Tag Archives: Los Angeles Dodgers

Royals Offseason Update

Major League Baseball’s off season has heated up this week during the winter meetings in Nashville. There have been multiple signings and a couple big trades with money changing hands like it’s a game of Monopoly. Despite all the moves and noise being made, it’s been nothing but crickets coming from the Kansas City Royals.

For the first time in a generation the Royals enter the off season as the World Champions. There is no discussion of how to build a winner or what one or two players do they need to get over the hump. The Royals won the World Series, and this off season seems to be all about celebrating the win and just hanging on to that moment as long as we can.

That time of celebrating appears to be coming to an end however as the harsh reality of a new season has begun to creep in thanks to off season moves. The first big loss came last night when Ben Zobrist signed a 4 year $56 million deal with the Chicago Cubs. In his short time with the Royals, Zobrist had become a fan favorite. He was a great player that was a major reason the Royals were able to win the WS and he seemed to genuinely enjoy Kansas City. Even his wife became a fan favorite for not having their baby until after the WS and then giving the baby girl the middle name of Royal. So there was hope that a love of the city would outweigh the pull of a big contract.

That hope was shattered when the Cubs were willing to give the 34 year old Zobrist a four year deal. I believe the Royals would have been happy to pay the $14 million price tag per year, but I think they only wanted to be locked into that for two years. They can’t risk paying an old declining player $14 million after two years when they are trying to resign young stars like Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas.

Unfortunately for Royals fans, the heartbreak will not stop with Zobrist departure. Royals fans cover your eyes for this part, but Gordon is not resigning with Kansas City. Alex Gordon will be 32 years old in February and is expected to sign a five or six year deal for around $100 million or more. Not only can the Royals not afford a deal like that, I don’t believe they should do it even if they could. While I am a Gordon fan as much as the next guy, he’s really not worth that much to a team like the Royals. Gordon is the one of the best defensive left fielders in baseball and is good (not great) at the plate. The problem for the Royals is that he is good enough to carry the team. Gordon is a great complimentary player, when you have a top to bottom lineup the way the Royals had this year, he’s a beast at the backend. But if you pay Gordon that much money than more than likely you will be losing two or three of those young stars and it would then be up to Gordon to lead the team in the middle of the lineup. A career .270 hitter who averages 19 homeruns a season just isn’t going to be able to put up the kind of numbers on his own that it would take to sustain the loss of that young talent. This would be especially true for the last two or three years of his deal when his age will cause his production to drop.

If the Royals would like to increase their payroll to $200 million a year, then by all means let’s throw money at Gordon like crazy and then get to work signing Hosmer, Cain and Moustakas to long term deals. I don’t see the payroll going that way thought, which means while it will hurt and not be fun to see our favorites leave, we as fans need to understand that it is what is best for the team. So far in the 2016 MLB offseason the Royals have stuck to their plan that got them into back-to-back World Series. They have let the high priced older free agents walk. It was Billy Butler in 2015 and this year it was Zobrist and will be Gordon. But they have resigned veteran pitcher Chris Young who was a key to the rotation and bullpen last season. They have brought back former closer Joakim Soria to build up a bullpen after Ryan Madson signed with the Dodgers and Greg Holland will miss the entire season due to Tommy John surgery.

The rumor mill is still swirling around with news that the Royals are interested in acquiring a corner outfielder as well as a starting pitcher. Will these be big time names like Johnny Cueto or BJ Upton? No, they probably won’t be. As Royals fans that’ve seen what the Royals have done over the last couple years should that matter to us, no it shouldn’t! The Royals will likely never win the off season the way the White Sox did in 2015 or the Dodgers did in 2014. While that looks flashy and always seems like a great way to go and excites fans, it’s not the Royal way. The Royal way took a long time to work and many of us (myself included) were ready for a new way in 2014. I was wrong. The Royal way clearly works and we as Royals fans need to embrace that fact and think accordingly. They don’t give rings, have parades or raise banners for winning the off season. So while a team like the Cubs or Dodgers will get all the praise going into the 2016 season and fans will be talking smack about the Royals minor moves, I’ll just simply point to the new banner flying and simply say……scoreboard!

Questioning Fanhood

Sometimes, I wonder if I am, indeed, more than a fan. After all, I moved away from the city where all most of my teams reside.

The more I do this stuff, the pods, the writing, the live radio show, I wonder if it actually makes me less than a fan. After all, I’m taking on a stance of less subjectivity. In fact, if all the dysfunction and failure to see my teams reach the pinnacle doesn’t take away from my fanhood1You know, of the Cleveland teams., I’m not sure what will. I’ve come the conclusion that only an obligation, by way of occupation, the whole “no cheering in the press box” will deter me from the tears of joy. Who am I kidding? Cleveland only offers tears of agony.

My father once watched a childish demonstration2I’m not proud to admit he’s witnessed many of these immature displays, mostly when I was an actual child., and in the interest of full disclosure, it wasn’t that long ago that I pouted over a Phil Taylor offsides penalty that reduced the Browns chances of victory from slim to none against the Ravens, that begged the question, “I don’t know why he still cares so much”. I do care, and sometimes it brings me shame to show that, but it always defines my character. We see it so much, why do we settle for this shit show that is the Browns? My answer is simple…I ain’t got no place else to go. Could I shut down shop, and just root for the local Cardinals? Of course, I could, but it’s my decision not to. I don’t want to show my middle finger to my friends and family back home; I’d rather poke my own eye out3In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal I like the Cardinals.  Living vicariously through my local friends, I’m thrilled with their current success.

I could take the cop out, you know, that the “real” Browns left in 1995 and they aren’t coming back. Had I left before this ridiculous knock-off stepped onto the scene, maybe I’d have grounds to do that, not for the approval of others, but for inner-peace, but I don’t go that route.

Putting the Browns on the back-burner for a moment, they’re only a fraction of the agony of my fanhood. I have more history with the Indians, and I marry myself to them more than I probably should. I remember taking on the unfathomable plan of what exactly it was that I would do when they finished the job in 2007. It wasn’t even a matter of “if”, and that was before they’d put away the Yankees in a best-of-5, even before they took a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead over Boston in the best-of-7 in the American League Championship Series, where actuality revealed a much crueler fate for the Sons of Geronimo. I’d gotten married that summer4Ironically, it was on a weekend that saw the Tribe swept by the very Yankees they took down in the playoffs, but I spent more time thinking about renting the tuxedos and limousines to celebrate the Indians’ first World Series win since 1948 than for any of the particulars of my own wedding. There was going to be champagne, and there wasn’t going to be any concern for sustaining employment. I don’t know if it’s accurate to say a state of depression followed, but I promise a very un-Christian period of hatred for all-things-Boston culminated from that point. I have a very dear friend from Cape Cod, and quite frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t kick my ass to the curb in the aftermath of that ALCS and subsequent Red Sox sweep of the Rockies in that World Series, but he’s a fan too, so I’m pretty sure got it/gets it.

If you think it’s just Cleveland, you’d be wrong. I’ve grown an affinity for a few of my new home’s local teams, specifically the Phoenix-turned-Arizona Coyotes. After Game 7 of the NHL’s 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals, things got weird with me and Detroit. I was a little more numb when the Winged CCCP swept my Desert Dogs out of the 2011 Stanley Cup Tournament, but when my hockey team actually started advancing in the playoffs, my hate, and I don’t use that word lightly, shifted to the Kings of Los Angeles. Phoenix had grown on me.

By 2013, I was a partial-season ticket holder with the Arizona Diamondbacks and a full-fledged Arizona State Sun Devil Football season ticket holder. That was the summer that Ian Kennedy put a pitch in Yasiel Puig’s earhole, which included a subsequent brawl that was the flashpoint for the Dodger ascent and Arizona’s fall to the bottom of the pack, a fall they’ve yet to fully recover from.

By the time the Dodgers clinched the National League West at Chase Field that September, I had such a low opinion of that organization, and all of Los Angeles, that the news/rumor of a few Dodgers players draining the main vein in the center field pool had me feeling like Jack’s complete lack of surprise.

I guess the point is, I don’t know how to do casual. I’ve adopted my wife’s Northern Illinois Huskies, and I sometimes feel guilty about not being all-in, not hating Toledo and Western Michigan head coach PJ Fleck5Fleck was a great receiver at NIU when they first stepped on to the national scene, behind the great running Michael “The Burner” Turner, earlier this millennium.. I guess I’m getting there, but I’m pretty far in for a guy that spent the early part of his adulthood just paces away from Kent State, with friends at MAC schools in every part of Ohio.

I think leaving Ohio is as much to blame for my passion as being from there is. I feel like I have some sort of obligation to serve as an ambassador, while 2500 miles from the place I called home for so long. I don’t know how to be anything other than passionate and loyal; while it destroys any hope for normalcy in my life, I feel it can be quite the virtue. If I’m a genuine sports fan, but fake at the other things I do in life, I’m exposed as a fraud.

With Yours Truly, there isn’t anything fraudulent to be revealed. I’m the genuine article, even if it means admitting that I’m not proud. Browns fan? Duh. Tribe fan? You know it. Cavs fan? With or without LeBron, you know I am, and I’m unapologetic for being so against him and the possibility of a return for four years, until it happened. If I want to leave a legacy of any sort, it’s that I root for the home team, just like my father in my love life. He says, if you like her, I like her.

It’s a front of the jersey thing. It says Cleveland, Phoenix, Arizona, or whatever’s important to me, I’m on board. Being a fan is cool; never be ashamed.

I never claimed to be brilliant, but I think that’s a principle that gets you through life, whether that concept is subject to scrutiny or not.

References
1 You know, of the Cleveland teams.
2 I’m not proud to admit he’s witnessed many of these immature displays, mostly when I was an actual child.
3 In the interest of full disclosure, I should reveal I like the Cardinals.  Living vicariously through my local friends, I’m thrilled with their current success
4 Ironically, it was on a weekend that saw the Tribe swept by the very Yankees they took down in the playoffs
5 Fleck was a great receiver at NIU when they first stepped on to the national scene, behind the great running Michael “The Burner” Turner, earlier this millennium.

More Than A Friday: Thinking of Lamar Odom During a Busy Week in Sports

Lamar Odom is going to die. We sincerely hope it doesn’t happen today, tomorrow, next week, next month, or even in the next year. For Odom, there is a reality, and doesn’t that word really have some negative connotation to it? The reality is, that I hope he is able to survive from the time between now and whenever this publishes, but only for a life that doesn’t involve suffering.

Why do I care about the mortality of Lamar Odom? As former Arizona Cardinal Darnell Dockett so bluntly stated, he didn’t cross my mind before he was trending, so to speak. I don’t mourn for his situation with a Lakers or Heat flag on my car, and I’m not sympathetic to the character he was presented as to the masses on a show I didn’t watch. I know who he is, because of basketball, and I know how much he loved being a Laker, through the words of his ex-wife during a very brief glimpse of that show that I swear I didn’t watch. I’m sympathetic to his situation, because he is very obviously in the public eye, and it feels like he’s slowly dying in front of all of us.

I don’t feel that he deserves that. He deserves our compassion, but to suffer, with all of those toxins eating away at the very life he’s lived for the past 35 years, 11 months, and change; no one has earned that fate. Everyone in the media seems to be acting appropriately sensitive, walking on egg shells and citing his difficult background, while commending his wildly successful life and hoping for the best. We’re all human enough for that; we should be well wishing Odom for a prolonged life or a merciful death, though most of us don’t know the answers. While we brace ourselves for the inevitable assassination of his character from a few directions, and for various reasons, this is a time to be above the noise and just care.

In Major League Baseball

If you lack a dog in this fight, it’s been an awesome week of watching the field dwindle itself from 8 down to 4. If you had rooting interest in the Division Series, half of you are elated and half of you ain’t.

The Chicago Cubs were the first ones in the clubhouse, waiting to see what the rest of semi-final field would be. They had to win that winner-take-all game, which is always dangerous. It meant burning their best arm, leaving one Jake Arrieta available for just one start in the subsequent best-of-5 series. To survive that do-or-die game in Pittsburgh, it meant taking on baseball’s best regular season team and a long-time arch-rival in what’s been a very lopsided pairing for a very long time.

Give it to the Cubs, for not letting history get the best of them. They were able to bounce back after a poor showing in St. Louis in Game 1, a game that had you thinking the Cubs didn’t have the ammunition to survive the almighty Cardinals, beaten and battered as Mike Matheny’s squad may have been. Lo and behold, they kept hitting the ball out of the park, and when the Cardinals pecked away at a Chicago lead, the Cubs scratched back.

We’ll say good-bye to the Cardinals, and point out that they’re just another great National League team that managed to win at least 100 regular season games on a long list of triple-digit winning National League teams that have failed to win the World Series since the Mets won it all in ’86. The 2015 chapter of the Mets are a little different; they’re not supposed to be here. Blame the Washington Nationals for that, but maybe credit these young Metropolitans for being too dumb to know the stage is too big for them or that they’re not ready yet.

For a while, we’ve known the National League’s chapter of New York baseball was acquiring too much talent to be kept down for long. Remember when Matt Harvey was pretty much the chosen one there? Those days are long gone, with the flowing locks of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard making the Dark Knight (and the Yankees) an afterthought in Gotham. You’ve got Yoenis Cespedes and David Wright earning the headlines for Terry Collins’ team, but it was the efforts of the likes of Michael Conforto and Daniel Murphy that put them in the place they needed to be to host the Cubs on Saturday in Game 1 of the NLCS.

As for the Dodgers, the brilliance of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke for two games apiece wasn’t enough. Chase Utley taking out Ruben Tejada on a questionable double-play breaking slide wasn’t enough. Justin Turner’s .526 batting average wasn’t enough, nor was any other aspect of the roughly $310 million payroll enough to get three wins against these Mets in a best-of-five series. If you’re into math, they were paying about $77 million, per team that advance farther than them in the 2015 Playoffs.

It’s probably not the best of ideas to reduce a best-of-five that goes the distance down to a single inning of an elimination game, but that’s how we’re going to roll with the American League Division Series. The conversation of the day on Wednesday, at around 2:30 PM (Mountain Standard Time) was about whether or not the Astros could rebound from their 8th inning collapse, a few days prior, against the defending AL Champs at home. And maybe the Royals had something to do with that as well, but you had to hold the phone on making Game 5 of Astros-Royals into headline material. Down 6-2 in the eighth inning, on the road, six outs from elimination, the Royals put together one of those innings. They got some bounces and scored enough runs(5) to survive(a 7-6 victory), but needed another win to advance. That was Monday.

Before the Royals could do what they needed to do, back at home on Wednesday evening, there was the issue of settling the other half of the bracket with Game 5 in Toronto. Fast forward to the 7th inning of that one, game tied at 2, with Rougned Odor on 3rd base and Shin-Soo Choo at the plate. On a Russell Martin throw back to Blue Jays’ reliever Aaron Sanchez, the ball hits Choo’s bat and squirts toward the third baseman. Odor scores on the “throwing error”, and all hell breaks loose in Toronto. After a review, the Rangers lead 3-2 and they were 9 outs from another trip to the ALCS. Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus wasn’t prepared to help the cause.

It started with a routine ground ball to short, which he mishandled. Then, there was a double play ball, and well, the ball was thrown poorly by Mitch Moreland at first base, and Andrus couldn’t haul it in. Next batter, it’s a sacrifice bunt not executed well, where a good throw to third should eliminate the lead runner, but Andrus can’t handle it. Bases loaded.

Toronto tied the game on a ball that should be described as a Texas Leaguer, and could have invoked the Infield Fly Rule, floats beyond the reach of the Texas second baseman. It ends up being a fielder’s choice at 2nd base, but the tying run scores. Tie game, runners at first and third for Jose Bautista.

What he did was hit the ball, so far that metaphors would be ineffective for those that don’t know much about Canadian geography. It was a three-run job, giving the home team a 6-3 lead that would stick. After he hit it, he tossed his bat about eight feet in the air, and (we assume) it traveled for kilometers before it reached the ground, well after he’d run the bases.

Blue Jays win, and they’re back in the ALCS, for the first time since 1993. That was the year Joe Carter hit baseball’s second (and most recent) World Series clinching walk-off home run. In a lot of ways, regardless of what happens to the Blue Jays the rest of the way, this Bautista shot may have been a bigger deal.

1908, 1985, 1986, 1993. The last time the Cubs, Royals, Mets, and Blue Jays have won it all, respectively. We’re going to get someone new, while the Giants, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Yankees watch from the couch…and I that’s just fine by me.

In Football

Ohio State is going to stay #1 until they lose. It’s just the way it is. I look forward to them playing Penn State under the lights in Columbus, but I’m not looking forward to seeing them wearing all black, for the sake of wearing all black.

Texas A&M will host Alabama, and the Aggies have a legitimate shot to win that game and establish themselves as a legitimate player in the College Football Playoff talk, while Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Wolverines host in-state rival Michigan State with a good chance to finally allow some points and to likely get handed their second loss of the season.

Florida will travel to Baton Rouge for a night game with LSU on Saturday. They will be without their starting quarterback, while South Carolina hosts Vanderbilt and USC travels to Notre Dame, both without their head coaches. You might expect an 0-3 run from that group with those voids.

On Sunday, expect plenty of blood in the water, in Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. Bruce Arians didn’t even take the Cardinals back home last week, after thumping Detroit; you can be sure he wants to get his pound of flesh from Mike Tomlin and company, after they kicked him to the curb a few years back. TJ Ward said he wanted to remain with the Browns (and presumably his best friend, Joe Haden) two year ago, but Cleveland wasn’t interested, so he’ll surely be interested in ringing some bells with his Broncos visiting the 2-3 Browns. Finally, they say snitches end up with stitches, so go ahead and find your own shitty air/inflation-related pun to describe what Tom Brady and the Patriots might do to the Colts on Sunday night.

In the National Hockey League

Call it a Stanley Cup Hangover, or call it the distraction of one of your top players being accused of sexual assault, but the Chicago Blackhawks have looked anything but Champions…so far.

It’s obviously early, but we haven’t seen an immediate impact from Mike Babcock joining the Maple Leafs or Connor McDavid joining the Oilers. Both will happen in due time.

The Arizona Coyotes are basically left for dead by anyone who knows anything about this game, but they’re off to a promising start under Dave Tippett in Glendale. Rookies Anthony DuClair and Max Domi look like they have something special budding in the desert, making major contributions to the ‘Yotes 3-1 start.

More Than a Friday: It’s a Rap…by De La Soul

I’m back. At least I think I’m all the way back. I like to travel; check that, I love to travel, but there’s no question it takes a lot out of me, both physically and mentally.

Between Phoenix, Charlotte, and Cleveland, my phone spent a lot of time in Airplane Mode last week. As a means of making phone calls or doing any internetty things, the iPhone 6+ is basically a paperweight. Among those things, would be my preferred method of listening to music via streaming, but Google Play decided some songs are stored locally. I have no idea which ones, or what the criteria is for off-line listening, but it sure beats those non-SkyMall magazines. One of the songs that came up, De La Soul’s “Itzsoweeze”, reminded me why it’s on my playlist; it’s fun.

Now, what seems like a lifetime ago, I wrote a Pac-12 weekend recap called “Pac-Raps”, where each game would be tied into lyrics from some 90s rap tune. We’re going to do that again here, sans Pac-12 football.

Great all-dedication
Mos Def affiliation
Adequate representation
This is the phat presentation
De La dedication
Common Sense collaborations
Peace to all of you Haitians
Check it out

Maybe I don’t have the star-power of Mos Def and Common collaborating with me on any More Than A Fan venture, a la the guests on “Stakes Is High” album, but I don’t mind thanking the likes of Kevin Noon, Joe Posnanski, Martin Rickman, Bruce Jacobs, Mark Asher, and countless others for speaking with me at one time or another, as I’ve ventured into this realm.

Of course, my De La dedication is all about the many scribes at More Than A Fan that do what they need to do to keep the lights on in these parts.

If money makes a man strange — we gots to rearrange
So what makes the world go round
If love is against the law — listen I don’t know
Gotta change how it’s goin down

We all know we can’t be consumed by greed, because that paper isn’t going to be there forever, but it’s about fame and glory, or whatever too. Think fame lasts forever? You must not get VH1.

In 2015, we probably think of one primary thing, when we wonder if love against the law, and the Supreme Court has dictated that it’s no longer a violation of law to go there. Instead, I think of defending your dedication to something like, say my beloved Cleveland Browns. I’m asked, why do you settle for such futility? My response is, I love them or I love nothing at all–NFL related, of course.

Fell in love with this fish who got caught in my mesh
But yo she burned my scene up like David Koresh
I guess a diamond ain’t nothing but a rock with a name
I guess love ain’t nuttin but emotion and game
It’s a lesson well learned so praise is well due
I’m sendin off from Big I, to Kenny Calhoun

38efddd5a963fd50537371cb7cc3612a68c351c6I could go on and on about the Browns, and how I’m always so twisted emotionally over the reboot, while I can’t let go of my decades-old angst against the original version that planted their flag in Maryland, but what does that accomplish?  I deal with the fact that, more regularly than not, they light up dumpsters like Waco in ’93, but I just flew home to see them win, so no grievances for the team that calls the shores of Lake Erie home, not at the moment.

Let’s take our focus down I-71, to a struggling Ohio State team that still holds the #1 spot in the presently meaningless rankings. When the Browns moved to Baltimore, my focus moved from Sunday to Saturday, and I gave a little more love to John Cooper’s Buckeyes, and they would typically break my heart, in the same style that their former professional counterpart to the Northeast did so often. In 1999, something looking like my first love returned to the scene, but I was still locked in on Saturdays, Na’il Diggs, and Steve Bellisari. Then, they discarded the label-makers that wrote out “COOP” on the headsets, and went with some guys with sleeveless sweaters from Youngstown to right the ship.

The rise of the Scarlet and Grey was fun, but it was not fulfilling on a personal level. Perhaps it would be different if there was a degree with “The Ohio State University” on top hanging on the wall, or even a class schedule or some type of receipt in some drawer, from that school somewhere. It was the same emptiness that I felt when celebrating the Diamondbacks 2001 World Series victory; I didn’t put in my due time with either.

No regrets or anything, just a lesson well-learned. On another note, I have no idea what a “Big I” is, but Kenny Calhoun was all about “The U”, and I don’t need Billy Corben to tell me that. Dove, aka David Jude Jolicoeur, was from Brooklyn with Haitian roots. I didn’t realize it until LeBron James joined the Heat, but Miami is treated as local by those from the West Indies and nearby areas, as regional as Boston is to Maine, I suppose.

And add a reservation for the resident crew
And yo get your bowl cuz we cookin up stew
See them Cubans don’t care what y’all _____s do
Colombians ain’t never ran with your crew
Why you acting all spicy and sheisty
The only Italians you knew was icees, _____s price me

To those who only use social to associate with famous, or Twitter-famous, types, they really need to show some diversity in their conversations. I had someone from back east ask what was going on with the Arizona Coyotes and Glendale a few months back, offered my opinion, and someone stepped in to tell the person to trust only a local Fox Sports reporter has the right information. Talk about something that grinds my gears; my opinion was based off of that reporter’s reports, but someone had to play the role of white knight for a media-type.

I’m sure that reporter, and many others like him, don’t care whether or not they’re included in every conversation about the team they cover. These are close-minded individuals, who shun any idea that doesn’t come from their idols. Much like John Gotti likely never cared or knew who Jay-Z was, a journalist cares very little about how often they’re @’d.

Also, this song wouldn’t have made the cut for Pac-Raps for inclusion of the words blanked out, but you can figure out what those words are. I wish it were a word that would just disappear, but I’m not really welcome to the table where that discussion takes place. Whatever, it is what it is with that.

I’m keepin it clean, like a washing machine
And yo, get your locomotion run into full steam
I’m sending out a greeting to my man Daseem
I got a child so I gotsta get the green, right right

World_Series_Giants_Royals_BaseballIf you’re going to do something, do it right. Let’s not be so naive as to say that MLB did this for the fans; it’s all about the money here, but it coincidentally turned out to be a solid move to add a second wild-card team, expanding their post-season tournament to ten teams. Does one-third of the league belong in the post-season? It depends on who you ask, but it definitely worked for the eventual World Champion Giants a year ago.

One game, and it’s clean. I love the focus it puts on winning your division, in order to avoid a 1-game “do or die” scenario, and I like how many teams are playing meaningful games in late-September. Now, it’s not as clean as a washing machine if the Indians and Tigers have to play a game on October 5th, which may or may not equal the Tribe playing again on Tuesday to play-in to a play-in game, but there’s always a worst case scenario.

Itzsoweezee, it’s gettin hot this year
Itzsoweezee, it’s gettin hot

Summer ended this week, and I couldn’t be more welcoming to the Autumn months. For those that still care about baseball, you’re going to get both New York teams, the Cubs and Dodgers, and some small-market teams that you haven’t seen in the post-season in a while. Add football with its sea-legs beneath it, both on Saturday and Sunday (and sometimes Thursday), to serve as a prelude to Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell beginning their pro careers, and October is a beautiful month on the sports landscape.

They make it to easy to enjoy sports.

I own the deeds to some acres in the West Indies
Where my pops is building residence to house my seed
Now here’s the lead, y’all niggas pray to hot rods and not God
While Versace play you niggas like Yahtzee
Crackin jokes like you Patzi
(When’s the last time you had Happy Days?)
Blazin up your herb to escape the maze, but the problem stays

This is what the track is about, right here. Be you. And that goes for sports fans, just the same. Don’t get caught up in buying jerseys and sneakers. Don’t spend your whole life on the phone or computer. Apple, Samsung, Nike; they’re all taking us for a ride, reducing us to little pink or blue plastic pieces in “The Game of Life”. You missed a Tweet, and didn’t get the breaking news until ten minutes after everyone else? So the hell what!

If you partake in the herb, that’s cool. What? I’m no cop. That isn’t the only escape though; for a lot us, it’s these games, and if they frustrate us, so what! Life can be one problem after another, and when our teams lose or win, we are going to have to wake up to those same problems the next day. We might as well enjoy the time in between.

Think big get it big is my motto
You can go and play your lotto, I’ll be singin like baby won’t you be mine
You’ll be pressin rewind, you can never see mine
Keep your eyes focused, you can’t touch this or quote this
Style is crazy bogus so you can’t try to approach this
Stomp you out like roaches, pullin on my coattail
Like some horses pullin coaches, WHOA your roller coasters
It’s hotter than the temperature that’s cookin in your toasters
While the heat’ll put you deep into hypnosis

All I have to say, is this is a great verse.

Think big.

Live in the moment.

Know what you want on your highlight reel, and replay those moments in your mind.

Itsoweezee, Enola in the area
Itsoweezee, Timbo King’s in the area
Itsoweezee, Maseo’s in the area
Itsoweezee, ninety-six in your area
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd lawd!
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd lawd lawd
Itsoweezee, lawd lawd, for y’all peace
Itsoweezee

Itsoweezee

It all comes full circle. In sports (and My Cousin Vinny), it’s win some, lose some. The champs are all 0-0, once the calendar resets itself to begin the next season. The chumps take their high draft choices and start on equal ground with the team that won it all, but that win was last year’s news.

The time is now, and you can’t worry about last year, last week, and the people that were with you then. You see who stands by you now, and that’s your team.

Indians Stand Pat While AL Central Foes Acquire Talent

The winter meetings came and went. The Indians traded minor league 2B prospect Joey Wendle to the Oakland A’s for LH power bat Brandon Moss.

But that’s it.

The rest of the winter meetings blew ball in a whirlwind as every other AL Central foe made acquisitions to increase their respective chances of taking home the 2015 AL Central crown. To say that the AL Central will be the toughest division in baseball this year may be an understatement.

Let’s go through each team’s acquisitions quickly:

Cleveland

Detroit

Minnesota

Chicago

Kansas City

Brandon Moss

Yoenis Cespedes Ervin Santana Jeff Samardzija Jandel Gustave

Brett Hayes

Alfredo Simon David Robertson Yohan Pino

Adam Moore

Alex Wilson Dan Jennings

Alex Rios

Destin Hood Gabe Speier Rob Brantly

Kendrys Morales

Jerry Sands Melky Cabrera
*Indicates best acquisition

 

I believe that’s everyone.

It’s apparent that Minnesota did the least so far out of the five teams in the Central. Every other team cut the deals necessary to make themselves a contender in 2015. The White Sox have made the most drastic changes to their lineup going into 2015. The additions of Jeff Samardzija and David Robertson immediately turn around a staff that was in the bottom five in the league for nearly every major pitching statistic. The 1-2 punch of Sale and Samardzija is going to be rough for teams that catch Chicago at the beginning of their rotation. Adding Melky Cabrera give the White Sox a solid 1-4 hitter who, last year, hit .301/.351/.458 with 35 2B, 16 HR and 73 RBIs (If Melky could have come cheaply, I was secretly hoping the Indians would make a run at him to bolster the outfield, but alas, it was not to be).

For Detroit, the additions of Yoenis Cespedes and Alfredo Simon are just icing on the cake for a lineup that is already loaded with juicy talent.

Think of it this way: The 3-4-5 combination of J.D. Martinez, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez was pretty scary in 2014. Now add Yoenis Cespedes to that mix.

That’s not even fair. That reminds me of the ’27 Yankees lineup that featured Lou Gehrig, Earle Combs, Babe Ruth, Bob Meusel and Tony Lazzeri. They are going to smash homeruns and rack up a ton of extra-base hits. Pitchers will go into the Tigers’ den with low ERAs and come out limping.

The worst part: They’re in our division.

2014 AL Pennant winners, the Kansas City Royals, didn’t make nearly as much noise as our friends from the state up north, but they were able to sign Luke Hochevar to a new deal and as recently as the writing of this article, signed Alex Rios to an $11 million deal. The Royals, like the Indians, focus on building through their farm system rather than through large trades and FA signings. It showed during the winter meetings. The Royals added Kendrys Morales to fill Billy Butler’s vacancy and the Rios signing fills the hole left by the departure of Norichika Aoki to FA.

So at long last, we come to our wahoo warriors; our protectors of the Cuyahoga: The Cleveland Indians.

The Indians were one of the first teams to take the dive during winter meetings with their deal for Brandon Moss. In my article last week, I delved into what the Moss addition means for the Tribe moving forward. To summarize: Moss is a great LH power hitter that will help bolster the middle of the lineup and create runs if the top of the lineup can get on base.

After that deal though, the front office shut it down. I’m sure there were deals out there that just didn’t get made. I know for a fact the Indians were on the short list to sign FA pitcher Brett Anderson. The issue is, and always has been, money. Brett Anderson got $10 million from the Dodgers. Ervin Santana got 4 years/$48 million. Justin Masterson got $9 million with $500 incentives for innings pitched from the Red Sox. The Indians just don’t have that kind of money to throw around, especially considering how over-valued the latter players are. I don’t know what world Brett Anderson is worth $10 million, but it certainly shouldn’t be this one. Same goes for Ervin Santana. The Dodgers and Red Sox are both in the top 10 in salary spending year in and year out. They can afford to overpay a low-risk/high-reward pitcher and eat the cost if he blows up in their face. The Indians, and other small-market teams cannot say the same.

That brings up another slew of issues that I’ll save for another article.

To counter the lack of moves made during winter meetings, the Indians signed C Brett Hayes, C Adam Moore, 1B/OF Destin Hood and OF Jerry Sands to minor league contracts with spring training invites yesterday (12/15). All four players have varied stints of major league experience, but the most intriguing contract (for me anyway) is Jerry Sands. Sands was well-regarded by the Dodgers during his time there. He plays great defense and is a right handed power bat (THANK GOD). The problem is his lack of major league experience. He only has 97 major league plate appearances against left handed pitching, he has a slash line of .289/.340/.511 and, according to fangraphs.com, a wOBA of .483 (ridiculously good). This is the first time that I’ve calculated wOBA (an offensive statistic that tells a deeper story than say just batting average or just slugging percentage). If he can shine in Triple-A Columbus this season, I don’t see what he couldn’t see some playing time around the All-Star break if Michael Bourn is struggling to stay healthy.

There’s still plenty of time to add talent, but the pool is considerably smaller than it was just a week ago. The Indians are going to need to spend money if they want to compete, especially in an AL Central that has bulked up considerably. With less than 70 days until pitchers and catchers report, the next 2-3 weeks are going to be very telling of what the front office is planning over the course of the rest of the off season.

That’s all for this week.

Go Tribe!

Cleveland Indians: Corey Kluber vs. Felix Hernandez for AL Cy Young

Major League Baseball is in the midst of handing out their regular season awards and several Cleveland Indians are either award recipients or potential recipients. The two big announcements come today (11/12) and tomorrow (11/13) with the Cy Young and MVP, respectively. The Indians have a horse in each race in Corey Kluber (AL Cy Young) and Michael Brantley (AL MVP). Before looking ahead, here is a look at some of the other major award winners.

Rookie of the Year

American League – Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox

National League – Jacob deGrom, New York Mets

Manager of the Year

American League – Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles

National League – Matt Williams, Washington Nationals

Unsurprisingly, no Cleveland Indian won a Gold Glove or Defensive Player of the Year award, although a case could’ve been made for Michael Brantley (.996 fielding percentage with only 1 error, 2 double plays, 12 assists and 271 putouts in 1304.1 innings of work in the outfield). Speaking of Brantley, he and Yan Gomes were given American League Silver Slugger Awards, which honors the games top hitters and is decided by votes compiled from MLB coaches and managers. Brantley finished the year batting .327 and had an OBP of .385. He hit 20 home runs, had 97 RBI, scored 94 runs and had an even 200 hits. Gomes hit .278 with a .313 OBP while hitting 21 home runs to go along with 74 RBI and 61 runs scored on 135 hits.

Looking ahead, tonight we will find out who will win the Cy Young award. In the National League Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto as well as Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals will more than likely finish as runners up to Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, who was undoubtedly the best pitcher in baseball for the entire 2014 season. Over in the American League Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox), Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners) and Corey Kluber are in a much tighter race, with many feeling it’s between Hernandez and Kluber. To completely rule Sale (12-4, 2.17 ERA, 174 IP) out of the race isn’t fair, but both Kluber and Hernandez have the fuller body of work (mostly due to an injury Sale suffered to start the year). However, assuming the experts are correct, this race is between Kluber and “King Felix”. While it shouldn’t factor in, Hernandez has the more impressive resume with five All-Star appearances, twice the American League ERA leader (including this season) and one Cy Young already (2010). But don’t dismiss Kluber, who can be considered an AL All-Star snub, was tied for most wins among AL pitchers this season and finished near the top in most statistical categories. If you look at this race by the numbers it’s very tight, and a slight edge might go to Hernandez depending on what you place your values on. Kluber was 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP. In 235.2 innings of work he struck out 269 batters, walked just 51, allowed 64 earned runs (74 total runs), and a K/9 ratio of 10.27 while the opposition had a batting average of just .233 against him. He also had three complete games and one shutout. Hernandez numbers read as follows: a 15-6 record with a 2.14 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP. In 236 innings he struck out 248 batters, walked 46 while giving up 56 earned runs (68 total runs allowed) with a K/9 ratio of 9.46. The opposition hit an even .200 against him, however he never had a complete game or a shutout. He also gave up two more home runs than Kluber (16 vs. 14). A voter putting more emphasis on wins and losses will likely vote for Kluber, whereas a voter placing more emphasis on numbers like ERA will likely be inclined to vote for Hernandez. The two aces were also almost identical in team run support, with Hernandez getting an average of 4.29 runs per start and Kluber getting an average of 4.35 runs per start. If you want to look at Sabermetrics their numbers are still similar, with Kluber edging out Hernandez in WAR (wins above replacement) 7.39 to 6.75.

Both Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber were dominant in 2014.
Both Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber were dominant in 2014.

So is there anything that can definitively set somebody apart in this race? Perhaps, yes.

The Cleveland Indians defense during the 2014 season was horrendous. They finished with a .981 fielding percentage while committing 116 errors. Both of these numbers were the worst in baseball last year. Conversely, the Seattle Mariners had a .986 fielding percentage (3rd) and committed just 82 errors (2nd). It isn’t unfathomable to think that with even an average defense behind him, Kluber may have had another win or two and more than likely would’ve had a lower ERA. Put a top of the league defense (or at least a defense that committed as few errors as Seattle did) behind Kluber and his ERA, WHIP, and opposition batting average probably much closer resembles that of Felix Hernandez. If you subscribed to Sabermetrics stats then maybe Kluber (with a higher WAR than Hernandez) may have even had better numbers than Felix with Seattle’s defense. That’s all, of course, speculation. What isn’t speculation is this. Kluber was slightly more dominate later in the season (August, September and October) when both teams were in playoff contention. During this time Kluber was 7-3 with a 2.10 ERA in 77.1 innings of work while Hernandez was 4-3 with a 2.44 ERA in 70.2 innings.

Despite the defensive factors, there isn’t really a clear winner in this race. As much as Corey Kluber deserves to be the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, so does Felix Hernandez. Personally, my vote would go to Kluber. While he does have a slightly higher ERA he has a better K/9 ratio and more strikeouts overall, more wins (which, admittedly, aren’t all due to a starting pitcher) and a higher WAR.

Come back tomorrow as we discuss the AL MVP race between Mike Trout, Victor Martinez and Michael Brantley.

MLB Post-Season: A Week of Entertainment and Surprises

One week into the MLB post-season and things are starting to shape up as to who will be advancing and who will be waiting for next year. The 12 games so far have for the most part been exciting games. We have seen a little bit of everything; offense, defense, pitching, questionable umpire calls and questionable instant replay calls.

A week ago we were getting ready for the Wild Card games and while both games looked like good match-ups, the AL game between the Royals and the Athletics looked like the one to watch, mainly because of the starting pitchers. James Shields was obtained by the Royals two years ago simply for this type of situation…lead the team to the post-season and be there in a must win game. Likewise the Athletics obtained Jon Lester from the Red Sox at the July 31 non-waiver deadline to bolster an already strong pitching staff and he had a great post-season record. The game was everything we expected with one exception.

We thought that the game would be low scoring and would turn on a minor mistake or on a great play. The game looked like it was over when the Athletics led 7-3, but then the Royals running game got going. The running game was clearly helped by the injury to A’s catcher Geovany Soto early in the game as his replacement Derek Norris doesn’t handle the running game anywhere near as well as Soto. The A’s then went ahead in extra innings and again it looked like the Royals were done. Then that speed took over again, giving the Royals a milestone win and a date with the MLB regular season best Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

As for the Athletics, it now appears certain that they overplayed their hand in trading Yoenis Cespedes in the Lester deal. It was a gamble, designed to win this year and it backfired. If they don’t resign Lester it will be a huge setback for them or at the very least a huge missed opportunity.

I expected a good game in the NL Wild Card game as the Giants travelled to Pittsburgh. I thought the teams were pretty even and figured that home field would be the difference. Instead, the difference was a grand slam that put the first four runs of the game on the board and essentially it was over at that point. All that was left to find out was the final score and how dominating Madison Bumgarner would be for the rest of the game.

If we thought those games were good, we were just getting warmed up. The four Divisional Series have been entertaining games/series as well, complete with a few surprises.

The two AL series are over in the minimum three games. I did not expect to see the Royals and the Orioles come out winners and did not expect these series to be over in three games. The Tigers, with their three Cy Young winning starting pitchers appeared, on paper, to have it all over the Orioles, despite the fact that the Orioles won their division going away and the Tigers had to wait until game 162 to clinch the AL Central. The major Tiger weakness was known to be their bullpen, specifically the back end of the bullpen and the Orioles wasted no time exploiting that weakness. The Tigers find themselves in an awkward position. They are committed to several expensive players for next year, they have to spend money on the bullpen and they are not getting any younger.

In fact, the Tigers regressed this year, despite their fourth straight AL Central title. They were challenged by the Royals and by the Indians to some extent and they did not make it to the ALCS/WS for the first time in four years. Mike Ilitch and Dave Dombrowski may be looking to re-think their approach as the window appears to be closing. They have some serious decisions to make. Max Scherzer has given indications that he may not want to stay. Justin Verlander is not the same Justin Verlander he was two years ago. Whether David Price is/wants to be the long term answer has yet to be decided. In a series dominated by the Orioles, not only did the Orioles starting three outduel the Cy Young winners, of those Cy Young winners only Price was as advertised. Verlander and Scherzer didn’t pitch well enough or deep enough in their respective starts to justify their previous “stud’ reputations.

Kansas City proved the comeback against the A’s was no fluke. For two games in Anaheim they hung in until the 11th and then got going. Their series clinching win at home on Sunday night was extremely well done. Three consecutive extra inning wins is living a tad dangerously, but great for the fans.

Orioles-Royals is going to be an interesting, enjoyable and extremely refreshing ALCS.

If the AL has been exciting because of the “upsets” and sweeps, then the NL has been exciting because of the types of games we have seen in games one and two of both series.

The Giants had momentum from the Pittsburgh game and it carried over into the first two games in Washington. Two one run games were the result, but achieved in very different fashions. The Giants experience showed in game one as they jumped out to a 3-0 and then held on. Game two will go down as a classic post-season game. Jordan Zimmerman was masterful for 8 2/3 innings and it looked like one run would be enough to win it and the Nationals already had that run. Tim Hudson matched Zimmerman almost pitch for pitch and left the game trailing 1-0, but deserving better. With two outs in the Giants ninth, we may have seen the first of three turning points in the game.

Through my lens, Matt Williams over managed. He took Zimmerman out while he appeared to be cruising. Whether Zimmerman was on a short leash in the ninth we will never know and if he was, we will never know whether he knew it or not. Williams, not only a rookie post-season manager, but a rookie big league skipper period made the decision. The two-out walk represented the tying run and it may well have been that Williams felt he was protecting his pitcher by removing him, feeling that he didn’t want Zimmerman taking the loss in a game he had pitched so magnificently. That was a possibility if the next hitter he faced had homered or eventually come round to score. Drew Storen didn’t come through for the Nationals and the tying run scored on a typical Giants two out bottom of the ninth rally. I truly believe that Buster Posey was safe in his slide at the plate, but he was called out, thereby negating a second Giants run, which if it had been allowed, would have been the winner. The Home Plate umpire had a good view of the play and I believe he got it wrong. After seeing the numerous angles on the replay I was sure Posey was safe. The MLB umpires in New York didn’t agree with me and backed their colleague. While the Giants may have been cheated, baseball fans got a treat. Another nine innings of great baseball, that wasn’t settled until Brandon Belt’s second deck homer in the top of the 18th.

What a great name for a hitter who decides a game in that manner. While the Nationals obviously have the talent to come back in the series, you have to think that their confidence took a huge hit with that 18 inning loss.

Friday’s opening game in the Dodger-Cardinal series was even more of a shock. Not because of the result, but the way in which the game unfolded. I expected a 1-0 or 2-1 game, and was ready to sit back and watch Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright; two of the best pitchers in the game match up. What we got was hardly what we expected. Kershaw gave up eight earned runs and Wainwright was gone after four and a third innings. Hardly the stuff that top of the rotation starters are made of. The Dodgers evening the series in game two was not a surprise. Most of us would have expected that series to be a four or five game series. If you’re not partial to either team, sit back and enjoy, because that will be a great two out of three series.

The post-season is baseball’s most exciting event, with perhaps opening day being the only other event even being close. To have seen the number of terrific games we have seen so far is amazing and to think we are only through one week of post season play. If the first week is the barometer to which we will compare the balance of the games, there is no question we are in for a great run.

The Race to Play Baseball in October Heats Up

As someone old enough to remember two ten team leagues, with ten man pitching staffs, no designated hitters, without divisions and only the two pennant winners advancing beyond the regular season, I consider myself a traditionalist as far as baseball is concerned. Having said that, while the current format of interleague play has put a damper on that tradition, I must admit that I am enjoying the numerous races for the ten post-season spots in 2014.

With a week to go we know that the Angels, Orioles, Cardinals and Nationals will win their divisions, even though not all of them have mathematically eliminated their closest competitors. We also know that the AL Central is down to a two team race between the Tigers and the Royals and that the outcome of the Dodger-Giant series in Dodger Stadium Monday through Wednesday will settle the NL West. The Giants series in San Diego didn’t do anything to help their chances. Perhaps they were looking to the Dodger series? The Wild Card races add some additional interest as no team wants to be a wild card team and risk being eliminated in a one game showdown and if the worst comes to the worst and a team has to enter the post-season via the wild card, they want to be sure to get the home field advantage for that Wild Card game.

In the American League, of the teams still mathematically still alive, it would seem that only Seattle has a chance to secure a Wild Card spot and to do that they will have to make up two games on both the Athletics and the Royals, the teams currently holding down those Wild Card spots. The Royals didn’t help themselves this past weekend. Trailing the Tigers by a half game going into their weekend series, the Royals had the Tigers where they wanted them. A half game down, with three games in the Royals park. They didn’t respond. They were blown out Friday night and as a result of one bad inning on Saturday they suddenly found themselves two and a half games out. Their win Sunday kept them in the race and coupled with a Detroit loss and a Royals win on Monday night, all of a sudden it gets interesting again. The Tigers are at home for the balance of the schedule (White Sox and Twins) while the Royals are on the road this week (Cleveland and Chicago White Sox).

Oakland had the best record in MLB at the All-Star break, but their play since the break, coupled with the Angels surge over the same period has put the Athletics in a spot where they could still miss the post-season. If they do, they will become the first team since divisional play was introduced in 1969 to have the game’s best record at the All-Star break and then not make the post-season. A record they will not want to hold.

The National League Wild Card race became clearer over the weekend as a result of the Mets trip to Atlanta, which eliminated the Braves and resulted in GM Frank Wren being let go. The Giants and the Pirates seem to have the inside track there unless the Giants somehow manage to sweep the Dodgers and get back in the NL West race. The Brewers find themselves in the same boat as the Athletics. Humming along at the All-Star break only to play less than stellar baseball in late July and through August and now find themselves in the unenviable position of having to make up five games between Tuesday and Sunday’s regular season finale.

Once again, we are seeing the Cardinals come to the table when it matters most, August and September. They were without Yadier Molina for almost two months in the summer time and he was missed. Not only did they get him back for the stretch run, they got him back rested, which can only be an advantage the deeper the Redbirds go in the post-season. Getting Molina back was better than any trade the Cardinals could have made to shore up their team for the stretch run. The only weakness the Cardinals have right now is their bullpen. Trevor Rosenthal was counted on to be their lights out closer after his success in 2013, but he has been spotty to say the least and that may still come back to burn them in the post-season, where games are typically close. The Pirates have been playing at a steady clip for the past month and especially since the return of Andrew McCutchen from injury.  I hope Pittsburgh gets in, if only to watch a game or two from beautiful PNC Park.

The Orioles have had a magnificent season, albeit in an AL East that is weaker than it has been in 20 years but I wonder about the Orioles pitching in the post-season, because it isn’t that strong and they will be facing an ace or someone close to an ace every night.  There will be no easy nights against a fifth starter.  Funny, thirty years ago we would have never said we were concerned about the Orioles pitching. The Angels have been in high gear for two months now and they have pitching issues as well, so they also may have to rely on their bats to get them through.

Just as interesting as the races though is the number of possibilities that still exist in terms of possible World Series match ups between geographic rivals. We still have the possibility of Dodgers-Angels, Giants-Athletics, Cardinals-Royals, Nationals-Orioles, Dodgers-Athletics, Giants-Angels to think about.

Thanks to television, the season goes on too long, just like every other major sport. Also just like every other sport, baseball plays what should be its most watched games at a time of year that really isn’t in weather conducive to the sport. We won’t ever see that change, because no professional sport can survive today without the almighty dollar from TV. Before the 1970’s World Series games were in the afternoon and most kids didn’t get to see some of the games because they were at school. Now the games are at night, but they start so late, school kids don’t get to see the entire game. I wish there was a way to get the season over earlier, play the post-season games in daylight and let the fans of tomorrow enjoy the game today. I can wish, but that’s likely about all I can do about it.

Why Can't a Pitcher Win the MVP?

Thursday night I stayed up to watch Tyson Ross and Clayton Kershaw duel as the Padres finished a three-game series with the Dodgers. Getting to see such a good game was reward enough for me but as I turned off the television and rolled over to go to sleep, I couldn’t help but think I had seen more than that.

Before I begin, the point needs to be made that the greatest part about the game was that it took just two hours and twenty-three minutes to complete eight and a half innings (bottom of the ninth unnecessary because the home team won) of baseball. The ‘pace of the game’ is apparently something MLB and newly-elected Commissioner Rob Manfred will try to address in the near future. Although I whole-heartedly agree that games are taking far too long on average, I think micromanagement such as monitoring each hitter’s time spent outside the batters’ box is not the way to go about speeding up. This however, is the subject for another column and so I’ll get back to my point.

Dayn Perry wrote an interesting piece on pitching dominance a little over a week ago and though I was already aware how tremendous Kershaw is, the chart toward the bottom of the page made my jaw drop. On Thursday, Kershaw went eight innings, giving up just one run on three hits and two walks while striking out ten. That means he registered another ‘Dominant Start’ and brought his DS% just above 38 (8 of his 21 starts being ‘dominant’ as Perry describes). As good as he was Ross was even better through seven innings. He also went eight, refusing to surrender any runs until a Carl Crawford leadoff single and a Justin Turner homer gave the Dodgers the 2-1 lead in his last inning of work.

Watching the game unfold, I found myself wondering how some people can be naïve enough to discount the impact a phenomenal pitcher can have on a team. Sure, Kershaw won’t take the mound again until next Wednesday because the Dodgers have Monday off but his eight innings last night were huge.

Not only did Kershaw’s performance notch the Dodgers a home-series sweep against an opponent within the division, it also prevented the bullpen from overuse. Manager Don Mattingly had seen his starting pitchers go just five innings each of the past two days, meaning he had to rely on his bullpen to register twelve of the required twenty seven outs on consecutive days. This is the sort of thing you want to avoid making a habit of, no matter how well your relievers are pitching.

Mattingly might have let Kershaw go out for the ninth had closer Kenley Jansen been used at all the past weekend. Being swept by the Brewers before welcoming the Padres to town meant that prior to Tuesday, Jansen had not pitched since last Thursday in Atlanta.

Had the Dodgers not grabbed the lead on the Turner homer, Kershaw likely would have gone out to pitch the ninth too. His pitch count (if you put stock in such numbers) sat at 103, giving Mattingly more than enough wiggle room to justify sending his ace out to finish what he started. Instead the skipper, with a one-run lead, chose to use Andre Ethier as a pinch-hitter when the pitcher’s spot came up, in a vain attempt to add some insurance.

This is not to say I think Mattingly made a poor choice. I agree with his call to go with his closer, after all that’s what they’re there for. But in going eight and setting himself up to even go nine, Kershaw gave Mattingly a tough choice that any manager on any team would love to have to make.

The way in which the Dodgers won the game will certainly give them a boost going forward too. How good it must feel for the Dodgers to know that every five days, with Kershaw on the mound, they only need to get a couple runs and play sound defense. In a long roller-coaster type season, Kershaw’s track record must give his teammates a welcomed sense of clam at least once a week.

So now I’m asking: why is it that pitchers aren’t supposed to win the Most Valuable Player award?

If your defense is that pitchers already have the Cy Young Award and therefore a hitter should always win MVP, then you need to familiarize yourself with the Silver Slugger Award, given to the best hitter at each position in both leagues. This means that each season there are a combined seventeen Silver Sluggers which are given exclusively to hitters (yes, they do give an undeserving National League pitcher one every year as well). Meanwhile pitchers have only four honors to pursue, and that’s if you include the Rolaids Relief Man Awards for each league.

Maybe you don’t think a guy who plays every fifth day has much of an effect on those other four days. First of all, the impact a starter has on the day he pitches is absolute. If he pitches poorly, it’s going to be tough to get a win that day. If he’s on his game, it’ll be much easier. Secondly, a starting pitching performance often does have a lasting effect until the next time that pitcher takes the mound. For example, the Dodgers’ bullpen is now fully rested as the Mets come to town for the weekend. Lastly, any pitcher we’re even remotely considering for MVP would be dominating opposing lineups much like Kershaw has been this season, not going the minimum five innings to scratch out wins.

Maybe you just don’t like pitchers. Maybe you’re the type who would rather see a 10-8 slugfest than the pitchers’ duel that Ross and Kershaw engaged in on Thursday night. Well, when runs are continually scored, there’s a mound visit every inning and the outfield grass wears thin from trotting relievers, the games take much longer. If MLB wants to speed up the game they should start saying, “chicks dig the strikeout,” because good pitching beats good hitting more times than not, and nobody wants to spend a quarter of their daily time awake watching bad baseball.