Sunday, February 21, 2016

Pablo Sandoval Claims He Has Nothing To Prove This Season

Boston GlobePablo Sandoval arrived at Red Sox spring training camp Sunday morning, looking exactly the same as he looked when he arrived last spring. Plus-size.

He was in a great mood. He said he has nothing to prove. He said he has no idea what he weighs. In a contradiction of what we’ve been told by Torey Lovullo, John Farrell, and Dave Dombrowski, Pablo said that nobody in Sox management asked him to lose weight during the offseason.

Not a great start to Spring Training for the Panda. I'm not as concerned with his February weight as some others (this is just who he is) but his comments are certainly concerning. Sandoval claims to have nothing to prove. Let's look at the stats:

Sandoval's career triple slash line is .288/.339/.452 (including last season) but last year he hit .245/.292/.366. WAR is a confusing stat but I'm pretty sure it's not a good sign that last season he was worth -0.9 wins above replacement. In a sense that means the Sox paid this bum $19 million to be worse than a replacement level player. Great.

Now let's look at Sandoval's stats from his time with the Giants. (Spoiler alert they aren't anything to tell your grandchildren about). He has hit 20 homers just twice in his career. Never more than 25. When you take a closer look his best season, 2009, it looks like an extreme outlier. That season he posted career highs across the board, hitting 25 homers with 90 RBI and a .330/.387/.556 triple slash line. What this means is Sandoval has never really been a great regular season player. 

Perhaps expectations were a bit too high for Sandoval's first season in Boston. I think a lot of the disappointment from Sox fans comes from his contract. However it's not his fault that the Red Sox gave him $95 million. This was always my defense for JD Drew. The Sox overpaid and they know that. Sandoval was never going to be "worth" $19 million per year. The hope was that he would be close to worth that in the regular season and would live up to the contract in the playoffs. 

Now all that being said I cannot understand why "Panda" thinks he has nothing to prove. He is coming off his worst season in a new market fresh off a gigantic contract. So the concerning part isn't that Sandoval is coming off a down year. It's that anyone playing in Boston needs to understand how the media here works. All Sandoval had to do today was tell us that last season was a tough year, that he is disappointed in himself, and that he worked hard over the off-season to be better in 2016. Instead he tells us he didn't weight himself once all winter and has nothing to prove. Not a great look.

PS while I am just as frustrated as everyone with his guy (I would obviously dump his contract in a minute if possible) I can't totally give up on him. We are probably stuck with him for four more years. He's only 29 and is going back to switch hitting this year. If (and that's a BIG if) he rebounds this season and has some big hits in the playoffs a lot will be forgiven. Until then however Sandoval most certainly has something to prove.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Tyson Ross Named Padres Opening Day Starter

The 28 year old Ross gets the honor over James Shields and Andrew Cashner. In Ross' 2014 breakout season he started 31 games while posting a 2.81 ERA. He also struck out 195 in 195.2 innings pitched and was named an all star. Ross followed this performance by starting a league leading 33 games last year. While his ERA rose to a still respectable 3.26, he also increased his strikeout rate by fanning 212 in 196 innings. 

Ross has been the subject of trade rumors for the past year and those talks should only increase as he has just two years left until free agency. Despite recent big name additions (Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, James Shields) the Padres have not been able to reach .500 since 2010. Below are their records from the past five seasons:

I have no reason to believe that the 2016 Padres will be any better than the 2015 edition. If the season does start poorly they will have to start thinking about rebuilding. Trading Ross as early as this summer could accelerate that process. So while getting named the opening day starter is a big honor for Ross, it wouldn't surprise me if it were his last in San Diego.

Wake Up With Josh Hamilton's 2008 Home Run Derby Performance

This is my favorite Home Run Derby of all time. It's the only one that sticks out to me from the past 15 years. Anyone who was around in '99 might argue that it was better than '08 and honestly it probably was. I was just too young to remember watching it live. The only disappointment of the '08 derby was that Hamilton didn't win. The derby changes their rules every year it seems so it's confusing to keep up with but in 2008 Hamilton did all his damage in the first round, knocking a record 28 out of the park. He added 4 homers in round 2, giving him a total of 32 entering the finals where the count resets. This allowed Justin Morneau to edge out a gassed Hamilton 5-3. Regardless of this defeat Hamilton's performance is one of the most memorable of all time.

Full 2008 Derby Results:

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Corey Seager Is Baseball's Consensus Top Prospect

CBSDodgers shortstop Corey Seager has been named the top prospect in baseball for the 2016 season by all four major scouting publications, including Baseball AmericaBaseball ProspectusESPN, and MLB.comBaseball America released their annual top-100 list Friday, completing Seager's sweep.

Seager's only real competition for this honor came from Twins outfielder Byron Buxton. While Buxton is still an elite prospect he was somewhat disappointing in his brief time with the Twins last season (.209/.250/.326 in 46 games). Seager meanwhile became the best hitter on a division winning team while playing a premium position in shortstop. In just 27 games the 21 year old hit 4 home runs while slashing .337/.425/.561 and was the Dodgers' number three hitter for game 1 of the NLDS. There are concerns that Seager will eventually have to shift to third base but the Dodgers can live with that if he keeps producing like he has offensively. If he stays at shortstop he will just be that much more valuable. Below is the rest of the top 15, using the average rank from the four prospect sites mentioned in the CBS article:

Note most of these names are new to the list this year. This is due to a ridiculous 2015 rookie class that saw many of last year's top prospects advance to the majors (Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Miguel Sano, Noah Syndergaard, Francisco Lindor, Kyle Schwarber, etc). In order to be considered a prospect a player must have less than 130 at bats or 50 innings pitched.

Wake Up With Barry Bonds Getting Intentionally Walked With The Bases Loaded

I'm always hesitant to make the case for Bonds as one of the best hitters of all time. It always turns into a steroid argument. However I think we still forget how incredible he was. In addition to the all time home run record (762) he holds the single season record for home runs (73), slugging percentage (.863), OBP (.609), walks (232), and intentional walks (120). To put the walks into perspective here are MLB's leaders from 2015:
Just two players walked more than 120 times last year. In 2004 Bonds was INTENTIONALLY walked that many times! He has 7 MVP awards, which is three more than anyone else, including the most consecutive MVP awards (4, 2001-04). In Bonds' only World Series appearance (2002) he absolutely carried the Giants by slugging 1.294, which is a World Series record. Finally, from 1992-2004 Bonds hit at least 30 home runs in every single season.

I've never seen a hitter more feared than Barry Bonds. The video above is from May 28, 1998. Up two in the 9th and with the bases loaded the Diamondbacks chose to intentionally walk him and make it a one run game. The crazy part? It worked and I don't blame them for doing it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

If All Of MLB Had A Re-Draft Who Would You Take With The First Overall Pick?

Similar to dynasty mode in MVP Baseball 2005 we are assuming the league is starting from scratch and that you have the number one pick. Who ya got? The only difference here is contracts do no matter. In this hypothetical world every first round pick receives the same contract. So the only other factor to consider is age. While Miguel Cabrera should be awesome for the next couple of years it probably makes more sense to consider someone a little younger. The below list is not the order I would take them in but are the guys I know you can make the best arguments to be chosen first. 

Carlos Correa, SS, Astros Age: 21
Correa played most of 2015 at age 20, not turning 21 until September. He won the AL Rookie of the Year playing just 99 games, hitting 22 homers with 14 steals. Give him a full season in 2016 and he is the instant favorite for a 30/30 season, something that hasn't been done since Mike Trout and Ryan Braun did it in 2012. Correa plays a premium position (there aren't as many good shortstops as there are first basemen and outfielders) and had a nice start to his postseason career, hitting 2 homers in just 6 games. Despite these impressive statistics the argument for Correa is more an argument for youth and position. He is a full two years younger than anyone on this list and is probably already baseball's best shortstop. While 99 games is just not a big enough sample for me to consider him first overall I think the argument can easily be made for him to be taken in the top 5.

Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs Age: 24
Bryant just turned 24 in January, which is a little older than I would expect people to think he is. He's a few months younger than Trout and is actually about ten months older than Harper. Regardless his rookie year was impressive. He accumulated 5.9 WAR in 2015, more than Harper's 5.1 from his 2012 rookie season. While Bryant led the league in strikeouts he showed a rare combination of power (26 homers) and ability to get on base (.369 OBP). Managers can live with strikeouts when a player is putting up those kind of numbers. Due to the fact that Bryant should only get better in the coming years, one can make the argument for him be considered as high as third on this list.

Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins Age: 26
Stanton might be the most controversial player on this list. I have to admit his injury history hurts him a lot. Here are his games played per season:
2010 doesn't exactly count because he was called up on June 6, so did not have a chance to play a full season in the big leagues. It seems every year we say this is going to be the year he puts it all together while staying healthy. His most recent "full season" came just two years ago, when he hit 37 homers with a .395 OBP. Last year he had a ridiculous 27 home runs through just 74 games. However even in his best season, 2014, Stanton accumulated just 6.5 WAR. No where near Bryce Harper's 9.9 last year or Mike Trout's 10.8 from 2012. Therefore I cannot make the case for Stanton to be selected ahead of Trout or Harper. However his combination of age, upside, and production while healthy make him a no brainer top 5 pick. 

Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers Age: 27
It is important to note that Kershaw turns 28 in March, which is a little older than I thought he was. However I still think anybody taking a pitcher first overall has to take Kershaw. He's won three of the past five NL Cy Youngs. He hasn't had an ERA below 2.53 since 2010. Over the past five years he's led the NL in strikeouts three times, ERA four times, wins twice, complete games twice, shutouts twice, and FIP twice. He has also made at least 30 starts in a season six of the past seven years and the one he didn't make 30 starts he made 27. Now the concern with Kershaw is obviously his postseason performance. In 13 playoff games (10 starts) he's 2-6 with a 4.59 ERA. However he was a lot better in 2015, going 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 13.2 innings. The rest of his postseason numbers (WHIP, BB/9, K/9) are much closer to his career norms so not all hope is lost there. Plus there's no doubt he gives you the best chance of any pitcher at making the postseason over the next 3-4 years. While I wouldn't consider a pitcher within the top 10, Kershaw would be the first off my board if I did. 

Mike Trout, OF, Angels Age: 24
Every year Mike Trout has played in the majors he has finished first or second in the AL MVP voting. That's fucking incredible. He is the perfect combination of power, speed, defense, durability, and drive. WAR is not a perfect statistic but it's worth pointing out that Trout has the most WAR through ages 20, 21, 22, and 23:
His stats through four years have basically been perfect:
The two most notable stat changes over the past four years are home runs and stolen bases. The steals have decreased dramatically, from 49 in 2012 to 11 in 2015. However the home runs have increased the past three season from 27 to 36 to 41. If Trout keeps doing what he is doing nobody will be complaining about the lack of steals. While I personally rank him second, I do not have a problem with anybody taking Trout first overall.

Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals Age: 23
2015 was Harper's fourth year in the majors. He just turned 23 in October. He's younger than both Mike Trout and Kris Bryant. Actually, he's the youngest player on this list besides Carlos Correa. He came to the majors when he was just 19 so it feels like he has been playing for a lot longer than he has. Harper was just voted the youngest unanimous MVP in the history of baseball. In his age 22 season Harper led the entire league in OBP (.460), slugging percentage (.649), and WAR (9.9). He also hit .330 with and NL leading 42 homers. There is a chance this was Harper's career year but I'm betting on a 23 year old unanimous MVP who's only goal his entire life has been to become one of the best baseball players of all time. Harper is the number one pick.

Follow me @toomuchtuma

Wake Up With The Texas Rangers Scoring 30 Runs in 2007

On August 22, 2007 the Texas Rangers beat the Baltimore Orioles 30-3. I remember watching SportsCenter that night and when the score rolled across the bottom of the screen I thought they made a mistake and it was actually 3-3. Nope. This wasn't even one of those great Rangers team that went to the World Series back to back years. Their box score featured Ian Kinsler, Michael Young, and Nelson Cruz before he was great. Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Ramon Vasquez combined for 4 home runs and 14 RBI. Just one of those nights where everything goes right for a team, apparently.

For those wondering, 30 is the most runs scored by a team since 1897:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Topps Releases 2016 Baseball Cards

CBS New York - There are several different ways to signal the start of a baseball season.  There are free agency, pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training, the start of exhibition games and, of course, opening day.  But for many kids (of all ages), the new baseball season also starts with the opening of something else: ripping open that first pack of baseball cards!
To the delight of many collectors, the baseball season is now officially underway after Topps unveiled Series 1 of its 2016 set.
The Super Bowl is over, pitchers and catchers report this week, and 2016 Topps Baseball is out! All of these events means we are that much closer to the start of baseball season.
Now baseball cards aren't nearly as popular as they once were. The height of the market was in the 90's when inserts and autographed cards first came out. 
Here's a quick history lesson: Basically until the early 1990s Topps or any other brand would release a set of cards. For the most part these cards from any given year looked the same and all followed the same format, like this 1952 Topps set: 
Then came the 90's when the card industry invented "inserts" that were special cards placed among the rest of the set that stood out. They could look like this:
These shiny new cards took the sports card world by storm. Collectors had never seen anything like them before. Throw in autographed cards and memorabilia cards (pieces of jersey, bat, etc.) and the whole industry was reinvented. Cards now look like this:
This renewed interest in cards lasted for about 10-15 years but then the market got watered down. Over the years the industry developed so many inserts and so many memorabilia/autographed cards that "commons" suddenly had no value. "Commons" are the base set of cards that aren't inserts. Today they look like this:
Before inserts the point of card collecting was to complete a set. For example to acquire all the cards from 1952 Topps would be valuable. But now any commons from the 1990s on aren't worth much anymore. The most valuable cards from today's products are autographed rookie cards of young studs (Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, etc.) So the problem with cards today is that you basically open a pack or box just to get to the autographed cards. The "newness" of inserts has worn off.

Due to autographs there's definitely still a market for baseball cards. My dad owns a sports cards/memorabilia store and new customers come in every day. While card collecting isn't the craze it once was, it reminds a lot of us of our childhoods. Below are some of the cards I remember most from collecting:

PS for anyone interested in buying cards: Topps is the brand you give a pack to your kid who may or not be interested in collecting. They aren't known as a high end product. If you want a chance at pulling a valuable autograph consider Triple Threads, Bowman (Chrome), or Topps Finest.

Wake Up With The 2002 A's 20th Straight Win

20 in a row is pretty fucking impressive. It takes a great team and a little luck. The 2002 Moneyball A's went on to win an incredible 103 games. When I went to look up exactly how many games they won I forgot how impressive their early 2000's run was:

That's eight straight years with at least 87 wins. Had they won a World Series or two Billy Beane would be looked upon much more favorably. I'm a huge Beane supporter but even I have to admit it's a little odd that none of these teams ever even made it to the World Series. A lot of people argue that the MLB playoffs are a different game and didn't suit what the A's did well during this time (not stealing bases, working pitch counts, drawing walks). After watching the Royals do the exact opposite the past two years (aggressive base running, swinging at first pitches) and get to two World Series I am starting to agree. Regardless I'm not sure we will see 20 in a row again anytime soon.

Movie version of the Hatteberg home run:

Monday, February 15, 2016

2015 World Series DVD Review

I've seen every World Series DVD since 2001. Pretty sure that's when they started making them. I usually watch the most recent around this time of year. It's a good way to remember what happened last October while at the same time pumping myself up for the upcoming season. I listed my biggest thoughts/takeaways below but to recap the Royals beat the Mets in 5. The DVD crew changed up the format this year. Usually they lead up to the WS with a montage of what happened in the regular season. This year they jumped right into the games pretty much. It would've been nice to at least mention that the Royals lost Game 7 the previous year with the tying run on third however. Without further ado, my takeaways:

--Totally forgot about Edinson Volquez's dad passing away right before he was set to pitch Game 1. The film confirms he was not told until afterwards. This was the right move both for the Royals and Volquez, which he admits.

--Alcides Escobar hits the first pitch Matt Harvey throws for an inside the park home run. What a start for KC.

--Also forgot that Game 1 went extra innings The Mets had a one run lead in the 9th with their closer Jeurys Familia on the hill. Familia hadn't blown a save since July 30 and what do you know, Alex Gordon takes him deep. The Royals eventually win in 14 innings.

--Johnny Cueto absolutely dominated Game 2. I remember he sucked for them in August and September after the trade but turns out he was worth everything they gave up for him following his complete game, two-hitter. Royals up 2-0 in the series as it shifts to New York.

--David Wright homering in Game 3 at home, after all the injuries he went through in 2015, was awesome. He had 4 total RBI in this game, which ended up being the only Mets win of the series.

--The Mets completely blew Game 4. If they had won that it would have changed the whole series.

--Matt Harvey tried to do too much in Game 5 by demanding to pitch the 9th. I get that he's a competitor and wanted to show New York that he didn't care about the innings limit bullshit, but it turned out to just be the wrong decision. Credit to Terry Collins who said he let his emotions get the best of him. It would have been awesome if Harvey pitched a CG at home but it just wasn't meant to be.

--Salvador Perez World Series MVP. I forgot about this and after watch the DVD thought it was gonna be Escobar. Perez was a fine choice, however.

Well that wraps it up. Both these teams should be back in the playoff race in 2016. If I could only pick one to go back to the WS it would be the Royals. I know the Mets pitching is the envy of the league but their lack of offense scares me. They will still be in the playoff race no doubt but the Royals are built for October. They have their core returning and strike me as the kind of team that will stay hungry after winning it all.

Complete Video Of Game 5:

Sunday, February 14, 2016

MLB Sabermetrics For Dummies: Batting Average

Sabermetrics are confusing. The above clip from the Moneyball actually does a pretty good job of explaining what the A's were doing back in 2002. Sabermetrics have evolved a lot since then but a lot of baseball fans still don't understand some of the basic changes to how we view stats. 

Batting Average:
A player's batting average used to be their most important statistic. Back in the early 1900's when Ty Cobb and Honus Wagner played the best players were considered the ones with the highest average. In theory it makes sense. This was before players really hit for any power and pitchers weren't walking guys so your ability to get a hit defined your worth. 

However in the next 50-75 years two things happened. The first is players started hitting for more power. A home run is obviously more valuable than a single but batting average doesn't account for that. The second thing was pitchers started walking people. The Moneyball A's are given a lot of credit for realizing the value of a walk but people such as Bill James and Earl Weaver understood this years earlier. Basically the point of baseball is to score runs. In order to score runs you need to get on base. One way to do is that to draw a walk. For the longest time it was considered a mistake by the pitcher if he walked someone. While that can still be the case we now also view it as a skill by the batter. It's why Joey Votto has such a high OBP. He draws tons of walks. 

Sabermetrics users also understand another flaw in batting average: luck. How often do a player hit a blooper that falls for a single? And how often does a player hit a screaming line drive right at the third baseman? Over the course of a season these both can happen a lot. People used to just say "it will even out". Turns out it doesn't even out, which is why batting average statistics can fluctuate so much on just a year to year basis. Often times it is because the player is having a good or bad season but there is clearly also luck involved.

Anyways the A's realized that batting average was overrated and OBP was underrated. Basically it became better to hit .260 with a .350 OBP than hit .290 with a .310 OBP. Batting average is still important don't get me wrong. Look at the leaders from 2015:

Most of these guys are good players, so clearly batting average still has value. It's just important to remember if the player doesn't also have a high OBP and/or hit for power, then average doesn't have as much value as it once did.

Wake Up With Mark McGwire's Record Breaking 62nd Homer

1998 is one of the most important seasons in the history of baseball. The McGwire/Sosa home run race and Cal Ripken's consecutive games played streak are the only two reasons baseball recovered as well as it did from the strike that ended the 1994 season. McGwire playing against Sosa when he broke the record is the kind of stuff movie writers would say is not realistic enough. We now know a lot more about what was going on in baseball during this time but back in '98 none of that mattered. The single season home run record was maybe the most important in all of sports. I don't want to turn this into a steroid rant but both of these guys belong in the hall of fame, for 1998 alone. They brought baseball back. For a number of reasons we will never see another season like the summer of '98.

PS it's fun to remember that this occurred before the internet exploded. If this happened today it would be big news for a few days on Twitter (and would lead to some Sosa/MJ crying memes) but would then disappear. Having to check the newspaper and watch the news to get updates on these guys was awesome.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Tigers, JD Martinez reach two year deal

ESPNThe Detroit Tigers and outfielder J.D. Martinez have agreed to terms on a two-year deal worth $18.5 million pending a physical, a source confirmed to

The new contract, which will pay Martinez $6.75 million in 2016 and $11.75 million in 2017, allows Martinez and the Tigers to avoid salary arbitration, which was slated to take place later this month.
Solid under the radar move for the Tigers here. JD Martinez isn't a household name or anything but he hit 38 homers last year, good for 11th in all of baseball. He added 102 RBI, a .282 average and a .344 OBP. In today's pitching dominated game power is tough to find. Just last off-season the Red Sox tried to corner the market by giving huge contracts to Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. Meanwhile the Tigers are only going to be paying Martinez an average of just over $9 million each of the next two seasons. Not bad.
This is a big year for Detroit coming up. With all the success they've had the past decade I almost forgot they hadn't won a title yet. In the past two seasons they've lost aces Max Scherzer and David Price but have done a nice job this off-season. They've added Justin Upton, Jordan Zimmerman, Cameron Maybin, and Francisco Rodriguez to their core of Miguel Cabrera, Victor and JD Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and Justin Verlander. Miggy is about to turn 33 so time is running out but if the pitching holds up this year I see no reason this team can't at least claim a wild card.

An Ode To MVP Baseball 2005, The Best Baseball Video Game Of All Time

Simply put MVP Baseball 2005 is the greatest baseball video game of all time. Maybe even the best VIDEO GAME of all time for the diehard fans like me. In 2013 ESPN ranked it as the 4th best sports game and top baseball game. Every year after the Super Bowl I start playing again. The game takes me back to my childhood and prepares me for the start of baseball season. I load up my dynasty mode and pick up where I left off. It's awesome to play with all my favorite players from back in the day. Manny, Vlad, Jon Fucking Dowd. 

There are so many factors that make MVP great. It always felt like you could get through a 9 inning game faster in this compared to 2K or The Show. The hitters eye was a great feature. Being able to pick up on a change-up or breaking ball made batting awesome. MVP had tons of different game play modes. Exhibition, dynasty, owner mode, mini-games, unlockables, roster management. And don't even get me started on that soundtrack...

While I was personally a GameCube guy it was also available on PC, Xbox and PS2. Now the PC version is where the game has held up best. Grantland did a great job last year of covering how a community of modders are constantly updating the game during their own free time. EA Sports hasn't sent out a rosters update since December 2005 when a licensing agreement took them out of the baseball video game market. The details are confusing but apparently that agreement expired in 2012 and EA could get back into the market if they wanted to. I speak for many when I say PLEASE BRING THIS GAME BACK EA SPORTS!

While getting the PC version and downloading the updates is a way to play some version of "MVP Baseball 2016" it will never be the same as if EA came out with it themselves. The gameplay of MVP 05 was so far ahead of its time EA would barely have to update it. Most of the updates would come from rosters, ballparks, team uniforms, etc. The idea of using the gameplay with current big leaguers (Kershaw, Harper, Trout, Bryant) gives me chills. 

Time will tell whether or not EA will bring back this game. Every year around this time I end up in a deep internet spiral reading chat rooms and message boards with rumors about a comeback. Unfortunately I found no new information today. I'm not giving up though.

Wake Up With "Major League" Spring Training Scenes

Posting this in honor of pitchers and catchers reporting in ten days. Now that the Super Bowl is over sports fan will slowly begin to focus their attention to baseball again. The final free agents will sign, guys will report to camp in "the best shape of their lives", and we'll get our first view of those top prospects. Personally I think the Major League movies are a bit underrated. I will be doing a whole blog on them soon as well as some other baseball movies. The Major League movies aren't great by any means but have their fair share of laugh out loud moments. Bob Uecker's announcing is hilarious on its own. This scene below gets me every time.

"Juuuuust a bit outside".

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Is Bryce Harper A Lock To Go To The Yankees?

Yahoo - Calling the 2018-19 offseason a bonanza might be selling it short. Though it's more than two years away, teams already are banking cash in anticipation of it, multiple sources have told Yahoo Sports. The deluge of talent that could be available – Josh Donaldson, Clayton Kershaw, Manny Machado, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey, David Price, Dallas Keuchel, Adam Jones and Jason Heyward – is led by Harper, the reigning National League MVP who will just have turned 26.
Nobody with the Yankees dared comment on Harper, even off the record, because their future marriage is considered so inevitable by most in the sport that the team dare not trifle with tampering charges. Considering the pains to which the Yankees are going to tighten finances, Harper as the endgame makes worlds of sense.
His age – and the ability to cull prime years from a free agent, a rarity – is as much of a selling point as his ability. And Harper's transformation from enfant terrible to the most marketable player in baseball by a large margin fits the Yankees' ethos. Star power matters to the Yankees more than any other team.
Stories like this need to be taken lightly but it's still fun to speculate. Here is what we know...
1. Harper is going to be a National for three more years. At the earliest he will be a free agent after the 2018 season. Harper will have just turned 26.
2. The Yankees spent no money this offseason and have $50 million coming off the books after this season. After 2017 they shed CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez as well. That's a lot of money leaving the payroll in two years.
3. Harper loves baseball history. He talks about it in interviews all the time. You would have to assume the idea of playing for an iconic franchise would interest him, not to mention the short right field porch.
These are the selling points for Yankee fans. There is no way Scott Boras is going to let Harper sign long term with Washington before free agency. He just won NL MVP as a 22 year old and has a chance to get a $400 million contract in a few years. Washington needs to do everything they can to win in the next few years to have a chance at keeping him when the time comes. Regardless of where he ends up his free agency will be a fun story to track for the next few years.
PS look at the rest of the free agents that off-season! I'm sure a lot of them will sign deals before then but it could be baseball's version of the 2010 NBA off-season.

Wake Up With Evan Longoria's Walk Off Home Run To Send The Rays To The Playoffs

I remember exactly where I was when this happened. The Red Sox had just completed their epic 2011 collapse with a 7-20 September record and Tampa Bay had to win and get in. A lot of people say this was one of the best last day of the regular seasons of all time. I would have to agree. It also happened to be the last year without two wild card teams. I am torn on having two wild cards. It kind of sucked that last year the Pirates won 98 games but only got to play one playoff game however it keeps more teams interested in August in September. Anyways this was an awesome comeback for the Rays. There is nothing like a pennant chase in September and wanting to scoreboard check every night. Here's to some good races in 2016.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Cubs Smarten Up, Pay Arrieta

YahooThe Chicago Cubs and defending NL CY Young award winner Jake Arrieta avoided arbitration late Friday night, agreeing to a $10.7 million salary for the 2016 season.

Smart move here by the Cubbies to avoid arbitration with one of their best players. Nobody likes going to arbitration. Too high of a chance that a player gets their feelings hurt and it impacts team chemistry and contract negotiations down the line. The Cubs gave the reigning Cy Young winner $450,000 above the midpoint that both sides exchanged. Arrieta wanted $13 million. Chicago offered $7.5 million. Giving Arrieta a little more than the median was smart because Chicago has a good thing going here and shouldn't want to mess it up. Everyone and their mother are picking the Cubs to win the World Series this year. Coming off a 97 win wild card season, the focus for the team now shifts to winning the division for the first time since 2008.

Wake Up With Stephen Strasburg's 14 Strikeout Debut

Every year I pick Strasburg to win the Cy Young award and it's because I can't get this game out of my mind. This game is from 2010 when the Nationals and Pirates sucked,and ESPN aired it on national TV. Strasburg looks like he is throwing a wiffle ball with some of these pitches. It's all about staying healthy with him. While he hasn't put it all together for a full, dominant season yet he has still been a very good starter. In his best season, 2014, he made 34 starts, struck out 242 in only 215 innings, and had a 3.14 ERA. Still just 27 years old the sky is the limit for this kid.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Remembering Tim Lincecum's Awesomeness

ESPNThe Orioles are one of several teams to express interest the two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, but the level of their pursuit is unclear, reports Eduardo A. Encina in Thursday’s Baltimore Sun. The 31-year-old Lincecum is scheduled to work out for teams sometime this month to demonstrate he has fully recovered from hip surgery in September.

Slow times in the baseball news cycle when this is MLB Network's top story of the day. I almost forgot Tim Lincecum was even still in the league. Reports are that Lincecum will throw soon for interested teams and so far the Orioles, Yankees, and Rangers have been linked to him. While he hasn't been an ace for years now he could still be a depth option for teams.

It's just sad that it's gotten to this point. I always hate when great players aren't great anymore but are still playing. Now Lincecum is only 31 and is still talented enough to pitch in the bigs but it won't be the same. His long hair, crazy delivery, and short stature made "The Freak" one of the coolest guys in the league from 2007-10. In only his second year, 2008, he won the Cy Young. He repeated in 2009. He's won three titles with the Giants and was a beast out of the bullpen for them in the 2012 playoffs. While he seems destined to be playing elsewhere in 2016 it is important to remember how fun it used to be to watch him pitch.

MLB Arbitration For Dummies

Disclosure: You are not a dummy for failing to understand MLB arbitration. Baseball contracts are annoyingly complicated but here is my best attempt to easily explain arbitration.

This time of year there aren't many baseball stories. The final few impact free agents are signing, there's still two weeks until pitchers and catchers report, and we hear about how in shape guys are. The only other stories are about arbitration hearings. We see things like "The Blue Jays have 10 days to extend Josh Donaldson before arbitration" and "Jake Arrieta, Cubs headed to arbitration". This probably confuses a lot of casual baseball fans. The other day my friend asked me to simply explain it and this is the response I gave him...

"It's confusing but for the first three years a player is in MLB the team pays them league minimum or close to it but for years 4-6 before free agency the player has to receive a fair salary for what they are worth so ideally the team and player can agree on a salary and "avoid arbitration" but if they don't agree they have to go to arbitration where an independent third party decides the salary in a court but nobody likes having to go to arbitration because the team has to make their case for why the player shouldn't make too much money and it hurts their feelings and shit"

Now I left out a couple of exceptions such as guys with "super two" eligibility and some other confusing stuff but this is basically it. The only other takeaway is that even though players are supposed to get a fair salary they are still typically underpaid. An example of this is a few weeks ago Jose Fernandez avoided arbitration and only got $2.8 million. Part of this was because it was his first year of arbitration. Reigning Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta is in his second year of arbitration and the Cubs only want to pay him $7.5 million. It's no wonder these players look to cash out come free agency.

Blue Jays, Donaldson Talking Extension

SB Nation - Josh Donaldson and the Blue Jays submitted arbitration figures that were so, so close: Donaldson at $11.8 million, and the Jays at $11.35 million. Somehow, they didn't just work out this difference of $450,000 yet, and they are now headed for an arbitration hearing on February 15 -- those hearing dates are supposed to be confidential, but Ken Rosenthal is good at his job. The only thing that will stop this from going to actual arbitration is a multi-year contract, as the Jays have given no indication of an interest in negotiating a one-year deal before the arbitrator is forced to pick between the two sides. There are just 10 days left to make a multi-year deal happen.

The Josh Donaldson trade was an absolute steal for the Blue Jays last off-season. While Franklin Barreto is now the A's top prospect according to Baseball America, the other three players (Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin) Toronto gave up have been duds. I still think Billy Beane is the best GM in baseball but this was a big swing and a miss on his part. 

Anyways, the Jays need to lock up their best player here. Jose Bautista, 35, and Edwin Encarnacian, 33, are free agents to be. The Jays should be competitive this year but with the up in the air status of their two aging sluggers it would be nice to have Donaldson signed long term. Even though he is under team control for three more seasons taking care of Donaldson now will help them know how much they can spend this upcoming off-season on Bautsita and Encarnacian. 

Toronto was one of the coolest stories of the 2015 season. Donaldson won the MVP and hit 41 homers with 123 RBI and a .297/.371/.568 triple slash line. The team made the playoffs for the first time since 1993 and Bautista's bat flip against Texas became one of the best moments of the season.

Wake Up With Pedro's 17 Strikeout, One-Hitter

There's been a lot of talk about Pedro since he got into the hall last year but to me this was his greatest achievement. To go into Yankee Stadium as the Yankees were in the middle of their three straight championships and dominate like this was truly incredible. Not to mention this was the height of the steroid era. What separates Pedro from anyone since him is the killer mentality. We have had some great pitching since (Johan Santana 2004-06, Kershaw 2011-15) but nobody has instilled fear in batters the way he did. And that's not a shot at Santana or Kershaw at all. It's just a compliment to Pedro.

I'll close with one of my favorite stats ever. In 2000 Pedro had a 1.74 ERA to lead the American League. The next closest? Roger Clements at 3.70, ALMOST A FULL TWO RUNS HIGHER! Pedro's peak may never be seen again.