Monday, July 25, 2011

Alomar, Blyleven, Gillick elected to Hall

Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, and Pat Gillick were enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, NY. Alomar became the first player to go in as a Blue Jay and only the 3rd Puerto Rican (Clemente, Cepeda), and he is arguably the greatest defensive 2nd baseman of all time. He was also an great switch-hitting talent, amassing over 2,700 hits during his 17-year career. Blyleven finally got the call on his 14th year on the ballot and perhaps was only handicapped by his reputation during his playing days as a selfish whiner. He finished his career just 13 wins shy of 300 and 5th all-time in strikeouts with 3,701, and certainly by the numbers did not deserve to have waited this long to get into Cooperstown. Pat Gillick was a 3x World Series Champion as a general manager and was the engineer of the Toronto Blue Jays over the course of 3 decades. He retired in 2008 following his World Series Championship with the Phillies. Every single team he was a part of made the playoffs at least twice, and neither the Blue Jays, Orioles, nor Mariners have made the playoffs since his departure. Besides capturing back-to-back titles with the Jays in 1992-93 (teams that featured fellow inductee Alomar), Gillick is perhaps most known for heading the team with the highest single-season win total of all time, the 2001 Mariners (116-46).

With the advent of the MLB Network and, I've been able to watch parts of the induction ceremonies over the past few years, and it looks like an amazing experience. The groves of people that came in from Canada, Holland, Minnesota, and Puerto Rico to pay tribute to these three baseball greats was simply incredible. I know that being the baseball fans that we are, that Erik and I eventually have to make the trek out to rural New York to attend an Induction Sunday. But when do we go? Here are some of the players coming up for election in the next 5 years:

2012 - Bernie Williams
2013 - Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Craig Biggio, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, David Wells, Kenny Lofton, Jose Mesa
2014 - Moises Alou, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, Jeff Kent, Frank Thomas
2015 - Carlos Delgado, Nomar Garciaparra, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, Gary Sheffield
2016 - Ken Griffey Jr, Trevor Hoffman, Andy Pettitte, Billy Wagner

I mean, look at some of these classes, 2013 is a beast! I feel really honored that I got to see all 9 of those guys play in their final season during our '07 tour. I think holding out for Glavine and Maddux going in together would be my top choice right now but you can't go wrong with any of these years. It would be interesting to see if they intentionally don't vote in Glavine and Maddux on the first ballot so that they can go in with Smoltz in '15. The only bad part about this imminent trip to Cooperstown is that the Oneonta Tigers moved, so we'll have to drive 90 minutes to Binghamton to actually watch ball. Oh well.

Brewers 54-49, -- (3 v. Cubs, 3 v. Astros)
Reds 50-51, -3.0 (4 v. Mets, 3 v. Giants)
Twins 47-54, -7.0 (4 @ Rangers, 3 @ Athletics)

Erik - 10
Peter - 30

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Brewers Trade for K-Rod

Sabathia. Greinke. Rodriguez. In the latest in a string of bold trades, GM Doug Melvin pulled the trigger on a deal that sent two minor leaguers to be named later for Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez along with his remaining salary, shortly after the All-Star Game on Tuesday. In his career, Frankie is 32-27 with a 2.54 ERA and 291 saves. Despite supposedly being in decline, he has already logged 23 saves and is currently 2nd in the league in strikeouts per 9 innings.

The main thing to take out of this trade is that the Brewers front office is again going all-in as they did in 2008, when they acquired CC Sabathia at the trade deadline en route to their first playoff appearance in 26 years. This trade proves that the Brewers are willing to do what it takes because they believe they have a shot this year to not only make the playoffs, but to win the division and make it out of the first round. A lot of teams would have been scared off by K-Rod's $17.5 million option that vests if he finishes 55 games this year, but the Brewers are going with the "win now" mentality. With weaker teams in St. Louis and Cincinnati (thus far) and atrocious teams in Chicago and Houston, the Brewers currently tied for first, and Prince Fielder likely gone after the season, the division is prime for the taking and the time is now.

A lot is being made of this vesting option of K-Rod's, and how it will affect current closer John Axford who is having a phenomenal season. I am concerned a little bit on how it will affect Ax mentally, if he will put too much pressure on himself to be "the guy," but I think Roenicke's relationship with his players - including being a coach for Anaheim for 7 years while they had K-Rod - will help that transition. Axford knows deep down that this team just got a whole lot better and he has to play the role he's asked to to help the team win. The Twins did the same thing last year when Jon Rauch was having a great first full season as a closer, and they brought in Brian Fuentes and Matt Capps as insurance. In this scenario Rauch went back to his old role as set-up guy and the Twins ended up winning the AL Central. As for the Brewers, only time will tell how the 9th inning will be split, but one thing is for certain - the Brewers are not dumb enough and do not have the money to allow K-Rod to finish another 21 games this season to kick in his option for 2012. Besides the Brewers' payroll restrictions, K-Rod just isn't worth that much money anymore. Even though Melvin and Roenicke have been quoted as saying that Ax and K-Rod will split closing duty, I think that was just the PC thing to say. I think you'll still see Ax still get the majority of the save chances, but the idea is that if you have an opportunity to pick up the all-time single season saves leader for practically nothing, you do it. Prior to this trade, the Brewers' 8th inning options were a former starter, a guy with sleep disorder, a guy already nearing 50 appearances, and two 40-ish relievers with recent injuries. Things just got a whole lot more stable in the back end of the Brewers' bullpen. Assuming Greinke and Marcum can get back to their June form (and that the Pirates remember that they're the Pirates), I don't see any reason why this team will not run away with the NL Central.

Brewers 49-43, -- (4 @ Rockies, 4 @ Diamondbacks, 3 @ Giants)
Reds 45-47, -4.0 (3 v. Cardinals, 3 @ Pirates, 3 v. Braves)
Twins 41-48, -6.5 (4 v. Royals, 4 v. Indians, 4 v. Tigers)

Erik - 10
Peter - 28

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Remember this date: Nationals and Pirates both above .500

Following tonight's 3-2 win over the lowly Cubs, the Nationals have improved above .500 once again on the season. Perhaps even more remarkably, the Pirates moved into sole possession of 2nd place in the NL Central with a win over the even-more-lowly Astros and it's the latest in the season they've been above .500 since 1992, when they had some guy named Barry Bonds and won 96 games. I'm pretty upset with how terrible the Reds and Brewers are playing and how feeble the NL Central is in general this year, but you can't help but feel good for a team that has been downright embarrassing for nearly 2 decades. The same goes for the Nationals, who were salvaged from the scrap heap in Montreal in 2005, only to be brought to the junkyard of RFK Stadium until obtaining a pristine new ballpark in 2008. The Pirates also have a gem of a stadium in PNC Park, and both of these teams can be proud that they are playing well enough to warrant people filling the seats there.

All 30 teams should go into Spring Training with a goal of reaching the playoffs, but .500 for both of these teams would truly be an amazing accomplishment considering where they have come from. I wrote a post last year about how the Nationals, through high draft picks and keen free agent signings, are on the brink of being contenders in the NL East, and I still firmly believe that despite Ted Lerner throwing away $126 million on a 31-year old outfielder whose best years are behind him. They have a solid rotation that is only going to get better when Steven Strasburg returns from Tommy John rehab. They also have a young bullpen with power arms and 18-year-old phenom Bryce Harper was recently promoted to AA and went 2-3 with an RBI in his debut. Michael Morse is deserving to win the All-Star Final Vote and Danny Espinosa is probably the leader in the clubhouse for NL Rookie of the Year thus far. The Nationals were my NL sleeper pick this year and are showing signs of what they're capable of.

On the other hand, I don't think anyone could have predicted what the Pirates are doing right now. I mean come on, their major offseason acquisitions were Matt Diaz, Lyle Overbay, and Kevin Correia - I laughed at the time. But these veterans have been the nucleus of a team of budding stars including Andrew McCutcheon, Neil Walker, Pedro Alvarez, and Jose Tabata. It seems like they get new contributors every week too - Chase d'Arnaud and Alex Presley were called up last week to fill in for injuries, and Brandon Wood is getting key hits after being released by the Angels. Most importantly, the two things that the Pirates have lacked for 20 years are coming together this season - management and starting rotation. From Clint Hurdle to the front office this team is making good moves for now and for the future, and the pitching is keeping them in games. If they can figure out a way to beat the Brewers and can lock up even one or two of their stars in a team-friendly deal a la Ryan Braun or Evan Longoria, this team will contend for the division next season. Keep an eye on the A's next year, too; the Royals are still a couple years off, they have a gifted lineup but need a legitimate staff ace.

PS - not really related to ball, but I got engaged on Sunday! She's been very supportive of my baseball fetish and I'm very excited to take a few ball trips with her as well as E.

Brewers 45-42, -2.0 (3 v. Diamondbacks, 4 v. Reds)
Reds 43-44, -4.0 (3 @ Cardinals, 4 @ Brewers)
Twins 38-46, -7.0 (3 v. Rays, 4 @ White Sox)

Erik - 10
Peter - 27