games so far.  The pivotal series of all will be this weekend when the two teams square off against one another.  The game of the weekend may be on Friday September 16, where James Shields faces off against Josh Beckett.

I believe that Tampa Bay will come within a game or two, but the schedule differences give Boston a HUGE advantage.  The Red Sox 18-6 drubbing of the Blue Jays on Tuesday will be a catalyst for the team over the next two weeks, where they will produce runs and pitch just well enough to get into the postseason.

***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 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.

Jobless in 2012 – MLB Managers on the Hot Seat from 2011

Saturday September 10, 2011

Rob Bland (Baseball Writer – MLB reports): When a team has a disappointing season, the most likely candidate to lose his job is the manager.  So far in the 2011 season, there has already been three managers who have either resigned or been fired.  The Oakland Athletics fired Bob Geren on June 9th and replaced him with Bob Melvin.  A week and a half later, Edwin Rodriguez resigned from his post as manager of the Florida Marlins.  Jack McKeon became the oldest manager since Connie Mack at 80 years old.  Yet another week later on June 26th, Jim Riggleman of the Washington Nationals resigned and was replaced by Davey Johnson two days later.  With only a few weeks left in the regular season, who are the frontrunners to be replaced after the World Series?

With eight managers being new to their respective teams to start the 2011 season, one would think there can’t be too many jobs to lose.  The first criteria I look at in order to predict who will not be returning his club is if the team was expected to contend for the playoffs, and fell short.  Another thing I look at is the perception of the clubhouse, ie. if players get along, or if the manager is able to manage egos.  Of course, the manager’s ability to create a lineup and manage a bullpen is taken into consideration.  Other factors such as injuries and expectations of players are measured as well.  The list that follows are my top 3 managers who could be canned after this season.

Mike Quade, Chicago Cubs

It is not often that I would think a first year manager would be fired like this, but there are so many circumstances that make me believe he will be gone.  First, there has been grumbling since day one in Chicago that Quade was hired over franchise icon Ryne Sandberg.  The Cubs have been packed with talented players such as Carlos Zambrano, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Marmol.  Add in Matt Garza and Starlin Castro, and you would think they could at least come close in the terrible NL Central.  They are 22 games behind the streaking Milwaukee Brewers, and 21.5 behind Atlanta for the Wild Card.  Their record is 62-81 with a 35-40 record at Wrigley Field.

Bud Black, San Diego Padres

With 2011 being Black’s 5th season with the Padres, a 62-82 record and already 21 games behind Arizona for the NL West title, he could be on the way out.  The Padres have yet to reach the postseason under Black, however they were involved in a 1-game playoff with Colorado for the Wild Card title in 2007 that many of us will never forget as one of the most exciting games we have ever witnessed.  In 2010, the Padres held a 6.5 game lead over eventual World Series Champs San Francisco Giants on August 25th.  After a 10 game losing streak, the Padres were still in contention, and were not officially eliminated from the playoffs until the final day of the regular season with a 90-72 record.  Those were the only winnings seasons in Black’s tenure and his time in San Diego may be up.

Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins

Is it really fair to say Gardenhire’s job is in jeopardy?  Probably not, but it definitely is possible.  Over his 10 year career with the Twins, he has amassed an 861-740 record and they have been in the playoffs 6 times.  However, they have only won 6 games, 4 of which were in one series, in Gardenhire’s first season; 2002.  The Twins have not won a playoff game since 2004, being swept in 2006, 2009 and 2010 in the American League Division Series.  This year, Gardenhire has had to deal with crippling injuries of former AL MVP’s Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.  Statistically, the best hitter has been Michael Cuddyer, hitting .282 with 18 home runs and 64 RBI.  The best pitcher has been Scott Baker who is 8-6 with a 3.21 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 131 2/3 innings.  Francisco Liriano has not been the same as he was before undergoing Tommy John surgery after the 2006 season, and aside from his no-hitter against the White Sox on May 3, he has been downright awful and is now on the 15-day disabled list.  When the best players don’t perform, or are hurt, the manager is forced to do the best he can with what he is given.  However a 59-84 record may just be the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back for Gardenhire.

This year, with 3 mid-season changes already, and eight new managers at the beginning of the season, shouldn’t see too much activity.  I do believe that with the Cubs’ search for a new general manager under way, Quade’s days are numbered in Chicago.  I also believe that Black’s inability to get the always promising Padres to the next level will leave him without a job by November.  Gardenhire has not proven to me that he can bring the Twins to the World Series, and that is what the job description entails.  Has it ever happened where both Managers of the Year from their respective leagues gets fired the following year? It could happen if Black and Gardenhire are let go.

 

 

***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 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.

 

Top 10 Closers: MLB Saves Leaders

Thursday August 25, 2011

 

 

Rob Bland (Intern- MLB reports):  Closers are a topic a lot of people ask about, but I never really got around to writing about.  Mainly because, in my opinion, it is a position that is completely overrated.  While it certainly helps to have a guy that can go in and slam the door and collect saves for over a decade a la Mariano Rivera, it isn’t necessary to have a “closer” to be a contending team.  One need only to look at the top 20 leaders in saves in baseball to notice that the Texas Rangers’ closer Neftali Feliz sits 19th with 25 saves, and Philadelphia Phillies’ Ryan Madson is 20th with 23 saves.  It also doesn’t guarantee success, as Heath Bell, Drew Storen, Leo Nunez, Joel Hanrahan are all in the top 10 in saves, while their teams are not in playoff contention.

 

Top 10 Saves Leaders in MLB as of today:

Pitcher Team Saves K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP WAR
Craig Kimbrel Atlanta Braves 40 14.56 3.53 1.70 1.20 3.1
John Axford Milwaukee Brewers 37 10.86 3.32 2.26 2.36 1.7
Jose Valverde Detroit Tigers 37 8.31 4.79 2.72 4.08 0.2
Brian Wilson San Francisco Giants 35 8.72 5.20 3.19 3.40 0.7
Heath Bell San Diego Padres 35 6.79 3.23 2.55 3.07 0.7
Drew Storen Washington Nationals 34 8.03 2.19 2.77 3.48 0.6
Mariano Rivera New York Yankees 33 8.45 0.92 2.20 2.23 1.8
Leo Nunez Florida Marlins 33 8.31 2.88 4.63 4.02 0.1
Joel Hanrahan Pittsburgh Pirates 32 7.85 2.04 1.73 2.17 1.8
JJ Putz Arizona Diamondbacks 32 8.28 2.17 2.76 3.10 1.0

I look at this list and a few things come to mind:

1)      Craig Kimbrel is absolutely filthy.

2)      Mariano Rivera is still one of the very best.

3)      Closers are more overrated than I originally expected.

4)      A lot of saves does not equal success.

5)      Craig Kimbrel.  Wow.

Craig Kimbrel is having the best year ever for a rookie closer.  It isn’t even September and he has 40 saves.  Not only that, but he is striking out more than 14 batters per 9 innings.  His FIP is a ridiculous 1.20, and his WAR is at 3.1, which is 1.3 higher than any other closer in the Major Leagues.  His ground ball rate is 43.7% and has only given up 1 home run in 63 2/3 innings.  If the Braves end up winning the Wild Card and have a lead late in games, the shutdown duo of Johnny Venters and Kimbrel should be able to save the game for the Braves in most instances.

John Axford has had a strange way to becoming one of the premier closers in all of baseball.  It took him many years to get there, but under the tutelage of Trevor Hoffman, the career saves leader, whom Axford took his job from, he has flourished.  In 2010, Axford had 24 saves after taking over for Hoffman mid-season, and this year’s 37 so far are tied for 2nd in the big leagues.  Axford gets over 50% ground balls, and keeps the ball in the yard, two main factors for his success.

Jose Valverde is one of the closers whom I find to be overrated.  Part of his success can be attributed to a lucky .250 BABIP.   He also walks close to 5 batters per 9 innings, which is extremely high, especially when he does not strike out a very high number of batters.  Valverde may appear to be very good with 37 saves, but his 0.2 WAR suggests that he is basically a replacement level pitcher.  Surely he is not worth the $7M he is being paid.

Brian Wilson is loved by many in the game.  He is funny, has a strange personality, (which seems to be perfectly suited for the bullpen) and he has an outrageous beard.  Since 2008, he has accumulated 162 saves, so he is very valuable at the back-end of the Giants’ bullpen.  He keeps the ball on the ground, with a career 50% ground ball rate, but he walks a ton of batters (5.20/9IP).  He gets a lot of save opportunities because the starting rotation is very good, and his team doesn’t score many runs, so there are a lot of close games. 

Heath Bell has put up some ridiculous numbers over the last few years, but these numbers come with half of his games played in the cavernous PETCO Park.  While his last two seasons had his K rate over 10, he sits at 6.79 for this season.  His ground ball rate is also down 5% to 43.  Although his ERA is a good 2.55, his xFIP is 3.89, and like Wilson, gets saves because of an anaemic offense that results in his team often being in close games.

Drew Storen is another of the Washington Nationals’ young phenoms.  He moved up the ranks, throwing only 53 2/3 innings in the minor leagues before making his debut in 2010.  He has been a tad lucky as his BABIP is .241, but he gets a lot of ground balls, so the hits will even out.  He also gives up a higher than average home run per fly ball rate at 11.1%.  Storen doesn’t walk many, and as he matures, should probably strike out a higher number.  When Washington starts winning more games, he will have even more opportunities for saves.

Mariano Rivera is up to his usual tricks. Even at 41 years old, he is carving up hitters with his signature cut fastball.  Rivera has a ridiculous 9:1 K:BB ratio, as well as getting ground balls 47% of the time.  His WAR sits at 1.8, tied for second best for closers.  The only question is when will this guy ever slow down?

Leo Nunez of the Florida Marlins may be the most overrated closer in baseball.  Nunez doesn’t get a lot of ground balls, nor does he strike out a ton, as he gives up a ton of fly balls (49%) and home runs (8 in 56 IP).  Nunez’s ERA of 4.63 actually looks worse than his 4.02 FIP, so he has been a little unlucky, but still not very good.

Joel Hanrahan has found a home at the back-end up the Pirates’ bullpen, and is thriving there.  While his K rate has dropped to 7.85/9 IP from almost 13 last year, he has walked less batters.  Hanrahan has been able to induce ground balls on over half of his plate appearances, and only given up 1 home run in 57 1/3 innings.  His stellar numbers have allowed him to tie Rivera for 2nd in closer’s WAR this year.

JJ Putz’s resurgence as a closer this year comes as no surprise to many.  Last year as a setup man for Bobby Jenks with the Chicago White Sox, Putz’s K rate was just below 11/9IP, while he walked only 2.5 per 9 innings.  He hasn’t put up the same strikeout numbers this year, but he is walking less batters.  Putz’s WAR of 1.0 puts him towards the top of the list of closers.

 

Out of the top 30 relievers in WAR, only 9 are full-time closers.  Francisco Rodriguez is among those pitchers, but since he does not close games since traded to the Milwaukee Brewers, he was not counted.  Although this doesn’t mean that just ANYONE can close games and earn saves, it does show that many pitchers who have not been given the opportunity probably could get the job done.  

 

 

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, 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 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.

Talking Mets with Author Howard Megdal

Tuesday August 2, 2011

MLB reports:  Back on June 5th, we had the pleasure of interviewing author Howard Megdal.  The author of The Baseball Talmud, we discussed with Howard his 2nd literary work, “Taking the Field:  A Fan’s Quest to Run the Team He Loves.”  You can read our interview with Howard, as well as our review of Taking the Field

Well, we enjoyed speaking with Howard so much that we asked him back to talk Mets baseball.  Guess what…he accepted!  We questioned Howard on all Mets topics, including team ownership, drafting and trades.  For the best in Mets discussion, we bring you published author, Howard Megdal: 

 

MLB reports:  Thank you for joining us back on the Reports Howard.  You are our first return interviewee!  I enjoyed reading and reviewing “Taking the Field” very much and have received great feedback on it.  How have things gone so far with the book for you and what has been the response from the baseball community, particularly Mets fans?

Howard Megdal:  Response has been terrific throughout- I’ve really enjoyed the chance to hear what Mets fans think.  Contrary to popular opinion, it is entirely possible to get them to sign onto a clear positive vision of how to run the team.  Not universally, of course, but that’s what Mets fans want at the end of the day.

 
 
MLB reports:  Since the ending of your book, new chapters have been written in Mets history so to speak.  The names Wilpon, Madoff and Einhorn have been in the news for quite some time.  What are your thoughts on the Mets ownership situation?

Howard Megdal:  I think it is extremely unfortunate, since in Sandy Alderson, the Mets have the GM they’ve needed for 20 years-and now, the team’s medium-term financial future is in great doubt. Mets fans should be hoping for a speedy resolution here, and that probably means David Einhorn:  Majority Owner.

 
 
MLB reports:  Where do you see Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes playing next year?  What type of dollars and years are we likely talking?

Howard Megdal:  I believe Carlos Beltran will be playing outfield for a team willing to give him 3-4 years on a contract.  Me, and I’m the biggest Beltran fan there is, I wouldn’t bet a multi-year deal on his knee.  As for Jose Reyes, my gut feeling is that ends up a bidding war between the Yankees and Red Sox.  I don’t think the Mets have the financial wherewithal to bring him back to Queens.

 
 
MLB reports:  Many Mets fans have been banging their heads on the wall since Jason Bay joined the team.  I had a bad feeling on this signing, specifically that the ballpark and team would not be a fit.  How did you view the Bay signing originally and has your opinion changed since?

Howard Megdal:  My view of it originally is that it was exactly the wrong thing to do- he wasn’t likely to age well, he brought one skill- power- and that it would probably be an albatross contract by year 3.  Never did I imagine he would be so terrible from day one.

 
 
MLB report:  I suggested awhile back that Jerry Seinfeld should invest in the team.  I see him as a strong icon for the Mets that could turn around its popularity and fortunes.  Has this been discussed in Mets circles?

Howard Megdal:  It has, but it doesn’t sound like Jerry is looking to take on that kind of active role.

 

MLB reports:  Johan Santana.  While some say he “might” come back this year, I don’t see it happening.  Will the Santana of old ever emerge for the Mets?

Howard Megdal:  Who knows?  He’s had a complicated shoulder surgery, and the number of pitchers who have returned have varied widely in their subsequent performances.  The early signs are good, and I’d be reluctant to bet against a competitor like Santana.  What I think he has going for him is that he already knows how to pitch- he isn’t going to need to transition from being a pure stuff pitcher.  But could that shoulder give out at any moment?  Unfortunately, yes. My guess is he pitches 4-5 starts for the Mets in 2011, and pitches well.

 
 
MLB reports:  Mets fans must be thrilled with the team’s play of late.  Mirage or real?

Howard Megdal:  Well, as I told my friends and family who were freaking out over their 5-13 start:  “Don’t worry- the Mets are distinctly not terrible.”  I stand by that.  Had them at 84 wins at the start of the year, and still see them finishing around 80, even without Ike Davis or Beltran for the last two months.

 
 
MLB reports:  Sandy Alderson and his loyal foot soldiers.  Have they been everything that you hoped they would be?  Please give Alderson his Mets report card to date and don’t hold back!

Howard Megdal:  I am loving the way Alderson runs this team. There are small things I’d do differently here and there- Daniel Murphy playing 2B being the only one I can think of at the moment- but I absolutely adore the LOGIC, TRANSPARENCY and PASSION of his regime.  Just wrote a piece on a minor arc that some may miss- but it stands as a companion piece to, well, everything Steve Phillips did.  There’s a glorious attention to detail.

Piece is here:

http://mets.lohudblogs.com/2011/07/29/doing-it-right-the-feliciano-fulmer-affair/

 
 
MLB reports:  I have thrown around the idea of realignment.  In my world, the Mets, Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Nationals would all occupy the AL East.  Regardless of the exact arrangement, I think a move to the AL to sit in the Yankees division would work well.  You?

Howard Megdal:  I have long said that if it locks in an end to the Designated Hitter, I’d be willing to consider realignment, though I am attached to the NL/AL breakdown.  Will you agree to that? If so, sure.

 
 
MLB reports:  You will not find a bigger fan of banishing the DH, so agreed!Turning to Francisco Rodriguez, what is his future and does he still have “it”?

Howard Megdal:  I think K-Rod is one of the best closers the Mets ever had.  That said, Thank goodness they got rid of that ridiculous 2012 option.  Even if the team weren’t in dire financial straits, it is a ridiculous waste of resources to pay your non-Mariano Rivera closer $17.5 million.

 
 
MLB reports:  From what you proposed in “Taking the Field” to where the Mets stand today, have the Mets been following your plan and direction?  If you change anything about the current squad, what would it be?

Howard Megdal:  See above, the use of Murphy.  I don’t get it.  With his bat, he’s a top-five MLB 2B, and he’s handled the position well.  He is not even average at 1B offensively, and he flat-out cannot play the outfield.  But again, outside of that?  No, they’ve been fantastic. And because of their decision-making in other areas, I don’t conclude that they are just being ignorant about Murphy- I assume there’s more to know.  Certainly the first question I have for Alderson the next time I interview him.

 
 
MLB reports:  What do you think of Brandon Nimmo, the Mets 1st round pick this year?  Was he drafted based on talent or cost?  How has his selection been received in New York thus far?

Howard Megdal:  TBD, but as I said in the last answer, their overall performance gives me confidence in their individual choices.  I think projecting draft picks is a fool’s errand, however.

 
 
MLB reports:  Are Mets fans done waiting for Fernando Martinez to develop into a superstar?  Will he become the next Carlos Gonzalez or Lastings Milledge?

Howard Megdal:  Best-case, he’s Alex Escobar.  The guy just can’t stay healthy.  I saw him in spring training- he ran like an elderly person.  It is such a shame; the guy has tremendous talent, and he works hard.  His body just keeps betraying him.  Incidentally, I haven’t given up on Milledge, yet.  He’s only in his age-26 season. .832 OPS at Triple-A with 18 SB in 24 attempts.  It isn’t too late.

 

 MLB reports:  Thank you for joining us today on the Reports.  You certainly did not hold back in your answers and gave us a great education on Mets baseball.  We wish you the best of luck on your latest book and look forward to your next book project. 

We highly encourage everyone to check out “Taking the Field”, one of my personal favorite baseball books of the year.   You can follow Howard on Twitter and click here for Howard’s website.

 

 

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.

Summary of all Trades- 2011 MLB Trade Deadline Report and Analysis

Monday August 1, 2011

 

 

MLB  reports:  Another hectic MLB trade deadline is in the books.  This year’s trade market was just as much about the trades that were not made as the ones that were.  For all the speculation leading up to the deadline, star players like James Shields, B.J. Upton, Heath Bell and Carlos Quentin stay put.  The trades that did go down included Ubaldo Jimenez, Mike Adams, Doug Fister, Colby Rasmus and much more.  Here is a rundown of all the trades that took place in Major League Baseball as part of the non-waiver MLB Trade Deadline, which was 4:00p.m. on Sunday July 31st:

 

Michael Bourn and cash (Astros) for Jordan Schaefer, Brett Oberholtzer, Paul Clemens, Juan Abreu (Braves):  The Braves get a solid leadoff hitter, center fielder and base stealer from the Astros for four average prospects.  Without having to give up any of their top prospects and filled a huge hole in their lineup and outfield, top marks goes to the Braves.

 

Hunter Pence and cash (Astros) for Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, Josh Zeid and a player to be named later (Phillies):  A win for the Phillies, as they get one of the top outfield bats in the game in Pence, who remains under team control going into next year.  I like the return of Singleton, one of the top hitting prospects in the minors.  But still, the Astros should have received a higher return for Pence who was the face of their franchise.  A win for both squads but give the edge to the Phillies.

 

Mike Adams (Padres) for Joseph Wieland and Robert Erlin (Rangers):  A win for both sides.  The Rangers get one of the top relievers in baseball (Adams), who remains under team control after the season.  For a team that is a World Series contender, Adams and Uehara give the Rangers a suddenly formidable pen.  Wieland and Erlin were two top pitching prospects in the Rangers system and give the Padres much more depth.  For a team that acquired what it needed most without giving up any of its top prospects, the Rangers can chalk this trade up to a huge win.  The Padres did not do badly either, as Adams was a luxury they did not require and the Padres farm system all of a sudden became much stronger.

 

Brad Ziegler (A’s) for Brandon Allen and Jordan Norberto (Diamondbacks):  A deal that works for both teams.  Ziegler is a useful reliever that strengthens the Dbacks pen in a push for the NL West crown.  Allen is a highly considered first base prospect who should slot well in Oakland plus Noberto is another arm in the A’s organization.  It is too bad for the A’s that the Lars Anderson plus prospect for Rich Harden deal fell through with Boston, but Allen is a good runner-up prize.

 

Erik Bedard and Josh Fields (Mariners) for Trayvon Robinson (Dodgers) and Chih-Hsien Chiang, Tim Federowicz, Juan Rodriguez and Stephen Fife  (Red Sox):    Red Sox get Bedard and Fields (the reliever, not third baseman currently in Japan, Mariners get Robinson and Chiang, while Dodgers get Federowicz, Rodriguez and Fife.  Confused?  Good.  This was one of those three-way deals that when all is said and done, you are left scratching your head.  The key to this deal is Erik Bedard for the Red Sox.  If he stays healthy, and that is a big if, the Red Sox might have a valuable addition to their starting rotation.  Fields should also slot in well in the Red Sox pen.  Both Robinson and Chiang are considered to be good prospects and should have a very good chance at cracking the Mariners’ outfield.  The trade of Robinson came as somewhat of a surprise and the Dodgers have received a great deal of negative press on the deal.  The team however was looking for a prospect catcher and believe they have found it in Federowicz and the additional parts in Rodriguez and Fife.  The Mariners are the big winners in this deal, while the Red Sox play with fire and the Dodgers likely just got burnt.

 

Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies) for Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner and Matt McBride (Indians):  What a difference a year makes.  The Indians are going for it and have beefed up their rotation with the addition of Jimenez.  When on his game, Ubaldo is one of the best in baseball.  Further, Ubaldo continues to be under team control, so the Indians don’t simply acquire a summer rental here.  The keys to this deal for the Rockies are Pomeranz and White.  Considered to be the Indians two best pitching prospects, the Rockies add to their farm while losing their ace.  While Pomeranz is considered highly in baseball circles, I would have expected to see the Rockies get more major league ready talent.  Considering that they were supposed to get Jesus Montero and Ivan Nova from the Yankees or Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and/or Homer Bailey from the Reds, I give the Indians the edge on this deal.  Ace pitchers do not grow on trees and the Indians got one without giving up any of their major league talent or some of their other finer prospects, including Nick Weglarz.  Competing with the big boys, the Indians get the prize of the trade deadline and likely a division title as well.

 

Derek Lee (Orioles) for Aaron Baker (Pirates):  The Pirates are going for it and while Lee is an aging first baseman, he is an upgrade offensively over incumbent Lyle Overbay.  Baker is a Class A first baseman that is not considered a top prospect.  This trade is a draw, as the Pirates beef up for their playoff run and the Orioles auction off an impending free agent to stock their system.

 

Orlando Cabrera (Indians) for Thomas Neal (Giants):  This deal came out of left field, as the Indians are still contending and were expected to hold onto Cabrera.  With many young infielders on their roster, the Indians were prepared to sacrifice their utility man for one of the Giants higher rated prospect bats.  Speaking to Neal on several occasions, he is one of the nicer young men you will ever want to meet in the game.  Considered a great tools player, both offensively and defensively, the Indians have added another piece to their offensive puzzle while sacrificing a veteran that was expandable.  The Giants, with injury and offensive woes, took a chance on Cabrera, a good luck charm for each of his respective teams in the postseason.  While Neal was a big price to pay, the Giants are in win-now mode.  A draw, as both teams will away happy from this exchange.

 

Koji Uehara (Orioles) for Tommy Hunter and Chris Davis (Rangers):  This is a good old-fashioned baseball trade.  The Rangers pick up a veteran reliever, who is enjoying his finest campaign in the big leagues and could be a setup man or closer.  The Orioles continue to stockpile prospects and add a starter and first baseman to their mix.  Davis has one of the most explosive bats in the game when he gets hot and the Orioles could have their cleanup hitter for the next 5-7 years.  Hunter should be a good #3 or #4 starter for the team.  A draw as both teams achieve their respective goals in this deal.

 

Mike Cameron (Red Sox) for player to be named later or cash (Marlins):  Cameron was not hitting in Boston but could be a valuable veteran presence in Florida.  I like this move for the Marlins as Cameron is solid player and person, perfect for their clubhouse.

 

Felipe Lopez (Rays) for cash (Brewers):  Lopez still has pop in his bat and could be useful for a playoff push.  There was no room for the Rays on their roster and they will happily take the financial relief.

 

Jason Marquis (Nationals) for Zach Walters (Diamondbacks):  I am a fan of what the Diamondbacks are doing in Arizona, but this trade doesn’t work for me.  Marquis will pitch in Arizona, but I don’t see him being the effective starter the team needs to fight the Giants for a playoff berth.  Walters is a prospect shortstop who could have been Stephen Drew‘s replacement one day when he left the team.  Walters has a good offensive bat and was not worth the price of Marquis.  Advantage Washington for adding another prospect to its growing farm while dumping a veteran pitcher that had no place on their roster.

 

Mike Aviles (Royals) for Yamaico Navarro and Kendal Volz (Red Sox):  The Red Sox get some sort of infield insurance, which was unnecessary in my estimation with both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie on the roster.  If Lowrie is out beyond early August as projected, then this deal makes sense.  Otherwise, to give up two decent prospects for a player who has struggled this season and is unlikely to hit much in Boston does not equate for me.  Advantage Royals for dumping a player who did not fit on the team and continuing to stock their system.

 

Jerry Hairston Jr. (Nationals) for Erik Komatsu (Brewers):  The Brewers get depth for their playoff run and the Nationals get a marginal prospect back.  A draw.

 

Wil Nieves (Brewers) for cash (Braves):  Yawn.  An average catcher for cash.

 

Francisco Rodriguez and cash (Mets) for two players to be named later (Brewers):  A good trade for both teams.  The Brewers strengthen their pen with the addition of K-Rod, who could close or set up for the team and is a free agent at season’s end.  The Mets get salary relief and likely two decent prospects back.

 

Colby Rasmus, P.J. Walters, Brian Tallet (Cardinals) for Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen (White Sox) for Jason Frasor, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, Corey Patterson and Zach Stewart, three players to be named later or cash (Jays):  The good news with this trade is that I will not have to struggle to spell Rzepczynski anymore.  But in all seriousness, this was the first three-way deal of the deadline and probably the most interesting trade that went down.  The White Sox shed the contract of Teahen (to the Jays) and acquire Frasor and Stewart.  The Cardinals get Jackson for their rotation and Dotel/Rzepczynski for their bullpen, as well as three more PTBNL or cash from the Jays.  The Jays get the biggest prize, Rasmus to play center and bat second, as well as Miller, Tallet and Walters for their pen.  The Jays in our opinion win out, as they get a rare top prospect bat and only give up three middle relievers.  The White Sox did well in getting salary relief, a prospect arm in Stewart and a useful bullpen arm in Frasor.  The question marks surround the Cardinals, who give up the top player in the trade and might get left with very little more than adqueate playoff rentals as both Jackson and Dotel might not be with the team in 2012.

 

Nick Green and cash (Orioles) for Zach Phillips (Rangers):  Marginal reliever for marginal shortstop.  A push.

 

Ryan Langerhans (Mariners) for cash (Diamondbacks):  A depth player at best, the Diamondbacks hope to get one or two big hits out of Langerhans in the push for a playoff berth.  It looks like this was the best the Mariners could do in dumping another salary.

 

Doug Fister and David Pauley (Mariners) for Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells, Charlie Furbush and a PTBNL (Tigers):  For a Tigers team that was considered early in the day to be in the hunt for Ubaldo Jimenez, this one is a bit of a let down.  Fister will be a #4 or #5 starter for the Tigers, good but not great.  Pauley was having an incredible season for the Mariners in their pen and should do well in Comerica.  Wells will likely slot immediately into the Mariners outfield and the rest of the players are prospects to their stock their farm.  While I’m not excited about what Detroit received, I am equally not impressed by what they gave up.  Call this one a draw.  Middle of the road players for players at this point.

 

Rafael Furcal (Dodgers) for Alex Castellanos and cash (Cardinals):  With Dee Gordon in the minors and money woes being an issue, this trade for the Dodgers is about getting younger and saving money in the process.  The Cardinals are pushing for a playoff spot and if healthy, Furcal should give the team a spark offensively.  Personally, I would not trust Furcal based on his injury history.  The Dodgers get back a marginal prospect in this swap.   The fact that the Dodgers unloaded Furcal and got the Cardinals to pick up a large portion of his contract, I will label this trade a Dodgers win.

 

Juan Rivera (Jays) for player to be named later or cash (Dodgers):  Considering the Dodgers just released Marcus Thames, I am not sure why they chose to acquire Rivera.  They are very similar players, although I would give the edge to Thames for his better defense.  A win for the Jays, dumping a player that had no role on their team and was not hitting very much.

 

Jonny Gomes  and cash (Reds) for Bill Rhinehart and Christopher Manno (Nationals):  Gomes should be a good bat for the Nationals but with the team out of the playoff picture, it is a little curious why the team would give up prospects at this point.  Reds get the advantage as there was no room in their outfield for Gomes, they acquire two prospects and open up space for Yonder Alonso to play everyday.

 

Carlos Beltran (Mets) for Zack Wheeler (Giants):  One of the best trades of the year that will benefit both teams.  The Giants get the top bat they so badly needed after Buster Posey went down.  Together with salary relief (the Mets will kick in about $4 million), the Mets get one of the top pitching prospects in the game.   The Giants had to go for it and could not afford to waste their top pitching rotation without providing offense.  With Beltran an impeding free agent, the Mets strengthen their rotation for years to come.

 

Jeff Keppinger (Astros) for Henry Sosa and Jason Stoffel (Giants):  The Giants get more bench depth for the playoffs and the Astros get back decent prospects.  Another boring but necessary trade for both.  Consider a draw.

 

Ryan Ludwick (Padres) for a player to be named later (Pirates):  The Pirates are looking to make a strong playoff run and former Indian Luckwick would fit well in their offense this year.  It remains to be seen what the Pirates have to give up, but for a player in as strong demand as Ludwick, as long as it is not too much, give the edge to the Pirates.  This one will hinge on the quality of the prospect going to the Padres.

 

Kosuke Fukudome and $3.9 million (Cubs) for Abner Abreu and Carlton Smith (Indians):  This trade is all about the Indians going for it in a year when the AL Central is ripe for the taking.  Fukudome, largely considered a disappointment in Chicago, is sent with cash to the Indians for their stretch run.  Good to get on base with the occasional pop, the hope is that the change of scenery will do Fukudome good.  The prospects the Cubs received back are marginal at best, as this trade was mostly about a salary dump.  Credit to Chicago for ridding itself of one its huge mistake contracts, with more such contracts to go.  The Indians hope they catch lightening in a bottle, but likely will get only decent production out of their latest Japanese import.

 

Wilson Betemit (Royals) for Antonio Cruz and Julio Rodriguez (Tigers):  The first trade in the deadline dealings, the Tigers upgrade their third base situation over Brandon Inge.  The Royals shed a contract and get two decent prospects.  We will call this one a draw.

 

 

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James Shields to the Reds for Alonso and Grandal: July 31st MLB Trade Deadline Rumor

Saturday July 23, 2011

MLB reports:   We are now only eight days away from the MLB non-waiver trade deadline and the rumors continue to fly fast and furious.  Along with the Carlos Beltran and Heath Bell sweepstakes, the names Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Willingham, Brandon League, Hunter Pence and Hiroki Kuroda have been tossed around as possible candidates to be moved next week.  Another big time name has recently been thrown into the mix that we will be looking at today.  James Shields, “big game James”, one of the top starting pitchers on the Tampa Bay Rays may very well be playing for a new team very soon.  The Cincinnati Reds are apparently calling and with big prospect bats sitting on the farm, the Reds may very well have the necessary bait to haul in one of the biggest fishes on the trade market.

The 29-year old James Shields was drafted by the Rays in the 16th round of the 2000 MLB draft.  Shields made his major league debut in 2006.  Here is a quick rundown of his lifetime statistics:

Year W L ERA IP H BB SO WHIP
2006 6 8 4.84 124.2 141 38 104 1.436
2007 12 8 3.85 215.0 202 36 184 1.107
2008 14 8 3.56 215.0 208 40 160 1.153
2009 11 12 4.14 219.2 239 52 167 1.325
2010 13 15 5.18 203.1 246 51 187 1.461
2011 9 8 2.53 156.1 118 40 151 1.011
6 Seasons 65 59 4.02 1134.0 1154 257 953 1.244
162 Game Avg. 13 12 4.02 224 227 51 188 1.244

 

A definite innings-eater, James pitched almost 1000 innings over his first five seasons, making him one of the most consistent and reliable pitchers in the game.  A lack of run support has definitely hurt Shields over the years, as he had the numbers to obtain more wins had the Rays offense been able to support him better.  I have watched too many instances of Shields pitching complete or near complete game losses, despite only giving up 2-3 runs per game.  2009 and 2010 were not kind to James in some ways, as some analysts viewed Shields as having hit his peak and starting to decline.  Going into 2011, nobody knew what James Shields the Rays would be getting.  The steady ace that the team enjoyed for the majority of his career or the 2010 inconsistent version.  Looking at Shields at the halfway mark of the season, he is enjoying by far his greatest season in the majors.  A sparkling 2.53 ERA and 1.011 WHIP, Shields has been everything that the Rays could have expected more.  But with success comes many questions, with the most pertinent being what the Rays should do with James.

The whispers and talk has been growing by the day that the Rays may be looking to move Shields by July 31st.  The Reds have been the team most linked to the Rays, given their desire to bolster their rotation and the deep farm of prospects they can offer the Rays.  The Reds are sitting on some of the top prospects in the game that are currently blocked at the major league level.  Yonder Alonso, 1B/OF is considered one of the best hitters not at the major league level.  Alonso would represent the centerpiece of a potential Shields deal.  Born in Cuba and having attended the University of Miami, Alonso is often compared to his friend Alex Rodriguez, based on his combination of power and patience at the plate.  Not bad company at all.  The 24-year old Alonso was drafted 7th overall in the 2008 draft by the Reds and has quickly advanced in their system.   Currently in AAA, Alonso sits at a .297 AVG, .871 OPS, with 12 home runs and 46/59 BB/K.  The Rays, desperately in need of bats, currently have Casey Kotchman manning first.  Alonso would be a perfect fit in taking over the first base job for the next decade.  He is a special hitter that does not come along very often.  While a pitcher of Shields stature is not easy to replace, the Rays would be filling a huge void in their lineup by adding Alonso.  Dealing from strength to fill a need is smart baseball management and the reason why we are discussing the trade of Shields today.

In addition to acquiring Yonder Alonso, the Rays would be adding a number one catcher to their system in either Yasmani Grandal or Devin Mesoraco.  I have seen both names thrown around, but my gut is that the Rays will end up receiving Grandal.  Mesoraco was featured by us back in June.  The likely Reds catcher of the future, Mesoraco is expected to get the call either this year or next at the latest to replace incumbent Ramon Hernandez.  With a solid backup in Ryan Hanigan, the Reds have an abundance of catchers, a strength considering that few major league teams have potential superstar backstops playing in their lower levels.  The 22-year old Grandal was born in Cuba and played in Miami, similar to Alonso.  Drafted 12th overall in the 2010 MLB draft, Grandal recently got the call to AA.  Mesoraco on the other hand, is 23-years of age and was drafted 15th overall by the Reds in the 2007 MLB draft.  Mesoraco is back for his second tour of duty in AAA, hitting a solid .309 and .895 OPS, with 10 home runs and 54 RBIs.  After battling injuries in his career, Mesoraco hit a combined 26 home runs over 3 levels last season and has not slowed down since.  The Rays would be thrilled to receive Mesoraco in a Shields trade, but Grandal is considered by many to actually be the more talented backstop.  A win-win either way for Tampa Bay.

But why trade Shields and especially, why now?  Many Rays fans are asking themselves those questions right now.  On the surface, Shields and the Rays look like a perfect fit.  He is young and still in the prime of his career.  Shields has proven to be healthy and durable since joining the Rays.  He is signed through this year, with team friendly options through 2014 at $7, $9 and $12 million per year respectively from 2012-14.  In baseball they say you can never have too much pitching.  If that is the case, then some feel the Rays should consider stockpiling their pitchers and building their team from strength.  But that is a narrow view of major league teams and how they operate.  Let’s take a look at our five top reasons for the Rays to trade James Shields right now:

1)  Sell at the Peak

You never know what the future will bring, so sometimes it is important to live in the moment.  Shields, while a steady and consistent pitcher, is currently pitching at the highest level of his career.  The Rays will need to determine if he has truly broken out or merely playing above his head.  The value for Shields may never get higher than it is today.  As well, teams contending for the playoffs may be willing to pay more at the deadline than the offseason for Shields.  The Rays, if feeling especially lucky, could request the addition of either Mike Leake or Travis Wood to the trade mix from the Reds.

2)  Numbers Game:  Rotation Log Jam

The Rays have been known for acquiring, developing and stockpiling pitchers in their system.  This past offseason was no different, as the Rays traded away top starter Matt Garza to the Cubs for a package of prospects, including Christopher Archer and Sam Fuld.  With Jeremy Hellickson ready, willing and able to join the big club, the Rays needed to clear room for their next future star pitcher.  Hellickson, combined with David Price, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann form a formidable one through four punch in the rotation.  Based on their age and salaries, none of these starters will likely be going anywhere soon.  While Alex Cobb has been brought in for temporary measure to the majors, Matt Moore just got the call to join AAA Durham in anticipation of joining the Rays rotation soon.  Moore, one of the top-five pitching prospects in baseball, will not likely be kept on the farm too long given his dominance over minor league hitters to-date.  That is how the baseball system works.  Prospects are developed and either traded for veterans or take over for departed veterans from major league teams.  As the Rays have no intention of trading Moore, a spot will have to open up for him.  Unfortunately for James Shields, he is the veteran most likely to go.  From there, it will only be a matter of time before Archer is ready to join the big club and the cycle will continue.

3)  Dollars and Cents

It is no secret that the Rays are on a very tight budget.  Low attendance figures, despite continued recent major league success including a World Series appearance in 2008, has meant that the Rays cannot afford to hang onto high priced veterans.  Shown the door in recent years were Carlos Pena, Matt Garza and Rafael Soriano, among others for financial considerations.  While James may have what is considered a team friendly contract, paying him close to $10 million or so per year for each of the next three seasons does not work for the Rays budget.  Moore, combined with Alonso and Grandal, would fill three positions for the Rays at a combined salary that will be a fraction of what Shields makes.  In other words, Shields is a luxury that the Rays cannot afford and can fill quite adequately within at a cheaper cost.  While we do not like to think about the economics of the game, it can drive roster decisions on the same level as talent and ability.

4)  Innings- Wear and Tear

James Shields is starting to enter a zone that many MLB teams dread.  The 200-innings per season for over five seasons club.  While an informal group, there has been much talk in baseball circles that most pitchers after their first 1000 innings pitched have a high risk of injuries and decline.  Pitchers like Brandon Webb and to a lesser extent Ben Sheets, are shown as examples of modern pitchers that have arm/shoulder problems after pitching many major league innings over a span of 5+ years.  While Shields has not shown any risks yet of developing injuries, his numbers going into this season were of concern for the Rays.  So while Shields is having a Cy Young caliber season, the Rays may be fearful that he will be susceptible to injuries or declining performance very soon.

5)  Pitchers Need Run Support

In the same way a fast car needs a powerful engine and reliable tires, a major league team needs both offense and strong pitching.  The current build of the Rays is starting to mirror the San Francisco Giants.  Great young pitching but not enough hitting.  The Rays can stockpile as much pitching as they like, but if they cannot score runs they will have a difficult time making the playoffs, let alone win a World Series title.  Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal are two superstar bats in the making that the Rays desperately need and do not have in their own system.  The expression goes that teams “develop pitching and buy bats.”  In this case, the Rays will be taking to buying the bats that they themselves cannot produce.  With a starting lineup of nine hitters, that Rays will be instantly filling over 20% of their lineup by way of this trade.  The hit the rotation by losing Shields would be absorbed by the addition of Matt Moore to the major league club.  But the boost to the team’s offense as a result of the addition of Alonso and Grandal is invaluable.

Verdict:  The bottom line is that the Tampa Bay Rays are in a quandary.  James Shields is the heart and soul of their pitching staff, the go-to guy who has earned his nickname of “big game.”  But as the most expensive starter on the staff, with the team’s top prospect almost ready to receive the call to the show and the team desperately needing good young hitting, the Rays have no choice but to consider moving Shields at the trade deadline.  As the team is still in contention, management will have to be careful of not sending a message that they are throwing in the towel on the season.  But to get the biggest reward, the team will have to pay a big price.  It will be difficult in the short-term to accept the trade of James Shields from Tampa Bay.  But considering the hitting that the Reds would be sending to the Rays, this is a deal that the Rays cannot afford to miss out on.  Keep an eye on Tampa Bay as the team will continue to improve, get younger at a competitive payroll come deadline day and still remain in contention.  If this is truly James Shield’s last week in a Rays uniform, please be sure to catch his last start live or on television from Oakland this coming Wednesday July 27th.  With Desmond Jennings and Dane De La Rosa just recalled by the Rays from AAA, the cycle of player and prospect replenishment has already begun again in Tampa Bay.

 

 

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Top 5 Closers Available at July 31 MLB Trade Deadline

Friday July 22, 2011

 

MLB reports:   The MLB Non-Waiver Trade Deadline is rapidly approaching.  With only nine days to go, MLB teams need to decide if they are buyers or sellers.  Right up until July 31st deadline, the baseball world will be buzzing on potential deals.  While transactions can occur after July 31st, the respective players will need to first pass through waivers, which makes trades more difficult to happen.  Especially in the category of closers, who are sought after by almost every team.  Whether to obtain a 9th inning stopper or upgrade their middle relief, the majority of MLB teams are currently on the prowl.

There are some contending teams would love to add a closer, including the Rangers and Cardinals.  The host of other teams battling for a playoff spot are ready to take a current closer to pitch the 7th or 8th inning.  To win today in baseball, you usually need 2-3 closer-type pitchers in your pen.  The Brewers recently added Francisco Rodriguez to compliment John Axford.  The New York Yankees signed Rafael Soriano to pitch in front of Mariano Rivera, although David Robertson has since grabbed the role.  True closers will always be in demand and teams with playoff aspirations will always find room for these guys on their rosters.

As the line between buyers and sellers becomes less blurry, we take a look today at the top five closer candidates to be traded by the July 31st MLB Trade Deadline:

 

1)  Heath Bell:  San Diego Padres

The Rolls Royce of available closers, the Padres are talking to teams on a daily, if not hourly basis on the availability of Heath Bell.  Nearly every team has been linked to Bell in the past few days, from the Rangers, Cardinals, Phillies, Red Sox, Jays and Tigers.  The prize of the closing market, expect the Padres to demand a king’s ransom for his services.  At least two top prospects, with one being major league ready should get this deal done.  With 28 saves and a 2.45 ERA, the 33-year old Bell is having another fantastic campaign before his impending free agency.  The Rangers and Cardinals are most in need of a closer, with the Rangers the most likely destination based on availability of prospects.  The Rangers have the superior farm system and could match up best with the Padres.  The Phillies and Jays are the dark horses according to reports and need to decide if they are willing to pay the price.

 

2)  Brandon League:  Seattle Mariners

A first time All-Star in 2011, Brandon League has raised his stock this year and given the Mariners an interesting trade chip to work with at the deadline.  League has chipped in 23 saves already this year, with a 3.35 ERA and 1.088 WHIP.  With a team friendly contract and under team control for another season, League should draw much interest on the market.  St. Louis seems like a logical choice, as the Cardinals will be looking for a long-term solution to their closing woes.  I cannot see the Mariners dealing in their division and having to face League next year with the Rangers.  A top prospect or two middle prospects should make this one happen.  With the Mariners far out of contention and in complete rebuild mode, a top closer seems like a luxury that the Mariners cannot afford at the moment.  The Mariners need offensive help and need it quickly, with League being one of many candidates likely to leave Seattle by July 31st to replenish the farm system.

 

3)  Frank Francisco, Jon RauchOctavio Dotel, Jason Frasor:  Toronto Blue Jays

If Heath Bells is a Rolls Royce, the Blue Jays are running a used Ford dealership in their bullpen.  Frank Francisco is like a used mustang with transmission problems, while Jon Rauch is a pickup truck without the V8 engine.  The Jays have assembled a collection of the middle-of-the-road closers and setup men this year in their bullpen.  Francisco will likely draw the most attention, despite his mostly awful numbers this year.  At 31-years of age and throwing big time heat, Francisco still has potential.  Rauch has served as the Jays closer for much of the year and could be in demand as well.  Octavio Dotel, the eldest member of the pack, has bounced around during his major league career and could be a useful trade deadline pickup.  The most effective reliever though for the Jays has been Jason Frasor and a smart team should consider him.  While the Jays are unlikely to offer any true closers to contending teams, there are middle relief candidates to be had.  Expect the Phillies to come calling and pickup one of the above.

 

4)  Kevin Gregg:  Baltimore Orioles

For those teams that like to play with fire, closers don’t get more dangerous than Kevin Gregg.  A 4.00 ERA and unsightly 1.583 WHIP are not numbers that scream out lock-down closer.  Gregg has shown though the ability to get hot at times during his career and will be considered by many teams over the next week.  Signed through next year, the Orioles will look mainly for salary relief in shedding Gregg’s contract.  Personally, I wouldn’t consider Gregg if I was running a team.  But somehow he will likely move by July 31st.

 

5)  Leo Nunez:  Florida Marlins

Another up-and-down closer in the Gregg mold, Leo Nunez is quietly having a very solid season for the Florida Marlins.  Up to 27 saves, with a 3.22 ERA and 1.187 WHIP, Nunez might actually be the best affordable option on the closers market.  The Rangers and Cardinals will sniffing around here, as will the Red Sox, Indians and Tigers.  As the Marlins and Tigers have matched up well before in trades, I can see this swap happening.  The Tigers have the ability to surrender a decent pitching prospect and can use Nunez down the stretch as Valverde insurance.  With the Tigers in contention and the majority of their bullpen being fairly unstable for most of the year, Nunez might be a late inning option that the the Tigers can ill-afford to miss out on.

 

Send us your comments and opinions on available closers for the trade deadline.  Other names thrown around have been Joakim Soria, Matt Capps, Joe Nathan, Andrew Bailey and Brian Fuentes.  The trading of players, especially closers, is especially reliant on the competitiveness and status of a team in the standings.  With so many teams still in their respective races, there are not as many top bullpen arms available at this point in the season.  But come August, as more teams continue to drop out, expect to see even more trade activity.  Exciting times, as the MLB pennant races continue to heat up, and baseball trade talk is on everyone’s lips.

 

 

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Carlos Beltran to the Giants: Mets Likely to Trade Slugger to San Fran

Tuesday July 19, 2011

 

MLB reports:   The MLB rumor mill is working overtime as the non-waiver trade deadline of July 31st quickly approaches.  With less than two weeks to go, the speculation is heating up as to which players will be changing uniforms.  Francisco Rodriguez is already a Brewer and Jeff Keppinger was just traded to the Giants.  But rumors persist that the Mets and Giants are not finished with their activity.  With both superstars Jose Reyes and Carlos Beltran eligible for free agency at the end of the season, talk is that one or both players will be moved out of New York.  With the possibility of the Mets trying to retain Reyes, the most likely scenario is Carlos Beltran changing addresses.  At the center of the speculation is the San Francisco Giants.  The defending World Series champions have been simply atrocious this year offensively.  With their cleanup hitter Buster Posey out for the season, the team cannot afford to miss out on the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes. 

The Giants were very fortunate to win the World Series last year.  The playoffs are a tough road and requires the perseverance normally of a balanced team to make it to the end.  The Giants, while solid in the pitching department, were essentially using smoke and mirrors to score runs last year.  The team relied on the likes of Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross and Freddy Sanchez on offense.  While useful role players, these players are not the big sluggers that are supposed to win championships.  Now with Buster Posey out, the Giants are forced to rely on Eli Whiteside, Miguel Tejada, Aaron Rowand, Pat Burrell and company to score the team’s runs.  Possessing one of the best, if not the best pitching staff in baseball, the Giants can ill-afford to limit itself offensively and essentially waste such strong pitching.  To defend its championship, the Giants will have no choice but to beef up their offense.

Carlos Beltran has been one of the most consistent hitters in the game over the course of his career.  Taking a look at his numbers, we see a consistently high level of production:

Year Tm AB R H HR RBI SB BA
1998 KCR 58 12 16 0 7 3 .276
1999 KCR 663 112 194 22 108 27 .293
2000 KCR 372 49 92 7 44 13 .247
2001 KCR 617 106 189 24 101 31 .306
2002 KCR 637 114 174 29 105 35 .273
2003 KCR 521 102 160 26 100 41 .307
2004 TOT 599 121 160 38 104 42 .267
2004 KCR 266 51 74 15 51 14 .278
2004 HOU 333 70 86 23 53 28 .258
2005 NYM 582 83 155 16 78 17 .266
2006 NYM 510 127 140 41 116 18 .275
2007 NYM 554 93 153 33 112 23 .276
2008 NYM 606 116 172 27 112 25 .284
2009 NYM 308 50 100 10 48 11 .325
2010 NYM 220 21 56 7 27 3 .255
2011 NYM 328 54 94 14 59 3 .287
14 Seasons 6575 1160 1855 294 1121 292 .282
162 Game Avg. 621 110 175 28 106 28 .282
               
KCR (7 yrs) 3134 546 899 123 516 164 .287
NYM (7 yrs) 3108 544 870 148 552 100 .280
HOU (1 yr) 333 70 86 23 53 28 .258
               
NL (8 yrs) 3441 614 956 171 605 128 .278
AL (7 yrs) 3134 546 899 123 516 164 .287
 
 

His resume speaks for itself.  Beltran is a 1999 AL Rookie of the Year.  He has won four Gold Gloves for his defensive work in the outfield.  He won two silver slugger awards.  A lifetime .282 AVG, .360 OBP and .495 SLG.  In 2004 he hit the magical 30/30 mark (30 home runs, 30 stolen bases), and was actually two home runs short of 40/40.  For the most part, Beltran in his prime could do it all.  Hit home runs, hit for average, steal bases, catch and throw the ball like few players could.  One of the few true five-tool players in the game.  The aberrations we find in Beltran’s statistics were the last two years.  Due to various injuries, particularly knee woes, Carlos Beltran was forced to miss much of the last two seasons and saw his production sharply decline.  Now healthy and extremely motivated, Beltran has come back in a big way. 

Beltran played in his sixth All-Star game this year in Arizona.  While he rarely steals bases these days, the rest of Beltran’s game has returned as shown by his numbers.  The only issue surrounding Beltran is whether his knee will hold up for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.  From there, a team will need to determine his long-term health and abilities in awarding him a free agent contract.  But from all indications, Beltran is a player that can still play ball at the highest level when healthy.  An ideal fit for the Giants that lineup that desperately needs run production. 

How bad has the Giants offense been in 2011?  Going into tonight, the Giants as a team are hitting .243, with a .309 OBP and .363 SLG.  The team has collectively hit 63 home runs and scored 356 runs.  Yet somehow the team continues to sit in first place in the NL West, 3.5 games ahead of the Diamondbacks.  If not for Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Brian Wilson and the rest of the Giants pitching staff, the Giants would be in the basement of the division.  The run of the Giants over the past two seasons has been incredible, but clearly linked to its pitching.  To support its pitchers and put runs on the board, the Giants have to step up and beef up its offense.  While Jeff Keppinger is a useful player, he will not be enough to get the job done.  Rather, the Giants need to acquire a bomber, the way the Cardinals acquired Matt Holliday a couple of years ago in their playoff run.  Or closer to home, when the Astros acquired Carlos Beltran in 2004.  Beltran hit an incredible 8 home runs during the Astros playoff drive that year.  Coincidentally, Beltran was an impending free agent that year as well.  Fast forward to 2011 and the very same Carlos Beltran is available.  Having a fantastic campaign, Beltran in 2011 has hit .287 to-date, with 14 home runs, league leading 28 doubles, with a .381 OBP and .512 SLG.  Again during a free agency year.  Definite playoff calibre numbers and a perfect fit out west in San Francisco.

The Giants and Carlos Beltran are well suited for one another.  San Francisco needs a strong cleanup hitter.   Carlos Beltran wants to compete for a World Series championship and boost his free agency stock for one more prime contract.  The odds of getting a ring don’t get any better than joining the defending world champions.  Some experts have speculated that Beltran may not waive his no-trade protection to join the Giants.  I am not buying that theory.  The Giants are a terrific organization to play for, with highly regarded management, a fantastic ballpark in a beautiful city, and are one of baseball’s most historical and treasured teams.  Beltran would look fantastic in a Giants uniform.  What better way to showcase his abilities and earn his last free agency contract than by playing for a contender and fighting for a World Series championship.

Remember 1994, the year that Beltran was traded from Kansas City to Houston and played like a man possessed in nearly single-handedly leading the Astros to the World Series.  That performance, combined with his numbers to-date, earned Beltran that off-season a 7-year, $119 million contract from the Mets.  Now Beltran is on the cusp of free agency again and has the potential to “earn his pay” so to speak with the Giants in the same manner that he did with the Astros in 1994.  With Scott Boras as his agent, Beltran will surely receive the advice that playoff performance equals free agency dollars.   

The Giants will have a choice in making a pitch to the Mets for Carlos Beltran.  They will either have to absorb the majority of the contract and provide fairly decent prospects, or have the Mets absorb a large chunk of money and offer 1-2 elite prospects in return.  The Giants are well stocked in the minors and have excellent pitching at the major league level.  The Mets may request Jonathan Sanchez off the major league roster or a combination of minor leaguers from the farm.  Outfielder Thomas Neal and pitcher Zack Wheeler could be on the Mets wish-list.  Or perhaps the Giants will be able to give up a package of lower level prospects and not lose their top prospects and major league level.  The decision will boil down to the money involved and players offered by other teams in trade packages.

At the end of the day, much like the Yankees must acquire Ubaldo Jimenez from the Rockies (see our recent feature), the Giants have no choice but to trade for Carlos Beltran.  The Yankees cannot afford to waste their superior offense without enough top-level pitching and the Giants in turn, need to surround their talented pitching staff with consistent run production.  It is a lot of pressure to have a team win 2-1, 3-1 games night-in and night-out.  Carlos Beltran has proven that he can carry a team on his back when he is on his game.  Well, in 2011 he is definitely playing at his highest level in years.  Beltran needs the Giants for his next contract and a chance for a ring, while the Giants need his bat and glove to increase their chances of a championship.  The perfect marriage, expect Beltran to be a Giant by the end of July.  This acquisition makes too much sense for the Giants and Brian Sabean will continue to stock his team on route to a possible back-to-back World Series run for the Giants.  Carlos Beltran to the Giants.  Not a question of if, just a question of when.

 

 

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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.***

 

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Scott Boras: The Contracts. The Clients. Who’s to Blame?

Sunday July 3, 2011

 

 

MLB reports:   The man behind the billion dollar smile, Scott Boras is a big business.  The Boras Corporation represents close to 200 MLB players.  This is one of the most influential, if not important people in baseball today.  But the man is categorized in many baseball circles as “the devil”, for “forcing” major league teams to dish out excessively large contracts to his clients.  Is this really the case?  Is Boras bad for baseball or simply a man who knows how to do his job and do it well?  Let’s take an inside look at Scott Boras and search behind the contracts. 

We took a look yesterday at Randy “Macho Man” Savage, an athlete that aside from being a wrestling superstar, was a baseball player.  On the same token, Scott Boras the agent, was at one point Scott Boras the baseball player as well.  Here are the numbers that Boras put up in four minor league seasons in the Cardinals and Cubs organizations:

 

Year Lev AB R HR RBI BA OBP SLG
1974 Rk 95 13 0 10 .274 .402 .347
1975 A 300 39 2 36 .277 .402 .373
1976 A 437   2   .295   .387
1977 AA-A 343 54 1 33 .292 .392 .367
1977 A 78 17 0 7 .346 .440 .423
1977 AA 265 37 1 26 .275 .377 .351
1977 AA              
1977 AA              
4 Seasons   1175 106 5 79 .288 .363 .374
A (3 seasons) A 815 56 4 43 .293 .354 .385
AA (1 season) AA 265 37 1 26 .275 .377 .351
Rk (1 season) Rk 95 13 0 10 .274 .402 .347

 

A man ahead of his time, Boras was one of the original moneyball players.  For his career, Boras had 133 walks and only 76 strikeouts.  Those numbers were for good for a lifetime .363 OBP, to go along with his .288 AVG.  Knee injuries unfortunately cut his career short and Boras only made it as high as AA ball.  With the baseball experience under his belt, Boras went on to practice law and from there become a full-time baseball agent in the early 1980s.  Imagine if the 58-year old Scott Boras had made it to the majors and had played for 10+  years.  He would have been playing well into the 1980s, when his agent career took off.  But alas, Randy Poffo the wrestler became Randy Savage the baseball player.  Scott Boras the baseball player became a player agent.  Certain things are meant to be and some roles seem to be predestined.  But it is still fun to think what could have been and had Boras been able to continue in for professional baseball as a player for many seasons, Scott Boras the agent might have never come into existence.

The exploits of Scott Boras as an agent are legendary.   From the Bill Caudill contract with the Jays, Todd Van Poppel deal, J.D. Drew refusing to sign with the Phillies, the Alex Rodriguez contract, Darren Dreifort contract, negotiations for Stephen Strasburg and Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boras has done it all and seen it all.  Let’s take a peak at 10 of the biggest contracts negotiated by Boras:

10. Adrian Beltre, Seattle Mariners: 5 years, $64 million

9. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox: 6 years, $52 million

8. Kevin Millwood, Texas Rangers: 5 years, $60 million

7. Carlos Beltran, New York Mets: 7 years, $119 million

6. Kevin Brown, Los Angeles Dodgers: 7 years, $105 million

5.Matt White, Tampa Bay Devil Rays: $10.2 million bonus

4. Andruw Jones, Los Angeles Dodgers: 2 years, $36.2 million

3. Chan Ho Park, Texas Rangers: 5 years, $65 million

2. Barry Zito, San Francisco Giants: 7 years, $126 million

1. Alex Rodriguez, Texas Rangers: 10 years, $252 million

 

The list literally goes on and on.  Boras Corporation has negotiated contracts well over a billion dollars in my estimation and the number keeps rising by the day.  We can pick any contracts negotiated by Boras for review, but these ten deals are particularly interesting ones.  What do these contracts all have in common?  Firstly, they are for very large dollar amounts and very often far exceed what most experts predicted for each particular player.  Secondly, none of the teams that signed their respective deal appeared to have benefited from the deal.  In the sense that I would argue each team on this list had buyer’s remorse and would take back the contract if given the chance.  Lastly, all of these contracts were negotiated and signed by Scott Boras and each respective major league team owner and general manager.  It takes two to tango and in this case, sometimes three or four parties.  For as much as teams and fans want to burn Scott Boras at the stake for destroying baseball, these contracts were signed by the free will of each team. Furthermore, each team pursued their respective players and courted them to accept a contract and join their team.  At some point, MLB teams need to look at the mirror if they want to change the economic landscape of the game and stop blaming Scott Boras and the player agents of this world. 

An agent’s job is to land the biggest contract for his or her client.  A team’s job is to field the most competitive team at the most economical price.  When a player turns out to be a bust or financial albatross, it is the team that did not do their job.  The baseball world fell over when Jayson Werth signed his seven-year, $126 million contract.  The blame fell to Scott Boras for the most part for extorting such a large figure out of the Washington Nationals.  Why?  Mike Rizzo and the Washington Nationals organization are all big boys that can make their own decisions.  Without seemingly any strong bidders against them, the Nationals literally outbid themselves in handing Werth such a lucrative and absurd contract.  Most analysts, myself included, felt that this contract could only end up failing the Nationals.  Werth as an injury prone player without a proven track record was going to likely have a hard time justifying his deal.  But don’t blame the player or agent. No, they did their job in the process.  It is the team that needs to take responsibility for its actions.  An important lesson in life is to learn from one’s mistakes.  But teams keep making the same financial blunders, over and over when it comes to player contracts.  That is not the fault of Scott Boras.  It is the teams.

When free agency opens up each offseason, I compare the winter meetings to children being handed large wads of money and being thrown into a candy store.  They cannot control themselves and have to buy more and more to satisfy their hungers.  As it is not the children to blame when they are spoiled, it is really not the General Managers either when they have large spending budgets.  As parents need to take responsibility for their children, team owners need to account for their General Managers.  The large contracts that are handed out every year must be approved by each team owner beforehand.  Thus the way a child comes to ask for a $500 remote control car, a General Manager will ask for a $126 million Werth.  When the parent and team owner both say yes, they only have themselves to blame.  The toy and player inevitably break down or are seen as too expensive in hindsight.  But by then, the toy cannot be returned to the store and the player contract cannot be voided.  The lesson is to learn from the experience and to avoid similar mistakes in the future.  But teams refuse to listen and learn and as a result, player contracts in baseball are exploding with no end in sight.

Let’s keep Scott Boras in perspective.  The man does his job very well and pushes the limit of player contracts in baseball.  He might be a very intelligent person and a great salesperson.  But at the end of the day, he is simply doing his job.  For myself as a consumer, if I buy a brand new car for $30,000 when I could have bought a similar model down the road for $10,000 less, I cannot blame the car dealer or its salesperson.  It was up to me as the consumer to shop around and get the best deal I could.  There would have been other cars, the same way for MLB teams there will always be other players. But teams don’t see it that way.  They get caught up in the negotiations and the thrill of the hunt and get determined to land their “guy”.  The Red Sox begged and pleaded to get Dice-K into a Red Sox uniform.  The same Sox and Yankees battled it out to land Mark Teixeira.  The Texas Rangers and then owner Tom Hicks literally handed Alex Rodriguez a blank cheque to land the marquee free agent.  Again and again, MLB teams go out of their way to land the players they want and end up blaming the players and their agent when the contracts do not work out. 

One man I will give credit to is Fred Wilpon.  In criticizing the Carlos Beltran contract, he blamed the team for overpaying the outfielder based on one good playoff run.  This is a man who at the very least took responsibility for his actions and knew where to lay the blame.  Since the Beltran deal, the Mets, along with the Braves and Angels, are three teams that tend to stay away from dealing with Scott Boras and the players he represents.  That is ultimately the best approach and the only way that any order can be established.  If teams do not want to dish the money, all they have to say is no.  But as long as the money is there and being handed out by the teams by the truck loads, Scott Boras will be there with open arms, negotiating the best contracts for his clients that he can.

Scott Boras has accomplished some amazing feats during his agent career.  From changing the rules on arbitration and free agency, Boras pushes the boundaries and finds all the loopholes to change the economic system of the game.  The sign of a great lawyer, negotiator and agent.  Before fans are quick to condemn the man, lets step back and appreciate what he has accomplished.  Scott Boras and the Boras Corporation are a billion dollar industry.  They provide marketing services, training facilities for their clients and look after their clients every needs.  Boras has a team of experts that are constantly studying and keeping track of the game.  Scott Boras stays on top of the game and thus is able to stay competitive and negotiate the best contracts for his clients.  While not everyone agrees with his methods, particularly the Alex Rodriguez opt-out with the Yankees which led A-Rod to leave Boras, he may have the ideas, but it is up to players to accept them and teams to listen.  As long as players keep lining up to hire Scott Boras and teams await with open arms and wallets, the system will not change.  Scott Boras may be a lot of things, but the devil he is certainly not.  He is simply a smart, hard worker who does his job well at levels that few can attain.  A baseball pioneer, Scott Boras has certainly left his mark on the game.  While many fans and teams do not agree with his methods, at the end of the day he gets the job done.  Scott Boras:  Genius or madness?  You decide.

 

Please see the list below of some of the clients in the Scott Boras stable.  The list is growing by the day:

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McKeon, Valentine and Guillen: The Loria Marlins Manager Roller Coaster

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

MLB reports:   In the world of Jeffrey Loria, nothing is ever boring.  Loria, who orchestrated an Expos to Marlins trade-in back in 2002, already owns two World Series rings.  The first championship ring was courtesy of manager Jack McKeon, who came on board to manage the Marlins in 2003 and won it all in his initial Florida campaign.  McKeon was successful in turning around a Marlins team that started off slowly and picked up steam after his selection.  The Marlins currently sit after today’s game with a 33-41 record.  They are in last place in the NL East, 12.5 games behind the division leading Philadelphia Phillies.  Losers of 11 out of their last 12 games, the Marlins have a 16-23 record at home and 17-18 record on the road.  Something had to give and manager Edwin Rodriguez resigned abruptly yesterday.  Indicating that change was in the best interest of the team, Rodriguez was out and the Marlins quickly replaced him with former manager Jack McKeon.  Out with the “old” and in with the “new”.

John Aloysius (Jack) McKeon will be 81 in November of this year.  A veteran manager for sixteen seasons, McKeon managed five teams in his manager league career.  His record in the dugout speaks for itself, as we take a look at the numbers:

Year

Tm

Lg

G

W

L

W-L%

1973 Kansas City Royals AL

162

88

74

.543

1974 Kansas City Royals AL

162

77

85

.475

1975 Kansas City Royals AL

96

50

46

.521

1977 Oakland Athletics AL

53

26

27

.491

1978 Oakland Athletics AL

123

45

78

.366

1988 San Diego Padres NL

115

67

48

.583

1989 San Diego Padres NL

162

89

73

.549

1990 San Diego Padres NL

80

37

43

.463

1997 Cincinnati Reds NL

63

33

30

.524

1998 Cincinnati Reds NL

162

77

85

.475

1999 Cincinnati Reds NL

163

96

67

.589

2000 Cincinnati Reds NL

163

85

77

.525

2003 Florida Marlins NL

124

75

49

.605

2004 Florida Marlins NL

162

83

79

.512

2005 Florida Marlins NL

162

83

79

.512

  Kansas City Royals  

420

215

205

.512

  Oakland Athletics  

176

71

105

.403

  San Diego Padres  

357

193

164

.541

  Cincinnati Reds  

551

291

259

.529

  Florida Marlins  

448

241

207

.538

     

1952

1011

940

.518

McKeon comes with some terrific credentials.  He is a two-time National League Manager of the Year, winning the award in 1999 originally with the Reds and again with the Marlins in his championship 2003 season.  McKeon has done it all and seen it all.  But the question on everyone’s mind is whether he will have a strong impact on the Marlins and turn around their season.  From there, the Marlins will need to choose their long-term manager for the 2012 season.  There is much discussion and debate surrounding the Marlins, as they complete the 2011 season and move next year to their new stadium and become the “Miami Marlins.”

As much as the Marlins seemed to take a step forward this season as an organization, they are apparently still stuck at square one in some ways.  Take their managerial candidates.  Back in their last offseason, the Marlins were looking at Bobby Valentine and Ozzie Guillen to become their next manager.  Valentine, an analyst with ESPN, could not come to terms with the team and as a result was not hired.  The team inquired as well on the availability of Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, a former coach with McKeon’s 2003 championship team.  When the White Sox required a return of either super prospects Logan Morrison or Mike Stanton, the Marlins said thanks, but no thanks.  Edwin Rodriguez ended up receiving the post and did not last even half a season in Florida.  With the team in disarray and a fresh voice needed, the Marlins turned to their past in naming Jack McKeon their interim manager for the remainder of the season.

The cigar chomping McKeon, one of the most old-school baseball men you will ever meet, is seen as having a no-nonsense type of approach to the game.  As his first move as manager, McKeon benched franchise superstar Hanley Ramirez yesterday.  Reports indicate that tardiness was the cause, while others have viewed the move as a wake-up call for the team.  Either way, McKeon has clearly shown that he is in charge and is not prepared to accept the Marlins losing ways.  Unfortunately, as the years have progressed, baseball has become more and more of a “young man’s game.”  Todays young players, part of the me-first generation, don’t often take kindly to veteran coaches that are seen as being out of touch with today’s times.  This was evident before in Florida, where McKeon originally lasted only three seasons.  McKeon was seen as a very stern and tough manager and had lost much of the attention of the clubhouse by the end of his tenure.  Now the Marlins have gone back to the barrel to see if McKeon has one more strong season of managing in him.

In accepting the Marlins’ position, McKeon has become the second oldest manager in baseball history, just behind Connie Mack.  While a great feat for McKeon, it will remain to be seen the impact that he will have on the Marlins 2011 fortunes.  My gut is that the Marlins will be lucky to get much more out of the team, even with McKeon in charge.  The team is dangerously close to knocking themselves out of contention by the All-Star break and anything short of a miracle at this point will change that.  With most MLB teams hiring young, dynamic managers to lead the way, its surprising in some ways that Loria has gone backwards in his approach.  But given Loria’s track record, he rarely does anything by the book.

After Jack McKeon completes his second tenure in Florida, the decision will still remain as to whether Bobby Valentine or Ozzie Guillen will be at the helm come 2012.  Both are still in contention for the job according to reports, but neither appears in my estimation to be a great fit.  Valentine and Guillen are both fiery individuals with strong wills and personalities.  After watching the Joe Girardi fiasco in his battles with owner Loria, many managerial candidates have since been scared off from taking the manager’s job with the Marlins.  Valentine and Guillen would both have difficult times being placed in a puppet type role as a manager and for that reason, I cannot see a either working out long-term in Florida.  Loria would be well served selecting a strong baseball man for the job, but one that has extreme patience and ability to take the directions that would come from the top of the pyramid.  Loria has shown in the past to be a man of little patience and self-control when it comes to the personnel of his ball club.  If Bobby V or Ozzie do eventually take the job, watch out for the fireworks that will likely come in Miami.  While Ozzie is signed for the 2012 season, insiders have indicated that the White Sox may grant permission for the Marlins to speak to him, if the ballclub does not return to contention by season’s end.  My bet is that Ozzie will be headed one day to Miami to rejoin the Marlins as their manager.  Until then, Jack McKeon will be captain of the Marlins ship.

I guess its true what they say.  Everything old really is new again.  The magic was there in 2003.  Let’s see if the Marlins and McKeon can rekindle some of their spark eight years later.

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The End of an Era: Ariel Pestano

MLB reports:  You may not know the name, but you will recognize the player.  Ariel Pestano (Valdes) was considered one of Cuba’s greatest catchers of all time.  In actuality, likely one of THE best catchers ever.  Pestano, known in his country at “the veteran”, has been a Cuban baseball staple for the past 10 years.  Debuting with the Cuban national team in 1999, Pestano played in the Olympics and both the 1996 and 1999 World Baseball Classic for Cuba.  By retiring in 1999 after the last WBC, baseball has lost a legend and a throwback to an era that is slowly disappearing.  In an age of generic players and cookie-cutter approaches, Pestano was one-of-a-kind.

I was first introduced to Ariel Pestano in the 1996 WBC and could not wait to see him again by the 1999 edition of the Classic.  In comparative terms, it is hard to point to a past or present major league catcher that mirrors Pestano.  I find it difficult to looking at his Cuban numbers and calculating the value of his play.  Offensively and defensively, the man could do it all.  But rather than judge him by numbers in a league unknown to me, I place my consideration in what I saw with my own eyes.  If the WBC editions were any indication, Pestano could play ball.  A patient hitter with pop, I could see him hitting 20 bombs in the major leagues if given the opportunity.  A cannon for an arm, he knew how to keep runners honest and distract hitters from getting good hacks at the plate.  But his true value was in his leadership.  Pestano was like a general on the field, leading his team to war.  Pestano was not afraid to get into the face of an opposing player or teammate if he felt that his team was being disrespected or not playing to its capacity.  His approach made for great television viewing, no doubt, but his teammates were better for having him behind them.

A big problem in baseball viewership and fandom today is the reliance on the fantasy aspect of baseball, mainly statistics.  I love researching OPS and WHIP as much as the next baseball junkie, but real baseball has value outside of the “moneyball” approach.  I recall a pitcher on the Cuban team in one WBC game in 2006 giving up repeated hits.  At one point Pestano literally ran to the mound and was about to clobber his starting pitcher.  I could not understand what he was saying, but you could not put a pin between the pitcher and catcher.  Pestano was literally in the pitcher’s face reading him the riot act.  While many critics would call such a move “unprofessional”, “bush-league” and “showing up your pitcher”, I actually enjoyed the accountability and passion that Pestano was demanding from his teammate that day.  Those types of moments do not show up in box scores the next day, but live on with a team forever.

If you have never seen Ariel Pestano play a professional baseball game, download a World Baseball Classic game on your computer involving Cuba from either 2006 or 2009 and watch the man behind the plate.  Chances are that you have never seen a player like this before and will never see one again.  Pudge Rodriguez has had his moments through the years, but has simmered down.  But in truth, he never had the intensity and life/death mentality that Pestano displayed on the baseball field.  Taking aside the armed guards with machine guns in the dugout, I have always found Cuban teams to play with heart and pride.  I recall a Cuban pitcher one game running out to the field to yell at an outfielder after misplaying a ball.  When a pitcher in any inning/situation gives up even 1-2 infield hits in a game, chances are the Cuban bullpen will be up and running.  I don’t recall ever watching a Cuban game where the bullpen wasn’t going with at least one pitcher for nearly the entire game.  This is how seriously Cuba takes it baseball and this mentality was embodied fully in Ariel Pestano.

My WBC Cuban heroes, Pestano and Lazo are unlikely to ever defect and join the MLB.  Both recently retired and based on their respective ages and devotion to Cuba- defection is unlikely, if not impossible.  Pestano retired to apparently work and train his son, who like his dad is a catcher.  The best of luck to you Ariel, thank you for the memories.

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