Monthly Archives: April 2012

20 games in: A look (honestly, quiet ugly) at some pre-season predictions

Matt Kemp - on an absolute tear to start the season. Write fielder Andrew McGilligan picked Kemp to win the MVP in the National League. This looks like the only prediction he has right to start the season.

McGILLIGAN: We’re about 10 per cent through the regular season, so its time to check in on the preseason predictions.

This could get ugly.

American League Division and Wild Card Winners
AL East – New York Yankees
Al Central – Detroit Tigers
Al West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Analysis: Not one of the teams I predicted are in first place. I know its early and the Yanks and Tigers are close, but it’s the Angels that surprise me. All that money spent by the halos to be cellar dwellers in the West.

AL Wildcard – Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox
Analysis: The Ranger are already six games up in the West and have looked unbelievably good this season. Despite its terrible starting pitching and injury woes – not to mention Bobby V – the Sox are one game below .500, so there’s still a good chance the ship can be righted in Beantown – maybe.

National League Division and Wild Card Winners
NL East – Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers
NL West – San Francisco Giants
Analysis: Not one of these three are in first place and the Phillies look old this year. The Cardinals are playing great ball in the central, but the biggest surprise is in the West. Magic Johnson’s mojo is doing wonders for the Dodgers who have looked like world beaters this spring, thanks to an unbelievable start by Matt Kemp.

NL Wildcards – Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins
Analysis: Arizona has hovered around the .500 mark, but it’s the Marlins that have looked awful with a power outage from the bats and poorly chosen words from Ozzie Guillen.

World Series
Detroit over San Francisco in six games
Analysis: I’m sticking with it.

And the trophy goes to…
AL MVPMiguel Cabrera
Original Reason: With Fielder doing the job of Victor Martinez providing protection for arguably the best hitter in the game, I see another outstanding year on the horizon.
Analysis: Cabrera is near the top of most offensive categories and has meshed well with Fielder. I still like this pick, but Josh Hamilton is the early season front-runner as it stands.

AL Cy YoungDavid Price
Original Reason: He’s developed other pitches to go with his great fastball and I think this is the year he puts it all together.
Analysis: Despite Fenway Park being his own personal pit of despair, Price has looked good posting a 4-1 record with a 2.67 ERA and a complete game.I still like this pick
.
AL Rookie of the YearMatt Moore
Original Reason: I was tempted to go with Yu Darvish or Yoenis Cespedes (honestly either one could have been my pick), but I’m going with the Rays rookie hurler Matt Moore to take the honour.
Analysis: Cespedes and Darvish are looking great and definitely in front of Moore this spring.

NL MVPMatt Kemp
Original Reason: Can’t see why he wouldn’t be just as great this year as last. New ownership makes it a more stable place to play, which can’t hurt.
Analysis: I’m very comfortable with this pick. It might be the only one I get right,

NL Cy YoungRoy Halladay
Original Reason: I don’t ever like to bet against Roy Halladay, so I won’t. Chalk up another trophy for Doc.
Analysis: I still like Doc. If he can get some better run support, then the trophy is within reach.

NL Rookie of the YearYonder Alonso
Original Reason: I wanted to slot in Bryce Harper, but I decided to go out to the left coast and predict Padres rookie Yonder Alonso comes home with the award.
Analysis: The NY Mets Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Cards Matt Carpenter have been impressive thus far. Alonso has struggled early, but has plenty of time to get into a groove.However, this could all be moot as Harper is now playing for the Nationals.

Here were my random predictions:
1. Ozzie Guillen conducts an entire press conference using nothing but Spanish curse words.
Analysis: Insert ‘praise for Castro’ instead of Spanish curse words and I’m bang on.
2. KFC tries all season to make Jon Lester and Josh Beckett their news spokesmen to no avail…..John Lackey offers to do it for bucket of chicken and is turned down
Analysis: Still a lot of season left, I’m not counting this out.

3. After being thrown out of a game, Bobby Valentine dresses up as Matt Damon, sits next to Ben Affleck near Red Sox dugout and tries to coach using various hand signals being relayed to David Ortiz.

 Analysis: I wish this was the embarrassing thing Bobby V did this season…sadly it was not. However, win and all is forgotten.

 

STRADER:

American League Division and Wildcard Winners

AL EAST – New York Yankees

AL WEST – Texas Rangers

AL CENTRAL – Detroit Tigers

WILDCARDS – LA Angels, Minnesota Twins.

 

Analysis: Man. I’m a genius. Honestly, who saw the Texas Rangers coming? That one must have shocked the world…everything else is looking hopeless. I’m starting to get really close to the panic button for a couple of things, and Jose Bautista, and Albert Pujols are both among them, and this from a staunch supporter of guys with track records. Minnesota isn’t going to win crap if they don’t get their timing together. Sure, they’re sixth in the league in team batting average, but they’re 21st in runs scored. I saw their pitching as not great, but competitive. I guess the basement (5.69 ERA) isn’t quite competitive?

I’m not even gonna talk about the Tigers and the Yankees. We all know offenses like that can turn it around, and as a Jays fan, I don’t really care if my predictions are wrong here, although I still see them as right.

The Angels will grab a wildcard, teams like the Orioles and Indians aren’t staying up top.

National League Division and Wildcard Winners

NL EAST – Braves

NL CENTRAL – Cincinnati

NL WEST – LA Dodgers

Wildcard – Arizona, Colorado

Analysis: I like where I am across the board here. St. Louis is looking good, and could punch holes in my Cincy love affair, but once again a killer offence is a killer offence, and I think the Reds, ala the Yanks and Tigers, can go on a run.

Arizona and Colorado aren’t there yet, but I have to believe they will turn around too, or else my picks are junk, and I’m not ready to bale on either yet. Let’s not forget that the Indians are in first in their division right now. The Indians people.

And the trophy goes to…

AL MVP – Jose Bautista

Oh shut up…

AL Rookie of the Year – Yu Darvish

My honorable mention might not work out here (Lorenzo Cain) as the Royals flounder again, but I’m plenty happy with my pick. Darvish is going to take this.

AL Cy Young– Ricky Romero

He dominates right handed batters (as a lefty!), and I thought an improved cut fastball and a steadier curve was going to result in even splits and a career season.

Once again, shut up…

NL MVP – Troy Tulowitzki

Right now it feels like Kemp is actually pissed he didn’t take this trophy and will be fighting off his ace from pulling a National League Verlander-type sweep…but whatever. It’s early and Tulo could turn it on.

NY Rookie of the Year – Drew Pomeranz

It could be Lynn, but let’s see if batters begin to read his book and figure him out. Mesoraco looks like the man right now with a .300 avg and the responsibility of handling a pitching staff. But in-season callups could dominate this category as guys like Harper come up, and hit dingers. Everyone loves dingers…

NL Cy Young – Kershaw

Feelin’ just fine here. This guy is unreal…

 

LIVINGSTONE: Well, yep, my predictions…just look and laugh.

American League Division and Wild Card Winners

AL East – Yankees

Al Central – Detroit Tigers

Al West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

AL Wildcard – Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays

Analysis: The Yankees look like the Yankees, the Red Sox, well, they look like the bottom of a dumpster to start the season and it’s unclear whether or not they will pick things up. The Jays. Geez, it wasn’t supposed to be solid pitching and weak hitting – with a questionable start to the bullpen – that started this season off for the Canadian club. But hell, things aren’t looking terrible. Detroit and LA…I don’t know what to say. It’s a slow start for both teams – hitting in LA is awful and pitching in Detroit is looking nothing like it did last year.

National League Division and Wild Card Winners

NL East – Washington Nationals

NL Central – Cincinnati Reds

NL West – San Francisco Giants

NL Wildcards – Milwaukee Brewers and Philadelphia Phillies (odd team out: D’Backs, Dodgers, Braves – all nipping at the heels)

OVER-RATED: MIAMI MARLINS (new stadium, new unis, new players – same whiny Hanley Ramirez. Expect him to bring down the team.)

RATIONALE: Washington is looking like the team to beat right now. The starting rotation is out of this world good and are putting up quality starts all over the place. Hitting, well, it could be better, but a surprise start by Adam Laroche and the eventual return of Michael Morse, closer Drew Storen and hopefully Ryan Zimmerman – along with the call-up of Bryce Harper – should keep this team rolling along. San Fran is playing like they should and Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey are prime to be one of the best 3-4 combinations in the game this season.

World Series

Angels over Giants in six games

RATIONALE: I said the Angels were the real deal before the season started. I still think they are.

And the trophy goes to…

AL MVPJose Bautista

I don’t even know what to say…

AL Cy YoungCC Sabathia

CC hasn’t looked dominate, but he still looks to be a solid 15 to 17 game winner.

AL Rookie of the YearYoenis Cespedes

Called it. He’s mashing the ball.

NL MVPJoey Votto

Sluggish start, for the Canadian kid and the Reds, but he’ll pick it up.

NL Cy YoungMatt Cain

Looking like a contender for this award. He’s been near-untouchable this season.

NL Rookie of the Year Brandon Belt

He’s picked his game up as of late, but he hasn’t performed to the high-calibre that has been expected of him.

 

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Josh Hamilton’s hot start: will Texas re-sign him?

Josh Hamilton, if he stays healthy, will put up a mammoth year going into a contract off-season. Question is: will the Rangers spend money to keep him?

LIVINGSTONE: We’re just about an eighth of the way through the season and the American League doesn’t look like the league preseason analysis expected it to be. Add Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, New York picked up Michael Pineda to solidify their pitching staff, Pujols and co. looked like the perennial favourite to win the AL and the World Series, and the AL East had the look of a four-team race.

Well, that, to this point, is all out the window. But what I really want to get at is Josh Hamilton. His story is well-known to everyone, how he rose from the darkness of drug and alcohol addiction to come back to professional baseball and become the elite hitter he was expected to be when drafted first overall in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Rays.

He never played a game for them and it wasn’t until 2007 that he made his debut for the Reds. It’s been all history from there. When healthy, Hamilton has been a force at the plate in four seasons with the Rangers (Cincy traded him for Edison Voloquez after the 2007 season – wonder who won that deal). He’s helped lead the team to back-to-back World Series appearances, and if all continues the way the season has started for the Rangers, it could be a third appearance.

Hamilton is in the last year of his contract and it’s unclear whether or not the Rangers will even attempt to sign him in the off-season. With big contracts just doled out to second baseman Ian Kinsler (five years, $75-million), catcher Mike Napoli (one year, $9.5 million, likely to turn into a multi-year if he continues to mash the ball like he has this season), Yu Darvish (six years, $60 milion, on top of the $50 million-plus they paid to negotiate with him), Nelson Cruz (2-years, $16 million) and Elvis Andrus (three years, $14.4 million) and third baseman Adrian Beltre (six years, $96 million) – you can obviously see it, is there even any money left to sign Hamilton?

The team seemingly has spent a lot of cash to lock up everyone but Hamilton. Sure, his health is always a question and has only played 133 games maximum in the last three seasons (121 in 2011 and a mere 89 in 2009). The off-field problem involving drinking this past off-season seems to have scared the Rangers a bit in their willingness to sign up to a long-term deal. To be able to become the player he has become, Hamilton has to work three, maybe even four times as hard as everyone else. Staying sober is no easy task, especially coming off the life he lived for four or five years.

So let’s look at why the Rangers would be insane to not re-sign this guy to a long-term deal.

2012 stats: 82 AB, 31 Hits, 3 doubles, 9 HRs, 22 RBI, .378 AVG, .418 OBP, .744 SLG and a sickly OPS of 1.161.

This is only 20 games into the season. While he’s on-pace to hit 75 HR and 180 RBI, it’s not likely he will keep it up to that impossible expectation – but if he stays healthy he could put up 45/140/.350 – a definite AL MVP season. The Rangers would be crazy not to re-sign him if he puts up a big year like he is on pace to do. However, they might not be able to afford what he’ll be asking for. It’s going to be one of the more intriguing story lines as the season progresses. If Hamilton continues to lead the red hot Rangers atop the American League, and he stays healthy, will he stay in Arlington, or will he move on to another team?

Nolan Ryan, don’t be crazy. Get that man a contract.

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D’Arnaud and Marisnick – two faces of the Jays future

Blue Jays prospect Jake Marisnick is one of the young faces expected to be an integral part of the future of the Toronto team.

STRADER: Didn’t exactly keep up the every two day commitment, but I’m sure all the other young fathers out there will join me in saying…leave it alone…

The MINOR LEAGUE REPORT will look at intriguing bats this week, and to me, there are four young Jay bats everyone wants to know about.

With apologies to Mike McDade and Moises Sierra, sorry guys, but one more consistent season please, then we’ll talk.

And for all those Adeiny Hecchevaria fans (I’m one too!) we’re gonna give him his own page later this week.

Anthony Gose – Born: August 10, 1990. 6’1” 190 pounds. Bats left.

Drafted: Second round (51st overall) of the 2008 first year player draft.

Is there a more intriguing talent in the outfield? I’m going to argue yes later in this piece, but boy, you’ve got to be something to outduel this guy for the front page of “I can’t wait to see him in Toronto” magazine.

Gose runs. I wouldn’t be surprised if eventually his nickname has something to do with Forest Gump, ‘cause man, the stories of the speed. In the 2012 spring session, Gose was said to have scored from second on a 55-foot groundball to the opposing third baseman.

WHAT??

But what has always marred the speedster are questions about his bat. Defense is not a struggle for this kid. Scouting reports call him one of the best defensive outfielders in the minor leagues.

Ok, so can he hit?

He answered that last year in AA with a resounding, yes I can, but his strikeout to walk ratio is still going to need some work, and appears to, at least so far, still a-hunt him this season.

In 2011, Gose hit .253, .349, .415 in New Hampshire with 20 doubles, 7 triples, 16 home runs and 59 RBI’s in 509 plate appearances. Couple that with 70 stolen bases in 85 attempts, and scouts and fans begin to drool.

However, mark him down for 154 strike outs compared to 62 walks, and the scouts begin to flinch.

This season, Gose is batting .224, .313, .306 in AAA Las Vegas with 3 doubles, 2 triples and nine RBI’s in 85 plate appearances. The averages can’t be critiqued until we see at least 200 AB’s, but the power is still there, and six stolen bags in nine attempts isn’t terrible.

It’s the 26 strikeouts to 10 walks that need to be monitored.

Travis Snider – Born: February 2, 1988. 5’11” 230 pounds. Bats left.

Drafted: First round (14 overall) of the 2006 amateur entry draft.

He’s out of options, so the Jays have to be careful, and a lot of voices like to call him AAAA, but I really want to see this kid for a full season.

We’ve seen what confidence can do. Jose, you’re going to start, everyday, go to it….

Adam, you’re my guy, no more up and down, go to it….

Man I want to hear those words spoken to this kid.

Rushed to the Majors and dubbed “The Franchise” by some of his teammates, things looked great one April when Travis began slugging the ball (anybody see those two jacks into the upper deck of the Metrodome?) like he was supposed to. But the curveball began to baffle him, and down he went.

Scouting reports detail power to all fields. A quality base runner that could get better, and a better defender then most would expect from a power hitter.

But Sniders’ professional life has been filled with ups, and downs, and now, we as fans have to wait again while Thames toils in the field, and Snider toils in AAA Las Vegas.

His numbers, again, are awesome.

Will they finally translate to the Majors? I have a feeling we’re going to find out soon.

In 74 plate appearances in 2012, Snider is hitting .405, .476 and .703 with 10 doubles, four homeruns and 23 RBI’s.

Tack on two stolen bases, and it looks again as if AAA is simply going to do nothing for this guy.

Earlier this season I wrote that left field may be the only place for Anthopolous to add the impact bat he’s hinting at. I hope Snider is it.

While I prophesized that Alfonso Soriano would be the best of the vets, the patient fan in me would like to see Travis get a full season.

Take another look at that birth date. It feels like we’ve been waiting for him forever, but this young talent is only 24.

Travis D’Arnaud – Born: Febraury 10, 1989. Bats right.

Drafted: First round (37 overall) of the 2007 first year player draft.

Earlier this season, critics were calling for Arencibia’s head and D’Arnaud to be called up. Arencibia’s average was low, and D’Arnaud was coming off an MVP season in AA, and looked like the second coming of Pudge with a .311 avg, 21 HR’s and 78 RBI’s.

But Arencibia, it would seem, isn’t the only young catcher to suffer from a slow start.

D’Arnaud is batting .239, .333, .373 with one homerun, six doubles and seven RBI’s in 67 plate appearances.

It’s not too bad, but considering he is in offense friendly Las Vegas, it’d be nice see Snider-like numbers from the A plus prospect.

He’s described very simply in all scouting reports.

More than enough defense to play everyday, and a bat that will one day feature in the middle of a lineup.

Considering the pitcher he was traded for, let’s hope so…

Jake Marisnick – Born: March 30, 1991. 6’4” 200 pounds. Bats right.

Drafted: Third round of the 2009 draft.

This is the guy I can’t wait to see. His line is constantly that of a basketball player. There are simply numbers everywhere, and that has been the book on him since Toronto scouts began drooling about his ceiling.

Jake does it all.

He’s minding centre field in single A Dunedin, but I would look for a promotion to double A (where we know all the quality arms are) this season to see what he can really do.

Marisnick is the definition of five tool, and comparisons to Brett Lawrie will begin once he gets closer to the show and more people see the athletic ability that he brings.

His defense is sound, and his all around athletic ability, well that’s going to translate into a guy who can do it all. Maybe one day he becomes a corner outfielder and focuses on power, but with a bat like his, who cares?

Let’s look at the line so far in 2012.

Marisnick is batting .266, .372, .481 with seven doubles, two triples, two homeruns and 10 RBI’s in 79 plate appearances. Add in four stolen bases, as the giant of a kid also has supreme wheels.

Marisnick is the once in a lifetime prospect every organization hopes for, now it’s time to cross fingers, toes and whatever else that this isn’t Billy Beane, and he will translate that talent to the pros.


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Hey Canseco, dog vomit and philosophy don’t mix

Yeah, we aren't making up this stuff that Jose Canseco is saying - he really does write it himself. It's like a bad car crash on the highway. Can't stop looking at it.

McGILLIGAN: Here’s the question:

“Would you swallow your dogs throw up to save your best friend from dieing”

This from the mind and twitter account of Jose Canseco. I’m trying to imagine the scenario. It should be easy: I’ve got a dog and a best friend.

First, let’s consider the wording. We only have to swallow the dog vomit, not chew it or anything like that. It would save my best friend’s life.

Wait, what am I doing? I’m not going to analyze this.

What I want to do is point out how the Canseco story should have gone, how he should have been remembered.

Let’s start with his career. Before his steroid use became the only thing we associate with him, Canseco put together one of the greatest seasons in Major League Baseball. In 1988, he became the first 40/40 man in MLB history, notching 42 homeruns and 40 stolen bases. He also had a .307 batting average and 124 RBI for the Oakland Athletics. Only three other players have completed a 40/40 season: Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano. Not only was Canseco the first to do it and win the AL MVP that season, but he can lay claim to inspiring Jay-Z, who opened his 40-40 Club in New York based on this rare baseball accomplishment.

Even though we now know he was taking steroids at the time, for me, it only slightly diminishes the feat. Put an asterisk beside it, it’s still impressive. His career included a championship and several accolades (also a few lowlights), but then came the release of his book Juiced in 2005. He admitted to using steroids in the book and outed several other players. He essentially blew the top off the steroid era in baseball, making the use of an asterisk in the record books common place as well as setting in motion God knows how many commissions and trials on the subject.

His behaviour just got increasingly weird from there. The highlights include: taking a shot at mixed martial arts; boxing Danny Bonaduce; and starring in VH1’s the Surreal Life alongside Perfect Strangers Balki Bartokomous.

What all this did was detract from one fundamental thing – Canseco was telling the truth about steroids and baseball. Several of the players he cited in the book either admitted their wrongdoing, were caught by drug tests or are contesting the claims in court.

If Canseco hadn’t had this wild and bizarre life post-baseball and simply written Juiced, we would we see him in a different light. Sure, there would be some who would condemn him for shining a light on an ugly truth, but I suspect more would see him in a positive light.

So the question becomes: Jose, will you stop eating metaphorical dog vomit on TV in order to save the last bit of credibility you have?

On the plus side, some young closers are strutting their stuff

Baltimore Orioles closer Jim Johnson has been perfect in the save situation, going seven-for-seven to start the season, closing out games with a high nineties fastball in his pitching arsenal.

McGILLIGAN: One of the early story lines this season was the poor performance of closers.

Teams were struggling to shut the door in the ninth inning and seal the win. Veteran guys – solid performers in seasons past – just weren’t getting the job done. Things have settled somewhat since then – injuries are still wreaking havoc in some cities – and part of the reason is new faces seizing their opportunities.

The two best examples of this are Jim Johnson of the Baltimore Orioles and Henry Rodriguez of the Washington Nationals.

Johnson has been perfect in his save opportunities this season (7-7), has yet to allow a run and has hitters off balance as evidenced by opponents mustering a measly.214 batting average.

The Orioles have struggled to find consistency the closer role, only once in the past five seasons has a player recorded two-straight seasons of 20 or more saves (George Sherrill in 2008 and 2009).

Heading into the year, Johnson had racked up 21 saves over the course of three seasons. Baltimore is a bit of a revolving door for closers, but early signs are positive for Johnson and the O’s.

The most intriguing closer-related story is in the National League. After the Nationals watched Brad Lidge blow a few saves, the job was given to Henry Rodriguez who had a grand total of two saves before this year. This season he’s recorded five saves in five chances, has not allowed an earned run and has opponents hitting a paltry .038.

What makes the Nationals situation so intriguing is the eventual return of Drew Storen. In 2011, Storen racked up 43 saves, tied for sixth best in all of baseball. He had minor elbow surgery earlier this month and could return sometime around the all-star break. If he can return to form, and Rodriguez continues his early dominance, the Nationals could have the makings of a great one-two punch for the eighth and ninth innings – in what order might be anyone’s guess.

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Superstitions and Turk Wendell

The oddest of them all, former MLB pitcher Turk Wendell set the standard of weirdness in baseball with his interesting antics and superstitions.

LIVINGSTONE: I love vinyl. No, not what you’ll find on the side of the house – although it does appeal to me as my siding of choice when I become a homeowner – but what the needle drops on. Listening to records helps me relax – or boogie, or blow of steam, depending on the mood – and I happened to be listening to Stevie Wonder’s 1972 release Talking Book tonight when the song Superstitious began blaring from my older-than-my-grandmother record player (it’s not, but it’s sure close).

The song got me thinking about the superstitions of athletes. Jumping over the baselines, tying cleats or skates a certain way, putting on equipment in a specific order, eating a certain piece of fruit before a game, wearing the same pair of underwear in games you pitch (I hope no one actually does the last one), but whatever it is, athletes have them. Hell, baseball in general has a number of superstitions (see: Top 50 Superstitions and rituals in baseball on Bleacherreport.com), followed by players and fans alike.

This brings me the ultimate man of superstition. So ultimate he was named the most superstitious athlete in professional sports by Men’s Fitness magazine. He did a kangaroo-like jump over the baseline every time he ran on and off the field, he brushed his teeth in between innings, he wore number 99 in honour of Rick ‘The Wild Thing’ Vaughan from Major League.

Hell – his contract with the New York Mets was signed for $9,999,999.99 – in honour of his number.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Turk Wendell.

Quirky, outspoken and full of out-there antics, Wendell was a fan favourite wherever he played. Drafted in 1988 by the Atlanta Braves, the eccentric reliever got his major league debut in 1993 with the Chicago Cubs (he was traded in 1991 and pitched two years in the minors). It wasn’t a great start to his career – he pitched in only a handful of games in 1993 and 1994 before coming into his own in 1995. In three years with the Cubs he pitched in 187 games and posted a 3.88 ERA with the club before a late-season trade in 1997 to the New York Mets.

With the Mets, he lead the team in 1999 and 2000 in appearances and in five seasons posted a 3.34 ERA and a 22014 record over 285 appearances.He never did get the elusive championship ring, but came close with the Mets when the team played its crosstown rivals The Yankees in the subway series of 2000. his career began to decline after that series. He landed with the Phillies the following season, was on the DL in 2002 after elbow surgery, pitched for the Phillies in 2003 and then made some short stops with the Colorado Rockies before being cut.

In many ways, Wendell’s antics on the field inspired many young baseball players – well, maybe just me, but who really knows – to pick up some of those superstitious antics and make them their own. Now, I don’t think I would let a baseball thrown by the umpire hit me in the chest – Wendell requested the ump roll the ball to him on the mound, and if he didn’t he would let it go past him, or hit him in the chest.

Yeah, it’s strange, but hey, we’ve got our quirks. Waving to the center fielder waiting for him to wave back before you pitched the start of an inning, yeah, it’s strange, but if I was the center fielder and the game was close, I wouldn’t be messing with Wendell’s routine.

Stats aside, Wendell was a weird dude. Sure, rituals and superstitions are commonplace in the game of baseball, but it seems not as openly strange or visible like the days of Turk. In thinking about what Turk-esque like players are out there in the game today, none really come to mind. Giants closer Brian Wilson might be the closest thing to the Turk – but wearing a Onesie suit to the ESPY and just talking like you’ve been drunk you’re entire life, I don’t think that necessarily counts. He’s just strange.

So to Turk, thank you for making superstitions known to the baseball world. And thanks for making knee-high socks an acceptable thing.

Check out The Bleacher Report’s Top 10 list on Wendell’s antics.

Arencibia shouldn’t apologise for Twitter-spat – and here is why

Blue Jays catcher JP Arencibia called out a sports journalist on Twitter last week. Matthew Strader has his take on the situation.


STRADER:
With the mini-twitter gate that surrounded JP Arencibia last week, and the articles I’m still reading about it, I suddenly began to wonder, why is my industry filled with a bunch of wimps?

A radio reporter from New York called Arencibia out for his low batting average.

Arencibia tweeted back, have another donut, and sports reporters of the world unite! I’ve read column after column about how Arencibia shouldn’t have done it. He went too far.

My colleague Livingstone and I discussed that day whether Arencibia, and his fellow twitter-addicted Blue Jays (Romero, Lawrie…etc.) would be asked by the organization to shut down their accounts.

It seemed plausible at the time. Organizations don’t like negative press. And athletes’ seem to get into trouble on social media all the time, so were we going to lose the insight into these players’ lives?

We haven’t, and I don’t know if anything was said to Arencibia behind closed doors, but I listen to what I’ve listened to on the radio in the past week, and read what I’ve read in the papers, and I wonder who is in the wrong here? Because every sports writer and broadcaster I’ve heard think Arencibia is, and I can’t help but think…are you kidding me? What did he do wrong?

How is it any different then what sports reporters do, and why should he be held to a different standard? Because he makes millions? Oh, yeah, right. If my paper decided to suddenly pay me $4-million a season, and Major League baseball suddenly changed the structure so that catchers made $60,000 a year, things would be completely different…..pfffft….

I don’t need to mention any names here, but here are the quotes I’ve read this week.

“They’re chokers….”

“He should be fired…”

“He’s lazy…”

“He sucks…”

“He’s fat, and out of shape, and it’s embarrassing….”

Okay, so let’s turn to the radio for some insightful and classy analysis.

“They don’t know how to play the game…”

“He sucks, and he knows it, his family knows it, I bet when he was born his parents looked at him and thought he’s gonna suck…”

“The guy should lose his job…”

“It was the worst performance I’ve ever seen and it’s what you get from this guy all the time…the worst…”

“Off with his head…Off with all their heads…”

“They are the biggest chokers in sport…”

I don’t need to continue. Everyone knows what I’m talking about.

Now, let me qualify this by saying I’m happy with all of these comments. I love the soap opera. We don’t ever find out anything great. The dressing room doors are like iron curtains, and we dig and dig and dig for insight. Players are trained to give media savvy answers, clichés really, about 110 per cent and it’s all about the team…blah blah blah. We die for an honest comment.

So if some dude decides to call Arencibia out, and Arencibia decides to call him out, then good, set up the ring, and let them go.

But Arencibia should apologize? He went too far? It was personal?

Give me a break.

It’s personal to say a guy sucks at his job. It’s personal to say a guy should lose his job.

If I write that somebody sucks, which I might, ‘cause really, the Red Sox suck, then they have every right to call me a skinny wuss who couldn’t make it past tee ball. ‘Cause I couldn’t. And I don’t need a bunch of dudes behind their keyboards to get their backs up and come to my defence. It’s okay guys. I can handle it.

I’m not a p—y.

If I were Arencibia, the next time I hit a jack, I’d make sure to have a box of donuts in the dugout, I’d grab one, look right into the camera, and chow down while holding up my Major League jersey.

That would be TV I would love to watch.

The Bev Oda’s of baseball: three players who need to pay back part of their salaries

McGILLIGAN: Canadian International Development Minister Bev Oda recently came under fire for her lavish spending of taxpayer money on a trip to London.

The expenses included a $16 glass of orange juice, upgrading to a swanky hotel preferred by royalty and a $1,000 per day on limousines, according to media reports. The conference she was attending was to discuss vaccines and immunization for children in developing countries. For the cost of her orange juice, Oda could have immunized a couple of those children, but I guess she needs her Vitamin C.

In response to some criticism of Oda’s spending of the public coffers, the government said the Minister reimbursed taxpayers for a fraction of the spending. I’m thinking we need more back from Oda. Put it this way, until this story came up, I had forgotten she was part of government. The last time I thought of Oda was during the whole document scandal last year.

The only time I think of her is when she’s part of a scandal or spending taxpayer money on lavish orange juice, swanky London hotels and limo’s with drivers named Geeves.  I want my money back Bev, all of it, not a fraction.

With Oda on my mind – this sounds like the worst Willie Nelson song ever –  I began to think: Who are the Bev Oda’s of baseball? Players who should have to give back a portion of the salaries they’re clearly not earning.

Jason Bay

$42,750,000 in salary paid by the New York Mets (including this season’s number). As if getting caught in the Madoff scandal wasn’t bad enough, the team has had to endure three frustrating season from Bay since his big free agency signing. Injuries have plagued the Canadian since he arrived in the Big Apple, but he hasn’t come close to delivering on his deal.

Barry Zito

$80 million is what the San Francisco Giants have shelled out for five seasons of Zito. He’s due to make another $19 million this year bringing his total to $99 million. So how many wins has he produced in five seasons with the Giants – 43. That works out to $1,860,465.11 per victory.

Alex Rodriguez

$98 million is how much A-Rod raked in from the New York Yankees from 2009-11. He was paid $33M (2009), $33M (2010) and the bargain basement $32M (2011) during that span. What did he produce? A-Rod batted .277 with 76 homeruns and 287 RBI. Basically he averaged .277 with 25 home runs and 96 RBI a season. Not bad numbers until you consider his salary and Texas Rangers infielder Michael Young averaged .313 with 18 homers and 88 RBI in that time frame for about $55 million less.

Congrats A-Rod, you’re the MLB equivalent of an old lady drinking OJ Bill Gates can’t afford while riding in a limo to a hotel where royalty stays all under the guise of helping the poor.

 

Can Ben Affleck predict the World Series?

Ben Affleck + movie release dates + Red Sox = A World Series title.

Who knew rock bottom would look this way.

I didn’t think David Ortiz wouldn’t be among the AL batting leaders at rock bottom.

I wouldn’t have imagined a pitching staff with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz would be part of rock bottom.

As for the bullpen, that’s what a rock bottom pen looks like.

Bobby Valentine as the manager of a team hitting rock bottom? That seems to be more and more likely each time he talks or has Ortiz and Kelly Shoppach try and steal bases.

Despite the doom and gloom of the early 2012 Red Sox season, there is a slight sliver of hope.

I present the ‘Ben Affleck movie release date theory (BAMRDT).

When Affleck has a movie scheduled for release in Oct., rest assured the Red Sox are going to the World Series.

Surviving Christmas – Starring Ben Affleck. Release date Oct. 22, 2004.

Gone Baby Gone – Directed by Ben Affleck. Release date Oct. 10, 2007.

I will admit Gone Baby Gone is a far superior movie to Surviving Christmas and gets points for double Affleck action as Ben’s brother Casey stars in the film. However, quality of films has no bearing on the BAMRDT.

As you may have noticed, in one film Ben is an actor and the other a director. A singular focus in each.

This brings me to 2012 and…..

Argo – Starring and Directed by Ben Affleck. Tentative release date Oct. 12, 2012.

This fits the BAMRDT criteria, but that release date is not set in stone. Warner Bros. could wreak havoc on the theory, but for now everything seems to be in place. Here’s what imdb.com says about the plot: “As the Iranian revolution reaches a boiling point, a CIA ‘exfiltration’ specialist concocts a risky plan to free six Americans who have found shelter at the home of the Canadian ambassador.”

I have no idea if that sounds good or not, but the BAMRDT does not require the movie be good, just released in October. However, with this year off to such a poor start surely not even the BAMRDT could possibly save it. This may very well prove to be true, but Affleck sensed this and thus ratcheted things up on his end. He’s an actor/director in Argo – a double focus. Ben knew the lack of off-season signings and hiring of Valentine would require some extra magic on his part to reverse the trend and selflessly decided to pull double duty.

If this theory pans out, I’m nominating Affleck for all-time president of Red Sox Nation.  If the BAMRDT doesn’t pan out, I know what movie I’ll be going to see rather than watching the World Series in October.

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A power bat? Where? I’m guessin’ left…

Subs outfielder Alfonso Soriano would be a good power bat addition to the Jays roster - however, the salary he is owed could be an issue.

STRADER: Does anybody get the feeling the Blue Jays aren’t happy with either left fielder?

I am.

One, because AA doesn’t make anything public, and his desire for an impact bat just became public. Two, because it’s not JP Arencibia that’s going to lose his job, I don’t care how many people want to focus on the low batting average.

How would the Baltimore Orioles feel if they’d given up on Matt Wieters?

Pretty dumb, I would imagine.

There’s way more to being a catcher than hitting and I don’t think the organization is as frustrated with Arencibia as some of the fans are.

(That damn debut is going to haunt this kid until he hits….)

No, there is a position on the field that doesn’t seem to be filled by that reliable, crushing, middle of the order bat, just yet.

So, with Anthopolous reportedly telling MLB network radio’s Jim Bowden that a middle of the order bat is his true desire, to “wear down” other teams, it appears that a trial run with a kid for a couple seasons is not what Anthopolous wants. And look around the diamond.

Do you move Rasmus? Nope. He’s looking confident and skilled again, and there’s a speedster in the wings.

Is it Escobar? Nope. Once again, not the power development that has been hyped, but there’s talent waiting on the depth chart there too in a young Cuban who’s looking all world.

No, left field, which I believe in two to three years will be occupied by Jake Marisnick could use a dominant, power-hitting, veteran.

So for fun, ‘cause speculation with the Blue Jays brass is always wrong, let’s take a look at Major League outfields and see if we can find a power-hitting veteran, that would come cheap, is on a team that wants to move him, and also a squad looking to add to their young talent.

Melky….I don’t know….Delmon….would Detroit trade anything right now?….Logan Morrison….is he proven enough?….Brennan Boesch…certainly a lot of talk about his ceiling….Jason Bay…I could only dream he becomes reliable again and lands in Canada….

Nope, I think I found the perfect hole filler. His team will absorb a lot of his contract. He would hit the snot out of the ball in Rogers Centre. And in a couple years, he would happily be replaced by a young outfielder, because he’s in his mid-30s.

Yep, I never thought I would say it, but I want to see Alfonso Soriano in a Blue Jay uniform.

Because of his critics, price tag, and lack of a market, I believe he would only require a couple mid-level prospects to get him.

His OPS is always above .700, this guy can simply hit the ball.

And without having to be the go-to guy in a lineup, he would be an unreal complement bat.

As I’ve said before, I’m patient. I’d rather see Travis Snider for a full season, leave him alone, let him play.

But if we’re going to see 24 and 25 year olds platooned with Rajai, replaced for defensive reasons, not playing against left-handed pitchers, then bring the vet, and wait for Marisnick and Gose.

Maybe Thames and a mid-level pitching prospect would get us Soriano?

And how wicked would he look sandwiched in there with Edwin, Brett, Adam and that dude in right field?

I’m thinking pretty good.

Of course, it looks like my Jenkins prediction was a little out of left field too….

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