Category Archives: MLB

MLB Is Having the Culture War It Needs

jose bautista bat flip

Goose Gossage is a whiny, old guy who hates fun to most of America, but to the demographic of baseball’s most passionate fans, he just put the nail on the head.  Gossage went after Jose Bautista, Yoenis Cespedes, anyone who shows too much emotion on the diamond, and nerds who are ruining baseball.  Through his comments, he became the poster boy for the much needed culture war that Major League Baseball and its fans are finally having.

Meanwhile, Bryce Harper wants to revolutionize the game.  As aggravating as he can he, he represents where a new age of fans want the game to go.  Well, maybe he’s not exactly where the fans want baseball to go, but he represents that direction far more than Gossage.

Baseball simply doesn’t excite young fans anymore, and it’s a problem that MLB was way too late to recognize.  The game moves too slow for millennials who have the attention span of a goldfish — unless they have loaded up on their Adderal.  No disrespect to my fellow millennials, by the way, because I feel the exact same way.  For a Red Sox regular season game, I need anywhere between 1 and 4 other things to be doing during while the game is on TV, depending on the pitching matchup, importance of the game, and the time of the season.

Meanwhile, baseball traditionalists not only don’t want the game to speed up, but they hate any emotion being shown on the field.  You can tell that I’m being kind of one sided on this one, but it’s clear that the game has to modernize significantly.  Any product still has to make itself appealing to the world around it, so long as the very essence of the game is not compromised.

But that’s the problem.  Baseball traditionalists feel that speeding up the game, allowing bat flips, and ensuring that catchers don’t die at home plate is an affront to America’s national pastime.  The worst part is the MLB’s resistance to highlights and clips on social media.  The only way that the MLB is going to grow in the eyes of young people is through social media, and they somehow don’t realize that.  The league is relying too much on older, white fans, and they’re only now realizing it.  Chris Rock perfectly summed up the baseball’s loss of black fans, as well as how detrimental it is to MLB.

The problem is that cultural change doesn’t take place through a smooth process.  Considering the fervor with which baseball traditionalists hold on to the whimsical aspect of the old days of baseball, the culture war will be rough one.  If baseball doesn’t fight through the culture war and modernize in time for young fans to catch on, it could be the end of baseball’s prominent cultural significance.

Kansas City Royals Win World Series and Prove Dayton Moore Correct

Back in the final months of 2006, current Royals General Manager withdrew his name from consideration for the Red Sox GM spot — which had recently  been vacated when Theo Epstein had left Fenway Park in a gorilla costume — after the first interview.  Today, Red Sox and Royals fans have one of the great baseball “What If” questions of the 21st century.

From the time he took the Royals job during the 2006 season, Moore always proclaimed that it would take at least 6 to 8 years to build and develop a farm system well enough to produce a World Series winner.  While that idea is correct, many fairly questioned whether Moore was saying it primarily for job security.

Two great Grantland Pieces (RIP Grantland) about the Royals from 2013 are here and  here.  The first one was written by Jonah Keri heading into the 2013 season on the heels of the Wil Myers (among other pieces) for James Shields and Wade Davis trade.  The Royals had changed course from the previous several seasons by trading a highly touted prospect for a then 31 year old starter with only 2 years of team control left.  Dayton Moore had decided to cash in some of his chips in a trade about which Rany Jazayerli, also from Grantland, stated, “deeply flawed in both its theory and execution, and while it might make the Royals marginally more likely to make the playoffs in 2013, it does irreparable damage to their chances of building a perennial winner.”  For Royals fans in 2013, though?  Right after that trade was an exciting time because it meant that the team was finally going for it.  For the Royals, 2013 was supposed to be the beginning of at least a half decade of success for the Royals.

The Royals had other plans for 2013.  In the second Grantland link, Keri and Jazayerli discuss the team’s horrendous start to the 2013 season.  This column will be one of my favorite Grantland pieces to look back on.  Keri and Jazayerli run through a list of the Royals’ prospects who hadn’t turned their careers into anything yet, putting the Royals’ assumed ascension to October baseball in doubt.  Dayton Moore’s rebuilding plan could have been all for naught, and Keri and Jazayerli’s concern is the reminder we will need now that it’s hard to remember a time when the Royals were struggling.

As it turned out, the Royals had simply decided to push back that period of contending by a year.  They barely got into the playoffs via the Wild Card Game in 2014, but they rode on to Game 7 of the World Series.  If they hadn’t been Madison Bumgarnered, they would have won it all.  Now, they’re back to back American League Champs and World Series Champs.

The next few years looks pretty bright with Escobar, Hosmer, Moustakis, Perez all 29 or under.  Escobar, the oldest of the 4, and Perez, the youngest, will turn 30 and 26 just after the season starts, respectively.  Baseball primes are usually in the 25-29 range, meaning that the peak years of the Royals core will not last a half decade.  Their amazing bullpen arms are all in their early thirties, and so is Kansas City favorite Alex Gordon.  Johnny Cueto, if they can re-sign him, will be 30 in February.

What does all of this mean?  Well, the Royals have about 2-3 more years with their core playing at least close to the same level, and they won 95 games this season.  That’s a world of difference from a team who might take a step back if they won 85.  The Royals stand as a huge threat to the American League for the next couple years.

And that proves Dayton Moore right.  Moore’s win is a win for anyone who believes that the way to win a World Series is through tons of homegrown talent, which, by the way, is the right way.  Taking a patient, measured, and analytical approach to building a winner will give any team the best chance at competing over the long haul.  Dayton Moore took that mentality as his own, and he was rightfully rewarded with a World Series ring.

Rankings of Most Fun MLB Teams to Root for in Playoffs

The Red Sox have been out of the playoffs since right after the All Star break, but that doesn’t mean that we’re turning off our TV sets for October.  The MLB playoffs look awesome this year, starting with the Wild Card Games this week.  Here is my rankings of the order in which we should be rooting for the 10 teams in the playoffs now.  As always, I’m trying to be objective… but through the lens of a Boston sports fan.  A tiger can’t change its stripes.

10. New York Yankees

Screw the Yankees.

9. St. Louis Cardinals

Much like with the Yankees, I shouldn’t have to analyze why you shouldn’t root for the Cards this postseason.  Just make sure that you follow the Twitter account “Baseball’s Best Fans” during the postseason.  And remember what you read the next time that you hear a Cardinals fan wonder how anyone can not love the Cardinals and their moral righteousness.

8. Texas Rangers

I have nothing against the Rangers, and there’s a BIG drop off from number 8 to number 9 on this list.  The Rangers just aren’t that interesting to me, honestly, and I don’t see them winning it all.  It’d be nice to see Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre win it all though, and it’d also be a nice story to see Josh Hamilton win one after all of his personal battles.

The point here is that I’m ok with any of these teams winning except the Yankees or Cardinals.  When there are 8 of 10 teams, including 7 of 8 who don’t have to go through a play-in game, who you’re comfortable with winning the World Series, you know it’s gonna be a fun postseason.

7. New York Mets

I like this Mets team, and I love when trade deadline acquisitions work out as well as the Yeonis Cespedes one.  Their young pitching is electrifying, and they’d be a great team to have win the World Series.  Their fans do deserve one.

But this is still a New York team, and these fans are the same ones who root for either the Giants or Jets, mostly the Jets.  And there are few things that bother me more than Jets fans.  Have fun getting roasted 52-6 in Week 7, losers.

6. Los Angeles Dodgers

I respect greatness.  Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are the Dodgers’ modern 1-2 punch of Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale back in the day, right down to the slightly better one being a lefty and the other a righty.  Also, how fun would it be to see Yasiel Puig win a ring and piss off the middle aged, stuck up baseball purists who hate anything about baseball that remotely involves fun?  And Adrian Gonzalez deserves a ring.

But this is still a Los Angeles team owned by Magic Johnson, and do you have any idea how insufferable the sports media would become about the Dodgers winning?  And maybe more importantly, anything that gives the fairweather LA sports fans a reason to pretend they care about sports isn’t too desirable.  Lastly, the Dodgers aren’t as much of a deprived franchise as many of the other teams to come next, which is the biggest reason that they’re in the bottom half of the list.

Image result for dallas keuchel

5. Houston Astros

It kinda hurts that they’re not higher, because the Astros are a really run team to root for and they haven’t had any reason to be happy in forever.  But here’s the thing: They’re a young team, and they should have more chances to break through and finally win one.  They have a Top 10 farm system right now, so their championship window likely will not close even if the Yankees beat them in the Wild Card game.

That being said, on Tuesday night I’ll be as much of a Dallas Kuechel fan as his own mother is.  Screw the Yankees.

4. Toronto Blue Jays

Like I said with Cespedes and the Mets, I love when trade acquisitions in July work out, and I love them even more when a team goes all out in one season.  The 2011 Brewers were my playoff team after the Red Sox crumbled becasue they decided to use Prince Fielder’s last year as the time to make a run with Zack Greinke and a brand new starting rotation, and the Blue Jays did that and more by getting David Price in his walk year and taking on the injury prone Troy Tulowitzki and the 5 years left on his contract.  Gotta respect that.  What’s more is that MLB GMs are much more weary to trade at the deadline now because advanced stats show that the value just isn’t there, so we need to root for the exciting trades that clash with the conventional new school thinking.  These trades shouldn’t go by the wayside, because no sport is played by robots, even baseball, and what energizes a team for a pennant run than the front office putting their Richard Nixon on the table and going all out until October?

That being said, remember this beef between David Ortiz and David Price? That’s why the Blue Jays aren’t number 1 on this list.  Don’t mess with David Ortiz.

3. Kansas City Royals

Gotta say, I loved rooting for the Royals last year in the World Series.  Great fans, loud stadium, likable team.  They haven’t been good in so long that it’s hard not to root for the underdog, and I’ll be doing that again this year.  Given that they’re my last AL team on the list, I’ll be rooting for them to reach the World Series.  Remember, they’re playing the Yankees in the ALDS if the Yankees win the play-in game, and if the Yankees beat the Astros, everyone is gonna hate them that much more.  You’re telling me that we can gang up with all of America and root for this fun Royals team against the Evil Empire?  Sign me up.

2. Pittsburgh Pirates

The fact that I don’t rank them as Number 1 is a testament to my objectivity, because I bet the Pirates at 33-1 before the season to win the World Series.  (I also have the Dodgers at 4-1 to win the pennant, but that isn’t as impressive.)

There is no reason that I can see to root against the Pirates, and I like the moves that GM Neal Huntington has made.  Much like the Royals, they’re just a fun team to root for, and that’s why they’re ranked number 2.  And because of my 33-1 bet.

1. Chicago Cubs

I sat here for 3 minutes trying to begin this paragraph analyzing why the Cubs are ranked #1… but is there any chance I have to explain it?  Especially if you’re a Red Sox fan, the ability to root for Theo Epstein, Jon Lester, and Anthony Rizzo?  Kris Bryant is already awesome to watch, Jake Arrieta is a great story this year, and, oh yeah, they haven’t won since 1908!  While Mets fans have already started to get a little bit insufferable through this pennant race, the Cubs fans have been a joy to follow in the sports world.  I’d love to see them win it all this season.

An important factor in their position at number 1 is that I don’t hate Joe Maddon as much as other Red Sox fans.  I’m not a disciple of his by any means, but I don’t mind him very much.  And Jon Lester’s postseason results are much more important to me than Joe Maddon’s.  Too bad they play the Pirates in the Wild Card Game, but at least I know that I’ll have a borderline insane rooting interest in whichever team plays the Cardinals in the NLDS.

Why Are We Listening to Curt Schilling?

My headline seems like a pretty simple question and maybe even a stupid one.  Curt Schilling’s comments on evolution in the past and his recent comments on Muslims and Nazis show a level of stupidity that we never saw from the wise, sage ballplayer that we saw during press conferences and interviews from 2004-2008 in Boston.  (You’ll notice that I didn’t link to either of those set of comments, because it’d be incredibly hypocritical for me to encourage people to read them, given what this post is about.)

It seems obvious that we should just ignore an idiot who takes their opinions on the world around us way too seriously just because they know a lot about baseball and have a huge ego, but then why do I keep seeing people up and down my Twitter timeline posting about how much they hate Schilling or whatever else?  Just ignore a moron like that.  I get that the media will cover stupid comments — because Americans love to read about stupidity and either laugh at it (which is acceptable… after all, I just tweeted about the Lakers possibly signing Metta World Peace again HAHAHA) or to take the comments seriously and criticize them, which is counterproductive.  If consumers didn’t eat up this stuff, the media wouldn’t cover it, and then you wouldn’t have to get annoyed over Schilling saying questioning whether the problems going on in Islam today are comparable to those of the Nazis 80 years ago.

We know that there are stupid people out there, and even more specifically, we know that there are many people who are very smart in one field (Schilling is an above average baseball analyst, IMO), but Brick Tambland in Anchorman level of stupid in every other aspect of life.  So why buy into those opinions.  Schilling can only convince himself that his opinions actually matter to people if they make headlines, so let’s stop caring enough about what he says in order to cause those headlines to be made.

Max Scherzer’s Lost Perfect Game Shows the Need for Replay in Everything

Yeah, I hate what Jose Tabata did too.  And let’s be real, what he did was no different than flopping or diving, the same as Maxim Lapierre on every play ever to every European soccer player ever to the fact that flopping has become a huge part of the NBA to this absolute disgrace by PK Subban.

But here’s the thing: It’s not gonna stop anytime soon.  As LeBron once said, players flop “because it works.”  Jose Tabata is an ultra competitive guy, and i say that not because I know much about him other than that he was a promising Pirates prospect but his stats haven’t lived up to it, but because he’s a professional baseball player and that’s a requirement for the job.  His mindset is to get whatever edge on the opponent that he can, and if that means ruining Max Scherzer’s game in the most weasely way possible, he’s gonna do that.  I have every right to hate him for it, and I do, but he’s still gonna lean in and make sure he gets hit.

So what’s the solution?  Make everything reviewable.  If I can tell that Tabata leaned in by watching one of the 429420234 Vines of the HBP on my Twitter timeline that night, then it shouldn’t take too much time or effort for someone in the MLB offices to do so and alert the umps.  Flopping needs to be reviewable, because just about everything should be reviewable in 2015 with the technology that sports league have now, as Bill Belichick ranted to the NFL owners and coaches this offseason.

Of course, replay needs to be faster, and by “faster” I mean “like 99% faster.”  It takes way too long, but that’s no reason to not at least try and go forward with this.  Get someone in the MLB offices looking at each play right as they happen, and they can alert umps quickly.  The league office can call down, say “Tabata clearly was trying to get hit,” and then Scherzer gets his perfect game.

Also, another tweak in all sports should be a rule that Jeff van Gundy loves to promote, and he’s totally right.  If a guy flops on a play, the punishment from that should undo whatever punishment the opponent deserves from whatever he did on the play.  if a guy clearly flopped on a play where his opponent charged, the charging call is undone.

Players are always gonna try to flop.  The only way to make sure that flops don’t have too big a place in games is to put rules in place strictly outlawing them.  Some would say that such rules would make the player more like robots, and that trying to get ahead of your opponent in little ways is part of sports.  But I couldn’t disagree more when it specifically comes to flops, because I like seeing sports competitions determined by athletes doing athletic things.  Flopping simply doesn’t qualify.

New Pace of Play MLB Rules Won’t Mean Anything

Yesterday, MLB announced rules to have players keep 1 foot in the batter’s box at all times, make managers stay in the dugout on replay challenges, quicker returns to action after TV commercials, and timed pitching changes. I support all of these rules, and so does any baseball fan who isn’t 86 years old and sitting in a nursing home wondering if they’re gonna serve anything other than cottage cheese that week.

But the new MLB rules to speed up the game won’t be nearly as helpful as you were hoping. When you read further into that ESPN article, you’ll notice that there are 2 drawbacks to the rules. The first is that the rules won’t take effect until May, as Spring Training and April are a “phase in” period, which may as well be a flashing neon sign saying “These rules are not to be taken seriously.” The other thing, which might be even more of a red flag (and that’s saying something), is that the punishment goes all the way up from a first time warning to a whopping fine of $5000. Five thousand. That’s nothing to an MLB player… and you wanna know something even more ridiculous. I lied with that $5000 figure. It’s actually $500. Alex Rodriguez makes somewhere between $30 and $40k per at bat depending on how many he gets per year, so that means that he makes the number I lied to you about, $5000, for about every pitch he sees.

You know how jaywalking is illegal but everyone and their mother does it, even if it’s right in front of a cop? You do it because it’s not worth it to follow the rules, there’s like a 1 in 100 chance that a cop will actually give you a ticket if they see it, and the ticket of $25 isn’t even worth being scared of. As a matter of fact, I have no idea what the cost of a jaywalking ticket is. I just guessed because I’ve never heard of anyone I know getting one, which is pretty telling right there.

That’s what these rules are – the jaywalking of MLB. Major League Baseball showed its resistance to change again, even as Bud “I will never send an email” Selig is out as commish. Even when the league tries to change something for the better that every fan wants, their resistance to altering anything about the game radiates through every big league ballpark.

James Shields Actually Signs a Reasonable Contract

James Shields has signed a 4 year, $75 million deal with the San Diego Padres.  We all knew that he wouldn’t get Jon Lester money, but we didn’t know there would be this much of a difference, at least in the average yearly value.  Lester gets almost $26 million, while Shields gets a little under $19.  It seems like MLB GMs correctly realized that Shields is not even close to a guy like Lester.

The interesting thing about the Shields signing is that his numbers all came down to whether the Red Sox or Yankees wanted him.  Since they didn’t, his market fell, because very few teams were willing to shell out the kind of money that you give to a decent ace or great number 2 pitcher in today’s MLB.

The Padres are the beneficiary, though, because they get an ace for roughly the price of a 3 WAR player — and that number will decrease with time, inflation, and increased player salary spending in the league, and he’s a 3.5-4 WAR player right now.  Add in the facts that Shields has pitched in the AL East and is now moving to the NL West, he’s apparently a good clubhouse guy, and the Padres need an ace, and this deal is a no brainer for them.  In that division and in that ballpark, 2 years of 9 total WAR would not shock me in the slightest, and that would pretty much make the contract worthwhile by that time.  Shields is already 33, but 4 years isn’t too long that his age would be a reason not to do the deal.

San Diego is a pretty interesting team now, and the Shields contract is to thank for that one.  And good for the MLB GMs that they didn’t overpay for a guy like this, the way many, myself included, had thought they would because of the rising player salaries and the demand for pitching.

RIP Oscar Taveras

The first thing I thought of was “Wow, the Cardinals lost a great young outfielder.”  Then I realized that a 22 year old died, and that’s far more important, and I had to check myself.

Oscar Taveras, outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, died tonight in a car crash.

People might think of Taveras as a baseball player first and foremost in this situation, which was a mistake I made, but we need to remember that this kid just lost his life at the age when most people in this country are trying to get their first real job, or when their life “really starts” according to so many.  This is a tragedy any way you slice it, and, it would only be right that MLB honor him immediately at the 7th inning stretch of tonight’s game. (As I write this, the game is in the Bottom 5th.)

Sports Fan Vs. Red Sox Fan: Do I Root for Jon Lester Tonight?

I’ve been debating this one since July 31st. I don’t know whether or not to root for Jon Lester this October.

Your initial response is probably “What the hell??!! How would you not root for Jon Lester?” And that’s fair, because that’s how I’m thinking. Of course, it’d be awesome to seen Lester destroy 3 American league teams (including the wild card game tonight) and then shut down some lowly National League peasants like the 2007 Rockies and 2013 Cardinals. Then he could come back to Boston this winter with yet another dominating postseason on his resume.

But that’s the thing: The Red Sox have to resign him, and the market for Lester is going to be insane. Max Scherzer turned down 6 years and $144 million before the season, and Lester will probably get more than that, pending the next few weeks. Scherzer is a grand total of 6 months younger than Lester, and Lester has the kind of postseason pedigree that will make big market, hungry-for-a-championship general managers get a little bit of a pants tent. To be fair, Scherzer’s postseason past isn’t too shabby, as you may remember from Games 2 and 6 of the ALCS last year, but Lester should get more than Scherzer.

All this is to say that Jon Lester will command a lot of money this winter, and anything he does positively this postseason could add to that total more than we realize. And this is where the baseball fan in me clashes head on with the Boston Red Sox fan in me. Do I root for the awesome baseball story with the connection to the Red Sox, which is watching a guy that we love dominate October again, or do I ruthlessly abandon anything that involves entertainment and only root for what helps the Red Sox, which would be watching Lester uncharacteristically fail and drive down his free agency price tag.

Simply put, do I root with my heart or my head?

Simply put, I have no idea.

It’s not often when being a diehard fan of a sports team gets in the way of being a diehard sports fan. The other example that comes to mind easily is my reluctance to watch regular season NBA games that don’t involve the Celtics, but I think part of that is due to the fact that NBA regular season games are often truly boring. It’s far more rare for something like this to happen: a situation in which me as a sports fan and me as a Red Sox fan are going full throttle with no other impediments (like regular season NBA games often being boring), and the two clash head on.

It’s kind of depressing, honestly.

Loving sports paved the way for me to become a diehard Boston sports fan, which of course paved the way for this website. But now, rooting for the Big Four teams of the area is such a drug that, which is why I’ll always feel a little bit cheated if Brady and Belichick don’t win another Super Bowl and if this Bruins core doesn’t win another cup. Especially when you’ve tasted your team’s success, you want more of it, just like a drug. But more importantly, the act of rooting for a team, winning or losing, is the drug.

As for tonight, I’m gonna wait until the game starts and then see who I’m rooting for. This will be a great experience for me, actually. Am I watching sports nowadays primarily with my head or my heart? I don’t know, but I’ll find out tonight and maybe throughout the 2014 MLB postseason. Being a sports fan is the type of mindset where people almost always feel VERY strongly about where their interests lie. But the fact that I don’t know who I’m rooting for tonight is a sign that, like so many other parts of life, being a sports fan occasionally becomes a personal tug of war.

Jon Lester is Ridiculously Consistent

Before the trade sending him to the A’s on July 31, Jon Lester had a 2.52/2.62/3.02 ERA/FIP/xFIP.  Since the trade, he has a 2.60/2.64/3.09 line.  Not too much to analyze here, but I just wanted to point it out.  That’s why the A’s got him, a guy who is gonna perform no matter the circumstances.   There’s so much unheralded benefit of having your guy at the top be this reliable.  Manager knows that he won’t have to kill the bullpen for 1 of 5 days.  Way less chance of a guy lacking confidence in himself.  And, maybe most importantly for the A’s, that’s the kind of guy that you want for the playoffs, so Billy Beane won’t have to say this anymore.