For the 2nd year in a row, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim surprised the baseball world and snagged the best offensive free agent on the market. Last year, as you may know, the Angels signed Albert Pujols to massive deal that will keep him in Southern California for 10 years. This year, they went on to [...]

 

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Pitching wins championships, enough said. You obviously need to score to win as well, but if you have a staff that can dominate 1 through 5 and an even better bullpen, you’ll be a contender every year. Look at the San Francisco Giants, for instance. In 2010, they scored 697 runs, good for 17th in the league, [...]

 

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As you may know, the Houston Astros are now a part of the American League West, where they have started the season 1-5. They opened up the season beating the Texas Rangers with some timely hits and great pitching by  their “Ace”: Bud Norris. After that win, the Astros were in soul position of first place for [...]

 

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Last night as I was watching the Dodgers take on the Giants, I was really excited to see the new look Tim Lincecum. Timmy finally cut his hair and is going for a fresh, new look, trying to forget about his disappointing 2012 campaign, but lets be honest not much has changed. Despite having some good games, [...]

 

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With Opening Day lurking around the corner, the World Baseball Classic is nothing short from being forgotten and put to rest. The WBC has come and gone, and as sad as this might sound, I really don’t think many people really noticed, especially in America. As a baseball fan, I proudly cheered for Team USA during the [...]

 

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  With Opening Day slowly approaching (10 Days for Opening Night & 11 for Opening Day), I started to take a look at each teams schedule and by the looks of it; Bud Selig and Co. took no time at all to get the party started. While I am excited that baseball season is finally about to [...]

 

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By far, the MLB has the most brutal schedule in all professional sports. If you play for the Mariners, you can potentially play a game in Washington one night, then fly to Boston, and play a game less than 24 hours later. The wearying travel schedule of the  162-game season, requiring you to travel across the country will eventually take its toll on you. Yes, baseball isn’t considered the most physical sport on a player’s body, but the majority of players are out there just about everyday for 7 months. These players (especially ones playing on a contract year, or those who just got paid massively) are under tons of pressure to perform and compete with the best day in and day out. There is only so much conditioning that one can do to obtain that edge that allows you to keep competing at a high level for 7 months…I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “Desperate times call for desperate measures”, correct? Some players will do whatever they can to gain an advantage on their competition… AKA Getting on the Juice!!

It is evident that one of the first players to admit to have used steroids was Jose Canseco. In his 1988 season with the Oakland Athletics, he became the games first player to go 40/40 (40 Jacks, 40 Stolen Bases), but it was apparent that the “Steroid Era” began during the 1994/95 seasons. There were 6 players on pace for 50 homeruns in 1994 right before the strike. Those players, Matt Williams, Jeff Bagwell, Frank Thomas, Barry Bonds, and Albert Belle would have been the first players since since 1990 when Cecil Fielder hit 51. The two previous 50 (+) homerun seasons happened in 1961 (Rodger Maris/Mickey Mantle) and in 1977 (George Foster).

Baseball during the Steroid Era was filled with long bombs, shattered records, and of course cheaters. There was a huge attendance spike, because offense creates fans. People wanted to see the huge power hitters, but didn’t actually see that the games reputation was in jeopardy. If you look at the career stats of players like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Mark McGuire, you can clearly see a significant difference in individual statistics. There is no doubt that Barry Bonds was one of the best ever before the juice, but how do you go from hitting 34 homeruns in 1999 to 49 in 2000 to 73 homeruns in 2001? Was it just a coincidence that his homerun count significantly dropped once the MLB started doing something about this? I think not.  In 1998, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa eclipsed Roger Maris’ record in the same year only to get beat by Barry Bonds who hit 73 homeruns in a single season. In 664 plate appearances, Bonds hit 73 homeruns and walked 177 times. He basically hit a homerun just about every other game. Oh yeah, Bonds also holds the record for career homeruns at 756. Bonds’ records will NEVER be touched, at least not for a long, long time.

I’m not going to lie, that era of baseball made for some great entertainment, especially for the casual fan, but in todays game the MLB has an enforced drug policy that all players are required to abide by.  As of now, first offense players will receive a 50 game suspension. If caught a second time, the player will receive a 100 game suspension. If caught a third time, well, you might as well start looking for a new job elsewhere. With that being said, there are still players all over the league who think that they can get away with it, and unless your name is Ryan Braun, good luck. Just as recently as last year, the MLB saw 81 different players who were suspended for violating the drug policy. While the majority of these players were either Free Agents or in the minors, a few MLB teams saw a couple of key players get suspended.  The San Francisco Giants lost Guillermo Mota in May and Melky Cabrera (50 Games) in August due to PED use. Cabrera was on fire to say the least and basically most of the Giants offensive the first half of the season. Fortunately for them, they didn’t really need him. About a week later, right across the bay, the A’s lost, pitcher, Bartolo Colon as well. Makes you wonder what they put in the water up there, doesn’t it?

Apparently a 50 game suspension isn’t enough to keep these players from using banned substances, and honestly why should they care? Melky Cabrera didn’t play at all in the postseason and still got a World Series Ring. He also got a two-year contract with the Blue Jays making  $16 million over a two-year period. While the A’s could’ve used Bartolo Colon’s services during the post season, he still has a spot on the roster for this upcoming season. I believe the only way that you will ever truly get rid of PED usage for good is to ban them for good. Now I do not think the MLB will ever get that extreme, but then again that’s the reason why there will always be players who are violating the MLB Drug Policy. Really, the only consequences that these players have to face are their chances of getting into the Hall of Fame.

Barry Bonds Statistics 

Mark McGuire Statistics 

Sammy Sosa Statistics 

 

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 The next time you are hanging out and you happen to see that one annoying fly buzzing around your house, try catching it with a pair of chopsticks. Better yet, try eating a bowl of soup using a fork. I’ll bet you a $100.00 dollars that you will be unsuccessful in doing so. Now imagine these two metaphors and apply them to catching and hitting a great knuckleball pitcher. Doesn’t seem very fun, does it?

Long time Boston Red Sox catcher, Jason Varitek, compared catching Tim Wakefield’s knuckler to catching a fly with a pair of chopsticks. Varitek, a Red Sox legend, was clearly exaggerating, but if thrown properly, he knew how difficult a knuckleball can be to catch and how much harder it can be to hit. It’s a very devastating pitch and can make the best hitters in the game look foolish. Major league Baseball has only seen about 70 pitchers who have thrown the knuckleball as their primary pitch because this pitch is extremely difficult to master. Most pitchers have control issues with it, catchers hate catching it, and coaches are generally not fans of it to be brutally honest. This is because most knuckleball pitchers do not have a strong enough secondary pitch to fall back on if they are having an off night. If their knuckler isn’t bouncing around it can make way for a ton of souvenirs which make it a hit or miss type pitch.

In the past when you though of  ”knuckleball pitchers” you probably think of players like Tom Candiotti, Joe Niekro and, probably the most popular, Tim Wakefield. These were a couple of the best to master this unique pitch. While these pitchers all had successful careers as knuckle ballers, I don’t think any of them will have an impact on the game like R.A. Dickey did last season. Dickey had an ERA of 2.73, led  the league in innings pitched  (233.2),  and strikeouts (230) on top of becoming the first knuckleballer to win the Cy Young award. Dickey had a stellar year last year, but his story is what is even more impressive. For the most part Dickey has spent his career trying to establish himself as a pitcher. When he came into the league in 2001, he was not considered a “knuckleball” pitcher until around 2005. He bounced around from team to team and worked his tail off just to land a spot on the 25 man roster. He finally realized that the best way to extend his career was to perfect that pitch. So he did. And I guarantee you unless you’re a crazy baseball fanatic, you probably had no clue whom R.A. Dickey was until last season.

Because of Dickey’s Cy Young year, it is apparent that the knuckleball has become the next hot thing in baseball. MLB Network even decided to host their own reality show called the “The Next Knuckler” in which the winner had the opportunity to pitch for the Diamondbacks as a non-roster invitee for Spring Training. It was pretty interesting because the show consisted of ex NFL quarterbacks being coached by Tim Wakefield. After watching this show I began researching more about knuckleball pitchers and came across the article that I read on Tom Wright.

Tom Wright is a 54-year-old man who is determined to play for a major league team. He has spent the better part of the last three decades perfecting his knuckler and has drawn  interest from the Dodgers, Cubs, Marlins and Tigers after posting a video up on YouTube. He claims to have tried out for the Dodgers and is speaking with the Cubs management as we speak. If Wright were to appear in a Major League game, he would be the oldest rookie in baseball history, eclipsing the old record by 11 years. While I think the chances of this actually happening are very slim, I think it is pretty nuts that teams are even giving him a chance. Jamie Moyer (50) looked ancient on the field last year and got absolutely crushed when he came in to pitch so I can only imagine how Wright would survive in the MLB if he were given the chance to compete with no prior experience. Dickey’s Cy Young season will have an impact on future pitchers because it shows that you if you can master this unique pitch, you can find your way to the show.

 

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You often hear the term “legendary” being used to describe something (or someone) that will be remembered forever. If you’re a fan of Major League Baseball, you should be well aware of these legendary talents. From Babe Ruth to Jackie Robinson to Cy Young to Willie Mays, you cannot justify that these talents were amongst the best to ever play the game and will surely never be forgotten. It’s always a shame when these exceptional players finally decide to hang them up, but all legends eventually come to an end and come October, one of the greatest ever will finally call it quits.

It has been reported that the New York Yankees have scheduled a press conference for legendary closer, Mariano Rivera. Rivera is set to announce that he will be retiring following the 2013 season. In all honesty, I am surprised that Rivera just did not retire after his freak ACL injury, and it is definitely going to be interesting to see what Rivera can offer coming into his 19th season.

Yankee fan or not, you cannot deny that this guy has been lights out for the majority of his career. He has the numbers to prove it. Coming into his 19th season at age 43, Rivera holds an astonishing career ERA of 2.21, is a 12 x All Star, 5 x World Series Champ, a World Series MVP and holds the MLB record for career saves at 608 (Seven more than Trevor Hoffman’s previous career total). He also has an 8-1 win-loss record in the post season and holds numerous postseason records, including lowest ERA (0.70), most saves (42), most consecutive scoreless innings pitched (33 1/3), most consecutive save opportunities converted (23), and most appearances (96). In other words, if you were on the opposing team, you knew that once he got the nod to come in, you had most likely lost the game.

What’s more impressive to me is that Rivera has been so dominant with one pitch. That’s right, ONE pitch. He won’t blow a fastball by you at 99 MPH, but Rivera will break some lumber and has done a great job in doing so. His signature pitch is a cut fastball or “cutter”  and for those who may not know what a “cutter” is, it can be described as a pitch that exhibits late lateral movement similar to a slider but has the velocity of a fastball. It can be deadly, and in Mariano’s case, it is. This pitch has been so dominant that no one in the MLB has ever been able to figure it out.

Rivera, without a doubt, will go down as the most dominant reliever to ever play the game.  Regardless if you cheer for the Yankees, Dodgers, Giants, Orioles or the Red Sox, you can’t ignore a talent like this. Rivera’s talents on the field will be missed and I can assure you it will be a long, long time before we see someone as dominant as him. Only time will tell if Rivera can stay dominant in his last season, but he was extremely fun to watch and the MLB will definitely look a lot different without Rivera wearing pinstripes.

 

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In 2009 and 2010 the St. Louis Cardinals had something special going between Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. They were arguably the best 1-2 punch in baseball at the time, straight up dominating opposing hitters.  In 2009, Wainwright was a top contender for the Cy Young award (along with Carpenter), leading the National League in wins, games started and innings pitched. He finished the season 19-8 with an ERA of 2.63. In that same year (2009), Carpenter finished the season with a 17-4 record and an astonishing ERA of 2.24. Like I said, they were both virtually unhittable.  The following year, both pitchers (although not as dominant) still put up pretty good numbers.  Wainwright finished the year 20-11 with a 2.42 ERA, while Carpenter finished the year 16-9 with a 3.22 ERA.

 In 2011, the Cardinals received some unfortunate news that they would be missing out on Wainwrights services due to him undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. No Wainwright? No problem… The Cardinals went on to win the World Series making one of the biggest comebacks to just get into the playoffs. Just put it this way, on August 24 the Braves had a 10 ½ game lead for the wild-card spot and absolutely choked during the last month of the season. The Cards went 23-9 to erase that 10 ½ game deficit and eventually won the World Series. Chris Carpenter was absolutely dominant in the playoffs that year, going 4-0 with a 3.25 ERA in 36 innings pitched.

 After coming off of an impressive 2011 run and winning the World Series, the Cardinals were looking to defend their title and make another run. Little did they know, they would lose Albert Pujols in free agency to the Angels and would lose Chris Carpenter due to an injury involving a bulging disk in his neck. Without arguably one of the best offensive players to play the game in their lineup and their number one guy on the bump (for majority of the year), the Cards were still pretty impressive. They were ranked  2nd in runs scored in the NL (765) and 2nd in team batting average (.271). They were also 6th in the NL in pitching with a team ERA of 3.71, eventually loosing in Game 7 in their second consecutive NLCS, being dethroned by the eventual World Series Champs, The Giants. (Another choke job by the way).

 Needing someone to step up, with Carpenter sidelined & Wainwright just coming off of Tommy John, The Cardinals turned to an unlikely hero: Kyle Lohse.  Lohse was named the opening day starter for the first time in his career to being the 2012 season. Kyle Lohse has always been a solid pitcher, but never considered to be a dominant force. The 12-year veteran has a career ERA of 4.45 with around 2,000 innings pitched. Throughout his career he was always considered a “back end” of the rotation kind of guy, never the number one option. Although Lohse was a little shaky during the postseason, he did lead the league in games started and had a record of 16-3 (the best winning percentage amongst starting pitchers) and an ERA of 2.86 with a 1.09 WHIP on top of that.

Those are some pretty good numbers if you ask me, but were they good enough for Lohse to decline the $13.3 million qualifying offer that the Cards offered him? It was quite obvious that Lohse would decline the offer, and test the free agent market, especially after having a bomb year like that. Little did he know that on March 6th he would still be without a job.  While each team has been with their team at their spring training facilities for just about a month now, Lohse is sitting by his cell phone waiting for Boras to give him a buzz with some good news.

 There are some rumors spreading that the Texas Rangers have Kyle Lohse on their radar but that’s all that they are, are rumors, as of right now. Teams are just not willing to take the chance on Lohse. The main reason(s) why Lohse is still chilling at home tend to be pretty obvious: On top of what should be an “overpriced” salary (Scott Boras is his agent) comes the cost of giving up a first-round draft pick for most teams, and an early second-round draft pick for the rest.  Yes, Lohse had an amazing year last season, there is no doubt about that, but what are the odds that a guy coming in to his 13th season repeats the success that he had in only ONE year of his career?

(Take a look at his career statistics HERE)

In my opinion, it seems quite unlikely that Lohse repeats that success. Like I said, Lohse has always been a solid arm, but never that “Go-To” guy. So I’ll leave you with the question: Should teams take the risk on Kyle Lohse, or should he begin filing for unemployment?

-Jason

 

 

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