American League Players on the path to Cooperstown

Hall of Fame Weekend is one of the most important events in the sport of baseball, so it seems appropriate to discuss which current MLB players are locks for the hall of fame, and who still has a bit to go on their path to Cooperstown. This week we will discuss the players in the American League and next week, players in the National League.

Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angeles of Anaheim: Pujols is one of the greatest first basemen of all time, with 3000+ hits, 630+ home runs, and a career average over .300. He is 3x MVP, former Rookie of the Year, 2x World Series Champion, and a 10x all-star. His career WAR is higher than Jimmie Foxx, Carl Yastrzemski, and Cal Ripken. Pujols is a lock for Cooperstown.

Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers: With more than 3100 hits and 460+ homers, Adrian Beltre has surpassed players such as Roberto Clemente, Wade Boggs, and George Brett in WAR. The only thing Adrian is missing is a World Series Ring. Beltre is a lock for Cooperstown.

Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: Although he has been out for almost the entire season, Miggy is still a Hall Of Famer. He is a 2x MVP, 7x Silver Slugger, 4x Batting Champion, a Triple Crown winner, and a World Series Champion. Miguel Cabrera is a surefire Hall of Famer.

Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners: Even though he took a front office role in May, he did play this season, so he’s included on this list. He has a career batting average of .311, a 10x gold glove, MVP and ROY. Ichiro also set the MLB record of hits in a season, with 262 in 2004. He is a Hall of Famer.

Justin Verlander, Houston Astros: Verlander is closing in on 200 career wins, has 2500+ strikeouts, and is a World Series Champion. He has also won MVP, ROY, a Cy Young Award, and the pitching Triple Crown. He should be a Hall of Famer.

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Trout has been proclaimed to be one of the greatest players of all time, a title he deserves. If he continues in the trajectory he is on, then he should be in Cooperstown, but as of now, it’s too early to tell.

National League players will be revealed next week.

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Why “Old-Timer’s Day” Should Be More Common Across Baseball

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw famously said “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing”. This quote holds true today, and I realized so while watching the New York Yankees 72nd Annual Old Timer’s Day Game. I was watching the game with my dad, and we were laughing and joking about the old Yankees players who were competing in the game. Even though I am not a Yankees fan, this was one of the most fun baseball games I’ve watched. This brings me to my point, that more teams should have Old Timer’s Day games.

As far as I know, only the Yankees and Red Sox have Old Timer’s Day, but this celebration of teams histories should be more common across MLB. Who wouldn’t want to see Ozzie Smith face Bruce Sutter, or watch Mike Piazza step in the box against Doc Gooden. Even though some teams don’t have histories as rich as the Yankees or Red Sox, Old Timer’s Day is a time to watch the colorful characters of your team’s past play one more time.

One of the most famous quotes in any baseball movie is “If you build it, they will come”, and while that quote obviously is about building the Field of Dreams, I think it can also relate to Old Timer’s Day, because people will come for “reasons they can’t even fathom” (another Field of Dreams reference), and they will be able to relive the teams of the past which people so fondly remember. I understand that if every team does Old Timer’s Day, it will lose some of its grandeur, but every fan should have the opportunity to watch their favorite players take the field one more time.

MLB and Facebook’s streaming joint venture shows promise, but leaves a lot to be desired

On April 4th, MLB and Facebook streamed their first ever game on the platform, between the Mets and the Phillies. Here, I will present my thoughts on MLB and Facebook.

Overall, I like the idea of broadcasting a game on Facebook, but the issue that the game was exclusively on the platform was an issue, for many reasons. But let’s start with the positives. The broadcast crew of Scott Braun, Cliff Floyd, John Kruk, and Social Media reporter Alexa Datt was very entertaining and professional, and kept the viewers engaged. Also, the lack of commercials was a nice surprise, and we were able to get some insider insights from MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, pieces on Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, and Mets captain David Wright.

However, there are always negatives to the situation as well. The formatting of the screen gave us less room to watch the game due to the giant “scoreboard” on the left side of the screen. Also, the fan comments on the game that showed up on the top of the screen were not needed and took away from the presentation. Another issue was that the game was exclusively streamed on Facebook. I would have preferred to watch the game on my TV, but having to carry around my phone or laptop at home to watch a game is not fun. The camera angles used by the broadcast left many wanting to see more of the game, because the camera behind home plate doesn’t show much of the field. Lastly, if MLB and Facebook want to have a successful venture, then they must work out technical difficulties. The game froze at least twice, leading many to miss key moments in the Mets 4-2 victory over the Phillies.

Overall, I think that MLB needs to not just stream the game on Facebook, and I probably would have been better off listening to the game on the radio in the car.

The Olympics Recap

With the last few events of the Olympics wrapping up, it is time to recap some of the major moments of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PeyongChang, South Korea.

The Dominance of American Snowboarding:

The US took home 7 of their 23 medals in snowboarding events. In slope style, 17 year old Red Gerard won Gold, as did 27 year old Jaime Anderson for the women. Anderson also took home silver in the Women’s Big Air event, and was the only American to medal, men and women. The event that caught the world’s eye though, was the half pipe. 17 year old phenom Chloe Kim won the gold, with an outstanding 98.25 on her final run. USA snowboarding legend Shaun White also won gold in the half pipe, putting up a 97.75 on his final run of the day to win gold. The US has consistently been one of the best countries in snowboarding the last decade.

Unified Korean Hockey:

It was surprising when the IOC announced that North Korea would be participating in the Olympic Games. The North and South Koreans marched under a unified flag, and competed together in Women’s Ice Hockey. While the Korean team was out scored 24-1, this union of the two nations could important in solving the issues between North and South Korea.

Prowess and Pride:

These Olympic Games featured the first two openly gay American athletes: Skier Gus Kenworthy and Figure Skater Adam Rippon. While Kenworthy failed to medal, Rippon won bronze. These two athletes prove to us that thinking someone is not a good athlete because of their sexual orientation is a thing of the past. Hopefully it will not be news when there are other LGBTQ athletes, so instead of a headline saying “Gay Figure Skater Adam Rippon Wins Bronze”, the headline will read “Figure Skater Adam Rippon Wins Bronze”.

Groundhog Day’s Connection With Baseball

Groundhog Day represents the end to winter and the beginning of the best season, baseball season. In the famous movie “Groundhog Day”, Bill Murray relives Groundhog Day over and over again. There are some teams that would love to repeat last season’s results, and there are some teams that would hate to repeat last season.

Teams that would love to repeat last season

Houston Astros: This one is a no-brainer. The Astros are entering this season as reigning World Series Champions, and were second in the American League in wins. The Astros have one of the best rotations in baseball, with their top 3 starters being Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, and Lance McCullers Jr. They also have the reigning AL MVP in Jose Altuve, All-Stars Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Josh Reddick. The Astros would love to repeat last season.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers won the NL West for the fifth straight season, behind superstars Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and ROY Cody Bellinger. The Dodgers made it to Game 7 of the World Series, a result that does sting, but is also an amazing accomplishment. The Dodgers have become a powerhouse in the National League, and they should be expected to make a similar run this season.

New York Yankees: The Yankees were a major surprise last season, making it all the way to Game 7 of the ALCS vs the World Series Champion Astros. This year, the Yankees will be better than ever, coming into the year with a lineup that rivals Murderer’s Row of the 1930s and 1940s. Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Didi Gregorious hitting in a row is a pitcher’s worst nightmare, and it will come true this season. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees lead the Majors in Home Runs, Runs Scored, and RBI this season.

Teams that would hate a repeat of last season.

Miami Marlins: Fortunately for the Marlins, this season will not garner the same results as last season. Unfortunately, they will be much, much worse. The Marlins traded away their three starting outfielders, including NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton and their second baseman, Dee Gordon. Not to mention, the veteran players on the Marlins, JT Realmuto, Justin Bour, and the recently acquired Starlin Castro, all want to be traded. The Marlins have an owner in Derek Jeter who is acting like a GM, and a awful one at that. Buckle up Marlins fans, it’s going to be a long and bumpy rebuild in Little Havana.

San Francisco Giants: The Giants were a massive disappointment last season, amassing 98 losses. This season, with the acquisition of Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria, the Giants have a real shot at competing for a playoff spot this season. While the Giants will likely not win the NL West, they are in a prime position to make a wild card run. The Giants addition of two right-handed power bats will also increase their NL worst Home Run totals from last season. And Remember, it is an even year, so never count the Giants out.

Cincinnati Reds: The Cincinnati Reds have been one of the worst in baseball the last three years. Unfortunately, they haven’t signed any major free agents, lost their all-star shortstop from last year, and are making zero effort to improve. The Reds also have one of the best hitters of this generation in Joey Votto, but they’re wasting his prime years on bad teams, low attendance, and lack of national recognition. If the Reds want to start fresh and actually compete in the next few years, they should trade Votto for prospects and spend some time actually rebuilding rather than sticking with mediocrity. And maybe if they play their cards right, The Reds will see a rebirth of the Big Red Machine

Predicting the Rest of the Mets Offseason

The Mets actually signed someone! Not to sound surprised, but the Mets have been less than willing to hand out the dollars this winter. Bringing back Jay Bruce on a 3 year, $39 Million deal and signing Anthony Swarzak for the bullpen was a good start, but if they want to compete next season, as they said they would, they need to do more. Here, we’ll fill in the spots that need filling in, and some spots that don’t, but could use an improvement.

Starting Pitcher: The Mets starting rotation last season was a massive disappointment, and since only one of the starters, Jacob deGrom, spent all of last season on the 25-man roster, the mets need to sign one more guy. The Mets need an innings-eater. Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey, and Lance Lynn could be options for the Mets. The Mets likely won’t sign Lynn, because of their limited budget, but if Colon or Dickey is willing to sign either a minor league or low money deal, the Mets, and their fans will be happy.

Relief Pitcher: Even after signing Anthony Swarzak to a 2 year, $14 Million contract, the Mets should probably still add a reliever or two. The two names that stick out are also former Mets, Addison Reed, and Tyler Clippard. Reed would be a huge addition to the Mets bullpen, giving them three closers, all of whom can and will work in any situation. Clippard on the other hand could be a reclamation contract for new pitching coach Dave Eiland. Hopefully, the Mets will sign Reed, giving them one of the best bullpens in baseball. (Edit: this paragraph was written before Addison Reed signed a 2 year/ $17 Million deal with Minnesota).

Second/Third Base: Mets fans should assume that David Wright will unfortunately play again. He is coming off of a year where he missed the entire season due to shoulder, neck, and back issues, and last played in May, 2016. If the Mets cannot complete a trade for the Pirates’ Josh Harrison, there are still a plethora of options available. The first option is signing Howie Kendrick, who is coming off of a season where he hit .315 between Philadelphia and Washington. The drawback to Kendrick is that he will be turning 35 this season, and has lost a step. Another option is Jose Reyes, who proved to be a valuable mentor to shortstop prodigy Amed Rosario, and is a proven clubhouse leader. He too will be 35, but his familiarity with the team could help him.

Catcher: Travis d’Arnaud has proven to be a good defensive catcher with little offensive ability and an uncanny ability to get injured. While he did hit .244 with 16 homers and 57 RBIs, Jonathan Lucroy could be a good addition to the Mets inconsistency at the catching position. While Lucroy did have a down year between Texas and Colorado in 2017, he did hit around .281 over the rest of his career.

First Base: Dominic Smith is likely not the answer at first base for the Mets, at least this coming season. Luckily the Mets were smart to sign Adrian Gonzalez, because if Dom Smith does prove himself to be a good, starting caliber first baseman, he will only cost the Mets the league minimum. For once, Mets fans should be happy that the Mets decided to be cheap.

2018 Projected 25 Man Roster

Starting Rotation:

Jacob deGrom

Noah Syndergaard

Matt Harvey

Bartolo Colon/RA Dickey

Steven Matz

Bullpen:

Josh Smoker

Rafael Montero

Paul Sewald

Jerry Blevins

AJ Ramos

Jeurys Familia

Tyler Clippard

Starting 8:

C: Jonathan Lucroy

1B: Adrian Gonzalez

2B: Josh Harrison

3B: Todd Frazier

SS: Amed Rosario

LF: Yoenis Cespedes

CF: Michael Conforto

RF: Jay Bruce

Bench:

Jose Reyes

Dom Smith

Brandon Nimmo

Asdrubal Cabrera

Travis d’Arnaud

NHL Contenders and Pretenders at the Midway Point of the Season

This NHL season, now almost at the midway point, has shown us some surprise contenders, such as the Devils, the Jets, and of course, the Vegas Golden Knights. Also, there have been teams that we are so used to seeing in the playoffs the past few years that have fallen short of expectations, including: the Blackhawks, the Penguins, and the Canadiens.

Contenders

The Vegas Golden Knights: The Golden Knights are currently the second best team in the league, and are first overall in the western conference. They are playing at an amazing level, never seen before by a first year expansion franchise. Not only that, for a good part of the first eight weeks of the season, without their top goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury. The Golden Knights have embraced the city, playing with passion and flair.

The New Jersey Devils: Nico Hischier is the third best rookie in the NHL, behind Arizona’s Clayton Keller, and the Islanders’ Mathew Barzal. Behind Hischier’s rookie campaign and strong showings from veterans like Brian Boyle, Taylor Hall, and Goalie Cory Schneider, the Devils have a real chance of going far into the playoffs.

The Winnipeg Jets: Last year the Jets were fifth in the Central Division with a measly 87 points. This year, they are leading the Central Division with 52 points, not yet even at the midway point. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck has been very good this year, earning the NHL’s most recent first star of the week. Behind strong campaigns from Blake Wheeler, Patrick Laine and Dustin Byfugelin, the Jets can shake up the power rankings in the West.

Pretenders

The Pittsburgh Penguins: The back-to-back Stanley Cup defending Penguins are having a bad year. They are sitting in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, with 41 points, and are 4 points from a wildcard spot. While the Penguins will still likely be in the running for one of the two remaining wild card spots, they will not win the Stanley Cup. Sidney Crosby is on pace for about 73 points, one of his worst career seasons. Now the Penguins must ask themselves if their dynasty is over, or if this year is just a hangover from back-to-back short summers.

The Chicago Blackhawks: The Blackhawks dynasty is over. They had their run, but it ended when they were swept in the first round of the playoffs last year by Nashville. Patrick Kane and Johnathan Toews aren’t going to get younger, and they no longer have the same spark as they used to. In a few years they will contend again, as soon as young players like Alex DeBrincat mature and get used to the league, but for this season, they will not win the Stanley Cup or even make the playoffs.

The Montreal Canadiens: Last year the Canadiens were one of the top teams in the east, totaling 103 points and the number one seed in the Atlantic Division. This year, they’ve dealt with tons of injuries, and the Habs, who are reliant on their goalie, Carey Price, have not seen great production from him this year. The Canadiens won’t make the playoffs this year, but they may have a chance in future seasons.

Should the Tampa Bay Rays Move to Montreal

The Tampa Bay Rays have been looking for a new stadium for a number of years now, and I think the perfect location is not in Tampa, but in Montreal. Montreal hasn’t had a baseball team since the Expos left in 2004, and they have been wanting one since. There are issues though, with moving the Rays to Montreal.

The first issue is a fan base that will actually come out to see the team play. Since 2012 the Rays have been last in the Major Leagues in attendance, averaging about 14,000 fans per game. On the other hand, in their final four seasons, the Expos averaged about 7,500 fans per game, nearly half as many as the Rays over the past six seasons.

The second issue is payroll. The Tampa Bay Rays have been in the bottom-five in payroll since 2011. For a team with little payroll, moving the franchise can be much harder, because they’re going to need to have the capital to pay for relocation expenses such as a new stadium, legal fees, branding and licensing. While the Rays could play in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium for a few seasons, they will eventually need to build a stadium that isn’t 41 years old.

Despite some glaring challenges that might hinder a possible move to Montreal, there are also reasons why they should move. The first reason is that Montreal is a city that has been desperate for a baseball team since the departure of the Expos to Washington DC. Every year the Toronto Blue Jays play two exhibition games in Montreal and the stadium is always packed. Also, moving a team to Montreal could possibly be helped by the Montreal Canadiens, like Manchester City FC and the New York Yankees teaming up to form New York City FC.

All in all, the debate for moving the Rays, or any franchise, will only end once a team either moves to Montreal or Major League Baseball expands. In my opinion, there is a 50/50 chance that the Rays will move to Montreal, but I do think that within the next 20 years we will see a team playing in Montreal once again.

Mets Offseason Plan of Attack

The 2017 Mets season has been full of disappointment, injuries, and setbacks. If the Mets want to contend in 2018 and onwards, they need to do a few things.

1. Get a new manager: Terry Collins needs to go, and thankfully, his contract is up after this season ends. The Mets can either promote from within the organization, or look elsewhere for a manager. Internal candidates include: Dick Scott (Current Bench Coach), Pedro Lopez (AAA Manager), and David Wright. External options could include: Robin Ventura (Former White Sox Manager), Chip Hale (A’s Bench Coach), and Joey Cora (Pirates 3rd Base Coach).

2. New training staff: the Mets are always injured and don’t seem to think that their trainer, Ray Ramirez is an issue. Candidates include: literally anyone other than Ray Ramirez.

3. Third Base: As much as I hate to say it, the Mets need to move on from David Wright. The organization needs to realize that Wright is most likely not coming back, and need to find a new player to man the hot corner. Trade candidates include: Manny Machado (Orioles, 1 year left on contract), Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays, 1 year left on contract). If the Mets want to sign a free agent, there are options too: Mike Moustakas (Royals), Todd Frazier (Yankees), José Reyes (Mets). They could also promote from within: Phillip Evans, Asdrubal Cabrera, TJ Rivera.

4. Second Base: The Mets definitely miss Daniel Murphy right about now. Neil Walker had filled in very well, but he has since been traded to Milwaukee. Some possible free agent options include: Neil Walker (Brewers), Brandon Phillips (Angels). Internal options include: Asdrubal Cabrera, Wilmer Flores, and Gavin Cecchini.

5. Relief Pitching: Free agent options include: Addison Reed (Red Sox), Pat Neshek (Rockies), Tyler Clippard (Astros), and Wade Davis (Cubs).

If the Mets are willing to spend some money and show that they’re truly interested in winning, then they’ll need to address all 5 of the issues I mentioned.

What the Players Weekend means for baseball (and other professional sports)

On the weekend of August 25th-27th, MLB is hosting the first-ever "Players Weekend". During this event, which honors the Little League World Series, all 30 MLB teams will wear custom uniforms, many of them having nicknames on them. Some nicknames include "All Rise" for Yankees OF Aaron Judge, "Thor" for Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, and "PTBNL" for A's catcher Josh Phegley.

Aside from the fun and games of the Players Weekend, this event can have a positive impact on the rest of American sports. First of all, it can bring new TV viewers and live fans to the games. Second, it can create greater involvement and buy-in (and buying) from fans down the road. Imagine if players asked their fans to choose the nicknames, through Twitter, MLB.com, or other social media. Football has already experimented with the XFL, which had players with now famous nicknames such as "He Hate Me". While the XFL was short-lived, and ultimately a failure, I think that this experiment that is being conducted by MLB could push other leagues to allow for greater personal expression.

In the NFL, Color Rush uniforms should be allowed to have nicknames on the back, because the players only wear them once in a season. Some playfulness could be added to the NFL, which is often criticized for being the "No Fun League". Also, allowing custom cleats would be a fun addition, allowing players to express their freedom of expression while adding some pop to their uniforms.

In the NBA, this can be done easily. Just picture the Christmas uniforms from 2012-2014. These uniforms are similar to what MLB is implementing during the Players Weekend because of the bright colors, nicknames, and big logos. I like the Christmas Uniform idea, and I think that there should be special edition uniforms that would make the game more fun and colorful.

I'm not saying that all teams can allow nicknames on jerseys for every game, but I do think that allowing customized cleats, more fun touchdown celebrations, and occasionally nicknames could add a great element of youth and playfulness into American sports. And youth and playfulness are what draw in fans and makes the game more fun.

Overall, I think that adding some fun weekends like this in American professional sports would be really fun, cool, and a great way for fans to get into the game.