Baseball All-Stars, Jim Thome, and Robinson Cano’s June: Some Thoughts on the Week In Baseball

English: Jim Thome

English: Jim Thome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The All-Star selections are nearly complete. There is no surprise the Rangers and Yankees dominated the American League roster. Every season we seem to have issue with some selections. The most conspicuous snub is Matt Wieters. Wieters should be starting behind the plate. Wieters can thank the Rangers growing fan base for the snub. Fans, please select players for their performance, not the team jersey they wear.

The most impressive, Mike Trout of the Angels. The rookie sensation is simply phenomenal. The 20-year-old is batting a cool .339 with 9 homers and 33 RBI. What impresses the most, is his mastery of the lost art of the stolen base. Trout currently leads the American League with 22. Needless to say this rookie earned a well-deserved selection.

Centerfield for the American League is perplexing. Why is Granderson starting? Baltimore’s Adam Jones, and the aforementioned Mike Trout are more deserving of the starting job for the AL.

The question remains, will that other rookie phenom, Bryce Harper join the Mid-Summer Classic? When left to the fans who knows. My pick for the National League vote-in all-star is Chipper Jones. Call me sentimental, but his numbers .292/6/29, warrant the selection in my eyes. Consider this, 2012 is his last go-around. Let’s not discount anything Harper brings to the table, however he has his whole career ahead of him.

As Texas and New York dominated the American League selections; Giants fans exercised their voting power for the National League. That said, the Mets David Wright belongs starting at third base.

One last note about the selections and this goes out to Melky Cabrera. As a Yankee fan this is slightly frustrating. Melky put together an awesome first half. Where was this Melky when you were in Pinstripes? 2006 was the closest you came hitting .280. I digress. Congrats Cabrera.

Jim Thome Moving Down I-95

The Baltimore Orioles acquired power hitter Jim Thome from the Phillies. Thome will provide veteran leadership in the Oriole clubhouse. I’m interested to see what Showalter will do with Thome long-term. As with all players, Thome is not the significant threat he once was. Yet, I get the sense his .227 average is misleading. Batting in the middle of the order may just get the hitting juices going. But, time will tell.

Robinson Cano’s June

As Thome is in the twilight of his career, Robinson Cano is in the prime of his. 11 home runs in the month of June is rather impressive. Did I mention his 34 hits as well? Check out this from ESPN to see who Cano joins in the universe of Yankee history.

Cano will join Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson when the American League takes the field on July 10th. Jeter’s selection is truly deserving. All three will look to lead the Yanks into the post season with another division title.

The week that was in baseball was entertaining to say the least.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think!

All data from espn.com

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Watching Derek Jeter’s Iconic Career

Derek Jeter

Derek Jeter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Previously I posted about the iconic career of Cal Ripken, Jr. Yesterday,  another icon passed Ripken on the all-time hits list. Derek Jeter notched hit 3,185 in the Yankees 14-7 loss to the Chicago White Sox.

You may ask why is this important on the grand scale of baseball history? The answer is simple: we are watching, live, the career of a living legend. Baseball stories revolve around players. All fans have stories about their favorite players, legends in their own time. Mays, Gehrig, Mantle, Ripken himself. Regardless of whether you love or “hate” the Yankees, Jeter is a rare staple of the game. He reached 3,000 hits on a home run. This, after most, including myself, questioned whether he had anything left to give.

The lesson learned is don’t count out an icon. Jeter will leave the game when he is ready. The talk around Jeter changes with the seasons. Now Jeter’s name is mentioned in the same sentence as Pete Rose. Jeter would need an average of 214 hits a season for the next five years to reach 4,256 career hits. Jeter, at 38, may not have the gas needed to continue playing, and hitting until age 43. Is it possible? Anything is possible.

Let’s not crown Jeter just yet. Instead, let’s enjoy his career one day at a time. In case you missed it, here’s a brief run down of Jeter’s career to date:

3,185 Hits

247 HR

.313 BA

Gold Glove 2004, 2005, 2006, 2009, and 2010 (shortstop)

1996 ROY

5 World Series Championships

The Best Shortstop In Cooperstown

Jeter will be a first ballot inductee into the Hall of Fame. However, will he be the best shortstop to enter the hallowed ground of Cooperstown? Honus Wagner, Ozzie Smith, Cal Ripken, John Ward, and several others may object. Intentionally missing from this brief list is a popular HOF member: Phil Rizzuto. My opinion on Rizzuto changed after reading a piece by Bill Miller, author of The On Deck Circle. You can find the current list of Hall of Fame shortstops here.

Statistically Jeter is compiling a compelling argument for best shortstop all-time. Some may contend he played for a perennial winning team. Should championships be considered? Should lack of winning an MVP be considered? What about offensive WAR? OPS+? etc.

The debate over who is the best shortstop, all-time will never be settled. One thing is sure, we are all witness to a legendary career right before our eyes. So sit back, and enjoy. Careers such as this are rare.

All data from retrosheet.org, baseballhall.org, and baseball-reference.com

A Yankee fan freaking out…not really

Andy Pettitte

Andy Pettitte (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The world is ending Yankee fans. Let’s hunker down. I hope your doomsday bunker is ready. As soon as we adjusted to life without Mariano Rivera, the baseball gods struck another blow. Both C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte went down in one day. Give me a moment while I down some strawberry flavored Tums.

OK, now that I’m done with the dramatic behavior, let’s think about this. Sabathia is only missing two starts. Life really won’t come to an end. The bigger concern is the comeback kid, Andy Pettitte.

Pettitte’s Return In Jeopardy

Is Pettitte’s return truly in jeopardy? I don’t think so. Considering what Andy accomplished so far in his Major League return, I believe he will be just fine. What’s more, when he returns he’ll be fresh. A rejuvenated and ready-to-pitch Andy is just what the Yankees will need down the stretch.

I’ve said this before, baseball is a long season. Emphasis on the long. The Yankees are nothing if not able to cope with adversity. Thankfully I’m not a manager in the big leagues. I’m not sure if there are enough antacids to cope.

So my fellow Yankee fans, relax. Breathe. Things will be just fine in the Bronx. Let’s just hope Freddy Garcia can go more than two innings.

Disclaimer: this post is more personal therapy than anything else. There are times when, as a fan, you just need to vent. Thanks for reading.

Baseball: The Beautiful Game

Around the globe, soccer, better known as football, is considered the beautiful game. I posit this, baseball is the true beautiful game. Normally I would like to support my argument with multiple examples. Except I have only one for this first installment of this new series:  Baseball: The Beautiful Game. This past Monday, the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels squared off. If you, like me, measure the beauty of the game in dramatic value, this game was Shakespearean for sure.

The game included tragedy: Jered Weaver’s early exit from the game due to injury. The Angel’s collective anxiety over his loss.

The plot that is characteristic of every baseball game: the ultimate test of run scoring and the constant strategy used by the teams in the ultimate duel.

Finally, the excitement of blown leads and the walk-off home run to end the tie and attain victory. All the while, the despair of defeat.  Oh the agony.

Baseball is a drama played night in and night out. The players as characters, change. The game, the plot, remains the same. The beauty is the joy we get, regardless of winners and losers, watching these contests. I say baseball is the beautiful game.

Disclaimer: As I post this, please be aware, in my attempt to create my argument there was nothing beautiful about my beloved Yankees losing.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think! Stay tuned for future installments of Baseball: The Beautiful Game.

Mariano Rivera’s Career Isn’t Coming to a Close

Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

October 1996, do you remember what you were doing? I do. I was watching Mariano Rivera embark on an epic career. It’s May 2012 and although he says he’s coming back, I’m wondering if I just saw the end of that same historic career.

For me, as a fan, the true beauty of baseball is the passion and loyalty fans have for teams and players over years. Every generation has players they grow up with. DiMaggio, Mantle, Mays, and for many of us Mariano Rivera. I grew up with Rivera. Along with Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada, Rivera formed the quartet of players that led the Yankees to dominate the late 1990s and 2000s. Rivera did even more. He elevated himself to simply be the best closer, ever.

Rivera is, and will be, the benchmark that all closers are compared to. Except there is no comparison. Reasonably speaking, Rivera’s 0.70 ERA in 141 postseason innings will never be surpassed. I would speculate DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak will fall before anyone comes close to Rivera’s postseason ERA. Of course, Rivera benefitted because he was on those dominant Yankee teams. Except the closer’s job is the most important. The team got you the lead, now you have to keep it and put the game to bed. There is an argument, had Rivera not made a few mistakes, the Yankees could have 2 or 3 more titles since 1996. But that is baseball.

The Role Model

I am not a believer that professional athletes be considered “heroes.” They entertain, yes, but they are not heroes. Professional athletes can be role models, to an extent. Rivera is one such athlete. His quiet confidence shows a man of conviction and strength of character that many of us can and should model. His determination to rehabilitate and return next season shows pure committment to his team and to his fans. Rivera wants to go out on his own terms as he should. Whether you bleed Yankee blue or can’t stand the Pinstripes, all of us can agree, Rivera transcends loyalties. The game is not done with Rivera. Most importantly, Rivera is not done with the game. Until next season….

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think!

Buck Showalter, the Baltimore Orioles, and Fundamentals

Buck Showalter

Buck Showalter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Baltimore Orioles organization saw something in Buck Showalter. His emphasis on fundamentals is bearing fruit. The Orioles now sit in first place in the  American League East. Some detractors may say Boston’s implosion from 2011 carried over to this season. The Yankees powerhouse is just not what it used to be. So of course the Orioles have an opportunity to contend. Except the AL East remains a strong division from top to bottom.

Entering Sunday night, only 3.5 games separate the Orioles from last place Boston. Let’s not forget about the Rays. A phenomenal rotation and an offense that isn’t afraid to implement strategy, Tampa Bay is the cream of the crop in the American League. So how is Baltimore showing up the rest of the division?

Buck is being Buck. Showalter has the Orioles playing solid baseball. With Showalter at the helm, the Orioles don’t care which teams comprise the division. They play hard  and focus on the fundamentals. Again, that’s what being Buck is all about. Baltimore is here to stay.

What to Expect From the AL East

Yankee fans beware. Rays fans watch out. Red Sox Nation….nevermind. The Orioles don’t have  many standout players. Yet they appear ready, and able to contend in 2012.  Fans can expect the division to come down to the wire. The season is still young, but teams are making early statements. Let us not forget some Blue Birds from the North. Toronto won’t make the playoffs, but they can play spoiler. As a lifelong supporter of the New York Yankees, I’m concerned as to the success of these upstarts from the southern reaches of the Eastern seaboard. That being said, as a fan of baseball the entertainment factor significantly increased. Winning in the American League East means that much more. Teams know they’ve earned their record. The division as a whole is strong and that makes for great baseball.

As much as it pains me to say it, keep up the fundamentals Buck.

Similar Rivals: Yankee Fans and the Red Sox Nation

Français : Galerie de la presse au Fenway Park...

Français : Galerie de la presse au Fenway Park, Boston, Massachusetts, USA English: Fenway Park press box, Boston, Massachusetts, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My wife and I spent a few days in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Located approximately 40 miles south of Boston, we are talking the heart of Red Sox territory. As a lifelong Yankee fan, I tried my best to keep a low profile. Especially on weekends like this where the Yankees are in town and working on a sweep of the dreaded “Sawx.”

This trip was special from a baseball perspective because the Red Sox and their fans were celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park. There are few ballparks like Fenway. Wrigley Field in Chicago comes to mind. The “House that Ruth Built,” well, that no longer exists as a complete stadium. Fenway is truly hallowed baseball ground. I didn’t make it up to Fenway, but the television coverage was practically non-stop. All around it seemed, and maybe this is my Yankee fan paranoia, everywhere I turned Red Sox jerseys, hats, sweatshirts, and bobble-heads were seen.

Yankee fans have much to say about the Boston supporters. Those belonging to the Red Sox Nation have much to say about those who prefer the Pinstripes. Regardless of which team you support, all can agree on one thing: passion. The similarities between Yankees and Red Sox fans is rather striking when it comes to supporting our respective ball clubs. So similar in fact, I would suspect no self-respecting Yankee or Red Sox fan would openly admit to how much we all have in common. I’m only discussing it here because I have a blog to write.

Right now, going into Sunday the Red Sox are 4-10. Worst in the East. Apparently Mother Nature is a Red Sox fan, or she simply has pity for the Boston faithful because Sunday’s game is postponed due to rain.  Yet, fans still don the apparel. T-shirts with prints of urinal’s using Yankee logos as aiming guides line souvenir store racks. My personal favorite, “Real women don’t date Yankee fans.” To which my wife quips, “nope, we marry them.” Thanks honey. I digress.

Thos of us who are Yankee faithful have our own t-shirts and sayings. “I root for two teams, the Yankees and anyone that beats the Red Sox,” is one example. The Yankees could be in the midst of a horrible season, but things are OK as long as we beat the BoSox. Rivalries are special. There is a shared history. The games played are that more important. As a Yankee fan visiting Red Sox territory, I became acutely more aware of the passion we all exhibit. The pride is truly in the blood. Regardless of where our loyalties lie, the love of the game and our teams is front and center always.

The current state of affairs in Boston is entertaining or infuriating, depending on perspective in life. Either way, the Yankees and Red Sox never disappoint. Passions run high, but that is what baseball is all about.

The Balance of Power in the American League No Longer Rises in the East

Move over New York. Excuse me Boston. Sorry Tampa Bay. The 2012 season is still relatively new, but let’s face the truth. The American League East Division, once the dominant, most exciting division in the Major Leagues is, well, stale. High payrolls no longer buy what they apparently used to. New York currently sits at .500. The most significant news out of Boston is the hangover from last season, (sorry, no pun intended).

Tampa Bay is a puzzling club at this point. Most expect more from the Rays considering the rotation they field. Yet, Tampa Bay can’t seem to squeeze past .500. With players like BJ Upton on the DL, manager Joe Maddon has work to do.

The dominance of clubs like the Yankees and Boston is beginning to fade. The season is still young, however the troubles in the Boston clubhouse won’t disappear overnight. The aging Yankees need to establish consistency. The addition of pitcher Hiroki Kuroda sparked some hope for the rotation….until this past Wednesday night against Minnesota. Baltimore sits atop the division. Jake Arrieta’s early showings are impressive. However, if recent history teaches us anything, the 162 game season is full of streaks and slumps. Toronto is lying low while holding the number two spot in the division. In short, the AL East is up for grabs.

What should fans do? Look West my friends. Detroit is an early favorite to represent the American League in the Fall Classic. Justin Verlander continues his dominance. His ability to throw hard in late innings is truly something to watch. The Tigers addition of Prince Fielder only made this team more dangerous. The other team to watch, the Texas Rangers. Regardless of what Pujols and C.J. Wilson may bring to the Angels, the Rangers have their eyes set on the AL West crown. Texas already appears set to run away with the West.

The struggles of AL East teams is bad for their fans. The leveling of the field in the American League is good for baseball. I will insert my usual disclaimer here, the season is a long one. Much can happen between now and September. Stay tuned.

Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think!

Yankees and Phillies

The Yankees and Phillies face off today in Spring Training. Nick Swisher believes these teams will meet in the World Series. The season is a long one. I wanted to make a quick post with a question: are the Yanks and Phils the best teams in their respective leagues in 2012?

Bobby Valentine: Yankee Hater

English: Bobby Valentine signing a ball at the...

Image via Wikipedia

Bobby Valentine stated he hates the New York Yankees. Really Bobby? Valentine is famous for his unique personality. I think his hiring as Red Sox manager is a good move for that organization. Of course time will tell how the team performs. For a manager to comment he hates another team is just not necessary.

Valentine’s comments are nothing more than a marketing tool. He knew what he said . Does it spice up the rivalry? Maybe for Boston fans. Yankee fans probably don’t care all that much. I’m only posting about it because I think it speaks to a larger cultural issue. We like fluff. Bobby’s comments are fluff and contain no substance. This doesn’t add to the rivalry. Managers and players should channel their ill-feelings of opposing teams when playing. Leave it out of the press. This is just one more example of our cultural preference, and not just with sport, rewarding sensationalism over substance.

If Valentine really wanted to motivate his players and the Red Sox Nation, say you are going to play the Yanks harder than ever before and leave it there. Hate? Really? I don’t agree with the use of the word when it comes to competition. Call me overly politically correct. Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion, if so, I apologize. This week of all weeks in baseball, comments such as these are mere moves for attention.

Fans, let’s focus on where Pujols will finally end up. Let’s keep our eyes on Miami as they are holding nothing back with their moves. Prince Fielder anyone? Who heard Jose Reyes comment the Mets didn’t offer him anything? These are far more significant stories in baseball.