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2017 World Baseball Classic Is a Winner

The United States won the World Baseball Classic but the real winner is the whole sport of professional baseball.   The last classic held in 2013 kept the interest moving forward.    The sixteen nation tournament with its elimination format that most of us don’t understand didn’t distract too much.  For the even the casual fan to see baseball in February and March is a welcome sight.  You even got to see teams from odd locations such as the Netherlands and Israel.   Until then, I didn’t know they even played it in those countries.

The WBC was entertaining because you can see the gap in talent from an international standpoint has closed significantly.  Baseball is growing in popularity globally just like basketball.   The United States has done well in promoting their sports with a lot of money pumped in scouting the world for the best of the best.   The best players in baseball still flock to the US A to compete but the WBC allows them to compete for their home countries just like the World Cup in soccer.

I enjoyed seeing the pitching styles of the various teams.   Of course,  there was a good amount of pitchers from the teams that you see in the Major Leagues but the majority don’t play in the MLB because the eligibility criteria.  It was fun to see the Japan team pitch because every one of their pitchers has some kind of deception in their delivery.   Every guy they ran out there to pitch had this part in their delivery that would have a slight hesitation.  You saw this in some of the other teams as well except for the US team.

The one thing that everybody saw was the joy that most of the players were showing. Rarely did you see demonstrative displays of anger and embarrassing moments of outlandish showmanship.   There was good spirit to the games that players showed to each other.  The winners were the fans.  There were a total of forty games that almost drew a million fans.  Not bad for games that weren’t overloaded with name stars.

Baseball is still king in my book even though it has taken its share of hits in popularity in the last fifteen years. With the steroid era a thing of the past, baseball is on the upswing and attendance is up.  The salaries are climbing waypast the point where a salary cap is needed. Baseball better try to put in a realistic salary structure our they will see the upswing take turn for the worse.   But when you eliminate that money albatross, the game is on the rise with the younger fans because it’s still cheaper to see a game than football, basketball and hockey.    It is still the game of the summer and sunshine and laziness and slow play.   The World Baseball Classic will grow in stature and the stakes will rise.   Let’s hope the positive vibes keep the game moving forward.

Photo – www.inquisitr.com

 

Baseball Catching…The Toughest Gig in Team Sports

I sure I will get some rebuttal on this but let me give you good sound reasons why catchers need more love.   You might say the hockey goaltenders, football offensive linemen or rugby players got it tougher.   Sure they have to be a talented and physical but a good baseball catcher has those qualities as well.  What I think separates the argument and comparison is the game management element that is essential to every baseball contest.  Read More →

Baseball Season Can’t Come Soon Enough

Here it’s only January and I have started Jonesing for baseball.   Lying in bed and hearing the rain pound on the rooftop may sound relaxing and peaceful but after three months of it I want to feel warm air and see a baseball being tossed.   Sure we have football, basketball, hockey, soccer, wrestling, MMA and all of the others but they won’t do the trick.    You have to be a baseball freak to get it and I surely don’t expect anybody else to understand my need. Read More →

Bartolo Colon, The Big Sexy is Big Fun

The story of Bartolo Colon is one that makes everybody smile because it presents an aspect that is sorely missing in Major League Baseball. The long history of baseball is filled with characters and stories that go on and on and now Colon is the man for our times.  If you don’t know by now, Colon is a pitcher for the New York Mets who just turned 43 in May and is on record to be the oldest player to hit a home run.  After nineteen seasons and nine teams, he hit a ball into the stands.   This is not just another story about an athlete who is beating Father Time and can still compete with the youngsters.  He should have been done a long time ago, but there is something inside of him that keeps him competing.  Money and glory are surely a motivating force by he appears to have something that not all players possess, a joy for the game.

Bryce Harper bellowed about baseball as not being as fun as it should be. Bryce Harper always looks wrapped up pretty tight as a player with an abundance of scowls to offer.  I then saw him on the Tonight Show and he appeared to be amenable with good humor.  It appears he needs to eat some cherry pie and crack a smile on the field once in a while.  Bartolo Colon whose nickname is, “Big Sexy” because once you see him on TV or a real game, you get it.   His teammates pinned that name on him but they also love him for it.  He is a great teammate that shares his insights and demonstrates great poise on the mound.

Aside from the fact that Colon is older and appears to be thirty to forty pounds overweight, he is part of a real good New York Met pitching staff. The reason he is still successful is because he throws a lot strikes and doesn’t walk hitters very often which is a testament to his great control.  He has good command of his off speed pitches which allows him to throw a deceiving fastball in the high 80’s and low 90’s MPH.

Colon has endured the trails and tribulations of professional baseball which includes blown out arms and being traded or released. He is a journeyman pitcher who knows how to extend games into the late innings and pitch out of tough situations.  Pitchers like him are never the first ones to get the fanfare but they are crucial to a staff in these days of huge payrolls.  The amazing thing about Colon is that he is still a reliable pitcher that puts up good numbers.  It’s so easy to blow him off as a retread and not understand how he gets batters out.  Nineteen seasons gives him wisdom that will pay off as long as his body and arm can withstand the physical toll.  For some reason I don’t see Colon hanging up the cleats for a few more seasons.  Go “Big Sexy!”

Photo 1 – risingapple.com2a43a862416c5f5def02e2bcdd1ded0f

Photo 2 – Getty Images

Ah…Baseball…Finally

Baseball season always comes in quietly every year because it gets sandwiched every year between the March Madness Final 4, NBA playoff drive, NHL playoff drive, the Masters Golf Tournament and doing your income taxes.   For those who like their sports played outside, baseball delivers in a big way when April comes around.  There’s beautiful green grass, the threat of torrential ice storms has passed and the appearance of sunshine on a daily basis puts spring in your step.   As a fan, you feel hopeful for your team that is looking improved and there is no need to boo the new free agent with the hefty salary and lighting the bbq signals the end to all misery.

There is plenty to whine about in professional baseball with its obnoxious economics and the inevitable path to fan revolt. Right now the price of everything related to MLB hasn’t reached its tipping point but it will come.  Case in point, Zack Grienke’s contract, the pitcher who walked away from 70 million dollars of guaranteed money from the Los Angeles Dodgers to sign a $205,000,000, seven year contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Yes, that is 205K. Here is the breakdown; this year he will make $34,000,000.  Based on 30 starts, that’s $1,133,333.30 per.   Based on 100 pitches a game, that’s $11,333.33 per.  Based on 225 innings for the year, that’s $283,000 per inning.  I hated seeing those numbers because it’s out of touch with the rest of the league and not good for the long term financial health of the league.   You don’t need me to tell you that this is nuts, but I can’t see how this can sustain itself in ten years.

That is bad news for baseball, the good news is that the current champion, the Kansas City Royals are considered a small market team that won the World Series with a lot of internally developed talent. They did pick up a few free agents but didn’t have a Zack Grienke type contract on the team.  Grienke’s team, the Dodgers didn’t get out of the first round playoffs, so it goes to show you, money is not the ends to the means.  The Royals played a sound fundamental type of baseball versus sluggers mashing home runs and pitchers throwing complete game shut outs.  The New York Mets had both stellar pitching and big hitters but where no match for the Royals in the World Series.

The consensus around MLB baseball this year is the formable squad that the Cubs have in place. They look good on paper and have odds makers convinced, but in reality, the season is a marathon and good fortune will be rewarded to one lucky team. There are also teams with a lot of young buddy stars like those in Houston and Cleveland who will be fun to watch.  I am personally looking for a year of unknowns and dark horses.   Seems like you can never write off Boston, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and St Louis for they are the benchmarks for well-run organizations.

As far as things that will take a while to change are the All Star Game, and its emphasis on making it a game that has significance other than a fan appreciation exhibition. In addition, please Mr. Commissioner do not change the National league into a Designated Hitting league.  You can throw in all of the stats in the world about run production and how it would make the NL game more compelling but it would take away the late game maneuvering and strategy.   Also, if salaries are going to rise faster than the rest of the worlds salaries, at least give us a break in the concession line.  A hot dog and a soda should never be ten dollars.  Costco knows this and offers a dog and soda for a $1.50.  Lastly, don’t try to make baseball into an arena football game.  If you have ever been to an arena football game, it is a bombardment of loudness and a constant need to stimulant your senses.  Sometimes basking in the sun with your friends and family and enjoying the experience is enough.  I don’t need heavy metal and rap music blasted between innings and when every batter comes to the batter’s box to get excited.  A home run and strike out is the excitement I am looking for and not animated racing dachshunds on the scoreboard.  I guess I am sounding like a grumpy old guy but old guys know what the difference is between style and substance.

 

Is Baseball a Tired Sport?

Last year’s National League MVP, Bryce Harper was quoted recently as saying baseball is a tired sport. He makes the comment in reference to Major League Baseball not condoning more individualism when it comes to expressing your emotions on the diamond. Of course everybody knows Harper is an emotional person and player and has done just that, expressed his emotions on the diamond.  I don’t really see Harper as doing anything highly unrespectable to the point that it hasn’t been done before.  I would take him on my team in a heartbeat because he does play with fire.

The rub is that some of antics he is accused of doing such as staring down benches, admiring his home run a little too long and getting in a dugout altercation last year with his teammate Jason Palpelbon.   Sometimes I feel embarrassed for him because he can’t help himself.  I do think he is ultra-competitive and just wants to win above everything.

As far as the expression of emotions in MLB, it has always been a fine line. If you show too much glee in your accomplishments you will be sure to hear about it from the other team.   If you stand in the batter’s box just a moment too long after hitting a home run, be prepared to hear about from somebody.  What I think Harper doesn’t understand that as old as baseball is, he can’t change the old codes of conduct overnight.  The game is so bathed in tradition that his antics will always appear to be “look at me” and not about team play.

Even though the NFL has passed MLB in popularity, it is not because of expression of individualism. The NFL is a game that translates well to television, especially with our gigantic screens and then you throw in some gambling and you have some engaging entertainment.  Baseball will never be the most compelling sport to watch every minute of every game.   Most people like it because anybody can play it or has played some form of baseball or softball.  They like the idea of the laziness of sitting in the stands and enjoying refreshment and cheering for a little excitement.  It is can be a cerebral for many as well as much as being just background scenery in a bar while chewing the fat with a buddy.

If Bryce Harper wants to dye his hair purple then go ahead, you will look a fool to your opponent s and fans who will give much grief.   Maybe Harper needs to play on a championship team to be humbled to point where he won’t feel the “game is tired”.  I believe baseball has changed a lot since I was a kid.   Players are sporting hillbilly beards and long greasy hair, there are fewer and fewer Afro-American players and everybody shows up to a game with a phone.   Beer cost over ten dollars for twenty five cents worth and a really good hot dog is over five dollars.  Too me, these concession prices are what need changing not the fact Bryce Harper want to be able to flip his bat any damn time he pleases.    Baseball needs to realize that every game could be sold out if it was affordable for a whole family and hot dogs should only be $2.   That will never get tired.

Photo – www.scrippsmedia.com

 

Kansas City Royals, Not to Be Denied

Something must be said for coming back to win a World Series after you lose a heartbreaker the year before. It shows amazing perseverance, great leadership and good fortune, when you battle back through another long grueling season to capture the prize.   It just appeared that the Royals were not going to be denied no matter how many young fire ballers with long hair the Mets threw at them.

The Mets came into this series the favorite based on the pitching staff they possessed and sporting the hottest player on the planet, Daniel Murphy who was crushing everything thrown his way.  I compare the Royals like their opponent the year before, the Giants, who seemed to have a certain resiliency to grind out games.  They Royals would bend but never break by holding on long enough to pull together that one rally that would put them in the lead.  The bullpen would follow up by shutting the opponent down. Read More →

Daniel Murphy See’s Beach Balls

Daniel Murphy is living in a hitters dream when the baseballs are coming at him like a beach ball being underhanded. He went four for five in game four against the Cubs and has homered in six straight games. The pitchers might get him to wave at an off- speed pitch but if they dare try to throw a fastball near the strike zone he is lining it up square on the barrel of the bat. Even the singles he has been hitting are coming off the bat hard.   I haven’t seen any hitter in the playoffs to be so locked in as was Barry Bonds in 2002.

There will be a break before the World Series starts next week. Will this affect Murphy’s stroke? If he comes into the World Series still crushing the ball, the opposing pitchers will start intentionally unintentionally walking him, basically making him hit their pitches.  In game four against the Cubs, Murphy made an out in the first inning but surprisingly, Lucas Duda who had been hitting .165 in the series smacked a three run homer to give the Mets a huge cushion right from the get.  That is the story of the Mets this post season, two out run scoring hits and good pitching which should make them a World Series favorite. Read More →

Welcome Back…Toronto Blue Jays

The road to return to the baseball playoffs for the Toronto Blue Jays has been long, winding and treacherous.   It has been 22 years since the Blue Jays were playing in October and its good to see this organization finally find the right recipe to success.  The road prior to this season has been filled with questionable trades, free agent signings that didn’t pan out and basically they became an afterthought of a franchise.  This is unfortunate if you remember the high flying days of 1992 and 93 season when the championship flag was hoisted.  They would fill Sky Dome with 4 million fans and was the envy of the league. Read More →

The Rise of Yoenis Cespedes

Yoenis Cespedes was traded to the New York Mets on July 31th without much of a big to-do.  The Mets were a pitching rich team with an empty coffer of offense, so General Manager Sandy Alderson went out hunting for some weaponry.   Alderson traded for Cespedes for a couple of minor league pitchers and the payoff has been tri fold.  Cespedes was put on the big stage in New York and he has reached a new level of performance. Read More →