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Grading Oakland Pitcher Ben Sheets $10 Million Into His Contract

This day came a little earlier than I supposed it would. Ben Sheets’ season is now officially over. Possibly his career. Twice at the quarter season and half way points, I have given Sheets an overall grade. Now, instead of having two more reviews, I am forced to give my final one with his season ending surgery.

Sheets plans on having flexor-tendon surgery, mostly so that he can pitch again if he would like to; but he stated: “If I came back, I would have to feel a lot better.” (San Francisco Chronicle).

He will most likely miss all of next season, and there is a good chance he could be done permanently.  The infamous Dr. James Andrews did his prior surgery on his injured tendon in his arm.

Now let’s get to the review:

Sheets, the 6’1”, 222 pound starter was 4-9 this season with a 4.53 ERA. The league average is 4.15.

He started 20 games this season and had seven no decisions. He had 116 innings pitched this year which was his second lowest of his career (88 in 2006 was lowest). Sheets was 1-1 against his division with four no decisions.

All of these factors are mixed in with his $10 million contract which equals out to $2.5 million dollars per win. I am not trying to be too hard on Sheets—who undoubtedly went out and pitched hard, but the wins just aren’t there.

He was getting quite consistent to end the year as he didn’t allow more than four Earned Runs after a May 2nd debacle where he gave up 9 runs to the Blue Jays. That meant over his last fourteen starts, he has left his team in the game, just not been able to get run support.

With all of this taken into account, he can’t be given a high grade, since he just didn’t step it up in the games when needed; but still became effective to a point as the season progressed. The season ending injury realistically has to hurt his grade overall.

Season Ending Grade: C


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Why the New York Mets Should Have A No-Hitter By Now

Earlier this season, Ubaldo Jimenez threw a No-Hitter which happened to be the first in Rockies history. Tonight against the Tigers, Matt Garza, the former Minnesota Twins player threw the first in Tampa Bay history.

Both were from clubs which I still consider in the new expansion era which encompasses the last twenty years to me (Rockies, Devil Rays, Marlins, Diamondbacks).

Now, we are left with two squads that have not thrown No-Hitters. They are the San Diego Padres (which is still believable) and the New York Mets. Within this article I will outright state why the New York Mets without a shadow of a doubt should have already left this list alone for the Padres.

Reason no.1: Nolan Ryan

Ryan’s stay wasn’t that long with the Mets, as he only pitched five seasons in New York and he truly didn’t develop until he hit the California Angels.

Still, Ryan is the All-Time leader in No-Hitters with seven. He pitched 27 seasons and had seven No-Hitters which averages out to just under every four years. He was in the NY for five, odds say he should have picked one up.

Reason no.2: Oh So Close with Great Pitchers

The New York Mets have thrown 33 one hitters. It might be a more impressive feat that a club has been able to go that long with so many one hit games and not throw a No-Hitter.

This is a club that had the great Tom Seaver that led them to the 1969 title. Their were the young studs at their respective times in Doc Gooden, Jerry Koosman and David Cone as well. Johan Santana as well is an arm that could be looked upon to deliver this feat.

Even if a great Met pitcher didn’t do it, one could believe an unknown would rise to the occasion. Half of the No-Hitters of recent memory have not been by All-Stars, but rather by obscure players or bottom of the rotation players who make their way into the record books.

Reason no.3: The Designated Hitter

Playing in the National league, at a minimum there is at least three extra bats a game your facing the pitcher instead of a position player. That’s a whole inning when you break it down. So many times pitchers lose it within the last inning. If we went strictly by the thought that it is your usual below .200 average pitcher at the plate, it would be reasonable to believe he would be a one of your three outs in the last inning.

Assuming of course, that your pitcher of record has not already given up three walks. Putting an ease on the pitcher as he attempts to finish his attempt.

Reason no.4: 49 Years of Attempts

Let’s look up the math on this quickly: The Mets have played 7,735 games over their history. Add in this current season 49th season and one can only wonder if the Cubs will win a title or the Mets will get a No-Hitter first. Going that long, you would have to figure that even in a crap shoot they would hit one time.

Reason no.5: Luck – Not on Their Side

This is the same Franchise that got a ball to roll between Bill Buckner’s legs to propel them to the 1986 title. Somehow, they got a monumental moment like that to occur; but a task that is done every year has been out their grasp for almost an half century.

They were able to pick up Mike Piazza when it looked like their were dark clouds over his movement from the Florida Marlins and that went fluidly. Both of their titles have come as surprises as well. Luck should run out sometime on this No-Hit wall and reality should kick in sometime on this run.

If the No-Hit pace continues as it has this season, it shouldn’t be too long until only the Padres are on this list. Or that the Mets are only on this list. That’s the intrigue of watching a No-Hitter or a Perfect Game being achieved; it can be their and gone with one slap of the bat.


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Are the Cincinnati Reds Kings of Ohio With LeBron James Gone?

Last Thursday, LeBron James decided to leave the Midwest for the sunshine in Miami, and with that, changed the entire landscape of professional sports in Ohio.

The Cavaliers, or more importantly James, had become the heart of the professional state. They had reached the 2007 Finals, had the best regular season record two straight seasons and the best player in the respective sport.

For Cincinnati, basketball has not been as relevant since the days of Oscar Robertson and the Cincinnati Royals. Therefore, I write this view not from a basketball perspective, but a whole “sport-state” perspective.

The state currently has seven professional sports teams that include:

Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Browns, Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Cavaliers, Columbus Blue Jackets and the Columbus Crew (MLS).

With LeBron now gone from the picture, there are truly only two franchises that can currently take claim at this time to being the Kings of Ohio: the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Browns.

An argument could be made for the Cincinnati Bengals, but their past season of success, a divisional title is not enough force to make up for their lean history of success.

Now, for those of you who want to argue for Ohio State, this is only an argument at the professional level, so Ohio State Football is not valid within these walls of argument. That is for a collegiate debate.

In this article, I will speak on the strength of reason the Cincinnati Reds should be considered the Kings of Ohio.

Right now as we lay at the All-Star break, the Reds lead the Central Division (49-41) by a game over the perennial division champ St. Loius Cardinals. The trio of Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips, and National League home run leader (22) Joey Votto have all helped in creating the division lead. The Reds look as strong as they have since the 1995 Playoff season where they battled the Braves. That is just a jumping point to start off the discussion.

The Reds are the last team in the state of Ohio to win a pro championship. Cleveland has been high and dry, but the Reds were able to take home the title in a suprise at the time by dismantling the Oakland Athletics in the 1990 World Series.

If I mention the name Chris Sabo, I’m sure it will put a smile on a few faces who have forgotten him. There is always Barry Larkin, Eric Davis, the mean bullpen trio which included Norm Charlton and the dominant Jose Rijo. They brought luster to a team which had not seen it in the 80’s. However, the 70’s were not so bad for the Red Stockings either.

These were times when the roster included players such as: Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, George Foster, Dave Concepcion, Gary Nolan and the original Ken Griffey—a finely tuned bunch who won back-to-back titles in 1975 and 1976.

The titles are what people remember, and unfortunately, it has been two decades since they last took home the title, but the history remains. The fact that they have been around since 1882 (or 1869 depending on which Red Stockings team you recognize), shows the immense amount of time they have been able to hold a place in professional sports.

They have the Hall of Fame players such as Pete Rose, and the moments such as his all-time hits mark set in Cincinnati. You could make an all-time Reds roster that could compete with any other one in the league. They might not beat the Yankees all-time or Dodgers all-time team, but they would sure give them one tough game or tough series.

The Reds have an illustrious past to go from and a bright future ahead of them as we watch this season unfold and those to come. If the young men can continue to develop and the minor league players can continue to grow into productive players at the professional ranks, this could be a championship caliber team. 

Just the thing worth noting in a team to be considered the Kings of Ohio.


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I’ll Admit It: I Miss Steroids in Baseball

He said what?! You support steroids in baseball? Are you serious?

In a way, I do. I miss seeing mammoth home runs being shot to the upper deck on the simple flick of the wrist. The shouts of “Wow” that would emanate throughout the stadium from the fans. Plus, the naive state that many baseball fans stayed in (including many today) in believing their baseball heroes were clean and played pure baseball was hogwash then and now. 

Well, to those who are purists and want answers, all I can say is this: I do miss players staying with their original teams; I miss every team having a chance to win the World Series title and I miss the days when you didn’t have to throw away a full day’s itinerary around a Sox-Yanks game. If that’s your thing, fine. I on the other hand, am so numb to the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry that the desire to address this topic awoken in me.

Let me be the first to state that my favorite baseball player of All-Time is and will probably always be Ken Griffey Jr. I don’t believe he used, so whether or not you believe he used ‘roids, I am not a particular fan of players who use steroids, I am just a fan of the type of game that was being played during that time.

Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, and others as the list goes on are not going to be on my favorite players sheet. I have a feeling others feel the same way. Their cowardice from not speaking honestly about the steroids is my main issue, not the steroids themselves.

I really wish one of them would have just come out and said: “Yeah, I use steroids. I play better, get paid more and give my team a better chance at winning. That’s why I use them.” Nope. Not a single word of that dialogue was spoken by a single player at the time. Everything was hush hush around the league which made more of an annoyance looking at things now, but also made them more intriguing as time progressed.

I, for one, enjoyed the other side of baseball that was forgotten as all of these recording breaking Home Run numbers were being put up. That would be the pitching aspect of the game.

Watching Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Mike Mussina, John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez going at it in the Steroid era was great. Having these behemoths of meat staring you down at the plate and still being able to be effective at pitching is simply impressive.

It makes what Pedro Martinez did from 1997-2003 astounding and an almost resounding reason to put him into the Hall of Fame.

In 1997, back when he was with Montreal, he posted a 1.90 ERA with 13 Complete Games over 241 Innings Pitched. Already a fantastic season under his belt as the Steroids Era was under way, he would follow this with a trip down to Boston to continue his career.

Now Martinez would take on competition during the hey day of Steroids. How would he respond?

During 1999, Pedro only allowed 9 Home Runs over the season while pitching 213 innings. A ratio that works out to only one Home Run in every 23.6 at bats. That went with a 2.07 ERA that year. He would follow the next season with a “decent” 1.74 ERA. He would hold a 2.21 ERA over this seven-year period.

That is part of what was so great about the Home Run Era over the Dead Ball Era to me; it truly showcased the great pitchers of the time. I also believe with this blueprint put in place, it should resolve any questions about Mike Mussina legitimately making it into the hall.

Now to the opposing side of the field and focusing on Offense, who doesn’t like scoring? Americans are starting to come around on Hockey and Soccer/Football depending on how you want to address it, but scoring still reigns.

Did the West Coast Offense not make the 49ers and Professional Football all the more appetizing? I believe so. With that thought in mind, Americans love scoring whether it’s with each other or when its watching an event in front of them.

I was living in Seattle when Brett Boone was a Mariner, and I can say he was 100 times more fun to watch on ‘Roids. Not only was he belting Home Runs at a record pace for a second basemen, but he was making unbelievable defensive stops to save games.

I can just imagine if Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle or Babe Ruth would have been able to Juice. That would have been crazy. So crazy that no matter how much one might be against steroids, you know seeing a Mantle/Aaron/Mays fight for Home Run supremacy today/then would be great. A healthy Mickey Mantle against a young Aaron and a primed Mays would  be awesome, no other way to face it.

Everyone hates Barry Lamar Bonds, however no one argues that he wasn’t a fantastic player on steroids or that he wasn’t also fantastic at being an ass. People didn’t need reality T.V., they had the ups and downs of a Major League player on the juice to watch. He showed us the numerous strengths and faults we can find in humans displayed in so many ways in just one person. He was a truly polarizing figure.

I also miss the days of hating Bud Selig and the owners. I personally see them as the main contributors to this Era in baseball. Selig had a chance to nip this steroid problem in the bud; but following the strike of ’94, integrity was not going to go ahead of dollar signs and the long ball fun was going to continue. He was a fun villain to root against and today unfortunately, he is just that guy who allowed a tie in an All-Star Game.

My frustration now, is that so many players had to use just to compete with others who were using at the time. No one wanted to be taken down to the minors, so you did what you had to to survive. If your rival third basemen on the team is taking, are you going to stay clean and get demoted? That was an issue many faced and with Selig not cleaning things up, players had to say yay over nay way too many times.

With the past transactions however, have we become so sensitive to steroids that we have taken them out from everything in our society?

The new Predator movie called “Predators” is coming out and who does it star: Adrien Brody and Topher Grace! Now I love Adrien Brody, he deserved the Best Actor award for the Pianist in 2001, there is no question about that in my mind. Turning towards the movie Predators however, how can I take him and Topher Grace serious as the men who are going to stop a Predator.

I need the Steroid base men who fill their meat head roles. Brody and Grace are lovers, not fighters and I would like it if Hollywood realized that. Please leave my favorite Hollywood movies remade realistically. No one wants to see Schwarzenegger in a love story, same with Brody in an Action flick.

Steroids can have negative and positive effects, it is acknowledging their uses that is key. I don’t condone players to use them because they are messing with their health by overusing them and I am not a supporter of that function. There are people who have needed steroids to treat life threatening illnesses and I fully support their usage if they can help improve their quality of life.

In the end, it is a contradiction I live within when it comes to steroids. I long to see the game played the way it once was, but at the same time I do not condone unhealthy functions by the players.

Young men of high school age have followed their heroes in paths to sometimes tragic results and that is a shame.

Again, I’ll admit it I miss the Steroid Era of baseball. That being recognized, I also enjoy the growth that people can make with their minds instead of just their bodies. Here’s hope that the mindset of people can continue to grow over desires to modify only the body.

Home runs are nice, but knowing how to build a home is a little bit nicer.

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Grading Oakland Pitcher Ben Sheets: $5 Million Into His Contract

As the All-Star Game approaches, let’s take an updated look at Ben Sheets’ season.

Last night, Sheets had his longest outing of the season, going 7.1 innings in a tough 3-1 loss against the mighty Yankees. This was his second-best outing of the year and his best one in a month, as he faced a very deep lineup.

The game displayed the ups and downs of his season. Sheets pitched a great game, except the home run that he gave up to Mark Teixeira, but still lost.

Through the first quarter of the season, I gave Sheets a “C-” grade. Now, we can look back at his starts since May 28th.

Sheets has started eight games since then, going 1-5 with two no-decisions. That’s a rough mark for a supposed top starter.

But he has been steady, giving up three earned runs in a game five times and four earned runs three times.

He has had to struggle with run support, which also explains his recent record.

The Athletics have put up just over four runs per game over Sheets’ last eight, which isn’t too bad, but that average is distorted by a 14-4 win over the Pirates. Without that game, the A’s have only averaged 2.7 runs for him.

Sheets has been more reliable, but he’s still not winning key divisional games, including a 4-2 loss to the Angels, which blunts my praise. Overall, he stands 3-8 with a 4.89 ERA. I’ll raise my grade, but just slightly.

Grade: C

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Remember Me: John Jaha

Let’s take a trip to the past and revisit players of lore and others who played kind of poor(ly). Our first look is at John Emil Jaha. He was a 14th round selection of the Brewers in the 1984 draft.

He spent seven years with the Brew Crew and made his first appearance with the club in 1992. He wasn’t the greatest player ever, but he did have the ability to hit the long ball. He hit 105 home runs with the Brewers in his stay with the team including his top year of 34 home runs and 118 RBI.

This total was only bested during a season with the Oakland Athletics in 1999. He was Comeback Player of the Year that season with his lone All-Star appearance to go with 35 home runs and 111 RBI.

He assumed first base and designated hitter duties with the Brew Crew and had his share of strikeouts to go with the bombs. He was among the group to take the reins from Paul Molitor and Robin Yount. Despite his strikeouts, however, he is one of the best defensive first basemen of all time, ranking 62nd in fielding percentage.

He also spent one season playing with former Australian teammate Dave Nilsson in the Australian Baseball League with the Daikyo Dolphins. Overall, he was a decent player who had some big strengths and average abilities otherwise.

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Lee-ning Towards The Cliff: Seattle Mariners Should Save Their Own Fall

Cliff Lee just finished perhaps his best start of the season—thus proving once again that he should not be traded.

Lee (5-3), lowered his ERA to 2.55. He allowed no runs and struck out seven Cincinnati Reds batters in a complete game. It was his second complete game of the season.

Lee has been the focus of many potential trade rumors, and for good reason. He is the best player on the market right now. No disrespect to Roy Oswalt, but this is the man to get. Hopefully, the Mariners can see beyond their current struggles and realize how much value there is in keeping Lee.

Here’s just a short list of his strongest features:


He Works Fast

Lee is probably the fastest-working pitcher in Major League Baseball. At one point tonight, for instance, he was on the mound to start the half inning, ready to throw again, before the opposing pitcher was back in the dugout. His quick pace is a refreshing reminder of how baseball used to be played—back when it was America’s true pastime, and pitchers and batters would play the game proficiently. Now, watching a Red Sox-Yankees game is like receiving a prison sentence. Everyone should be thankful that Lee’s outings save an extra hour of their lives.


He Contributes to Good Team Chemistry

Lee has never been in trouble at any point in his career. Whether in Cleveland, Philadelphia, or Seattle, he has always been a steady influence in the dugout. He takes his outings in stride and always competes.


He has Quality Playoff Experience

Lee pitched in the 2009 World Series, and if it weren’t for Hideki Matsui, he could have made a push for MVP. He was as important as any member of the Phillies, not only in the World Series itself, but in helping Philadelphia get there. His second half of last season, after the Phillies acquired him, and his performance during the playoffs established him as a top-10 pitcher in the league, bar none. It caught me by surprise that Philly would give him up, even with the chance to get Roy Halladay. Now that Seattle is thinking the same way, I am in a state of shock once again.


One Bad Season Doesn’t Ensure Another

Lee had one terrible season, in 2007, when he posted a 6.29 ERA. Not numbers of a man you would consider an elite pitcher at the time. He rebounded the next year, however, putting up a 22-3 record with a 2.54 ERA with Cleveland. Lee took home the American League Cy Young Award that year. He was also fourth in Cy Young balloting in 2005, going 18-5. He has shown in the past that he was great and will continue to dominate in the future.

He Pitches in Safeco Field

Safeco Field is considered a pitchers’ ballpark and Lee has been solid in four of five home outings. (He hasn’t been too shabby on the road, either—he has not allowed more than three runs in a game away from Seattle this year.) Safeco benefits a pitcher’s performance, as Lee has proven after getting comfortable in its confines.

The Mariners have always failed to have a great No. two pitcher. The 116-win team featured guys having career years, explaining why they could not challenge the Yankees in the 2001 playoffs. If the Mariners can continue to get hitting from this young lineup, then they will have a chance to go to the postseason and reach the World Series.

With Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, the Mariners would have a legitimate shot at the title with some offensive support. Throw in Doug Fister behind them and championship hopes are more reasonable than not.

Look, the Mariners are always among the top 10 in payroll, but not always there in wins. Getting rid of a sure thing in a No. one or two starter does not indicate a winning club—it just reminds us of the pre-Griffey M’s.

If the Mariners have any hopes of becoming better, they should keep the known product in Lee. It would take a ridiculous amount of talent on the receiving end to make a trade for this man. This is not the lottery; this is professional baseball, and the M’s should make decisions with that in mind. Prospects are nice, but a top-notch starting pitcher for ten years with Hernandez promises a sunny outlook. We will have to see what Jack Z decides to do.


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Kansas City Royals Get All-Star Game in 2012

The Kansas City Royals finally have something to celebrate. The commissioner has awarded Kansas City the 2012 All-Star Game.

The Royals haven’t made the playoffs in 25 years, just missing the playoffs in the 1995 season. But now the team will finally be able to have some true acknowledgement by all of baseball.

The team which had a former All-Star Game MVP in Bo Jackson (1989) and former star George Brett, will be hosting the event from the newly revamped Kauffman Stadium.

Bud Selig chose the Royals over a tightly contested fight by the Red Sox for the 2012 game. The Red Sox last had the summer classic in 1999.

This year’s game will be held in Anaheim.

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Detroit Loses Another Gem

General Motors Plants have been taken away over the years and Detroit has suffered. Detroit has suffered their share of pains by far, and another one occurred tonight. Armando Galarraga, the 28-year-old from Venezula, was one out away from a perfect game against the Indians.

Facing Jason Donald, he was able to get Donald to hit a grounder between the middle of first and second base. Galarraga covered first and received the ball for a Perfect Game. The problem is, the Umpire James Joyce didn’t see it that way. Donald was pronounced safe in a replay which clearly showed he was out. Miguel Cabrera, Jim Leyland and Carlos Guillen argued to no avail. Galarraga could do nothing but smile to the call. He would get the next batter in Trevor Crowe for the 3-0 Win.

Galarraga went the full 9 innings with 1 hit and 3 strikeouts. Fausto Carmona went 8 innings for the Indians and gave up 2 earned runs. It will be interesting to see how MLB goes about reviewing the end of this game.

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Ben Sheets, $2.5 Million into the 2010 Season

We are now a little over a quarter of the way through the baseball season, and the Oakland Athletics’ Ben Sheets is the center of attention. In the off-season, Sheets signed a one year, 10 million dollar contract with Oakland. Almost unheard of in the scheme of Billy Beane’s makeup for the A’s.

Now, it is my intention to grade the overall performance of Sheets up to this point.

The 10th overall pick of the Brewers in the 1999 draft has appeared in 10 games this season. Within that stretch, he has had two 6 inning, shutout games, including his most recent outing against the crosstown Giants, which he won 3-0. That being said, he has a 5.04 ERA.

Not what you expect from a man who is supposed to be the leader of your team.

This has resulted in only a 2-3 record for Sheets. I will give Sheets the benefit of the doubt that his ERA has spiked from his April 27th and May 2nd outings. He gave up eight and nine earned runs in those starts, respectively.

What can’t be forgotten is that he has no decisions in his four starts against the division. That means he is simply not showing up in the most important games of the early season.

Right now, the Athletics stand at 23-23, 2.5 games back of the Texas Rangers. If Sheets can continue to work himself back into form, the Athletics will be right there, fighting for the division.

The Rangers and the A’s cannot forget about the Los Angeles Angels, of course. They have had a slow start, but have the ability to run off a streak of wins to take hold of the AL West.

With all of this put into play, I give Sheets a C- so far for his ability to keep the A’s in games, though this grade could improve steadily. It will be intriguing to see if he can pick it up or if the rest of the starters will have to carry the load.

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