Category Archives: Not Boston

Manti Te’o tribute video

Manti Te’o is one of the most inspirational athletes I have watched play. Here’s an awesome tribute video I found on YouTube:

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Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey, the rightful MVP winners

Miguel Cabrera (Courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr)

The Baseball Writers of America caste a decisive vote for the 2012 MVPs, and they nailed it. Miguel Cabrera and Buster Posey were  hands down the best players in their respective leagues. Whether you agree with it or not, sometimes it does matter whether the candidate’s team made it  to the playoffs or not. It didn’t matter this year. Cabrera and Posey were just that far above the rest, not only statistically speaking, but what they meant for their teams as well.

Let’s start with Mr. Triple Crown in the American League. Some say that Cabrera winning the first Triple Crown since 1967 shouldn’t factor into the MVP vote. That notion is preposterous. The fact that Cabrera was good enough to lead the league in home runs, RBIs and batting average is simply astounding. Oh and by the way, he also led the league in slugging, OPS, and total bases. What more do you want from the guy? He’s been the most consistent hitter in baseball the past eight seasons, and this year he was simply the best. He not only has earned this MVP award, but he deserves it. Sorry to the Mike Trout lovers out there, but the vote wasn’t even close. Cabrera received 22 first places votes compared to Trout’s six. Not only did Cabrera play in 161 games for the Tigers, but he was their best hitter when they needed him most. He batted .420 with two outs and runners in scoring position. Trout on the other hand hit .286 in the same situation, which is respectable but not close to Cabrera. The case for the 2012 AL MVP is closed, and the rightful winner has been chosen.

The voting for the NL MVP was even more decisive, with Posey beating out Ryan Braun in a landslide. Posey’s performance this season, coming back from a broken leg, is not just good news for the Giants but good for baseball as well. He is one of the great young talents in the game today and is well-deserving of his MVP award. Posey led all of baseball with a .336 batting average, an incredible feat for a catcher as he is the first in 70 years to do it. He also led the NL in OPS+. Yes his 24 home runs and 103 RBIs contributed to the Giants’ success this season, but what makes him so valuable are the intangibles. His ability to call a game and be the leader in the clubhouse are qualities invaluable in a player, especially for a catcher. Of course the Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball, but not enough can be said of Posey being that staple out there every night behind the plate. He earned every single one his 27 first place MVP votes.

Thank you, Baseball Writers of America, for getting it right this season.

How the Blue Jays monster deal affects the AL East

Bautista and Encarnacion (Courtesy of Keith Allison on flickr)

So much has already been written about the Blue Jays and Marlins megadeal, but what exactly does this mean for the AL East? The answer is simple. The deal makes one of the tougher divisions in baseball that much more difficult to play in. With the Orioles shocking the baseball world last year, this trade makes every team in the AL East a possible playoff contender.

The move sends Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifacio from the Marlins to the Jays. Miami receives Yunel Escoba, Jeff Mathis and a few prospects in return. The trade destroys the Marlins but gives hope to a team dying for its chance to be a contender in the AL East.

The days of the Yankees and Red Sox ruling over the division are done, at least for the time being. Now every team is a threat thanks to Miami owner Jeff Loria. Maybe John Farrell all of a sudden wishes he was back in Toronto, as the Blue Jays are arguably a bigger threat than the Sox. Here’s why.

Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson are the keys to this deal. Adding them to a rotation that already has Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow immediately makes this team a contender next year. Buehrle has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball during his career with a .575 winning percentage. Johnson, when healthy, can be as dominant as any starting pitcher in the game. For a team that once lacked pitching, it now has a core four guys to count on to anchor the rotation next season.

Jose Reyes adds a new dynamic to a lineup that already has two of the games best power hitters in Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista. Reyes, a four-time all star, will have his first opportunity to prove his capabilities in the American League. His speed at the top of the lineup will force opposing pitchers to pitch to him with the hope that he’s not on base when facing Toronto’s lethal three-four hitters.

Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck only add depth to the Blue Jays’ already potent lineup. Buck had his best major league season in Toronto in 2010 when he hit .281 with 20 home runs.

The megadeal comes as a shock to most of baseball and brings an excitement to the AL East that makes the rest of the division nervous. With the Yankees getting older as each day passes and the Red Sox in a rebuilding process, the division is now wide open. Perhaps this is the year where the Blue Jays win their first division title since 1993. And perhaps this is the year where both the Red Sox and the Yankees both fail to make the playoffs for the first time since 1994.

2013 MLB top five remaining free agents

Courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MLB free agency is underway with a couple big names already re-signed in David Ortiz to the Red Sox and Jake Peavy to the White Sox. The free agent class is thin this year, but there still remains some names worth mentioning. Here are the top five remaining free agents in baseball:

1. Josh Hamilton – There’s no denying that Hamilton is above and beyond the top free agent this offseason. The 2010 MVP is coming off one of the best years of his career in which he hit 43 home runs and 128 RBI’s. However, Hamilton does come with an injury concern, along with the fact that he struggled down the stretch as the Rangers collapsed.

2. Zack Greinke – Greinke is the best free agent starting pitcher available. After being traded from the Brewers to the Angels before the trade deadline, he finished off a strong season going 15-5 with a 3.48 ERA. Greinke, only 28, won the Cy Young in 2009 and is still capable of being a top pitcher in any team’s rotation.

3. Kyle Lohse – Coming off the best season in his career with a 16-3 record and a 2.86 ERA, Lohse is the second best starting pitcher available this offseason. He only seems to be getting better with age, and he could dramatically improve a pitching staff.

4. Michael Bourn – This is where the 2013 free agent class drops off significantly, but Bourn can still be a key piece for many teams in need of a speedy center fielder. Though his numbers declined last year, Bourn is still only 29 years old and can be a threat at the top of any lineup.

5. Hiroki Kuroda – With the lack of depth in the free agent pool this year, number five has to be a pitcher. Kuroda is a strong veteran who pitched extremely well in New York last season, compiling a 16-11 record and a 3.32 ERA. He throws strikes, only walking 2.1 batters per nine innings in his career. Kuroda will be a great addition for whoever decides to snag him.

Manti Te’o, more than just an athlete

“All he had known about Bridget, all he had been told through a mutual friend, was that Bridget’s brain tumor was finally proving too powerful and that she wasn’t going to get out of the hospital again. And she loved Notre Dame football and Manti Te’o.” (Greg Couch)

Athletes in society today are idolized and looked up to as role models. They are in the spotlight because they chose to be. Too often professional athletes are making news for the wrong reasons. Too often athletes fail to be the proper role model for kids today. Fortunately, we find hope in one young athlete making a difference for others in his life.

Manti Te’o, 21, is a linebacker for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and is in the running for the Heisman this season. He’ll go high in the NFL Draft and is beloved by thousands of fans. He has it all. Or does he? Te’o recently lost his girlfriend and grandmother on the same day, yet he played the next game to honor them. He’s a man of faith and does things for others out of the goodness of his heart. The following story by Greg Couch is about his email to the parents of a dying 12-year-old.

Te’o eases grieving parents’ pain

Te’o’s story should serve as an example for all athletes. He didn’t even know this girl, yet he felt the desire to reach out to her family. He wrote the email from his heart and with the intent of it being solely for Bridget and her parents. Te’o did this on his own in a sincere act of compassion.

What if all athletes had the heart and desire to serve others as Manti Te’o? Too often athletes are looked up to for all the wrong reasons. It’s rare that an athlete, such as Te’o, is brought into the spotlight for something far greater than his play on the field.

Courtesy of Neon Tommy on Flickr

Four reasons why Verlander struggles in the World Series

Justin Verlander is the best pitcher in baseball. He won both the Cy Young and MVP award in 2011, becoming the first starting pitcher to do so since Roger Clemens in 1986. His fastball tops out at 100 MPH, and he only becomes more dominant as he goes deeper in his outings. Up until game one of the World Series, Verlander was 3-0 this postseason with a miniscule 0.74 ERA and a .122 OBA (opponent batting average). So why is it that the most dominant pitcher in the game today has now lost his third straight career World Series game? Here are four possible reasons why:

1. Too much time off

Back in 2006, Verlander had nine days off after the ALCS ended in four games against the Oakland A’s. This time around he had seven days off after the Tigers defeated the Yankees in four games. Like in 2006, Verlander simply did not look sharp in game one of the World Series. He left too many pitches out over the plate, and the Giants took advantage. Who would think that sweeping the Yankees in the ALCS could have actually hurt Detroit’s ace? It’s certainly possible.

2. Opposing lineups are locked in

Give the Giants a whole lot of credit for knocking Verlander out early. Their hitters are locked in after winning the last three games of the NLCS to defeat the Cardinals. Marco Scutaro hit .500 in the series, slapping 14 hits in just seven games. Pablo Sandoval too is dialed in this postseason, and that showed in game one as he mashed two Verlander mistakes over the wall. The Giants are focused, and their hitters were ready for anything Verlander had to throw at them.

3. Facing unfamiliar opponents

Verlander had only faced the Giants once before in his career, and this could play at an advantage for San Francisco. The Giants offense had to prepare for one man. Verlander had to prepare to face nine unique batters. Like in 2006, he did not have much experience against the Cardinals. That being said, he did bounce back and pitch well in game five of the 06′ World Series. Expect him to do the same if he gets another opportunity this year.

4. Can’t handle the pressure (unlikely but possible)

Yes, this is highly unlikely that a pitcher such as Verlander would collapse under the pressure. However, it should not be ruled out. Even the best in the game can struggle on baseball’s biggest stage. Again, it’s unlikely to be the case because Verlander had been near perfect this October. The reason for his struggles is likely a combination of the three circumstances above.

Five reasons why the Cardinals refuse to lose

Photo by Keith Allison on Flickr

The St. Louis Cardinals are once again on the brink of heading to another World Series. Some think there’s no explanation for it. After all, they did just lose franchise slugger and superstar Albert Pujols to the Angels last offseason. How can a team compensate for such a loss? How can the worst regular season team to make it to the playoffs be one game away from back-to-back World Series appearances? Here are five reasons why:

1. Pitching

With Kyle Lohse anchoring the pitching staff this season, the Cards have a plethora of starting pitching. Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter, and Lance Lynn have all risen to the occasion in the playoffs this year. They come up with big games when it counts, and that’s a theme with this Cardinals team going back to last year. Closer Jason Motte has done his job as well, only allowing one run through 7 and 1/3 innings this October.

2. Managing

Mike Matheny has to be given a lot of credit for the job he’s done with this Cardinals team. Like last year, they are coming together as a group at the most important time of the season. He’s calm and always seems to make the right moves, in this his first season as manager.

3. Timely hitting

Unlike the Yankees, the Cards always seem to get the big hits when it really counts the most. Daniel Descalso and Pete Kozma got the biggest hits this postseason in game 5 against the Nationals. Again on the verge of being eliminated, the two hits tied the game and put the Cardinals ahead, advancing them to the NLCS to face the Giants. Give the Cards a lot of credit for constantly coming up in the clutch, even on the edge of elimination.

4. Players born for the postseason

It’s true, the Cardinals are filled with players just dying to play deep into October. Obviously David Freese has to be the number one guy on this list after what he did in last year’s World Series. But again, players like Descalso and Kozma continue to step up for St. Louis. Two nights ago, it was Matt Carpenter filling in for an injured Carlos Beltran, who hit what would be the game winning home run in the third inning. Matt who? It’s guys like this, even coming off the bench, who thrive in the big moment.

5. Heart

One cannot simply define how much heart a team has, but the Cardinals have it. They have a whole lot of it. You can’t do what they’ve done in these last two postseasons with out it. Even when it seems like their magic has run dry, they find a way to win baseball games. This is a team that literally defines Yogi Berra’s saying “It ain’t over till it’s over.” The Cards have no quit in them, and that is a true measurement of heart.

Cincinnati Reds collapse under pressure

The San Francisco Giants had no business winning this series. The Cincinnati Reds collapsed after dominating the first two games on the road. Cincinnati had not lost three straight home games all season but do so in the first round of the playoffs? Even with the injury to ace Johnny Cueto, the Reds had to have this series. The Giant stole it from them and not because of their own heroic play.

Let’s break things down. The Reds two-hit the Giants in game two of the series and won 9-0. They headed home with a commanding 2-0 lead, knowing that they had played well at Great American Ballpark all season. Surely the series was over.

With a tremendous effort from Homer Bailey in game 3, the Giants only managed one hit through the first nine innings. They were fortunate to have the one run after Gregor Blanco was hit by a pitch and later scored on a sacrifice fly in the 3rd inning. Unfortunately for the Reds, they had only mustered one run through nine innings as well, and the game went to extras. Jonathan Broxton took the mound in the 10th for the Reds and immediately allowed two singles. He should have gotten out of the jam, but with two outs eight-time gold glove winner Scott Rolen made a rare error that allowed the Giants to take the lead 2-1. This turned out to be the pivotal moment in the series as the Reds would eventually lose game 3. The Giants, having been one-hit through nine innings, had life because the Reds allowed it.

Cincinnati, seemingly demoralized, lost game 4 again at home 8-3 the next day.

Still, entering game 5, the Reds should have had some confidence having beaten Matt Cain all three times this season, including in game 1 of the series. Mat Latos was strong through the first four innings, but then hell broke loose in the 5th. Latos imploded on the mound. After allowing a leadoff single and then a triple, Latos got Cain to ground out. Reds shortstop Zack Cozart then botched an opportunity in the field, allowing another run to score. Latos walked Marco Scutaro, gave up a hit to Pablo Sandoval, and the bases were loaded for Buster Posey. Latos didn’t even turn to look at the ball as Posey launched a moonshot into left field, silencing the Cincinnati crowd. It was 6-0.

The Reds made an effort at a comeback but came up short in the 9th inning. Rolen struck out to end the game with the tying run on first base, and the Giants breathed a sigh of relief. The collapse was complete.

Cincinnati, having not lost three games in a row at home all season, choked on baseball’s biggest stage. There are no excuses for this team that won the NL Central by nine games. They should have swept away the Giants in three games, but the Reds gave them a chance. The Giants didn’t win the series, the Reds lost it.

Bold Postseason Predictions: Orioles and the A’s? One will win the World Series

Courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr

The Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics are undoubtedly this years biggest surprises baseball. The A’s stormed into the playoffs to overtake the Texas Ranger in the AL West on the last game of the season. The O’s played consistently all season long as most awaited for them to tail off. That didn’t happen, and now they have the opportunity to advance further into the playoffs due to the new wild card format. The A’s and the O’s are two teams that make baseball great and will make this October just that more exciting, but which will make a shocking deep postseason run?

Let’s get to the predictions…

AL Wild Card Round – Orioles over Rangers

The Rangers have to be gassed at this point after back to back World Series losses and getting swept by Oakland to lose the division lead on the last day of the season. The Orioles have some magic in this team full of unlikely heroes like Chris Davis. The O’s steal this one down in Arlington.

NL Wild Card Round – Braves over Cardinals

The Braves are 12-0 when Kris Medlen starts this season. That undefeated record is not going to change in this game against the Cardinals.

ALDS – Athletics over Tigers

The A’s are on an absolute tear and have all the momentum in the world entering this postseason. If the A’s can combine a sturdy rotation and a strong bullpen with timely hitting, they can go deep into October.

ALDS – Yankees over Orioles

Unfortunately, this is where the O’s magic finally runs out. The Yankees surged into this postseason, and the division win allows them to setup their rotation. Yankees over Orioles easily in four games or less.

NLDS – Giants over Reds

This has to be the most intriguing matchup of the first round, and it comes down to pitching. Matt Cain facing off against Johnny Cueto in game one is the key to this series. Which ever team can win this game will take the series. Cain has the experience and players behind him that have been in this situation before. The Giants take this series after Cain wins game one.

NLDS – Nationals over Braves

Even without Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals are the most complete team in the National League. Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman are as good as any 1-2 punch in baseball in the rotation, and they are backed up by one the the best bullpens in the league. The Nationals end the Braves season and the illustrious career of Chipper Jones.

ALCS – Athletics over Yankees

The magical season does not end with another loss to the Yankees October. The A’s rotation and pitching staff is too deep even for the Yankees to overcome. If CC Sabathia can’t win two games for the Yankees in this series, the A’s will come out on top and return to the World Series for the first time since 1990.

NLCS – Giants over Nationals

If the Nationals had Strasburg, they’d take this series. They don’t. This is finally where their decision to sit him comes back to haunt them. With Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong anchoring the rotation, the Giants once again have the starting pitching to take them to the promise land.

World Series – Athletics over Giants

Yes, in a Battle for the Bay Area, Billy Beane’s dream of finally winning a World Series as the Oakland Athletics’ GM comes true, setting up for the sequel, Moneyball 2.

Weaver and Price for Cy Young, Angels and Rays fight for wild card

Photos courtesy of Keith Allison on Flickr

Jered Weaver and David Price are in a dead heat for the 2012 AL Cy Young award. Fans may forget that Weaver finished second for the award in 2011 after being overshadowed by Justin Verlander’s astonishing season. This year is different. This year could be Weaver’s year.

Weaver’s 1.00 WHIP is the best in all of baseball, along with his .800 winning percentage. He is the ace of an underachieving Angels team and has been the only true consistent pitcher for them all season long. Although he hasn’t been quite as good as last year, he also doesn’t have to worry about Verlander stealing his thunder again. However, he does have to worry about a young lefty pitching the lights out in Florida.

The only true threat to Weaver’s run for Cy Young is David Price of the Tampa Bay Rays. Price’s 17-5 record is very similar to Weaver’s 17-4, and he does have a slightly better ERA of 2.54. Price too finished in second place for the award back 2010, falling short to Mariners phenom King Felix.

With the season coming to an end for each Cy Young candidate, the race will come down to their last few starts. What is even more exciting is that each of their starts truly matter. The Angels and Rays are both in a battle for the new second wild card spot this season with only about 20 games left to play. If either team is going to make the playoffs, the Angels and Rays need their two aces at their absolute best down the stretch.

Now this is what a Cy Young race is supposed to come down to, two pitchers battling it out in the most dire games of the season in late September. Price or Weaver, Rays or Angels, who will it be? This is why we watch.