Category Archives: Baseball

How David Volek became synonymous with playoff hockey

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Andrew McGilligan | One Volek In Time

At the age of 12 years old, I became aware of David Volek.

In fact, he’s become somewhat of a folk hero to me. If it weren’t for Volek, my greatest hockey memory may not have happened.

On June 9, 1993, the Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup. Volek was nowhere near the ice of the Montreal Forum when this happened. No Volek’s contribution to this moment, the greatest one for me as a life-long Habs fans, happened almost a month earlier on May 14. With a well-placed one-timer, Volek and the New York Islanders eliminated the Pittsburgh Penguins – correction, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.

Volek’s goal paved the way for the Habs to win the Stanley Cup with a series of amazing overtime wins. Had Volek not scored that goal, I truly believe the Habs would have been overmatched against the Pittsburgh and not captured their 24th title in franchise history.

Just look at the Penguins roster from that season which included four 100-point scorers – including 160 from Mario Lemieux. Of note, Jaromir Jagr was not among the four 100-point getters, he finished with 94.

Compare that to the Habs to scorers which included zero 100-point players (Vincent Damphousse and Kirk Muller were three and six points away, respectively).

The goal was jaw-dropping at the time and has come to symbolize what I love about playoff hockey. There’s really no way the Islanders should have won that series and that goal resulted in one of the truly amazing playoff upsets. However, Volek’s marker has been somewhat marginalized due to the unlikely overtime heroics of the Canadiens during their Cup run (10 OT wins in the playoffs)and the fact it was the last time a Canadian team won the Stanley Cup.

Despite all that, Volek’s goal epitomizes playoff hockey. It was the shocking moment, the embodiment of the ‘anything can happen in the postseason’ cliché that gets thrown around too often.

All this to say, I’m always reminded of Volek every time I sit down to watch playoff hockey. I revert to being a 12-year-old kid watching the playoffs hoping to witness a miracle.

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Former All-Star Jason Dickson reflects on his first Spring Training and Opening Day

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

With fans around the world anticipating the start of the Major League Baseball season on Sunday, we at Out of WriteField decided to find out how a former Major League player viewed spring training and the start of a new season. We spoke with former MLB pitcher Jason Dickson about his first big-league spring training and the early days of his inaugural season in the big leagues.

 

Andrew McGilligan |Out of WriteField

It was the sixth inning of the second day of the Major League Baseball season when Jason Dickson felt that he could finally exhale and relax on the mound. To that point in the game on April 3, 1997, pitching at home for the California Angels against the Boston Red Sox, Dickson had been masterful, allowing only a pair of hits in what was then a scoreless game.

The start was the first of his rookie season – he had appeared in seven games the year before – but that day, that season, marked a series of first in his young career.

“That first game of the year, the first start, all I was really hoping for was nothing to be a disaster,” Dickson said. “By the time the fifth inning was over and nothing major had gone wrong, it was a sense of relief. I thought to myself, ‘You’ve proven you can do it, so just keep pegging away.”

He would surrender just three more hits the rest of the way in the Angels 2-0 win, tossing a complete-game shutout – the only one of his career. His final line for the day, nine innings, no runs, five hits, five strikeouts (including fanning Fenway slugger Mo Vaughan) and no walks. Not a bad debut for the rookie hurler from New Brunswick.

Coming into spring training, Dickson didn’t think he would crack the major league roster; not many players do their first time out. Despite having been called up the year before, ’97 was his first big-league camp.

“Every year, right around the time spring training starts, I still get the itch be down there, be around the guy and the atmosphere and that all stems back to that first camp,” he said. “You’re excited to be back on the field and in the warm weather.”

Arriving at camp, Dickson figured there were five or six pitchers ahead of him and he would probably return to AAA Vancouver to start the season. The starting pitchers in camp with him included Chuck Finley and Jim Abbott.

“I really had no expectation of making the team,” he said. “I just went out and threw. I was just excited to be there, but at the same time with no expectations, I was doing well, having a pretty good spring.”

As spring wore on, cuts started being made and Dickson was not among them.

“When you start to see the cuts and the guys that are cut are the ones you’re competing with, you start to think you might get the chance to start the season with the big club when spring training breaks.”

This spring training, his first, was also when he learned how tough the business of baseball can be. In order for him to make the starting rotation, a spot had to be opened up; a veteran pitcher would need to be released. Dickson had gotten to know Abbott throughout the spring and considered him a friend, which made it even more difficult when the Angels cut the iconic one-armed pitcher to make room.

“That’s so tough because on one hand, it’s a friend being released, but it also means you’re going to stay. I remember reading Jim’s book a few months ago and he wrote about how tough that was for him. It definitely was a hard situation.”

Making the roster, being part of Opening Day, his win in the second game of the opening series against the Red Sox and earning an All-Star berth was all part of his first full season in The Show. Despite having played baseball his whole life, Dickson said he wasn’t prepared for some of the things that come with being a major league player, things you can’t prepare for.

“Your teammates are guys you had on posters on your wall growing up,” he said. “Everything is bigger, from the clubhouse to the stadiums. You go from being anonymous to being known overnight.

“You go from walking out of the park with no one around in the minors to driving your car past a large group of fans waiting for you after the games. You learn not to use your own name in New York City hotels because you’ll either end up with autograph seekers waiting for you or people leaving you death threats.”

As for Opening Day 2013, Dickson said he’ll be watching, especially the Toronto Blue Jays to see how they handle the pressure given the headline-grabbing offseason. He’ll also think about that first start of 1997 against Boston, standing on the mound trying not to be overwhelmed by the realization he had achieved a life-long dream.

“For the first little while that season everything was awkward, I didn’t really know what I was supposed to be doing. The only time it felt normal was when I was on the mound making pitches.

“All I was trying to do was convince myself this was no fluke, that I belonged. Just pitch well enough to get four or five more starts.”

He would get 31 more chances that season, earning his way to an all-star game and third-place finish in Rookie of the Year voting.

 

 

 

 

 

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Time to ‘Catch the Taste’ again in Toronto

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Kevin Barrett | Out of WriteField

So former Blue Jay Lyle Overbay is a Yankee.

That may cinch it.

The Jays may be back.

Thanks to a hilarious, albeit short-lived, commercial career, Overbay became my favorite Toronto Blue Jay since, well, when they were relevant.

Overbay once promoted himself in the third person in a radio spoof that drew attention to his incredible ability to crank out doubles while with the Jays.

It helped to keep an average Jays player on an average Jays team prevalent, but now, after an off-season highlighted by spending a boatload of Rogers Cable money, it is time for the Jays to stop hitting those doubles and finally crank out a home run.

Goodbye Lyle; Hello Melkey. See video here:

No pressure Mr. Knuckleball Dickey or Mr. Jose Reyes, but it’s been an excessively tough ride for Jays fans since the last World Series conquest.

Not Mets-fans bad and certainly not Leafs-fans bad but just average beyond belief.

Maybe Lyle’s move to the Big Apple will transform the Yanks into Toronto average and, given the ambitious antics of GM Alex Anthopoulos, could good times be ahead in the Big Smoke?

Let’s hope so.

It’s been a lean run.

Hitters came and went. Pitchers produced lofty ERAs. Managers were axed, rehired and departed again.

Not once since Joe Carter touched them all with his Series winning shot against the Phillies in ‘93 have the Jays hit the 90-win plateau.

Their best attempt came with 88 victories in 1998, when they finished third in the AL East, 26 FREAKING GAMES back of the Yankees.

In 2008, Overbay and crew were gaining recognition, in parts because of ads like this: See video here:

Yet, they went 86-76, finished 11 games out, making the commercials more memorable than the club.

Oh, there have been stars like Carlos Delgado, Vernon Wells, now also a Yankee by the way, Shawn Greene, Aaron Hill and Alex Rios.

There have been catchers, like Darrin Fletcher, Charlie O’Brien, Lance Parrish, Gregg Zaun and one of the fabulous Molina brothers. How about Jose Canseco’s one year run in 1998? He slammed 46 homers and drove in 107 but is best known for controversy, which is still going strong.

Then there was the whole Troy Glaus experience. The Scott Rolen experiment. The Frank Thomas fiasco.

Canadians Matt Stairs (impressive total 32 homers over two years of DH and pinch-hit duty) and Corey Koskie (less than 32 HRs in his time) have suited up.

There were some of rather undistinguished abilities – Frank Catalanotto, Eric Hinske, Woody Williams and Dustin McGowan to name a few.

Oh where have you gone Raul Mondesi?

Pitchers, well some were awesome before they departed – Roy Halladay, Chris Carpenter.

 There was the moody A.J. Burnett, Ted Lilly and the hard-throwing Billy Koch.

 The Rocket went 41-13 in two years in Toronto, which included regular ‘visits’ from his personal trainer.

 We also had Joey Hamilton (14-17), Eric Hanson (13-20) and Danny Darwin (1-8 with the Jays).

Certainly, some of the positive starts out of spring training boosted the optimism some years, lighting fuel in April, only to fizzle when it got truly hot in August.

Cito left, came back. Buck Martinez sandwiched media gigs between a two-year stint as manager. John Gibbons was hired, fired and now is back.

Is this the year the teasing stops?

Is this the year they get back on track and provide marketing opportunities for their stars like this classic: See video here

In the Jays’ championship era, Roberto Alomar might have been the most widely known player – thanks in part to this ad.

All these years later, ‘Catch the taste’ sticks in my head. That is probably because the Jays haven’t done much to whet my appetite since.

 With a wild off season of free agent signings, and Overbay’s journey to the Big Apple to join Wells, maybe, just maybe, there will be a new jingle in town.

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The 2013 Out Of WriteField Unscientific Guide to MLB

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Andrew McGiligan | Out of WriteField

With the Major League Baseball season set to kick-off on Sunday, it’s time for the second annual Out of WriteField Completely Unscientific Predictions for 2013.

 

As noted earlier this week, we hope to improve upon our 38 per cent success rate from last season which included accurate predictions of the AL Cy Young, AL MVP, several division winners and the two World Series teams (we incorrectly took the Tigers over the Giants) and a whole host of ones that were wrong.

 

So without further delay, here are the Out of WriteField picks for 2013:

 

American League

Division Winners

Al East – Tampa Bay Rays

Al Central – Detroit Tigers

Al West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Wildcards – Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers

Analysis: Jays fans should get their first taste of postseason baseball in decades, but it will be through the wildcard. Early injuries and demotions to Brett Lawrie and Ricky Romero combined with some skepticism of how this team will gel makes the Rays a more appealing pick to win the East. The Tigers will continue to roll in the Central, but the potential for the Kansas City Royals to emerge and what looks to be – on paper anyways – a much improved Cleveland Indians squad should make for an interesting division. As for the West, it’s time for the free-spending and a full season of Mike Trout to result in a division win for the Angels with the Rangers playing well in enough to edge Oakland for the second wildcard.

 

AL MVP – Evan Longoria

AL Cy Young – Justin Verlander

AL Rookie of the Year – Wil Myers

Analysis: Not known for their offensive prowess, the Rays will churn out two awards this season. Longoria defines MVP when it comes to the Rays who were about a .500 club without him in the lineup and 20 games above that mark with him last season. If Longoria can play in 140 or more games, he will have the best season of his career and some new hardware. Bryce Harper started in the minors last year and it made us shy away from picking him as ROY. Big mistake and it won’t happen again. Myers won’t be playing on Opening Day, but he will be called up before the All-Star break and make the front office look even better for dealing away James Shields for the slugging prospect. Verlander is a perennial candidate for the Cy Young and entering a contract year makes him even more determined – if that’s possible – to be the best pitcher in the game.

 

National League

Division Winners

NL West – Washington Nationals

NL Central – Cincinnati Reds

NL West – San Francisco Giants

Wildcards – Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves

Analysis: The Nationals will once again be the class of the NL with a great pitching staff and solid lineup. Consider what Bruce Harper did at 19 and what he can do with that year of seasoning and adjusting behind him. The Reds should be able to ride a solid hitting, but potentially poor defensive lineup to the Central crown while the Giants pitching staff should make up for the offensive shortcomings of its lineup in taking the West. The Dodgers are similar to the Jays in that no one is sure what to expect from the ridiculous budget squad, but talent alone should carry them to a postseason spot. The Braves enjoyed a successful offseason and have the brothers Upton patrolling the outfield. They should beat up on everyone in the NL East not named the Nationals on the way to a wildcard berth.

 

NL MVP – Joey Votto

NL Cy Young – Clayton Kershaw

NL Rookie of the Year – Oscar Taveras

Analysis: Similar to Longoria, if Votto stays healthy there’s no one that can hold a candle to him with the bat (the exception being Miguel Cabrera). Votto has been described as a hitting savant and genius in the batters’ box. Kershaw is dominant and probably the best left-handed pitcher on the planet, he’ll reclaim his spot as the NL’s top arm after finishing second in the voting last year. Like everyone else, we were ready to pick Adam Eaton as a lock for the NL ROY, but an elbow injury will keep him out of the lineup for a few months. Because of this, Taveras is the new pick. Like Myers he will start in Triple A, but the hitting machine will eventually get called up to the St. Louis Cardinals and force one of their current outfielders to the bench.

 

World Series

Tigers over Nationals in six

Analysis: I think Detroit will finally get over the hump and win the World Series this year. The Nationals will continue their ascension to the top of the heap, but ultimately come up short….at least for this season.

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.388 – Good Batting Average, But Not Good Enough On Predictions

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

If a player was coming into the 2013 Major League Baseball season with a .388 batting average, he would be a hot commodity. Give that same percentage to a person for their 2012 MLB predictions and it doesn’t seem as impressive.

However, with Opening Day less than a week away, we’re not shying away from our past here at Out of WriteField. We’re going to make predictions for 2013 later this week, but first we need to revisit 2012.

 

2012 Predictions and Actual 2012 Winners

 

American League Division and Wild Card teams

*actual winners in parentheses

Predictions:

AL East – NY Yankees (Yankees)

AL Central – Detroit Tigers (Tigers)

AL West – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Oakland Athletics)

Wildcard – Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox (Rangers, Baltimore Orioles)

Analysis: Predicted three of the five correctly, but so did most people. The big surprises of Oakland and Baltimore come out of nowhere. If you know someone who predicted both of those teams making the playoffs, you should heed their advice from now on.

National League Division and Wild Card Teams

*actual winners in parentheses

NL East – Philadelphia Phillies (Washington Nationals)

NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers (Cincinnati Reds)

NL West – San Francisco Giants (Giants)

NL Wildcards – Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins (Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals)

Analysis: Predicted one of five correctly, a brutal stat line. The Marlins imploded, the Phillies were awful and the Brewers never got it together.   

World Series

Detroit over San Francisco in six games (Giants over Tigers in four games)

Analysis: Got the teams’ right, but not the outcome. Really thought this would have been a much closer series, but the Tigers couldn’t get the bats going against the dominant pitching of the Giants. The guy with perhaps the best nickname in sports Pablo ‘Kung-Fu Panda’ Sandoval was named MVP.

Individual Winners

*actual winners in parentheses

Predictions:

American League

AL MVP – Miguel Cabrera (Cabrera)

AL Cy Young – David Price (Price)

AL Rookie of the Year – Matt Moore (Mike Trout)

Analysis: I was two for two and then Trout happened. The Angels rookie had a season for the ages and will be mentioned a lot when it comes to the 2013 predictions.

National League

NL MVP – Matt Kemp (Buster Posey)

NL Cy Young – Roy Halladay (R.A. Dickey)

NL Rookie of the Year – Yonder Alonso (Bryce Harper)

Analysis: Not one correct. Kemp got injured and Halladay just wasn’t himself. Looking back, I’m not sure why I was so bullish on the Phillies. No chance of me betting on Philadelphia this year.

So overall, it’s painfully obvious that I watch much more of the American League than the National given my correct guesses. We’ll see what happens this year when the 2013 predictions are posted later this week.

BONUS: Here’s a link to some other 2012 predictions to see what others thought would happen.

Yahoo: http://ca.sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ys-brown_henson_passan_season_predictions_040412

CBSSports: http://www.cbssports.com/mlb/blog/eye-on-baseball/18271059/2012-mlb-cbssportscom-expert-predictions

 

 

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Fantasy Sports: Oh, the People You’ll Meet

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Andrew McGiligan | Out of WriteField

Millions of people play fantasy sports every year. Despite these numbers, the same types of people end up being in your league at one time or another. Here’s a list of the types of folks you’ll come across in various leagues.

Explain the Trade Guy

What he does: Will send you a trade proposal along with a 1,000 word essay on why it makes sense for you to do it.

Why it’s irritating: No one wants to be told how to run their team, let alone be lectured by a guy who thinks he invented statistics and is the only one who knows how to use them.

Why he does it: Has to convince himself that the terrible, lopsided trade he proposed was actually a good one.

I Called It (a year too late) Guy

What he does: Constantly talked about how he predicted such and such a player was going to have a big year, well after the fact. Basically, anyone who says this season that they knew Mike Trout was going to have a monster season last year or knew Adrian Peterson was going to have the second greatest season by a running back in history after tearing his knee to shreds less than a year before.

Why it’s irritating: Nothing worse than someone shouting ‘I told you so’ when they said nothing at the time and then pretend to be some sort of sports Kreskin 12 months later.

Why he does it: For bragging rights, likes to pretend he’s right all the time, thinks no one has noticed he’s full of it.

Guy Who Changes Team Name Every Day

What he does: Changes the name of his fantasy team on a regular basis as a means of humour, insults, way to be topical, etc.

Why it’s annoying: No one cares about your team name, only the place in the standings it holds. Plus it take a few seconds every day to realize who it is, most times you think you’ve logged into the wrong league.

Why he does it: Possibly to prove he’s up on things or simply because he has too much time on his hands. All that time spent on thinking up team names would be better served scanning the waiver wire.

Guy Who Takes It Too Far

What he does: After watching far too many episodes of the FX comedy The League, decides to constantly bash and try to humiliate other members of his league and may even try his hand at rapping. He will often involve other players’ family and pets, which really shouldn’t happen. You can make fun of the fact I started Adam Lind for a period of time, but not my dog.

Why it’s annoying: The show is fictional, you and your buddies are not ‘exactly like that’ and if you haven’t know everyone in your league for years; you end up coming off as an idiot.

Why he does it: Thinks he’s mixing it up and keeping things fun, but is just an embarrassment.

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The moral dilemma of PEDs

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Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField

In a recent column by Bill Simmons he reprinted a letter from a reader in regards to Performance Enhancing Drugs. Here’s the text of the letter:

In The Wire when Marlo is about to begin his war with Avon to become the top dealer, he is warned “Anyone that wore that crown either ends up in jail or dead.” Marlo’s response is one of my favorite lines from the series, “At least they got to wear it.”

There’s a lot of hand-wringing and disgust from people regarding athletes use of PED’s, but the question you have to ask yourself before condemning it is this: Would you do it?

Before you answer, try and put yourself in the position of a professional athlete, difficult to do since most of us will never achieve that level of fitness, athletic ability, fame, fortune, etc. But for the purpose of this exercise, just try and imagine. Millions of dollars in contracts and endorsements are at stake – you can basically set up your family for generations with the right deal. The adulation of adoring fans and the perks of being a pro athlete – sex, drugs and the ability to purchase anything you want or travel anywhere you want because of fame and fortune.

What would you do to keep yourself in that lifestyle? Would you take a drug that doesn’t turn you into an addict, but rather heightens your natural ability enabling you to make more money and reach a higher level of your chosen sport? Athletic competition is based on winning – some say its participation that counts, but in the end everyone wants to be on the winning side. If an injection can bring you closer to the ultimate goal of winning a championship, wouldn’t you consider it?

When discussing PED’s there’s a sense that athletes, once they’ve started using, are no longer part of the equation. People only see the PED’s and discount the athlete’s ability. Does taking steroids help you hit homeruns? Absolutely, but being able to hit Mariano Rivera’s cutter doesn’t simply come from an injection. The drugs enhance, not completely take over the athlete’s body and control them. The athlete is still in control and their natural ability is still a major part of any performance.

All this to say, it’s easy to criticize athletes for taking PEDs. It’s cheating; it’s illegal and sets a bad standard for those who will follow in their footsteps. All of that is true. What’s difficult is to look at the situation and say you wouldn’t be tempted if you were in the position.

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Pujols, Fielder and the four-team effect

 

Prince Fielder moving to Detroit Tigers was supposed to make the line-up more explosive than last season – but has it?

McGILLIGAN: Losing perhaps one of the greatest hitters of all time should have spelled disaster for the St. Louis Cardinals offense. With Albert Pujols career averages of .325, 42 homeruns and 125 RBI, the run totals for the Cardinals should have dipped.

The same could be said for the Milwaukee Brewers who lost the power bat of Prince Fielder and his perennial .284, 37 homeruns and 106 RBI.

Instead, it’s the big spending teams who brought in Pujols and Fielder – the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Detroit Tigers, respectively – that are seeing big drops in offence.

In the three seasons preceding Pujols arrival, the Angels averaged 743 runs per year. This season, Los Angeles is on pace to score about 645, a projected drop of 98 runs compared to the previous three years.

The numbers are grim in Detroit as well. The Tigers mashed the ball from 2009-11, averaging 760 runs during that time span. With Fielder in 2012, the team is on pace to score about 699 runs, a potential drop of 60 runs.

Conversely, their former teams aren’t feeling the hurt offensively as many predicted. In fact, the St. Louis Cardinals are on pace to score 828 runs this season, a potential climb of 86 runs compared to the preceding three season with Pujols in the lineup.

The Brewers offense is on pace to dip in Fielder’s absence by about  47 runs,  but still projected to exceed the Tigers output.

In the Angels-Cardinals divide, the main difference (team wise) can be chalked up to its offense efficiency rating which we wrote about in this post about the Tampa Bay Rays (http://outofwritefield.com/2012/04/18/rays-sixth-in-runs-scored-last-two-seasons-it-cant-be-true-well-it-is/). The rating essentially is the percentage of a team’s hits that go for extra bases, which are more likely to produce runs by either driving others in or by getting into scoring position.

The Cardinals averaged an efficiency rating of 32.4 from 2009-11, but have increased that number to 33.4 this season in Pujols absence. A one per cent increase is significant in this stat given the divide between the lowest rated team this season and the highest is about 11 percentage points (Boston Red Sox – 40.7  and Houston Astros 29.6).

The Angels rating has plummeted with the addition of Pujols going from an average of 33 from 2009-11 to a dismal 29.6 this season, tied for last in MLB with the aforementioned Astros.

As for the other two teams, Milwaukee has the second highest rating in MLB in 2012 at 38.3 which hasn’t offset Fielder’s production, but has minimized his loss. Detroit’s average has gained 0.8 of a percent, which doesn’t explain the predicted drop in run production until you dig a bit further. The Tigers are on pace to have its lowest total of hits since 2009. While the efficiency is roughly the same, the number of extra base hits is lower resulting in fewer runs scored.
With one-third of the season done, the Angels and Tigers still have a chance to turn things around, but the early trends are cause for concern.

NOTE: All stats current as 12 p.m. (EST) June 5, 2012.

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The man in the white coat? Really? It’s come to this again?

Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel, who gave up four solo homers to Jays hitters in a 4-1 loss Wednesday night said he thought the Jays hitters were tipped off to what was coming.

LIVINGSTONE: I can respect a player a lot more when they get roughed up and take it like a professsional – I’m not perfect and these kind of games are going to happen.

Whatever respect there is to be had for Orioles pitcher Jason Hammel – and to be honest, there is not too much considering he’s a mid-level pitcher who has never really had a statistically solid year – it’s all but gone now.

Fans don’t want to hear excuses, but following the 4-1 loss to the Jays Wednesday night in Toronto where Hammel (6-2, 3.06 ERA) gave up four solo shots to Brett Lawrie, Edwin Encarnacion, Rajai Davis and Colby Rasmus. Post-game, Hammel made reference to the ‘man in the white suit’ story that broke last year where a, well, man in a white suit was alleged to be tipping pitches to Jays hitters from the stands at the Skydome. Of course, the story was vehemently denied by Jays management right down to the players in the clubhouse, calling it as they saw it: a ridiculous accusation with no substantiated evidence to even prove it was true, outside of a few opposing players saying it was happening.

There is a lot of luck in baseball. Sure, baseball is built around talent and studying pitchers and hitters to adjust appropriately to the situations a player is placed in. However, sometimes hitters get lucky with aggressive swings maybe considered to be outside the regular scouting report of a hitter and/or team.

In recent years, Jays hitters have been known to be aggressive power hitters who are looking to park the ball. Looking at Hammel’s career in the majors, one could argue maybe he is cheating. With a 40-47 career record and an era of 4.84, Hammels has never been as good as he has been this season. He’s only had winning records in two seasons in the big leagues (10-8 in 2009 and 10-9 in 2010) followed by a 7-13 record in 2011. He’s never been close to an ERA below 4.00 (4.33 in 2009 was the lowest he’s had in a full season), and in fact, has been closer to 5.00 than anything.

To call out a team for ‘cheating’ after they tag you for four home runs (he has now given up seven in total this season) is low. No one in the world of baseball expected the record, ERA or quality that Hammels has shown this season – in fact, giving up four home runs in one game was something people might have thought was more likely from him.

Take your lumps when they come like a professional and don’t make excuses for the fastballs you left over the plate for aggressive hitters to take for a ride.

The Red Sox Game of Thrones

Robb Stark and Dustin Pedroia, aka Dustin Stark, aka Robb Pedroia, are compared to one another in this column by Write Fielder Andrew McGilligan.

McGILLIGAN:At times, Fenway Park has seemed like a fictitious place full of dysfunction. Secret bands of players gathering to commit acts against the team (eat friend chicken, drinking and playing video games), a good man fired because of the antics of a few (Terry Francona) and others left to pick up the pieces and carry on after a disaster of epic proportions (2011 collapse).

Yes it seems there’s enough dysfunction in Red Sox land that it should be part of Westeros, the mythical land in Game of Thrones. Sadly, there’s more than enough similarities that you can link players from the Red Sox past two seasons with characters from the hit HBO show.

Let’s begin:

Kings Council is Jon Lackey, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester

Some of the brightest minds in King’s Landing advise the King and help the King’s Hand navigate the rule of the city. At least that’s what they’re supposed to do. Instead, each one was plotting and scheming for personal gain or amusement resulting in the death of a good and noble man in Ned Stark.

The trio of Lackey, Lester and Beckett were supposed to be the veteran core of a team that was favoured to win the World Series. The trio should have been helping guide the club and its younger pitchers (ie. Clay Buccholz and Daniel Bard). Instead they sabotaged the season with the chicken and beer escapades leading to one of the best managers in team history, Terry Francona, being fired.

Ned Stark is Terry Francona

Stark nobly led Winterfell after going to war and winning several battles alongside King Robert Baratheon. The brutal politics and scheming in King’s Landing resulted in Stark being betrayed by those he trusted, imprisoned and ultimately death by execution.

After leading the Red Sox to a pair of World Series victories alongside general manager Theo Epstein, Francona’s place as Boston’s manager should have been secure. However, the selfish antics of some players and the tuning out of his message by others resulted in an epic late-season collapse that must have felt like baseball prison and the ax ultimately fell on his job shortly after.

Robb Stark is Dustin Pedroia

After his father was executed by King Joffrey, Robb set out on a quest to avenge his father and take the Iron Throne away from Joffrey. His fierce nature in battle has earned him universal respect, even among his enemies such as Tywin Lannister, and a good nickname ‘The Young Wolf.’ He is the heart and moral compass of the show, willing to be in the middle of the battle amongst his men.

Pedroia is the heart and soul of the Red Sox and one of its clubhouse leaders. He had a father-son type relationship with Francona and has publicly stated how much he owes his former manager for sticking with him. Pedroia plays hard every day, has the begrudging respect of his opponents and a great nickname in ‘Muddy Chicken.’ He’s even had some choice words for his current manager, the equivalent of mounting an attack on the King, after Bobby Valentine questioned veteran third baseman Kevin Youkilis.

King Joffrey is Bobby Valentine

Amusing for about half a second in the first few episodes, no one wants Joffrey around anymore and every time he opens his mouth something stupid comes out (usually about his prowess with a sword). He can also be incredibly cruel.

This kind of speaks for itself, but let’s explain anyway. His hiring was fine until the season started and the team sucked. Every time he speaks, he says odd things which can usually be classified as stupid or cruel or both (see Kevin Youkilis). Everyone is hoping his reign as manager is short lived.

Sandor Clegan is David Ortiz

Clegan is massive and extremely adept at killing people. However, he receives little to no respect from his superiors or those in positions of power. In the ‘Blackwater’ episode he realizes the futility in what he does and how he will never be respected for it and lashes out saying screw the king and anyone else who wants to tell him what to do.

Ortiz is just as frightening with a bat in his hands as Clegan is with a sword. Big Papi is massive and extremely adept at killing opposing pitching. Earlier this year – after being asked about a team meeting that was not made public – he lashed out saying despite all he’s done he gets no respect from management or the media.

While its been a great run for Game of Thrones thus far, the same can’t be said for the Red Sox. The Fenway Faithful have endured countless indignities during the past two years (they know how Sansa feels) and at times it seems the only way out is a visit from that weird smoke monster.