Thursday, August 31, 2017

Phillies lead race for top 2018 MLB Amateur Draft pick

Brady Singer could be top pick in 2018 MLB Draft
On Friday, the Philadelphia Phillies will begin playing the final full month of their 2017 schedule. The club will enter that last full month with the worst overall record in baseball.
The Phillies dropped the final two games of their most recent series against the woeful Atlanta Braves by a combined scored of 14-3. Now the club opens up a four-game weekend set with the Miami Marlins on Thursday.
That series in South Florida begins an 11-game away trek against division rivals, the Phillies longest road trip of the season. It continues with three against the New York Mets, and then a four-gamer with the Washington Nationals next weekend.
Entering play on  Thursday, the Phillies sport a record of 49-83. The San Francisco Giants (82), Chicago White Sox (79), and Cincinnati Reds (77) are currently closest to the Phillies in the loss column.
Should they finish with the worst record, it will be for the second time in three years. In 2015 the Phillies finished 63-99, the worst record by any Phillies team since the year that I was born. That 1961 squad dropped 107 games, and currently stands as the worst Phillies team in more than 70 years.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Maikel Franco regression creating a quandary for the Phillies

Franco's regression helping hold back Phillies progress
The Philadelphia Phillies are suffering through a fifth consecutive losing season. Once again here in 2017, the club can be found at the bottom of the standings in Major League Baseball.
The team has been making a serious attempt to rebuild with youth over the last three years or so. One of the key pieces in that rebuilding plan is third baseman Maikel Franco.
Franco will turn 25 years old on August 26. He now has roughly 1,500 big league plate appearances on the back of his baseball card. In that time, he has slashed .247/.301/.423, poor numbers by any measure.
It was hoped that this season would mark a step forward for both Franco and the team. In fact, as the season was opening I named him as my Phillies “spotlight hitter”, the biggest key to any improvement by the club.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Cubs lose Contreras, but Avila ready to step in

Contreras (C) has been pivotal to Cubs this season
The Chicago Cubs are the defending World Series champions, and entered the season as prohibitive favorites to repeat in the NL Central Division.
Things haven’t gone as smoothly as the team or their fans in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field had expected. The Cubbies struggled for most of the first half of the season.
Coming out hot after the MLB All-Star break, Chicago re-established themselves at the top of the division. Their most consistently productive player all season has been young catcher Willson Contreras.
The 25-year old backstop is in his first full season as the starter behind the dish on the North Side. He was slashing .274/.342/.519 with 21 homers and 70 RBI following Wednesday night’s game. Those power totals are second on the ball club.
But potential disaster struck in the late innings of that 3-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants. While running out a routine grounder in the bottom of the eighth inning, Contreras pulled up lame. He needed to be helped from the field with what turns out to be a hamstring injury.

MLB playoff races wild with more than 20 teams still alive

Brewers and Cardinals two of many teams still alive
It is very possible that we are about to experience one of the greatest stretch runs in MLB history during the month of September, which begins in just three weeks.
A quick glance around the standings in Major League Baseball on Thursday morning, August 10, shows that three of the division races are already virtually over.
The Washington Nationals have a 14-game lead in the National League East Division. In the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers hold a 15.5-game lead. Over the in the American League, the Houston Astros are 13 games up.
With half of the divisional races settled, some might think that it was actually shaping up to be a boring end to the regular season. Nothing could be further from the truth. When you examine the Wildcard races, particularly in the American League, things really look interesting.
The Red Sox and Indians lead the AL East and Central respectively. Each holds a four-game lead, and both clubs appear to be deeper and more talented across their rosters than their nearest pursuers.
The defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs are on top of the NL Central. However, this is the one race that is remains extremely tight. The Milwaukee Brewers and Saint Louis Cardinals are just 1.5 games behind, and the Pittsburgh Pirates sit just 3.5 games out.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Whit Merrifield breaks out as Royals return to contention

Whit Merrifield emerges as productive second baseman
When the Kansas City Royals opened play for the 2017 MLB season, very few prognosticators picked them to be a contender.
The Royals captured back-to-back American League pennants in the 2014 and 2015 seasons. And in 2015, they won the second-ever World Series crown in franchise history. That isn’t all that long ago.
But fortunes of big league mini-dynasties can turn around in a hurry these days. The Royals slipped to a .500 finish a year ago. With the Cleveland Indians on the rise in the AL Central Division, and with an aging homegrown core, the Royals looked like yesterday’s news.
Flash forward a few months, and here we are in the Dog Days of summer. Heading into play on Tuesday, August 8, Kansas City is tied for one of the two American League Wildcard playoff berths. The club also sits just three games behind the Indians in the division.
As the season was set to open back in late March, Royals skipper Ned Yostannounced that then 21-year old Raul Mondesi Jr had won an open battle for the team’s second base position.
The losers in that battle, Whit MerrifieldChristian Colon, and Cheslor Cuthbert, were left to battle for bench roles with the club in the final days of spring training.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Marlins also feel loss of Phillies hero Darren Daulton

Darren Daulton died Monday at age 55
Former Philadelphia Phillies and Florida (now Miami) Marlins player Darren Daulton died on Monday of brain cancer. He was just 55 years old.
The 1997 Major League Baseball season was just the fifth in the history of the expansion Marlins franchise. The team had begun play in 1993 along with the Colorado Rockies.
The Rockies fielded winning teams in both 1995 and 1996. But the Fish were taking a bit longer, and were unable to field a winner over their first four seasons
For that fifth year, Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga opened the vault. He signed free agent slugger Bobby Bonilla to play third base, as well as outfielder Moises Alou and starting pitcher Alex Fernandez.
These players were added to a core group already present that included “Mr. Marlin”, Jeff Conine, emerging star outfielder Gary Sheffield, veteran outfielder Devon White, and starting pitchers Al Leiter and Kevin Brown.
Young catcher Charles Johnson, second baseman Luis Castillo, and shortstop Edgar Renteria were also in place. A rookie starting pitcher, 22-year old Cuban Livan Hernandez, would emerge as a reliable arm for the club. The closer was talented 27-year old Robb Nen.
The Marlins brought in a proven winner to manage that 1997 club in Jim Leyland. With all their new blood, the Marlins got out to a blistering 8-1 start. They would eventually level off, but another hot stretch in mid-May pushed the team out to a 27-16 record. Florida spent most of the next two months in second place behind the talented Atlanta Braves.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Dodgers remain atop MLB Power Rankings

Dodgers add Yu Darvish to help end 30-year title drought
My first MLB Power Ranking in early June found the Houston Astros of the American League at the top. In early July, the Los Angeles Dodgers of the National League had taken over the top spot.
Now in early August those two ball clubs have clearly established themselves as still the top teams in their respective leagues. They were 1-2 overall a month ago, and they remain in those positions today.
Los Angeles has captured the NL West Division crown in six of the last nine years and the last four straight. But the Dodgers have not fared well in the postseason. The club has not even reached the World Series in nearly three decades, since last winning the Fall Classic back in 1988.
As the July 31 trade deadline approached, GM Farhan Zaidi took steps to give his ball club a better chance this coming October. Zaidi did so by acquiring starting pitcher Yu Darvish and lefty relievers Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani to plug holes in the LA pitching staff.


Meanwhile over in the AL, Houston GM Jeff Luhnow also brought in some help. He acquired lefty Francisco Liriano, who has been a starting pitcher for much of his career, to bolster the Astros bullpen.
Houston has emerged over the last three seasons as one of the top teams in baseball, but has reached the postseason just once. Still a young team on the upswing, the Astros are looking to capture their first AL West Division crown since the 2001 campaign. They remain one of just eight MLB teams to never win the World Series.
Following games of Saturday, August 6, the Dodgers lead the NL West by 14.5 games. Just 15-14 after the first month of play, manager Dave Roberts‘ squad has fashioned a ridiculous 63-18 records since.
Manager A.J. Hinch and his Astros shuffled out of the gates to a 4-4 start, but have gone 66-36 ever since. Houston also leads their division, the NL West, by that same 14.5 game margin that the Dodgers have built.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Phillies fans continue to dream on Mike Trout

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Mike Trout roots on his beloved Philadelphia Eagles in 2016 at The Linc

It has now been five long, losing seasons for fans of the Philadelphia Phillies. Those years came on suddenly, after nearly a decade of exciting, winning baseball.
In 2012, the Phils fell to the .500 mark after winning a franchise record 102 games the previous year. Since then, the team has never finished with more than 73 wins, or closer than 23 games to first place.
In late April of that 2012 season, the Los Angeles Angels called up a prized prospect from their minor league system. Mike Trout had been the Halos’ first round pick at 25th overall in the 2009 MLB Amateur Draft.
Trout was drafted out of Millville Senior High School in Millville, New Jersey. The town of about 30,000 people sits in Cumberland County of South Jersey. It lies just about 30 miles from Sea Isle City at the Jersey shore.
As the Phillies star faded, Trout’s quickly rose. He won the American League Rookie of the Year award in that 2012 season. Trout hit for a .326/.399/.564 slash line with 30 homers. He led the league with 49 stolen bases and 129 runs scored.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Scandal keeps Pete Rose from Phillies Wall of Fame

New scandal keeps Pete Rose from Phillies honor
The Philadelphia Phillies have cancelled their planned honoring of former star player Pete Rose with a place on the team’s Wall of Fame. 
Rose will also no longer participate in activities surrounding the team’s upcoming Alumni Weekend from August 11-14.
The cancellation has nothing to do with past controversies surrounding Rose’s gambling problems. Those well publicized issues got him suspended by Major League Baseball, and have kept him from the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Instead, Rose will not be honored by the Phillies – at least not at this time – due to allegations of possible statutory rape and possible pedophilia. The alleged incidents were committed four decades ago during his playing career.
These new and scandalous allegations emerged on Monday from court documents filed as part of a law suit. Rose filed the suit a year ago against John Dowd, an attorney who authored the primary document which resulted in Rose’s banishment from baseball in 1989.
As part of Dowd’s defense against the lawsuit, a sworn statement was given by a woman. Described only as “Jane Doe”, she claims to have engaged in a sexual relationship with Rose. This occurred during the 1970’s, and allegedly began before she had turned age 16.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Yankees empire strikes back

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GM Brian Cashman working to improve the Yanks

It has now been almost five years since the New York Yankees last captured an American League East Division crown. There has been just one World Series championship in the Bronx in the last seventeen years.

While the majority of MLB fan bases would be fine with their team having won a division title as recently as five years ago and a world championship just eight years ago, this isn’t most teams.
The New York Yankees are supposed to be the gold standard of Major League Baseball. The franchise has captured 27 World Series titles, sixteen more than the next highest club. They have won 40 American League pennants.
The two decades between 1994 and 2002 were particularly spectacular for the Yankees. The team finished in first place in the AL East in 14 of those 19 seasons. They won the AL pennant and advanced to the Fall Classic seven times, winning the World Series five times.
But over the last four full seasons, the Yanks won between 84 and 87 games. They finished second twice, third once, and then last season had fallen to fourth place in the division.
In those four seasons, there was just one playoff game. The Houston Astros shut the Yankees out 3-0 in the 2015 AL Wildcard Game.


Coming into this season, the Yankees were seen by many as having an aging core. Most had manager Joe Girardi‘s club finishing between 3rd and 5th place in the AL East in this 2017 season. When the team lost four of their first five games, there seemed like nothing was happening to contradict those predictions.
But then the Yankees began to win. Led by tremendous performances from the lineups two youngest members, catcher Gary Sanchez and right fielder Aaron Judge, the club reeled off eight straight victories after that slow start.
The winning came with consistency for the Yankees over the next two months. The new version of the Bronx Bombers spent most of the period between mid-April and late June at the top. At one point, they opened up a four game lead in the division.
In mid-June, however, the Yankees began to slow down. From June 13 through July 19, the team went just 10-22. They plummeted to third place, 4.5 games behind the arch-rival Boston Red Sox, who seemed ready to run away with the division.
But over the last 10 days or so, the Yanks have righted their ship. Following Monday’s 7-3 victory at Yankee Stadium over the visiting Detroit Tigers, the club has won nine of their last 11 games.


Inspired by his team’s play this year, general manager Brian Cashman decided to do whatever he could to move up their timetable for championship contention.
On July 19, Cashman sent reliever Tyler Clippard and prospects Blake RutherfordIan Clarkin, and Tito Polo to the Chicago White Sox. In exchange, slugging third baseman Todd Frazier and a pair of proven relievers in David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle came to New York.
In the last two days, Cashman acted to plug up holes in the starting rotation. First he sent prospect arms Dietrich Enns and Zack Littell to the Minnesota Twins on Sunday for nine-year veteran lefty Jaime Garcia.
And then on Monday’s MLB trade deadline, he landed a big fish. Right-handed starting pitcher Sonny Gray was acquired from the Oakland A’s in exchange for prospects James KaprielianDustin Fowler, and Jorge Mateo.