Tag Archives: baseball

Overcoming Our Fear of College Baseball

Super Regionals are this weekend.  More of us should be tuning in than will be and I think that’s because we don’t know what we’re watching.  We don’t know what to be looking for.  Essentially, we don’t know how to enjoy college baseball.

Taking a look at our relationship with college basketball helps to illustrate my point.  Many people’s biggest beef with March Madness is that no one really knows who most of the teams are because we don’t watch the regular season.  Well, baseball has many more games and much less, almost no coverage on ESPN for you to stumble upon.

Generally speaking, we have zero idea what’s going on in the college baseball world until mid-June.  Then, all of a sudden, we’re supposed to care deeply about the eight teams that have made it to the College World Series?

Which is hosted in Omaha, Nebraska, by the way.  Not that it’s not a nice place.  I’ve never been there myself actually, but I have heard nice things.  It’s just not what you’d exactly call a vacation destination.  That fact, however driven by perception it may be, exists all the same and does the CWS no favors with potential casual fans.

How It Works

So what exactly are we watching?  How does this tournament work?  Here’s a look:

Regionals are the first round, which happened last week.  64 teams are broken into 16 groups of four.  Those groups play a double elimination tournament until one team is left standing in each region.

That brings us to where we are now, the super regionals.  16 teams remain.  They’re broken up into eight pairs and now it’s a best of three series, starting this Friday.  Win twice and you’ve made it to Omaha and the College World Series.

Once there, the eight teams play another double elimination tournament until two are left.  Those two then play a best of three championship series.

Who We’re Watching

Oregon State is the prohibitive favorite, carrying with it an astounding 52-4 record this season.  Vanderbilt is the unlucky team that will face the Beavers.  The Commodores beat #21 Clemson twice at its own field to win the regional last week.  OSU’s lefty Luke Heimlich has a chance at being selected in the first round of this summer’s MLB draft.

The only team hosting a super regional that did not host a regional is Texas A&M.  To earn that distinction, the Aggies triumphed over that Baptist School in Waco, Texas, Iowa, and the host, Houston.  College Station will host because Davidson took down the number two team in the nation, North Carolina, twice last week to get here.  If you’re looking for a Cinderella, you’ve find her.  It’s Davidson.

#9 Long Beach State and #20 Cal State Fullerton square off to determine which school will represent the state of California in Omaha.  Fullerton beat their host #8 Stanford twice to advance from regionals.  The team affectionately known as the Dirtbags holds a 5-1 record in two series against Fullerton this season.

Louisville hosts Kentucky in an even bigger rivalry matchup.  With #7 and #11 in the latest D1Baseball.com Top 25, this is the most intriguing series, on paper, heading into the weekend.  The Cards and the Cats split a pair of separate meetings during the regular season.  Louisville lefty Brendan McKay is the consensus #2 draft prospect.

Sam Houston State took the long route to the super regionals, having played five games in the previous round.  With their backs against the wall, the Bearkats won three straight games in two days, including two over host Texas Tech, to earn this spot.  Their reward is a shot at #16 Florida State, which rebounded from losing the first game in its regional last week.

#6 TCU really had no trouble sweeping through its regional.  The Horned Frogs will play host to the #22 Bears of Missouri State, who snuck by Arkansas, winning two of three one-run games between the two sides last weekend.  Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger has scouts excited about his future.

It’s an SEC affair with #17 Mississippi State traveling to #3 LSU.  The Tigers won their three games by a combined 18 runs, while the Bulldogs beat their in-state rival, #10 Southern Miss, twice on Monday to advance.  LSU’s Alex Lange is another top prospect to look out for.

If you pay attention to such things, you’ll notice that six of the 16 teams left are members of the SEC.  It must mean more down there or something.  That sixth SEC representative is Florida.  The #4 Gators welcome in #14 Wake Forest.  Florida’s 6’5” pitcher Alex Faedo has been getting a lot of mention as a potential top ten pick.

So, there’s a bit of info that will hopefully spark your interest and get you to check some of these games out.  The best part is there are games on all weekend long.  With start times of noon, three, six, and nine, you’ll have at least one game to watch basically all day long for three days straight.  Saturday is even better, with two games in each of those four time slots.  And if any of these series are tied after two games, we get even more games on Sunday and Monday.

Join me in flipping on the ESPNs this weekend as we get ready for the College World Series.  Doing so will help us all with our apparent fear of college baseball.

E-mail Mitch at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @GreatGatzke.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Why Arizona is the New Baseball Capital of the World

With the Major League Baseball season coming to an end with the World Series, fans in Arizona can rejoice in knowing that we now live in the Baseball Capital of the World. While many of the Chicago and New York transplants were able to root for their teams in the playoffs, Diamondbacks fans once again had to endure a near .500 season for the third year in a row.

While the D-Backs do have some good young players and prospects, they are stuck in a difficult division along with the Giants and Dodgers. The good news is that baseball fans stuck in the valley are actually lucky to live in a place where the national pastime is thriving.

MIKE NELSON/AFP/Getty Images
MIKE NELSON/AFP/Getty Images

In order to make the claim that Arizona is the Baseball Capital of the World, we must first take a look at other locations around the world who have claimed the same thing in the past. Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin claims to be the Snowshoe Baseball Capital of the World, we’ll let them have that one.

Earlier this year the Wall Street Journal found that St. Louis, Missouri is the “biggest baseball city” in the United States, which basically means baseball gets the highest television ratings in the Gateway City. Books written about the sport have called Chicago, New York, California, and Farmington, New Mexico the baseball capital. None of the evidence for these locations seems overwhelming, so now let’s lay out the reasons why Arizona should claim this title.

Spring Training

We all know that Arizona is home to half of the teams in Major League Baseball for Spring Training. The Cactus League is located in the cities of Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa, Goodyear, Glendale, Surprise, and Peoria. Florida has the Grapefruit League, but the cities that host those teams are too spread out to be able to realistically take in a game at each ballpark without much effort.

Getty Images
Getty Images

World Baseball Classic

The World Baseball Classic first took place in 2006 as an international baseball competition to find out which country plays hardball the best. While the final games have always taken place in California, Arizona and Florida also host games for the first and second rounds of the tournament. If you pay close attention to the Spring Training schedule during a year that the WBC is played, you can catch a glimpse of the American team playing against a team from MLB somewhere in Arizona.

Arizona Fall League

Each year Arizona is the only place to catch the game’s elite prospects. Each MLB team sends six players which are arranged into six teams. This is the only place to catch professional baseball in between the regular season and Spring Training, and is designed as a finishing school for upcoming players that you might see each year at the Futures Game during All-Star Weekend.

Arizona is also home to the Diamondbacks, who won the World Series in just their 4th year as a franchise back in 2001. When looking for the Baseball Capital of the World, it appears that warm weather cities are the new likely candidates. Sure Florida and California can stake their claim since they both host the World Baseball Classic and have successful MLB franchises, but Arizona is the only state that has a MLB team, Spring Training, the World Baseball Classic, and the Fall League. For these reasons, Arizona can claim the crown of the Baseball Capital of the World.

The American League Wildcard and the Trouble with Schedules

It appears that the Indians’ favorable schedule down the stretch is keeping the glimmer of playoff baseball alive in September.

I can’t believe it. You can’t believe it either. As I wrote last week, the Cleveland Indians are still relevant as it pertains to the 2015 playoffs. At the beginning of August, most writers and fans alike had capped this season as a disappointment and were looking ahead to 2016. Slowly but surely, the Indians strung some wins together and figured things out.

Currently, the Indians are just 4.5 games out of the second wildcard spot currently held by the Texas Rangers. In front of them are the Los Angeles Angels (3.0 GB) and the Minnesota Twins (1.0 GB).

Let’s take a look at each of the current contenders and their remaining schedules in the months of September/October:

Minnesota Twins

The Minnesota twins are currently locked in a series with the Chicago White Sox, having won game one of the three game set last night, 6-2. After their remaining two games in Chicago, the Twinkies travel home to Target Field for a 10 game homestand featuring visits by the Detroit Tigers, Los Angeles Angels, and, after an off day on 9/21, the Indians. They then travel to Detroit for a three game set, followed by a four game set at Cleveland to finish out the month of September. Their final series of the season comes against the Kansas City Royals at home at Target Field.

Clearly, of the remaining games, the most important series comes against the Los Angeles Angels next week. Considering it’s a four game series, it could make or break the Twins’ wild card hopes in addition to sinking other squads’ hopes. In a perfect world, you hope that the teams split the two game series and gain no ground either way. The Indians have a favorable weekend series against the White Sox at the same time as the Twins v Angels series, so a sweep there could really place the Indians in a position to own the 2nd wildcard spot conversation entering the final two weeks of the season.

Another problem the Twins face down the stretch is the perceived strength of their schedule. They only face 4 teams after their weekend series against Chicago: Cleveland, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Kansas City. Of those four teams, one is going to be a division winner (KC), two are currently competing with the Twins for the second wildcard spot (CLE and LAA), and one is down and out this year, but still can pack a wallop (DET).

While the Minnesota Twins have been a nice story this season (see: Houston Astros), the strength of their schedule down the stretch may overarchingly doom them.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Los Angeles Angels are currently in the middle of a three game home set against the Houston Astros and won their game last night 3-2. After finishing with the Astros, the Angels travel for 10 straight games against the Mariners (3), Twins (4), and Astros (3). After a day off, the Angels open a 6 game home stand against the Mariners and Athletics, before traveling to Texas for a 4 game showdown with the Rangers.

Of the teams remaining in the wildcard race as it stands right now, the Angels probably have the hardest schedule of them all. The AL West has been the surprise division (in my opinion) this year in terms of divisional excellence. The thought entering the season was that the Angels and Mariners would clash for the division crown while using the injury plagued Rangers, downtrodden Astros, and talent-less Athletics as target practice in between. In reality, Seattle has been an overwhelming disappointment considering their talent level. In addition, the Angels have played well below expectations and nobody really knows what team their going to get when playing them. The Rangers, even with all of their injuries entering the season, have found ways to win games and keep themselves relevant while the Houston Astros shocked the world and took the division by the horns while never looking back. The Athletics are the only team that have really played to expectations before the season started.

Instead of just one team to worry about down the stretch (Mariners), the Angels have to play three decent baseball teams within their own division. While this makes for interesting storylines as a writer, Angels fans are undoubtedly worried about the strength of schedule they face over the course of the upcoming weeks and what that means to their playoff hopes. Unfortunately, Mike Trout can’t play every position.

Texas Rangers

Like the Angels, the Rangers play many games remaining on their schedule in their own division. The Rangers have it slightly easier in that they see the Athletics twice (6 games) and have a random series at the end of the month against Detroit. Other than that, the Rangers play the division leading Astros twice (6 games), the Mariners once (3 games), and finish their season at Los Angeles (4 games).

If you read the second paragraph under the Angels tab, it applies here as well. The only difference being the strength of schedule the Rangers face. It is slightly less difficult than the Angels with two series against the Athletics and one series against the Tigers.

Cleveland Indians

Of the AL wildcard teams mentioned in this article, the Indians overwhelmingly have the easiest schedule down the stretch. Cleveland plays 3 at home against Detroit followed by a four game set against the Royals and a three game set against the White Sox – All at home. After an off day, they travel to Minnesota for 3 games and then to Kansas City for 3 games. They then travel home for the final home series of the season against the Twins (3 games) and Boston Red Sox (4 games).

Easy, I think, is a relative term in baseball. The Indians have some challenges when it comes to their remaining schedule. The difference, I think, is the strength of the challenge as compared to other challenges faced by the latter wildcard contenders. Yes, the Indians face the Royals seven times down the stretch. Yes, the Indians face the Twins six times down the stretch. Those 13 games will be tough, of that I have no doubt.

But are we really afraid of going 0-13 against those two teams? Of course not.

Are we afraid of dropping all but one game in the series against the Royals and Twins? Of course not.

When I look at teams like the Angels and Rangers, I actually believe that they could walk into each others’ ballparks or Seattle’s or Houston’s and get blanked three straight games.

That’s how good I think the West is this year.

The Indians just have to play their style of baseball, get a few hits, and play no- to minimal-error baseball. They do that, and they have a chance to travel to New York for a one game wild card playoff against the vaunted Yankees. I believe that this team is in the right place, when it comes to their hitting, pitching, and defense, to make a push.

I’m not overly optimistic about our chances. I think, as a Cleveland sports fan, I packed away optimism, along with the ideals of “hope” and “dreams”, in a box long ago.

I do think the Indians have a golden opportunity to do something special and I hope they can muster together enough to make a wildcard appearance happen.

I guess, as the leaves change, we will see if the Indians fortunes change as well.

*Note: Teams directly behind the Indians in the standings were not included in this article due to its potential length if they were added and the shear number of teams still vying for a spot. As teams either move in front of the Indians or separate themselves from the pack, this article will be updated to reflect their chances and remaining schedules.

The Tribe is Alive!

The Tribe is alive. I can’t believe it either.

The Cleveland Indians are just 4 games back of the second wildcard spot entering the final month of the season.

A month ago, I, and many others, were counting the Tribe as out. The bats were dead, the starting pitching wasn’t keeping the game in check and the bullpen was suspect. Add to that the lack of moves by the front office at the deadline and our suspicions weren’t unfounded.

This season was over, in every sense of the word.

And then, slowly but surely the Tribe won a few games.

Then the won a few series and then, they got a sweep.

The bats have been working lately, the starting pitching has been keeping opposing hitters at bay, and the bullpen, when they’ve been needed, have delivered.

The defensive play has been the hidden lynch pin to the Indians streak of success as of late. Who would have known that the addition of Abraham Almonte (seriously?) in centerfield and the return of Lonnie Chisenhall in RF along with the play of Francisco Lindor and Giovanny Urshela on the left side of the infield.

After the current series with the Blue Jays, the Indians have games within and only within the AL Central. Those games include 6 against the Tigers (3/3 Home/Away), 6 against the White Sox (3/3 Home/Away), 7 against the Royals (4/3 Home/Away), and 6 against the Twins (3/3 Home/Away). They are going to need to win approximately 80% (20) games to cement themselves in the wildcard playoff for the American League. There is no chance anyone in the American League Central will catch the Royals. Currently, they are 13 games ahead of the second place team, the Minnesota Twins and 16 games ahead of the Indians.

The next month of baseball could be very interesting. Undoubtedly, memories of 2013 have begun to whimsically drift into the back of my head as I reminisce about one of the greatest months of baseball in recent memory.

While the next month will be interesting, the big Indians-related news of the week occurred late Sunday night

Shapiro back, back, back and gone to Toronto

Reports surfaced last week of an impending offer of the Presidency/CEO duties of the Toronto Blue Jays to current Indians President Mark Shapiro. The collective interwebs and social media were aflame with ifs, ands, and buts about the whole thing before it went quiet for a few days.

Then on Sunday, the hammer was dropped. Multiple well-known and respect sports journalists reported that Mark Shapiro would accept the offer from the Blue Jays effective at the end of the 2015 season. Soon after, the team confirmed it and a press conference was scheduled for Monday afternoon.

At the presser, Mark said he was excited about the opportunity for growth in Toronto and addressed (barely) issues he faced here in Cleveland. When asked about attendance, he side-stepped the issue and moved on to other topics of interest.

Direct reports to Shapiro will now report to Paul Dolan and Dolan also stated he will not look outside the organization for a successor for Mark. It would appear that the next era of the Cleveland Indians Presidency will take effect from within the organization and speculation has begun about who that individual will be.

When looking back over Shapiro’s impressive 24 year career in Cleveland, one can’t help but feel bad for the guy.

When John Hart left the organization in 2001 and Shapiro ascended the GM throne, he was left with a very bad situation: a fan base used to winning and winning a lot, a minor league system devoid of any serviceable talent ready for the majors, and owners who didn’t want to spend much money on talent.

With that, Mark began the process of shaping the Indians from the ground up into the team he envisioned. Unfortunately for him, his drafts were awful. In the early to mid-portions of the first decade of the 2000s, you would be hard-pressed to name one decent major leaguer that came up through the Indians farm system (and no, Matt LaPorta isn’t decent. At all). Where Mark really shined was in his ability to leverage current team assets towards futures of other teams’ farm assets.

Case and point: the Bartolo Colòn trade of 2002:

In 2002, the Cleveland Indians were out of contention and Shapiro pulled the trigger on a deal that sent staff ace Bartolo Colòn to the Montreal Expos for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips.

I don’t need to tell you about the contributions and accolades that group of players have garnered over the course of their MLB careers to prove to you how fantastic that trade was.

When Shapiro stepped aside for Chris Antonetti to assume the role of GM, he took over as team president and was able to turn his attention things outside of personnel and baseball operations. His role in the new construction at the ballpark which debuted this season and his work in making Progressive field more fan and family friendly have been enormous. I love what has been done to Progressive field and I feel way more connected to the team and the game when I’m at the stadium than when I was younger.

Mark Shapiro has been around the Indians organization for longer than I’ve been alive. He has been there with us during the highs (1994-2001), the lows (2002-2006), and the playoff runs and appearances (1995-1999; 2001; 2007, and 2013). He has felt the heartache we’ve all experienced at one point or another. He’s felt the exhilarating highs of Tom Hamilton’s walk off calls in the lazy summer evenings and the lows of a Matt Underwood curse before an opposing player does something great.

Sure he’s a part of the organization, but he is also one of us. He did the very best he could with the resources he had, and I for one, can’t blame him for anything. He’s going to a great organization north of the border with deep pockets and a handful of great hitters. I wish him nothing but the best, and hopefully, he’ll come back around Cleveland from time to time to check in on us.

Kansas City Royals Vs. Major League Baseball; The 2015 All-Star Game

I’m going to start this article off by saying I have been a Royals fan since I was born in 1982! My earliest memory is of my Dad jumping on the living room coffee table when Darryl Motley caught the final out of the 1985 World Series. My room had posters and plaques of my childhood hero George Brett. When I went to college at Mizzou, my friends and I had to wrap aluminum foil around our dining room so we could listen to the Royals game since it wasn’t on TV or local radio in Columbia. The first family trip I made with my wife and her daughter was to a Royals game. So no, I am not a bandwagon fan who just found the team in 2014!

Now that we are clear I’m not some “new money” Royals fan, let’s talk about the All Star game. In case you’ve been under a rock for the last week let me give you a quick update. The starters for the Major League Baseball All Star Game come from fan voting. It’s been that way since 1970 when the league started handing out paper ballots to fans at the ballpark. 2015 is the first year that MLB got rid of the paper ballots and made it so you can only vote online. Each person can vote up to 35 times from a single email address, but you can use as many email addresses as you like so there is no limit to how much many times one person can vote.

Enter the fans of the Kansas City Royals and Twitter. The Royals fan base has taken to Twitter like a baby whale takes to swimming. It’s been a perfect marriage that has yielded unbelievable support for the Kansas City Royals. I believe everyone remembers the successful Royals Twitter #BooCano campaign. Well this time around the Royals fans have gotten behind the All Star voting and have dominated it. As of right now the Royals hold seven of the nine starting spots in the American League, and the rest of baseball is not happy about it.

Players like Detroit Tigers pitcher David Price have taken to Twitter to whine that the system isn’t fair.  Reporters like St. Louis Post Dispatch columnist Joe Strauss and Sports Illustrated writer Cliff Corcoran have called out Royals fans for not voting the right way. How dare Royals fans vote Eric Hosmer over Miguel Cabrera and Mike Moustakas over Josh Donaldson. Boston radio host Lou Merloni said not one single Royals player deserved to be a starter in the game. Royals’ fans are embarrassing ourselves and the game by acting like children who vote for our favorite players over who is deserving. The All Star game means something too; home field advantage in the World Series goes to the winner.  Some have even called for Major League Baseball to step in and not allow what Royals fans are doing, to save the integrity of the All Star Game.

Royals’ fans have a lot to say to these men and anyone else who has a problem with what we are doing. I think I speak for all Royals fans when I first say, don’t hate the player, hate the game. Royals aren’t stuffing the ballot box with fake ballots like the Reds did in 1957. We don’t have super computers voting millions of times every minute. What we have are thousands of determined fans who are using a system loophole to vote as many times as our fingers can click. That loophole is the fault of MLB by not requiring email verification when filling out a ballot. You can type in any email you can think of to qualify, my personal favorite so far has been [email protected] This is a loophole any fan of any team in baseball could be using to their benefit. It’s not Royals fans fault if other team’s fans are either to lazy or too sophisticated to use it to their advantage. If they want someone other than Royals starting, than they should get voting.

At this point though it may be too late for those fans and players. This is because people won’t just leave Royals fans alone and just like Texas, you don’t mess with Royals fans, especially Royals Twitter. We are proud fans, we haven’t lived our lives in luxury with silver spoons in our mouths like St. Louis Cardinal fans. Our team hasn’t always had great players and a consistent winner year in and year out. We are going to maximize and enjoy our time of being good because we never know when it could all be gone. We appreciate what we have and will not take it for granted.

So now people want to call us out and call us idiots? Those are fighting words for Royal fans and we are happy to step outside and settle this. We would have been happy with five or six players and found it amusing when we had seven after this week’s results. But then people had to start writing columns and going to Twitter to make fun of us. So you know what, it’s on now! A local sports talk radio station 610 Sports Radio has lead the way with starting a voting campaign. To vote Royals, including our worst player Omar Infante (#VoteOmar), as well to vote for former Royals playing in the National League like Nori Aoki (#VoteNori). This successful campaign has seen hundreds of screen shots of maxed out votes sent to the radio station’s Twitter handle @610SportsKC. Don’t be surprised when both Omar and Nori are starting in next week’s results.

Yes baseball, we know that most second baseman in the American League are better than Omar Infante. We are well aware that there are other players with strong cases at being more deserving than Royals who are currently leading the voting. Guess what though, we don’t care! We aren’t voting with the integrity of the game or putting the best nine guys on the field. We aren’t MLB fans who happen to root for the Royals. We are Royals fans who follow the MLB just to see how the Royals stack up. It’s not rational or logical, it’s being a fanatic. It’s being loyal to our team and voting for the names on the front of the jerseys not the name on the back. It really is that simple.

Congratulations MLB, for the first time in my lifetime the All Star Game means something to me. The baseball world has decided to gang up and take on Kansas City. They want to call us names and try to bully us into backing down and doing things their way. Well guess what baseball, we aren’t going away and we aren’t slowing down. The more you come at us, the more we are going to fight back. I think I speak for Kansas City Royals fans when I steal a line from John Cena and tell the rest of the baseball world, you want some, come get some!

Be Nice to Salvador Perez

Salvador Perez is not only one of the best catchers in Major League Baseball, he is also one of the most entertaining players to watch. Whether he’s gunning down a runner at trying to steal second or dowsing the player of the game with Gatorade after a win nobody has more fun playing baseball than Salvador Perez. Which is surprising to some because he is the most underpaid player in baseball.

Perez is on a contract he signed in 2012 after his rookie season. That contract was for five years $7 million with three club options for another $14.75 million. To put his contract into focus, Yadier Molina alone made $15.2 million in 2014.

After the 2014 season a lot of fans and sports reporters in Kansas City have been talking about giving Perez a raise. He started 143 games, most of any catcher, and hit .260 with 28 doubles and 17 homeruns. He won his second consecutive Gold Glove and made the All Star game for the second year in a row. In the playoffs he drove in the winning run in the Wild Card game and hit a home run of Madison Bumgarner in the World Series (the only run allowed by Bumgarner in 36 WS innings). If anyone deserves a raise, it’s Perez.

He’s been the same player in 2015, starting almost every game and batting .277 with eight home runs. He also currently sits as the leading vote getter for the All Star Game over guys like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. This last week Perez himself even mentioned he would listen if the team wanted to give him a raise. In standard Perez fashion though he joked and made it sound like he didn’t care either way because he’s just having fun playing. This of course has to be a cover because there is no way he doesn’t know he deserves more money based on his performance.

To be clear the Royals don’t have to do anything. He is under contract and the team doesn’t have to alter or change that in any way. I believe Perez would play under that contract to the full term without causing a distraction because that’s just the type of guy he is. But it is not only in Perez’s best interest to renegotiate the deal and give him more money; it is in the team’s best interest as well.

Free agents watch how teams handle their players and nobody wants to go play for a team who doesn’t stand behind their guys. The current roster looks at the team the same way. This group is a band of brothers so even if it doesn’t bother Perez, it will bother his teammates. The last thing this organization needs is a player’s vs management type rebellion down the road.

The last factor is the fans. Perez is a fan favorite and not in the same way as Eric Hosmer or Alex Gordon. Perez is a favorite because he’s just like us. He is a goofball off the field whether it’s being the Gatorade guy, cracking jokes with the on field reporter or driving Lorenzo Cain up a wall with his pranks. Then on the field he plays the game the way we all wish everyone would. He plays hard all the time and can get as heated as anyone, but at the same time he just has fun playing a kids game. I for one think it’s time to reward someone who not only plays the game at a high level, he plays the game like a kid and just enjoys playing. That is a Kansas City guy, and he needs a raise and maybe even life time extension because we are ready to see Salvador Perez in Royals blue for a long time!

To Sign or Not to Sign, the Alex Gordon Argument

If you want to start a good debate in Kansas City these days you only need to ask one question: Who is the best player on the Royals?

Whether it’s the best catcher in baseball Salvador Perez, the ALCS MVP Lorenzo Cain, the superstar in the making Eric Hosmer, or four time Gold Glove winner Alex Gordon; every fan in Kansas City has a strong answer to that question. All have solid claims to the title, and the quandary is a great go to debate on slow sports days for the local talking heads on radio.

A similar question that sparks little to no debate: Who is the face of the Kansas City Royals? The answer to that question is Alex Gordon. He’s the elder statesman of the team, having been with the Royals for a decade. When the Royals drafted him with the number two pick in the 2005 draft, he was immediately dubbed “the next George Brett”. You can’t get any higher expectations than that in Kansas City where George Brett is one small step from being a God.

The first few years of his career where pretty bad, and that’s being kind. Gordon was plagued by injuries and inconstant play. Things got so bad that in 2010 he got demoted to the minors and moved from third base to left field as a last ditch effort to get something out of him. Boy did it ever! From 2011 to today Alex Gordon has been nothing short of the best left fielder in baseball. Four consecutive Gold Glove Awards, two straight All Star game appearances, and the 2014 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award highlight that five year run.

If Gordon stays on his current pace he would go down as one of the greatest Royals in franchise history. He also would need to stay a Royal for another contract, and that is where the problem lies.

Gordon has a players option for 2016 at somewhere between $12.5 to $14 million. If he declines that option he would be one of the top free agents available in the off season rumored to be going for around five years $100 million.

The Royals history over the last twenty years is not that great when it comes to sought after franchise type free agents. Any Royals fan will remember losing greats like Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, and Zach Greinke. Mike Sweeney was the only real franchise type player the Royals have extended and that blew up in their face. While a great locker room presence and to this day a fan favorite, Sweeney’s back let him down and he never lived up to the $55 million the Royals gave him.

I believe the Royals would be able to get a home town discount for Gordon since he grew up a Royals fan going to the University of Nebraska. With payroll going up in Kansas City (up $23 million from 2014) the Royals don’t appear scared to spend anymore. They will have plenty of extra money to spend too as revenue should be sky rocketing! Ballpark attendance is averaging 31,000 people so far in 2015 and the television ratings seem to set a new record every night. Then there is the merchandise that is flying off the shelves faster than I’ve ever seen it. Kansas City is giving the Royals plenty of cash; it’s time for them to use it!

So they have the money to spend and if they are going to spend it Alex Gordon deserves the money! In 2014 Gordon won his fourth straight Gold Glove and the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year award cementing him as one of the best defensive players in baseball. (I said that already. It’s important!) This part of his game is only getting better in 2015. He’s already made what most are calling the defensive play of the year when he went diving into the stands to catch a fly ball in Chicago and is a key to the Royals leading baseball in defensive runs scored.

He is more than just a glove as he is currently sitting in the top ten in Royals history for most offensive categories. With another five or six years added to his career, he could finish behind only George Brett in hits, homeruns, doubles, runs batted in and runs scored. He isn’t the most talented hitter on this Royals roster, but he is the most consistent. Long term consistency isn’t flashy but to a lineup full of young stars still finding themselves, consistency is something you can’t put a value on.

Now if some team offers Gordon $28million a year, well ok than the Royals are out. But if the number is closer to $15 million than $25 million, the Royals owe it to their fans to make the deal. The fans of Kansas City are all in! They are watching, they are going and they are buying merchandise as fast as the Royals can print it. Signing Gordon would not only reward his excellence and make him a lifer in Royals blue, but it would reward the fans. The Royals fans have seen some of the best come and go, it’s time to see one come and stay.

Now that you know Alex Gordon and how valuable he is to the Kansas City Royals, you know why the Royals should sign him to a big money extension. BUT, There are two sides to every coin. So, it’s reasonable to look at the arguments for the Royals NOT signing Alex Gordon to an extension.

While Royals fans rejoice in the fact that the 2015 Royals payroll is the highest in franchise history, they have to wonder how close it is to maxing out. Even the most optimistic fan finds it hard to believe the Royals would ever go near a $20 million per year deal for any player.

The largest contract the Royals have ever given was $55 million to Gil Meche in 2007 and Mike Sweeney in 2002. The largest one year salary anyone has ever had with the Royals was the $13.5 million deal Johan Santana signed in 2013. To jump from those numbers to $20 million per year and total of around $100 million seems far-fetched, even for Alex Gordon.

Then there is the rest of the Royals roster that needs attention. The majority of the roster is already under contract through at least 2016, but there is always arbitration that will give automatic raises to many players. The team can expect to add between $10 and $15 million in salary just based off those raises.

After those raises you will need to find replacements or resign Alex Rios and Jeremy Guthrie whose contracts are up after this season. The Royals would like to see some home grown talent come up and fill those roles, but if they can’t those will not be cheap replacements.

That is just for 2016 season, to sign Gordon to a long term high dollar extension you have to look more than two years ahead for sustained success. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain will be ready for new contracts in two or three years. If the Royals are paying Alex Gordon $20 million how much money will be available to keep most or all those young stars on the rise? The Royals aren’t close to having a Yankees or Dodgers type payroll, meaning people can’t expect to have more than one or two $20 million guys at most. Your then making the choices of who to keep and who not to keep, and is Alex Gordon the one you want to keep?

While Alex Gordon is one of the best defensive players in baseball, how much is defense worth? Don’t get me wrong, its worth a lot when your pitchers can pitch knowing they can make a mistake and he will cover them. But is it worth $20 million?

If you take away his defense, Alex Gordon’s bat is not worth $20 million! While he is solid and consistent, he is not overwhelming. He only averages thirteen homeruns a year, and his career slugging percentage is only .436. So he is not an overwhelming power hitter, but maybe he is a great average on base guy? That would be wrong as well. His career batting average is .268 and his career on base percentage is .347. Those are numbers lots of players would die for and any team would desire to have on their team. The question someone needs to answer though, is the offense that is solid and steady worth $20 million?

The good offense paired with the sparkling defense makes for a great baseball player. It makes for one of the best Royals a 33 year old Royals fan like I can remember watching. My heart says pay the man whatever he wants because he is our guy and he is worth it. But my brain says average offense and great defense is not worth $20 million and handicapping the Royals from keeping their young nucleus together. He is a Royal, who could be one of the greatest Royals of all time, but he’s not worth $20 million and handicapping the Royals for the next 5 years.

Image: (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Tribe Time Now Weekend Update Ep. 6: Winning Out the Season

In this week’s episode of Tribe Time Now: Weekend Update…

Host Joe Coblitz (@BRBBlog) of Burning River Baseball welcomes in Jim Berdysz (@JBirdman27) of Indians Baseball Insider discuss the most recent week in Indians baseball focusing on the Rangers series and the increased offense. In addition, they make a plea to stop being so mean to Lonnie Chisenhall, Jose Ramirez and David Murphy. After the past comes the future and it looks to be a good one with Yan Gomes, Mike Aviles and Shaun Marcum all scheduled to come back this week. They discuss the ramifications of that as well in addition to who is the most likely to be cut.

 

Topics:

  • Recap & Winning Every Game for the Rest of the year
  • Zach Walters’ woes & the Return of Mike Aviles & Yan Gomes
  • Stop Being mean to Lonnie Chisenhall
  • Stop Being Mean to Jose Ramirez & Why Lindor Should be Up Now
  • Who To Cut & Why David Murphy Isn’t A Good Option
  • The Return of Shaun Marcum & What to Expect

 

Links

 

Tribe Time Now online, all the time:

Tribe Time Now Weedend Update #4: Leading Off and You, A Success Story

In this weekend’s edition of the Tribe Time Now Weekend Update, Host Joe Coblitz (Burning River Baseball) is joined by Chris Burnham (It’s Pronounced Lajaway) and they discussed:

  • Lonnie Chisenhall’s improved defense

  • Lineup changes and their effects on Jason Kipnis and Michael Bourn and;

  • Tyler Holt’s call-up & Proper position

Be sure to tune into Tribe Time Now’s Minor League Report on Tuesdays; this week featuring Host Kevin Gall (Burning River Baseball), Dave Scott (It’s Pronounced Lajaway), and Rod McLamb (Indians Baseball Insider).

Also be sure to check out the Tribe Time Now podcast in its new time slot on Thursday! This week, host Ryan Thompson (MTAF: Cleveland) will be joined by Owner & Editor-in-Chief of Indians Baseball Insider, Tony Lastoria!

You can check out all of the action and past podcasts at the new tribetimenow.com and be sure to listen live to all of our podcasts at tribetimenow.com/live or radio.mtaf.tv!

 

Tribe Bullet Points Friday: The Season Begins with the Re-Education of Hoynsie

Welcome to Tribe Bullet Points Friday. It’s the largely incomplete and mostly un-researched account of the Cleveland Indians week. Follow me on twitter at @RailbirdJ and complain about my writing to @MTAFCleveland

  • HAPPY BASEBALL, CLEVELAND! It’s been a long winter1I didn’t measure winter, so this might be a complete lie, but baseball is finally here to save us from potholes and deliver us to orange barrels.

  • Dallas Keuchel is really good. The Astros are probably terrible again in 2015, but Keuchel should remain a bright spot. The guy is a top ten leftie, and I have to imagine Terry Francona wouldn’t have put so many left-handed hitters in that lineup if the game were anything other than the the Season Opener.
  • Wait, was it Keuchel being good, or the Indians offense being bad? After a little bit of reflection, I think that loss to the Astros was more about Keuchel than the Indians offense. I’m sure I’ll rail against the Tribe bats a few times this season2Like when the two runs against ‘Stros #2 man Scott Feldman left me utterly unimpressed., but it’s SUPER early. I’ll start comparing team stats to the rest of baseball in a month or so, there’s no need to do that now.
  • Northeast Ohio Media Group Indians beat writer Paul Hoynes took a bit of a beating about stats yesterday. Follow Michael Hattery, Michael Ondo, John Grimm, and, of course, Paul Hoynes. Since they were all nice enough to say things on twitter for me to use.
  • The statistics versus old school debate will rage on for many years to come. Ed and Zach are two stat guys that got in my mentions on the tweet below, and, wouldn’t you know it, a little forward thinking clears up all that Hoynsie smoke and we could all agree that writing about baseball doesn’t mean you can’t be old school anymore, it just means that you can’t think the numbers are all hocus-pocus-hogwash and still have credibility.

LISTEN: Tribe Time Now #9: It’s @BRBBlog Dammit – iTunes, TuneIn, RSS

  • Stats guys and old school baseball guys CAN live in harmony. Just learn to appreciate how the other side thinks, stop assuming the other side is a bunch of idiots, and… Oh, Hell, who am I kidding. Our only hope is making marijuana legal in Ohio.

  • The Indians ALMOST no-hit the Astros to take the series. While I’m a little miffed that Nick Hagadone is playing with gasoline again early this season3Please stop, Nick. Do it for us., I don’t care one tiny little bit that the no-hitter was broken up in the ninth. I want good outings, solid offense, no errors, and wins more than I want anything else.
  • The Home Opener in Cleveland is today against the evil Detroit Tigers. But with Gaylord Perry presenting Corey Kluber with the Cy Young Award pregame and the Ghost of Bob Feller striking out Jim Thome at the front door4Or, at least Feller WOULD BE striking out Thome, if the designers had the forethought to make them face each other. You know, LIKE THEY DO DURING ACTUAL BASEBALL GAMES., I’m not worried about the pussycats at all.
All statistics are from Baseball-Reference. I love Baseball-Reference, and you should, too.

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1. I didn’t measure winter, so this might be a complete lie
2. Like when the two runs against ‘Stros #2 man Scott Feldman left me utterly unimpressed.
3. Please stop, Nick. Do it for us.
4. Or, at least Feller WOULD BE striking out Thome, if the designers had the forethought to make them face each other. You know, LIKE THEY DO DURING ACTUAL BASEBALL GAMES.