Friday, July 5, 2013

2013 MLB All-Star Game Predictions

Welcome to my 4th almost annual (sorry I missed last year) Welcome to Halftime MLB All-Star Game prediction post. This year the 84th MLB All-Star Game will be played at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. While the Home Run Derby should feature frustrated sluggers trying to hit the ball over the fence in the spacious ballpark, the all-star game never seems to disappoint. Here is the list of AL & NL players that I believe deserve to play in baseball’s showcase of it’s best players.

American League   


Catcher: J. Mauer, MIN (.315, 8 HR, 29 RBI) It seems every year, as long as he's healthy, Joe Mauer zwill start the All-Star game. Other than being only one of two starting catchers in the AL with an average over .300, the main reason Mauer should be the starter is the rest of the field is so weak. His 3.5 WAR for a team 10 games under .500 (puts him 10th overall in the AL) also helps his cause.

First Base: C. Davis, BAL (.327, 32 HR, 83 RBI) I am ecstatic that the Tigers signed Prince Fielder a year ago, because choosing between Chris Davis and Miguel Cabrera would have been more difficult than choosing between a Netflix or Hulu Plus subscription. Luckily, Cabrera is now playing third base, so the AL leader of Runs, Hits, Doubles, Home Runs, RBI’s, AVG, OBP, SLG, WAR & mammoth shots over the Camden Yards walls is a no-brainer.     

Second Base: R. Cano, NYY (.295, 20 HR, 57 RBI) It should be worth something that Cano has avoided the Yankees injury bug like A-Rod tried to avoid a drug test. Cano leads AL second basemen in HRs & RBIs while batting in front of Travis Hafner (.220 AVG) one night, & Vernon Wells (.232 AVG) the other nights.

Third Base: M. Cabrera, DET (.364, 26 HR, 85 RBI) This pick was harder than it seems, with young Manny Machado breathing down Cabrera’s neck. Machado actually has a better WAR than Cabrera halfway through the MLB season & is on pace to shatter the single season doubles record. However, Cabrera leads all AL third basemen in Hits, HRs, RBIs & AVG (in 43 fewer ABs than Machado). Machado’s time will come. 

Shortstop: J. Hardy, BAL (.256, 15 HR, 46 RBI) Normally, I do not base my picks on Home Run and RBI counts, but Hardy’s lead in the AL in those categories makes him a strong case to start. Hardy also has 30 less strikeouts in 28 fewer at-bats than Jhonny Peralta, who would be the other candidate to start.  

Designated Hitter: D. Ortiz, BOS (.319, 16 HR, 59 RBI) They should just rename the DH the D.O. (Ortiz’s initials) because no other DH has made an impact on the position since Edgar Martinez. This is not even close, and it makes Ortiz that much more of a lock that he didn’t play his first game of the season until April 20th and still leads AL DH’s in all the major categories. No DH in the NL park, but there still is a vote for one.

M. Trout, LAA (.314, 13 HR, 55 RBI)
The 2013 AL outfield class is the weakest in years. After a slow start, Trout has really picked it up. He batted .261 in April, but since then has hit .327 in May and .358 in June. He also has 20 SBs to go along with his fine season.

A. Jones, BAL (.291, 15 HR, 59 RBI)
After a breakout season last year, Jones has continued with his great overall play. He is fifth in the AL with 15 HRs, and second in RBIs & Hits.

J. Ellsbury, BOS (.303, 2 HR, 30 RBI) The AL leader in SBs (33) is a pick for all the lead off hitters out there that get no respect. Ellsbury also is tied for fifth in in the AL in hits.

Pitcher: M. Scherzer, DET (13-0, 3.09 ERA, 139 SO) Who would have thought the AL starting pitcher would come from Detroit and not be named Verlander. Scherzer is the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986 to go 13-0 to start a season. Scherzer is also second  in both SOs and WHIP. There is a chance Scherzer can break down like Ubaldo Jimenez did after a strong start in 2010, but for now, Scherzer is the hottest pitcher in baseball.  


G. Balfour, OAK (0-1, 1.85 ERA, 21 SV)
B. Colon, OAK (11-3, 2.78 ERA, 61 SO)
Y. Darvish, TEX (8-3, 2.78 ERA, 151 SO)
F. Hernandez, SEA (8-4, 2.69 ERA, 130 SO)
G. Holland, KC (2-1, 1.97 ERA, 19 SV)
H. Iwakuma, SEA (7-4, 2.60 ERA, 103 SO)
J. Johnson, BAL (2-6, 3.83 ERA, 29 SV)
J. Masterson, CLE (10-6, 3.48 ERA, 125 SO)
M. Moore, TB (11-3, 3.65 ERA, 92 SO)
J. Nathan, TEX (1-0, 1.43 ERA, 28 SV)
G. Perkins – MIN (1-0, 1.99 ERA, 20 SV)
M. Rivera, NYY (1-1, 1.44 ERA, 28 SV)
C. Sale, CHW (5-7, 2.79 ERA, 114 SO)
J. Veres, HOU (0-4, 3.38 ERA, 17 SV)

C. Santana – C, CLE (.266, 10 HR, 38 RBI)
E. Encarnacion – 1B, TOR (.271, 23 HR, 66 RBI)
D. Pedroia – 2B, BOS (.325, 5 HR, 49 RBI)
J. Kipnis – 2B, CLE (.301, 13 HR, 54 RBI)
J. Donaldson – 3B, OAK (.314, 14 HR, 55 RBI)
E. Longoria – 3B, TB (.294, 17 HR, 48 RBI)
M. Machado – 3B, BAL (.319, 6 HR, 42 RBI)
J. Peralta – SS, DET (.307, 7 HR, 38 RBI)
N. Cruz – OF, TEX (.269, 20 HR, 61 RBI)
J. Bautista – OF, TOR (.261, 19 HR, 50 RBI)

Each AL team has atleast 1 representative on the All-Star Team
All-Star Rosters are 33 players, 9 Starters
Players on the DL where not considered

National League   


Catcher: Y. Molina, STL (.351, 6 HR, 45 RBI) Talk about choosing between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Molina and Buster Posey for who should start at catcher. Both are batting over .300, and only 3 RBI and .1 in WAR separate the two slugging catchers. It has to go to Molina, because his team is on top of the wild card race while the world champion Giants are sitting in last place in the NL west.

First Base: P. Goldschmidt, ARI (.302, 20 HR, 69 RBI) In only his second full season, Goldschmidt has already matched his career high in home runs. He is the NL RBI leader and fourth in both HRs and WAR.

Second Base: M. Carpenter, STL (.320, 8 HR, 36 RBI) Picking Matt Carpenter says more about the poor crop of NL second basemen than it does about the year he's having. The HR leader (Uggla) is batting .199. Brandon Phillips’ numbers are inflated batting cleanup in a hitter's paradise. Daniel Murphy and Marco Scutaro are not all-stars. That just leaves Carpenter, who is on pace for 200 hits this season.  

Third Base: D. Wright, NYM (.306, 13 HR, 43 RBI) An All-Star game at Citi Field would not be complete without the Mets captain starting in the position he has held down since 2004. Wright is second in the NL in WAR for a team 12 games under .500 (see Mauer). Wright leads all third basemen in AVG & hits. He's third in RBIs, second in HRs, and has an impressive 14 SB – 1 CS ratio (also leads third basemen in SB).

Shortstop: J. Segura, MIL (.323, 11 HR, 33 RBI) It’s a shame Segura wasted his rookie eligibility last season, because it would have been a fun race between him and Puig for the NL Rookie of the Year. Segura, the main piece in the trade that sent Zach Greinke to the Angels last year, leads NL shortstops in AVG, Triples & WAR. He is second in SBs (26).    

A. McCutchen, PIT (.299, 9 HR, 44 RBI)
The Pittsburgh Pirates have the best record in the NL. These are the same Pittsburgh Pirates that have not had a winning season in 20 years. The face of their franchise needs to start the all-star game because Pirates fans know this might be the high point of the season if another second half collapse is in the waiting for them. After a slow start, McCutchen has batted .324 in May & .303 in June. He is second in NL outfielders with a 4.4 WAR. Hold your breath Pirates fans, the race to the finish line might be as rough as the turns on the Cyclone.

M. Cuddyer, COL (.343, 15 HR, 52 RBI)
I recently visited Coors Field on the day Cuddyer extended his hitting streak to 24 consecutive games, the Rockies franchise record. The crowd gave him a well-deserved standing ovation, cheering his name and showing posters with his name on it. The streak that started on May 27th ended 27 games later, and Cuddyer played himself into starting the All-Star game.   

C. Gonzalez, COL (.295, 23 HR, 62 RBI) The other slugging outfielder for the Rockies, CarGo leads NL outfielders in HRs and RBIs. While the trade rumors have been around all year for Gonzalez, he continues to blast home runs over the Coors Field walls.

Pitcher: M. Harvey, NYM (7-2, 2.27 ERA, 141 SO) There is something special about the starting pitcher for the all-star game coming from the host team. Special is a great word to describe the year Matt Harvey is having. He leads the NL in SOs & WHIP. He is 5th in ERA. Harvey has taken three no hitters into the 7th inning this season. If it wasn’t for a lack of run support and the bullpen blowing games he would have a lot more than seven wins right now. The Mets are 12 games under .500, but at no fault is Harvey.


A. Chapman – CIN (3-3, 2.57 ERA, 20 SV)
P. Corbin, ARI (9-1, 2.49 ERA, 59 SO)
J. Fernandez, MIA (5-4, 2.72 ERA, 94 SO)
J. Grilli, PIT (0-1, 2.15 ERA, 28 SV)
C. Kershaw, LAD (7-5, 1.93 ERA, 126 SO)
C. Kimbrel, ATL (2-2, 1.72 ERA, 23 SV)
C. Lee, PHI (9-2, 2.59 ERA, 115 SO)
J. Locke, PIT (8-1, 2.12 ERA, 69 SO)
S. Miller, STL (9-6, 2.80 ERA, 107 SO)
R. Soriano, WSH (1-1, 2.31 ERA, 22 SV)
A. Wainwright, STL (11-5, 2.36 ERA, 117 SO)
T. Wood, CHC (5-6, 2.69 ERA, 80 SO)
J. Zimmermann, WSH (12-3, 2.46 ERA, 85 SO)

B. Posey – C, SF (.312, 12 HR, 48 RBI)
A. Craig – 1B, STL (.325, 10 HR, 66 RBI)
J. Votto – 1B, CIN (.323, 14 HR, 39 RBI)
B. Phillips – 2B, CIN (.269, 12 HR, 63 RBI)
P. Alvarez – 3B, PIT (.243, 21 HR, 56 RBI)
E. Cabrera – SS, SD (.305, 4 HR, 24 RBI)
I. Desmond – SS, WSH (.282, 15 HR, 49 RBI)
C. Beltran – OF, STL (.305, 19 HR, 50 RBI)
D. Brown – OF, PHI (.279, 22 HR, 60 RBI)
C. Gomez – OF, MIL (.311, 13 HR, 39 RBI)
S. Marte – OF, PIT (.287, 8 HR, 26 RBI)

Each NL team has atleast 1 representative on the All-Star Team
All-Star Rosters are 33 players, 9 Starters
Players on the DL were not considered

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Throw back Thursday: Muhhamad Ali v.s Joe Frazier (3/8/1971)

Almost 42 years ago today Muhhamad Ali stepped into the ring against Joe Frazier. At the age of 29 Ali is undefeated in 31 bouts with 25 knock outs. To date Ali was the youngest heavyweight champion in history. (His record was later beaten by Mike Tyson). His Challenger was up and coming Joe Frazier, undefeated in 26 bouts with 23 knock outs. Both fighters were coming off of KO victories and both were had a title on the line. (Ali had the Ring Heavyweight title, while Frazier had WBC and WBA titles).

The fight Starts off with Frazier chasing down Ali with lots of head movement. Always bobbing and weaving, making himself a hard target for Ali's famous jab. Ali is moving less. Whipping out punches scoring a little with the hook in the first round and than landing more solidly with the one, two (jab, cross) in the second and third. Frazier takes these shots while constantly moving forward with a high guard and head movement trying to get inside. Ali, unable to move like he did in his early 20's is having trouble keeping Frazier away and Frazier is able to get in and land solid blows to the body and head. The Fight is even at this point, both fighters landing and taking shots.

For the first four rounds Ali's defense was not what it once was. His head movement was almost non existent  getting caught with looping hooks that should have been easily avoided and staying flat on his feet preventing him from using the ring to keep his distance from his opponent. Round five opened up with Ali more on his toes, dancing around and using the ring. Popping in every now and than to land a shot. But as the round goes on Frazier keeps taking Ali's punches with a smile taunting him. By the end of the round Ali is flat footed again.

As the fight goes on Frazier starts to get the better of each round. Even winning the 6th round, the round Ali said he would knock Frazier out in. Frazier just keeps moving in round after round, trying to get inside. Ali spends more and more time on the ropes. At one point in round 8 Frazier physically grabs Ali's arms and pulls him off the ropes.

At the start of the 9th round Ali comes out throwing again. He wins that round, rocking Frazier with a right. Frazier looks tired out from the constant forward movement, while Ali seems refreshed from his time on the ropes. While Ali keeps his punches light and quick, Frazier puts everything he has into his punches. Frazier's guard is not nearly as tight and Ali seems more passive than early rounds.

Late in round 11 Ali is rocked by Frazier's hook. This is the break frazier has been waitting for. He stalks Ali down with a new found energy. Ali stumbles back and around almost mocking Frazier but at the same time also trying to hide how hurt he is. Frazier is unable to hit him again and the round ends in Frazier's favor.

Round 12 has Ali taking shots from Frazier, no longer shaking his head at them like he did in earlier rounds. The vicious hook in 11 is clearly still affecting him. Frazier tries to land another hard shot, but is too tired to keep the attack tight and by the end of the round Ali has recovered. Both fighters are tired now, using the clinch as a moment to rest.

Ali Came out in 13 with a new found energy. His punches have power again and he throwing them in combination. He realizes that he is probably losing this fight and that he needs to come out strong to have a chance at the decision or another 15 round knock out. Frazier also comes out with some strong punches. This much action this late in a heavywieght fight is rare and takes a lot of a heart from each fighter.

The 15th and final round of the fight opens up with Joe slightly ahead on the scorecards. While both boxers have shown heart and given their fair share of punishment, Joe pushed the action more and Ali clinched up more. Along with the hard hook landed by Joe in the 11th Ali needs a knock out to win, or a knockdown to have a chance of winning by decision. Ali seems to know this coming out with swifter  punches than seem in previous rounds trying to hurt Frazier. But things go wrong when Frazier is the one to land a solid punch sending Ali to the canvas. The first knockdown of the fight Frazier has a definitive lead in scorecards. Rocking Ali one more time in the round but unable to finish him, the round end.

 Joe Frazier won the fight by Unanimous decision. His constant head movement made it hard for Ali to land those hard shots. On top of that Frazier kept up the pressure, always moving forward throwing hard shots looking to take Ali out. Ali on the other hand seemed rusted. He wasn't moving as much and he didn't seem to have a clear strategy for defeating Frazier.  This was Ali's first defeat and starting one of the most famous boxing trilogies ever.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Big Ten's Takeover

Just my opinion!
If you know me, then you know I like basketball. No, I love basketball. It's my favorite sport and nothing is even close. Do I play often? Not really. I don't like to move around. But I was always intrigued with everything about basketball: the play-calling, the coaching, the defensive sets, the teamwork. Everything. But if you know me really well, then you know that I love the NBA a billion times more than I love college basketball. I've gotten into countless arguments and debates about this. How college basketball shows "real teamwork" and "only the name on the front matters" and yadda yadda yadda. Yeah, I get it. How the NBA is filled with a bunch of selfish jerks who only care about themselves and "look at Lebron!" and "they don't call travelling in the NBA!" Yeah, I got that too (and they don't call travelling anywhere!). Well, I'll stick to my opinion that the NBA is better than NCAAB because there is more talent, the organization running the show is less corrupt (as far as we know), the quality of games is better (remember that UConn-Butler championship game in 2011? Digusting), and the coaching is superior. Again, it's only my opinion,
     Having said all of this, I love college basketball! I'm a Kansas Jayhawks fan (#rockchalk), I support the Pitt Panthers (#H2P), and I really enjoy having something to watch on Saturday afternoons.

But it's been a weird year. For as long as I've been watching college basketball, I can always remember there being a dominant team. Whether it be Joakim Noah & the Gators or Tyler Hansbrough & UNC or Anthony Davis & Kentucky, there was always a team (or a few) that stood above the rest of the competition. This year, I don't see it. The parity is both enticing and alarming. It's exciting because March Madness will be a madhouse next month. It's constantly being said that there are at least 11 teams who can win the national championship this year because of the evenness in the competition. It's disappointing because, aside from the parity, what's really carrying the season? I hate Kentucky, but last year, I'm pretty sure I watched at least 80% of their games. They were a must-see. I liked to root against them. They were the Heat, the Patriots, the Yankees. Every sport needs a team to get them the average viewer. There is no team like this year; there's a whole league.

While on their own, no Big Ten team really captures my attention, when facing each other, it's a whole different story. After last night's IU-MSU heart-stopper, I had to write about it. I had seen enough. The Big Ten is the best conference in the country and I don't even think it's close anymore.While Indiana may be the #1 ranked team in the nation, they may not be the best team in their own league, which is saying something. Michigan and Michigan State are also in the top 7, while Wisconsin and Ohio State are in the top-19. That's five teams in the top-19 who are constantly beating up on one another. Two of those teams have already been #1's this season (Indiana and Michigan).

I know, I know. My fellow Panthers are looking down at me with shame. "But the Big East!?!?!?" Yes, the Big East has six teams in the Top-25. Should I be impressed? Eh, maybe. This is something Vinny and I spoke about on our weekly radio show The Function: while I believe the Big East is a lot more balanced and will probably end up with more teams in the tournament, the Big Ten is top-heavy, and scary because of it. I argued that any of the top four teams in the Big Ten would demolish any of the top four teams in the Big East. Any evidence to back up such a brash statement? No, I don't think so. I tried, but I have nothing. The Big Ten's top four is 17-10 against the AP Top 25 while the Big East's top four is 12-7; not that big of a difference. Both conferences have produced #1 teams this season (Syracuse), so what is this going off of?

The eye test.

I watched the Pitt-Notre Dame game two nights ago on my phone and I watched the Indiana-MSU game last night. They just feel completely different. The games of the top teams in the Big Ten are always interesting and back-and-forth and keep your attention. The games in the Big East just don't do that for me anymore. Do I watch every Pitt game? Yes! Do I watch a lot of Big East games? Absolutely, I try to go to the Big East Tourney once every few years; I love it. But there's a stink. The Big East is soon to be no more and I can feel it.The luster of the league is lacking and it's sad. It is very sad.

"But Brandon, what about the ACC?"

As much as ESPN wants to shove Miami down my throat, they might be the only team I like watching in that conference. Of course all Duke-UNC games are must-watch, but other than that I don't enjoy watching either. Miami is the class of that conference.

"But Brandon, what about the Big 12?"

Oh, go to hell. Aside from Kansas, the conference stinks.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Return?

Before the NBA season started, I kept saying Derrick Rose would return around February or March. I am not a doctor. I have no sources inside the Chicago Bulls organization or inside the NBA. I have not spoken to Derrick Rose or anyone affiliated with him.

It was just a hunch. It was my healthy hunch as a die-hard Bulls fan. I thought the Bulls would hover around .500 for most of he season and D-Rose's late season return would propel to the 4th or 5th seed. 

Then the season started...

Thibs is making a strong case for Coach of the Year
Suddenly, Joakim Noah takes the next step to becoming an all-star, and Luol Deng maintains his pace from last season. Carlos Boozer comes on late and becomes a double-double machine. Nate Robinson is playing out of his mind while still playing within himself. And on top of it all, Tom Thibodeau is doing his usual phenomenal job. All that adds up to the Bulls being in 4th place in the Eastern Conference and a record of 30-21 with one game remaining before the all-star break. Who saw this coming?

The pressure has been on.

"Once D-Rose comes back, this team will take off! They are a legitimate contender to dethrone Miami if Rose comes back and is even 80% of what he was." 

There were even commercials!

Then yesterday, Derrick did an extensive interview with USA Today Sports' Jeff Zillgitt. In the interview, Derrick vowed that he was "not coming back until I'm 110%." He said that could be back as soon as next week or as far away as next season and even mentioned he was about 80% as of right now. So where does that leave us? What do I take away from this interview as an NBA fan, a Rose fan, and a Bulls fan?

For one, I'm glad he said it. It's important not to rush back and make matters worse. Rose is probably the second most important player in franchise history and at just 24-years-old, you do not want to toy with his health. The franchise who saw Jay Williams' career crumble would not be able to handle it. The health of Rose is the most important. With that said, who's to say he won't reach 110% by the middle of March? There are a ton of people, notably Michael Wilbon and Marc Stein, who firmly believe that the Bulls should hold out on Rose until next season. That, even with Rose's return, the Bulls would not be able to get past  Miami because Rose's insertion into the lineup would mess up rhythm.

Give Me. A. Break.

The Bulls may have a chance to reach the ECF with Rose
When healthy, the youngest MVP in NBA history is a top-2 point guard and top-5 talent in the league. His return would give the Bulls an element they so desperately need, especially in the playoffs. This season has been referred to as a "bridge season" by some: only a holdover season until Rose got back. They think this roster was not built for Rose. Well, I disagree respectfully. With Rose back, shooters like Deng, Rip Hamilton, Kirk Hinrich, and Marco Belinelli would just have to stand in the corner or come off screens. Noah and Taj Gibson would just have to be ready to catch passes in the lane once the defense collapses. Not to mention the emergence of Jimmy Butler would give Rose an athletic wing he hasn't really had in his career (unless you count Ronnie Brewer). And imagine Nate Robinson playing off-guard with Rose! There's opportunity here. Calling this season a bridge season is dismissive and labeling this roster unfit to play with Rose is almost irresponsible. Especially since some of the people saying this are Lakers fans! (I had to get my shot in.)

Meanwhile, the Bulls have more problems to worry about. Despite my admiration of the current roster, I do believe a trade is needed. I think nabbing up JJ Redick from the Orlando Magic would be a welcomed addition. More importantly though, this team desperately needs a backup center. Joakim Noah is currently averaging over 38 minutes a game. That cannot keep up. His plantar fasciitis has already caused him to miss some games and a little extra rest will be well deserved. I'm not sure where Bulls general manager Gar Forman would be able to grab a backup big for cheap, but he really needs to start looking (Timofey Mozgov anyone? Eh, I'll still take him).

I really believe Rose is bluffing. I think he'll be back by the middle of March (I sure hope so. I intend to see the Bulls in Toronto in mid-April). I think he'll be healthy enough by the end of this month, but the Bulls will be extra cautious. If the doctors clear him, they clear him, and I think that will happen very soon. The Bulls need this too. They need to examine how Rose plays before the off-season begins. They need to know how to "build the roster" since this one isn't "build for D-Rose." He has said he's added ten pounds of muscle and has improved his jumpshot mightily. I think we shall be able to judge for ourselves soon enough.

Monday, January 21, 2013

The typical "This is a bad hockey team!" overreaction post

The worst time to write about the problems of a sports team is right after a couple of losses in a row, especially when it comes early in the season. In this case, the Rangers have dropped their first two games of this lockout shortened season. All we've heard since the season was announced was this idea that it's a "sprint" to the playoffs, and nothing like the marathon seasons we've had in the past. This short season worried the hell out of me for the sole reason that this team is very different from what was here last year, and we're seeing that early on.

Nash celebrates his first goal as a Ranger
There are some good signs though! Actually, it's mostly just Rick Nash. This guy has the skills to take over a game, and even though most hockey fans have been able to recognize him for years, he has been buried in Columbus where nobody watches his games. A shorthanded goal and an assist for two points in the first two games is definitely a good way to get the fans on your side. Nash has that rare ability that's usually reserved for Malkin, Ovechkin, and Crosby where when he has the puck everybody on the defense has to pay attention. The moves he's made on the ice so far seem like he's just trying to show off how damn good he is.

The negatives are obvious. There is no chemistry anywhere. Nash and Richards, having played together for about a whole week now, look lost on the ice together. Jeff Halpern doesn't really have a role yet. Gaborik isn't playing well with his new linemates. Last year's playoff sweetheart Chris Kreider has already disappeared into relative obscurity among the casual fans. While this chemistry issue is going to take some time, I think there is a huge problem with some of these line combinations. Specifically lower down the depth chart.

Playing Kreider on the 3rd line with Boyle and Pyatt is a disaster. That 3rd line is supposed to either be your "depth scoring" line, or an energy line. This is neither. Boyle is a horrible offensive player, Pyatt has never broken 40 points, and Kreider is a rookie that has been marketed as sort of a playmaking power forward. As fast as Kreider is, his speed doesn't come out when he plays here because of his linemates. Since he is the sole playmaker on the line, he hasn't been getting into the dirty areas and forechecking hard. While Pyatt scored a goal against Pittsburgh, it's not surprising that it was after Tortorella decided to shake the lines up a little.

I think the quick fix is to move Kreider up in the lineup and drop Hagelin down. Hagelin has played well enough over these first few games, but he turns the puck over way too much. He doesn't create the offense that a top 6 player should be. By moving Hagelin down to the 3rd line, you instantly create an energy line. Hagelin can be that fast, hard forechecking player that's missing after Prust was lost to free agency, while Boyle and Pyatt can do their own dirty work and crash the net. Hagelin is obviously very different from Brandon Prust, but his hard work and speed make him extremely difficult to play against when he's in corners and behind the net.

Stepan's new-found toughness has been a bright spot
I'm not too worried about these losses because I truly believe that some extra time to play together and some minor line changes are the key to success here. The 4th line is going to be a goon squad all season, so don't expect any sort of scoring out of them. The 3rd line needs to be that energy line, and with Hagelin I believe they will be. Nobody knows the right way to split up the top 6 forwards, but it can be done. I really like having Richards with Nash and Callahan and Stepan centering Gaborik and Kreider, but time will tell what final combinations end up working. Richards and Gaborik had great of chemistry by the end of the season, so maybe putting them back together and moving Nash down with Stepan works out more. Hell, Torts has already used Richards, Gaborik, and Nash on a line together to get a full offensive attack, so I'm sure he'll try everything over the next couple of weeks.

Also, I don't even think this needs to be said but get Stu Bickel away from the defense. If you want to carry him on the roster as an injury plug, fine. Do not dress Bickel as the 6th defenseman if you're going to have him fight. Steve Eminger is a much better player and should be playing every day. The Rangers will probably need to make a trade to add some depth at forward, and hope that their defense stays healthy if they want a realistic shot at the Stanley Cup. This is a good hockey team, but they need time. I'm confident that they will make the playoffs even with their chemistry issues, and once the playoffs anything can happen.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Unnecessary Case for Why Mike Piazza is a First Ballot Hall of Famer

During the final weeks of the 2005 baseball season, it was well known that it would be the final season for Mike Piazza in a Mets uniform. As his seven and a half seasons with the Orange and Blue was coming to an end, the Mets fans used every opportunity to let Piazza how much they appreciated watching him play. When he would come up to bat, the sounds of the rock music blasting and the fans cheering would shake Shea. When he would hit a home run, the fans demanded a curtain call from him. If he were to throw a running out trying to steal second base, the fans would cheer in both delight and amazement. All of the love would come to an end on October 2nd, 2005; the final day of the 2005 Mets season. 47,718 Mets fans (myself included) didn’t come to see a team that was 82-79, didn’t come to watch Victor Zambrano give up 6 runs to a Rockies team that was twenty seven games under .500. They came to see for the last time the greatest hitting catcher, ever, play one last time for their hometown team. And the man who Mets coach John Stearns once described as “The Monster is Out of the Cage” humbly said goodbye to the 47,000 fans serenading him with applause and chants of “MIKE PIAZZA” during a 7 minutes break when he was taken out.

On Wednesday the Baseball Hall of Fame will release the names of its class of 2013 inductees from the most controversial ballot in their history. Names like Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds & Sammy Sosa have distracted people from what the Hall of Fame is really about, remembering the great careers of great baseball players. Instead what is focused on was a dark time in baseball history, the steroid era. Not everyone was juicing during this era, but if you hit a lot of home runs and were built like a football player, you were automatically classified as a cheater.

Because of the allegations of performance enhancing drug use, Mike Piazza might not have a chance to make the Hall of Fame on his first ballot. Yes, the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history (Sorry Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Roy Campanella, Gary Carter, Bill Dickey, Pudge Rodriguez & Carlton Fisk) might not make the hall of fame on the first ballot.


Because he might have taken steroids? Those allegations are as true as the allegations the New York Post made about Piazza being the first openly gay baseball player (ask his wife, an ex-playboy model).

Because he couldn’t throw anyone out? Yes, Piazza like many great athletes had his flaws. His was having a poor arm to throw out base stealers was his flaw, but he made up for it in other ways. Piazza caught two no-hitters in his career. He also has a career .989 fielding percentage at catcher, while also leading the league in Catcher’s Fielding Percentage in 2000.

Because he was picked in the 62nd round by Tommy Lasorda as a favor to Piazza’s father? Just like how Albert Pujols (13th Round), Henrik Lundqvisk (7th Round), Manu Ginobili (57th Overall Pick) & Tom Brady (6th Round) were also late draft picks who became stars in their sports (Sounds like haters to me).

Because he put up a total of zero home runs in his two Home Run Derby appearances in 1993 & 1994? Well, didn’t Robinson Cano prove that hitting home runs in the Derby is not all that easy this year?

Because he might have tipped of batters by telling them which pitches Roger Clemens were throwing in the 2004 All-Star games (Clemens gave up six runs in the first inning)? Even if he did, Clemens is a dick and had it coming.

Statistically, Piazza has proven to be a first ballot hall of famer:

  • The 1993 Rookie of the Year hit .318, 35 Home Runs (the most by any rookie catcher) & 112 RBIs. 

  • Piazza finished 2nd in the MVP vote in both 1996 (.336, 36 HR, 105 RBI) & 1997 (.362, 40 HR, 124 RBI).

  • Piazza had 201 hits in 1997, the most ever by a catcher in a single season.

  • Piazza’s 12 career appearances in the All Star Game are 4th for any catcher (Behind Pudge Rodriguez, Johnny Bench & Yogi Berra). He was also the 1996 All-Star game MVP.

  • Piazza won 10 consecutive Silver Slugger Awards at catcher, setting the record.

  • Piazza is one of ten players to have 400 home runs, a .300 career average and never had more than 100 strikeouts in a season.

  • Piazza had eight consecutive seasons of at least 30 Home Runs. He also had nine consecutive .300 seasons.

  • In 2000 Piazza had a second longest RBI streak in MLB history, having at least an RBI in 15 consecutive games.

  • And of course, the All Time Leader in Home Runs as a Catcher with 396.

Among those 396 home runs (427 total for his career) Piazza hit some memorable shots. His monster shot in the 1996 All-Star Game.  In 1997 Piazza’s 478 foot blast out of Dodger’s Stadium is still the only ball to travel out of the stadium. Three years later, he would hit a 482 foot bomb that cleared Shea Stadium during the subway series. His dramatic three run home run finished off a 10 run inning and capped the biggest comeback in Mets history.  His walk off homerun vs. Trevor Hoffman & his two home run night in his Shea Stadium return in a Padres uniform. The game tying home run late in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS off of John Smoltz. The recording breaking 352nd home run as a catcher. And the most significant of all, his game winning home run at the first sporting event in New York City ten days after 9/11 that help put a smile on a grieving city.  

When Piazza returned to Shea Stadium for the first time as an opposing player, he received standing ovations when he came up to bat, along with a rare curtain call by an opposing team player when he hit a home run off of Pedro Martinez. David Wright described it as “That’s the way fans treat their heroes”. Mike Piazza was a hero to many; as intimidating with the bat and humble as they get for a superstar. Mike Joseph Piazza earned his spot as a first ballot hall of famer. Thank you for all the memories, welcome to Cooperstown Mike!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

State of the NBA: Christmas Edition

David Claus
Two months into the NBA season and this is what it has come to: the Los Angeles Clippers may very well be the most complete team in the league. The only problem with that is the average NBA fan may not even know it! Well, the annual slate of Christmas games go underway at Noon today and there are plenty of things to look out for, including LA's best team (Kings aren't playing, remember?).

Who's the MVP of the first third of the season? (Hint: It's not Kobe)

This is looking like a four man race at the moment, no? There's Lebron James, who hasn't scored less than 20 points throughout the first 24 games of the season. There's Carmelo Anthony, who happens to be second in the league in scoring and who's Knicks lead the East with 20 wins. There's Kevin Durant, who has lead the Thunder to the West's best record thus far. And there's Chris Paul, who has the Clippers on an absolute tear.

Many of my partners here at WTH would say that the MVP of these past two months has no doubt been Carmelo Anthony. That's kind of hard to argue. Living here in New York, it's all you hear about since the Giants collapsed and Tebow asked out of wildcat packages. Carmelo has been otherworldly, which he showcased this past Sunday when he took over the fourth quarter against the Wolves. If I were a fan that could only watch the Knicks, I would think, "How the hell could this guy not be MVP!? He's playing out of his mind! And he's actually playing defense this season!!!" Well, I'm not that kind of fan. And I just watched Melo complain his way out of a game against my favorite team, so he doesn't have my vote.

The easy answer? Lebron. But aren't you tired of Lebron James? Aren't you tired of his greatness? It's just to the point where I feel like I shouldn't have to mention his name. I haven't watched a Heat game all season yet his name is here. Can't he just get his own award? I want someone else to win MVP. So what about CP3? The Clippers are 21-6 and are currently on a 13-game winning streak. Not too shabby, and Chris Paul is undoubtedly the leader of this team. So why not? I'll tell you why not: the effort is too collaborative. CP3 is doing a little, Blake is doing a little. There's Deandre Jordan and Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe. This team shares way too much for one of them to get an MVP. Chris Paul is averaging around 16 and 10 and I simply do not think that's enough.

My answer? Kevin Durant. He's currently averaging career-highs in assists, rebounds, blocks, steals, field goal percentage, three point percentage, and free throw percentage. He's also third in the league in scoring. I guess Harden leaving was perhaps a blessing in disguise for Durant; it allowed him to develop his game. Not to say that he relayed to Harden in the past, but in his absence, KD was forced to dig deeper and round out his game a little more. Kudos to you, Kevin. (Harden isn't too shabby either though. He's fourth in the league in scoring).

How are the Bulls fourth in the East?

I remember before the season, I couldn't figure my team out. I know D-Rose won't be back until at least March and I'm not worried about that. I knew this team's offense would struggle to put points on the board but I believed they could hover around the seventh spot in the East until Rose's return. However, I never questioned if they would make the playoffs. The East is way too bad. There are five teams in the East that still haven't haven't cracked 10 wins, compared to two in the West. Not only are the Bulls fourth but they actually are atop the Central Division. Indiana? Milwaukee? What's going on!? It just goes to show what a powerful coach and an intact defense can do for a team. Not to mention Joakim Noah has been playing out of his MIND. All-star? Maybe.

What's wrong with the Lakers?

Who cares?

Is there a senior citizen game at noon today?


Are the Christmas jerseys a little weird?

Which team that isn't playing on Christmas should be playing?

If you haven't had a chance to watch them, please look at the Golden State Warriors. And when Andrew Bogut gets back, the rest of the NBA better beware. Boy oh boy. They are 18-10 and looking like a force to be reckon with. They have shooters. They have athletes. They have energy. Man, this team is fun.

Not anymore it isn't!
Who do you have in the games today?

Celtics in a close one. Knicks in a close one. Heat in a close one. Bulls in a close one. Nuggets in a blowout (That's right, Clippers fans!).

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