Daily Archives: January 8, 2012

My Top Six Worst MLB Teams in 2012

Sunday January 8th, 2012

Sam Evans: It’s no fun to be a fan of a losing team. Every game seems longer and it hurts to look around and see fans of the other teams loving every moment. There’s always supposed to be next year, but that kind of talk just hurts the players and coaches as much as it does the fans. Let’s look at my bottom five teams in 2012: based on the major league roster and talent in the system that could make an impact in the upcoming season.

25. Seattle Mariners: As a Mariners fan, this one hurts. It’s been eleven years since the Mariners made the playoffs. A city blessed with a beautiful new ballpark, Seattle hasn’t had much of chance to cheer on many winners in recent times.

Since he was hired in 2008, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has transformed the Mariners farm system into one of the best in the game. The problem is that the major league club is still struggling, and fans are losing interest. The Mariners are like New Year’s resolutions. They’re so promising at first, but after two weeks, most people just give up.

So far this offseason, the Mariners have been rumored to be actively pursuing Prince Fielder. The argument for Prince Fielder is that his contract would be worth the risk for the team given all of the fans he would draw… not to mention, the M’s need for a middle of the order slugger. However, other fans feel that Fielder is overpriced and point to the fact that if the Mariners signed Prince, they would be only the fourth team with two players making over $20M in 2012.

The Mariners do have some young promising players. Justin Smoak, a former top 10 BA prospect, will finally be healthy heading into the new year. Also, the M’s have a trio of young pitchers in the minors that are all top 100 prospects. James Paxton and Danny Hultzen could possibly see time in the rotation this year. Furthermore, last time I checked Felix Hernandez was still a Mariner, and he’s signed through 2014.

26. New York Mets: The Mets have always been second to the Yankees in New York in terms of popularity, but there’s never been this much of a difference. The Mets have been silent this offseason, except for a swap of outfielders with the Giants, and bringing in some bullpen help. The Mets do have Zack Wheeler (acquired in the Carlos Beltran trade) and Matt Harvey (2010 1st rounder) on the way, but neither will make a huge impact in ’12.

Jason Bay has struggled ever since receiving his enormous contract two years ago. In 2009, Bay hit 36 homers for the Red Sox. In 2010 and 2011, Bay had only eighteen homers. Part of the decline in numbers is the park factor that Citi Field has on hitters (which is due to change with the new park dimensions in 2012). It should be noted though that Bay hasn’t hit a home run to right field since June 28, 2010.

This year, the Mets should get Johan Santana back. I wrote about Johan in November here. If he is healthy this year, hopefully the Mets can get something out of Santana, who is due $24M in 2012.

The Mets future will be based on how they spend their money and how they control their prospects. If the Mets hadn’t pushed Jenrry Mejia, chances are he wouldn’t have gotten injured. If the Mets hadn’t signed the Jason Bay and Johan Santana contracts, then they would have had the money to go after Prince Fielder this offseason (in theory). New York has a long ways to go to compete with the other N.L. East teams, and they’re going to need to make smart long-term decisions to get there.

27. San Diego Padres: The Padres acquired Carlos Quentin and Yonder Alonso this offseason in an attempt to boost their offense. They ended up trading away Mat Latos and Anthony Rizzo, and losing Heath Bell and Aaron Harang to free agency.

Carlos Quentin is really going to struggle in Petco Park, and Alonso is going to have his share of issues developing into a power hitter with his new team. The fact is that the Padres will never have a terrible pitching staff due to the spacious Petco Park effect. But their rotation is actually as bad as it has been in some years. I also am a supporter of Will Venable, and I think the Padres would be making a mistake if they traded him.

San Diego plays in a division where it’s not impossible that they could make a nice run and make the playoffs. But I would be surprised.

28. Oakland Athletics: Led by GM Billy Beane, the Athletics have been extremely active this offseason. They’ve shipped away their best pitchers and let their best hitter leave in free agency. The A’s have had a good offseason, thanks to all the new talent that they’ve imported into their farm system.

2012 is not going to be the year of resurgence for the A’s. 2013, maybe, but right now the Angels and Rangers are just too good. The A’s strength is probably their middle infield which will feature Jemile Weeks and Cliff Pennington. If Chris Carter can show some power in the majors, then he will do just fine at DH.

With acquisitions such as Derek Norris, Jarrod Parker, and A.J. Cole, Billy Beane has shown he’s not afraid to trade his best major league players in order to obtain talent that won’t be ready for a year or two.

29. Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles were a promising team heading into 2011. The “Fighting Showalter’s” had a late run in 2010, and Buck Showalter seemed to be really getting through to the players. Unfortunately, 2011 didn’t go as expected for the Orioles. They finished 69-93 and solidified their reputation as the worst baseball team in the A.L East, if not the whole American League.

The  2011 Orioles will forever go down in baseball history not for their season, but for their last game against the Red Sox on September 28, 2011. The Orioles were down 3-2 heading into the bottom of the ninth on the last day of the season. Going into the game,  the Red Sox were 77-0 on the season when leading after the eighth inning. The Orioles came back to win, and they will forever be remembered for their contributions to one of the best days in baseball history.

2012 can be a  successful year for the Orioles if they discover an ace… and if Adam Jones improves his game to the next level. It’s not going to be easy, but if everything falls into place, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette could lead the Orioles out of the A.L. East basement in the next coming years.

30. Houston Astros: Moving into the 2011 season, the Astros were projected by pretty much everyone in baseball to be the worst team in baseball. Well, at least they didn’t let anyone down. The Astros finished 56-106, which was the worst record in all of baseball.

I traveled to Houston this summer and I expected to find an uninterested Astros fanbase. I was surprised to see countless devoted fans who truly cared about their team. Astros fans are out there and they will start coming back to Minute Maid Park when the team starts winning.

Sorry Houston fans, but 2012 isn’t going to be much fun for you. Chances are that you will return to the basement of the N.L. Central and lose over one hundred games. Nevertheless, there is hope. Jose Altuve is turning into a nice young second basemen who can hit for average . Jordan Lyles can be a #3 starter, and Jarred Cosart could finally reach the bigs in 2012.

Another piece of the silver lining is Houston’s new General Manager Jeff Luhnow, who is involved in sabermetrics and helped build the Cardinals who won the 2011 World Series. Luhnow was in the Cardinals scouting department since 2003 and helped produce major league talent from the draft. He also has been a General Manager for Petstore.com, and has an M.B.A from Northwestern. His first move was trading for Jed Lowrie. On the surface this seems like a solid deal, whereby he attained a young talented infielder for his new organization. In my opinion, this is going to look like an amazing hire in four years time.

So even if 2012 is rough, Astros fans can start looking towards the future. It might take a couple of seasons, but it won’t be long  before the Astros are packing Minute Maid Park everyday. Ironically, the road to the respectability for the worst team in the majors won’t happen until they move to the A.L. West. With the Rangers and Angels waiting in their new division, the journey towards success for the Astros will get that much tougher in 2013.

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

Please e-mail us at: MLBreports@gmail.com with any questions and feedback.  You can follow us onTwitter 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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Ontario Blue Jays Hall of Fame Induction Gala: Class of 2012 with Cecil Fielder as Keynote Speaker

Sunday January 8, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  On Friday night, I got to combine two of my favorite loves: baseball and food. The Ontario Blue Jays were kind enough to invite MLB reports to be a part of their Gala Dinner and Inaugural Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. The event was held at La Primavera, a beautiful banquet facility in Woodbridge, Ontario (Canada).  It was definitely a night to remember. 

The OBJ delivered former MLB slugger Cecil Fielder as the Keynote Speaker for the evening. Having grown up watching Big Daddy play on the baseball field, it was an honor and privilege to speak to him during the night. More on Cecil to come, but let’s say that he certainly did not hold back in his speech. Cecil discussed everything in his captivating address to the starstruck audience. From growing up and playing football/baseball, to his time in Japan, Toronto, Detroit and New York. Cecil also touched upon his personal life, including his recent remarriage and of course, son Prince Fielder

But firstly, the event itself. Director of Baseball Operations for the OBJ, Dan Bleiwas put together a first-rate program. From the Keynote Speaker, to the inductees, memorabilia auction and of course, the food! I had my eye on a Carlton Fisk autographed lithograph among the many prizes available up for grabs. But with the big spenders on hand that night, it was not meant to be. With a good fill of steak and tiramisu in my belly though, I surely wasn’t complaining. We sat at Table 5 (the most rocking table in the house). I spent a great deal of the night catching up with Michael Bonanno, Vice President of Oak Sports Management. As a baseball agent, Michael’s phone did not stop ringing or buzzing the whole night. It was definitely a pleasure to talk baseball with an industry professional of Michael’s stature. Overall, the room had a great vibe from the start. Baseball talk was in the air, from the cocktail hour right through to the speeches. The night was meant to be a celebration of baseball and the OBJ delivered in that respect perfectly.

Known as “Canada’s top amateur baseball program”, the Ontario Blue Jays are part of the Premiere Baseball League of Ontario. A breeding ground for Canadian baseball talent, specially Ontario, the OBJ has seen many great baseball players come through its doors. The inaugrual Hall of Fame class of 2012 was a strong field of talent. The inductees were as follows:

 

DREW TAYLOR:  We featured Drew on September 22, 2011 in our interview titled: Drew Taylor – An Intercounty League Pitcher.  Drew played for the OBJ between 1999-2001.  He was originally a part of the Toronto Blue Jays organization and then the Philadelphia Phillies. He still stars for the Intercounty Baseball League as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. A left-handed pitcher, Drew still looks great on the mound. The highlight of the evening for us was Drew’s mention of his interview with MLB reports during his induction speech. Thank you Drew! I had a chance to speak to Drew during the evening and look forward to featuring him again on the Reports. This cat has many projects on the go…so make sure to keep an eye on the name Drew Taylor!  (You can follow Drew on Twitter:  @DrewWTaylor)

ADAM STERN:  We love Adam on so many levels. A member of the OBJ from 1997-1998, Stern has really experienced all levels of major league life. A 3rd round pick of the Braves in 2001, Stern played for the Red Sox, Orioles and Brewers.  A member of the Canadian Olympic team in 2008.  But we will most remember Stern for his play in the World Baseball Classic.  During the 2006 edition, Stern was the team catalyst- as he almost hit for the cycle with 4 RBI’s as part of Team Canada’s victory over the USA.  As down to earth of a player as you will find, Stern embodied the terms hustle and grit during his career. Stern was solid defensively and provided a spark offensively on all the teams he played for. Speaking to him during the night, we reminisced on his career as he recently retired. It would have been a treat to see Stern play for the Toronto Blue Jays, but unfortunately the fit was not in the cards. Reflecting on his time in baseball, Stern had no regrets. As he shouldn’t. The man reached baseball heights that few do and is a great role model for all kids learning the game, not just Canadians. Now in his new role, Stern is the Program Director for Centerfield sports, a sports training facility located in London, Ontario. Adam has agreed to be interviewed for the Reports and we look forward to bringing you his story very soon.

PETE ORR:  A member of the OBJ from 1996-1997, Orr was drafted by the Rangers and later signed by the Braves. Orr has played at the major league level with the Braves, Nationals and Phillies. Like Adam Stern, he was a member of both the 2006 and 2009 WBC Canadian teams.  Pete will be back with the Phillies in 2012. We talked about his love of the city of Philadelphia and he is definitely chomping at the bit to get to Spring Training. At 32-years of age, Pete Orr still has a lot of baseball left in him. Having achieved a solid major league career, he was a very worthy choice for the inaugural OBJ Hall of Fame class of 2012.

TYLER JOHNSTONE: A member of the OBJ from 1999-2002.  Johnstone was a shortstop in the New York Mets organization and played for the Winnipeg Goldeyes in the Northern League. He played in the Connie Mack World Series in 2001.  Johnstone also attended Purdue and Auburn before turning professional.  An interesting note is that Johnstone played every inning of every game for the Tigers between 2005-2006 and led the team in stolen bases as both a junior and senior. 

 

After the Hall of Fame inductees were named and presented with their plaques following their speeches, the night turned to the Keynote Speaker. The man needed no introduction, as the name Cecil Fielder says it all. I had a chance to speak to Cecil before the dinner and catch up with the former MLB superstar. I had no idea what to expect, given that the last time I met him was in 1990 as a youngster. Since then, Cecil has retired and remains away from the game. Now based in Atlanta with his wife (as he recently remarried), he spends his time running a baseball academy. We shared our experiences as fathers and talked about his role as a dad in raising his son Prince. Watching the both of them during Cecil’s playing days always stuck with me and inspired me in my role as father in the present day. Whenever he spoke about Prince, there was always a gleam in Cecil’s eyes. He loves his son very much and that came across clearly in his words.  He did make it clear to me though that he has no interest in returning to professional baseball, whether as a coach or broadcaster. Cecil is more interested in spending time with his family and raising his kids than starting over in the minors. His family comes first.

When Cecil took the podium, every eye in the room was on him. You can’t help but be drawn to his presence. I didn’t recognize him right away when we were introduced. But once he started speaking, you couldn’t miss that he was Cecil Fielder. He spoke to the room for over 30 minutes, but it felt closer to 5.  It was that good of a speech. Cecil talked every aspect of his life. From his football days and decision later in his youth to switch to baseball. To being drafted by the Orioles and then Royals, with his eventual trade to Toronto. Cecil expressed his love for the city of Toronto and the 1985 Jays squad. To playing in Japan, Detroit and New York, we really got to learn every aspect of his career. I was particularly interested in his discussion of the 1996 Yankees World Series team. From the bullpen of John Wetteland and Mariano Rivera, to a young Derek Jeter blasting Mariah Carey in the clubhouse. Cecil was very animated and had people laughing in tears.

When it came to his son Prince, Cecil spoke at great lengths. From Prince’s weight issues as a child and Cecil’s assistance in getting his son into shape. Cecil spoke fondly about his son and with great pride in his voice. When it came to Prince’s next destination, the indication from Cecil was that it would be Washington. I had asked him before about the chances of the Jays signing his son and he just let out a laugh.  “Not going to happen”, was the response I received. We have Cecil’s speech for your viewing pleasure coming soon on the Reports. It is one of the best baseball talks you will ever hear. If you are a baseball fan, you will sit back and enjoy the life of Cecil Fielder in his own words.

Overall it was a magical night of baseball history. Congratulations to the Ontario Blue Jays Hall of Fame Class of 2012. A big thank you again to Dan Bleiwas and Drew Taylor for all your assistance in having MLB reports cover the gala.  To our photographer Joel Lopata (Twitter @JoelLopataPhoto), who took all the pictures used in this feature. You can click on the MLB reports Facebook page to view the entire album of the evening.  We look forward to joining the Ontario Blue Jays in 2013 for their next Hall of Fame class.  You can follow the Ontario Blue Jays on Twitter (@OntarioBlueJays) and check their website: http://ontariobluejays.com.

 

 

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.

Steve McQuail Interview: Blue Jays Prospect and the New “King of Cool”

Sunday January 8, 2012

MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen:  We welcome today to MLB reports Blue Jays outfield prospect, Stephen McQuail.  But you better call him Steve (wink)!  A very personable young man, I have really enjoyed speaking to him leading up to this interview.  He is not always the easiest guy to get a hold of- he basically lives at the gym and batting cages! At 6’3” and 240 lbs., Steve could be just as easily entering a Mr. Olympia contest or UFC match as he would a baseball diamond.  The kid is ripped! A New York native, Steve’s father is a retired NYPD detective. Can you imagine growing up in that household? I doubt Steve got very much past his parents! But all kidding aside, it did instill a very strong work ethic within this baseball prospect. For as hard as he works and trains during the offseason, he still finds time to keep a winter job at the same time. Working Pedestrian Management in New York City? That is a huge grind. But for a ballplayer working to achieve his dream, it is part of the path that he has chosen. As glamorous as many fans envision the life of a professional baseball player, Steve is proof that the road to the majors is a hard one. It involves sacrifices and dedication. Steve wants this as badly as any prospect that I have ever spoken to. That drive should take him very far in the baseball world.

A 30th round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2010 MLB draft, Steve McQuail has shown strong play already.  In his professional debut, Steve played for Auburn in the New York-Penn League.  A league with a good track record of graduating talent, Steve tore up the league at the tender age of 21.  He hit 6 home runs in only 50 games, with a .272 AVG, .341 OBP and .456 SLG.  Just for good measure, Steve popped 12 home runs in 60 games this past season as a member of the Vancouver Canadians. With power in his bat and rated as a top defensive outfielder, Steve McQuail has game folks. So now that we know the background, let’s meet the man himself.  Speaking to Steve, I not only learned about his career and journey, but also his mindset. Steve expresses very well what makes a ballplayer tick and what life is like on and off the field. If the Blue Jays are looking for well-rounded players on its future roster, they have a perfect one lined up in Steve McQuail. When I heard the name- I right away thought of Steve McQueen. Getting to know Mr. McQuail- I am definitely ready to bestow upon him the McQueen moniker of “King of Cool”.  Enjoy the nickname Steve. You deserve it.

 

MLB reports:  Welcome to MLB Reports, Steve. A pleasure to be speaking to you today. First question: who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?

Steve McQuail:  I think it’s almost impossible to grow up in New York City and not idolize Derek Jeter. He is the definition of the words clutch, confident and hard-working. If I could possibly go about my game and life like he does, I’d be a special type of person.


MLB reports:  Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?

Steve McQuail:  I’m thankful to be a Blue Jay because I get to witness first-hand how the big league guys work. If you saw a cage session with Jose Bautista, there’s no doubt in my mind that you’d leave saying “Oh, no wonder he hits absolute taters.” His work ethic and perfect practice translate into the game atmosphere like I’ve never seen before.


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

Steve McQuail:  I have done some good things on the field in my life up until now, but the moments that stick out the most are those that I get to share with my friends and family. The final home game in Auburn in 2010 I was able to go 5-6 with 2 bombs for a group of my friends that took the 5-hour drive from Long Island. This year in Vancouver, I was able to hit a home run in 5 consecutive games, including a walk-off bomb for my parents, grandparents, sister and girlfriend. Sharing my success with the people I love the most is what it’s all about!


MLB reports:  What are your goals going into the 2012 season?  

Steve McQuail:  My goals for the 2012 season are all attainable without relying on chance. I’m striving to play everyday, like there is no tomorrow. If I strive to hit the ball hard 5 times a game and have quality at-bats, I will help my team win and be successful. (Editor’s note: One of the best responses to this question we have received in some time. Steve is very mature beyond his years.)


MLB reports:  When you first found out you were drafted, what was going through your mind?  What round did you expect to be drafted and what was the process like signing with the Jays?

Steve McQuail:  I had no idea what round I would go… if I even went at all. The only thing I remember was that I turned the computer on 12:30 in the afternoon and didn’t move from my couch until I heard my name get called in the last round of the day (30th) at around 7:45p.m. I was elated, excited and starving because I hadn’t eaten all day. Signing with the Jays wasn’t a problem at all. I was on a plane in 3 days and out on the field before I knew it. (Editor’s note: Now THAT is commitment. I love this kid!)

 

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

Steve McQuail:  I consider my bat to be my strongest asset. Though, since playing pro, I’m working to get my defense as superior or more as I adjust to the outfield.

 

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?

Steve McQuail:  Strikeout-to-Walk ratio is basically one of the biggest parts of my game that will help me excel deeper through the organization. This season was rough for me, as I did A LOT of swinging. Seeing more pitches and developing a better plan at the plate will help me define my identity as a hitter. Believe me, I am confident the strikeouts and walks will even out as my career continues.


MLB reports:  Long-term do you see yourself as an outfielder? How important is “D” in your game?

Steve McQuail:  I absolutely see myself in the outfield in the future. I pride myself in my defense, with arm strength and the ability to move. I’m a big but lean guy at 6’3” and 240 pounds. I strive to outwork the lighter “speed” guys because I know it will only make me a better player.


MLB reports:  What do you need to do in order to be successful in this game?

Steve McQuail:  In order to be successful in this game, I have to create consistency through practice and 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 and what do you think you need to do most to get there?

Steve McQuail:  I can’t worry about a time frame to get to the show because ultimately it’s something that I cannot control. The only things I can control that will help me on my way are my attitude and work ethic. These will translate into good play and a positive mental outlook which is a necessity during the grind of the Minor Leagues.

 

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

Steve McQuail:  Almost every little kid has a dream about playing professional baseball. You create pictures and instances of how it’s gonna be when you get there. For me, it was dead on.

 

MLB reports:  What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?  Best friend(s) on the team that you most hang out with and what do you guys like to do to chill?

Steve McQuail:  Off the field, I would say my number one hobby is lifting weights. But that has kinda taken a backseat since getting drafted because I just don’t have enough energy! But I love to relax, no matter where it is. It could be my bed, the beach or an air mattress on Marcus Knecht‘s living room floor. I say Marcus’s floor because he lets me and Matt Nuzzo crash with him in his sweet condo about a month before spring training. You can find us at the beach, movies or playing Call of Duty for hours and hours.


MLB reports:  Do you have a favorite pre-game meal?

Steve McQuail:  I’m not superstitious about a specific pregame meal. I am superstitious about having my Dre Beats on 45 minutes before game time.

 

MLB reports:  Final Thoughts?

Steve McQuail:  I’d like to give a shout out to the Vancouver Canadians. The front office, staff, fans and my host family (Mark, Sue, Carl and Megan) allowed me to have the best summer ever. Hopefully everyone can see me at the Rogers Centre one day. But until then, I’m gonna enjoy the ride.

***Thank you to Steve McQuail for pulling out of the gym long enough to speak with us today on MLB reports!  You can follow Steve on Twitter (@SteveMcQuail). Steve LOVES interacting with his fans, so please feel free to send him any questions/comments you have.  Or just wish him good luck on the season, as he would appreciate your support!***

 

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

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

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