Every January since this blog was created, we here at Dubsism have given an award for achievements during the previous year in some under-recognized categories in the world of sports. In prior years, the nominations for the awards were done exclusively by an internal committee, but we’ve had so much success allowing nominations from the general public that we had no choice but to continue that. .
Between our committee and our valued readers, we had more quality nominations than we could ever possibly use. Thank you so much for that. When we received an outstanding nomination that proved to be a winner, we made sure to recognize those who submitted it. However, we did also receive nominations on multiple ballots that proved to be winners. If you see a winner that you nominated, and you weren’t credited, just know that you weren’t the only one who had the same idea.
With that, and after careful consideration, here are the winners of the Fifth Amnnual Dubsy awards.
Over the last few years, there hasn’t been very many football players I’ve waffled more on than Cam Newton. when he was coming out of Auburn, I was very skeptical of his ability to play quarterback in the NFL. In fact, I constantly referred to him as “JaMarcus II.” Then his rookie season in Carolina made me think maybe the kid had some potential. But Newton’s second season made me wonder, especially the pouty, whiny guy we saw after every Panther loss. It took me back to the character issues which concerned me in the first place.
Then, CBS Sports Chicago reported that Cam Newton quit playing baseball at age 14 because he was afraid of the ball.
To play quarterback in the NFL, you must be as close to fearless as possible.
Yeah, you would think that, but this story seems to fly in the face of that, don’t you think?
Few other activities leave you starring down the face mask of a 300-pound athlete who wants to do nothing more than destroy you. But for Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, the challenge of playing baseball was much, much scarier than playing football.
In fact, Newton quit baseball at a young age because he was afraid of the ball.
Well, now it’s beyond “seems.” If you played Little League baseball back in my day, there was no better way to get called “fag” by your teammates than to be afraid of the ball. I’m not saying that was right; I’m saying that is the way it was…and despite the “tolerance” we hypocritcally preach in this country, it probably still is that way.
But let’s take that back to the Cam Newton story. How the fuck can you be afraid of an 8-ounce ball, and yet the idea of having your liver mashed by a 300-pound defensive lineman doesn’t make you want to poop your pants?
“I quit baseball at 14 because I was afraid of the pitches,” Newton told ESPN the Magazine. “The kids started getting better and throwing faster, and it would’ve hurt getting hit by that ball, so I stopped playing. That left a void, so I started playing basketball in the eighth grade.”
Let’s start with basketball. Once again, I don’t buy a Cam Newton story because schoolyard basketball is the best place to get your teeth elbowed right out of your fucking head short of building a time machine and taking the floor against the 1989 Detroit Pistons. Lest I seem like I’m belaboring the point, if you think a baseball hurts when it hits you, what the hell would you expect this to feel like?
What does it all come down to? I’m convinced that all athletic abilities aside, Cam Newton is a flake. To be honest, the NFL has always been full of guys who were a bit strange, and it isn’t always a detriment to being a successful player. Will that be the case with Cam Newton? I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure in his case it can’t help.
Up until now, this series has been about certain instances, or specific seasons which would make sports fans cringe in horror and pain. This installment expands on that to take a hard look at the long-suffering fans of franchises who have tortured their supporters for decades.
In other words, today’s Tale of Depression and Sorrow is an interview given to us here at Sports Blog Movement by Andy, one of the founding members of the best Chicago Cubs fan site out there, Ivy Envy. Andy lives in Rock Island, Illinois, and just so happens to be the brother-in-law of SBM contributor Ryan Meehan, which is probably why he was willing to take time from creating a good blog to bother with this one.
J-Dub: Andy, How long have you been a fan of the Cubs?
Andy: Since the mid-1980s.
J-Dub: What made you become a fan of the Cubs?
For me, the All-Star break has always represented the “far turn” in the horse race that is the Major League Baseball season. This is the point when general managers acting as jockeys must decide whether they are contenders or pretenders; whether to go to the whip (trade for talent to augment a “stretch run”) or “wait for next year” (have a fire sale). Not to mention, this another great opportunity to see how wrong we really were from the pre-season predictions. And let’s be honest…we were wrong on a lot of stuff.
1) Pittsburgh Pirates ↑ 15
What We Said:
Even though the Bucs just missed out on a .500 record, it had to be considered a successful campaign because their farm system took a big leap forward. Pirates fans need to be patient because I really think the turnaround is coming.
I get that it is hard to ask fans of a team that has sucked swamp water to two decades to be patient, especially in the light of two straight second-half collapses. Breakout superstar Andrew McCutchen needs to lead an offense featuring Russell Martin, Gaby Sanchez, Travis Snider, and promoted prospect Starling Marte. The starting rotation has potential with a top three of A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald, but that three still has some questions. Beyond there’s more :what ifs,” such as Francisco Liriano Jonathan Sanchez. Boil it all down and I see the Pirates as an even bet to reach .500 for the first time in two decades.
Pitching wins, and the Pirates lead the National League in team ERA. The question is after two straight post All-Star Game folds, is this the year the Bucs finally can make a run all the way to they way.
2) Boston Red Sox ↑ 16
What We Said:
For the second year in a row, the mantra is Boston is as follows: The Red Sox are not nearly as bad as their record last year would indicate, it was just a storm of everything falling apart at exactly the same time.
The difference is that they seem to have grasped what the really need to do to rebuild over the long haul. Namely, they needed to not make the same mistakes when it comes to giant money, long-term contracts. This past off-season, the Red Sox only signed free-agents who were willing to accept contracts of three years or fewer, who wouldn’t cost them a compensatory draft pick and who aren’t pains-in-the-ass. Having said that, third-place is the upside for this team.
Remember what I just said about pitching? Well, Boston is second in the American League in team ERA. Top that off with the fact the Red Sox are also second in the AL in team batting average, and their #2 ranking, while surprising to me given what I though of this team at the beginning of the season, really shouldn’t be surprising.
3) St. Louis Cardinals ↑ 4
What We Said:
The Cardinals nearly repeated as National League pennant winners in 2012, and they looked to be just as good in 2013 until the news came down that they would be without Chris Carpenter; likely for good. The Cardinal lineup is more than adequate, but the loss of Carpenter coupled with the free-agency debacle of Kyle Lohse raises some question marks for the Cardinal pitching staff. Namely they will be looking to Adam Wainwright to continue the form he showed coming down the stretch in 2012, and they may find themselves relying on “blue chip” prospects Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal.
You tell me and we’ll both know. The Cardinals are hitting, the Cardinals are pitching, and I didn’t think either of those things were going to happen. Three of the league leaders in batting average are in CardinaI uniforms, and that’s not going to last.
4) Oakland Athletics ↑ 9
What We Said:
Last year’s surprise AL West winners won’t have to rely on an all-rookie rotation as they did down the stretch. Those pitchers now all have a full season and a play-off appearance under their belts, and more importantly, will have help from the full-time availability Brett Anderson and veteran Bartolo Colon who returns from a PED suspension. They’ll still be platoon-heavy and the home runs, strikeouts, and defense they had in abundance last year should be augmented by the addition of Chris Young.
Since the last All-Star game, nobody has had a better record than the Oakland A’s. As far as this season is concerned, they have managed to get 60 homers and 150 RBI combined out of Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, and Brandon Moss, and an 11-3, 1.10 WHIP performance (including eight-game an wining streak) out of Bartolo Colon before he lost to the Cubs on July 3rd.
5) Atlanta Braves ↔
What We Said:
The dirty little secret about the Atlanta Braves? They had a better staff ERA (3.42) than the vaunted championship San Francisco staff (3.68). The dirty little secret about the Atlanta Braves they wish you didn’t know? The Braves production from its right-handed hitters was the worst in the National League (49 HRs and a .671 OPS).
That’s why it’s no secret the Braves looked to improve on offense with the addition of B.J. and Justin Upton.
Pretty much what we though would happen. The Braves lead the National League in home runs, and lead the NL East in runs scored and team ERA. They strikeout way too much, but this need to be the year they Braves reclaim the division.
6) Cincinnati Reds ↓ 3
What We Said:
Despite two bad decisions, the Reds will still be one of the best teams in baseball. Thinking that Shin-Soo Choo can be a center fielder despite the fact he’s been a right fielder his whole career is going to be a problem. Cincinnati’s lead-off hitters last year had the worst OPS (.581) and the worst on-base percentage (.254) in both leagues. Choo is not likely to fix that hitting lead-off (which he’s never done on a regular basis) and learning a position he’s never played.
Moving Aroldis Chapman to the rotation right now is the right call, if you want to see his arm in a display case in about three months. We must never forget what Dusty “The Ligament Shredder” Baker does to pitching staffs.
Having said that, an offense powered by Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Joey Votto is going to score a shitload of runs.
Remember when everybody regarded the NL Central as a baseball graveyard. Well, three of the top six teams on this list come from that graveyard, and the Reds are the one I was the most right about. The only big whiff was that Shin-Soo Choo has adapted quite well to the lead-off role, although he is not a terribly gifted base stealer.
7) Detroit Tigers ↑ 2
What We Said:
Because the American League Central is the weakest division in baseball, the Tigers should have no problem riding their starting rotation into the postseason. Once there, the weaknesses that got them swept by the Giants will re-emerge. The hitting tends to disappear at key times, the bullpen is a train wreck, and the Tigers are notoriously awful on defense. If the Tigers can fix any one of those issues, they can rocket up this list.
With all the weapons we already knew about with the Tigers, now you can add Max Scherzer. The bats are producing, but they are still streaky.
8 ) Texas Rangers ↑ 2
What We Said:
Ok, so losing Josh Hamilton is going to hurt. But look at the upsides the Rangers still have. First of all, If Yu Darvish maintains his form from last September and October (2.21 ERA, 39 strikeouts, and 20 hits allowed in 36.2 innings), Texas will have a legitimate #1 at the front of the rotation. They have the best prospect in baseball in Jurickson Profar (who will start the season in the minors), a power-hitting third baseman ready to play every day (Mike Olt) and pitching depth in the minors with Martin Perez and Cody Buckel. The Rangers may or may not be a play-off team this year, but they will be a factor yet for a while.
The Rangers don’t miss Hamilton as much as we thought, and Yu Darvish is leading a pitching staff which is second in the American League in team ERA.
9) Baltimore Orioles ↑ 5
What We Said:
OK, Oriole fans, don’t get pissed at me when I tell you your season last year was a result of luck. There’s nothing wrong with that, honestly, the fact the O’s were a single win away from playing in the American League Championship Series was one of the best baseball stories of the entire season.
But it all happened because everything went right. The bullpen, which was like a car built from spare parts, managed to come together to form one of the best units in baseball. The team went 29-9 in one-run games during the regular season and won 16 consecutive extra-inning games.
To that roster, they seem to be looking largely to internal improvements to fuel the 2013 season, with a full season of Manny Machado, a re-signed Nate McLouth, a hopefully healthier Nolan Reimold, and at some point the call-up of Dylan Bundy. The one addition they made was bringing in Jair Jurrjens to the starting rotation.
All the luck that the Orioles needed last year, plus the fact that Jurrjens has a solid shot at having a Baltimore-area MRI machine named after him means I have a hard time picking the O’s to be in October again.
OK, Oriole fans, so far you can legitmately tell me to shove my luck comment straight up my ass. Chris Davis is powering an offense leading the league in home runs and which is second in runs scored. But in my defense, the pitching is a bit a shaky, and I don’t think it gets better by adding guys like Scott Feldman.
10) Washington Nationals ↓ 9
What We Said:
Remember when it was easy to belittle the Nationals by calling them the Gnats? Well, those days are over.
Last year’s major league leader in wins promises to be even better this year. The addition of Denard Span gives the Nationals the bona fide center fielder and lead-off hitter they have sorely needed, and Dan Haren marks a solid upgrade over the inconsistent Edwin Jackson. Rafael Soriano jock-strap bursting power to a bullpen that already makes opposing hitters crap their pants.
The Nats also boast a great core of young players who are only going to get better…ace Stephen Strasburg, future all-star Bryce Harper, reliever Drew Storen, and catcher Wilson Ramos.
They aren’t back to being the Gnats, but they are circling the pesky housefly neighborhood.
11) Cleveland Indians ↑ 10
What We Said:
Speaking of teams that need some help from Jobu…
In 2012, Cleveland allowed the most runs in the American League and scored the second-fewest. You don’t really need to the super-computers at NASA to figure out that isn’t good. The Indians hit the fewest home runs by right-handed batters of any major league club, so they added guys like Mark Reynolds, Drew Stubbs, and the switch-hitting Nick Swisher. to the lineup. They added Michael Bourn to set the table in front of those guys.
The problem is the pitching staff is still pretty shaky. To improve a staff which had the league’s second-worst ERA at 5.25, they added the perenially-durable-yet-mediocre Brett Myers. To shore up the league’s second-worst bullpen ERA of 3.97, they added the career under-achiever Matt Albers.
The addition of manager Terry Francona will certainly help, and the offense should improve, but that pitching staff simply isn’t going to cut it. Maybe the Indians ought to bring back Eddie Harris and Rick “Wild Thing Vaughn.”
Over the last few years,short of the Pittsburgh Pirates, there hasn’t been a team we’ve been more consistently wrong about than the Indians. They win when we think they will lose. They lose when we think they will win. Despite that, there really are what we thought they would be; a team that can slug in runs, but can’t pitch. They can stay in second place in a weak division, but they can’t contend to be around in October. Now that we said that, this team will face Pittsburgh in the World Series.
12) New York Yankees ↔
What We Said:
I fully admit I have no idea what to do with the Yankees. This ranking is on the optimistic side, given that it will all depend on how long it takes them to get healthy. As it stands now, they are going to start the season with Derek Jeter, Mark Teixiera, and Curtis Granderson on the disabled list; not to mention it is very possible Alex Rodriguez will never wear a Yankee uniform again. There’s really no ready-to-go talent in the farm system, and the pitching staff gets thin behind CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda. Top it off with the fact that Phil Hughes is already hurt, Mariano Rivera is 43 years old and coming off major knee surgery, and it becomes clear that the Yankees could easily drop to being the 70-win “also-ran” role usually reserved for Toronto.
Somehow, the Yankees keep finding a way to win considering they really aren’t hitting, the pitching is OK-to-mediocre at best, and their “magic number” is 25 – that’s the total number of games played by Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixiera, and Alex Rodriguez combined.
13) Tampa Bay Rays ↓ 5
What We Said:
There’s two big factors that will determine where the Rays 2013 campaign goes…the health of Evan Longoria and the development of Wil Myers (assuming he starts the season in the major).
Beyond that, even after losing James Shields and Wade Davis, the Rays still have one of the deepest pitching staffs in baseball. The Rays allowed the fewest runs (577) in the majors last season, which was far better than anyone else in the AL East. The trouble was they failed to score 700 runs for the first time since 2006.
The pitching got worse and the offense got better. However, the Rays can still be a factor if the pitching staff solidifies a bit.
14) Arizona Diamondbacks ↑ 1
What We Said:
While the Diamondbacks made a lot of off-season moves, they seemed to be like a dog on a tile floor; expending a lot of effort and not really going anywhere. The bottom line is they are a solid team, but they aren’t nearly as good as the Giants and the Dodgers. Not to mention, there’s no way you can expect this team to be better without Justin Upton.
The Diamondbacks found production in places not named Upton. They have tow guys with 100 hits and 50 runs scored. They have only one player with more than 70 RBI, but they have seven with more than 25. That might be a ton of production, but it is enough when you also have 10 pitchers with a WHIP under 1.40
15) Philadelphia Phillies ↑ 2
What We Said:
Because the Phillies have Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels at the top of their rotation, the perception is that they will be able to mask a lot of problems. The trouble is one of those problems is Halladay. He has been so shaky in spring training, he’s not getting the ball on Opening Day for the first time in ten years.
Here’s the other problems they can’t hide.
They added two mediocre bats who suck defensively (Michael Young and Delmon Young) in a league where there is no designated hitter.
No matter who they put in the outfield, Ben Revere is going to be the only one who isn’t a defensive liability.
Philadelphia’s offensive production in terms of total runs scored has ben in decline for three straight seasons.
Don’t look now, but they are old. On Opening Day the Phillies’ four infielders and catcher will all be 33 or older, and the only player in that group who hasn’t shown signs of decline is catcher Carlos Ruiz, who just happens to be suspended the first 25 games of the season for a failed PED test.
It is time for Phillies fans to come to terms with the fact this team will be mediocre until further notice.
Everything we said would happen did in fact happen. The pitching staff is clearly in decline, led by the injury to Roy Halladay. But the Philllies have reversed their offensive slump up until now. Granted the recent injury to Ryan Howard is a problem at key point in the season, but much of this offensive resurgence in Philadelphia has been led by the long-awaited breakout of Domonic Brown. In other words, the Phillies are still mediocre, but they are happily so at this point.
16) Toronto Blue Jays ↓ 5
What We Said:
There’s no question the Blue Jays pulled the biggest “load-up” job in the off-season, but I’m not sure I buy this team yet.
My first concern is the pitching staff. Yeah, they added a lot of names, but let’s take a hard look at that whole staff. I am not a believer in that voo-doo bullshit knuckleball, and hence I think R.A. Dickey’s 2012 season was a fluke. Plus, he’s 38 years old. Mark Buehrle isn’t exactly young anymore either, and to see my concerns about him, just look at his stats before he pitched that perfect game, and look at them after. Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow have a track record of not being able to stay healthy, And Ricky Romero is an implosion waiting to happen.
The bottom line: The Blue Jays are “all-in” with an attempt to go from being a 70-win “also-ran” to a play-ff contender. Aside from the aforementioned changes on the hill, they’ve added Jose Reyes, Melky Cabrera, and Adam Lind, but it cost them the depth in their farm system they spent years building.
Early on, the plummet for this team was in full-on mode. This team couldn’t buy a win, but has since righted the ship. This team can score as expected, but the pitching staff can only be considered a failure considering the amount of money spent to be bottom-half in the American League in ERA.
17) Los Angeles Angels ↓ 11
What We Said:
Offense will be no problem for the Angels; a lineup featuring Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton, Mark Trumbo, and Mike Trout should have opposing pitchers praying. Meanwhile, Angels fans will be praying that C.J. Wilson, Tommy Hanson, and Joe Blanton can provide something more than just eating up innings behind Jered Weaver.
Here’s another team that hit the rocks early, but now seems to be getting things in order. The Angels have bounced back from a woeful start to now rank 3rd in the AL in team batting average and 5th (and climbing) in home runs. The fact that Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton finally went yard in back-to-back at-bats the other day is another encouraging sign. The problem is that they are chasing the team who has been the best in baseball since the last All-Star break and the pitching is still shaky.
18) Los Angeles Dodgers ↓ 14
What We Said:
A lot of people want to anoint the Dodgers as champions given the load-up they’ve had in the last six months. Those people are over-looking a couple of key facts. First, you can only consider Brandon League as an elite reliever because he gets an elite-sized paycheck. The slide-rule, sabremetrics crowd has a Dodger blue boner for Zack Greinke, but the fact that he hasn’t notched an ERA below 3.48 since 2009 should give them blue balls. Josh Beckett couldn’t even get a rise of that same crowd; he’s been coasting on days gone by for far too long now.
Offensively, there are some other worrisome signs. Carl Crawford is a complete question mark. So is Hanley Ramirez now given his hand injury. Adrian Gonzalez’s drop in power production last year should really have the Dodgers concerned, especially since they added him to cure the fact Dodger lefty hitters had a .661 OPS last year, the second-worst of all major league clubs.
Who is faster that a speeding bullet, more powerful than a speeding bullet, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Superman.
Who can do all that shit and still not make the Dodgers a contender? Yasiel Puig.
The Puig story is one of those that will captivate the baseball world for the rest of this season at least, and he’s clearly already etched his name in the annals of Dodger history, if not because he is yet another Dodger phenom on scale with Mike Piazza, Raul Mondesi, Fernando Valenzuela, and the emergence of Sandy Koufax, but because he is the only guy I have ever seen ion 40 years of watching Dodger baseball that made Vin Scully speechless.
As far as why the Dodgers have tanked this season, it is all in the numbers:
- Carl Crawford is hitting .270 with no power, scant stolen bases and little run production.
- Andre Ethier is hitting .273 with no power and no production.
- Matt “Opening Soon at a Disabled List Near You” Kemp is hitting .254 with no power and no production. He hasn’t made it a point to be this hitless since he dated Rihanna.
In comparison, Yasiel Puig (as of this writing) has played in 35 games and is shocking high in team rankings:
- 27 runs scored – 5th amongst Dodgers (leader Adrian Gonzalez has 37 in 87 games)
- 56 hits – 6th amongst Dodgers (leader Adrian Gonzalez has 97 in 87 games)
- 8 home runs -2nd amongst Dodgers (leader Adrian Gonzalez has 14 in 87 games)
- 5 stolen bases – 2nd amongst Dodgers (leaders Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford have 9 in 61 and 57 games respectively)
What it comes down to is even with Puig, the Dodgers still hit a lot of useless singles, can’t manufacture runs, and can’t give their pitchers any run support.
19) Kansas City Royals ↔
What We Said:
There was a big change in Kansas City this off-season, but it may be a distinction without a difference. Under general manager Dayton Moore, the Royals spent years building the game’s best farm system, then they traded it all in an attempt to bolster a dismal pitching staff.
At first glance, it isn’t hard to see why the Royals would want James Shields and Wade Davis. The Royals had a horrendous rotation in 2012, notching a 5.01 ERA. Granted, Shields and Davis may help that, but when you stop to consider that they gave up the fruit of their farm system in future potential star Wil Myers and major-league ready pitcher Jake Odorizzi, plus the fact the offense depends on first baseman Eric Hosmer coming back from his sophomore slump and hoping that Mike Moustakas can learn that drawing the occasional walk is OK, this team still won’t be much better than .500 at best.
Don’t look now, but the Royals are third in the AL in team ERA at 3.73, and are first in the same division that contains a team which has reigning the Cy Young and MVP winner Justin Verlander and the 13-0 Max Scherzer. But to quote Crash Davis, they still couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a fucking boat.
20) Colorado Rockies ↑ 7
What We Said:
At least the Rockies got rid of one headache when Jim Tracy resigned. Troy Tulowitzki will be back, and Carlos Gonzalez and Dexter Fowler are still two of the most exciting young players in the game.
What else do the Rockies have? (insert cricket noises here…)
The Rockies are living proof of the old adage about pitching beats hitting. The Rockies are 2nd in the NL in team battign average, runs scored, home runs, and they’ve done that with out having Dexter Fowler and Troy Tulowitzki in their line-up for significant periods. But even that miraculous performance can’t atone for having a pitching staff comprised of 1,250 pounds of pimento loaf.
21) San Francisco Giants ↓ 19
What We Said:
In 2010, when the Giants won the World Series, they virtually overhauled their batting order in the off-season. That’s not the case this year, but then again, in 2010, Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval were non-factors. This time, Posey is coming off an MVP season, and Sandoval crushed enemy pitchers in October. The Giants also made sure all the crucial free-agents who helped drive the 2012 championship team left their hearts (and contract signatures) in San Francisco. What happens at the really is just icing on the cake; the strength of the Giants is the pitching staff, which only really has one question: Which Tim Lincecum will they get…will it be the two-time Cy Young winner of years past, or will it be the guy who got rocked for a 5.18 ERA in the regular season, or will it be the dominant October closer?
Yeah, we knew about Lincecum, but nobody saw the collapse of Matt Cain coming. That’s right, the same Matt Cain who didn’t give up an earned run in the Giants 2010 blitzkrieg through the 2010 playoffs is now the Matt Cain who is giving it up faster than a cheerleader on prom night in 2013? He didn’t even get oput of the first inning in his last start. Without that pitching staff firing on all cylinders, the Giants suddenly become the Oompa-loompas.
22) San Diego Padres ↑ 2
What We Said:
The 2013 San Diego Padres look almost exactly like the 2012 version that finished fourth in the NL West, 18 games behind the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Many fans don’t think that’s a good thing. It actually is a good thing.
Don’t look now, but soon, the Padres will not be this far down on this list. The Padres were among the National Leagues’s five best teams in the second half, finishing the year on a 48-36 run. They had the league’s top defense and they still have a first-rate farm system. They gave Carlos Quentin and Huston Street contract extensions. If Quentin can stay healthy to support burgeoning star Chase Headley in the lineup, the Padres should only be a starting pitcher or two away from being wild-card contenders.
The Padres are still better than their record suggests, but they really need to get over this idea than Clayton Richard is a #1 pitcher. He’s a solid #3 or #4, but it isn’t fair to expect him to out-duel the Clayton Kershaw-types in the NL West. The Padres eventually have to spend some dough and put two or three honestly scary pitchers in that airport of a ball park they have.
23) Seattle Mariners ↑ 1
What We Said:
The Mariners locked up Felix Hernandez. That’s the good news.
They’ve got nothing else to go with him. That’s the bad news.
It’s not like they didn’t try. The tried to land Josh Hamilton and Nick Swisher. Failing that, they were left with the likes of Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, and Robert Andino in trades and Raul Ibañez, Jason Bay, and Kelly Shoppach in free agency. Granted, those are certainly improvements over what they had, but to compete in the stacked AL West, they’ll need a hell of a lot more, especially in terms of pitching.
Don’t look now, but the M’s are third in the AL in home runs. Michael Morse was killing the ball in the Cactus League, and brought that noise north by slamming 9 home runs in April, but he’s disappeared since then. In his absence, the slack has been picked up by the AARP-ready Raul Ibanez (22 HR, 51 RBI), and the Angel-castoff Kendrys Morales (14 HR, 52 RBI), and the prospect-turned-quasi-surprise Kyle Seager (13 HR, 41 RBI). But they still don’t have appreciable pitching behind “King Felix.”
24) Minnesota Twins ↑ 4
What We Said:
The Twins traded two center-fielders and received three pitchers, the 25-year-old Vance Worley and two blue chip prospects, Alex Meyer and Trevor May, neither of whom have yet reached Triple-A. Once again, the Twins have built one of the best farm systems in baseball, but as far as 2013 is concerned, all of the real talent in the minors is at least two years away (if not more), so Twins fans are going to have to clinch up and gut out a few more awful seasons before the turn around.
The Twins didn’t get better; everybody behind them got worse. The Twins need to abandon this “pitch to contact” mentality and get some guys who are hard to hit.
25) Chicago Cubs ↑ 1
What We Said:
As they enter the second year of the Theo Epstein regime, the Cubs are saying the pieces are falling into place and they are ready to contend for a division title.
They’ve been saying that every year for decades now.
If Jeff Samardzija is your Opening Day starter, you aren’t a contender.
If the hope for your starting rotation is for Matt Garza and Scott Baker to get healthy, you aren’t a contender.
If your next best proven offensive threat after Alfonso Soriano and Starlin Castro is arguably Nate Schierholtz, you aren’t a contender (don’t write me any shit about Anthony Rizzo…I said PROVEN, and he ain’t that yet).
If the best guy out of you bullpen is Carlos Marmol, you aren’t a contender.
The upside for the Cubs is this: there’s plenty of help in the minors getting ready to flesh out a team around budding stars Castro and Rizzo. The strting will be under-impressive, but they should eat a lot of innings.. The Cubs’ win-loss record should show a marginal improvement from last year’s 61-101 debacle, and now there are only two more years left of Alfonso Soriano before the Cubs are out from under that stupid contract.
I’m not a Cubs’ fan, but I live in greater Cubs-land, and therefore I’m surrounded by Cubs fans. I’ll make it official right now…I have to eat it on the Jeff Samradzija thing. He still won’t make the Cubs into a contender, but he is a legitimate major league starting pitcher.
26) New York Mets ↓ 1
What We Said:
In typical fashion for the Mets, they offered a big contract extension to David Wright. Then he got hurt. The offense is going to be a complete mess, adn teh pitching staff isn’t much better. There’s a few more lean years on the horizon for the Mets before things get better.
God bless ‘em, but the Mets are trying so hard not to suck. They are near the bottom of the league in hitting, but somehow they are middle of the pack in scoring. The pitching staff is in the middle of the pack in team ERA, but can you imagine where they would be without Matt Harvey?
27 -tie) Chicago White Sox ↓ 7
What We Said:
The White Sox are another team for whom everything went right in 2012…until the calendar read September.
Jake Peavy stayed healthy for the first time in recent memory. Chris Sale was a surprise contributor, but hisdelivery makes me wonder how llong befgore he becomes a major injury problem. Alex Rios and Adam Dunn remembered how to hit a baseball, which a big part of why the Whiteys had five players who hit at least 25 homers. No other big league team had more than three, which helps to explain how the White Sox powered their way to a division lead for two-thirds of the season.
Then, what happens to teams that rely too much on the long-ball finally happened. That bats went to sleep, and even Jobu couldn’t wake them up . The White Sox stumbled across the finish line with an 11-17 September record. There weren’t any major changes to this team in the off-season; they signed Jeff Keppinger to replace Kevin Youkilis and re-signed Jake Peavy…that’s really it. That’s why I really can’t see this team getting over the hump and making the play-offs.
The Whiteys are the poster-child for teams that rely on the long ball, then don’t get them, which is exactly why the Whiteys are dead-last in the AL in scoring. Adam Dunn is doing his part, and Alejandro De Aza has been a nice surprise, but somebody really needs to explain Ken Harrelson’s fascination with Dayan “C’mon, Tank!” Viciedo. For that matter, somebody needs to explain Ken Harrelson to me. But to paraphrase “The Hawk:” You can put it on the board YESSS! The White Sox are terrible.
27 -tie) Milwaukee Brewers ↓ 4
What We Said:
The Brewers’ pitching staff in 2012 allowed the fourth-most runs in the National League last year. That staff included Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum. The 2013 Brewers’ staff will not include those two. Kyle Lohse is not going to be the answer to that problem.
From now on, if anybody thinks Kyle Lohse is the answer, I don’t even want to know the question. To be fair, Lohse is actually pitching well for Milwaukee, but he’s the only one.
29) Miami Marlins ↔
What We Said:
Remember that old Who song that has the line “meet the boss…same as the old boss?” Well, meet the new Marlins, same as the old Marlins. You know the drill; spend a shit-load of money in an attempt to win a title, and whether it works or not, sell off the team for spare parts after a year or so.
The team tried to spend money to compete last season as it moved into a new ballpark. It didn’t happen, fans still didn’t show up, so the front office did what it felt necessary to turn a profit. They also got good talent in return for all the players they dealt. But they won’t matter for two years.
At least the fans are still not showing up. It says volumes about a franchise when they are closing seats so the stadium doesn’t look as empty (see the 1993 Los Angeles Raiders). The only bit of suspense left for the Marlins is can this team crack 60 wins?
30) Houston Astros
What We Said:
Until further notice, the Houston Astros will be considered a Triple-A team.
Until further notice, the Houston Astros will be considered a Triple-A team.
So, in the last week, I’ve been forced to come to the realization that Roy Hobbs from The Natural is actually a 22-year old Cuban guy who is built like a Mack Truck and runs like a Ferrari.
America, meet Yasiel Puig, your next next honest-to-oh-my-fucking-goodness baseball phenom. The guy has been in the major leagues for one week, and so far he’s only managed to belt 4 home runs, drive in 10 runs, make two monstrous outfield assists, dive into first base to beat out an infield hit, and drew an intentional walk in his 4th game in the bigs.
It isn’t so much that he did these things, it’s how he did them. The home runs were such rockets that not only did they shatter the usually impenetrable night air of that fly-ball mausoleum known as Dodger Stadium, they got Puig a free pass to first base one day after he had his first 0-for-4 day at the plate. He got his first intentional walk before he ever got hit by a pitch; before he got a regular walk. Think about that; they didn’t bother to hit this guy, they didn’t bother to pitch around him…they just put up four fingers and sent Puig down the first base line for free in his 18th major league at-bat. There’s guys who don’t even get hits in their first 18 at-bats.
It’s not just this kid’s bat. This guy hosed out two runners on throws that mean every third-base coach in the National League could now literally be replaced with a stop sign.
I’ve been watching baseball for forty years, and I’ve never seen anything like it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen plenty of phenoms; I’ve seen them with varying outcomes. I’ve seen a guy nobody ever heard of become a guy named Albert Pujols. I’ve watched guys that were nothing but a non-stop hype show got from Rookie of the Year to out of the league two years later. Raise your hand if you remember Joe Charbonneau…
But I’m not the only old guy who can’t believe what he is seeing.
Vin Scully has been the voice of the Dodgers since 1951 and hes’ never seen anything like it. The Dodger offense was all but dead last Thursday against the Braves when Puig slammed a “grannie” to win the ball game in the eighth inning. Sunday, Scully went on an extended dialog about Puig as a five-tool player, and how he has never seen a player show off all five tools in one game. Scully has said just about all he can; I’m literally waiting for him to just throw his hands up in the air and exclaim “What the Fuck?!”
Right now, there’s a lot of people who want to put a Superman “S” on Puig’s chest. There are others who want replace Chuck Norris’ name in all those jokes with Puig’s. But Puig shares even more with the “Man of Steel” and “Walker, Texas Ass-Kicker.” None of them have yet to rescue the Dodgers from the NL West cellar.
As much as a phenom as Puig has been, Dodgers fans still get to live through eight other under-performing bats surrounding him. If you are a Dodger fan, tell me how may times you’ve watched the likes of Mark Ellis strike out flailing at a pitch at his eyes with Puig on deck with runners on base in the late innings.
So, while Puig has given Dodger fans something to watch for rather than counting the days until Matt Kemp gets off the disabled list, there’s still a big question nobody in Dodgerland is ready to ask yet.
Just which way is this kid headed?
For all the signs of super-stardom he’s shown in the last week, he’s also show signs for concern in the past. This is a guy who bats .500 in the minors, and gets benched for not running out ground balls. This is a guy who has been known to act out on the field when he disagrees with a sign. Ultimately, the Dodgers dispatched Manny Mota, who has long served as a mentor for the Dodgers’ young Latin American players, to meet with Puig.
Right now, what it all comes down to is Yasiel Puig is one hell of a story. Right now, whichever way this story goes only the future knows. Right now, what is for certain is that as dismal as the Dodgers’ season has been up this point , at least Yasiel Puig is a ray of hope to cut through what has been a season of Dodger blues.
Let’s be honest, every major league baseball manager could get fired…that’s what they do. They aren’t like popes who usually get to die in office; being a major league manager means having your ass welded to a revolving door. But there are some who simply have a much better chance of getting revolved out of town because they lead teams that have expectations which if not lived up to…well, somebody’s got to take the fall.
Having said that, there are a few managers who have almost no chance of being fired, because nobody expects anything from their teams. This includes guys like:
- Bo Porter, Houston Astros
- Mike Redmond, Miami Marlins
- Ron Gardenhire, Minnesota Twins
- Dale Sveum, Chicago Cubs
There’s also a group who are simply untouchable, because they’ve delivered lately.
- Bruce Bochy, San Francisco giants
- Joe Maddon, Tampa Bay Rays
- Mike Matheny, St. Louis Cardinals
- Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves
That leaves us with a group of ten managers I see as most likely to be looking for work by Opening Day 2014. Somebody’s door is going to revolve, and here are the ten I see being the most likely to turn.
It’s that time again. With Opening Day less than a week away (for the record, we will never count those games played in Japan as the real opener (if for no other reason Opening Day is about consuming your weight in hot dogs and beer, not sushi and sake), it is time to give you some solid opinions on all 30 Major League teams from somebody who actually watches baseball.
Absolutely. It is pants-shittingly funny for a whole host of reasons. , and on so many levels. Let’s just go through the story to see why.
An Illinois town’s little league program is raffling an AR-15 assault rifle to raise money.
Atwood Armory is raising money for the Atwood-Hammond Little League program to replace old equipment.
“We could have went with a basic shotgun or something simple,” league commissioner Steven McClain told WCIA-TV. “But obviously it’s not going to draw the attention, not going to draw the volume we’re hoping to make.”
How this story isn’t happening in Florida or Ohio is just a flat-out shock. Beyond that, the idea that a gun shop is helping to sponsor a little league team seems like something straight out of the Bad News Bears. Secondly, you have to love the idea that real thought went into this. They knew they couldn’t raise money with a “basic shotgun,” so they upped the ante with a 5.56mm semi-automatic rifle. The story goes on to make it clear that previous raffles did not do so well.
The little league program only raised $10 last year in a raffle so owners of the gun shop decided to step in.
“If we were to sell that gun in store with all the accessories and ammo with it, it would be well over $2,000,” Atwood Armory co-owner Charidy Butcher told WCIA.
What the hell were they selling that they only came up with ten lousy bucks? The Girl Scouts get three and half bucks a pop for boxes of cookies. You could sell rocks and make more that a ten-spot. But it seems the AR-15 did the trick.
According to the gun shop’s Facebook page, the little league raffle has raised $1,600 so far.
Co-owner Bryan Butcher says they are not trying to send any type of message through the raffle.
“It was never a political agenda. It is what it is,” Butcher told WCIA.
Well, maybe not for you, but you know damn good and well that once this story gets out, the shrieky anti-gun crowd will have an absolute brain hemorrhage. How can they not? You’ve got guns, kids, and that Connecticut school shooting is still a bit too recent for them to not go completely apeshit over this. Once they do, you can bet they will go find a liberal judge to grant them some sort of injunction to stop the raffle, which would be a real shame, because the only losers will be the kids who little league team gets screwed over some idiotic political power play.
If you are interested, tickets for the raffle are $20 each and they can be purchased until June 28. Kee in mind, howver, that even if you win the raffle, you will still need to pass a background check before they will give you the rifle.
Free agency came to baseball in the 1970’s, which coincidentally happens to the same decade in which I became a baseball fan. In that time, I’ve watched many team make great moves in to secure that “one piece they needed” to win. I’ve also seen lots of complete gag-jobs; a team drives a dump truck full of money off a cliff over some guy who immediately after signing his contract completely forgets how to play the goddamn game, or better yet blows every joint in his body.
Bear in mind, these may not be the ten worst deals of all time, but they are ten of my personal favorites.
10) Chan Ho Park – Signed by the Texas Rangers in 2002, Five Years, $65 million
I distinctly remember this guy pitching in Dodger Stadium, and loving the fact that it may be one of the most forgiving ball parks for a meatball artist like Park. He manage two season in Los Angeles in which he posted records of 18-10 and 15-11. This “success” prompted the historically-pitching thin Texas Rangers to cough up one of the fattest contracts ever given to a pitcher at that time. Of course, the Rangers forgot that home plate in their ball park outpaces Cape Canaveral for the number of moon-shots which have been launched there. This is why Park posted ERAs in Texas of 5.75, 7.58, 5.74, and 5.66. Those number very well could have been worse had a slew of injuries not kept him off the mound for big chunk of his time in Arlington. At least he had a sense of humor.
9) Gary Matthews Jr. – Signed by the Los Angeles Angels in 2006, Five Years, $50 million
The inverse of Park…If you think signing a 31-year-old guy who just had a great year (.313, 44 doubles, 19 home runs, 79 RBIs, and an .866 OPS) in a great hitters’ park (Texas, oddly enough), you should probably have your checkbook locked up. The Angels signed Matthews to that fat deal on the basis of his best season ever, only to watch him become a .247 hitter with marginal power. The proof the Angels knew they blew it came the very next year when they signed Torii Hunter for $90 million to take Matthews place in center field.
This season, the Washington Nationals are adding a new contestant to their President’s Race. While we all know this move is just adding to the field so that Teddy Roosevelt remains the president who almost never wins, we can’t figure out why they picked William Howard Taft. Taft was the only president who also served as a Supreme Court Justice, but he also was the fattest Chief Executive ever. Well over 300 pounds, Taft once got wedged in the White House bathtub. A man of such girth doesn’t seem to be a likely candidate to out run anybody.
That means there were plenty of other choices; let’s review a few who didn’t make the cut, but probably should have.
1) John F. Kennedy: Nobody can outrun a 1963 Lincoln convertible, but this would cause some other problems when the Texas Rangers come to town.
2) Franklin D. Roosevelt: Forget the fact he was crippled by polio. His desire to consistently beat his cousin Teddy combined with a Hoveround would make him unbeatable. Not to mention, there could be all kind of ad revenue possibilities on those “Senior Segways.”
3) George W. Bush: C’mon…the “won the race based on a recount in Florida” gags write themselves.
4) Andrew Jackson: The odds-on choice of the Washington Redskins, because the sight of Jackson winning the race while killing an entire Indian nation by bludgeoning them with a musket butt would make everybody forget about any “insensitive” nicknames.
5) Richard Nixon: You know “Tricky Dick” would be the king of “race fixing.” Picture him having his guys break into Teddy’s office late some night for purposes of rigging a race he should win anyway.
6) Ronald Reagan: I want Ronnie in this race for no other reason than to watch the liberal shitbags who now run this country all die from rage-induced strokes.
7) Barack Obama: The inverse of Reagan…this is where we get Rush Limbaugh to trot his “McNabb” line about how “there is a social agenda in this country that wants a black president to succeed.” Not to mention, you know the black guy is out-running any of these old, white dudes.
8) Jimmy Carter: Not sure how well he would run, but getting the costume would be easy; all you need is an old “Mr. Peanut” outifit with some minor modifications.