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Five MLB Storylines No One Could Have Predicted

Starting in Feburary, when spring training begins, MLB experts and fans begin their preseason predictions by selecting Division, MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year winners.

But there are many twists and turns during an MLB season.

Most of the time these predictions go sour (unless you’re me who correctly predicted all four AL playoff teams and at least two NL playoff teams—once in a while a person gets lucky with these things). 

With just over a week remaining in the season, here are five storylines MLB experts and fans didn’t see coming.

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CC Sabathia vs. David Price: A Close Cy Young Race Just Got Tighter

While the rest of the sports’ world was watching a sloppy Monday Night Football game between the New York Jets and Baltimore Ravens or perhaps watching the U.S. Open Final, MLB diehards watched as New York Yankees‘ C.C. Sabathia and Tampa Bay Rays‘ David Price dueled it out at Tropicana Field.

If you missed it, you missed one gem which produced post-season like excitement but no answer to who the AL-Cy Young front runner.

The 26,907 in attendance at the Trop witnessed a game that featured a pitching match up that lived up to the hype.

The two lefties matched each other batter for batter. Neither backing down to the other AL-Cy Young candidate.

Price was outstanding going eight innings allowing just three hits and striking out four. Only Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson collected singles off the All-Star starter.

The only trouble Price found was in the top of the seventh with one out when Robinson Cano hit a single then Mark Tiexeira walked. Price battled forcing Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames to fly out. 

Sabathia matched with his patented late-season form allowing just two hits, two walks while striking out nine. 

Sabathia only issues came In the bottom of the eighth when Tampa’s Sean Rodriguez slapped a lead-off single to center field and advanced to second after Dioner Navarro’s sacrifice bunt.

With one, Kelly Shoppach was hit by a pitch, but Sabathia struck out B.J. Upton and Jason Bartlett to ground into a fielder’s choice. 

To say which pitcher did better and put themselves into better position for the Cy Young would be to ask your friend on which of two Victoria Secret models do they like better. You can’t go wrong.

Currently, Sabathia has more wins (19), a better WHIP, and more strike outs; but Price has a better ERA (2.75). 

Price’s mirrored performance of Sabathia kept the Yankees‘ ace from earning his first 20-game season; Sabathia probably will try again against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, however, Price’s willingness to match a seasoned vet was very impressive.

It all comes down to who Cy Young voters think is the MVP pitcher of their rotation and probably which team wins the division.

However, I can’t think that Price not having won before helps his cause. Either way, I just hope that MLB fans who missed tonight’s duel will get to see it in the ALCS.

After tonight, I’ll bet sports’ fans will be watching that.

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Yankee Stadium: The Place That Converts Yankee Watchers Into Fans

On Sunday, I made my second journey to the new Yankee Stadium with my fiance, Kate, and watched the New York Yankees lose, 7-3, to the Toronto Blue Jays.

For the second time in two years, Kate and I enjoyed ourselves at one of my new favorite places on earth.
Officially, I am not a Yankee’s fan but the more I watch the AL East’s first-place team and the more I visit Yankee Stadium, the more I like them.
The reasons have nothing to do with their HUGE payroll or because they win a lot more than they lose (however, it’s a nice feeling to cheer for a team that wins because I am used to losing franchises).
Here are the REAL reasons that my interest in the Yankees is peaking.
First, the players.
The Yankee players who have been signed via free agency–C.C. Sabathia, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher (who was a big favorite of mine way before becoming a Yankee), Lance Berkman (a long time Houston Astros’ player who now has a chance to finally win a World Series ring) and Curtis Granderson–have increased my interest by about 35 percent.
I followed these players closely before they were Yankees and now, since they’re on the same team, it makes it easier to root for them.
Home-grown, likable players like: Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Francisco Cervelli, Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner make it hard not to get behind the Bronx Bombers.
Yes, there are players such as: Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada and A.J. Burnett who are easy to dislike but the likable player trump the unlikable players by sizable ratio.
Second, the fans.
In the past five seasons, I’ve discovered a truth about Yankee fans.
They know baseball better than any fan base in baseball (I am sure an argument can be made for St. Louis Cardinal fans but I’m not around a lot of redbird supporters. I just go by what I witness).
Unlike the Boston Red Sox, which have recently acquired a lot of bandwagon fans who wear pink hats and root against the Yankees because THEY SPEND MORE THAN OTHER TEAMS!–the Red Sox rank second and spent more in the 2010 offseason–are annoying as hell.
They just look to get under the skin of Yankee fans with quotes like, “how many rings do you have in the past 10 years?”
Yeah? How many rings did you actually care about before the past five?
I also love that when I enter a bar with a Brooklyn Dodgers hat that Yankee fans know it’s a Dodgers’ hat. Boston fans approach and congratulate me about being a Sox fan.
No, man. I’m not the kinda guy who would wears a BLUE Boston hat. You are!
The percentage of Red Sox fans who supported Boston before the 2004 championship are tolerable because they do know the game.
They can talk Yankees-Red Sox without bringing up payroll or current World Series rings.
Unfortunately for Boston fans, there are, currently, more knowledgeable Yankee fans than Sox supporters. (Of course all of this “data” is unscientific and is observational opinion by a baseball fan caught in the middle of Yankee-Red Sox nation.)
Third, the stadium.
Now, I never visited the old stadium–college commitments prevented me to catch a couple games–but the first time I visited the new stadium, I fell in love.
There are some arguments against the new stadium, which state that the Yankee home doesn’t feel like an old-fashioned ballpark or doesn’t have a soul.
Well, that doesn’t bother me at all.
I love the feel of the new stadiums. Everywhere you go it’s wide open, comfortable, relaxing and fan friendly (Baltimore’s Camden Yards and Cleveland’s Progressive Field started the trend and they’re great too).
I’m not a fan of crowded places. I hate being in packed bars that are filled with people who can spill their drink on you, smack you in the head with their talking hands, and it takes six hours to order a draft beer.
That’s not a problem at the new stadium.
When the place is sold out, the aisles are easy to get through and no beer or bathroom line is too long–unless there’s a slow worker pouring your drink.
It’s a very relaxing atmosphere and there isn’t a bad seat in the house (unless you’re one of the idiots who buy obstructed, center-field seats.)
The last two times Kate and I were at the stadium, we bought upper-deck tickets in the 400 section (left, our seats on Sunday). Both seats were near the top, under the overhang and we had no issue watching the game (the only issue is if you’re seated on the third or first base side because it’s tough to judge the depth of a fly ball–you don’t know how high or low in the air the ball is).
This wasn’t the case at the former Shea Stadium–okay, I understand it’s not fair to compare fresh oranges to old, rotten oranges but let me get to my point.
Early in our relationship, I tried to impress her with tickets to the final game at Shea Stadium (quick side note: she had lived in NYC for six years and never been to Shea. At the time I purchased the tickets there was a chance the Mets could make the playoffs and it would not be the final game, however, the Mets didn’t let me down and missed the playoffs by losing to the Florida Marlins on the final day of the regular season).
I purchased tickets behind home plate, near the top of the upper deck. Decent seats that cost me a pretty penny, however, the overhang prevented us from seeing any action in the outfield (my 5’8 frame needed to duck down to look under the overhang so I could view any sort of long-fly ball).
Now, I should have done more research and known about the overhang problem but if I’m a season-ticket holder. I am pissed!
I’m sure the ticket owner is paying decent money and CAN’T SEE the outfield without killing themselves?–Ouch.
The isn’t a problem at ANY of the modern stadiums which is the way it should be (unless, again, you’re the idiot who buys obstructed-center field seats at Yankee Stadium).
Last August, Kate and I journeyed to Citi Field.
I like Citi Field, and like Yankee Stadium, I love how fan friendly it is.
Everything is state of the art and is easily accessible for fans (prices for beer and food are slightly lower than Yankee Stadium too–which brings me to another point: Unless you’re a family of four, which I understand is the target audience for MLB, Yankee Stadium, for a couple, isn’t that expensive. On Sunday, Kate and I bought two tickets on Stubhub for less than $50, spent about $15 on gas, ate lunch for $18.50, drank three 24-ounce-$10 beers, had two ice-cream cones for $11, for a total of about $125. On Friday, our tab at a local restaurant-bar was $75, this included: a couple too many beers for me, dinner for two and a nice tip for the bartender. (I’d rather be at Yankee Stadium).
However, a quality that fans like about Citi Field is a negative for me.
Citi Field was built to have a homey, old-fashioned ballpark feel. Seating is more condensed and closer to the field. As Kate described it, “it has more of a Fenway feel,” (she has been to Fenway, I have not).
During my first visit to Yankee Stadium, Kate and I got into a discussion with a Yankee fan who had visited both parks and liked Citi Field more because of that Fenway-type quality (the fan also grew up in Brooklyn and went to Ithaca College. It was interesting when he mentioned the Rongovian Embassy, a famous restaurant-bar, in Trumansburg during the conversation).
The fan mentioned that he liked the old-time ballpark feel to Citi Field over the mall-type feel of Yankee Stadium.
I disagree. Like I said before, I think space and feel is much more comfortable at Yankee Stadium. That’s just my preference and the reality is, a fan can’t go wrong with either park.
In conclusion, Kate and I will visit Yankee Stadium again and again. That’s because, I love watching baseball there and we like the Yankees (her more than I).
I love the drive over the George Washington Bridge as you enter New York City. That sight never gets old (I gladly pay the eight-dollar toll to see it over and over, again).
I love Yankee fans and their passion for baseball.
Basically, I love baseball and love watching it at Yankee Stadium.

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PED Era and Home Run Market Crash Hurts Alex Rodriguez’s Major Milestone

Celebrity gossip reporter, Perez Hilton, posted on his website that Alex Rodriguez broke a home run world record on Wednesday afternoon. (Sorry, I thought Perez Hilton breaking the A-Rod story is funnier and more entertaining then Peter Gammons doing so.)

Now, I am not breaking any news—neither is Hilton—but Alex Rodriguez, 35, smashed his 600th home run at Yankee Stadium.

With the blast, which was hit against Blue Jays pitcher Shaun Marcum, Rodriguez became the youngest player, seventh overall, in MLB history to hit 600 home runs.

What’s interesting about Rodriguez’s milestone, which is a major accomplishment, is nobody cares…well, at least not a lot—according to The Dan Patrick Show’s non-scientific poll on Thursday, 70 percent of listeners said they didn’t care.

On Thursday, sports talk shows talked about A-Rod’s dinger, his place in history, what No. 600 means nowadays, and steroids.

However, tomorrow, Brett Farve’s non-retirement retirement will be the headline on ESPN.

This wouldn’t be the case 25 years ago.

I have a mixed take on whether this is right or wrong.

On one side, I think it’s fair punishment for steroid users such as Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Rodriguez.

This is what happens when you get an edge. It’s much like LeBron James winning a title in Miami instead of Cleveland. Yes, LeBron’s chances of winning multiple titles are greater in a Heat uniform. But those six titles in Miami won’t equal the title he’d have earned Cleveland. LeBron’s edge with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh hinder the value of his possible titles.

The truth is, when people have to struggle to reach their goals, the satisfaction is greater.

Fans also appreciate milestones more when there’s nothing attached—just think of Craig Biggio’s race to 3,000th hits, which was hyped up during spring training, covered endlessly during the season, and celebrated for months after it was reached.

Biggio was the 27th player in MLB history to reach the milestone. A-Rod is the seventh player in history to hit 600 homers.

How much coverage did A-Rod’s race to 600 get during spring training? How much during the season? How much will it get after?

I follow MLB very regularly. I watch Yankee games consistently.

At around 599 is when I heard about A-Rod’s 600—unfortunately for Rodriguez, that was 46 at bats ago. The delay between 599 and 600 hindered the anticipation. By the time Rodriguez hit 600, New York fans were moving onto the AL East pennant race.

The truth: General baseball fans stopped caring about home-run milestones after Bonds and Sosa.

Which brings me to the other side of the story.

What happens when Jim Thome (39 years old, 577 HRs), Manny Ramirez (38 years old, 554 HRs), Albert Pujols (30 years old, 393 HRs) and, possibly Adam Dunn (30 years old, 344 HRs) march toward 600 then 700?

Do fans begin to switch opinions on home-run records?

Ramirez, who has been caught using steroids, is a bad example. Currently, Thome needs just 23 dingers, Dunn is on pace to hit more than 40 home runs for the seventh time in eight seasons, and Pujols will surpass 400 homers by season’s end.

It would be hypocritical for fans to support Thome, Pujols, Dunn, and not Rodriguez because we aren’t 100-percent sure if the threesome played clean. (It’s acceptable if a fan supports the three because they like them more than Rodriguez.)

Another interesting question is, if the trend of pitching continues will the value of the home run rise again?

From 1992-2009, hitters owned the game. This isn’t the case this season and some experts, like Sports Illustrated‘s Tom Verducci, thinks the trend will continue.’s Anthony Castrovince wrote on Thursday, that Rodriguez could be the last to hit 600 homers:

“Rodriguez’s path, then, was a circumvented one, and it could be a long, long time before anyone comes within striking distance of 600 so quickly.

If Thome’s body holds up, maybe he’ll join the club. Ramirez might do it, too. But after that, the wait between entries could be a bit more in line with the historical flow, rather than the recent flood. Club 600 could become the little hideaway that it once was.”


The future will answer all of my questions.

I’ll admit, I’m would like to move past the PED era and root for hitters to silence critics during a pitching-dominant era, which I think will continue for many seasons.

However, I know in the back of fans’ minds—I’ll admit mine, too—there will be doubt about how many of Player X’s homers were legitimate.

The good thing is, time heals most wounds and, like any free market, the value of the home run will return.

Unfortunately for Rodriguez, his 600th came during a home-run market crash. He’ll need to hope that when 700 is in reach, the market returns and fans, once again, appreciate the milestone’s rightful value.

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Baseball’s Best Bets for a Second-Half Surge

On Monday, in Anaheim, California, Major League Baseball begins its yearly ceremonial celebration for the regular season’s halfway point with the 81st All-Star Game.

However, last night officially split the 162-game campaign as teams have played between 81-83 games.

As of Tuesday, surprise teams like the Atlanta Braves , Cincinnati Reds , and San Diego Padres lead their respective National League divisions.

In the American League, the Texas Rangers hold a two-game advantage on the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

For supporters of preseason favorites, the St. Louis Cardinals or Los Angeles Dodgers , panic probably hasn’t set in because there’s still time to make up a few games.

But a few teams—Toronto Blue Jays , Oakland Athletics , Florida Marlins , San Francisco Giants —are hovering around .500 and need to make up a handful of games for a spot in the postseason.

These fans are praying for a second-half run.

Luckily, there are reasons to keep hoping because, since 2001, there have been teams that rebounded from slow first-half starts.

Here’s a look:

2001: Through 87 games, the Oakland Athletics were 44-43.

Using young hurlers, Tim Hudson , Mark Mulder and Barry Zito , the Athletics went 58-17 in 75 games to finish 102-60 and snag the AL Wild Card.

2004: At 44-44 through 88 games, the Houston Astros acquired outfielder, Carlos Beltran , around the trade deadline.

Beltran smashed 23 home runs in 90 games, propelling the Astros to a 92-70 record and the NL Wild Card.

2005: Roger Clemens , Andy Pettitte , and Roy Oswalt helped Houston , again, come back from a slow start, 44-43, to earn the Wild Card spot with an 89-73 record.

The Astros reached the World Series where the Chicago White Sox used a four-game sweep to capture their first championship since 1917.

2006: Oakland’s 48-26 second-half finish helped win the AL West and overcome a sluggish start of 45-43.

2007: The Phillies (44-44), Rockies (44-44), Chicago Cubs (44-43), and New York Yankees (43-43) each flirted with .500 and found a second-half spark to make the playoffs.

2009: The Rockies were 18-29 with manager Clint Hurdle , who was fired, but behind Jim Tracy the NL Wild Card winner went 74-42 to go 92-70 overall.

History doesn’t lie.

So, of the four teams listed earlier, which has the best shot of making a second-half surge?

Let’s take a look.


4. Toronto Blue Jays (41-42), Fourth, AL East

Through 83 games, the “grip and rip” mentality has the Jays atop the American League in strikeouts (hitting and pitching).

At the plate, Toronto is striking out 7.6 times per game, second in the AL.

On the mound, the Jays have averaged 7.5 strikeouts, first in the AL.

There’s probably no correlation, but the coincidence is interesting.

Even more fascinating are the similarities between Toronto’s philosophy and All-Star right fielder Jose Bautista , who leads the league in home runs, 21, but is hitting .236 with 66 strikeouts.

However, the keys for the Jays—10.5 and 8.5 games behind the AL East lead and the Wild Card, respectively—becoming postseason contenders is outfielder Vernon Wells ‘ continued hitting and maturity, starting pitching—oh, and a bullpen.

From 2004-06, Wells maintained a season average of .281 and 27.6 home runs.

The past three seasons Wells struggled, averaging .265 with 17 homers.

Currently Wells is on pace to hit .274, 40 homers, collect 100 RBI, with a .544 slugging percentage and is back to an old form.

The top three starting pitchers, Ricky Romero , Shaun Marcum , and Brandon Morrow , are all under 28 years old.

Romero, 25, is 6-5, has fanned 106, and compiled an ERA of 3.39.

Morrow, 25, has 107 strikeouts while Marcum, 28, is 7-4 with an ERA of 3.44.

If Toronto limits the outs it gives away and finds a closer who’s not Kevin Gregg , there’s a slight chance of a miracle march to the top of the standings.

However, arguably the three best teams in the league stand in the way.

For the neighbors up north, it’s probably better luck next season.


3. Oakland Athletics (41-43), Third, AL West

MLB followers have seen this story before.

The Athletics begin slowly but a surprising second-half charge helps secure a playoff spot.

This season, the Oakland formula of solid young pitching plus timely hitting will need to be implemented for the Athletics, which sit eight games behind in the West, nine in the Wild Card.

Using a team ERA of 3.84, second in the AL, the Athletics are positioned in a tough but doable spot because of a Top Gun rotation that features one starting pitcher—Ben Sheets , 31—who’s older than 26.

Trevor Cahill , 22, has played Iceman, the Val Kilmer character, posting a solid first-half ERA of 2.74 and going 8-2.

So, if Cahill played Kilmer, then Dallas Braden , 26, was Maverick, Tom Cruise’s character.

Despite a 4-7 record, Braden found the headlines by yelling at Alex Rodriguez in 4-2 win , April 22, and tossing a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays , May 9.

Unfortunately for Oakland, hitting hasn’t backed up its superb pitching.

Fact: Sheets, 1-for-3, is the only player hitting above .300.

Oakland’s best full-time batter is Ryan Sweeney , who’s hitting .294 with one homer.

Kurt Suzuki leads the team with 10 home runs.

Obviously for the Athletics, they need some type of offensive jolt to make a playoff run.

However, the Texas Rangers have shown it may have the best package of talent and could earn their first playoff appearance since 1999.

Also, who’s going to bet against Angels manager Mike Scioscia ?


2. Florida Marlins (39-43), Fourth, NL East

For the last few seasons, the Marlins have been the trendy sleeper pick.

With young hurlers like Josh Johnson , Ricky Nolasco , Anibal Sanchez , and Chris Volstad ; add 2009 NL MVP runner-up, Hanley Ramirez , 2009 Rookie of the Year, Chris Coghlan , and second base slugger, Dan Uggla , and it’s a tough opinion to be opposed to.

But the Marlins, 8.5 games behind NL Eastleading Atlanta, 6.5 in the Wild Card, haven’t played up to their potential.

That’s why Florida’s front office fired manager Fredi Gonzalez on June 24, and replaced him with Edwin Rodriguez , who could be replaced by Bobby Valentine .

Last season, the manager swap helped the Rockies rally and earn a playoff bid.

This season, Florida hopes a similar move works in Miami.

And it could with the right leadership in place—this wasn’t the case with Gonzalez, whose leadership skills were, rightly or wrongly, called out by Ramirez.

Ramirez, 26, has played consistently, hitting .297, 15 homers, 53 RBI, 48 runs, and 15 stolen bases.

Uggla is putting up some of his better career numbers in average (.278), on-base percentage (.346), and slugging (.487).

So what’s the problem?

Answer: consistency on both offense and defense.

The Marlins have a team batting average of .263, third in the NL, but average about eight strikeouts per game, second highest in the NL.

Johnson, 8-3, has a league-leading ERA of 1.82 but is only 3-2 in his last six starts, despite having an ERA of 0.91.

Even with Johnson’s dominance, Florida’s team ERA of 4.05 is ranked ninth in the NL.

The Marlins have enough tools to make a dash up the standings, especially in a NL East that is battered by injuries and inconsistent play.

The new manager, whoever it is, will need to quickly fix the cracks left by Gonzalez and motivate a team full of potential.


1. San Francisco Giants (42-40), Fourth, NL West

Sitting seven games behind the NL West-leading San Diego Padres , 3.5 in the Wild Card, the Giants must beat three quality teams for a postseason bid.

Good news for Bay Area fans.

With four top-notch starting pitchers in Tim Lincecum , Matt Cain , Jonathan Sanchez , and Zito, and an efficient but not flashy offense, San Fran’s arsenal is enough to make a run.

Currently, the pitching staff is carrying an ERA of 3.51, third in the NL, and strikes out 7.98 batters per game, ranked first.

Throw in that the Giants top four starters are legit workhorses—each have already tossed 100 innings, and the main ingredient for “Comeback Soup” is created.

What about the offense?

Averaging 4.1 runs, ranked 11th in the NL, and slugging .400, 10th in the NL, it’s not glamorous.

However, there are key pieces like:

Struggling Star Who Makes Second-Half Revival: Pablo Sandoval .

Last year, Sandoval hit .330 with 25 home runs, but this season is hitting .269 with six homers.

2010 Surprise of the Year: Aubrey Huff .

He’s hitting .294 with an OPS of .916 and 15 homers.

Second Half Breakout Player: Buster Posey .

Since Bengie Molina was traded on July 1, Posey is 7-for-19, .368, with two homers, and five runs.

Amped Bullpen Stud: Madison Bumgarner .

He’s destined to be the young, over-excited bullpen hurler who upsets announcers with fist pumps—this video solidifies the theory.

“How Is This Guy Still On The Field?” Player: Juan Uribe, who hit 12 dingers and is on pace to surpass a career-high of 23 homers, set in 2004.

Also, consider that no one can predict endings in the NL West.

This is why San Francisco is the MLB’s best bet to complete a second-half playoff push.


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Waiting Game: Should Rays Continue To Be Patient With B.J. Upton?

One thing is apparent after the visiting Tampa Bay Rays salvaged a two-game split with the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.
B.J. Upton had nothing to do with it.

That’s because the young center fielder wasn’t in the starting lineup.

“I just did not want to start him tonight based on a lot of different items that I’m looking at,” Rays’ manager Joe Maddon told writer Bill Chastain before Tuesday’s, 8-5, loss.

“Often times, I don’t start somebody. A day off after a day off is part of the reason. I just chose not to start him tonight. But he’s definitely available for the game.”

Before Wednesday’s, 9-4, victory, Maddon said it was a sore right quadriceps that kept Upton from appearing.

Whatever reason Maddon wants to use about not starting Upton, Rays’ fans couldn’t help to think it had something to do with Sunday’s dugout skirmish between two of southwest Florida’s most popular athletes, Upton and Evan Longoria.

Maddon did cover his tracks, Tuesday, in the top of the eighth, entering Upton as a pitch hitter. Upton tripled then took centerfield in the bottom of the ninth.

According to Chastain, Upton told Maddon, Wednesday, that he felt a little sore and did not give reporters details on the injury.

However, Upton’s short appearance didn’t help the stumbling Rays (45-32), which finished 11-14 in June; and are two games behind the AL East leaders, New York Yankees, and one game below Wild Card leader, Boston.

The news gets worse.

Not only is a playoff spot slipping away, the recent events with Upton has put the front office in the spotlight and with the trade deadline looming, the decision on what to do with the center fielder has reached a crossroad.

In 2007, Upton put up All-Star numbers in just 129 games hitting .300 with 24 homers, 82 RBI, 86 runs and 22 stolen bases.

At the time, Upton was 22-years old and it seemed he’d develop into a 30-30 player, who could hit for average and flash the glove—despite coming through the Rays’ system having no idea what type of defensive glove he’d wear.

This hasn’t been the case, at all.

In the 2008 regular season, Upton hit .273 with nine homers, but rebounded in the postseason, smashing seven homers in 16 games.

Upton struggled in 2009, hitting .241 with 11 homers.

In 72 games this season, Upton is batting .262 with seven homers and has put the Rays’ front office on red alert.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations lately,” said, Maddon about Upton before Tuesday’s game. “We had one after the game [Sunday]. We had one yesterday and also today. We had some wonderful conversations — very frank. I just wanted to share with him some of my past experiences as a young man and as a manager today.”

It’s well documented that Upton is a good guy who had a good upbringing by his parents, Manny and Yvonne, documented in this 2007 article by ESPN’s Bomani Jones (below).

So, let’s assume, maybe, attitude isn’t the problem.

Let’s say, Upton’s latest tantrums and lack of hustle doesn’t come from being a bad egg.

Instead, it’s from being a frustrated competitor—Longoria confronting Upton came from frustration, right?

The real question is, what happens if the player’s skills don’t listen?

What then?

When does an organization stop waiting for a player’s talent to come around and parts ways with him?

“At this point, salvaging Upton’s potential is going to be that much harder for the Rays,” wrote Tampa Bay Tribune columnist Gary Shelton on Tuesday. “For a long time, the Rays have had to endure the underachievement and hoped the talent inside Upton will emerge” said, Shelton.

Fact is, at the end of the season, Upton becomes eligible for arbitration and could see a spike in pay; and starting left fielder, Carl Crawford, becomes a free agent.

Ask any Rays fan and they’ll admit, they want Crawford to stay, no matter what the cost.

According to , Upton, currently makes $3 million a year. That money could be spent on Crawford, who makes $10 million and will see a pay raise in the $15 millon range.

Last season, the Rays parted ways with a potential superstar prospect, pitcher Scott Kazmir.

Kazmir, picked 15th overall in the 2002 amateur draft by the New York Mets, was dealt to the Rays in 2004 and was supposed to be the hard-throwing lefty a franchise builds a rotation around.

In five and a half seasons, Kazmir made two All-Star teams, but combined for a 3.92 ERA, 55-44 overall record, and a 2.29 K/walk ratio.

Numbers not good enough for a legitimate ace.

At last season’s trade deadline, the Rays shipped Kazmir to Anaheim for minor leaguers Alex Torres, Matt Sweeney and Sean Rodriguez, who has played in 58 games this season.

As of June 30, Kazmir is 7-6 and carries a 5.92 ERA for the Angels.

The bottom line, baseball is a business and too much attachment to an investment can hinder a team’s progression.

I’ll admit, I like B.J. and once had an attachment to the second-overall pick of 2002.

Back in 2008, I drafted Upton in the third-round of The Super League ’s first baseball draft .

Looking at his 2007 stats, the kid was a five-tool, 5×5 fantasy player and thought it could only get better.

In 2009, the Frontnac Bigg7evens  kept Upton, thinking the kid had a tough season and needed a second chance.

However, after another slow start, Frontnac cut ties with the centerfielder and traded him for Yankee pitcher C.C. Sabathia.

At the time, Upton had fantasy upside and that’s how it was possible to make a deal.

Currently, Upton has real-life upside and now, is the best time to move the 25-year old.

But it’s not easy to let go of an investment, especially one that a franchise has scouted, drafted, and spent time and money developing.

Unfortunately, for the Rays, its time to decide.

Either keep Upton and accept him for the player he is; or deal Upton to another team which is willing to be patient and let him reach that potential we’re all still waiting on.

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MLB Realignment: A.L. East, Meet A.L. North

The topic of Major League Baseball realignment is in the headlines again.

Published today, on, was an article by John Schlegel who says realignment talk now revolves around the games’ big rivalries. 

Schlegel states:

“The Yankees and the Red Sox, the two behemoths of the American League East, have so cornered the market on playoff spots that something must be done, some suggest.

Competitive balance can be addressed only so much through economics, so addressing it structurally by rearranging baseball’s six divisions somehow is necessary, some say.”

A brief history of MLB divisions-leagues realignment looks like this:

1962: The New York Mets and Houston Colt .45s (who changed their nickname to the Astros in 1965) were added to the NL, thus creating 20 teams overall and a 10-team spilt between leagues.

1969: East and West divisions were implemented when two teams were added to each league—San Diego Padres and Montreal Expos to the NL, Seattle Pilots (Milwaukee Brewers) and Kansas City Royals to the AL.

Creating 24 teams overall and a 12-team league spilt.

1977: Expansion included the Toronto Blue Jays, AL East, and the Seattle Mariners, AL West.

26 teams overall and a 12-to-14-league difference.

1993: The Colorado Rockies, NL West, and Florida Marlins, NL East, were added. This led to Selig creating the three-division format.

28 teams overall and an even 14-team split.

1998: The Tampa Bay Devil Rays, AL East, and Arizona Diamondbacks, NL West, were created through expansion, the Detroit Tigers moved from the AL East to the AL Central and the Milwaukee Brewers switched from the AL Central to the NL Central.

Today, there are sixteen teams in the NL, fourteen in the AL, a six-team division in the NL Central and a four-team division in the AL West.

Geographically, the divisions aren’t ridiculous unlike the NFL, which has the Indianapolis Colts playing in the AFC South.

However, baseball enthusiasts for realignment will argue a few things could get better.

First, it might help smaller market teams to increase revenue by allowing opposing fans the opportunity to travel with their team.

Second, it might balance division powers, especially if each division has five teams.

How other owners haven’t taken issue about the AL West having better playoff odds is baffling.

Third, it may create better regional rivalries, which used to be a big part of baseball when the AL consisted of the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Washington Senators, and the NL had the Brooklyn Dodgers, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Boston Braves.

Finally, it would be something new and exciting, especially if it was drastic.

Let me be clear. I’m not calling for a complete overhaul of the system because, in reality, it’s almost impossible to do.

I also know that no system is perfect.

However, if the impossible was possible and money, owners, and fan outrage wasn’t an issue, here is how I’d realign baseball:

Step one: Needing a template to start, the traditional American and National Leagues will stay, as well as the three-division format.

Step two: Each league needs an even split of 15 teams and each division, needs an equal amount of teams, five.

Step three: Keep traditional rivals together.

Meaning, Yankees-Red Sox, Giants-Dodgers, Cubs-Cardinals and Mets-Phillies—which has stepped up the passion in the past few years—will stay.

Step four: Create new regional rivals.

Meaning, Rangers-Astros, Orioles-Nationals, Rays-Marlins and Dodgers-Angels, need to start hating each other.

Step five: Do away with division names.

How come there are East, Central and West divisions in every league? Do divisions really need to match?

Wouldn’t it make sense to have a Midwest franchise play in a Midwest division? Or South franchises play in the South?

It’s understandable why the Marlins and Rays are, currently, in the East. But geographically, they’re warm climate teams. So are, the Braves, Astros and Rangers.

Put those fives teams together and the new NL South is born.

The Texas rivalry is one that needs to be put together and the south triangle—Atlanta, Miami and Tampa—could, maybe, bring excitement to the Southern baseball.

Other factor helping the NL South is the Braves and Astros hold its Spring Training near Orlando, which helps build a nice regional fan base when they visit Tampa, located an hour and a half west.

Other new divisions created are.

NL Midwest: Cubs, Cardinals, Reds, Rockies and Diamondbacks

Denver is 850-miles west of St. Louis and 1,000-miles north-east of Los Angeles.

Arizona needed to put someplace. This division is the best fit because most of the retirees, who live in the state, are fans of the Cubs, Cardinals or Reds.

AL North: Mariners, Twins, Brewers, White Sox and Royals

Because each team doesn’t have a sky-high budget, the Royals belong with this group of franchises. Also, the cities and fan bases mesh together well—at least, I think.

If you’re going make an argument against Seattle, remember, The Emerald City is located closer to Alaska than any other MLB team. Can you really argue against that?

Divisions that stay similar are:

AL East: Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles, Nationals, Indians

All in the same division, we’re keeping a traditional rival and creating a new one.

Baltimore fans, of course, will not be happy about staying in the same division as New York and Boston. But there’s a bright side.

The Nationals and Indians are currently rebuilding—this may not be the case with Washington in a few seasons—and the chance to at least be competitive for third is there each season. Especially with Tampa Bay gone to the South.

Plus, owners cannot complain too much when the Yanks and Sox fill their stadiums 10-plus times a season, which is what the Indians want, right?

NL East: Mets, Phillies, Blue Jays, Pirates and Tigers

This division probably changes the most and looks awkward because teams from all over create an intriguing setup.

Pairing Toronto and Detroit could build a North-South rivalry, while the New York, Philly, and Pittsburgh fans could trash talk back-and-forth every season.

AL West: Giants, Dodgers, Athletics, Angels, Padres

Also know as, the California division or the Save Travel Miles division, the new AL West could really strike up interest because the state and the people in it really like themselves.

For MLB its works well because each season, at least one California team will make the playoffs. So, even if the Dodgers or Angels aren’t playing, bandwagon jumping wont be hard.

It’s pretty clear. Switching the dynamics of baseball isn’t easy.

However, baseball fans are always looking for ways to grow and expand the game in a positive way.

This is my solution. What’s yours?


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Still Tossing: Jamie Moyer, 47, Is Still a Valuable Option in Fantasy

Some things in life you just cannot explain. 


Things like: How does lint get in my belly button? How do ugly musicians marry supermodels? And, how in the world is Jamie Moyer, 47, still winning baseball games at the Major League level?

After last night’s seven-hit, one-strikeout, complete-game performance against the San Diego Padres, in a 6-2 victory, Moyer continues to be a phenomenon.

The win was Moyer’s 264th of his 24-year career and his 100th victory after turning 40 (an accomplishment only reached by Jack Quinn and Phil Niekro).

This season, Moyer is 6-5 with a 3.98 ERA (career ERA is 4.21) and is still striking out batters—which he did last night against Padres’ outfielder Oscar Salazar with a 75-mph fastball, or change-up (it’s hard to tell the difference).

The most impressive thing about Moyer is he is not Nolan Ryan pitching into his mid-to late 40’s. Ryan retired at age 46.

This is Moyer, who at times gets his brain beaten in, but has compiled a winning record in four of his last five seasons.

Moyer’s 620 starts are first among all active pitchers. Second is Andy Pettitte with 468. Moyer needs just six more starts to pass Jim Kaat for 16th all time.

The Pennsylvania native has pitched most of his career in Seattle. In 11 seasons, Moyer went 145-87 with a 3.97 ERA and made the 2003 All-Star.

Midway through the 2006 season, the Mariners shipped Moyer, a 5.5 million dollar salad tosser, to the Phillies for two minor league prospects.

At the time, it made sense to the Seattle brass to move Moyer, who made eight million dollars in 2005. However, his career was far from over.

Since arriving in Philadelphia, Moyer has gone 53-36 with a 4.44 ERA and is still making eight million dollars a season.

His 33 complete games are third among active pitchers—teammate Roy Halladay has 54, and Washington’s Livan Hernandez sits at 48.

Each preseason fantasy owners go through their “sleeper” picks. Each season, owners bypass Moyer because they think this will be the year he stops becoming a dependable option.

“If I can contribute this year in a healthy way in innings, I’m going to want to continue to play,” Moyer told radio host Dan Patrick on May 1st.

Moyer said he could see himself pitching into his fifties.

This means a few more seasons of bypassing Moyer in the 20th round. And a few more seasons of trying to solve the life mystery that is Jamie Moyer.

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Weekend Downer: Overshadowed Icon, Stolen Perfecto and Death Of A Wizard

This week in the world of sports, the phrase, “all bad things come is threes,” was taken to a new level. 

Much like the film industry, which lost Gary Coleman, Dennis Hopper and Rue McClanahan in a nine-day span, the sport’s world experienced the retirement of a baseball icon, a perfect game sabotaged and the death of a college basketball coaching legend.

It started late-Wednesday afternoon when reports out of Seattle said the Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr., 40, was retiring. 

Griffey, the first pick in the 1987 amateur draft, played 23 big-league seasons, hit 630 home runs (fifth all time), made 13 All-Star appearances (including 11 straight from 1990-2000), won the 1992 American League MVP (with five top-five finishes in voting) and 10 Gold Gloves (all from 1990-’99).

Simply put, Griffey was unlike many players we will ever see.

In the 1990’s, The Kid, played the game hard, fast and at such an extremely high level it earned him a spot on baseball’s All-Century team, which included Hall-of-Fame outfielders Hank Aaron, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, Pete Rose and Stan Musial.

In the 1996 and 1997 seasons, Griffey hit 56 home runs and became one of the first players to push Roger Maris’ single-season home-run record of 61.

Unfortunately for Griffey, things took a turn for the worst when he decided to leave Seattle for Cincinnati in 2000.

Griffey had some respectable years as a Red but his iconic status, which reached its peak in the late-90’s, faded when Barry Bonds demolished Maris’ and Mark McGwire’s records. 

Injury troubles helped Junior fade into the background. Without much media attention, which is given to most stars that approach milestones, Griffey slipped past they 500-and 600-home run benchmarks.

After a tough start to the 2010 season, which featured a .184 batting average after only 98 at bats and an overblown story of Griffey napping in the clubhouse, The Kid called it quits saying he no longer wanted to be a distraction to Mariners, the team which help make him great and took him back, last season, even after his glory days were long gone.

However, on the same night Junior would call it quits and baseball fans, especially Seattle supporters, thought they would finally cheer for him like they once did, umpire Jim Joyce, in Barry Band-like fashion, stole the spotlight.

In the bottom of the ninth, two outs and a perfect game on-the-line, Detroit Tiger’s hurler, Armando Galarraga, got Cleveland Indians’ shortstop Jason Donald to hit a soft grounder to first baseman Miguel Cabrera.

Cabrera fielded, threw to Galarraga, who was covering first, and celebrated the perfecto… prematurely.

To the naked eye watching the television, the play looked too-close-too-call. Observers could only be saddened as first-base umpire, Joyce, called Donald safe.

However, after further review it was easy to conclude that Joyce was wrong, very wrong.

Donald was out by a full stride and baseball history was made, not in a positive light, but in a negative once.

New York Times writer Paul Clemens described it best on writing on Friday, “Galarraga went from becoming only the 21st pitcher in Major League history to throw a perfect game (and the third in four weeks, a convergence of perfection that can be expected to recur with Halley’s Comet-like regularity) to one of countless in Major League history to throw a one-hit shutout.”

Pitching only four seasons in the big leagues, Galarraga, 28, has compiled a 21-18 overall record and a 4.50 ERA.

No way will Galarraga become a Hall-of-Famer, Cy Young winner or MVP nominee.

Sadly, Galarraga one glory moment will not go into history as one of the greatest perfect games of all time (Galarraga was on pace to finish his perfect game with less than five strikeouts and 90 pitches.)

Instead, Galarraga will be known as the pitcher that was robbed of a perfect game and, for years to come, Joyce will be the answer to many trivia questions.

Saturday morning, the trifecta was completed when college basketball’s greatest coach, John Wooden, died of natural causes in California.

Wooden, 99, led the Bruins to 10 National Championships including sevens straight from 1967-’73.

Wooden, also knows as the Wizard of Westwood, is also the only person be elected into the Basketball Hall-of-Fame as player and coach.

However, Wooden’s legend grew more after his coaching days as he wrote numerous books on basketball, coaching and life.

“(Wooden is) about a perfect sports personality as anyone I’ve met in my years of broadcasting,” praised NBC broadcaster Dick Enberg in an interview about the Wizard.

Enberg says Wooden is sport’s Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill. Many would agree.

Even through his 90’s, Wooden was still writing books and conducting radio interviews trying to inspire players, coaches and people to do the best they can with what they have.

Wooden is the Yogi Berra of inspiring sports quotations.

“Sports don’t build character, they reveal it,” and “Be quick but don’t hurry,” are some of my favorites.

Don’t be surprised in 15 years professors build curriculum around his philosophies.

When asked in a 2008 interview what the secret of life is, Wooden replied, “Not being afraid of death and having peace within yourself. All of life is peaks and valleys. Don’t let the peaks get too high and valley’s too low.”

Today, the sports world has reached a valley. Tomorrow, the sport’s world and its fans will begin working towards a peak.


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