BY MICHAEL J. SILVA, Feedcrossing.com syndication
Tom Verducci made this statement yesterday to John Feinstein and Bruce Murray during their mid-day show on Mad Dog Radio. I think Nolan Ryan and Jon Daniels have done a fabulous job turning around that ballclub, but they should not be discussed in the same breath as one of the best baseball teams of all-time.
The ’98 Yankees weren’t a collection of All-Stars. Although the Yankees have been a payroll team for the better part of the decade, this was not the case during the late nineties dynasty under Joe Torre. The Yanks were actually number two, behind Baltimore, with their $66 million dollar payroll. There were six other teams that were within $10 million dollars of them, as well.
That ’98 team was a collection of homegrown talent, veteran acquisition and component players that thrived in their roles. That group scored 965 runs, which is the tenth highest in franchise history. Offensively, it was on par with the powerful offenses of the late twenties and thirties. Even more impressive was their pitching. They only allowed 656 runs; on par with the top staffs in the National League despite having to deal with the Designated Hitter. This current Rangers group is on par with that production, but in the depressed post-steriods era. The Yankees output was amazing due to the explosion of offense we saw that season. (more…)
BY ZAC CORDOVA AND JUSTIN MILLAR, Feedcrossing.com syndication
• LA Dodgers: Pretender. Matt Kemp should change his nickname to “Mr. April” because he gets everyone thinking he is the best player in baseball the first month of every season. He is great no doubt, but has little help outside of Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier. AJ Ellis will cool off a bit, but they are too top heavy to be considered consistent enough to be a contender.
BY JOE WHITE, Feedcrossing.com syndication
Almost exactly a year ago I wrote this article chronicling the early season struggles of the Detroit Tigers’ bullpen. Well, here we are again. Fresh off of the Twins (the TWINS?!) dropping an 11-spot on the Tigers last night and the bullpen allowing 5 earned runs in their 5 innings of work, fans are rightfully concerned.
The bullpen has been bad but certainly isn’t entirely to blame here. The offense has been suppressed for most of the season and the starting rotation has been decent, but couldn’t be categorized as world-beaters at this point. The defense has been predictably unsuccessful but ranking 21st in fielding % is probably more than what most expected. Although the fact remains that it’s hard to create an error on a ball your range doesn’t allow you to reach.
But man that bullpen is frustrating! By the numbers it might actually be even more troubling.
Senor Slider is making his way back
Across all of Major League Baseball the Tigers’ pen ranks dead last in ERA at 5.17. Worse than even the horror show on the north side of Chicago.
As an entire staff, the Tigers are doing a decent job not walking the opposition, but as a bullpen, only 2 teams have walked more. In 116.2 innings of combined work, the ever rotating 7-man pen has walked 58 hitters. Teams are hitting .270 off of Luke Putkonen and company, which ties them for 4th worst in the bigs.
Remember when the Colorado Rockies of old had the Blake Street Bombers (Larry Walker, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galaraga and Dante Bichette) and still couldn’t muster many wins in the mid-90s?
Well it looks like the Rockies curse of never having any pitching has bitten the Minnesota Twins in 2013. When comparing those aforementioned Rockies teams to what the Twins are now, the similarities are quite glaring. Minnesota has a plethora of pop at the plate with players like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham, but without a decent staff of hurlers, the Twins currently sit at the bottom of the barrel in baseball. Sure, Mauer and Morneau are not the players they once were when the pair were winning MVP awards, however, this pitching staff doesn’t look even close to when the squad won six AL Central division titles from 2000-2010.
There’s a huge difference in those former rotations that carried players such as Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Eric Milton, Kyle Lohse and Joe Mays. The 2012 Twins’ starting five seem more like a hodgepodge of pitchers rather than a dominant force like the club had as little as two seasons ago. And the numbers further my case. The Twins are literally the worst team in baseball with a 8-22 record (Thursday, May 10).
So that automatically makes the pitching staff last in the league for wins and first in the MLB for losses. Furthermore, the Twins are last in the majors with a dismal 151 strikouts and are also the worst for ERA at 5.48. Minnesota is second to last for opposing team’s batting average at .287; runs at 165; and earned runs. That’s not exactly something manager Ron Gardenhire wants to write home to mom about. (more…)
It’s never easy to quit something you love.
Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones know that all too well, announcing his retirement effectively after the 2012 season. There’s really no question that the hours following that warm afternoon must have been hard after the 40-year-old declared his decision when his beloved Braves wrapped up what would be one of Jones’ final games at Atlanta’s camp in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The choice was one that had been coming and one that any press member following the team was salivating to hear.
The Braves came into the Spring with the same ‘ol team that fell flat on its face during a September collapse that ended one game short of yet another playoff birth. Yet, the spring training attention wasn’t focused on how Atlanta would bounce back. Instead, for about the third year in a row, all eyes were on No. 10. And all ears were waiting to hear if Jones would continue to play another season despite his constant leg problems that have haunted the corner infielder. (more…)
BY Couchsideshow.com staff
After about a month away from the microphone, Couch Side hosts Wade McMillin and Craig Paul are back for another sports-packed podcast. This week’s episode is all about NFL Free Agency, the NBA Trade Deadline, Chipper Jones, Syracuse basketball and Greg Oden. Click Below to Listen to the Couch Side Show podcast, now on iTunes. Don’t forget to subscribe.
We are well into the 2012 spring training season and continuing with our theme of previewing each position in the big leagues, Brett Murdock turns his attention to the second basemen. Here is what he has to say about the spot.
The diminutive player out of Arizona State may be small in stature, but is possibly the Red Sox’s most important player. He does a little bit of everything and plays with a fiery passion. Pedroia won the AL MVP in only his second full year in the bigs and is also a 3-time All-Star. Last year, he finished with a .307 average with a career high 21 home runs and a .990 fielding percentage, committing only seven errors in 722 defensive chances. He is probably the most complete second basemen in the game.
BY JON FRANK, Couchsideshow.com contributor
So what’s the deal with all the coverage on this Josh Hamilton relapse? Anybody else find it a bit, odd?
So the guy has a drinking problem, “relapses”, whatever that means, and it makes headlines on ESPN and SI.com. Dude has to come out and have a press conference addressing media, explaining that he had “a moment of weakness”.
This is ludicrous.
Does anybody, outside the Texas Rangers clubouse and Hamilton’s family and friends, really care? Nobody even seems to know what happened, other than that he went to a bar for X amount of beers. Must be a slow day in sporting news. I get it. Hamilton’s had issues in the past, he’s about to be a free agent and nobody wants to deal with an alcoholic on their team. But how does a guy struggling to keep his shit together going to a bar, having a few and catching himself wind up on Pardon the Interruption? Mind you, Hamilton didn’t do anything illegal, within the vicinity of illegal, or even immoral. He went out for a beer.
Three months ago, Ryan Braun tested positive for elevated amounts of testosterone. Two months ago, Ryan Braun was named the NL MVP. Last month, Ryan Braun’s positive test was brought to the attention of the entire nation. And last Saturday, Ryan Braun accepted his Most Valuable Player award in front of hundreds of people amid the scandal.
“The best thing he (Alex Rodriguez) can do is come out, admit to everything and be completely honest. The situation will die a lot faster if he tells the whole truth.” That was Ryan Braun’s response when asked about A-Rod’s link to performance enhancing drugs in 2009.
“Sometimes in life, we all deal with challenges we never expected to endure. We have an opportunity to look at those challenges and view them either as obstacles or opportunities. I’ve chosen to view every challenge I’ve ever faced as an opportunity, and this will be no different.”
BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
Put a mark on the wall.
The Atlanta Braves finally made a move this offseason, signing free agent shortstop Jack Wilson to a one-year deal Friday. The move brings Wilson back to the Braves after Atlanta acquired the 10-year veteran late in the season. Inking Wilson to his $1 million deal is just the third major league transaction Braves General Manager Frank Wren has made this winter and it was more like a resigning than a true free agent deal because Wilson actually started in Atlanta’s 162nd game last season.
So once again, Atlanta’s inactivity has left fans yawning at best. However, some are happy with the deal because it was a cheap solution to one of the Braves’ glaring holes. Signing Wilson is safe. He is durable and plays good defense, hence his .977 lifetime fielding percentage. It’s just hard to get excited about a guy who knocked in just 11 runs in 214 bats last season.
BY DEREK BARSNESS, Couchsideshow.com writer
A wise man once said “This Bud’s for you.” While I do enjoy a Bud(weiser) every now and then, this Bud (Selig) isn’t for me. And I hope MLB fans agree.
Rumors are out that Selig will be offered a new contract extension as MLB commissioner. As a devout fan of the game, I cringe at the thought of this. Many could argue that Selig has been great for baseball. After an amazing finish to September and perhaps one of the best post seasons we have had in decades, baseball is growing its fan base and gaining popularity in younger generations. But I would argue that Selig has little to do with where baseball currently stands.
Selig was named commissioner in 1992, making him the second longest commissioner in the history of the game. But it’s time for a change. Many of the decisions he has made have been controversial, such as calling the 2002 All-Star game a tie after 11 innings or granting home field advantage in the World Series to the division that won the All-Star game. But he has also been a key player in improving the game as well. Adding the wild card in 1994 and interleague play in 1997 have undoubtedly improved the game and helped gain popularity.
So while Selig has improved baseball in many ways, the game still needs fixed and Bub’s not the man for the job. We just saw the current NL MVP Ryan Braun test positive for performance enhancing drugs which earns him a 50 game suspension. That’s it? 50 games? That sounds like a lot, but it’s obviously not enough. Braun knew what the penalty would be if he was caught and yet he still chose to break the rules and use steroids. Ultimately this falls on the shoulders of the commissioner. Selig has been an advocate for stricter PED use penalties, but when the stars of the game are getting busted, Bud needs to step up. Sure he would encounter a lot of obstacles (owners, the players union, etc.), but he needs to show the fans that he is absolutely serious about this. After the Braun incident, it would have been nice to see Selig discussing stricter penalties (perhaps a suspension of 80+ games for first time offenders) and more rigorous drug testing.
BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
The St. Louis Cardinals aren’t automatic favorites anymore with Pujols not in the picture. And the magic will have probably left Milwaukee — along with Fielder — when the final months of the 2012 season unfold. There’s no doubt the N.L. West will never be the same. But don’t be discouraged. The largest division in baseball should still create some late-season drama. The Cards and the Brew Crew did lose some big bats, but have bright stars in the waiting. And don’t count out the Chicago Cubs or the Cincinnati Reds, either. As usual, those four teams should be in a dead heat toward the end of the season for the division crown. Each club definitely has a shot and the division should be as competitive as ever.
Here’s Couch Side’s early preview of the N.L. Central and the top four clubs could finish out 2012:
BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
Well, it’s 2012 and we’re a little behind.
You might have seen a lot of top-10, top-20 or top-50 lists swarming the internet either reviewing the good and the bad of 2011 or ones previewing what’s coming up in 2012. We at Couch Side haven’t made it that far, but my first new years resolution while I was stumbling drunk in a warm, cozy cabin during New Year’s Eve was to make such a list.
Last year was an amazing 12 months of sports. It wasn’t all glamour and good news, but 2011 was an exciting year in sports nonetheless. There was lockouts in the NBA and NFL. The Major League Baseball season literally came down to 162nd game of the season and the Texas Rangers came out on top for the first time in franchise history. Yes, 2011 was full of thrills. But, of course, the year also had its fair share of athletes that didn’t quite live up to their expectations. So without any further holdup, here’s Couch Side’s top-10 list of overhyped athletes for 2011:
Tebow came out of the gates blazing, but the fire didn’t last forever. The second-year quarterback out of the University of Florida started his campaign with a 6-1 record as a starter with a handful of those wins coming in the fourth quarter. His late-game heroics became known as “Tebow Time” and it seemed whether you loved or hated the guy, everyone rooted for him. “Tebow Time” didn’t last forever, though. Since his immaculate start, Tebow’s record as a starter dipped to 1-3. He still “led” the Broncos to the playoffs, but one could blame an incredibly weak division for Denver’s success. Tebow will be taken off this list quick if he can beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Wild Card round of the playoffs. I don’t know if that will happen though, considering that he’s only thrown for 675 yards and a dismal two touchdowns with five interceptions in the final four games of the regular season.
CJ2K was an absolute bust in 2011. There’s no way to argue it the other way. In fact, the only reason the Titans were playoff contenders during the final two weeks was because of Matt Hasselback and the Titan defense. No one can tell me or the average NFL fan that Tennessee was successful because of Johnson. After the third-year pro landed his over-the-top contract, which made him the second-highest paid running back in the NFL, he rushed for barely more than 1,000 yards. That was one year after he ran over opposing defenses for an unbelievable 2,006 yards. Talk about not living up to the hype.
BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
It seems like the Washington Nationals of all teams could have the best rotation in the National League East next year.
After weeks of rumors about several teams trying to acquire Oakland Athletics starter Gio Gonazles, it was the Nats who swung in and got the deal done. Via Twitter, ESPN.com’s Keith Law reported the Athletics will ship Gonzales to our nation’s capital for prospects A.J. Cole, Derek Norris, Brad Peacock and Tom Milone. The acquisition of Gonzales gives the Nationals another strong arm to go with a projected rotation that also includes Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan and Chien-Ming Wang.
I predict Gonzales will probably wind up as the club’s No. 3 starter behind Strasburg and Zimmerman, but having him in the middle of the rotation is a lot more than most teams have. And if Gonzales pitches like he did in 2010, the Nats might end up as the winners of this deal after dealing four highly-touted prospects. Last season, he started out great, but blundered in the second half after making his first AL all-star team in just his second year in the pros. That might make the trade a bit scary for Washington if Gonzales continues down the path of mediocrity. However, if Gonzales can eat up 200-plus innings like he has done for the past two seasons and stay consistent with his 3.23 ERA during that same span, it will be the Nationals who reap the benefits.
BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor
I absolutely love mlbtraderumors.com.
It’s a big reason why I started this website and it keep me leaps and bounds ahead of other Braves fans. Mlbtraderumors.com has an interesting sidebar on the right where you can search for the latest rumors about your team. I’m a Braves fan, but this offseason has been incredible slow for the choppers. So each time I make one of eight daily visits to mlbtraderumors.com to see the latest about Atlanta, I’m usually disappointed.
Today’s latest was especially gloom. To my surprise, after I clicked on the “Braves rumors” tab, two new rumors have came up about the team. At first, I though maybe the Braves were finally going after someone or making a trade. Unfortunately, one post was barely two sentences about a possible Martin Prado trade and the other was about how the Braves are one of four teams “sitting out of free agency.”
Still, like any baseball fan during the offseason, any piece of news about your team is exciting. Here are my thoughts on the latest from the Atlanta Braves:
In the premiere of the sports podcast, Couch Side, hosts Wade McMillin and Jordan Wheeler explore NFL playoff hopes for teams in the tightest divisions; debate if players are still loyal in the NBA; and react to Albert Pujols’ monster contract. Click below to beginning listening to Couch Side.