Tag Archive | "MLB"

Rangers Fans – Party Like It’s 1999?


Last year was only the 2nd season since 1999 that the Texas Rangers finished a season above .500.  Even with a 2nd place finish in 2009, the Rangers finished 10 games back of Anaheim.  Ranger fans have seen a lot of great players since the last division winner in 1999, but the one thing they haven’t seen is a playoff victory.  The Rangers have only made the playoffs 3 times in franchise history with only 1 win in the postseason to show for it (that came in 1996).

So what is different about this team?  I will give you one word, pitching.  Through 97 games the Rangers have an ERA of 3.81.  The last time Texas has had an ERA under 4 was 1990.  That team had the likes of Nolan Ryan, Charlie Hough, Bobby Witt, Kevin Brown, and Kenny Rogers (who led the team in saves).  The pitching staff even included a young 27 year-old named Jamie Moyer who is still going strong 20 years later.

Surprisingly they are doing this with Rich Harden (3-3 5.68 era) and Scott Feldman (5-8 5.48 era) having horrible years. Instead it has been the likes of Colby Lewis (9-6 3.52 era), C J Wilson (9-5 3.03 era), and Tommy Hunter (7-0 2.09 era) anchoring the rotation.  And this year the big addition was not a mediocre end of the rotation starter but one of the best pitchers in baseball, Cliff Lee.  For the first time in years, the Rangers have a legit ace on the staff.  Not only an ace, but one with solid playoff experience and success.

Throw in the success of the bullpen this year, and the staff has been solid all year long.  Neftali Feliz has been lights out in the 9th closing down games converting 27 of 29 save chances.  But a closer is only as good as his setup men.  If you can’t get the ball to your closer with the lead, he won’t be effective.  The Rangers have done that well all year long.  The ageless wonder Darren Oliver (42 IP, 1.29 era) has returned to Texas in a big way.  Anchoring down the pen with Feliz and Oliver is Darren O’Day and Frank Francisco.  Throw in Matt Harrison who has been in the pen and in the rotation along with youngster Alexi Ogando and the Rangers are poised to make a run at the playoffs.

The only concern I have about the pitching staff is the work load some of them will face.  C J Wilson has been in the bullpen for 93.5% of his MLB career and has already pitched 50 innings more than last year.  So how he will hold up come late August and September is anyone’s guess.  Colby Lewis pitched in Japan last year where they throw every 6 days.  Nobody is sure how that will effect him come late in the season.  They are also relying on Tommy Hunter who is young.  The good thing is Cliff Lee.  He is a work horse who will eat up innings which will help the bullpen as well.  That is the last worry point, the bullpen.  They have been well used so far this year with the struggles of Harden and Feldman.  Will they get enough rest to pitch well down the stretch remains to be seen.

As the Offense goes, it has been impressive.  Josh Hamilton (23/71/.354) is hitting out of his mind right now.  He has been unbelievable so far this year, and he has protection.  Hitting in front of him is Bad Vlad Guerrero (20/76/.313) and behind him Nelson Cruz (12/52/.329).  Not to mention the solid seasons that Micheal Young (14/57/.302) and Elvis Andrus are having.  There are two spots of worry for the offense, firstbase and catcher.  These areas really need an upgrade before the postseason, but it looks like that will depend on what happens with the ownership situation.

Any Ranger fan has to be excited about the prospects in the postseason this year.  With a solid offense, a new ace in Cliff Lee, and 3 solid #2 starters for playoff series in Wilson, Hunter, and Lewis, the Rangers are poised to make a run at their first World Series appearance.  The question remains how will they deal with the dog days of summer.

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International Baseball Travel


My goal is to see baseball all around the world.   I have started my journey here in the Land of the Morning Calm, South Korea, but many people are not aware of how widespread baseball has become.  The game that Abner Doubleday started, okay so maybe he didn’t, has spread across the globe.  My hope is to experience this great game in as many different places as I can.  So let’s take a look at exactly where I want to travel to see a few games.

Asia

South Korea – There are 8 teams and 7 stadiums in South Korea.  By the end of the year I plan to see each stadium at least once.

Japan – I am planning a 5 day trip to Japan in September.  I hope to take in 4 games at different stadiums in the Tokyo area.  Japan is very expensive so it will be difficult to see all 12 teams.

Taiwan – I am thinking of taking a trip to Taiwan in July.  The Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan is a 4 team league that plays at various stadiums around the island.  I hope to take in 3-4 games while there in July.

China – There is a 7 team league in China.  There is a lot of room for baseball to grow here.  I hope to eventually get to China to see some baseball, but it might have to wait till next year.

Philippines – The Phils, as they are affectionately known here in SK by some of the foreigners, has a 6 team league.  It’s a small league with few games, but it is well worth visiting.

Australia

Australia is starting up a new league, with MLB backing, starting in November 2010.  The new league will have 6 teams.  I’d love to try and possibly check this league out after my contract is up in November.  The one problem is plane tickets are so expensive.

Europe

There are a lot of places that play baseball in Europe.  In most of the countries baseball is not huge, but it is starting to grow.  On the international scene nobody really makes a splash, although the Netherlands showed the world they cannot be taken for granted in the last World Baseball Classic.  So here is a list, and a long one, of places I want to go to see some baseball.

(in no particular order)

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Germany
  • England
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Ukraine
  • Ireland

The Americas

There is a lot of great baseball in this area.  Of course I want to see every MLB stadium and as many minor league stadiums as I can in the USA, I think there are some hidden gems in other parts.  So here is a list of places I want to visit merely for the baseball.  The great part of this area is all the winter leagues.  While most of the world is taking a break from baseball, Central and South America is just getting warmed up.  I hope to one day see all of the winter leagues available.

  • Mexico
  • Canada
  • Cuba
  • Dominican Republic
  • Puerto Rico
  • Panama
  • Venezuela
  • Columbia
  • Nicaragua
  • Costa Rica

There are other places to see games as well.  Even if I only get to see little league games, I want to experience a game in as many places as I can.  Baseball is the one true passion I have.  It’s an amazing sport that can bring together people of different backgrounds and cultures.  As I begin my journey here this year, I hope you will join me.

Have you seen games in any of these countries?  I would be interested in hearing your stories.  If you have, drop me a line and let me know.  I am always interested in hearing feedback, questions, or comments about anything on my site.

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NL All-Star Voting


It’s that time of year again.  The Mid-Summer Classic is about to be upon us, so it’s time to take a look at who should be playing in Anaheim.  Today, I want to take a look at the senior circuit.

National League

Catcher – This position seems to be a little thin this year.  However, I feel Brian McCann is having the best year so far.

Brian McCann – Atlanta .258/8/30/.806 ops

First Base – As always, there is a lot of talent at 1B in the NL.  I find it hard to argue with Albert Pujols.  Pujols is simply the best hitter in the NL in many minds, and it’s hard to argue with it.  Despite a few other potential All-Stars here, I am going with Pujols.

Albert Pujols – St. Louis .302/15/50/.962 ops

Second Base – I really don’t see any other possible player here except Martin Prado.  Prado is playing out of this world so far.  Leading the league in hits and adding a little power and run production, Prado seems to be the easy choice here.

Martin Prado – Atlanta .340/7/31/.865 ops

Third Base – There are a few solid prospects here.  I am not sure Scott Rolen is getting his due, but I am going to go with David Wright.  With his added ability to steal a base, I think he comes out on top among the 3rd sackers.

David Wright – New York .291/12/55/.896 ops

Shortstop – Despite his lack of respect for his boss, I think Hanley Ramirez is the clear choice.  He is the real deal at shortstop with power, speed, and the ability to hit for average.

Hanley Ramirez – Florida .293/11/43/.878 ops

Outfield – I think the list of possible starters is at least 5 deep.  I am going to start off with Andre Ethier.  He is having a great season, and his upside is still yet to be seen fully. To round out the field I have teammates Ryan Braun and Corey Hart.  Both are having solid years.  Braun is one of the better hitters of his generation, and Hart is starting to come into his own with a great year so far.

Andre Ethier – Los Angeles .320/12/44/.965 ops

Ryan Braun – Milwaukee .310/10/46/.873 ops

Corey Hart – Milwaukee .268/18/53/.918 ops

Pitcher – I really don’t see any point in picking anybody other than Ubaldo Jimenez.  His numbers are amazing this year.  Throw in a no-hitter, and he is the clear choice.

Ubaldo Jimenez – Colorado 13-1 /1.15 era / 1.00 whip

So what do you think?  Let me know who you think I missed, or overrated.

‘Till Next Time,

TBJM

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Kid Dynomite’s Debut


It was a spectacle in Washington on Tuesday night, and it lived up to the billing.  Unless you don’t follow baseball or have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you’d know I am talking about Stephen Strasburg’s Major League debut.  Strasburg has been the talk of baseball since last years draft.

Strasburg quickly tore through the minor leagues putting up amazing numbers.  However, the Nationals waited till after June 1 to call up Strasburg to postpone arbitration for a year.  In 11 minor league starts (between AA and AAA) Strasburg was 7-2 with an era of 1.30.

In front of a standing room only crowd Tuesday night, Strasburg dazzled.  In 7 innings he struck out 14 and only allowed 2 runs.  His stuff was electric.  Fastballs over 100 mph to go along with devastating breaking balls.  It was quite the site.

I was really pleased to see this for Washington.  They have not had anything to cheer for in years.  This gets the league talking about them in a positive way.  Plus, it was nice to see a full crowd in Washington.  That doesn’t happen too often.  This is a must needed boost in the arm for the Nats.

It will be fun to watch him over the rest of the season, but don’t expect him to continue putting up numbers like he did Tuesday night.  I do expect him to put up solid numbers, but he is bound to have his ups and downs as all new pitchers do.

Stephen Strasburg AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

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Around the Horn


I wanted to weigh in on the happenings from yesterday. There were two significant events of the day.

First of all, let me quickly mention the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. I know Griffey hasn’t been the same player for quite some time, but it’s still a sad day knowing one of the all-time greats of the game is retiring. I don’t think I have ever seen a player that played with such joy and emotion while at the same time being one of the best, if not the best, in the game. In my mind he is the greatest center fielder of his era, and easily the best one I ever got to see play. He is 5th on the all-time home run list, and what is unique about that is he has never been linked to steroids. A 13 time all-star, 10 time gold glove winner, and the AL MVP in 1997 (.304/56/147), Griffey will definitely be missed in the baseball world.

Perhaps overshadowing the Griffey retirement somewhat is Armando Gallaraga. Gallaraga was 1 out away from the 3rd perfect game of the year and 21st in history when umpire Jim Joyce blew a call at first base. I have to say in the aftermath that I was pleasantly surprised at how well both Gallaraga and Joyce handled the situation. Joyce understood after seeing the replay that he blew the call and requested to talk to Gallaraga personally. Gallaraga himself has been quite understanding of the whole situation by not getting bent out of shape with Joyce. He said he understood that it was a difficult call and that Joyce was human. It is reassuring in a day and age when many baseball players can be demanding prima donnas to see someone with a level head in a situation as big as this one.

So will anything happen in the end? I don’t think Gallaraga will get his perfect game, but I do think baseball will look at expanding instant replay. Whether this is a good or bad thing is debatable and will be debated, but I am not sold one way or another. What do you think? Should commissioner Selig do anything about the situation? If so, what? I’d love to hear what others think.

You can also join the conversation on twitter by following me there @baseballjourney or on Face Book.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya

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June 1 Surprises


I was looking at the standings and box scores from June 1st and a few things stood out to me. I can’t really decide what is the most surprising out of all of this too, so I want your help. Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

1. Teams in 1st place include Atlanta, Cincinnati, San Diego, Texas and Tampa Bay
or
2. Troy Glaus’ stats .277/9/40/.452 vs. Ryan Howard .280/9/35/.454
or
3. Anything else that has really surprised you. There seem to be quite a few.

On a Braves related note, just how good can Jason Heyward be? He is already in the top 10 in RBI, slugging, OPS, and OBP. He is a star in the making and I am glad there is someone to take over for Chipper when he is gone. The Braves have been lacking that person ever since Chipper started his decline.

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Two For Tuesday – Baseball Injuries


With the recent injuries to Kendry Morales and David Huff, it got me thinking of some of the worst injuries that I have seen in the past. I have seen my share on the field and on TV, but there are a few that stand out to me.

The first one that comes to mind is former All-Star Dave Dravecky. In 1988, Dravecky was diagnosed with cancer in his arm. He underwent surgery in late 1988 and was told he would never pitch again. Dravecky worked hard and was determined to get back to the mound, which he did in August of 1989. He pitched brilliantly in his comeback going 8 innings and winning against Cincinnati. Five days later tragedy would strike in Montreal. In the 6th inning on a pitch to Tim Raines, Dave Dravecky broke his arm. It was a gruesome sight and one I will never forget.

Two years later the cancer would return. With his arm continuing to deteriorate, Dravecky was forced to have his arm and shoulder amputated. Today Dravecky is a motivational speaker. You can see part of this in the short video below which includes video of his arm breaking in Montreal.

The other injury that comes to mind is the one Jason Kendall suffered on July 4, 1999 in Pittsburgh. As Kendall crossed first base he suffered a compound dislocation his ankle. It was a horrifying sight to see. Ankles are just not meant to bend in that direction. He wound up missing the rest of the season but came back strong the following year. I don’t have video of the injury, but there is a grisly picture below.

What are some of the injuries that you remember best? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts on the best, or worst, injuries.

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Ken Burns “The Tenth Inning” Coming Soon


Ken Burns “Baseball” is the most complete documentary on the sport.  Of course there are sections that could have been expanded on, but when you are dealing with over 100 years to document it can be difficult to include everything.  Especially when dealing with budgets and time constraints.  However, “Baseball” is a great series and it’s about to get a little bit better.

PBS will air “The Tenth Inning” on September 28 and 29 of this year, just before the playoffs begin.  This is a 4-hour piece that will cover the sport from 1994 to the present.  It will deal with the steroids era along with other aspects of the game over the past 15 years.  A DVD will be available a week later with 2 additional hours of material.

I know I will be eagerly awaiting the release of “The Tenth Inning”.  I have seen the original series countless times learning something new each time.  It’s a fascinating series and if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly suggest picking it up.

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Hello Win Column! Braves Score 7 in Ninth


Hello Win Column gives me the chance to talk about great come from behind wins, and there happened to be one on Thursday this week.

The game looked like it might be a pitchers duel with two up and coming superstars in the making.  Tommy Hanson of the Braves looked to rebound from a poor start against Arizona.  Coming into the game Hanson’s ERA was just under 3, and he was putting up solid numbers.  On the other side of the field was Mike Leake who came into the game with a 4-0 record and an ERA of just over 3.  Leake has not spent any time in the minors going from Arizona State straight to the big leagues after being the 8th overall pick last summer.

This was anything but a pitchers duel from the beginning.  Leake lived up to his end of it giving up only 1 earned run in 6 innings, but once again Hanson pitched poorly.

I put on the game late last night via MLB.com but quickly turned if off after Cincinnati went up 5-0 in the 2nd inning.  Unfortunately they weren’t done yet.  Hanson would give up 8 runs in 1.2 innings before giving way to the pen.

The Braves would put a few runs on the board, but after 8.5 innings the score stood at 9-3. Then came the bottom of the 9th.

The Reds pen had retired 11 straight heading into the 9th.  Then Glaus led off the inning with a soft single and the flood gates opened.  Eric Hinske followed with a solid single to right putting 2 men on with no outs.  Escobar loaded the bases on what should have been the 4th Reds error made by shortstop Orlando Cabrera.  Nate McLouth got the scoring going with a rocket single to right plating Glaus and Hinske making the score 9-5.  Dusty Baker had seen enough of Lincoln and went to the pen again to bring in Nick Masset.

Masset promptly walked David Ross to load the bases.  NL hits leader Martin Prado then grounded into what should have been a double play, but Miguel Cairo bobbled the ball at third base allowing a run to score making it 9-6 with the bases still loaded.  Dusty Baker quickly pulled the plug on Masset and brought in his left specialist Arthur Rhodes.

Who does Rhodes have to face immediately? None other than the Braves new phenom Jason Heyward.  The 40 year-old Rhodes pitched well and struck out the 20 year-old Heyward.  With the pitchers spot coming up (the Braves had pulled Chipper Jones in an earlier double switch) 1 out and the bases loaded, Baker went to his closer Francisco Cordero.  Bobby Cox countered with pinch-hitter Brooks Conrad.

Conrad battled Cordero fouling off several pitches.  Then with the count 2-2, Conrad takes a Cordero fastball to the opposite field.  It looked like it would be a sacrifice fly.  Lance Nix made a play on the ball at the wall and the ball glanced off of his glove over the wall for a walk-off grand slam.  Even Conrad thought Nix caught the ball.  After he rounded first he threw his hands up over his head in frustration and turned around facing the dugout.  Only then, as his teammates were running out onto the field, did Conrad turn around to see he had a walk-off slam.

It was a great comeback win that put the Braves over .500 for the first time in awhile.  You hear it all the time that baseball is a game of inches.  Thursday’s game was one of those instances.  An inch or two to the right and Nix pulls that in for an out and the Braves are looking to score 3 more runs vs the Reds closer.

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Manic Monday – The Bullpen Gospels


Another one of my new segments is Manic Mondays.  I plan to bring you the crazier side of baseball.  Today I want to start with a book review.

I recently found a bookstore in Seoul who carries a large selection of English books and better yet, baseball books.  I was excited to find out they had the new release The Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst.  I ordered it right away and it has not disappointed.  Hayhurst spent several seasons in the minors with the San Diego Padres and wrote about his time in the minors.

This book is a must read for any baseball fan.  The stories he tells are more than just about long road trips in the minor leagues.  Hayhurst also hits on the life of a minor leaguer and how its not always sunshine and roses.  But don’t get me wrong, there are some lough out loud stories as well.  I was reading the other day in my local coffee shop and getting all sorts of funny looks from the fact I could not stop laughing while reading this book.

Currently Dirk Hayhurst is with the Toronto Blue Jays but on the 60-day DL. Hopefully he will return to his 2009 form that made him a valuable reliever for the Jays.

So give it a chance and check it out.  I don’t think you will be disappointed.  It’s the funnies book on life as a professional ballplayer since the classic Ball Four.  It should be available at any local bookstore, or if you want to help me out click on the Amazon.com link below to order and have it shipped to your door.

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New Era (eFashion Solutions)

Quote of the Month

There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem - once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit. ~Al Gallagher, 1971

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