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Top Storylines for the Rest of the MLB Season

With the MLB season set to resume on Friday, the playoff races will start to heat up in what should be another exciting finish to the regular season. Three of the six division leaders are holding on to a lead of fewer than six games. In the American League, there are eight teams in the Wild Card race separated by four games or less. Aside from the annual playoff races, there are a handful of storylines that will fun to watch throughout the rest of the season.

Can the Cubs shake off their World Series hangover?

As expected, the Cubs have experienced quite the hangover after ending a historic championship drought last October when they defeated the Cleveland Indians in the 2016 World Series. Despite returning basically the entire championship team, the squad has been far from dominant. In fact, they’ve been average. Chicago sits 5.5 games being the Milwaukee Brewers with a record of 43-45. For reference, the Cubs were 53-35 at the break a year ago before going on to win 103 games.

Following the 2012 World Series, the champs have averaged 78 wins the following season. The last team to make it back to the World Series after winning it was the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies. The last team to repeat was the 2000 New York Yankees. While recent history may not be on the Cubs’ side, they still have one of the most dangerous lineups in all of baseball. Can they get it together? With a terrific manager like Joe Maddon and a roster as talented as the Cubs, I’d bet on a big second half run and a return to the postseason. 

Will any stars be traded?

Much has been made about the speculated, historic free agent class of 2018. The list includes Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw, Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, Daniel Murphy, David Price and Andrew McCutchen. If any of these players hit the open market, it’s reasonable to expect a significant bidding war for each player. While the 2018 offseason is still 16 months away, we have to wonder if any teams fearful of their players leaving in free agency will attempt to cash in on their value.

Teams across all sports hate to lose star players. The only thing they hate more than losing star players is losing them without getting anything in return. Each of the aforementioned players should yield a return of multiple high-rated prospects that could accelerate a rebuild or retool, depending on the team’s situation. Like all sports, the closer a player gets to becoming a free agent, the more their trade value plummets. I’m not guaranteeing or even predicting one of these high profile players gets moved within the next few weeks, but I won’t rule it out and it’s something to watch all the way up to the July 31st deadline.

Phillies chasing the 1962 Mets 

The Phillies are bad. That might be an understatement. Vegas pinned a 73.5 over/under win total before the season, which didn’t seem crazy at the time since Philadelphia won 71 games the previous year and added a handful of productive veterans in the offseason. At the All-Star Break, the Phillies sit at 29-58, the worst record in the MLB by nine games. To compound on their ineptitude, they’re also an MLB-worst 11-23 in one-run games.

They would need a miraculous 45-30 second half to hit the over and finish 74-88. That looks all but impossible. The Phillies are currently on pace to finish 54-108. As bad as they have been, there is plenty of reason to believe they’ll be even worse in the second half. Some of their best players such as Jeremy Hellickson, Maikel Franco, and Pat Neshek have reportedly already drawn trade interest. Assuming any are moved for young prospects, the Phillies will likely struggle even more down the stretch. Don’t rule out Philadelphia catching the 1962 Mets and their MLB-record 120 losses.

Aaron Judge’s pursuit of Mark McGwire

Aaron Judge has been the story of the 2017 MLB Season. He cruised into the break with a league-leading 30 home runs. He put his power on national display with an incredible Home Run Derby performance on Monday Night. Mark McGwire holds the rookie record for home runs with 49, which he accomplished back in 1987. During that season, McGwire entered the All-Star Break with 33 home runs, three ahead of Judge.

Judge is on pace for 56 home runs. If Judge can pick up where he left off, he should be able to break the 30-year old record by early September. McGwire tailed off in the second half back in 1987, only hitting 16 home runs. Aaron Judge hasn’t afforded himself the same flexibility to coast down the stretch. With as exciting a player as he is, most fans, myself included will be rooting hard for Judge to reach the big 5-0.

 

Source Credits:

businessinsider.com/aaron-judge-put-a-dent-in-yankee-stadium-with-a-home-run-2017-7

baseball-reference.com/

theintelligencer.com/sports/article/Pirates-score-10-in-1st-beat-Cubs-14-3-11276102.php

si.com/mlb/video/2016/06/20/pirates-andrew-mccutchen-trade-deadline

reddit.com/r/baseball/comments/6m1ndx/when_the_phillies_are_so_bad_espn_wont_add_them/

usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2010-01-11-mcgwire-steroids-early-years_N.htm

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MLB Avoided a Lockout When it Needed to the Most

Last Wednesday Night, the MLB Player’s Association and Major League Baseball agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The deal came together right before the December 1st deadline, avoiding a potential lockout. It’s a new five year deal that should aid the growth of baseball over the next few years.

kg-1The significance of the timely agreement cannot be overstated. Most sports fans yawn when the sports news shifts to the updates on labor agreements and disputes. As important as this element of sports may be, it’s more than an appropriate reaction, considering people turn to sports for entertainment and an escape from real life. Generally the CBA jargon and sports business discussion can bring us right back to the day-to-day that fans are trying to get away from for a few hours when they sit down to enjoy a game.

In this case, the agreement of the new CBA is something for all baseball fans to celebrate.The celebration has little to do with the specific changes, such as the All Star Game no longer determining home field advantage in the World Series. Sure, the players have to be pretty psyched about the luxury tax increase, thus driving up the salaries. But the best thing to come out of the new CBA right before the deadline may be that baseball will avoid facing its first interruption in 22 years.

The last Major League Baseball strike took place in 1994, consequently cancelling the World Series. For most of the 20th century, baseball dominated the sports landscape in the United States, thus why it has been referred to as “America’s Pastime”. The sad reality is that the 1994 strike drove several fans away from baseball, and many have not completely come back to restore their loyalty to the first sport they loved.

600Baseball experienced a resurgence in 1998 during the home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The country was on the edge of their seat as they watched these power hitters chase Roger Maris’ record of 61 home runs he hit in 1961. It was long-considered the most sacred record in sports. Both hitters broke the 37-year-old record, with McGwire hitting 70 and Sosa hitting 66 home runs in 1998. It was an exciting, can’t-miss spectacle that had sports fans enthralled by baseball again.

Just three seasons later, Barry Bonds broke the record by hitting 73 home runs in 2001. As captivating as these home run chases were, it only took a few years to muddy these historic performances with the revelation of steroid use by Bonds, Sosa, McGwire and several additional high-profile players who were once considered future members of Cooperstown. It was an ugly episode in American sports, as it escalated to court hearings at Capitol Hill.

alg-roger-jpgThese hearings being broadcast on television, most notably Roger Clemens lying to a grand jury, were every bit as detrimental to fan support as the 1994 strike. It is somewhat of a paradox that the PED use that led to the home run potency and newfound fan interest is what ultimately pushed fans away again.

As baseball began declining again, the NFL rose to become the leader in the American sports landscape, with the NBA also taking advantage of its opportunity to pass MLB in the popularity standings. For the past few years, there has not been much argument of the hierarchy of professional sports.

The pace of the game, a separate issue, has certainly not helped in the modern “need for constant action and stimulation” world facilitated by cell phone addiction and DVR’s allowing viewers to fast-forward through commercials. The younger generation that did not grow up watching baseball struggles to sit through an entire nine-inning baseball game without splitting their attention with another television program or even by consistently looking down at a mobile device during pitches.

Going into this past season, all signs have pointed to baseball continuing to slip out of the spotlight. It had been a sad realization for lifelong baseball fans like myself. Being a baseball fan is a much different experience than being a fan of the other sports. The ballparks each have their own character, the statistics are more significant, the history is special and attending your first game is a rite of passage. Brad Pitt, who portrayed Oakland Athletics General Manager, Billy Beane in “Moneyball” said it best, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”

ap_16307048511872_wide-74dda739c96989746fabc464d6299cec2a53f28d-s900-c85It’s a feeling very easy to relate to, and one that resurfaced at the conclusion of the 2016 season. Baseball season has been over for about a month. The season came to a classic conclusion, an incredible World Series decided in a dramatic Game 7 with the Chicago Cubs ending their historic championship drought. In my memory of watching baseball, it may be the greatest game I have ever seen.

This was just the World Series that baseball needed. The game had an excitement level that non-baseball fans could appreciate. Aside from the story fans, specifically in Chicago have been awaiting to be told for what feels like way too long, the series and final game was one that had every viewer on the edge of their seat.

With as enjoyable as the ending to the baseball season was, writers and the most prudent baseball fans knew that the potential for a lockout was looming. With the fan fallout that occurred back in 1994, it was not far-fetched to believe that it would be “Deva vu all over again”, as the late Yogi Berra would say.

It would have been the worst timing, just as baseball went into the offseason with an unbelievable amount of momentum. A 2017 lockout would have instantly popped the enormous balloon blown up by the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians by delivering an all-time World Series. Thanks to last week’s resolution, the fear was quelled.

While the MLB season came to a conclusion 33 days ago, for the first time in too long, I am already looking forward to pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training in February. While the narrative may be different for Cubs fans this offseason, all baseball fans can say with optimism that “There’s Always Next Year.” This time the meaning is less about disappointment, but more about the state of the game and the great baseball that lies ahead.  

Photo Credits: http://bgr.com/2016/11/02/world-series-game-7-live-stream-cubs-indians/

http://nypost.com/2016/06/16/mlb-union-optimistic-about-cba-amid-qualifying-offer-dispute/

http://www.clickhole.com/article/oral-history-1998-major-league-baseball-home-run-c-4441

http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/roger-clemens-case-heats-gym-owner-kelly-blair-issued-subpoena-testify-grand-jury-article-1.427876

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/11/01/500290738/indians-host-chicago-cubs-in-game-6-of-the-world-series-in-cleveland-tonight

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I Hate Baseball

The Sandlot. Rookie of the Year. The movie with Matt LeBlanc where a monkey pitches. These are the greatest things that have come fromed America’s past time. The sport, itself? Ehh…I’d rather watch paint dry, even during the World Series.

“How dare you Zach! Baseball is what America is all about! It’s the greatest sport of all time!” Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’ve heard it all and I 100% completely disagree with all of you. You watch it because you were raised to watch it and thus you think it’s a good sport. In actuality, it stinks and changes need to take place to save what has been deemed, America’s pastime.

Stick with me here diehard baseball fans. Nothing will change your love of baseball but don’t tell me, after reading this thoroughly, that baseball shouldn’t change. Why do I hate baseball? 10 reasons.

 

  1. Too many games – 162 games? Are you serious? No other sport even comes close! The next closest of the 5 major sports in the US isn’t even half that number. 10 game losing streaks don’t mean that much over the span of 162 games, does it? 10 straight losses mean nothing and thus 10 straight wins also don’t mean much! Who cares to watch a game that doesn’t have a big impact on the season?         Having so many games also means the best players may only play a handful of those games, mainly amongst pitchers who need to rest their arms. Who wants to go to a game where your favorite player doesn’t even play? The two starting pitchers during the World Series, Jake Arrieta (Cubs) and Corey Kluber (Indians) each played 31 and 32 games respectively during the regular season. If you went to 5 random games throughout the season, you may only see your favorite pitcher one time. They don’t even finish the game! That’s stupid as fuck. I`m sorry, I shouldn’t curse on here. That’s stupid as phuck.                                                                          Cut the games and we get more impactful regular season games as well as being able see more of our favorite players during those games.
  1. It’s a one on one sport – Sure, you have a whole team but it’s really just between the pitcher and the batter the majority of the time. Think about it. The only other time a player does anything besides the pitcher and the batter (the catcher doesn’t count unless there’s a weird error by the catcher, himself) is if the ball is struck. According to Baseball-reference.com, The all-time MLB hitting average is between .260 and .275. That means the other players on the field don’t even have to move approximately ¾ of the time.                   When the ball is struck, a foul or a homerun also results in the other players having nothing to do with the play. Even when the ball is hit, if it is caught resulting in an out, only one other player impacts the play. That means that the only time more than 2 players on a team, besides the catcher, has any impact on a play is when a ball is hit and is neither a foul, a homerun, or an immediate out. Doesn’t sound like much of a team sport to me.
  1. A perfect game is boring – The greatest achievement for a pitcher is to pitch a perfect game. This occurs when not one opposing player gets on base in any way. This has only occurred in 23 games in over 210,000 total MLB games since its inception. It’s a rare feat and one to be celebrated except…it’s boring! A perfect game means no one went to base! No hits! No walks! Nothing! It’s exciting for the last few innings to see if it happens but the rest of the game sucks.
  2. There is no “final play” – We’ve all experienced it before. Bottom of the 9th. Two outs. Full count. Final play. Pitch comes and it’s hit! Foul ball. Another pitch! He swings! Foul ball. Foul ball. Foul ball. You can hit foul balls forever. Because of this silliness, there is no definitive final play. The final play can last 10 plays consisting of boring foul balls. Hey MLB, why don’t you make 3 foul balls equal a strike no matter what? How exciting that would be!
  3. Too much time between pitches – According to David Appelman of Fangraphs.com, the average time between pitches is about 21.5 seconds. You remember those foul balls? How about 21.5 seconds between 4 of them? Throw in some balls (hehe) and you have more game stoppage than in football. Why not have a pitch clock of 10-14 seconds? Speed this shit up!
  4. No salary cap – Why not? Seriously. There is no reason to not have a salary cap. It’s what keeps the big markets (New York Yankees) from having a competitive advantage than the smaller markets (Milwaukee Brewers). Where would you rather play if money was the same? Easy question, right? But what if the Yankees could only pay $20m thanks to the cap and the Brewers could pay you $40m? It’d balance the markets so the New Yorks and Chicagos don’t attract every free agent they want regardless of money. C’mon MLB. You’re the lone sport with no cap. Stop being weird.
  5. All-Star break – The MLB All-Star break consists of the futures game, the home run derby, and the All-star game. My issues don’t lie with any of these competitions. It lies with the lack of originality throughout the years to add to those events. The MLB should take a look at the NBA and follow suit. Besides the typical all-star games, the NBA has 4 different skills competitions, not just 1. Homeruns are fun but is that really the only skill in baseball? To hit a ball really far?                                                                                                                  How about a pitching accuracy competition? A catching competition when balls come flying in at different angles for 30 seconds? A throwing competition for speed and accuracy? Spice up the all-star weekend and show us all of the all-stars, not just the guys who focus on power hitting fastballs.
  6. Bunting – Strategy? I say cowardly. I thought we were watching to see someone hit the ball? This isn’t a hit, it’s a ricochet. It’s a lame duck. Bunting should be abolished. Hit the damn ball.Bunting
  7. Intentional Walks – More cowardly strategies. The opposing team’s best player comes up to bat. This is the most exciting player in the game. All of the fans want to watch him. Intentional walk. Strategy? Hah! Way to make the game even more boring than it already is. The best batters don’t even bat! WTF baseball!
  8. MLB Draft – What’s 40 rounds times 30 teams? 1200 players drafted every year. Wait, what? 1200!?!? An active MLB roster consists of only 25 players per team meaning 750 active players in the entire league at one time. What’s the point of an MLB draft if the drafted players don’t even play on the active roster? According to Mike Rosembaum of Bleacher Report, only 66% of round one picks ever play on an active roster. Players drafted in rounds 6-10 only have a 20% chance of ever playing. Don’t give me that minor leagues crap. No one cares about them. Why should a major league team draft 40 players a year? Isn’t the point of the draft is to add talent to an active MLB roster? Cut the draft to 10 rounds and it’d still be too many rounds! Can someone explain this to me?

 

baseball-catHow many of those listed above do you disagree with? Do you love intentional walks? Bunting? 162 games? Foul balls? If you weren’t raised to love baseball, it’s pretty easy to see why baseball isn’t as popular as it used to be. Can baseball be changed? Of course! Cut out half of the games. Make 3 straight foul balls a strike. Shorten the time between pitches. Impose a salary cap. Add more skills competitions to the all-star break. Abolish bunting and intentional walks. Change the MLB draft to only add players to major league rosters.

Will these changes fix baseball? I don’t know, but damn, it sure would attract those who find the sport to be dull, boring, and outdated. Sports are meant to be exciting and interesting. Do yourself a favor MLB. Make some changes. If you don’t, America’s pastime could turn into America’s extinction.

 

 

 

 

http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/bat.shtml

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/pitcher-pace-time-between-pitches/

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1219356-examining-the-percentage-of-mlb-draft-picks-that-reach-the-major-leagues

Photo credits:

https://www.google.com/search?q=crying+baseball+player&espv=2&biw=1707&bih=763&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiziMbJ7oXQAhUI74MKHdtiACwQ_AUIBigB#tbm=isch&q=crying+baseball+cleveland&imgrc=Lh5StaFrVvmKOM%3A

https://www.google.com/search?q=matt+leblanc+monkey+pitches&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiu1dr27oXQAhUDwYMKHehiB1IQ_AUICSgC&biw=1707&bih=763&dpr=1.13#imgrc=_MVo27DISARt0M%3A

https://www.google.com/search?q=baseball+player+bunting&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi10Yfj8YXQAhXI34MKHYP6BkMQ_AUICCgB&biw=1707&bih=817&dpr=1.13#imgrc=Gawj-V2JeWwfsM%3A

https://www.google.com/search?q=no+one+watches+baseball+meme&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiX6KbV8oXQAhVF7IMKHee-BmcQ_AUICCgB&biw=1707&bih=763&dpr=1.13#tbm=isch&q=baseball+is+boring+meme&imgrc=lqnScCvISjEkIM%3A

https://www.google.com/search?q=no+one+watches+baseball+meme&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiX6KbV8oXQAhVF7IMKHee-BmcQ_AUICCgB&biw=1707&bih=763&dpr=1.13#tbm=isch&q=baseball+is+boring+meme&imgrc=nqpxRguGcNCVuM%3A