As we are coming nearer and nearer to the return of the return of Major League Baseball, it might not be a bad time to take a look back at what has happened this winter.
Particularly, the Seattle Mariners made some big moves that might not put them at the top of the highly competitive American League West, but they have revamped the heart of their lineup.
Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales each had the potential to drive in 100 runs and hit perhaps 25 home runs apiece. On top of that, they have some very nice young talent in Jesus Montero, Kyle Seager and Dustin Ackley. Their starting rotation will of course be anchored by Felix Hernandez.
There is hope in Seattle like there was hope in Baltimore last season. It is still unlikely that they will be able to climb all the way out of the cellar in one season, but you can see the pieces starting to come together.
Another important development is the arms race in Los Angeles. It seems as if both the Angels and the Dodgers are willing to do whatever it takes to bring a World Series championship home.
The acquisition of Josh Hamilton will help make the Angels even more powerful than before, and Zack Greinke will fit behind Clayton Kershaw and dramatically improve that starting rotation.
We always talk about the Subway Series in New York City, but it is definitely not impossible that we might see one in Los Angeles.
Finally, how could we talk about this winter without mentioning the incredible development of the Toronto Blue Jays? The roster is virtually unrecognizable. Reigning National League Cy Young Award winner RA Dickey will now lead their rotation. Josh Johnson will be looking to unlock the potential we all know he has.
That is just on the mound.
Jose Reyes will be playing at shortstop and hopefully return to his All-Star form. Melky Cabrera has returned from his PED suspension and will look to build on his success last season. They will join the perennially powerful Jose Bautista will have even more opportunities to drive in runs this year.
This team is loaded, but the American League East has never been more competitive. The New York Yankees will always be good, the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles should have continued success and it would be surprising to not see the Boston Red Sox back in contention this season.
Obviously, it was a busy winter, and I have only hit a few of the highlights here. However, I hope it does something to help get you excited for the imminent return of baseball.Posted in Columns, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Dodgers, Seattle Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays | Leave a comment
Well, you all have heard the news. The baseball writers who have a say in immortalizing the legends of the game in Cooperstown have decided that no one deserved entry this year.
I have to say that I am somewhat surprised.
I am not surprised about the absence of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa or anyone who was a heavily-assumed PED user. There was so much controversy surrounding each of these players that it was not that hard to predict that they would miss the 75% threshold.
Some of the more questionable omissions involved guys like Jeff Bagwell and Mike Piazza.
Neither one has ever been mentioned in connection with PED use. They have never been listed in any of the reports, and they both had careers that deserve enshrinement in Cooperstown.
Is this the new normal? Are we always going to have to decimate any power hitter from the 1990s?
I somewhat fear that it is.
However, I have to wonder how logical this process really is. Basically, certain hitters are being punished because they played at the wrong time. If you move Piazza or Bagwell back 10 years in history, you probably would not have this problem. They would be in the Hall of Fame without a doubt, and I think that is the way it should be.
There is a significant problem there. These men are being punished for something beyond their control. It isn’t like they chose to play the 1990s. There really is nothing you can do about your age. However, we are essentially calling guilt by association and assuming that we cannot trust anyone.
How will we remedy this problem?
I don’t really think that we can. While it is true that Major League Baseball has enhanced their drug testing policies, there are still ways to get around them. No law can be perfectly enforced. Performance-enhancing drugs are still on the market, and I am sure that there are ways for players to get them.
How can we then trust any player from now on?
I think that some people will come back and say that there is no proof that certain players from today used steroids, and I would agree. However, there is no proof therefore Bagwell or Piazza did either. We are now right back where we started. Because of the suspicion that some used, we cannot trust anyone.
This is going to be a dilemma that the writers will need to consider carefully for the years to come. All the players have the ability to cheat, but I don’t think that they all do. Unless the proof is overwhelmingly against players like Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens, it is hard for me to assume that everyone cheated. Maybe that is a somewhat naïve perspective, but on the other hand, maybe it isn’t.Posted in Columns | Leave a comment
Well, it is that time of year again. All the Hall of Fame ballots have been cast, and on January 9, we will know who made the cut and who didn’t.
Of course, voting this year must have been quite difficult given the shadow of performance-enhancing drug use.
Did he use them? Did he not use them? Did he use them for some period of time? Did he use them even though no one ever confirmed that he did? Is a mere suspicion enough to never vote for a player? Do performance-enhancing drugs matter at all especially if there was rampant use that would have essentially leveled the playing field?
It has been interesting to scour the Internet and look for a few examples of voting rationale. I want to share them with you today.
First off, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports had a very interesting perspective. He essentially argued that he very well might vote for Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens later (or he still might not), but there was no way that he would vote for them on the first ballot.
“As I’ve written previously, this is my way of distinguishing, say, Bonds from Hank Aaron, players from a dubious period from the greats of the past.”
In a way, it is like saying that in order to be in this exclusive fraternity of first ballot Hall of Famers, you must be undoubtedly clean. My main problem with line of thought involves fan perception. Most fans probably do not know every first ballot Hall of Famer, so even though this nuance does set them apart in what seems like an appropriate way, I do not think that enough people would recognize what Rosenthal is trying to point out.
Of course, not everybody shared his internal debate or sense of potential compromise.
Stan McNeal of the Sporting News was rather blunt in the reason that he passed over highly-probable performance-enhancing drug users.
“Any player who used steroids or any other performance-enhancing drug on the list of banned substances was cheating.
Cheaters lack integrity and sportsmanship. Any player who lacks integrity and sportsmanship doesn’t deserve to be voted into the Hall of Fame, at least as long as Rule No. 5 is part of the process.”
I have to admit that I tend to fall into this camp. Yes, there are certain players like Roger Clemens who got off of his perjury charges. In theory then, he is innocent.
However, the suspicion is so great and the evidence is so condemning that I do not think I could ever vote for him either. He was an excellent pitcher, and based on purely numbers, he absolutely deserves a place in the Hall of Fame.
Baseball is about more than numbers though, and I do not have a lot of patience for players who did not play the game the right way.
Finally, let me leave you with one final perspective from TJ Quinn of ESPN. He simply decided not to vote. He does not feel like he, as a journalist, was truly in a good position to make a judgment on this issue that honestly extends far beyond the baseball diamond and into the field of ethics.
“Even before the issue of performance-enhancing drugs overwhelmed the annual conversation, I questioned my capacity to evaluate a player’s fitness for immortality. My only qualification, like all voters, was 10 years’ service as a BBWAA member. But nothing in my years as a beat writer covering the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets, and nothing in my years covering doping as an investigative reporter since has prepared me to evaluate the effect PED use should have on a player’s legacy.”
From what I have been reading around the Internet, I highly doubt that you will see Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens enshrined in Cooperstown this season. It is a shame that such great players will go down in infamy, but I guess some could look at it as the price they paid for all of their success.Posted in Columns | Leave a comment
Edwin Jackson is a very nice consolation prize for the Chicago Cubs. Even though they would have liked to have Anibal Sanchez, and many people thought they did have Sanchez, Jackson will be an effective starting pitcher for the Cubs.
Jackson quietly put together a nice season with the Washington Nationals in 2012. He went 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA. Most impressively though, he brought his WHIP down to 1.218.
The reason that I highlight that statistic in particular is because his career mark is 1.438. He has always surrendered several walks, but this season he drove that number down to only 2.8 per nine innings. There is still room for improvement, but that is an excellent sign.
Also, he allowed fewer hits per nine innings than he had in any other complete professional season which would naturally drive down the WHIP as well. That might be a product of the same control improvements, and perhaps he is putting the ball in places where it is harder to hit.
The Chicago Cubs now have a relatively solid one-two punch at the top of the rotation with Jackson joining Matt Garza. I know that trade rumors have swirled around Garza forever, but I do not see that happening now. At this point, with the investment in Jackson, the Cubs have shown that they want to do something this season to seriously compete, and trading away their best starting pitcher would probably not be a smart way to go about doing that.
Of course, one has to wonder what will happen to Jackson in Wrigley Field. He does have a tendency to give up more fly balls, so that might be a challenge in such a small baseball park.
Also, the Chicago Cubs are not exactly at the top of the baseball hierarchy right now. He will probably not get very much run support, and his record could easily take a hit.
I guess that that is part of the reason why many analysts do not give wins and losses very much credence. They are highly dependent on factors beyond the pitcher’s control. It is still something to consider though.
However, despite these minor drawbacks, this is an overwhelmingly positive decision for Chicago. The team needed to bring it more pitching, and Jackson will be able to contribute in that capacity.Posted in Chicago Cubs, Columns | Leave a comment
Well, the trade market has been busy, and the latest movement is easily one of the most interesting.
Although it is not necessarily finalized yet, it seems as if the Toronto Blue Jays have acquired National League Cy Young Award winner RA Dickey, catcher Josh Thole and a prospect from the New York Mets in return for top prospect Travis d’Arnaud, Noah Syndergaard, catcher John Buck and a prospect. For a summary of all of these developments, here is a link to an article from Mike Axisa of MLB Trade Rumors.
Most of what I have been reading on the Internet involves the risk that the Mets are taking. d’Arnaud is one of the best catching prospects in all of baseball, but as the centerpiece in this deal on the New York side, there is a lot of pressure for him to succeed.
I understand that.
However, Toronto is taking a major risk as well.
RA Dickey is a Cy Young Award winner, and he did win 20 games in 2012. There is definitely something to be said about that, and I guess that even 37-year-olds can break out of their shells.
However, last year was his only dominant season. In fact, his three seasons in New York represent the only times during his career that he was primarily a starting pitcher. Over the time he spent with the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Minnesota Twins, he bounced back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation.
Two of the top prospects in baseball will be joining the New York Mets because of this trade. Yes, prospects are far from sure bets, and history is full of great prospects that failed to live up to the sometimes astronomical expectations placed on their shoulders.
That being said, there are many who don’t fail, and what if d’Arnaud and Syndergaard turn into those? In fact, what if they both become All-Stars?
If Dickey helps the Toronto Blue Jays to the top of the American League East for the next few seasons, there probably won’t be that much of a problem.
However, what if he regresses back to the pitcher that we knew before this past year and even before he joined the New York Mets?
I’m not wishing any ill will on RA Dickey whatsoever, but it is important to remember that this is not just a risk for the New York Mets. The Toronto Blue Jays are taking a risk on their future as well.Posted in Columns, New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, Trades | Leave a comment