Tag Archives: New York Yankees

It’s Playoff Time

The Kansas City Royals finished the regular season with an American League best 95-67 record. They won the Central division for the first time and will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The fans shattered the all-time attendance record and took over the All Star Game. This has to be considered one of the greatest regular seasons in franchise history. But as of today, none of that matters one bit.

The playoff run will begin this Thursday when the Royals take on the winner of the Wild Card game. That game will feature the Houston Astros traveling to take on the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium. Experts and fans will go back and forth on who the Royals would prefer to face in the ALDS, and either side has great points. I do not believe that the Royals themselves care one bit who they play. That is not because the Royals believe they are so much better than either team because they are just the WC team while the Royals have the best record. I don’t think the Royals care because they have seen what a WC team can do first hand and will take them seriously.

The Royals have seen what happens when teams don’t take you seriously. They came into the 2014 playoffs as the team every fan base was hoping to play. I remember getting tweets from Baltimore Orioles fans during the ALDS, telling me how much they’d rather play the Royals. They thought the Royals were like Cinderella, and when midnight struck they’d turn back into the old Royals. Before they had time to realize how wrong they were the Royals were celebrating in the middle of the field after sweeping them. The only team that took the Royals seriously was the San Francisco Giants because they were a WC team themselves.

Last season Royals fans just wanted to make it into the post season. We celebrated getting into the Wild Card like we’d won the World Series. Then before that game all anyone cared about was winning just that one game. We wanted to win that one game so we could then play actual October playoff baseball. Once the Royals won that game, any after that was playing with house money and fans would have been happy with anything.

This year fans are expecting a deep playoff run before a game is even played. I should clarify that when I say expecting I don’t mean it in the terms of the season was a waste or people should be fired if the Royals don’t win the World Series. This is still the Royals, and after thirty years of never sniffing the playoffs, most Royals fans would still look at this season as a success no matter how far we go in the playoffs. But that doesn’t change the fact that after getting to the seventh game of the World Series last year, the Royals and their fans have a nasty taste in their mouth. The only way to get rid of that specific taste is by replacing it with the sweet taste of victory that only comes with winning the World Series.

The road to that World Series starts Thursday in Kansas City. If anyone would like to try to take that series from us, they will have to come into Kansas City and take it. For those who want to try, myself and 40,000 of my closest friends have just one thing to say, bring it on!

The Keys to Winning the MLB Wild Card Game

Tonight marks the beginning of the 2015 MLB playoffs and the fourth year of the Wild Card games. The postseason kicks off with the A.L. Wild Card game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees. Last year’s postseason opener, Athletics vs. Royals, was arguably the best game of the playoffs, ending with a walk-off win for the Royals with two outs in the bottom of the 12th inning. This year’s N.L. Wild Card game, featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates (for the third year in a row) and the Chicago Cubs, will be played tomorrow night.

 
As game time approaches, teams are looking for any bit of data that can give them an edge. They are studying film and searching for any stat patterns of previous winners, hoping to find the sources of success.

 
After doing my own extensive research (somewhat extensive, I mean, only six MLB Wild Card games have ever been played), I found a few consistencies between the past victors. Granted, these stats may not lead to success this year because baseball is a nearly impossible game to predict, the sample size is still very small, the teams and players are different this year, and the evidence I used isn’t overwhelming, but I did the best that I could with what I have and if you remember from earlier in this sentence—baseball is a nearly impossible game to predict. Anyway, here are the keys to winning the MLB Wild Card games.

 
Score first – Teams that score first are 4-2. Now, I realize that this doesn’t exactly represent a large majority, so I’ll amend the key slightly: score early. The two winning teams that didn’t score first had taken a lead by inning 3 (Royals) and inning 4 (Cardinals). And to be fair, the Royals only didn’t score first because they were at home so they batted in the bottom of the 1st inning, at which point they scored.

 
Hold the lead after 5 innings – In the same vein as the first key, taking an early lead has been paramount to winning. In the vast history of the Wild Card game, teams are undefeated (6-0) when holding a lead at the end of the 5th inning. While the 2014 Royals proceeded to blow their lead before staging a late comeback, they were still ahead at the end of five.

 
Play better defense than your foe – Five of the six winning teams committed the same number or fewer errors than their opponents. The only exception was the Giants team of last season. As you may recall, they had a guy named Madison Bumgarner on the mound that day and he was pretty good in the postseason last year. More than capable of making up for his defense’s errors, he still pitched a complete game shutout.

Your starting pitcher needs to be solid, but not necessarily spectacular – Teams are 6-1 when their starting pitcher finishes with five or more innings pitched while allowing four or fewer runs. The one losing team was the Rangers.  In their game, Yu Darvish gave up three runs over 6 1/3 innings but was out dueled in a 5-1 loss.
This should take some of the pressure off the starters of these games. Considering that teams are starting their number one guy, four runs over five innings really isn’t asking for much.

 

Run –   Even if you aren’t a great base-stealing team, run at least once. Teams are 2-0 when they steal at least one base. The only other team to attempt a steal (albeit unsuccessful) was also victorious. So take chances. That steal of second may just set up a two out run-scoring hit that extends your team’s season.

 

Be clutch –   Teams with more hits with runners in scoring position are 4-0. The postseason comes down to execution in pressure spots. The team with more timely hits will typically earn the win.

 
Put the ball in play –   Teams with fewer strikeouts (batting) are 4-2. Make contact and anything can happen. One error can prove costly, but that won’t happen if batters are striking out. Listen to your Little League coach: choke up, shorten your swing, and make contact.   Or…

 

Swing for the fences –   Different strokes, right? Teams that hit more homeruns than their opponents are 3-1. If your team struggles to make consistent contact, be sure that every batter’s contact counts.

 

If you have a lefty, start him –   Left-handed starting pitchers are 3-1. This is good news for the Astros and bad news for everyone else. Maybe the Cubs should think about starting Jon Lester instead of Jake Arrieta. Wait. Arrieta has only allowed four earned runs in the past 2+ months? Never mind.

 

The bullpen must flourish –   Teams are just 1-4 when their bullpen allows more than 1 run. This is a tall order. No doubt. The responsibility falls on both the manager to find the appropriate matchups and the pitchers to come through when called upon.

 
Chances are that I will be correct about half these keys and incorrect about the others, just like with my game picks. Speaking of which, I’m going with the teams of the guys that should be the two Cy Young Award winners: Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel.

 
Astros over Yankees
Cubs over Pirates

 

 

What do you think? Follow Jared on Twitter (@JaredAndrews3) and leave a comment! Make sure to like More Than a Fan on Facebook!

Critical Mass: The Indians Playoff Fate Will be Decided This Week

Approximately 10 days ago, the Indians were just 4.5 games back from the second wildcard spot held by Texas. In front of them were the Los Angeles Angels and Minnesota Twins.

Today, the Indians remain 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot held by Houston. In front of them are the Minnesota Twins and the Los Angeles Angels.

In 10 days and 9 games, the Indians haven’t made up any ground and the Twins and Angels have effectively traded places.

Such is baseball I guess.

Two of the four games against the Tigers were postponed and the Indians split the Sunday doubleheader with Detroit. The Indians then split their four game series with the Royals 2-2 and followed that up with a series win against Chicago winning 2 games and dropping just 1.

After an off day on yesterday, the Indians begin a critical three game set at Minnesota which could decide if the Indians are in or out by the week’s end. Houston continues its series with Los Angeles and, as much as it pains me to say it, the Indians need Houston to sweep the Angels. In doing so (accompanied by an Indians sweep of the Twins), the Indians and Angels will swap places and effectively turn the run for the second wildcard into a two man race: Astros vs Indians.

After the Astros play Los Angeles, they play a critical series against Texas. In this series, it is important that the Indians hedge their bets on Texas. The Indians have 0 stake in the AL West. Therefore, it makes sense for the Indians to root for any team that knocks teams ahead of them out of the wildcard.

In this case, that means Texas.

If Texas can pull through and sweep (or take 2/3) from the Astros (combined with a favorable outcome between the Indians and Royals), Cleveland may enter the final week of the season either in the second place wildcard spot or battling tooth and nail for it with the Astros.

The latter scenario is predicated upon the idea that the Indians do what is necessary when it is necessary. Unfortunately, especially this season, that has not really been the case.

On to more interesting talk though: the 2015 AL Rookie of the Year race:

Several weeks ago, the race looked to be all but locked up with Astros rookie shortstop Carlos Correa. A recent push by Francisco Lindor (at the plate) has made things much more interesting. Correa maintains a slugging percentage north of .500 and currently boasts 19 HRs and 12 SBs in 88 games. Lindor is holding steady with an OBP of just over .350 with a batting average higher than .300. Throw that on top of his gold-glove worthy defensive play at shortstop, and it becomes clear why Lindor remains neck and neck with Correa. Correa is a decent player defensively, but he is nowhere near the level of Francisco Lindor. If Francisco Lindor can continue to hit the ball at the clip he is at currently, it will come down to the last at-bats of the season to decide who wins the Al ROY award.

The next 6 games of baseball, for the Astros, Indians, and Angels, are critical. Depending on how things play out, the Indians could be in a neck and neck race for the second wildcard position or sitting 6+ games out of the second spot.

It’s all a matter of time. The focus should be on the game at-hand. Looking ahead could cause critical missteps that could endanger the run the Indians are on. Tito has had the boys here before (2013). If he can maintain their focus and keep them loose, I sincerely believe they can make a run for the 1 game playoff at New York. The problem becomes the position they’ve placed themselves in by not winning enough earlier – having to rely on others (namely Texas) to come through.

In one week, I will be able to tell you where we stand.

Hopefully I bring good tidings.

ML “what would” B: What if Babe Ruth Wasn’t Sold to the Yankees?

Hey baseball fans!

After a brief hiatus, I’m back with another ML“what would”B! In case you don’t remember, the ML“what would”B explores the “what ifs” of baseball history, the alternative side to something that already occurred. In this edition, I will be writing about arguably the most asked question in baseball history: what if Babe Ruth wasn’t sold to the Yankees? Let’s get started.

By the end of the 1919 season, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee is fed up with Babe Ruth’s partying lifestyle and threatens to sell him to the Yankees, but Babe refuses to leave Boston. Because of this, Frazee has to make a deal with the slugger: he can stay in Beantown if he agrees to switch back to being a full-time pitcher. Babe happily agrees to this and starts the 1920 season as a member of the Red Sox as a pitcher. Ruth does wonderfully in ’20, going 22-10 with an ERA just below two, but the Sox finish 20 games back of the first place Indians. All is the same for the next three years; from 1921-1923, Ruth puts up phenomenal numbers, totaling 70 wins, but the rest of the Red Sox don’t do well and watch the Yankees win their first pennant and World Series in 1923 in front of their home fans at Yankee Stadium, also known as the “House That the Bronx Built.”

Buy Matt Nadel’s Book “Amazing Aaron to Zero Zippers: An Introduction to Baseball History”    {Read Josh Flagner’s Review}

By the winter of 1923, Ruth is done with all the losing, so he requests a trade to the Washington Senators. Considering Ruth is such a great pitcher, the Sox need to trade him for someone of equal value. So, they propose the following trade: Babe Ruth for Walter Johnson! Wow! Two Hall of Famers of the first class in 1936 in one transaction! Anyway, Washington agrees with the trade and Johnson packs his bags for Fenway for one last chance at a World Series ring. Walter has a Renaissance year in 1924, winning 30 games with an ERA of 1.86 with 210 strikeouts. Those stats lead the league, thus making him the pitching Triple Crown winner of 1924 and surprisingly, the Red Sox also lead the league in wins with 93, one game ahead of Ruth’s Senators! Boston beats the New York Giants in a World Series sweep for Johnson’s first title and Boston’s first since 1918.

1925 rolls around and the Sox are still great, but Babe Ruth and the Washington Senators are even better, winning the American League pennant on the back of a 31-win season by Ruth. In the Fall Classic, the AL champs barely squeak out a seven-game Series win over the Pittsburgh Pirates for their first title in franchise history. But the euphoria in Washington would stop after one season, as a new superpower in the American League emerges, the Yankees! After winning the 1926 World Series on the back of a young man named Lou Gehrig, the 1927 Yankees obliterate the junior circuit, with the Iron Horse hitting a then-record 47 home runs and driving in 210 runs, a record that still stands today! They eventually win the ’27 World Series in a sweep of the Pirates, as Ruth watches Gehrig in awe and dreams about what could have happened had he agreed to go to New York before the 1920 season. Well, the Bambino can only dream, here in the ML“what would”B.

The Yankees Get One Right, Finally

In the long history of the New York Yankees, they’ve done some things right.  They’ve won 27 World Championships, for starters, even if the beginnings of their Championship-winning ways came about because Colonel Jacob Ruppert held former Red Sox owner Harry Frazee up at gunpoint to acquire the Greatest Player in the History of the Game, Babe Ruth.  They’ve also been the home to some of the game’s other greats, to say nothing of George Steinbrenner made so many great decisions, along with a litany of foibles that entertained the masses.  Then of course, the Yankees are also the only MLB franchise to ever blow a 3-0 series in a best-of-7 format.  The fact that said collapse directly led to the Boston Red Sox ending their 86 year title drought only made it all the sweeter.

Continue reading The Yankees Get One Right, Finally

Cleveland Indians Weekly: A Lot of talk, not a lot of movement

 

It’s been a pretty big week for player movement in the MLB thus far

The deal involving the Oakland A’s and Toronto Blue Jays was the centerpiece of this week’s marketplace.

In exchange for 3B Josh Donaldson, the A’s received 2B/3B Brett Lawrie and three minor-leaguers (High-A Pitchers Sean Nolin and Kendall Graveman & teenage shortstop Franklin Barreto).

In my opinion, this signals that the A’s are entering a period of rebuilding even though Billy Beane hasn’t overtly made that decision known to the general public. Donaldson has a WAR north of 7.4 the past two seasons and is one of the best players in the game today. In a world where he has to compete with the likes of Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera, his true influence is left nearly unnoticed.

From the Blue Jays side of the equation, there are a few things that are clear:

1. They think they have what it takes to compete AND win the A.L. East in 2015

2. The power moves by the Boston Red Sox (signing Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez) signaled a “Power” arms race in the N.L. and the other four teams had a very short time to decide if they wanted to jump in. Clearly New York is nowhere near the point where it can hope to compete  in 2015. Their superstar hung up his cleats for good, it’s rotation is unproven and its infield is decimated from just a few years ago. The Orioles are seeing some of their rising stars hit free agency and take the opportunity to test the market (See: Nick Markakis), but they retain many of the pieces that helped them win the division by 10+ games in 2014. Finally, the Rays have lost skipper Joe Maddon to Chicago and unless everything comes together in 2015, I just don’t see them even competing through the All-Star break.

Some minor rumblings…

There were some other smaller moves around the league and the Indians have been linked to the likes of free agent and former SEA 1B/DH Kendrys Morales and NYY 3B Chase Headley. Whether anything happens with those players, it’s too early to know. Considering we already have Carlos Santana, I guess I don’t see the point in being linked to Morales unless the thinking is that he and Carlos would split 1B/DH duties. As for Headley, we’ve basically moved away from that deal, but it’s interesting that were looking at a 3B when we have Lonnie Chisenhall. While some people think Chisenhall had this crazy good season, he honestly didn’t. He came out smoking into June and then just deflated. His slash line at the end of the season was .280/.343/.427. Above average, but nothing to write extensively about, in my opinion. If that slugging percentage goes up by oh, I don’t know, 50-60 points and his SO/W ration comes down from 3, then we can talk.

In the same breath, we can also say that FA and former Tribe ace Justin Masterson is garnering interest from every team in the AL Central in addition to a handful of other teams in the AL and NL East & NL Central. Again, WAY to early to tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team pull the trigger on him around the time of the winter meetings or a little before.

The real talk…

Has been around what to do with Nick Swisher. Nick’s contract has about $30 million left on it and, after last year, many are speculating that the Indians front office is shopping his contract around to see what they can get for him. I’ve never been a “fan” of Swisher per se. Last year was definitely a blip on the radar. Swisher has never played as badly (or as few games) as he did last season. The front office must see it as the beginning of his post-prime regression. I would give him one more year. If he had played a full season, I guarantee his numbers would have rebounded somewhat.

If the Indians are looking to unload a contract…

They should look at Michael Bourn. Bourn is in the middle of his 4 year/$48 Million contract and he still has upside that may be appealing to some teams. If the front office could package Bourn and a few prospects (that are not off the table (See: Lindor, Frazier, Naquin, etc) for PHI P Cole Hamels, that could be a smart move. Hamels is owed $90 million through ’18, but he is going to be cheaper than many of the current FA P on the market. The problem with this deal is: The Phillies are an old team. When I say old, I mean OLD. The Phillies want one thing and one thing only: Young talent. We have young talent. We have a lot of it. But the Phillies are going to want our best and brightest, especially after Cole Hamels finished 6th in the NL Cy Young race and delivered a a 3.07 FIP, 3.37 SO/W and 5.0 WAR. I’m thinking they’ll request Lindor and/or Naquin and our front office will laugh all of the way out of their offices and make a joke about old age, dinosaurs, etc (at least I would).

You may have heard…

That the Indians and Red Sox are poking around the idea of a trade involving Yoenis Cespedes for a few of our major-league tested young pitchers (Bauer and Salazar). Don’t believe it for a second. Carrasco, Bauer and Salazar are propped up for Big seasons this year, and the front office is not going to damage what could be the best young rotation in the majors for a 1 year rental on a guy who regressed on a really bad Red Sox team. Mark my words: Cespedes will be dealt by the All-Star Break this year (or earlier). He’s goign to be dealt to a dumb team on the cusp of playoff-relevancy with a lot of young talent to unload. I’m thinking Brewers.

Interested in meeting AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber?

Or MVP finalist Michael Brantley? Check out Tribefest, held January 24th and 25th at Progressive Field. I’ve included the link here. Last year, the area got hammered with bad winter weather and I was unfortunately unable to go, but from what I heard from my friends on Twitter, it was the greatest thing next to opening day. I highly recommend going if you’d like a chance to take a picture with one of your favorite players or get an autograph. Tickets are on sale now and are going quick!

As the weeks progress, I’ll be sure to cover any deals or signings by the Indians. Because this is the downtime for the MLB, I’m going to be doing in-depth profiles of the players who I believe will get the starting nod on Opening Day 2015. I’d like to include snippets of conversations with fans, so, if you have an opinion about starters in 2015, make sure you leave a comment and let’s talk!

I love ya Cleveland. Roll Tribe!

ML – what would – B: What if Mike Trout was drafted by the New York Yankees?

Hey baseball fans!

I know it’s been a long time, but I’m finally back with another ML”what would”B! In case you don’t know, I’m a Yankees fan, so when I found out that the Yankees wanted to draft Mike Trout but couldn’t because of the Angels, I got pretty agitated. But, that’s why I write this series, to solve the “what ifs” of baseball history. With that being said, what if the Yankees drafted Mike Trout?

The Millville Meteor was drafted by the Angels with the 25th pick in the first round of the 2009 MLB Draft, but the Yankees had the 29th pick. So, in order to make this dream a reality, the Angels would have to draft someone else at 25. Let’s say LA takes Paul Goldschmidt, so Trout can go 29th to New York. Perfect. Now that everything is in place, let’s get to the real show.

Both Goldschmidt and Trout are brought up in September of 2010, along with the other September call-ups. They both do very well for their respective teams, but the playoffs go the same way that they go in real life, with the Giants taking care of Texas in the World Series. Pauly and Mikey both make the Opening Day rosters for the start of the 2011 season and both pay huge dividends for their teams. By mid-July, Goldschmidt and Trout are All Stars in Arizona. In fact, Trout even gets to play in the Home Run Derby and actually wins it, beating Robinson Cano and his father with 13 home runs in the final round. The Angels and Yankees are both in first in the AL West and East, respectively, and are slowly pulling ahead in the divisions by the start of August. By the end of the season, Mike and Paul both have 30 homers and bat around .290 each, as the two great rookies get ready for the postseason because the Halos and Bombers tie for the best record in baseball, with 98 wins apiece.

For the second time in three years, LA and New York meet in the ALCS. Trout and Goldschmidt both play well, but the Yankees’ bats are cold. Thus, the Angels advance to their second World Series in franchise history, but they get Freesed by the St. Louis Cardinals, giving them their 11th World Series title. The offseason is one to be excited about, as both Albert Pujols and Price Fielder are up for grabs. With Goldschmidt in Anaheim, the Angels don’t need another first baseman. So, Albert heads to Detroit to help Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers win some championships. “Where does Prince go?” you might ask. Well, he goes to the 2011 NL West champions, the Arizona Diamondbacks, who need a good first baseman considering they don’t have Goldschmidt. Oh, I forgot to answer the question you’re probably thinking of right now: Who wins the 2011 AL Rookie of the Year? Angels DH, Mark Trumbo, who surprisingly hit 35 homers and drove in over 100 runs!

2012 is an action-packed year, as Miguel Cabrera and Albert Pujols battle it out for the Triple Crown. But ultimately, it doesn’t matter because the Yankees prove to be the best team in baseball. Mike Trout has an even better year than in 2011, hitting 32 home runs, while batting .322. The Yanks eventually win the AL East, beat the Tigers in the ALDS and then beat the Angels in the ALCS to advance to the World Series to face the….. Prince Fielder-led Diamondbacks! In a 2001 World Series rematch, 2011 AL Rookie of the Year candidate, Ivan Nova, starts three games and wins all of them, helping New York squeeze out their 28th championship in seven games over the D-Backs. Albert Pujols wins AL MVP and all of the MLB is shocked to hear that Miguel Cabrera wants to be traded because of this! Where does he go to, you ask? Miggy heads to the other team that was interested in Pujols, besides the Angels in real life: the Miami Marlins! Well, looks like Cabrera and Giancarlo Stanton will be tearing up South Beach, here in the ML”what would”B.

Thursday’s Trade Deadline: Baseball Nerds' Christmas in July

Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is a prime example of why the sport is so unique. Trades simply don’t happen as frequently or with nearly as much magnitude in other sports as in baseball.

Four O’clock PM Eastern Standard Time on July 31st is the annual deadline to finalize any non-waiver trades. (To be clear, players can still be swapped if they are passed on by all MLB teams, hence clearing ‘waivers’.) Ultimately the decisions to pull the trigger on deals are telling enough that by the next day fans have a good understanding whether their squad is chasing this year’s pennant or gearing up to make a run next season.

The final hours leading up to the deadline were the most active of any in recent memory with twelve deals being made on Thursday. Each general manager has a plan, some more thorough than others. Those intentions I cannot quite speak to because of extremely limited access. I can, however, speculate as to why certain moves were made while defending those I like and ripping the boneheaded ones.

Let’s start with the Twins stealing away a potential top of the rotation guy in Tommy Milone from the Athletics, giving up only Sam Fuld. Milone is a huge addition for Minnesota. Fuld can play a part in the Oakland outfield equation going forward but Milone might already be the best Twins starter.

There were a few deals made with the present in mind more than the future. Although it may appear one team got the better of a deal, that could very well change as prospects further develop. The Brewers and Mariners also added pieces to their outfields. Milwaukee acquired Gerardo Parra who won’t set the world on fire but is another solid option for the Brew Crew. Seattle upgraded in the form of Chris Denorfia and Austin Jackson via the 3-way David Price deal which they simply piggy-backed on, completely lucking out.

David Price
David Price

Left-handed Red Sox reliever Andrew Miller was dealt to Baltimore. The O’s would have done well to grab a starter but Miller is money out of the ‘pen. The Yankees acquired a good hitter and utility man in Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks who didn’t need him the way they’re playing this summer.

There were plenty of puzzling deals too. As good as the Prado addition was, the Yanks had me seriously scratching my head with the Stephen Drew for Kelly Johnson transaction. This one might be a case of both players needing a fresh start. It’s still odd to see Boston and New York trading with one another just before facing off in a weekend series in Fenway.

I was under the impression that Asdrubal Cabrera would be a building block in the current Cleveland configuration. Apparently I was wrong as he was sent to Washington for Zach Walters. His sudden departure might be the result of wearing out his welcome as I know was the case with the seemingly-indifferent Justin Masterson. The Tribes sent their former Opening Day starter to St. Louis for James Ramsey. That brings us to the Cardinals.

I cannot believe what the Cardinals did on Thursday. Allen Craig and Joe Kelly are heading to Boston in exchange for John Lackey and a prospect. Trading these two guys away shows you how deep the cardinals are at all positions. Craig is a victim of the Oscar Taveras craze and Kelly was just a number in the shuffle of fantastic young pitchers that St. Louis is hoarding.

Lackey has a pretty good track record in the postseason going back to his rookie season in 2002 with the Angels. He pitched and won Game 7 in that Series against San Francisco. Last autumn, after losing Game 3 to the Cardinals, he won Game 6 to again clinch the Series. The dude literally WINS the World Series. The Cards have seen it themselves and apparently decided he’s a guy they want on the mound for their side. He is owed a fair amount of praise, but all those games were in American League parks. Now we’ll see if he can do it in the Senior Circuit.

Jon Lester
Jon Lester

The BoSox dealing away ace Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes to the A’s for Yoenis Cespedes was a blockbuster Thursday morning splash and early sign how exciting deadline day would be. Red Sox GM Ben Cherington is going to look like a genius when he re-signs Lester to a new multi-year deal in the offseaon.

The 3-way cannonball deal that sent David Price to Detroit; Jackson to Seattle; Drew Smyly, Nick Franklin and Willy Adames to Tampa Bay was undoubtedly a direct answer to the Athletics landing Lester. And although the originally reported text from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski to A’s GM Billy Beane about the deal was false it’s still a nice little storyline. Either way, I think it’s cool to see competitors acknowledge each other instead of ‘coach speak’ oozing from everyone who steps in front of a microphone.

Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski with owner Mike Ilitch in background.
Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski with owner Mike Ilitch in background.

Certainly the Tigers strengthened their starting rotation for this postseason but I think the deal was truly made as an insurance policy. Max Scherzer’s contract expires at the end of the season, he’s playing at an incredible level and he is a Scott Boras client. I can easily see him wearing Yankee pinstripes next year. Now that scenario wouldn’t hurt the Tigers nearly as much. The price Detroit had to pay was an everyday centerfielder. Jackson was pulled off the field minutes before the deadline. Sitting in my seat at Comerica Park I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. Never have I been to a game where the starting pitcher and centerfielder don’t finish the game on the same team.

After letting all the ideas marinate in my head I think it’s clear the deadline day winners were the Red Sox and the Braves. Boston made moves for their future, Atlanta acquired for an immediate impact. They picked up the antithesis of every player they have in Emilio Bonifacio. His style of play can really help them going forward. Boston fans should be thrilled though. They’ve now got their corner outfield spots set up for years and a solid middle of the rotation pitcher with a high ceiling.

Boston’s 2014 is looking a lot like their 2012. Of course they won the World Series last year. That’s just something for your baseball brain to snack on going into next season.

For a more in depth look into the Boston Red Sox trade deadline activity check out Matthew Kline’s column.

“If You Ain’t Cheatin’, You Ain’t Tryin’!” More like, “Don’t Be Stupid, Because You’ll Get Caught!”

There is an old sports adage that says, “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’!” While this is used in many sports, it seems most appropriate for Major League Baseball, where “cheating” is as ingrained into the fabric of the game as fighting is in hockey.

 

First and foremost, let me be perfectly clear about what I mean when I refer to “cheating” in baseball. I’m not referring to performance enhancing drugs or steroids. They have no place in the game, no matter what happened from the late 1980’s until about 2005.

 

I’m referring to things like batters who use corked bats or insane amounts of pine tar, players and coaches who make a living of stealing signs, and, finally, pitchers who “doctor” baseballs with foreign objects or any other substance they can literally get their hands on. Teams and players have utilized these three forms of “cheating” for as long as baseball has been played.

 

The doctoring of baseballs by using a foreign substance, has been prominently featured for the past two weeks thanks to New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda.  Wednesday night in Boston, Pineda was ejected from the Yankees game against the Boston Red Sox when it was revealed that he had a large splotch of pine tar on the side of his neck. Pineda was subsequently suspended for 10 games on Friday due to his use of the illegal foreign substance.

 

Pineda isn’t the first pitcher suspended for using illegal substances to doctor the baseball, nor will he be the last. In fact, this is the second consecutive time against the Red Sox that Pineda has been spotted with a dark splotch on his person. The first time occurred on April 10th at Yankee Stadium when a television camera revealed a large dark “substance” on Pineda’s palm. The dark splotch was on his hand for the first four innings before mysteriously disappearing in the 5th inning.

 

When Pineda and manager Joe Girardi were confronted about it after the game, Pineda claimed he smeared dirt on his hand because it was sweaty, and Girardi claimed to be completely unaware of anything on Pineda’s hand. While the weak explanations of Pineda and Girardi met with eye rolls from the media, players in the Red Sox clubhouse sang a different tune. They claimed it was definitely pine tar. In fact, designated hitter David Ortiz said “Everyone [does it]. It’s no big deal.”

 

Since, as David Ortiz pointed out, “it’s no big deal.” what happened between April 10th and April 23rd that the Red Sox decided to act and say something to the umpires about the pine tar? Is it just the typical Yankees versus Red Sox rivalry theatrics? Or is it something else? Personally, I believe while no one will likely admit to this, it comes down to gamesmanship. If Pineda hadn’t blatantly advertised that he was using pine tar, I doubt the Red Sox would have ever said anything, especially since their manager, John Farrell, is a former pitcher, and probably knows a little about adding “something” to the baseball. Instead, since Pineda practically took out a billboard with matinee lights saying “look at me I’m using pine tar” they had no choice but to act.

 

Since “pine tar gate” occurred, I’ve read and heard lots of people say that the rules regarding pine tar use for pitchers need to be changed. They have written that when it’s cold outside and pitchers struggle with gripping the ball, they should be allowed to use pine tar to improve their “grip” because most pitchers do it anyway. The writers also claim that, unlike other substances and objects used to doctor baseballs, pine tar doesn’t make the baseball “move” any more than normal.

 

My only question to that would be, if that were true, then why hasn’t MLB’s Competition Committee moved to change the rule? I mean, it seems logical that if pine tar only enhanced “grip” on the ball, then why wouldn’t they make that change? I’m no expert, but it seems to me that a pitcher who throws a 95-100 mph fastball with a better grip on the ball would enhance the safety of the game over someone who can’t get a good grip.

 

Since they haven’t made this change, it leads me to believe that adding pine tar to a baseball is akin to adding any other “substance” to the balls. In other words, the ball will have additional movement or act “different” than it’s supposed to after leaving the pitchers hand. If that’s not the case, then make the change because why should someone be suspended if everyone else is doing it any way?

 

One final thing, just a bit of advice to Michael Pineda, and any other major league baseball pitchers that are “doctoring” the baseball: Don’t be stupid enough to advertise to everyone in the world that you’re “loading” up the baseball, because, in this age of high definition cameras, we can see everything.

Selig and MLB Strike Out With Michael Pineda Suspension

by Ryan Isley

If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.

New York Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda put this old saying to use, but also forgot that you have to at least make an effort to hide the fact that you are trying. Pineda was suspended for 10 games this week after he was busted for cheating in his start on Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox.

It wasn’t just speculation that Pineda was cheating, either.

Cameras were able to pick up an obvious blotch of pine-tar on Pineda’s neck, forcing Red Sox manager John Farrell to say something to the umpiring crew, leading to Pineda’s ejection and eventual suspension. It was a precarious situation for Farrell, as he had not gone to the crew in Pineda’s prior start against the Red Sox, despite cameras picking up a glob of the substance on Pineda’s hand. While Pineda technically got away with it in that April 10th start, there was no denying that something was suspicious about the substance. When Pineda tried it again on Wednesday, Farrell and the Red Sox had no choice but to alert the crew and have something done.

Pineda deserved to be tossed from that game and he deserved to be suspended. The only problem is that I don’t feel like Commissioner Bud Selig and Major League Baseball did enough in this situation.

If a Major League Baseball player is found guilty of using PEDs, it is an automatic 80-game suspension for the first offense, 162 games for the second offense and banishment from baseball for a third violation. But if a pitcher uses pine-tar or another substance on his hands to help him on the mound, it is only a 10-game suspension?

That is a slap on the wrist, especially for a pitcher. Sure, he will lose the money for those 10 games. But in the case of Pineda, he will likely miss just one start – two starts maximum. That is a complete slap in the face to the integrity of the game that Selig has professed to want to protect.

Well, at least when the lack of integrity of the game threatens to hurt his product.

For as strong of a drug testing program as Major League Baseball has now and for the harsher penalties levied against those who are found guilty of PED use, these things were nowhere to be found in 1998. You know, the summer that Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa “saved” baseball – and subsequently, Selig’s ass.

Selig’s product was faltering because of the 1994 work stoppage that had canceled the World Series and had left a bad taste in the mouth of baseball fans. When McGwire and Sosa started making a run at Roger Maris’ single-season homerun record, Selig and the rest of those in charge at Major League Baseball turned a blind eye to the possibility that there may be something in play more than just two sluggers having a record-breaking season. Of course, McGwire eventually admitted to using steroids and human growth hormone and Sosa has been linked to a positive test for PEDs.

But in 1998, that didn’t matter to Selig. What mattered was that each night, people around the country were glued to their televisions (remember, there wasn’t social media back then) to see if McGwire or Sosa went deep that day. The hottest topic in sports, it started winning back some of the fans who felt betrayed by the 1994 work stoppage. For Selig, that was enough to force him to not look into what might really be going on with the two players.

When more and more players were obviously using some sort of PEDs and it seemed that the integrity of the game was being damaged, Selig finally stepped in and did something. Not because it was the right thing to do, but because Selig wanted to protect his name – not Major League Baseball.

Now back to 2014. Michael Pineda is cheating. Period.

Pineda isn’t breaking one of baseball’s “unwritten” rules. He didn’t throw at a batter in retaliation for one of his hitters getting plunked, nor did he hit a batter in retribution for the hitter smacking a homerun and showing him up in the aftermath.

He cheated plain as day by putting an illegal substance somewhere on his body to help with his job. And by doing so out in public without trying to hide it, he seems to be gloating about it. This is as bad for the integrity of the game as anything Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Braun have done. Of course, Braun is coming off a 65-game suspension while Rodriguez was originally suspended for 211 games, with the final suspension being the entire 2014 season including postseason. Bith of those suspensions were the result of PED use.

You want to clean up baseball? Bring down the hammer on all cheaters, not just those who might ruin Selig’s reputation by using – or getting accused of using – PEDs. The goal should not be to make Bud Selig look as good as possible. The goal should be to make sure that the integrity of Major League Baseball is truly protected.

Major League Baseball had a chance to send a message not only to Pineda, but to the rest of the league that cheating simply will not be tolerated. 10 games sends a message – it says that Major League Baseball isn’t really worried about on-field cheating as much as they are about off-field cheating. Because there is not a suspension plan technically in place for this form of cheating as there is with the PED cheating, Major League Baseball could have suspended Pineda for however long they wanted to and allowed him to appeal if he didn’t agree with the punishment.

The suspension for Pineda should have been a minimum of 50 games – the number of games players busted for PED use were banned for before the punishment was stiffened this past offseason.

Major League Baseball could have hit a homerun for their precious integrity that they pretend to care so much about. Instead, they took a called strike three in the bottom of the ninth.

I wonder if the pitcher used pine-tar on that pitch.

Comments? Questions? You can leave them here or email Ryan at ryan@morethanafan.net. You can also connect with him on Twitter @isley23.