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World Series Matchup Carved Out, Ishikawa A Hero & More!

Monday, October 20th, 2014

We’ve nearly reached the end of the line. With the League Championship Series’ behind us and the World Series set to commence, let’s take a look at what happened in the last week to get here.

Friedman Hired By Dodgers

Before we get to the games, there was some action in the management front last week. Aside from the Texas Rangers hiring a new manager (Pittsburgh Pirates bench coach Jeff Bannister), the big news was a personnel move by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were eliminated in the NLDS.

Looking for the extra push that was needed to get their team in World Series contention, the Dodgers turned to Tampa Bay Rays General Manager/Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman to be their new President of Baseball Operations.

Friedman, who had been in his position with the Rays for the past 8 years, is one of the best minds in baseball, to say the least. He has consistently been able to keep the Rays in playoff contention year-in and year-out despite a shoestring budget. The situation that he’ll be walking into is almost a polar opposite.

The Dodgers, who sport the highest payroll of any of the four major professional sports teams, offer much more freedom financially, which could be scary given Friedman’s eye for talent. The team’s heavy spending on any and every big name player that hits the market may have come to an end, but I expect their decisions to be much more wise with Friedman at the helm. What do you think of this move? Who do you think the best General Manager in baseball is?

Ishikawa Catapults The Giants To The World Series

You could find an example of it every week, but the phrase “You can’t predict baseball,” has never rang more true for the finale of Game 5 of the NLCS between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals.

To give a bit of background, Travis Ishikawa, a natural first baseman, was playing left field for the Giants (a position he had never played prior to this year). Earlier in the game, he had misjudged a fly ball in the outfield, which allowed a run to score. Luckily for him, however, he would have a chance to rectify his mistake.

With Michael Wacha on the mound and two men on base, the 31-year old journeyman turned on a 2-0 pitch and drilled it over the wall in right field to send the Giants to their third World Series in 5 years. Fittingly, it was the first home run of his postseason career.

It’s great to see someone like Ishikawa, a player who has been up and down from the minor leagues throughout his career, make a play on a big stage like that. It’s certainly a moment that he, his family or Giants fans will never forget. What are some of your favorite examples of surprising players who make a big impact?

World Series Matchup Set

Coming into this season, the odds on the Giants facing off with the Kansas City Royals in the World Series were 38,000 to 1. Looking back, I wish I had thrown the entirety of my bank account at that one. The series is set, but the favorite is far from clear.

The Giants come into this one riding the high of the previously mentioned Ishikawa walk-off home run to close off the Cardinals. The pitching is certainly there, with Madison Bumgarner, Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson manning the rotation. The question is if they’ll have enough hitting, but that problem has not arisen at any point throughout these playoffs.

The Royals, on the other side of things, have all the momentum in the world coming into this matchup. They have not lost a game thus far throughout the postseason and they’ve also done that on the backs of some solid pitching performances, namely a lights out bullpen.

While this doesn’t feature any big name, high spending teams, this has the makings of one of the better World Series’ in recent memory. I wouldn’t bet on either of these teams given that it should be such a toss-up, but if I had to I think that I would lean towards the Royals in 6 or 7 games. Who’s your pick to win the World Series?

This Week’s MVP: Lorenzo Cain (.533/.588/.667, 1 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Wade Davis (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 6 K)

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Royals Keep Rolling, Big Name Retires and More!

Monday, October 13th, 2014

Wow! What a week of baseball. For those that say, “baseball is boring” I would instruct you to watch any game from this postseason and see if that argument holds up. We’re in the middle of LCS’s, but let’s take a look at the past week.

Royals Take Commanding Lead

After missing out on the postseason for nearly three consecutive decades, the Kansas City Royals are sure making up for lost time. They won their play-in game against the Oakland Athletics and followed that up with a sweep over the Los Angeles Angels (who were the top American League team this year).

There success has carried on into the ALCS, where they’ve taken a commanding 2-0 lead over the Baltimore Orioles. This feat is impressive on it’s own, but what makes it even more surprising is that both games were in Baltimore. They’ll head home on Monday where they hope to finish off the series and be on their way to the World Series.

This team has really come out of nowhere to be a playoff force and their reliance on small-ball is a throwback of sorts. They’re never going to outslug you (aside from Game 2 of the ALCS), but they have an endless amount of speed as a team, their starters are solid and their bullpen has been lights out throughout the entire season (Wade Davis and Greg Holland, especially).

The whole country (aside from Baltimore, San Francisco and St. Louis) appears to be rooting for these underdog Royals. With their scrappy style of play and prior playoff drought, I can definitely see why. I doubted their ability going into the playoffs, but it’s clear that this team has a very good chance of going all the way. Are you rooting for the Royals currently? If not, which team are you supporting (if any)?

Bumgarner Blanks Cards 

If the country wasn’t aware of who Madison Bumgarner was prior to the playoffs, they are now. The 25-year old has been under the radar for a majority of his career, as many haven’t noticed that he took the reigns as the ace of the Giants as opposed to Matt Cain, but this postseason has changed that.

He was shaky as a 23-year old in the 2012 postseason (other than a phenomenal start over the Detroit Tigers in the World Series), but he’s turned that around in a big way this year. After blanking the Pittsburgh Pirates over 9 innings in the one game play-in, Bumgarner stepped up against the red-hot Cardinals and silenced their bats over 7.2 innings, which sent his name into the record books.

With his playoff dominance, Bumgarner has set the record for most consecutive postseason shutout innings on the road with 24, which dates all the way back to the 2010 playoffs. He’s been impressive all season long, but it feels as if he’s pitching his best when it matters most.

We’ve seen many players collapse under the pressure of the postseason, but its clear Bumgarner is not one of those guys. Every time he steps on the mound you know you’re in for a performance and I can’t wait until the next time he’s on the rubber. Has he been the best pitcher from this postseason? Historically, what’s the best pitching performance over the course of a postseason that you can remember?

Beckett, Dempster Call It A Career

The retirements in baseball keep mounting. We knew at the start of the season that this was Derek Jeter and Paul Konerko’s last season, but we’ve had Adam Dunn surprisingly announce that he was finished and just this week we added another two names to that list.

First was Ryan Dempster, who decided to hang up the cleats after sitting out all of this season. He was owed $13.25 million from the Boston Red Sox, but he had nagging health issues that he didn’t want to, or couldn’t, play through. He spent his time as an analyst with MLB Network, so he won’t be far from the game.

Josh Beckett, another former Red Sox player, turned a few heads with his decision to call it quits, too. He had thrown a no-hitter this past season and was still capable of quality starts, but at 34 he had had enough. He retired with 138 wins over 14 years and has 2 championship rings to his name.

With the season a few weeks from coming to a close (I don’t want to think about it, either), we’ll probably see even more retirement announcements. For the sake of entertainment, let’s hope 43-year old Jason Giambi is not one of those names. Are there any other players you could see retiring at the end of this season?

This Week’s MVP: Lorenzo Cain (.750/.800/1.000, 1 RBI, 1 SB)

This Week’s Cy Young: Madison Bumgarner (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 7 K)

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Playoffs Are Underway, Coaches Get Axed & More!

Monday, October 6th, 2014

We’re now into October, believe it or not. All of the regular season records can get thrown out the window because postseason baseball is its own animal (Clayton Kershaw can attest to that fact). Let’s see what the last week has brought us!

Playoffs Are Underway

If you would’ve told me at the start of the season that we could be looking at a Kansas City Royals/Baltimore Orioles showdown in the ALCS, I would’ve immediately called you crazy. Sure, the Royals were expected to be improved and the Orioles had playoff aspirations, but I don’t think anyone saw this coming.

In Los Angeles, the Royals took two from the Angels in a pair of thrilling games that both went beyond nine innings. That, coupled with their huge comeback victory over the Athletics, has shown many that they might be the hottest team in baseball at the moment.

Over in Baltimore, the O’s have used huge 8th innings (and some crucial mistakes by Tigers’ manager Brad Ausmus) to take a commanding lead in the series. Just a little ways away in Washington, the Nationals have dropped their first two games to the Giants and are on the verge of elimination.

There is one series that did not go 2-0, which is the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals matchup. From the way that those games have been decided, I fully expect that this will go the full 5 games. As we’ve been able to see, I’m pretty terrible at predicting how each series is going to go. If things hold up in the series that are 2-0, I will be 0-3 with my picks; Yikes. How are your predictions going, and what have you thought about the playoffs thus far?

Giants/Nationals Go 18 Innings

As noted in the previous section, the San Francisco Giants managed to steal two games on the road in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals. In these two games, however, they’ve managed to play enough innings for three full games.

That’s because on Saturday night, the teams went punch-for-punch in a pitcher’s duel that lasted an astounding 18 innings, and qualified itself as the longest postseason game in MLB history (not a great game to watch for those who complain about the length of games).

It was a 1-1 game all throughout extra innings, until Giants first baseman Brandon Belt, who had been 0-6 leading up to his final at-bat, took Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark out of the park for the team’s second run of the game. Hunter Strickland, who was brought in to close out the game in the bottom half of the 18th, certainly made things interesting (needing 29 pitches to end it) but he wound up getting the job done.

I had personally tuned into the game right around the 3rd inning, but eventually ended up leaving my house in the 7th. I came back (assuming the game was over) and started watching football, when, to my surprise, I saw on the bottom ticker that the game was in the 16th inning. I was incredibly pleased with my decision, as every pitch had you on the edge of your seat. Did you watch any of the game?

Teams Make Managerial Decisions

One of the best managers that this generation of baseball fans has seen is now on the open market, as the Minnesota Twins decided to let go of their longtime skipper Ron Gardenhire. Gardenhire, who had been with the team for 13 years, is surely at the top of many team’s wish lists.

Along with Gardenhire, Kirk Gibson was let go in Arizona. He got off to a hot start his first year in the desert, leading the team to the playoffs as well as being named Manager of the Year, but things went south pretty quickly. He went 81-81 the next two years and finally bottom out this year at 64-98.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Houston Astros announced their new manager. A.J. Hinch, also a former manager of the Diamondbacks, was signed on to lead the slowly improving team. His stint in Arizona left a lot to be desired, but he should be able to follow the plan that management sets in place for him.

We’ve just begun October, which means there will certainly be more moves to be made in the coaching world. The Atlanta Braves announced that Fredi Gonzalez would be back, so whom do you think will be the next manager to get fired?

This Week’s MVP: A.J. Ellis (.625/.667/1.125, 1 HR, 2 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Jordan Zimmermann (0-0, 1.04 ERA, 6 K)

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Playoffs Set, Jeter Finishes Career & More!

Monday, September 29th, 2014

It feels like just yesterday I was writing this article to recap the first week of the season, but somehow we’ve already reached the end of the regular season road. This week was one of the most action-packed, emotion-filled weeks of the year, so let’s get right to it!

Jeter Calls It A Career

If you’ve been under a rock for this whole year, you may have missed that Derek Jeter decided this season would be his last. After trotting around from stadium to stadium, receiving gifts and showings of respect, Jeter has finally reached the end of the line.

This storybook career had an ending that couldn’t have been better even if you scripted it. In Jeter’s last at bat in New York, the town that he has spent half of his life in, he hit a walk-off single to help the team down the division leading Baltimore Orioles.

If you weren’t a fan of Jeter this week may have been a tough one to handle. Clips of his highlights were being displayed endlessly, drawing responses from both sides of the argument. In my opinion the attention was warranted given his standing in the game and everything that he has done over the course of his career, but I can definitely see how it would get tiring.

With his retirement, the Yankees lose not only their captain, but also a top-50 all-time player and one of the ten best players in their team’s history. The impact that he has left on the Yankees is simply irreplaceable and he’ll be remembered for generations beyond this one. Where do you rank Jeter all-time amongst position players? Shortstops?

Playoff Matchups Are Set

Normally by the last week in the season all of the playoff matchups are set, but that obviously was not the case in this chaotic MLB year. Two of the division winners, the Detroit Tigers and St. Louis Cardinals, didn’t lock up their playoff seed until the last possible day.

Starting in Detroit, the Tigers had stumbled through two games with the Minnesota Twins, which allowed the Kansas City Royals some life. The Tigers desperately needed to come out on top Sunday, and they did on the back of ace David Price (it still feels weird to type that).

Over in Arizona, the Cardinals needed a win against the Diamondbacks in order to kill the Pittsburgh Pirates chances of taking home the division crown. With a 1-0 win, the team captured the top spot in the division for the second year in a row.

With these games coming to their conclusions that they did, it now sets up the Los Angeles Angels to play the winner of the Royals/Oakland Athletics play-in game and the Orioles to play the Tigers. On the National League side, the Nationals will face off with the San Francisco Giants/Pirates winner and the Los Angeles Dodgers will take on the Cardinals.

After seeing how the pieces have fallen and looking at the matchups, I think it will be the Tigers taking on the Angels in the ALCS, with the Nationals taking on the Dodgers in the NLCS. From there, I’ll take the Tigers and Dodgers to square off in the World Series with the Tigers eventually coming out on top. Who are you taking to win the World Series?

Zimmermann No-Hits Marlins

The Washington Nationals, already riding high having clinched the top spot in the National League, have even more reason to be thinking that they can make a deep run in this year’s postseason.

In the team’s final game of the season, Jordan Zimmermann (who has been one of the team’s most consistent pitchers over the last two seasons), tossed his first career no-hitter against the Miami Marlins.

The 104-pitch, 10-strikeout affair was almost tainted with one out to go in the ninth inning. Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich came to the plate and lined a hit into the left-center field gap. It looked like a hit that typically drops for extra bases, but left fielder Steven Souza, a defensive replacement, made a gorgeous diving catch and preserved history.

This no-hitter was undoubtedly one of the biggest moments of Zimmermann’s now 5-year career and it goes to show the unbelievable depth that the Nationals have behind Stephen Strasburg in the starting rotation. Do the Nationals have the best rotation out of the playoff teams?

This Week’s MVP: Andrew McCutchen (.429/.567/.810, 2 HR, 8 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 10 K, No-Hitter)

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AL Central Battle, Ron Washington Update & More!

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

Somehow we’ve almost reached the MLB Postseason. It’s been a long ride to get here and there’s still quite a bit of entertaining baseball yet to be played. Let’s get caught up with the biggest headlines from this past week.

Battle For AL Central Crown In Kansas City

Going into the season, the American League Central division wasn’t expected to be a closely contested race. The Detroit Tigers possessed one of the highest payrolls in the league, and they were expected to steamroll their competition. Unfortunately for them, games aren’t decided on paper.

The Tigers have struggled through large chunks of this season, due to both bullpen issues and occasional no-shows by their offense. With them faltering at times, the Kansas City Royals have capitalized. Kansas City, a team who hasn’t seen the playoffs in nearly 30 years, is now within striking distance.

This weekend, the two teams squared off in a three-game series that will have drastic implications for who ends up on top. The Tigers won the opening game on Friday and snuck by on Saturday due to a base-running error by catcher Salvador Perez. They picked up the win on Sunday, but that game that they lost in the overall series could come back to haunt them.

In the end, I think it will be the Tigers that wind up coming out on top of the division. They have had long stretches of poor play, but it seems as if they’re finally playing up to the level they should have been at the whole season. The impending return of Anibal Sanchez should help, as well. Who do you think ends up taking the AL Central?

Washington Explains Resignation

In one of the weirder managerial moves in recent memory, long-tenured Texas Rangers skipper Ron Washington stepped down a couple of weeks ago amidst one of the worst seasons in team history. Management stated it had nothing to do with the team’s record, so many people were left wondering.

The details of his resignation have finally come out following a press conference this week, but it appears that there will be much more to the story that Washington told. According to Washington, he was unfaithful to his wife and he felt that he needed to get his personal life in order.

With a little deeper digging, you can see that Washington hired two crisis management firms prior to his holding of the press conference. Many considered it an odd move and it has drawn questions regarding the truth of his initial story.

This whole situation has felt odd to me from the start and I can nearly guarantee that there is more to this story than what has currently been released. I wouldn’t go as far as to agree with the Texas beat writer that rumored he will be involved in a sexual assault case, but I feel like it does go deeper than just him being unfaithful to his wife. What are your thoughts on this situation?

Stroman Suspended 5 Games

One of the most promising rookie pitchers in the game will be forced to miss a start, after the league offices ruled that he intentionally threw at a batter. Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays was certainly not agreeable with the ruling, but it seems as if it was justified.

For a little context, Blue Jays shortstop Jose Reyes had his hand stepped on by Baltimore Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph in a play at the plate in Monday’s game between the two teams. In response, Stroman threw a pitch over the Joseph’s head when he came to the plate.

The league originally suspended Stroman for 6 games, but dropped the ban down to 5 following an appeal. He adamantly stated that the pitch just got away from him, but that’s essentially meaningless, as almost any pitcher would say the exact same thing.

I’m all for defending your teammates, but I think Stroman is pushing a fine line here. He regularly sits in the mid-90’s with his fastball and who knows what would happen if he hit Joseph in the head with that. There’s absolutely no reason to throw above a guy’s shoulders in any situation. I’m completely fine with the 5-game suspension the MLB leveled against him. What are your thoughts on Stroman’s suspension? Should it have been longer?

This Week’s MVP: Wilin Rosario (.706/.706/1.176, 2 HR, 9 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Andrew Cashner (2-0, 1.06 ERA, 14 K)

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Stanton Suffers Devastating Injury, Davis Suspended and More!

Monday, September 15th, 2014

After a week spent traveling across the country and back, I’ve returned with another week’s worth of MLB news! Unfortunately, we aren’t going to be able to start off on a good note for this week.

Stanton, Headley Both Hit In Face With Pitches

Just like in any sport, injuries are just a part of the game. Even with that being known, however, it didn’t’ make seeing the pitches hitting Giancarlo Stanton and Chase Headley any easier to watch.

In the Miami Marlins game against the Milwaukee Brewers, Stanton stepped to the plate against Michael Fiers. Fiers wound up and threw a fastball that ended up connecting right on the left side of Stanton’s face, which caused him to crumple up the ground. Blood covered the area around him and he had to be stretched out of the stadium.

A short time after, Chase Headley of the New York Yankees was drilled by an errant pitch in his face, as well. Luckily for him, he didn’t suffer nearly injuries nearly as severe as Stanton and he was able to walk off under his own power.

It was saddening to see one of the game’s brightest stars dropped in an incident like this, and you have to wonder how he’ll be able to bounce back. The mental impact that this will have on both him and Fiers is going to be tough to overcome, and you have to hope that it doesn’t derail his incredibly promising career. Do you think this will impact Stanton’s career beyond the fact that he’ll miss the rest of this season?

Davis Suspended For 25 Games

In one of the most surprising stories of the 2013 season, journeyman first baseman Chris Davis exploded for 53 home runs and gave the Baltimore Orioles a legitimate power threat in the middle of their lineup. Though the team is going to make the playoffs this year, it appears they’ll be without Davis for the stretch run.

It wasn’t an injury that took him out of the lineup, but rather a 25-game ban issued by the MLB for reportedly using amphetamines. According to Davis, he used Adderall and didn’t have the Therapeutic Use Exemption that he had last season.

Whether he was rejected or didn’t apply for it is still not clear yet, but what’s obvious is that this was a big error in judgment for Davis. After his power outburst last season he had to know that people would be keeping a close eye on him, yet he still decided to go ahead and use Adderall anyways.

While the loss of 25 games is certainly big, the potential lost earnings for Davis could be even bigger. It was reported that he and the Orioles were in the midst of negotiating a new contact, with the latest offer sitting around 5-years, $70 million. This suspension could take a big hit out of that overall monetary value. Should Adderall be banned by the MLB? Also, what do you think is Davis’ value on the open market?

Bochy Family Makes History

Over the course of Major League Baseball history, there have been a few father/son combinations that have played together and even more brothers that have played at the same time. This past week, there was a family combination that was the first the MLB has ever seen.

In a blowout against the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy made the call to bring in a reliever. This call to the pen was different than any other he had ever made in his life, as the reliever he was bringing into the game was his son, Brett.

Brett, who was drafted by the team in 2010, wound up allowing 2 runs over the 1.1 innings that he pitched (an improvement over the rest of the team, who wound up allowing 15 over the other 7.2 innings). He was a September call-up for the team and he’s looking to earn a spot on the team beyond this month.

You could see the joy on Bruce’s face as he handed the ball off and it was truly a great moment for everyone involved. While the result of the game was certainly not what they had hoped for, it will go down as a moment that no one in the Bochy family will ever forget. What is your favorite “family moment” in baseball history?

This Week’s MVP: Howie Kendrick (.500/.531/.800, 2 HR, 10 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Shelby Miller (2-0, 0.69 ERA, 9 K)

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Late Trades, Ice Cream Related Suspensions & More!

Monday, September 1st, 2014

We’re finally into September, which means that the time for trades to be completed has passed. Although there weren’t too many big names on the move, they are some players that could definitely impact a game or two down the road. Let’s get to that, and more with “The Week That Was”.

Contenders Make Late Moves

For those teams out there that decided their roster wasn’t yet how they wanted it to be, the second of the two trade deadlines provided them with the opportunity to do some last minute fine-tuning.

It started out in Chicago, where the White Sox shipped out outfielder Alejandro De Aza to the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles in return for two pitching prospects. Along with De Aza, the O’s also picked up Kelly Johnson from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for prospects. This completes the tour of the AL East for Johnson, as he’s now played on all 5 teams in the division (in just over 3 years).

The White Sox weren’t Dunn making moves either, as they traded heavy-hitting designated hitter Adam Dunn to the Oakland Athletics for a pitching prospect. With this trade, Dunn has a chance to make the playoffs for the first time in his extended career. Along with the news of this move, he also announced that he’d be retiring at year’s end, which will end his chase for 500 home runs (currently at 460).

Last, but not least, the NL Central had some movement, too, with the Cincinnati Reds sending Jonathan Broxton off to the Milwaukee Brewers for two players to be named later. Broxton has been lights out this season and will likely pitch in a set-up role to Francisco Rodriguez, unless K-Rod continues to falter. Which one of these players do you think will have the biggest impact on their new club?

Montero Suspended For Season

To say the New York Yankees/Seattle Mariners swap of Jesus Montero and Michael Pineda has not worked out would be an understatement. In what was expected to be a trade of highly touted young players, neither side can be very happy with their return.

While Pineda has pitched really well for the Bronx Bombers, he’s also missed around a year and a half’s worth of games. For the Mariners, though, they surely have to be regretting it. First, Montero was suspended for PED use last year and now his new suspension is just downright comical.

The details of the story have not all come to light as of yet, but the gist of it is that while Montero was in A-ball for rehab, he got into it with a scout from the Mariners. One thing led to another and he wound up throwing an ice cream sandwich at him.

When I first heard it, I thought that people had been quoting a story from The Onion, but this is something that somehow actually happened. I have to hope that Montero gets his career going, but I’m just not sure that it’ll ever work out for him in Seattle. What are some other crazy suspension stories that you know?

Branyan Signs With Indians 

A couple of weeks back, I wrote in a section of this article that Brad Penny had won a game for the Marlins. While that was certainly a flashback, it looks like we’ve stepped into the Delorian yet again for this latest signing by the Cleveland Indians.

Russell Branyan, who was originally drafted by the team in 1994, has signed with them yet again 20 years later. The 38-year old slugger hasn’t appeared in a big league game since 2011, but the power in his bat is still there as evidenced by his time in Mexico this past year.

With nearly 200 career home runs in just around 1000 games, Branyan could wind up getting called up to the big club if they decide they need some pop off of the bench. With a somewhat power-lacking squad, this move could happen sooner rather than later.

This, along with the last section, truly adds more weight to the phrase “you can’t predict baseball.” I personally hope that Branyan is able to make it to the majors yet again, solely because of the great story that it would be. Do all-or-nothing power guys like Branyan still have a place in the league?

This Week’s MVP: Jacoby Ellsbury (.522/.500/1.130, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 3 SB)

This Week’s Cy Young: Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 1.69 ERA, 19 K)

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Sox Acquire Another Cuban Outfielder, AL East Star Out For Season & More!

Monday, August 25th, 2014

We’re really getting into the nitty-gritty of the MLB playoff races and teams are still adjusting their rosters in order to one-up the competition. With all of this movement, as well as some other big news, there’s more than enough to talk about this week. Let’s get to it!

Red Sox Sign Castillo

After months and months of speculation, the bidding for star Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo finally came to an end this week, with the Boston Red Sox coming to terms with him on a 7-year, $72 million contract that will run through his 34th birthday.

This has to be seen as redemption of sorts for the Red Sox, who lost out on heavy-hitting Cuban first baseman Jose Abreu last year. Abreu has been tearing up the league and will wind up running away with the AL Rookie of the Year this year, so it’s clear Boston didn’t want to let this guy slip through their fingers.

As for what Castillo brings to the table, he’s been described as a smaller version of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. He’s known to have above average speed, as well as solid contact and power skills. In the field, he’s capable of playing both center field and right field.

I’m definitely a fan of this move for the Red Sox. At just around $10 million per year, the investment in him isn’t so great that it’ll hinder the team’s flexibility in the future, and if his game translates as well to the MLB as Abreu, Puig and fellow Sox outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has to this point, it could be seen as a bonafide steal. Do you wish the Cubs had upped their offer for Castillo?

Tigers Tumbling 

With a hot start to their season back in April, the Detroit Tigers looked like they were solid contenders to make a World Series run. With 3 aces at the top of their rotation and Miguel Cabrera in their lineup, it looked like this year could be the season that the team finally broke through and won the title.

Over the past couple of months (and the past week especially), it’s looked like the Tigers will be lucky just to even make it into the playoffs. Even the acquisition of David Price hasn’t been able to offset the struggles of the team and it really doesn’t look too bright for them right now.

After getting embarrassed by the Minnesota Twins in a 20-6 thrashing, the team followed that up with yet another loss. They turned things around yesterday, but consistency has been a problem for them all year long.

With a payroll sitting around $170 million (good for third in all of baseball) it would have to be seen as a colossal disappointment if they somehow managed to miss the playoffs. It’s definitely not too late for them to turn it around, but they’re going to have to start winning games sooner or later. Do you think the Tigers will end up topping the Royals in the AL Central?

Orioles Get Bad News; Make Changes

Back to the AL East, as the division-leading Baltimore Orioles are going to have to overcome a major loss in their lineup. After tearing a ligament in his left knee to end last season early, Manny Machado has done it yet again, tearing the same ligament, just this time in his right knee. Yet again, he’ll be done for the season.

This is a major blow for the Fightin’ Showalters, who are trying to clinch their first AL East title in 17 years. Along with this stroke of bad luck, the team also decided to replace one of their big free agent acquisitions from last offseason in the starting rotation.

Ubaldo Jimenez, who signed a contract worth $50 million towards the end of the offseason, wasn’t putting anyone’s doubts to rest this season. Those who saw his post All-Star break numbers from last year as a fluke may be proven correct, as they’ve replaced him in the rotation with Miguel Gonzalez.

Overall, I still think the Orioles have what it takes to wind up taking home the divisional crown, but the loss of Machado will really hurt any chances they had for a deep postseason run. Looking towards the future, yet another knee injury to their young third baseman can’t look all that great, either. Do you think the Orioles will win the AL East?

This Week’s MVP: Marcell Ozuna (.478/.480/.957, 3 HR, 10 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Jake Arrieta (1-0, 0.64 ERA, 14 K)

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Baseball Gets A New Boss, Pair of Aces’ Streaks End & More!

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Postseason races are heating up as we’ve now reached the middle of August. All of the moves made at the trade deadline are now starting to make their impacts (one way or another), and it excites me to say that there’s still a month and a half of regular season baseball to play. There was some big news this week, so let’s get to it!

MLB Chooses Selig’s Replacement

After 21 years at the helm, Bud Selig decided that one more year would be enough for him. It was a historic reign over an era, which will probably stand out in history (the Steroid Era), but it also meant that the league would have the exciting task of choosing a new commissioner.

On Thursday, the owners finally picked their man, deciding to go with Rob Manfred over Tom Werner of the Boston Red Sox. Manfred, who has worked with the MLB since 1998, will be the 10th commissioner in league history and will be tasked with injecting some youth into an old sport.

By all accounts, Manfred seems like a great choice. He was vital in the labor negotiations that have gone on over the years, which should help once the current bargaining agreement expires (some feared a lockout). Along with that, he was also vital in the joint drug agreement between the MLB and the Players Association.

While some might not be happy with the choice (they expect more of the same since Manfred was Selig’s right hand man), I am staying optimistic about it. His work with the labor agreements is incredibly promising and as shown by Adam Silver taking over for David Stern in the NBA, progress is still possible even with an internal replacement.

Rockies Lose Two Stars For The Year

It’s safe to say that things haven’t went as planned for the Colorado Rockies this year, and the bad news continues to pile up. After a relatively hot start for the first 30 or so games, the team has completely fallen off the table, and that slide will continue with the announcement that they will be without their two stars for the rest of the year.

Early in the week, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was ruled out for the season with a hip injury, and now outfielder Carlos Gonzalez has been sidelined for the remainder of the year with a knee injury. Given the injury history of both of these players, as well as their status on the team, this is not good news for Colorado.

Realistically, there’s a pretty decent chance that both of these two have played their last games in the Mile High City as members of the Rockies. Tulowitzki has been growing increasingly disgruntled with the seemingly endless rebuild and Gonzalez could fetch a pretty hefty haul should they decide to move him.

It’s pretty unfortunate that both of them are out for the year (you never want to see anyone get hurt), but it’s unlikely that they would’ve made a difference anyways. The Rockies have been one of the worst teams in baseball all season long and they weren’t going to change that. Should Gonzalez or Tulowitzki hit the trading block, would you want the Cubs to go after either? If yes, which one, and what would you be willing to part with for them?

Aces’ Streaks End

With the two best pitchers in baseball throwing on the same day, fans were expecting the continued dominance of both Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez, but surprisingly they both faltered and in doing so, lost two lengthy streaks that they were both riding on.

First, in Detroit, King Felix snapped a streak of going 7 or more innings and allowing 2 or fewer runs that spanned all the way back to May 12th, as he was pulled after just 5 innings in a loss to the Tigers. It’s not that he was pitching poorly (2 runs through 5), but more likely it was a ball that he took off the leg in the 4th inning that contributed to his early exit.

Next up in Los Angeles, Kershaw went the distance and allowed only three runs, but the Dodgers bats failed him and in turn snapped the streak of 11 straight decisions going his way. His last loss, prior to this one, happened all the way back on May 28th. In allowing 3 runs, his ERA jumped all the way up to 1.86.

It was truly incredible what these two aces were able to accomplish over the last few months, but I’m sure they’ll pick right up where they left off in their next starts. I think it’s pretty unquestionable that Kershaw will win the Cy Young in the NL this year, but the AL race seems to be up for grabs a little bit more. My pick is still Felix, but there’s a few different ways the voters could go. How do you see the Cy Young races playing out?

This Week’s MVP: Chris Carter (.333/.345/.778, 4 HR, 10 RBI)

This Week’s Cy Young: Carlos Carrasco (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 12 K)

(All C’s for the awards this week)

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