The 9th Inning Column: The London Series, Race for NL MVP, and Brendan McKay’s fantastic debut

Welcome back to the 9th Inning. This is the third edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that happens near the end of every month. This is the second article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for June with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

The London Series

What a wild two game series it was in London this weekend between the Red Sox and the Yankees. The two teams combined for 50 runs, a two-game record between the two clubs. It was an offensive showdown on both days, as neither starting pitcher made it out of the first inning in Game 1, and the bullpen for both teams proved to be shaky at times. The Yankees had three innings in the series in which they scored six or more runs, and the Red Sox had two of these innings. When the MLB returns to London next season, hopefully they can give the fans a pitcher’s duel to remember.

The race for NL MVP

Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger are in a tight race for the National League MVP award at the moment. Both of these young outfielders are having fabulous seasons and Yelich is looking to win his second MVP in a row. Both are All-Star starters, so how do we separate them? Bellinger has a better batting average, RBIs, and WAR, while Yelich has more home runs and stolen bases. It’s extremely close at the moment, but Bellinger would be my pick if I had to choose between these two.

McKay’s fantastic debut

The Tampa Bay Rays had an exciting weekend by taking a series with the Texas Rangers, but also with the debut of highly touted prospect Brendan McKay, who came up as a pitcher who still has two-way potential. He was ranked as the 23rd best prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline and he was the second best prospect in the Rays system. He retired the first 16 batters of his MLB career and finished a terrific outing by pitching six innings of one-hit shutout baseball with only one walks and three strikeouts. This is a sign of things to come for McKay, who has an extremely bright future in the big leagues.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The New York Yankees have been on the hot section of this list for all three columns thus far in 2019, and it seems to be with good reason. Since losing two in a row to the White Sox on June 13th and 14th, the Yankees rattled off eight consecutive victories and have gone 13-1 overall, with series wins over the Rays, Astros, and Red Sox. Chad Green has found success as an opener as he pitched to a 0.69 ERA in 13 innings during the month. The offense was ruthless throughout the month, led by D.J. LeMahieu’s clutch hitting, Gleyber Torres balanced approach, Gary Sánchez’s pop, and the returning Aaron Judge. They are undoubtedly the best team in baseball right now, and they’ve shown no signs of slowing down.

The Oakland Athletics have once again gotten extremely hot near the end of the month, similar to how the month of May concluded. They’ve gone 7-3 in their past 10 games, climbing within a half game of the second AL Wildcard spot. Matt Olson was a big contributor for the A’s, hitting 9 homers and notching 20 RBIs. Ramon Laureano also showed significant increases in his power hitting abilities, hitting 7 home runs in the month. It certainly hurts to lose Frankie Montas to a PED suspension, but the Athletics are still hungry to make the postseason for the second straight season.

The Washington Nationals were struggling to win not too long ago, but recently they’ve found something that’s clicked. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and still find themselves in the thick of the hunt for the NL Wildcard spots. Anthony Rendon continued to prove why he’s going to get paid this fall, as he batted .311 with 9 homers and 24 RBIs in the month. Max Scherzer was also phenomenal in June, but we’ll discuss that later. All this stretch did was prove that the Nats won’t sell and why would they?

The New York Mets were expected to contend in the NL East in 2019, but instead they looked like they’ve built an utter disaster. They just ended a seven game losing streak and have gone 3-7 in their last 10 games. The roster was built to win but it simply has not done that, as they now sit 12 games back of the first place Braves. Barring a massive hot stretch, it doesn’t look like Queens will be able to see their hometown Mets play in October this season.

The Boston Red Sox have simply not looked like a great baseball team this season. The defending champs have serious issues with the bullpen and getting run support for Chris Sale. The London Series was pretty embarrassing to be quite frank with you, as Rick Porcello and the bullpen got slaughtered. They’ve fallen 11 games back of the Yankees in the AL East standings amid a three game losing streak and a 4-6 stretch in their last 10 games.

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The Atlanta Braves (20-8)

Despite losing to the Mets on Sunday Night Baseball in difficult fashion, the Braves had a phenomenal month in June, going 20-8 and building a 5.5 game lead in the NL East Standings over the Philadelphia Phillies. They joined the 50 win club yesterday, becoming the fifth team to do so thus far in 2019. Freddie Freeman is unbelievable, Ronald Acuña Jr. is one of the game’s brightest young stars, and Mike Soroka has been unbelievable in his rookie season. Even if they don’t win the World Series this year, the Braves can rest assured that they have one of the brightest futures of any team in the MLB.

Hitter of the Month is…

New York Yankees 2B D.J. LeMahieu

LeMahieu was an absolute superstar for the unstoppable Yankees offense in June, and he is climbing his way up the AL MVP contenders list because of it. LeMahieu batted .395 in the month with six homers and 29 RBIs with a 1.092 OPS. He continues to be one of the most (if not, the most) valuable signings from the offseason. In fact, he’s been rewarded for his outstanding play by being named as the AL Starter at Second Base in the 2019 All-Star Game. He undoubtedly deserves the hitter of the month award for his performance in June.

Starter of the Month is…

Washington Nationals RHP Max Scherzer

Frequently being talked about as a long shot trade deadline target for a few clubs, Max Scherzer’s dominant month of June has been a huge reason why the Nationals are right back in the NL Wildcard hunt. He broke his nose and pitched a gem against the Phillies the next day. Not to mention, he made 6 starts in the month, getting the victory in all 6, and pitching 45 innings with a 1.00 ERA. He only gave up 25 hits, 5 runs, and had 68 strikeouts against only 5 walks in the month. Opponents were hitting just .156 against him and he had a 0.67 WHIP as a result.

Reliever of the Month is…

Oakland Athletics RHP Liam Hendriks

Used as an opener near the end of the 2018 campaign, Liam Hendriks has reestablished himself as one of the better relief pitchers on the Oakland Athletics roster. He pitched 15 innings of one run baseball in June, good for a 0.60 earned run average. He gave up only 10 hits, struck out 22, and walked four batters. Opposing hitters batted just .192 against him in the month and struggled against him all month long.

Rookie Hitter of the Month is…

New York Mets 1B Pete Alonso

Despite being apart of a struggling Mets ball club, first baseman Pete Alonso coasted his way to his second Rookie Hitter of the Month award for my column. In June, the newly announced NL All-Star batted .309 with 9 home runs, 19 RBIs, and a 1.097 OPS. He also had an impressive on-base percentage of .437, as he walked 17 times compared to striking out 22 times. If he continues to hit like this, he’ll be the unquestioned NL Rookie of the Year.

Rookie Pitcher of the Month is…

Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Merrill Kelly

You might be questioning how a 30 year old can be a successful rookie, but Merrill Kelly fits the bill. An eighth round draft pick of the Rays in the 2010 draft, Kelly pitched in the minors until 2015, when he went to the KBO to play baseball. After three years there, Kelly has made his MLB debut in 2019. He was phenomenal in June, making six starts and pitching 39.1 innings with a 2.75 earned run average. He only walked five batters all month and opponents were hitting .212 with a .238 on-base percentage against him in the month.

Thanks for reading the June edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

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The 9th Inning Column: MLB Draft Week, Jose Ramirez’ struggles, and RIP Bill Buckner

Welcome back to the 9th Inning. This is the second edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that happens near the end of every month. This is the second article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for May with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

It is almost time for the MLB Draft!

We are less than a week away from the 2019 MLB Draft and there’s a lot of speculation swirling about the first few rounds. Firstly, nearly everybody in the business believes that the Orioles have to take Adley Rutschman with the top pick. Rutschman, a catcher for Oregon State, is a switch-hitter with solid power and great defensive skills behind the plate. Secondly, a lot of people believe that the Royals will take Bobby Witt Jr. with the second pick. Witt Jr. is a five-tool shortstop coming out of Colleyville Heritage High School in Texas, and he’s the son of a former big league starter. Overall, we are looking at a draft class that is somewhat weak on quality arms but more than makes it up for it with high potential position players.

What is wrong with Jose Ramirez?

In the past few seasons, Jose Ramirez gave the Cleveland Indians another budding star to put alongside Francisco Lindor. Yet in 2019, Ramírez looks to be well off his game. He doesn’t look like he’ll achieve a three peat of third place AL MVP finishes. In 55 games, the 26 year old third baseman is batting a mere .211 with only 4 home runs and 17 RBIs. He’s striking out more, walking less, and seems to have lost his touch at the plate. A good thing for Ramirez is that he’s been playing well lately, batting .357 in his last three games. Still though, the Indians are struggling as a team and falling way back in the race for the AL Central, and they’ll need Ramírez to start putting up the numbers that he’s capable of if they want to get back in it.

Former batting champ Bill Buckner passes away

An MLB legend passed away on Monday after a battle with dementia. Bill Buckner played in the big leagues for 22 seasons and totaled 2,715 hits on a career .289 batting average. Buckner was a great teammate and was highly valued as a utility player during his time in the MLB. In 1980, he batted .324 and was the National League Batting Champion. In 1981, he made his only All-Star team. Buckner deserves respect across the league for his great career. Rest In Peace, Bill Buckner.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The New York Yankees were the best team in baseball throughout the month of May and I’ll discuss them later, because they won one of the column’s awards.

The Minnesota Twins were certainly in the mix for the team of the month award in May, but they were just edged out by the Yanks. They’re pulling away from the Indians in the AL Central, as they currently have a 9.5 game cushion. Newfound ace Jake Odorizzi was phenomenal in May, pitching his way to a 0.94 ERA in five starts. First baseman C.J. Cron led the high powered Twins offensive attack in May as he hit eight home runs, batted .301, and tallied 21 RBIs. The Twins continue to surprise folks and they are seriously one of the top five teams in baseball right now, without any doubt.

The Oakland Athletics have recently gotten themselves firmly back in the hunt for the AL West crown with a 10-game winning streak and an 8-2 stretch over their past ten games. They are alone in second place in their division and sit 7.5 games back of the Houston Astros. The Athletics were led by Frankie Montas strong pitching (2.64 ERA in 30.2 IP) and the offense was helped a lot by Josh Phegley (4 HRs and 20 RBI). With franchise cornerstone Matt Chapman and a solid pitching staff, last year’s second AL Wildcard team could be well on their way to another postseason appearance.

If you haven’t heard about Cody Bellinger’s stellar start of a 2019 campaign, then you’ve been living under a rock. Combine that with a dominating pitching staff and you can see why the Los Angeles Dodgers are continuing to build a sizeable lead in the NL West Standings. They either won or split every series in the month of May, proving that they can compete in every single game. Sitting at a 38-19 record, the Dodgers look to be well on their way to another NL West crown.

The St. Louis Cardinals were very good in the first month or so of 2019, but they’ve fallen off to a below .500 record as we turn the calendar to June. They are 4-6 in their last ten games and now sit 4.5 games back of the first place Cubs in the NL Central. The Cardinals play in perhaps the toughest division in all of Major League Baseball, so they’ll need to stop skidding before they find themselves in too big of a hole.

Remember when the Seattle Mariners were hitting all sorts of bombs every day and were in first place in the AL West? Yeah, I do too, and those days are long gone as the Mariners have the worst record in all of Major League Baseball in the month of May at 6-21. They’ve struggled as a pitching staff and had tough offensive nights, leading to their fall to dead last in the AL West standings. It looks like the Mariners have run out of magic.

In last month’s column, I talked extensively about what the San Francisco Giants should do if they didn’t start winning soon. Well, the Giants haven’t done any better and are still in last place in their division as they’ve been extremely cold as of late. They’re in the midst of a 2-8 stretch in their last ten games and they are on their way to being an early seller on the summer trade market.

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The New York Yankees (19-7)

The New York Yankees have surged to the top of the American League East recently due to a continued stretch of dominance. They’ve gone 12-3 since May 12th and that includes series victory over the Tampa Bay Rays (twice) and the San Diego Padres. Masahiro Tanaka had been dominant in May until his start on Tuesday, having a 2.80 earned run average in 35.1 innings of work. Gleyber Torres (.308 AVG and 9 HRs) and Gary Sanchez (.288 AVG and 9 HRs) have carried the load offensively for the Yanks throughout the month. The bullpen is starting to round into form as well, proving it is as good as advertised with Chapman, Britton, Kahnle, and Ottavino all in peak form right now. With so many injuries, the Yankees performance has simply been impressive.

The Hitter of the Month is…

Pittsburgh Pirates 1B Josh Bell

One of the best hitters in all of the majors through the season thus far, Pirates first baseman Josh Bell has been absolutely smoking baseballs left and right. He is undoubtedly the hitter of the month of May, as he hit at a .389 batting average with a .444 on-base percentage and an .814 slugging percentage. He also has hit 12 homers in the month and has racked up 30 RBIs. He’s shown considerable improvements in the 2019 campaign so far, as he’s close to reaching previously career high numbers already. Bell is the unquestioned leader in Pittsburgh and if he continues hitting like this, he will be in Cleveland as an All-Star this summer.

The Starter of the Month is…

Los Angeles Dodgers LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu

Garnering praise as a “left handed Greg Maddux”, the 32-year old veteran Ryu is off to a Cy Young-esque start in 2019. In May, he was nearly unhittable, going 5-0 and pitching his way to a 0.59 ERA in 45.2 innings on the mound. Opposing hitters had just a .177 batting average against him in his six starts and he continues to provide great outings for the dominating LA Dodgers club. If Ryu continues to control the strike zone and limit walks, I could easily see him being named the Cy Young award winner for the National League in the fall.

The Reliever of the Month is…

New York Yankees RHP Adam Ottavino

Adam Ottavino has started off his 2019 campaign still right in his dominant 2018 form. The veteran reliever was superb in May, appearing in 13 games and not giving up any runs. Since April 21st, Ottavino has not given up a run. Thus far in 2019, the former Rockie has a 2-1 record with 12 holds and a 1.37 ERA in 26.1 innings pitched. He’s been exactly the guy that the Yankees wanted him to be when they signed him in the offseason. He undoubtedly deserves the reliever of the month award for his performance in May.

Rookie Hitter of the Month:

Boston Red Sox 2B Michael Chavis

The third best prospect in the Boston farm system, Chavis has immediately come up into the big leagues and helped provide a stable bat in the lineup. In May, he batted .255 with seven home runs and he’s showing off his advanced hitting tool. With other rookies struggling, Chavis has climbed his way up near the top of the American League Rookie of the Year award race.

Rookie Pitcher of the Month:

Atlanta Braves RHP Mike Soroka

Mike Soroka has been more than just a valuable contributor for the Braves rotation this season. He’s been dominant and looks to be firmly in the mix for the NL Rookie of the Year award. If the award was won in May, Soroka may have just clinched it. He pitched his way to a 0.79 ERA in 34 innings during the month. He only gave up three earned runs and opponents hit just .145 against him in the month. Soroka has been just as good as his prospect evaluation hyped him up to be, and he’s on his way to becoming the ace of the Braves already.

Thanks for reading the May edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

The 9th Inning (April): Vlad Jr’s debut, Mize’s Double-A gem, and what’s wrong with the Red Sox?

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is the first edition of this in the 2019 MLB season. This is going to be a monthly column on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the month’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I’ll discuss what teams are hot and what teams are not. I will also give my personal thoughts on a few notable baseball-related events as well as giving out monthly awards for team of the month, players of the month, and rookies of the month. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen near the end of every month. This is the debut article of this season and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning Column for April with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of the biggest stories recently, both on the field and off.

Vlad Jr’s debut

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made his highly anticipated MLB debut this past weekend for the Toronto Blue Jays. MLB Pipeline’s number one prospect may have been the most hyped up debut since Bryce Harper. Guerrero is only batting .250 after his first series is in the books, but part of that is due to him not getting great pitches to hit. MLB.com says that Guerrero had a 37.3% zone rate over his first few games. The Blue Jays are set to take on the Angels in Anaheim in their weekday series, and it’ll be a great series to watch!

2018 top draft pick dominates in first AA Start

Not often will I talk about a player in the Double-A levels of minor league ball in this column, but I feel that this one is well deserved. Casey Mize, the number one overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, made his AA debut with the Detroit Tigers on Monday. The Auburn product dominated and sent a message to the scouts, throwing a nine inning no-hitter in a win for the Erie Seawolves. It was an impressive performance that caught the eyes of many, as Mize only walked one batter and hit another. If he continues to pitch like this, Detroit may soon have a bonafide ace on their big league roster.

What’s wrong with the Red Sox?

The defending champion Boston Red Sox are off to a sour start in the 2019 season, having a 12-17 record to show for it just one month in. They’ve cleaned it up as of late, but there’s still cause for concern with the Beantown squad. Jackie Bradley Jr. has been horrible with the bat, 2018 World Series MVP Steve Pearce is struggling, and Eduardo Rodriguez/Chris Sale both have ERAs over 6. If the pitching staff doesn’t get going soon, Boston may find itself in a hole too big to overcome, but there’s certainly reason to believe in this team. I mean heck, they are the defending World Series Champs after all!

Where do the Giants go from here?

A lot of talk has circulated about how the San Francisco Giants will attack the summer trade deadline. It’s the final season for manager Bruce Bochy, and it is perhaps the final year for longtime franchise ace Madison Bumgarner in the Bay Area. The Giants have built a team of veterans in hopes of competing in 2019, but it’s gone very badly thus far. They are 12-17 in the NL West, which is last in the division. They are not doing well at the plate, and Jeff Samardzija is their only qualified starting pitcher with an ERA below four. As we near June, the Giants are creeping closer and closer to being the first team to sell off their top veterans to buyers.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

The banged-up New York Yankees are the hottest team in baseball right now, as they’ve gone 11-2 since losing a home series to the Chicago White Sox on April 14th. Luke Voit was dominant for the Bronx Bombers last week on their West Coast road trip, winning AL Player of the Week Honors by going 13 for 30 with four home runs and 10 RBIs. In doing so, Voit has continued a ridiculous 39-game on base streak into the Yankees two game series against the Diamondbacks.

The Minnesota Twins have won 8 of their last 10 games and have taken 2.5 game lead in the AL Central over the Cleveland Indians. Eddie Rosario (11 HRs) and Jorge Polanco (.948 OPS) have lead the scorching hot Twins offensive attack and Jose Berrios continues to grow into an ace, leaving the Twins in great position to make a run at the postseason in 2019.

The St. Louis Cardinals have won 8 of their last 10 games as well, en route to taking a three game lead over the Cubs and Brewers in the NL Central Division. Paul DeJong (.342 AVG, 5 HRs) and Marcell Ozuna (.271 AVG, 10 HRs) are leading a Redbirds offense that is still awaiting an inevitable annual hot stretch from All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

After a rough start to the 2019 campaign, the Chicago Cubs have gotten back near the top of the NL Central with a recent hot stretch. They are winners of 7 of their last 10 games, climbing into a tie for second in the division with the Milwaukee Brewers. Javier Baez has been otherworldly thus far, hitting .315 with 9 home runs and 22 RBIs. The Cubs are also getting great contribution from catcher Willson Contreras (1.033 OPS). They can certainly push for the NL Central, and I fully expect them to do so.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 12-6 after a win over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, April 20th. Since then? They’ve been one of the worst teams in baseball, losing eight straight and falling to fourth place in the NL Central Division. With competition like the Cubs, Brewers, and Cardinals, the Pirates cannot have losing streaks like this and expect to stay atop the division. If they don’t figure it out soon, Pittsburgh could be in serious hot water.

The Washington Nationals have also caught a case of the cold as we flip the calendar to May. They’ve lost three series in a row to teams that I’m just not quite sure they should be losing to. On paper, the Nats have one of the best complete rosters in all of Major League Baseball, but they haven’t been able to put it together just yet in 2019. Let’s see what this team does in May before we press the panic button!

The Oakland Athletics are in serious danger of not getting back to the postseason already in 2019, and that’s not because I don’t have faith in their ability to turn it around after a rough start. The AL West is more competitive this year, and the A’s have struggled as of late, getting swept by Toronto twice in two weeks and losing 7 of their last 10. Will Khris Davis and the Oakland crew figure it out before it’s too late?

The Monthly Awards:

Team of the Month is…

The Tampa Bay Rays (19-9)

The Rays definitely were not a lot of experts picks to lead the AL East through one month, but here we are. Tampa Bay holds a 1.5 game lead on the Yankees as we speak, and they’ve had a terrific first month of baseball. A big reason for their success is the pitching staff, as Tyler Glasgow (5 wins, 1.75 ERA), 2018 AL Cy Young award winner Blake Snell (2 wins, 2.54 ERA), and free agent acquisition Charlie Morton (3 wins, 2.76 ERA) lead the MLB’s top pitching staff thus far. Jose Alvarado has been one of baseball’s best relievers (we’ll discuss him later) and the Rays are much deeper than this, but there’s too many people to name. Austin Meadows was absolutely raking before he got injured (.351, 6 HRs, 19 RBIs), and he should be back rather soon. Yandy Diaz (.298, 7 HRs, 18 RBIs) is having a breakout season at the hot corner for Tampa Bay and veteran outfielder Tommy Pham continues to put up productive numbers (.294, 4 HRs, 12 RBIs). They should be taken seriously as one of the premier World Series contenders.

The Hitter of the Month is …

Los Angeles Dodgers OF/1B Cody Bellinger

Cody Bellinger has played at both right field and first base this year, so I’m not sure what to call him with such a small sample size. But I can call him something, and that is an absolutely on-fire baseball player. The third-year superstar has been nothing short of spectacular in 2019, batting .434 with 14 homers and 37 RBIs. His on-base percentage is over .500 and his slugging percentage sits firmly at .906. What’s even more impressive is that Bellinger has increased his base on balls percentage from 10.9% to 14.1%, while also cutting down his strikeout percentage from 23.9% in 2018 to 11.7% through one month of 2019. If he continues to play like this, he will shatter records, and with this hot start, he’s certainly the favorite to win NL MVP!

Starter of the Month is …

Cincinnati Reds RHP Luis Castillo

When called up to the bigs in 2017, Luis Castillo was the tenth best prospect in the Reds farm system. With a lot of patience by Cincinnati’s staff, Castillo looks to be turning the corner into one of the best pitchers in the National League. His first month of 2019 certainly proved such, as the 26 year old rising phenom has made six starts, going 3-1 with a 1.23 ERA in 36.1 innings of work. He’s striking out more batters than he has at any point in his young career, and has reduced his home runs per nine innings rate from a sour 1.49 in 2018 to an impressive 0.25 thus far in 2019. His HR/FB rate sits at a solid 4.5%, showing that Castillo has been stingy in terms of preventing the longball. At this point, batters just haven’t been able to hit his stuff, as hitters are hitting just .165 against him. If he continues to pitch like this, he may just deliver the NL Cy Young Award to Great American Ball Park.

The Reliever of the Month is …

Tampa Bay Rays LHP Jose Alvarado

Dating back to 2018, the 23 year old Alvarado has been one of the best relievers in all of Major League Baseball, and that trend has continued to pick up steam as we turn the calendar to May. Thrust into a big late-inning role in 2019, the lefty has been nothing short of excellent thus far. He’s made four saves in 14 appearances, pitching his way to a 1.38 ERA and a 1.82 FIP, proving his performance is no fluke. Alvarado has not surrendered a home run yet this season, and he’s striking out 13.1 batters per nine innings. The only negative in 2019 is that Alvarado’s walks per nine innings rate has increased a bit from 4.08 to 4.85, but it’s not too severe of a jump.

The Rookie Hitter of the Month is …

New York Mets 1B Peter Alonso

A second round selection by the Mets in the 2016 MLB Draft, Peter Alonso has made a quick transition to the pros. He is a phenomenal hitter and subpar defender at first base, and he showed that in the minor leagues all the way up until earning the Mets starting first baseman job in 2019. Since he earned the job, Alonso has proven why he was one of the Mets untradeable chips as they rebuilt last year. He’s an early frontrunner for the NL Rookie of the Year award, as he’s batting .304 with nine home runs and 25 RBIs in 2019. He will have to continue to work on balancing his approach and limiting strikeouts, but right now, Alonso is hot and off to the races, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

The Rookie Pitcher of the Month is …

San Diego Padres RHP Chris Paddack

Paddack is the 31st best prospect in all of Major League Baseball according to MLB Pipeline, but after one month of him in the bigs, I think he may deserve a huge boost before he loses his eligibility on such lists. He’s 23 years old and has been firing on all cylinders to start his MLB career. He’s made five starts, going 1-1 and pitching 27 innings with a 1.67 ERA, ranking third amongst all National League pitchers with 25 or more innings pitched. He’s just been purely unhittable, as opposing hitters have a .111 batting average against him. He’s striking out 10 batters per nine innings, only walking about 2.6 per nine, and only surrenders 0.6 home runs per nine. If he continues to pitch like this, he’ll be right in the thick of the battle for NL Rookie of the Year with his teammate Fernando Tatis Jr. and Mets slugger Pete Alonso (mentioned above).

Thanks for reading the season debut of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next month! Peace!

The Obstructed AL Central Preview

The AL Central from the mid-90’s through the early part of the 2000’s was dubbed the Comedy Central for having some bad teams in that time period. Cleveland dominated while the rest could never seem to get it together. Yes, you had years where teams would go up and down in the standings, but nothing in the way of being a major legit.

So we fast forward to the last couple of seasons. The Indians once again dominate and the other teams are just a mess. Minnesota has shown hope and promise but last year the Twins disappointed as some had them to be a threat for the Wild Card. The Tigers are deep in their rebuild. The Royals are as well. The White Sox however, are trying to show their rebuild is near an end.

So will the Indians thrive? Will the Twins off-season moves give Cleveland a fight within the division? Will Chicago contend? Will the rebuilding process of Detroit and Kansas City continue to progress into maybe something quicker?

Kluber was subject to trade rumors this off-season but the Indians did the right thing

(1) CLEVELAND INDIANS

Last year: 91-71 (Lost to Houston in ALDS)

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Jake Bauers (Trade-Tampa Bay), 1B-Carlos Santana (Trade), DH-Hanley Ramirez (FA-Boston), 2B-Brad Miller (FA-Los Angeles Dodgers), C-Kevin Plawecki (Trade-New York Mets), IF-Max Moroff (Trade-Pittsburgh), OF-Jordan Luplow (Trade Pittsburgh), OF-Carlos Gonzalez (FA-Colorado)

KEY LOSSES: DH-Edwin Encarnacion (Trade-Seattle), IF-Yandy Diaz (Trade-Tampa Bay), C-Yan Gomes (Trade-Washington), IF-Erik Gonzalez (Trade-Pittsburgh), 3B-Josh Donaldson (FA-Atlanta), IF-Adam Rosales (FA-Minnesota), OF-Michael Brantley (FA-Houston), OF-Melky Cabrera (FA-Pittsburgh), OF-Lonnie Chisenhall (FA-Pittsburgh), OF-Rajai Davis (FA-New York Mets), P-Josh Tomlin (FA-Atlanta), P-Cody Allen (FA-Los Angeles Angels), 1B-Yonder Alonso (Trade-Chicago White Sox), P-Andrew Miller (FA-St. Louis)

The Indians still have a load of talent on their roster that is really unmatched in the AL Central. There is no better left side of an infield than Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in all of baseball. The rotation headed by Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer is stout and when you throw in Mike Clevinger, yikes. Cleveland also brings back former Tribe star Carlos Santana who had a bit of a disappointing year in Philadelphia. However, it feels like the window to win a World Series is starting to close a bit. Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are gone. Cleveland also said goodbye to Michael Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion as well. There had been talk that Cleveland would ship out ace Kluber in the off-season but it didn’t happen. They brought in Carlos Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez. Had this been 2009, these would be great pickups. With that said, the Tribe knows how to get the best of veterans on the downswing. But Cleveland from an October standpoint are somewhat lagging behind the AL’s big boys in depth. Should the Indians win the AL Central? Yes. But it doesn’t feel like the same team we’ve seen in 2016-2018. MY PREDICTION: 88-74

IF Berrios is a little more consistent he can be the Twins ace without question.

(2) MINNESOTA TWINS

Last year: 78-84

KEY ADDITIONS: DH-Nelson Cruz (FA-Seattle), 1B-CJ Cron (Waivers-Tampa Bay), 2B-Jonathan Schoop (FA-Milwaukee), 3B-Marwin Gonzalez (FA-Houston), P-Blake Parker (FA-Los Angeles Angels), P-Ryne Harper (FA-Seattle), P-Martin Perez (FA-Texas)

KEY LOSSES: C-Chris Gimenez (Retired), 1B-Joe Mauer (Retired), 1B-Logan Morrison (FA), 2B-Logan Forsythe (FA-Texas), P-Robbie Grossman (FA-Oakland), P-Ervin Santana (FA-Chicago White Sox), P-Matt Belisle (FA)

The Twins a few years ago hoped that another run that was similar to the Mauer/Morneau/Cuddyer/Santana days would have happened by now with the likes of Miguel Sano/Byron Buxton/Eddie Rosario/Jose Berrios. It hasn’t happened. After a run in 2015 and one in 2017, the Twins have failed to garner that run as Sano has been all-or-nothing after his torrid start and Byron Buxton hasn’t found his groove yet. And Berrios has shown flashes, but nothing consistent as of yet. It is probably why Minnesota invested heavy into veterans such as slugger Nelson Cruz, Jonathan Schoop, and making a cople of good under-the-radar moves in CJ Cron (how’d the Rays let this guy go?) and Marwin Gonzalez. Of course, what may decide how well they do is their starting pitching. Berrios showed great signs of taking that next step and Kyle Gibson was reliable, but Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda will have to make those next steps to really put Minnesota in the mix of a Wild Card, perhaps a division title spot. They have the talent all around but can they put it all together and make that needed run? MY PREDICTION: 83-79

Eloy Jimenez is one of two young stars that will be must-see TV for MLB

(3) CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Last year: 62-100

KEY ADDITIONS: OF-Jon Jay (FA-Arizona), 1B-Yonder Alonso (Trade-Cleveland), C-James McCann (FA-Detroit), P-Ivan Nova (Trade-Pittsburgh), P-Alex Colome (Trade-Seattle), P-Kelvin Herrera (FA-Washington), P-Manny Banuelos (Trade-Los Angeles Dodgers)

KEY LOSSES: C-Omar Navarez (Trade-Seattle), IF-Matt Davidson (FA-Texas), OF-Avisail Garcia (FA-Tampa Bay), P-Jeanmar Gomez (FA-Texas), P-Hector Santiago (FA-New York Mets), P-James Shields (FA), P-Miguel Gonzalez (FA)

It’s hard to think what the White Sox had was a disappointment in the off-season after striking out on the big-name free agents of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. But the good news is that the White Sox rebuild seems to be winding down and the South Side will get back into the swing of things in 2019. Of course, there will be some hiccups, but many hope to see the farm system really shoot up, notably with Eloy Jimenez who I am very high on. Add him with Jose Abreu and you have a nice punch there. If Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada can figure things out, keep an eye on this team at the All-Star Break. They may make a move to improve their rotation which is pretty anemic (surprised they didn’t go after Dallas Keuchel more), but it is also what may keep the White Sox from getting over that hump form being a threat for an October spot. But they will make strides this year and 2020, watch out! MY PREDICTION: 74-88

Merrifield was a nice surprise for the Royals in 2018

(4) KANSAS CITY ROYALS

Last year: 58-104

KEY ADDITIONS: DH-Lucas Duda (FA), C-Martin Maldonado (FA-Houston), OF-Billy Hamilton (FA-Cincinnati), OF-Chris Owings (FA-Arizona), OF-Terrance Gore (FA-Chicago Cubs), P-Homer Bailey (FA), P-Brad Boxberger (FA-Arizona), P-Jake Diekman (FA-Arizona), P-Chris Ellis (Rule 5-Texas),

KEY LOSSES: P-Jason Hammel (FA-Texas), IF-Alcides Escobar (FA)

IF you want to know the payment charge of winning a world championship, look at what has gone on in Kansas City. The Royals are 4 years removed from being the true kings of baseball, and with the moves of trading prospects for Johnny Cueto and others, while unable to compete to keep their key contributors (Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas), dark ages reign supreme in Kansas City. This year, Salvador Perez is injured and likely out for the season as he was the last of the championship players. The Royals are in the early stages of the rebuild but if things go well, and make a good draft, keep an eye out for this group down the road. But again, for this year, not as much. The hopes of Lucas Duda, Chris Owings, and Billy Hamilton of getting the Royals into contention will not scare anybody. And Homer Bailey leading the way? Well, at least he is out of the Great American Smallpark. Just don’t expect a Cy Young run out of him. MY PREDICTION: 63-99

It will be a long year for Cabrera and the Tigers in the Motor City

(5) DETROIT TIGERS

Last year: 64-98

KEY ADDITIONS: IF-Josh Harrison (FA-Pittsburgh), SS-Jordy Mercer (FA-Pittsburgh), IF-Gordon Beckham (FA-Seattle), P-Tyson Ross (FA-St. Louis), P-Matt Moore (FA-Texas), P-Reed Garrett (Rule 5-Texas)

KEY LOSSES: C-James McCann (FA-Chicago White Sox), DH-Victor Martinez (Retired), SS-Jose Iglesias (FA-Cincinnati), P-Francisco Liriano (FA-Pittsburgh)

I’m going to quote the musician Mary Hopkin and say “Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.” Double meaning for me. First off, any run the Tigers had from 2006-2014 was a nice run (2008 excluded) and those were some good teams that *could* have netted a world championship at some point, but never did. And the other meaning of the Detroit Tigers from 1995-2003 where they were just downright awful and you never thought Detroit would ever revert back to contention. Well, the latter has arrived in full swing since 2017. Now, there is slight hope as the once-depleted farm system has some arms to keep an eye on for the next few years (Alex Faedo, Matt Manning, Beau Burrows, Casey Mize), but as for 2019, uh, yikes. The Tigers are relying on Jordan Zimmermann, the injured and inconsistent Jordan Zimmermann. Supporting staff will include Tyson Ross, Matt Moore, and Matt Boyd (who did pitch pretty well at times), but this isn’t the rotation of Verlander, Scherzer, Anibal, Porcello, and Fister we are talking about…..or 1/5th of that. The bullpen has a good setup punch of Joe Jimenez for Shane Greene assuming the Tigers will have a lead in 2019. The offense, if they are to win will have to send Miguel Cabrera to the Fountain of Youth while making him become the Bionic Man as they look very thin outside of him and Nicholas Castellanos (who could be trade bait in July). Now if Jeimer Candelario makes strides after his first season in Detroit where he started fine but fell apart down the stretch, the Tigers will be somewhat formidable especially if their big off-season move of Josh Harrison has a good year and he has something to prove honestly so that part may help the Tigers out a bit and be somewhat competitive under Ron Gardenhire. But that rotation currently isn’t one to get hopes up for a Cinderella season. MY PREDICTION: 60-102

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Tristan Beckmann’s Ultimate MLB Playoff Preview: Predictions, Analysis, and more

Its the best time of year for baseball fans across the globe. Playoff baseball will commence tonight when the Colorado Rockies head to Wrigley Field to face the Chicago Cubs in the NL Wildcard Game. There’s so much more to come from there though. 10 teams will be dueling it out in the American League and National League. Only one team will survive the grueling grind and be crowned the 2018 MLB World Series Champions. Whether it’s a J.D. Martinez grand slam, a nine strikeout game from Justin Verlander, or epic playoff atmospheres, there’s something for everybody when it comes to the biggest stage in all of baseball.

I’ve watched a lot of baseball this season and I know a good enough amount of baseball that I’m putting my predictions and analysis out there for the world to see. I’m going to provide a Team by Team breakdown complete with their strengths, weaknesses, and one X-factor. Then I’ll take the deep dive into my full playoff predictions, before letting you leave after reading a few of my colleagues playoff predictions. I know I’m ready, but are you?

Table of Contents:

Introduction, pg. 1

AL Team By Team Analysis, pg. 2

NL Team By Team Analysis, pg. 3

Power Rankings, pg. 4

Wildcard Round Analysis, pg. 5

Divisional Series Analysis, pg. 6

Championship Series Analysis, pg. 7

World Series Analysis, pg. 8

Other Writers Predictions, pg. 9

The 2017-18 Moves That Got the Teams to the Postseason

We are sitting on the end of the 2018 MLB regular season.  And 11 teams are still alive (maybe 10 assuming the Rockies and Dodgers win either today or tomorrow OR if St. Louis loses one of the next two days).  So for argument’s sake, we will look at the teams that are in plus the Rockies and Dodgers.  How did this come to be for the teams this year?

Of course we have a couple of new faces in postseason (Braves, Brewers, Athletics) that we haven’t seen before and we have teams who hope to get over the top while the defending champion Astros keep their title for one more season.  So let’s look at how things changed for these teams and what moves they made to get them there.

Atlanta

ATLANTA BRAVES:  Calling up Ronald Acuña and trading for Kevin Gausman.  We know about the Braves rebuild and many believe the moves that were made were the ones that got them over the top.  In reality, Acuña (and Ozzie Albies) were actually Frank Wren signings before Atlanta used him as the fall guy at the end of the 2014 season.  And the major impact guy in all those fire sale trades this year was Mike Foltynewicz (part of the Evan Gattis deal).  The two trades made with San Diego (Uptons, Kimbrel), nobody has made an impact (and most of them are gone), and the Simmons-Newcomb trade has been mixed at best for Atlanta.  The Braves were on the up until they called up Acuña and he tore the cover off the ball.  He got injured but when he came back he remained a monster for the Braves and many in the Atlanta area believe not only should he get Rookie of the Year but an MVP.  The Braves all season up through July were either in the lead of the NL East or never more than 2.5 games back of Philadelphia in the division.  With Newcomb struggling and unease with Teheran as well as questions if Anibal Sanchez (a great pickup too) reverting back to more of his last years with the Tigers instead of 2013 Sanchez pushed Atlanta to trade for Kevin Gausman.  Gausman had been a flop for Baltimore (who isn’t right now?) and the Braves may have bought him low.  But many felt Gausman would improve with a change of scenery out of the rough AL East.  And he has.  Since joining Atlanta Gausman has gone 5-2 with a 2.86 ERA and a WHIP of 1.09.  Needless to say, all of that have been the best he’s pitched to this point.  The K/9 rate is slightly concerning (only 6.3) but he’s been everything the Braves needed.  And it also improved the rotation’s morale as Julio Teheran has been pitching far better since Gausman’s arrival.  After the trade, the Braves have gone 33-23 and went up 9.5 games on the division that was originally close with them and the Phillies (also helped with Philadelphia collapsing down the stretch).  But these two moves catapulted the Braves into October.

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BOSTON RED SOX: Signing JD Martinez.  Boston last year made the playoffs but the offense was stagnant and lacked any power ever since David Ortiz retired.  Martinez came on a contract that would net him over $100 million (and some believed the Sox overpaid him because he was a liability in the outfield).   But comparing Martinez to what Giancarlo Stanton that the Yankees did, the signing looks like a bargain compared to what the Yankees have to pay Stanton.  Boston’s offense clicked and everybody started hitting in Beantown.  Mookie Betts is also an MVP candidate and the likes of Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts stepped up in a big way.  With the starting pitching capable of going against anybody (assuming if they are healthy), Boston is considered a favorite and are well north of 100 wins this year.  Martinez was obviously the best free agent signing in the off-season.  And it has paid dividends for Boston.

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CHICAGO CUBS: Signing Steve Cishek and trading for Cole Hamels.  Over the past year and a half, the Cubs moves were in question with the overpaying of prospects for Jose Quintana (who has not lived up to the expectations), the trade for Justin Wilson, and the Yu Darvish signing.  However, the Cubs made an under the radar move of getting Steve Cishek and he has helped keep the bullpen pretty strong for them.  And then the Cubs traded for Cole Hamels (as Chicago had been tapped out of prospects with the Quintana and Wilson trades) to take on his salary.  He has pitched great, going 4-2 with a 2.47 ERA and a WHIP of 1.14.  Hamels and Cishek are two major reasons why the Cubs are still slightly ahead of Milwaukee in the NL Central race.

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COLORADO ROCKIES: Signing Chris Iannetta.  The Rockies made no massive moves outside of Iannetta.  While his WAR according to Baseball Reference has him at a -0.6, I don’t think you can put a value to what he means to the Rockies starting rotation that is actually not bad.  While he obviously won’t win the Cy Young, Kyle Freeland will get a couple of Cy Young votes with his record (17-7, 2.85 ERA and the ability to not give up home runs).  Geman Marquez is a strikeout machine and has strong numbers across the board.  And Jon Gray since his return from Albuquerque has been more like the Jon Gray Rockies fans and “live arm” fans have hoped he would be.  And it was needed this year as save for Trevor Story’s MVP push and Nolan Arenado, Colorado’s offense is not a massive juggernaut like we have come to known.

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CLEVELAND INDIANS: Trading for Brad Hand.  Well, Cleveland pretty much sleepwalked to the AL Central title this year given the problems of the other four teams in that division.  And they played like it at times.  They lost a lot in the way of their bullpen from a year ago, which was so dominant and when you factor in Andrew Miller’s injury, the Indians weren’t the same squad at all.  Getting Brad Hand at the price was a bit risky, but he’s been solid for them and has re-established Cleveland as a team to watch in October.

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HOUSTON ASTROS: Trading for Gerrit Cole.  Houston may have robbed the Yankees in getting this guy as before the Astros got him it looked all but finished that New York was going to get him and in that aspect, kept the Yankees from REALLY dominating.  And at the same time it also kept the Astros afloat in picture.  Houston’s pitching is very stout with Verlander, Keuchel, and Morton, but needed Cole especially as the offense is not the same strong offense like their championship run last year.  Altuve is still Altuve but his numbers are well down.  Even when he’s been on the field Carlos Correa has been WAY down.  Adding on, the outfield hasn’t produced either.  So the move for Cole was big for them this year especially with how the Athletics came on.

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LOS ANGELES DODGERS: Calling up Walker Buehler & Max Muncy.  Los Angeles was plagued by injuries early on in the season and widespread panic hit Dodgertown.  However, things started to look up when the Dodgers called up Walker Buehler to start and he has been nothing short of stout.  He has a 7-5 record with a 2.86 ERA and a WHIP of under 1 and has ace written all over him.  He should garner some Rookie of the Year votes too.  But Max Muncy came out of nowhere and was that guy that just could rocket bombs into the outfield seats for Los Angeles as the Dodgers offense needed when Seager, Turner, and Puig were on the DL.  It is surprising that Manny Machado, who is a key add at the deadline obviously isn’t here, and he has been strong, but the average hasn’t been as high.

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MILWAUKEE BREWERS: Trading for Christian Yelich.  Yelich may have the inside track for MVP given how he has terrorized pitching in the past month.  The move was pretty big at the time, but it is huge now given that Milwaukee is chasing down the hated Cubs for the division lead.  The numbers speak volumes but what he’s done in the 2nd half alone reminds me of what Chipper Jones did down the stretch for the Braves in 1999, always stepping up in that key moment.  In the second half, Yelich is hitting .363 with 22 HR and an OPS of an astounding 1.193.  Wow.

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NEW YORK YANKEES: Trading for Giancarlo Stanton and calling up Gleyber Torres & Miguel Andujar.  While I think the Yankees are going to pay a steep price for Stanton in terms of money, Stanton stepped up when it mattered the most: when Aaron Judge was injured.  Stanton’s numbers aren’t the MVP ones he had last year in Miami, but still has 37 HR to his credit.  And for Torres/Andujar, 50 HR total from the rookies and the Yankees remained well ahead of the rest of the AL save Boston and Houston.

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OAKLAND ATHLETICS: Trading for Stephen Piscotty.  This move when it was made and you found out why the move was made seemed like it was a move that was more personal than a professional move.  Piscotty wanted to remain close to home near his mother with ALS.  Understandable as there are more things to life than sports.  But Piscotty’s value to the team should not be overlooked as he was a great veteran presence and he had a career year with 26 HR.  He alongside Jed Lowrie provided that winning veteran presence while keeping that Athletics brand of baseball going of just having fun and playing until the last out.

Later on I will put my playoff power rankings of the teams that are in, once I know which teams are in.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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Cursed Sports Cities in America: Cleveland

You knew this one was coming.  You just knew it.

While the Cavaliers ended a city’s long-standing drought of a professional championship by being the kings of the basketball world in 2016, it really hasn’t negated all the pain and heartbreak over the years with the Cavs, Browns, and Indians.  Worse, since the Cavaliers won it, we’ve seen more heartbreak in Cleveland and more bad luck with the Browns (1-31 in 2016 and 2017) and the Indians (blowing a 3-1 World Series lead in 2016 and then losing in the first round after being up 2-0 and having a 20-game winning streak earlier in the year and winning 100 games for the first time since 1995).

So what gives that makes the teams in this town so cursed?  It seems like every year when a Cleveland team is in the thick of it, they find a way to blow it apart.  While you youngsters have probably always thought the Browns were putrid, the teams of the 80’s were most certainly not and had a few chances to find their way to the Super Bowl, but heartbreaking game after heartbreaking game took place and Cleveland fell apart.  The Cavs, even before and during LeBron’s stints, had some heart-ripping moments.  The Indians, for the last 25 years have experienced numerous heartbreaking moments as they could have seen a couple of world championships roll through the Lake.  So let’s divulge a little bit.

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RESUME: 

CLEVELAND: CLEVELAND INDIANS (2 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, LAST IN 1948), CLEVELAND BROWNS (NO SUPER BOWLS), CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP, LAST IN 2016); CHAMPIONSHIP DROUGHT OF 2 YEARS

Cleveland

CLEVELAND INDIANS: 2 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS (1920, 1948); DROUGHT OF 70 YEARS

To go through a historic franchise like the Indians have will take me a day in its own right.  So I will start with the Indians really in the 90’s.  Before that, the Indians hadn’t been relevant to Major League Baseball since the early 50’s when they had the likes of Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Al Rosen, Early Wynn, and Bob Lemon dominated.  In 1954, Cleveland won 111 games, a major league record until when the 98 Yankees broke it.  However, the Indians were swept by the Giants and Willie Mays (where the highlight of the series was Mays’s over the shoulder catch).  Cleveland contended yearly in the 50’s, but really from 1960-1991 they were horrid.  The 70’s were rough and the 80’s would like to be forgotten by most Indians fans (two 100-loss seasons in 3 years and they were the only AL East team never to win the division in that decade, but to me that was probably one of the most roughest, toughest divisions in professional sports history for that period of time (maybe I should do a blog on that), but Cleveland was really never figured in the mix (save for 1986 when they won 84 games and finished 5th).  The 80’s and early 90’s were messes and it never had the vibe Cleveland would ever get out of that rut.  For today’s fans, while we like to make jokes on the Browns of being putrid and garbage, the Indians were the Browns of that time period.

However, despite a season in 1991 where the Tribe lost 105 games, things were on the rise.  The Indians farm system was starting to produce stars such as Kenny Lofton, Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and others.  In a few short years, the Indians fielded a team full of all-stars all over the place.  The Indians went from being a joke of the American League to the powerhouse of the American League by 1995, when they won 100 games in the post-strike shortened season.

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Cleveland advanced into the 1995 World Series against the Atlanta Braves, who somewhat encountered their own small path similar to Cleveland before the Indians did, but not to the length like the Indians.  The Braves, partly due to more experience and better pitching throughout, brought down Cleveland in 6 games but the Braves pitching stuffed the powerful Indians bats, including Tom Glavine one-hitting the Tribe in the final game of the World Series.  But hope never seemed to be lost to the Indian fans.

Cleveland continued dominating in 1996, and were considered the favorites to win it all.  They slugged teams to death from beginning to end and really had zero competition in the American League Central so they cruised to the playoffs, only to have the Baltimore Orioles club Cleveland in the ALDS, beating the Tribe in 4 games.  After the season ended, what felt like the first cracks of the Indians hope had started to take place.

Albert Belle, the talented, yet very controversial slugger, left the Indians to the hated White Sox via free agency before the 1997 season and days before the start, the Tribe sent all-star Kenny Lofton to Atlanta for Marquis Grissom and David Justice, giving questions by Cleveland fans of “what is going on?”

Cleveland didn’t “dominate” like they had in 1995 and 1996, never really beating teams down and while there wasn’t any major threat within the division, they didn’t really fend off the Milwaukee Brewers until late in the year.  Instead of being the heavy favorites going into October, they were more of an afterthought as many believed the other three teams (Orioles, Yankees, Mariners) had far better teams and all-around squads as opposed to Cleveland’s bash the ball squad.  However, they took down the defending champion Yankees and took down Baltimore in 6 as the vision of Roberto Alomar taking strike 3 down the middle to end the series is still a vision I see today.  Cleveland went to face the “best team money could buy” Florida Marlins in the World Series.  The entire series was a seesaw series with some classic games happening.  But Game 7 is what we will know most (and most Indians fans still like to forget).  The Indians took a 2-0 lead after 3 innings and held that way until the 7th inning before Bobby Bonilla (a curse to Mets fans) homered to make it 2-1.  The 9th inning came, with Cleveland still up 2-1.  Mesa blew the save by giving up a sacrifice fly to Gregg Zaun to push it to 11 innings.  In the bottom of the 11th, the Indians Tony Fernandez made an error on the ball and a couple of batters later, the Marlins won on a see-through single by Edgar Renteria.  The curse was building and Mesa’s blown save has gone down into lore as he mightily struggled in the World Series.  Many thought he was the wrong move to be put in that situation too.

From 1998-2001, Cleveland remained near atop of the division and mostly winning the divisional title in the weak AL Central.  However, the Tribe was overthrown by the Yankees as being the favorites every year.  Cleveland lost to New York in the 1998 ALCS, and then they blew a 2-0 lead in 1999 to Boston in the ALDS where the last three games Cleveland gave up 44 runs (including a 23-run outing to Boston in Game 4) and then Pedro shut Cleveland down after the Tribe scored 8 runs after 3 innings.  2000 saw the Indians actually relinquish the AL Central to the up-and-coming Chicago White Sox.  After the season Cleveland was unable to keep Manny Ramirez as he left for Boston.

2001 saw the Tribe win the division and were somewhat a sleeper as many started to write the team off.  They held a 2-1 series lead to the record breaking Mariners squad in the first round, but failed to close it out and Seattle found a way to win the series.  It would end the string for the Indians being a threat to the American League as really the next five seasons they really didn’t have a lot happening besides Jim Thome leaving for Philadelphia and losing out on the Wild Card to Boston on the last day of the season in 2005.

Cleveland

Cleveland rebounded in 07 winning the American League Central with the likes of Cliff Lee, CC Sabathia, Grady Sizemore, and Travis Hafner.  They took down the Yankees in the ALDS in 4 and held a 3-1 ALCS series lead to Boston, where once again, Cleveland’s pitching imploded, giving up 30 runs in the final 3 games to Boston as the Red Sox won the series.

The Indians in 08 were expected to contend for the title, but struggled in part with players unable to keep healthy, the pitching (notice a trend?), and the Tribe was out of it by the trade deadline and moved CC Sabathia to Milwaukee.

For the next four years Cleveland returned to the doldrums of the American League, being irrelevant to the division where it had really been dominated by Detroit.  However, a new batch of Tribe players were coming through such as Corey Kluber, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, and Jason Kipnis.  During the 2013 season, Cleveland surprised many and hung around Detroit in the AL Central, finishing 1 game back of the strong Tigers squad (had they have been able to beaten the Tigers at all that year, they would have won the division), but lost out to Tampa Bay in a 1-game playoff in Cleveland.  The next two seasons, Cleveland didn’t live up to the hope or hype as the Indians were finishing 3rd place and being a .500 squad.  However, in 2016 and 2017 had that feel of the mid-90’s where the Tribe dominated, but more of pitching this go around with Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar.  Kluber had probably been the best pitcher the Indians had in 30-40 years (yes, I’m including him over Sabathia and Lee).

Cleveland

2016 saw the Indians dominate October, thumping Boston in a sweep and then taking Toronto out in 5 games getting to their first World Series in 19 years against the Cubs.  Cleveland, once again had a 3-1 series lead (feels like I’ve typed that time after time) and failed to put it way.  Yes, most of it had to do with the pitching as the arms started to wane down the stretch (though Kluber pitched out of his mind until Game 7).  However, in Game 7, Cleveland made an epic comeback in the 9th, scoring 3 runs, capped off by Rajai Davis game-tying 2-run home run to push it into extras.  At that point even I thought it would be Cleveland’s game.  However, the next inning, the oft-reliable bullpen fell backwards a bit, giving up 2 runs.  The Indians had a strong chance to tie and even win the game in the bottom of the 10th but came up short, furthering the heartbreak for Indians fans, and somewhat stinging the euphoria Cleveland fans had after the Cavs had won the NBA Finals months prior.

2017 saw a better Indians team winning 20 games in a row late in the year and the Tribe also winning 100 games for the first time since 1955.  While the offense never really resembled the slugging squads in the 90’s there were quality players around with Lindor, Ramirez, Carlos Santana, and Edwin Encarnacion.  The pitching however was stout with Kluber winning his 2nd Cy Young with Carrasco pitching strong and Mike Clevinger somewhat coming out of nowhere to be a quality starter.  But it was the bullpen that dominated.  Many felt it was Cleveland’s year in 2017 and they started out with a young Yankees team.

And once again….the Indians held a 2-game series lead on a team, unable to put the series away.  This time it was not really the pitching but the hitting that fell apart (though the pitching crashed a bit in the final game), scoring only 5 runs in the final 3 games, thus really sensing that Cleveland is in a curse with the Indians.  Maybe the political correct fans are saying it is the usage of Chief Wahoo as it has no business in today’s age to use.  I have a “second” theory of that later on.

Cleveland

CURSED MOVE:  The Curse of Rocky Colavito feels like it is a huge one as Cleveland made many porous moves over the years keeping them near the bottom of the AL from the 60’s through the 90’s.  Colavito was a star slugger who won the HR title with Cleveland in 1959 and the Indians traded him to the Tigers for batting champ Harvey Kuenn.  Colavito was a hero to the Indians fans and they were furious on the trade.  Kuenn spent one year in Cleveland and Colavito had a nice run in Detroit, but Colavito never had the same popularity in Detroit as it was in Cleveland (Tigers had Al Kaline as Detroit’s hero).  Many view it as that. People say going from League Park to the monstrous Municipal Stadium was the cursed move as the Indians played losing baseball there.  But the Tribe has played in a beautiful ballpark in Progressive Field for 23 years and still haven’t garnered a whole lot of luck.  But I’m looking at the Tribe’s recent history.   I know I will have disagreements with this one, but letting Albert Belle walk was the cursed move.  “But he stunk really after Cleveland and the Tribe still played great without him!”  Yes, VERY true.  However, while it didn’t have the negative effect on the Indians on the field, but it paved the way for Indians stars like Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez to leave via free agency.  It was also somewhat of a trigger with Cleveland trading Lofton away to Atlanta  because of a fear of not being able to re-sign him (though they did after the 97 season coming back after one “meh” season from the Braves).  But it may have also been a key reason why CC Sabathia was traded too.  So really while there really hasn’t been one disastrous signing or trade, it was the Belle’s leaving that just had that vibe that the Indians wouldn’t keep their stars when the big payday arrived.

Cleveland

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT:  With this team in the past 23 years?  To me seeing Renteria’s single in the 97 World Series to end it has to be the one.  No team save the Texas Rangers 14 years later came THAT close to winning a World Series only to blow it like they did.  And many go “yep, that’s Cleveland for you!”

CURSED RATING: 5/5 (SUPER CURSED):  With the Indians losing to the Cubs in 2016, they now inherit the longest drought in baseball between World Series championships.  Adding on, how many times have the Indians been able to close playoff series out and failed?  I see 6 times on here that the Indians have failed to end a series where really they were in control and just somehow the bottom completely falls out on them.  No team is more cursed than the Tribe in MLB.

Cleveland

CLEVELAND BROWNS: 0 SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSHIPS

Similar to the Charlotte Hornets in basketball, you are talking about really two different franchises as there is the historic one that has been around since 1944.  I’m not going to hit the heavy history stuff either though those Browns teams in the 50’s and 60’s thanks to Jim Brown who dominated the times.  Cleveland was originally an NFL team but when the NFL/AFL merger happened, Cleveland was moved to the AFC, away from their NFL brethren such as Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota, and Chicago, but they weren’t the only ones as Baltimore and Pittsburgh joined them and were now in the same division as their old coach and owner Paul Brown and his new team, the Cincinnati Bengals.  Instead of dominating the old AFL foes, Cleveland found themselves mostly near the bottom of the AFC Central in the 70’s, notably rival Pittsburgh who had been the team of that decade.  But when the 80’s arrived, Cleveland returned near to the top.  After winning the AFC Central in 1980 and having a first round bye, the Browns played the Raiders.  The Raiders led 14-12 late and Cleveland was driving.  However, instead of going for a field goal as kicker Don Cockroft was having an awful day for Cleveland (Cockroft said he was injured in that game), missing 2 FG’s an extra point, and another bad snap, Cleveland went for a touchdown.  However, in the red zone, quarterback Brian Sipe misread the defense Oakland had and threw an interception to Mike Davis to end Cleveland’s chances.  The play was called “Red Right 88” and while it isn’t the most famous (or infamous) of the names Cleveland had, it was the first of what was many to come.  Had Sipe read the defense correctly, how things would have changed.

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After a few years of “average” football, the Browns were at the forefront of the AFC with the 70’s teams of Pittsburgh a thing of the past and the major contenders were Denver and Miami.  In 1986 with Marty Schottenheimer as the head coach, Cleveland started to become the AFC heavyweight with a quality quarterback in Bernie Kosar, .  They had homefield throughout the playoffs, and beat the Jets in what really was a great game (yes, young people, the Jets and Browns were playing playoff football and were very good at that time).  And then it was a battle with the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship.  Cleveland fans know the story: 5 and a half minutes left with a 7 point lead.  John Elway on his own two against an opportunistic defense with the howling wind against him.  And Denver scores the game-tying touchdown with about 39 seconds left.  Cleveland failed to score on the first drive in overtime and then Elway drove down again to get Denver into field goal territory and Rich Karlis buried the Browns hopes.  What was not implied was Don Rogers, Cleveland’s star safety, had passed away from a cocaine overdose before the season began.  Had he been alive and on the field, does “The Drive” even happen?

A year later, Cleveland shook off “The Drive” and won the division again.  They beat the Colts in the Divisional playoff with ease, and faced Denver in the AFC Championship.  However, Cleveland had to go to the Mile High City.  Early on it seemed like it was all Denver, going up 21-3 and then 28-10.  However, Kosar was having himself a day.  Earnest Byner was having himself a day.  Cleveland came back to tie the game at 31.  Denver scored again with 6 minutes left from an Elway TD pass to Sammy Winder and then it was Cleveland’s turn to make a drive.  And they were driving.

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The Browns gave it to Byner, who was pretty much the reason for their comeback and was about to score but Jeremiah Castille stripped the ball out of Byner’s hands at the one and Denver recovered on their own two.  Instead of having the Browns get it on more time, punter Mike Horan ran out of the end zone to end the game for a safety to give the Broncos another win over the Browns, thus for the second straight year, giving a nickname for Cleveland fans on the game: “The Fumble.”

A year later, the playoff heartbreaks continued with the Browns losing a home game to the Houston Oilers 24-23 in the Wild Card round and the Browns said bye to Schottenheimer for all his playoff woes (which he recovered a little bit when he coached Kansas City, but then the nightmares returned to him in San Diego).  Bud Carson, who had been the Jets head coach before and the defensive coordinator for those Steel Curtain teams in the 70’s in Pittsburgh, took over.  Byner was gone after the 88 season, being traded to Washington (where he would be a key factor in the Skins Super Bowl run in 1991) and moved up to get running back Eric Metcalf.  Carson had some highlights in 1989 with the Browns, including winning against Denver in the regular season and finished at 9-6-1 surprisingly good enough for another first round bye.  They squeaked by the upstart Bills team in the Divisional Round with a late interception sealing Buffalo’s chances of possibly starting their AFC run a year earlier and again headed to Denver.  However, while the good news was there was no “Drive” or “Fumble” to go in lore, the Browns were decisively beaten by Denver in the AFC Championship.

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However, after that game, that was it for the Browns and really the last time Cleveland would ever be relevant on a consistent level in the NFL.  The next 4 years were forgetful and Carson didn’t even make it past the 1990 season (Cleveland fell to 3-13), but they brought in Bill Belichick in 1991 (yes, THAT Bill Belichick), after he came off being the defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants.  But from 91-93, the Browns remained at the bottom.  In 1994, Cleveland got it together under Belicheck as the offense under quarterback Vinny Testaverde was being a solid player while the defense, coached by Nick Saban (yes, THAT Nick Saban) was near the front of the NFL.  The Browns finished 11-5 and took a Wild Card where they beat the Patriots (yes, Belichick beat the Patriots in the last Browns playoff win), but fell apart in the Divisional round agianst the Steelers.

Cleveland

Saban left the coordinator spot to coach at Michigan State to start his storied college career (minus the speed-bump in Miami for the NFL before returning to build the Alabama dynasty) and the Browns defense fell apart in 1995, but it wasn’t the reason why it goes down into lore of heartbreak of the Browns fans.  It was Art Modell, really out of the blue announced he would move the team to Baltimore at season’s end because of “money lost” throughout the years and not having up-to-date facilities.  Cleveland nearly rioted after the announcement of “The Move.”  It was controversial as Modell didn’t really hint at any point of moving the team anywhere and it was the only time the cities of the Midwest (Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, etc.) were all aligned together in sports to protest the move.  Modell did it anyway.

Cleveland

For three years, Cleveland did not hold a football team.  In 1999, they were brought back with an expansion Browns team, but retaining the records and everything else from the Ravens.  However, the 2nd stint of the Browns have been really forgettable while the “old” Browns, the Ravens, have won two Super Bowls, including Cleveland’s second year back in the NFL (has anybody seemed to notice something about the #2 for both the Indians and Browns? The Tribe always seemed to be up 2 games in playoff series before blowing it, the 2 yard line against Denver has been pretty symbolic, and this of Cleveland’s second year back).  Cleveland drafted Kentucky QB Tim Couch with the first pick in 1999 as the guy to get back to relevance in Cleveland.  And….not really.  Couch had reportedly never had a playbook in Kentucky under Hal Mumme.  When he played, he was streaky at best and in his first three years weren’t impressive as he was a bit of a turnover machine (43 INT’s in 3 seasons).  In 2002, many wanted a switch between Couch and backup Kelly Holcomb, who played well in spurts whenever Couch was injured.  Couch also had been ridiculed by boobirds in Cleveland for his porous play while he fired back on the Browns fans.  However, it didn’t do him any good as it proclaimed him soft.  Despite all of it, Cleveland made the playoffs in 2002 at 9-7 as they had some quality players (William Green, Dennis Northcutt, Robert Griffith, Dwayne Rudd, etc.), and a Wild Card match-up against the hated Steelers.

Holcomb started the Browns game and played well, having two separate times of Cleveland holding (wait for it) a two touchdown lead on Pittsburgh.  However, Pittsburgh and quarterback Tommy Maddox came back from a 24-14 deficit to score 22 points (really?) in the 4th quarter including 15 points in the final 3:36 of the game to beat Cleveland 36-33 as Cleveland’s secondary had no answer.  It would be the final playoff appearance for the Browns to date.

However, there may have been a bit of another “cursed” moment similar to what the Browns experienced in 1986 on “The Drive” during the regular season.  Dwayne Rudd, the reliable and consistent linebacker he was, took his helmet off at the end of what was supposed to be a Browns win in Week 1 vs. Kansas City, but the play continued and was flagged 15 yards which netted a Chiefs Field Goal to win the game.  Some felt that stuck with the Browns and could have won the division and maybe changed the outcome for the season despite the playoff appearance.

Since 2002, Cleveland has only had one winning season (2007, but failed to make the playoffs as it was a dog-eat-dog AFC that year, and the sweep by rival Pittsburgh on them proved costly including blowing a 21-9 halftime lead in Pittsburgh losing 31-28 on a late touchdown pass from Ben Roethlisberger from (you guessed it) 2 yards out with 3 minutes left in the game in Week 11.

Since then, thanks to poor drafts, numerous coaching changes, terrible pick-ups, numerous front office changes, etc. the Browns from 2008 to now, only has had one season where they lost less than 11 games.  Every year has been 11 or more losses, which includes the 0-16 season from last year when they really weren’t too terrible (and probably by far better than the 1-15 squad in 2016), but the Browns continued making costly mistakes and coaching mistakes.

NFL: 2014 NFL Draft

CURSED MOVE:  The casual fan today would say “well if they had kept Belichick they would not have had all this mess.”  Well, 1 playoff in 5 years for Belichick and honestly people laughed when New England hired him to coach.  And Cleveland fans were angry that Belichick cut the longtime Browns quarterback in Kosar in 1993.  So really that wasn’t it, though Belichick may have been proven right on the move.  People point out Tim Couch as a cursed move because of his inconsistencies.  But technically, he and Holcomb were the last quarterbacks to lead Cleveland to the playoffs.  I’m going to say the cursed move was Johnny Manziel.  The hilarity was on Draft night, Browns fans cheered like they won the Super Bowl with getting Manziel, a very gifted college quarterback who won the Heisman Trophy in 2012 and pretty much tortured Alabama in two games during their defensive dynasty run.  However, Manziel had numerous troubles and issues off the field which really stunted his on-field troubles.  He showed signs of brilliance in Cleveland, but rumors of him going to practice and team meetings hung over and really not listening to anybody within the organization made this pick of Manziel one of the worst and to me makes the Ryan Leaf pick to San Diego pale in comparison.  However, Manziel wasn’t an NFL caliber QB but Cleveland and its fans thought they hit a home run with the move.  I guess at some point if you’re a fan of a team with complete misery over the years, you will get excited on anything that looks shiny.  In this case, the Browns and their fans looked silly in retrospect on Manziel.  I still look back and laugh at Manziel coming out doing his silly “money” flash with his hands.  Ironic because it really costed Cleveland’s franchise in the years after.  Honorable mention is hiring Hue Jackson, who is really inept as a head coach and so far keeping him around for a 1-31 start to his coaching career.

Cleveland

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT:  “The Drive,” “The Fumble,” “Red Right 88,” “The Move,” take your pick.  I won’t argue with any of them.  Heck, anything involving the number #2 seems to be what is cursing the Browns.  And this is their technically second go around so you have that….and then you have Tim Couch wearing the #2 with Cleveland.  And you had TWO of the greatest coaches ever on one staff from 1991-1994 and the Browns were unable to do anything as neither one were at that point “great.”  Hmmm…..

CURSED RATING:  5/5 (SUPER CURSED):  It should be more like 1,000/5 but there ya go.  

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CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: 1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Compared to the Indians and Browns, the Cavaliers have it made.  Of course, that doesn’t mean the Cavs have been sitting pretty with their history.  Cleveland started in the NBA in 1970-1971 and went 15-67.  Typical for expansion.  Not the problem.  Really, the 70’s were just irrelevant for the Cavaliers as they only made 3 playoff appearances in the 70’s (though one year they did get into the Eastern Conference Finals losing to Boston in 6 but they held their own).  Until the late 80’s the Cavaliers continued to be near the bottom of the Eastern Conference and felt like it was a consistent string of 50+ losses and even had a young George Karl to try to right the ship (but to no avail).

However when the late 80’s arrived, Cleveland had pieces working.  Brad Daugherty was an all-star center.  Mark Price was one of the better point guards in the NBA, and an all-star who could shoot from three.  Ron Harper could shoot it and Larry Nance was one of the more gifted athletes in the NBA while having a quality bench with Hot Rod Williams and Craig Ehlo with a winning head coach in Lenny Wilkens.  In 1989, Cleveland won 57 games, only finishing behind the Bad Boys Pistons in the Eastern Conference and claimed the 3rd seed behind Detroit and New York in the playoffs and then went to face off against Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, a team Cleveland swept in the regular season in 6 games.  And the series goes to 5 games and in the last minute both Chicago and Cleveland traded leads.  Cleveland got the lead on Nance’s layup with 3 seconds left (couldn’t it have been 2 seconds left?)  And the Bulls Brad Sellers inbounded it to Jordan, who was double-teamed by Ehlo and Nance to avoid getting the ball, but escaped both to get open.  Sellers passed to Jordan, who dribbled to the foul line and hit the shot over Ehlo (where you hear the Bulls announcers say “the shot over Ehlo…GOOD! THE BULLS WIN!” with no time left.  The video has gone into lore as we see Jordan jump and fist-pump while Ehlo fell to the ground in disbelief and has gone into Cleveland infamy (which stinks because he was always a quality guy off the bench all throughout his career).  Of course, Chicago starts their meteoric rise to their dynasty (though it took 2 more years) while Cleveland didn’t recover.

Cleveland

The next two seasons were somewhat forgettable as Cleveland hovered around .500 both years (mostly because of injury to the likes of Nance & Daugherty and traded Harper early in the 1989-90 season) and either a first round playoff exit or missing the playoffs.  However, Cleveland rebounded in 1992, having the 2nd best record again and getting to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time and taking the Bulls to 6 games in a tough series.  The Cavs got back to the playoffs, winning 54 in 1993, and made it to the 2nd round where Chicago swept them and the series clinching shot was another buzzer-beater on the Cavs, this time over Gerald Wilkins.

After the season, Wilkens went to coach the Atlanta Hawks and the Cavs started to really age and transform to a half-court game where it was arguably the most boring brand of basketball (to go along with one of the worst jersey schemes ever).  Cleveland’s injuries to Nance, Daugherty, and Price really took the sting out of their runs, and was really a “slightly above .500” squad with Fratello.  From 1994-1998 Cleveland either was a first round casualty or had not seen the playoffs.  After the lockout-shortened season saw Cleveland finish under .500 the Cavs tried to “speed things up” with hiring Randy Wittman, where things didn’t work as Cleveland lost 50+ in his two years.  Wittman was the first of three in a line of coaches that made the Cavaliers the laughingstock of the NBA from 2000-2003.

However, Cleveland struck gold in winning the ping-pong ball in the 2003 NBA Draft, getting LeBron James, a nearby Akron native.  James, out of high school, took the league by storm.  Despite LeBron’s first two years in the NBA being stellar, Cleveland still hadn’t seen the playoffs with him under Paul Silas.  So Cleveland hired Mike Brown and the Cavs took off, sending a string of teams deep into the playoffs yearly, where they had made it to the NBA Finals in James third appearance in the playoffs.  However, Cleveland was considerably beaten in the playoffs by far more deeper teams (Heat, Pistons, Spurs, Celtics, Magic).  And a frustration level for LeBron was mounting.

Cleveland

After the 2010 season where it ended in Cleveland winning 60+ games and failing to make the conference finals for the second straight time, LeBron said it was time to “take his talents to South Beach” in a live interview.  My initial reaction was from a Simpsons show where Bart slowly shows Lisa a video of her telling Ralph Wiggum she didn’t like him as a boyfriend and saying “there you can see his heart being ripped out right there.”  Cleveland was Ralph Wiggum in this case.  Fans burned their LeBron jerseys as James won two world championships with the Heat and Cleveland went back into futility.

Cleveland

However, all was patched up after the 2014 season where LeBron returned back to the Cavaliers and Cleveland dominated the very weak Eastern conference from 2015-2018 going to the Finals each of the 4 seasons he was there.  Of course, 2015-2016 was the year for Cavaliers fans as they saw the Cavs come back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the 73-9 Warriors team with LeBron making a clutch block late in the game and Kyrie Irving nailing a huge 3-pointer to end Cleveland’s sports misery, only temporarily.   The next two years Cleveland got back to face Golden State, but the match-up was lopsided with the Warriors winning each time, winning 8 of 9 meetings.  The last two seasons, LeBron seemed to be at odds with the Cavs management, not giving LeBron’s “wants” of certain players and such (which they did after their win against Golden State when he told the Cavs to keep JR Smith around-oops!)  The last of the LeBron runs ended somewhat in Cleveland fashion with the Cavs going against the heavily favored Warriors and James himself having an amazing Game 1 only to be stopped by…JR Smith, thinking the game was over with the Cavs inning (when in reality it was tied) with seconds waning down in the 4th.  You even heard Smith say “I thought it was tied” to a stunned LeBron.  Golden State wins that game and destroys Cleveland the rest of the way.  LeBron has left again, but this time Cavs fans “understand” as his career is past the halfway point, though it seems like it is the old high school story of “normal guy gets girl next door before she becomes super hot, she leaves him for the nice-looking guy at school with the cool car and the cool beach house (Miami), but when she realizes that that guy was not what she wants, she goes back to the boy and have a great run, but the time had ended to go their separate ways as she’s going on to bigger and better things in the future (Lakers and retirement) while the boy is wanting to find himself.”

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CURSED MOVE:  Well, probably trading Kyrie Irving makes some fans wonder if that was the beginning of the end for James second stint in Cleveland, but I think that wasn’t it.  I’m going to say the Ron Harper trade where the Cavaliers got the second overall pick in the 1990 Draft that netted them Danny Ferry is somewhat of the poor move.  Harper was a quality all around player for the Cavs and later on the Clippers.  Ferry, while being a solid contributor for Cleveland but for being a #2 pick, you wanted someone with impact.  Let’s say had Cleveland didn’t make that trade, the Cavs probably keep Harper and what may have been Loy Vaught (who really was about as solid as Ferry), and would have been a strong lineup that could have competed with the Pistons and Bulls in the late 80’s/early 90’s.  But hey, Lenny Wilkens evidently loved trading star players to the Clippers and stunting the teams’ growth (see Dominique Wilkins and Atlanta).

DEFINING CURSED MOMENT:  You really can’t go wrong with either Jordan’s shot over Ehlo or LeBron’s “Decision.”  I have to say “The Shot” was it because it was coming off the Browns heartbreaks in Denver just a couple of years before.  And you had to go “yep, Cleveland is cursed.

CURSED RATING: 2/5 (SOMEWHAT CURSED):  Yes, the championship eases the sting, but as a few friends of mine say the 2016 championship hasn’t cured ALL ills of the city’s sports scene.  And having LeBron come & go back & forth, well, that doesn’t help and having the greatest player ever moniker to only net one world championship hurts arguments that he is better than Jordan, who won 6 titles with the Bulls.  

I failed to mention the Cleveland Barons, who were Cleveland’s NHL team in the late 70’s, only lasted two years.  They relocated from Oakland to Cleveland and had small flashes of success (beating the defending champion Canadiens at home and taking down 3 of the powerhouses in Toronto, Buffalo, and the Islanders in one week), but losing 15 in a row doomed them.  And the next season was a mess as Cleveland fans, fickle at times, weren’t showing up to the games.  And adios Barons, as the team merged with the Minnesota North Stars.

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Cleveland is without question, even with that 2016 world championship by the Cavaliers one of the most cursed cities in sports.  In fact, since the Cavaliers won, there have already been numerous events on all three sports teams to give them more gut punches (2016 World Series, 1-31 by the Browns in the last two seasons, and JR Smith’s running around dribbling the ball out to send the game into overtime are enough right there).  So the debate still rages that Cleveland is still cursed.  And after writing about this forever, I wouldn’t disagree at all.  And you do have to wonder of “what on planet earth did Cleveland do to have this much disaster and heartbreak?”

Maybe it has something with the number two.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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The 9th Inning: These Red Sox cannot be stopped and some interesting players of the week

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is a weekly column each Sunday evening on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the week’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I give my personal thoughts on a few events as well as tell you what to look forward to in the following week. I also give out weekly awards for team of the week and player of the week. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen every week. This is the second article of this column and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

*Record for the week is in parentheses.

Hot:

The Boston Red Sox (4-1)

The Oakland Athletics (5-1)

The Atlanta Braves (5-1)

The Philadelphia Phillies (5-1)

Not:

The New York Yankees (2-4)

The Seattle Mariners (2-5)

The Tampa Bay Rays (3-3)

The Weekly Awards:

The Team of the Week is the …

The Boston Red Sox (4-1)

There is no doubt in my mind, as a New York Yankees fan, that these Red Sox are the clear best team in baseball as of today. It hurts me to say it but I cannot avoid speaking the truth. Look at what they did to the Yankees over the past weekend, taking three straight and going for the sweep currently as I’m writing this. They also took their only loss of the week (so far) to the Philadelphia Phillies, who have been hot as of late and are certain to be one of the NL’s premier teams. This Boston team is one of the most well-balanced teams in recent MLB history with a powerful offense led by Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, combined with a Cy Young contender in Chris Sale and a Cy Young winner in Rick Porcello. Oh, and I shouldn’t forget about their all-star closer in Craig Kimbrel. The Red Sox had a great week and truly deserve this honor.

The Hitter of the Week is …

Arizona Diamondbacks SS Nick Ahmed

This might be a shocking name for the hitter of the week for you guys, but Ahmed is certainly delivering some offense for the Snakes out West. In six games during this week, Ahmed hit .529, hit three home runs, collected six runs and 8 RBIs. The shortstop also had a ridiculous 1.854 OPS this week. He is providing some unexpected offense for a D-Backs team that will certainly need it down the stretch as they are in a tough battle in the NL West.

The Pitcher of the Week is …

New York Mets SP Zack Wheeler

Yes, I know, it is shocking that a New York Met has earned an award of some sort in 2018. Well, it’s based on Wheeler’s individual performance, which was ridiculous over the past week. Wheeler had been frequently talked about in trades with other teams but it’s easy to see why the Mets held onto him. In two starts this week, he was 2-0 in 13 innings, while allowing zero earned runs, and having a 1.16 FIP. He certainly deserves it.

Series to Watch This Week:

Houston Astros @ San Francisco Giants

Atlanta Braves @ Washington Nationals

Philadelphia Phillies @ Arizona D-Backs

LA Dodgers @ Oakland Athletics

This Weekend?:

Seattle Mariners @ Houston Astros

LA Dodgers @ Colorado Rockies

Washington Nationals @ Chicago Cubs

Milwaukee Brewers @ Atlanta Braves

Anyways, thanks for reading the second ever edition of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next time! Peace!

The 9th Inning: Newcomb’s Tragedy, A Terrific HOF Class, A Rollercoaster Week for the Yankees, and The Tale of DeGrom

Welcome to the 9th Inning. This is going to be a weekly column each Sunday evening on Pro Sports Fandom in which I roundup the week’s biggest happenings in the baseball realm. I also give my personal thoughts on a few events as well as tell you what to look forward to in the following week. I will also be giving out weekly awards for team of the week and player of the week. It’s basically a baseball podcast squeezed into an article that will happen every week. This is the debut article of this column and I hope for some immense success with this column. If you’d like, be sure to share with your friends, social media, and family! I’d love my column to reach as big a global outreach as possible.

I’m going to start the 9th Inning column out with a few rounded-up thoughts in recap of this week’s action both on the field and off.

A Truly Deserving Hall of Fame Class of 2018

I know it’s not current baseball talk, but I have to tip my cap to all of the voters for the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Class of 2018 is one of the most deserving ones in years. It was an amazing ceremony and it fulfilled fans in attendance. Perhaps the most deserving inductees were none other than Chipper Jones and Vladimir Guerrero. Jones, the sensational switch-hitting third baseman, more than deserves this recognition, as he truly revitalized the third base position heading into the modern era. Guerrero, whose son is going to make a name for himself in the big leagues soon, also truly deserves this honor, as one of the most iconic players in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Congratulations to all of the six men who were inducted into Cooperstown this year!

The Sad Story That Is Jacob deGrom

Ok, it’s sad, but we have to address it. All jokes aside (including the Mets Franchise), Jacob deGrom is pitching his way to one of the greatest single seasons for a pitcher in recent baseball history. He is defying the shift in the newfound era of the home run ball. But the Mets offense seems to hate him. He won’t be getting traded this summer sadly and I think about every realistic baseball mind knows that. In his last 12 starts, Jacob deGrom has a 1.87 ERA in 87 innings on the mound with 95 strikeouts, 65 hits, and 18 earned runs. His record in those 12 starts? 1-6. The Mets offense doesn’t support him and the bullpen doesn’t finish off the unbelievable outings he has consistently put together. He’s on pace to finish with a 2.23 ERA and a 10-9 record, and because he doesn’t have a pretty record, people are worrying that he’ll be overlooked as a Cy Young candidate. Move aside, if the season ended now, the kid would be a lock to win the award.

The Yankees Rollercoaster Week

If I told you that the Yankees would’ve acquired Zach Britton and J.A. Happ before this week began, would you have been HAPPy? (See what I did there). Most likely you would’ve been ecstatic if you were a Yankees fan. They bolstered their bullpen by trading for the left-handed Britton and then replenished their starting rotation by adding another left hander in veteran J.A. Happ. But why are Yankees fans still acting disappointed and negative after this week? The first reason: their division rival Red Sox do not seem to lose much at all, and they trail them by 5 1/2 games in the AL East. Secondly, they have lost their superstar outfielder Aaron Judge for three weeks due to a chip fracture in his wrist. The negativity seems like it won’t stop coming! But as I said in my article yesterday, RELAX Yankees Fans!

Newcomb’s Tragic Final Out

A few weeks after Josh Hader caught the nation’s heat for some old racist, sexist, and homophobic tweets that were dug up, Atlanta Braves starter Sean Newcomb experienced the exact same issue. This is definitely not a good look for the MLB or baseball as a whole, so let’s hope that this doesn’t start becoming a trend. But what made it even more upsetting was the fact that Newcomb had just thrown his best outing ever in the major leagues, and was at an all-time high before he found out. He dominated the Dodgers lineup on Sunday afternoon, but he also dominated the media. He was one strike away from a no-hitter, which would’ve also set the Internet on fire. But a single from Chris Taylor ended his hopes. Such tragedy happens in the major leagues.

Who’s Hot and Who’s Not?

Hot:

The Boston Red Sox (7-3 in Last Ten)

The Pittsburgh Pirates (7-3 in Last Ten)

The Colorado Rockies (8-2 in Last Ten)

Not:

The San Francisco Giants (3-7 in Last Ten)

The Houston Astros (4-6 in Last Ten)

The San Diego Padres (2-8 in Last Ten)

The Tampa Bay Rays (4-6 in Last Ten)

The Seattle Mariners (4-6 in Last Ten)

The Weekly Awards

The Team of the Week is the …

Colorado Rockies (4-2 record)

The Rockies started off the week with a split two game series against the Houston Astros, but finished the week with an impressive three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics to finish the week with a 4-2 record. Both the Athletics and Astros are playoff contending teams in the AL, so it’s an extremely impressive week for the Rox. They sit just a game out of first place in the NL West as they mark their quest to a postseason berth!

The Hitter of the Week is …

Milwaukee Brewers OF Christian Yelich

Christian Yelich has had an extremely productive 2018 campaign in his first season with the Brew Crew. He continued his excellence this week with a fantastic seven day stretch. He had 30 plate appearances in seven games, hit three home runs, scored eight runs, had 10 RBIs, and maintained a prolific batting average of .536 with a 0.9 WAR for the week. Dating back to July 14th, the outfielder is on a 12-game hitting streak.

The Pitcher of the Week is …

Boston Red Sox LHP Chris Sale

It pains me a bit to say this but Chris Sale is the best pitcher in the American League. He further asserted his dominance with two fantastic outings this week en route to this honor. He pitched 12 innings, surrendered five hits, zero runs, while striking out 19 batters, walking only two, and having a 1-0 record for the week. He seems to be stretching out his cushion on the rest of the American League in terms of the Cy Young award race, but we will see if this continues.

What to Look Forward To:

In this upcoming week, there is a lot of baseball to look forward to! But the most notable even going on in the baseball realm is the trade deadline on Tuesday, July 31st. Everybody should be excited to see who is on the move on deadline day! Look forward to an action-packed Tuesday of moves!

There are plenty of series between great teams to start the week but I’ll name a few, such as the Brewers-Dodgers, Astros-Mariners, Phillies-Red Sox, and Cubs-Pirates. To close out the week, we will get to see four games of the Yankees-Red Sox at Fenway, three games of a World Series rematch between the Astros and Dodgers, and a three game stretch between playoff contending teams in the Rockies and Brewers.

Thanks for reading the debut of the 9th Inning column! I hope you enjoyed! Don’t forget to share with your friends, family, and on social media! Feel free to contact me on my Twitter @TBeckmann24 if you have any questions! I’ll be back next time! Peace!

Ultimate MLB Second Half Guide: Analysis and Predictions for Trade Deadline, Standings, Awards, and the Playoffs

We are one week away from the MLB All-Star break and inching ever closer to the July 31st league-wide non-waiver trade deadline. We have watched more than one half of the season and we are starting to get a good idea of the playoff picture, trade fits, standings, and award candidates. That’s why I felt that it was the perfect time to release a massive guide to the second half of the baseball season. My guide is here, complete with predictions and analysis on the trade deadline, final standings, playoffs, and season awards.

Table of Contents:

Trade Deadline Predictions- PG. 2

Standings Predictions- PG. 3

AL Playoff Predictions- PG. 4

NL Playoff Predictions- PG. 5

World Series Predictions- PG. 6

Season Awards Predictions- PG. 7

Concluding Thoughts- PG. 8