Billy Hamilton Learning Fast At The MLB Level

When the 2014 season kicked off, there was considerable hype surrounding Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds. People thought that he would be a standout in fantasy baseball because of his ability to utilize his speed. After starting off slowly, people seemed to forget about him for the most part. Quietly, he has turned it up a notch and is actually playing at an All-Star level.

Every baseball player at the MLB level has to go through some ups and downs throughout the year. Hamilton really suffered at the beginning of the regular season, but in the last 2 months he has done a good job turning into a productive hitter at the top of the lineup. He is not only getting on base at a pretty decent clip, but he is a run producing machine. He has scored 28 runs and driven in 24 in that amount of time, and the RBI total is a bit surprising for a guy with little power.

As long as he is healthy, Hamilton is always going to be a constant stolen base threat on the base paths. He has stolen 24 bases in the last 2 months, and he is learning how to get better jumps all the time.

Standard statistics do not exactly show just how valuable Hamilton has been, but many people who look at wins above replacement (WAR) and other advanced metrics see that he is one of the top 20 players in the National League. If he can be a little bit more consistent, he is going to be an All-Star down the road. There could be a little bit of a case made for him this year that he deserves to be on the roster, but his time will come eventually. Cincinnati can only hope that he continues to play well and helps them make a playoff push.

MLB Actually Gave Alex Rodriguez Permission to Use Steroids!

According to Sports Illustrated, an excerpt from the new book Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez, Biogenesis and the Quest to End Baseball’s Steroid Era reveals the slugger used testosterone in 2007 with the consent of Major League Baseball under a special exemption.

Before the 2007 season, Rodriguez asked for permission to use testosterone, which has been banned by baseball since 2003. The (independent program administrator) in ’07 was Bryan W. Smith, a High Point, N.C., physician. (Baseball did not yet have the advisory medical panel.) On Feb. 16, 2007, two days before Rodriguez reported to spring training, Smith granted the exemption, allowing Rodriguez to use testosterone all season.

The exemption was revealed in a transcript of Rodriguez’s fall 2013 grievance hearing. During that proceeding, MLB entered into evidence several exemptions applied for by Rodriguez during his Yankees tenure. That tenure may be over as some think Rodriguez may never play again. If I was betting I’d read all the betting lines on allpro. In his testimony, MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred called testosterone “the mother of all anabolics” and said that exemptions for the substance are “very rare,” partly because “some people who have been involved in this field feel that with a young male, healthy young male, the most likely cause of low testosterone requiring this type of therapy would be prior steroid abuse.”

According to the excerpt, Rodriguez was one of only two players granted a TUE for “androgen deficiency medications,” which include testosterone. Does it really get any crazier than this? Yes it’s not like the MLB encourages cheating but this still, considering the circumstances, is a very interesting new piece of information.

What to Make of the Rockies’ Hot Start

Being only three weeks into the MLB Season, of course we are going to see a lot of surprises.  Teams who we thought would be World Series contenders are sitting in the cellar of their division, and some MVP-caliber players have yet to hit a home run.  And finally, there are those surprise teams who seem to be unbeatable, who before the season were considered afterthoughts.  After finishing 64-98 last season, the Colorado Rockies are off to a 13-4 start this year, tied for the best record in baseball with the Atlanta Braves.  Now we’re faced with the question: will this run continue, or will they come back down to earth where most people think they belong?

My response: they will come back down to earth and probably will finish somewhere around 77-85, not a bad season considering last year.

The Rockies have the advantage of playing in the most hitter-friendly park in baseball.  They are 8-0 at home this season and 5-4 on the road.  The benefits of playing at Coors Field have shown for the Rockies to this point, as they lead the majors in runs scored, on base and slugging percentage, and rank second in batting average.  They boast a strong middle of the order with Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer, and Wilin Rosario.  The stats and names of an October contender are all there… at least on offense.

Before I continue, I want you to think of the name of a pitcher from the Rockies’ starting rotation.  Got one?  Didn’t think so.  Chances are, unless you are an avid Rockies fan, you cannot name a single starter.  To this point, the starters have been decent, ranking 13th in the majors in ERA and 18th in WHIP.  However, I doubt all of these starters will be able to continue their success.  The NL West is home to a lot of strong pitching, and on days when Gonzalez and Tulowitzki are stifled by the likes of Clayton Kershaw and others, I don’t think this rotation will be able to carry the team.

The San Francisco Giants, the reigning World Series champs, are my pick to win the division again this year.  I think the Arizona Diamondbacks will certainly contend down the stretch and probably finish in second place.  The Los Angeles Dodgers have the potential to be a strong team, but do not seem to be able to put it together yet.  As for the San Diego Padres, there’s always next year.  Given this, I think the Rockies should contend for about a third place spot in the division, with a record close to that of the Dodgers.

I’m hoping that the Rockies can keep this up, it would be fun to see this lineup go up against some of the best pitchers in baseball in October.  However, I just don’t see it happening this year.  Tomorrow they will kick off a three game series at home against the Atlanta Braves.  I’m very much looking forward to this series, one of the best pitching staffs in baseball facing off against the best hitting team; something’s gotta give.

 

 

Are The Yankees Too Old?

As March passes by, the smell of hot dogs and peanuts become familiar again. Baseball is back and this year might be different than most years for the Yankees. They’re aging rapidly and are battling injuries before their first pitch has even been thrown. Historians have cited the underachieving 1965 Yankees as an example for this year’s squad. The 1965 team, which included Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris, Whitey Ford, and numerous other household names was beset by injuries and old age from the start. That Yankee team went 77-85 and finished in 6th place. The Yankees did not rebound from their free fall until 1974.

The Yankees will continue their quest for 28 World Series rings this year

The 2013 edition has a similar feel to the 1965 team. Among those injured is their captain Derek Jeter, who looks to come out strong after an all star caliber year in 2012. Also among the wounded is Curtis Granderson, who tallied 43 homers last year for the Bombers, and reigning Gold Glove first baseman Mark Teixeira. Then there’s Alex Rodriguez. The 37 year old third baseman is dealing with a steroid allegation and is also out until at least June recovering from hip surgery. They’ve also lost Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibañez and Eric Chavez to free agency. With all of the losses, the Yankees will head into opening day without a combined 180 homeruns from last season. With a hole at 3rd base, the Yankees went out and signed Kevin Youkilis. The former Red Sox player will be a fan favorite in the Bronx after flipping sides in the Yanks-Sox rivalry. The Bombers also brought in Travis Hafner, Ben Francisco, Brennan Boesch and Vernon Wells to round out the lineup.

The rotation this year could be the most critical factor in determining where the Yankees will fall in the standings. C.C. Sabathia will lead the pack as the Yanks’ ace. Hiroki Kuroda will follow, a season after establishing career highs in wins, starts, innings and strikeouts. Andy Pettitte, Ivan Nova and David Phelps will round out the rotation. Looking ahead to July, the Phillies will almost certainly be shopping Cliff Lee if he doesn’t perform to their high expectations. The Yankees have looked at adding Lee over the last couple years, so don’t be surprised if they contact the Phillies for an asking price.
In the bullpen, Mariano Rivera looks to finish his career in style this season, and you can be sure that most, if not all of the stadiums he visits will honor him with gifts and tributes. A confident David Robertson is what the Yankees need, after he lost the closer job last season to Rafael Soriano. He’ll be the setup man for Mo this year and hopes to be the closer next season.
If the Yankees can make it to June without falling apart, I expect them to slip into the playoffs as the 2nd wild card team and prove the historians wrong. While the team remains confident headed into the season, it could be a very bumpy ride.

6 Things to Watch this MLB Season

With the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros kicking off the 2013 MLB Season tonight, we embark on a 7-month journey that should feature some great baseball.  Just like every year, there are predictions and expectations.  Whether or not the teams and players live up to these will be decided in the coming months.  I thought I’d offer my opinion on the 6 things to watch this MLB season.

 

1.  Third time the charm for the Pirates?  In 2011 and 2012 the Pittsburgh Pirates entered the All-Star Break as not only playoff contenders, but NL Central Pennant contenders.  Both of those years the Pirates failed to finish .500, extending their streak of consecutive losing seasons to 20 after the collapse last season.  They were 16 games over .500 with only 54 games remaining in the season last year.  My question is: will Pittsburgh be able to start and finish strong this year, or will it be another year of despair for Pittsburgh?  Unfortunately I think it will be the latter.  The Pirates were 12-5 against the Houston Astros last season, and this year they will not have the opportunity to earn more than three games against a dismal Astros team that has moved to the American League.  Obviously a few wins over the Astros are not the only thing keeping the Pirates from getting over the .500 mark, but this division seems too strong for the Pirates at this point.  I’m pulling for them this year, but it will be tough, and it is certainly something to watch for.

2.  Can they live up to the hype?  No, I’m not talking about Mike Trout or Bryce Harper (they will come later), I’m talking about the Washington Nationals and Stephen Strasburg.  Two seasons ago, this team finished with a record of 80-81.  Last year, they improved it to 98-64 and now everybody is jumping on the bandwagon with the World Series predictions.  Don’t get me wrong, I think the Nationals are a great team and have a good shot at playing deep into October.  The starting rotation is perhaps the best in the game, and they have some bats that can produce runs.  However, this is a lot of hype considering that the Nationals are coming out of nowhere.  They will have a lot to prove this year, and there will be pressure on the team to produce.  One of the players under the microscope will be Stephen Strasburg, who will have to demonstrate why Nationals GM Mike Rizzo made the right decision in shutting him down by having a dominant season.  Both the Nationals and Strasburg are capable, and their run towards October will certainly be one to watch.

3.  Can they live up to the hype II?  Yes, this is the part about Trout and Harper.  Obviously after last season both players will have a lot to live up to, especially Trout.  Both had great rookie seasons, but Trout’s was more noted for his performance, whereas Harper was known for his entertainment.  I don’t think Trout will live up to the numbers that many are expecting.  It will be a good season, but somewhat of a sophomore slump for Trout who has to come back down to earth sometime.  As for Harper, his season will be decent as well, just not as scrutinized.

4.  Who wins the AL East?  Come September, this division could still be a five-way race for first place.  The usually dominant Yankees clubhouse has turned into a hospital for the elderly.  The Red Sox look to come back after a disappointing 2012 under Bobby Valentine.  The Rays look to contend with a healthy Evan Longoria and a solid pitching staff.  The Orioles came in second last year and look to build on that with one of the youngest teams in baseball.  Finally, the Blue Jays had perhaps the most productive offseason in baseball, and look to contend with new names like R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Melky Cabrera.  I think it will be the Rays who will emerge as pennant winners in this division, but the title is completely up for grabs at this point, and the race will certainly be something to watch.

5.  Who can stop the Angels’ lineup?  Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo will all be featured in the Angels lineup this season, talk about star-studded.  If this group clicks with the addition of Josh Hamilton, the bats could be unbeatable.  In my opinion, however, this certainly does not guarantee them the division title.  The reigning AL West champs from Oakland will certainly have something to say about that, as well the Texas Rangers, who made consecutive appearances in the World Series in 2010 and 2011.  My prediction:  both the A’s and the Rangers will compete, especially the A’s with their young and talented pitching staff.  But, the Angels will go on to win the West and I’m saying advance to the ALCS.  No matter which way it goes, this division and team will be a fun one to watch this season.

6.  Baseball.  Of course you should watch baseball this year, it is America’s pastime.  Looking back on past seasons, nothing is totally predictable, and the next seven months could be an incredible journey that gets better with every minute.  Take my advice, watch baseball, it will be great no matter what happens.  At the current moment, the Astros are leading the league with wins, making just about anything possible.

 

The members of the 2013 Baseball Hall of Fame Class ARE. . .

This afternoon, The Baseball Writers Association of America announced the results of the Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2013 balloting.

NO ONE reached the required 75% to be voted to the Hall of Fame in 2013.

This is the first time since 1996 that no one was elected by the Baseball Writers Association of America for induction into the Hall of Fame.

First timer Craig Biggio got the closest with 68% of the vote and was only 39 vote short of being elected this year.

Looking forward to the Class of 2014 Hall of Fame Ballot, some of the notable players who are eligible for election to the Hall of Fame are:

P Tom Glavine, IF Jeff Kent, P Greg Maddox, P Mike Mussina, 1B/DH Frank Thomas.

Dale Murphy was on the ballot for 15 years and will no longer be voted on by the BBWAA; next year will be the last year that Jack Morris can be voted on by the BBWAA.

Please Welcome to Twitter — @wstrophy

Please Welcome to Twitter the highly sought after World Series Trophy!

Currently residing in San Francisco, California; also home of the 2012 World Series Champions Giants, “The Trophy” seems to need some help looking for an apartment for the next few months — so if any Bay Area Residents can help, please make sure to sent him out a Tweet.

What will you remember from 2012?

Happy New Year Baseball Fans!

As the holiday season come to and end the new year begins, we take one last look at 2012 with a simple question, what will you remember most?

The arrival of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper?  The Triple Crown of Miguel Cabrera?

The San Francisco Giants winning their second World Series Championship in three seasons?

The three perfect games by Phillip Humber, Matt Cain and “King” Felix Hernandez?

The New York Mets finally getting a no-hitter after 8,020 games?  Or the Mets seeing a knuckle ball pitcher win the Cy Young for them, and then trade him away in the off season?

The surprising regular seasons of the Oakland A’s and Baltimore Orioles?  Stephen Strasburg being shut down by the Washington Nationals and then losing in the opening round of the playoffs?

The fall of the Red Sox under Bobby Valentine?  The joke that is the Miami Marlins?  The scary injury to Brandon McCarthy?

What stories will dominate 2013?

Who will make the Hall of Fame and who won’t?

The free agent signings of the Dodgers and Angels?

Stephen Strasburg pitching a full season in the nation’s capital?

Which team will surprise and which will disappoint?

Remembering Roberto Clemente 40 years later

Forty years ago, on December 31, 1972, Roberto Clemente Walker died in a plane crash soon after departing Puerto Rico’s San Juan airport; Clemente was attempting to bring aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.  It is believed that the age on the aircraft and the extra weight from all the relief supplies Clemente was trying to bring caused the play to crash on take off.

Roberto Clemente played 18 seasons in Major League Baseball playing right field for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 to 1972 where he won 12 Gold Glove and was a 12-time All-Star; he also ended his career with exactly 3,000 hits with the last one coming on the last day of 1972 season.    In 1960 he was the first Latin-American player to win a World Series as a starter, in 1966 in was the first to win a league MVP and in 1971 became the first to win a World Series MVP.  In 1973, soon after the plane crash, Roberto Clemente was posthumously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame when the normal five year waiting period was waived for only the second time in history, the first time was for Lou Gehrig.

Major League Baseball gives out the Roberto Clemente Award annually to the player who “best exemplifies the game of baseball, sportsmanship, community involvement and the individual’s contribution to his team”; the award was renamed in 1973 in honor and remembrance of Clemente.

There is a statue of Roberto Clemente outside PNC Park where the Pittsburgh Pirates currently play and the right field wall is 21 feet high, Roberto Clemente wore #21 during his playing day — but to many, many people of Puerto Rico, he will always and forever be number one.

Rest in Peace Roberto Clemente Walker — you are missed 40 years later.

All Baseball, All The Time!