Archive for April, 2012
Wednesday, April 25th, 2012
Baltimore is having a solid start to the season. When they came to Toronto and took the sweep, it was visible that they are a stronger team than last season. Adam Jones is lighting it up for the Orioles and his performance at the plate so far has been extremely impressive. As of Wednesday, he is hitting .304 with a .383 OBP and 5 homers. Nolan Reimold who was chirped pretty badly at the Rogers Centre is also having a solid campaign thus far. The left fielder is holding up a pretty great average with .370 and 10 RBI. With a 10-7 record and atop the AL East, Baltimore is off to a successful beginning to the 2012 season.
Now we go to the basement team of the American League East. There was a little bit of drama surrounding the Red Sox just last week. Boston Manager Bobby Valentine questioned Kevin Youkilis’ physical and emotional commitment to the team during a TV interview. When Dustin Pedroia heard about this, he stepped in and defended his teammate with a feisty comment in return.
The exact quote was, “I really don’t know what Bobby is trying to do. That’s not the way we go about our stuff around here. . . . Maybe that works in Japan.” Now the question is, was Valentine wrong to call out Kevin Youkilis like that? Or was Pedroia out of line for disrespecting his Skipper?
Either way, both sides were out of line, especially when the team is not playing well right now. Piling up distractions around a struggling team is a recipe for disaster. Valentine finally apologized for the unruly accusations, but in this instance, it might be too little, too late.
Boston also honored Fenway Park’s Centennial. An emotional night for some, but New York was the visiting team and slowly shut down the celebrations with a 6-2 victory vs. Boston. A lot of former players attended the party, well 240 of them, including Pedro Martinez (Who’s your daddy?), Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, icon Johnny Pesky, Nomar Garciaparra, Jose Conseco and former Manager Terry Francona. It was another milestone day for baseball.
On a lighter note, the Japanese right-hander that the Blue Jays so desperately wanted in the off-season, is unbeaten and shut down the Yankees last night with a season-high of 10 strikeouts. Not bad, if you ask me. Yu Darvish was also facing a fellow countryman, Hiroki Kuroda and completely out pitched him. I guess the Blue Birds are kicking themselves a little bit right now for not ponying up that dough.
Always a great topic to touch on, Chicago’s Phil Humber threw a perfect game vs. the Seattle Mariners in his 2nd start of the season! It was the third perfect game in White Sox’s history and the first in two years in all of Major League Baseball (21st of all-time)! Now, that’s pretty awesome, considering he had Tommy John surgery in 2005. Not only did he overcome a rigorous surgery, but he retired 27 batters in order, in one night with nine strikeouts. I have major respect for ANYONE who can come back from a big surgery like that, I have been there once before myself (rotator cuff). He is now on his way home, as his wife is expecting to have their baby. Life is pretty good right now for Humber, a talented right-handed pitcher for the White Sox.
Monday, April 16th, 2012
Many people wonder what it takes to have a good Baseball team. Well truthfully, there are many pieces to the puzzle that make-up a great club. There are so games within the game and I think that base running is one of the most exciting areas of the sport.
There have been hundreds of prolific base runners that have played this wonderful game. I want to map out who made an impact on the game, why they were so successful in stealing and how they helped their team win big games.
First up, in the modern era, Phillies centre fielder Shane Victorino has crazy speed on the basepath. What sets him apart is his ability to read a play. He does an incredible job of knowing who is on the field and what he can get away with. They call him the Flyin’ Hawaiian and he more than supports the name with his impressive speed.
I think the best runner of all-time is Rickey Henderson. I mean, the guy lead the Majors in steals 12 times, he was absolutely unbelievable. What made him so great, was his speed and quick reaction. If he saw someone fumble the ball even the slightest bit, he was GONE. Standing on the next bag, in scoring position. Now that helps his team in two ways; scoring runs and holding the momentum. Great base running can absolutely dominate another team, especially in a close contest.
Hall of Famer Willie Mays wasn’t too bad either. He rocked when it came to knowing who he was facing and taking advantage of other teams with his knowledge of the game. He played 22 years in the Majors and led the National League in steals for four straight years. Mays was also prolific for hitting triples, which is another example of how his speed and smarts made Mays such a threat.
What struck a nerve and what ultimately got me to write this blog was something that I saw live at the Rogers Centre. There’s something about being in the ballpark that’s so much more inspiring than watching on the tube. Rajai Davis’ base running this past week vs. the Boston Red Sox, as well as Brett Lawrie making a huge mistake trying to steal home against the Baltimore Orioles are two great examples of how base runners can alter a game. Lawrie’s steal attempt ended the inning while Davis ignited a spark for the team and changed the landscape of the box scores. He brought momentum to the club that really needed it and helped his team grab a win.
When I played Softball at UAB, it got a lot tougher to steal. I figured, if I can’t provide much speed, I can sure as heck help my team by being smart on the bags and giving it all I had mentally. The key to great base running is not always having wheels. The secret is being able to read the play and recognize what you’re up against. All those prolific players I mentioned above all reveal what it takes to be an elite base runner in Major League Baseball.
Ten Standout Qualities of A Top Flight MLB Base Runner:
1. Ability to feel out the play.
2. Being aggressive, but patient.
3. Taking a sufficient lead.
4. Reaction time.
5. Reading a delivery off of opposing pitcher.
6. Recognizing the catcher’s arm strength
7. A great/sneaky slide
8. Natural Speed
10. Right place, right time.
Thursday, April 5th, 2012
Well, another season has begun! I can’t lie, I’ve been itching to get back to baseball coverage and watching the game I love all Summer long. So where to begin…
A lot of players have moved teams, loads of re-branding, key injuries to big teams, the hard work has been put in throughout off-season. All this is true, but luckily it is still the SAME amazing game.
One of the biggest changes in the Majors this season is a second wild card chance in each league. This has massive implications on the landscape of the game and its playoffs. That would be the most dramatic difference that may put some teams in post-season play that haven’t had the chance for Fall baseball in YEARS!
You may ask yourself a few questions heading into this 2012 season. Well, I will try my best to answer these common but brilliant questions:
How important is Spring training?
Spring training in my opinion is important for many reasons. You can evaluate the talent you have on your team and make cuts accordingly. Players who impress the Manager will stay on the opening day roster. Members of the team who are out of shape and do not catch anyone’s eye, are sent down to Triple A or Double A ball to get to the level they need to be.
I was impressed with many things in Spring Training this year and I see a lot of promise to this 2012 MLB season.
Big moves were made in the off-season, most significant were Prince Fielder moves to Detroit, Bobby Valentine is Boston’s new skip and the very highly paid Albert Pujols got a massive deal with the Angels. Too big of a deal if you ask me.
Who will be the most exciting player to watch this year?
A player to watch in the baseball world this season is Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals. He is coming back from a devastating road of rehab/injury/hard work. As I have always said, no pain, no gain. He’s unquestionably the ace for this squad, and he showed adversity by starting five games at the end of 2011 after overcoming the pain of Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow. He started on Opening Day for the first time in his young career for Washington. He’s a talented, young pitcher that had a solid 1.50 ERA through 24 innings, averaging a strikeout per frame in limited action in 2011.
What player is extremely overpaid?
Most overpaid baseball player in history is Albert Pujols. Quite frankly, I do not want to get into it. His 10-year, $240 Million contract says it all. He plays baseball, he doesn’t save lives. Enough said.
Will injuries effect teams this early in the season?
Injuries, either big or small will effect a team no matter what. Think of a team as a complicated machine that heavily relies on every piece. If one goes missing, it doesn’t work as well, or at all. Chipper Jones of the Braves, who is entering his final season, has a notable knee injury. Jones is currently on the 15-day DL list and is out until at least mid April. The Red Sox have a few big names on the 15-day DL such as Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Andrew Miller and Rich Hill. Chris Carpenter, Andrew Bailey, Bobby Jenks and John Lackey are all big injuries that may hurt the squad. A handful of those guys are out for the season. Tigers catcher Victor Martinez is gone for the year after ACL surgery.
Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain is out until late June with elbow and ankle issues as well as newly acquired New York pitcher Michael Pineda with shoulder tendonitis. The A’s lost Scott Sizemore for the season with a knee injury. Ryan Howard of the Phillies is out until the beginning of May with his torn Achilles. AJ Burnett suffered an eye injury during Spring training trying to bunt (welcome back to the NL!) and will miss games for the Pirates for a little bit. He begins rehab on April 6th. It depends how bad each of these injuries are, but for example when he is ready, Chris Carpenter will return to the minors and work his way back to the bigs. So, if it’s a big-time player with a bad injury, he may be out longer than expected. You have to take reps into account. After an injury, a player isn’t at the same level they were when they got hurt.
You never know what will come from a brand new season and there is so much baseball ahead. The key to a successful season is a strong frame of mind, team chemistry, health, talent and drive.
My Top 5 Teams For The Season:
2. Philadelphia Phillies
3. New York Yankees
4. Detroit Tigers
5. San Fransisco Giants
A lot more to come this season people! Please stay tuned! You can follow me on twitter as I will have many comments on Ball all through the season!