Archive for the ‘ 2012 season ’ Category

Great Plays From the 2012 MLB Season

We are knocking on the doorstep of 2013 and with it the promise of Spring Training about six weeks away.  Although it is cold outside, writing about baseball and scanning mlb.com for material makes my body forget that the temperature is lower than my age.  Before we turn the page to next year, let’s look at some outstanding gems from the 2012 season.  Maybe this type of post can become more frequent during the 2013 season.  Instead of searching other places on the Internet, catch some great highlights all on one site.  Mine.

Ben Revere will be trading uniforms next year, going from the Minnesota Twins to the Philadelphia Phillies.  Revere has flashed some tremendous leather during his time in Minnesota and the city of Philadelphia will enjoy this human highlight film.  The Twins’ fans’ loss becomes the Phillies’ fans’ gain.

Not known for his glove, Travis Snider of the Pittsburgh Pirates made one of the great catches you will ever see.  Outside of this a handful of other plays, not much went right for the Bucs during the second half of 2012.  Maybe Pittsburgh’s fortunes will climb in 2013 much like Snider scaling the wall.

Every time I post a blog about great defense, Brandon Phillips is sure to be included.  Not only is the Cincinnati Reds‘ second basemen a standout ballplayer, he is one of the best interviews in the game.  I am glad Cincy has him under contract until 2018.

Mike Trout was THE name in baseball in 2012.  The Los Angeles Angels phenom easily won Rookie of the Year honors and placed second in the American League MVP race.  It is about time he was on the other end of the highlight reel, courtesy of Seattle Mariners outfielder Casper Wells.

Michael Bourn is still a man without a team.  His previous employer, the Atlanta Braves decided to go in another direction by signing B.J. Upton.  Whoever signs Bourne will be treating their fans to a plethora of plays such as this one.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Does a Great 2012 Clear Ryan Braun’s Name?

The biggest offseason story last year not involving trades or free agency was clearly the controversy surrounding the positive test for performance-enhancing drugs of National League MVP Ryan Braun.  The Milwaukee Brewers star was immediately suspended 50 games and he quickly appealed the punishment.   The test that nailed the slugger showed a very high amount of testosterone although the substance detected was not from a steroid or a drug but was indeed prohibited.  A second test later revealed normal levels of testosterone.  Confusion reigned for the remainder of the Winter.  Finally, in February 2012 an arbitration panel (by a 2-1 vote) overruled the suspension and allowed Braun to play in the regular season starting from Opening Day.  It seemed as though Braun got off on a technicality as the panel found the process by which the sample was handled was wrong.  The test was taken on a Saturday and instead of being stored in a refrigerator, it was left in a Tupperware box for two days before being sent in for testing.

Ryan Braun hopes to smile more this offseason than the previous one. Image: plushdamentals.mlblogs.com

With all of this out in the public, how would Braun fare in 2012?  Would he be given a pass due to the overturned suspension?  Were his numbers legitimate?  Was he really an MVP?  How would he do with no Prince Fielder protecting him?  As far as the on field production goes, his 2012 numbers were strikingly similar to his 2011 output.  After a slow start in which he clearly was pressing, Braun went on to have a tremendous season.  He hit 41 home runs this season, eight more than 2011 and drove in 112; in 2011 he knocked in 111 runs.  Slugging (.595 in 2012, .597 in 2011) and OPS (.987 in 2012 and .994 in 2011) were identical and the batting average (.319 this year, .332 last year) was off slightly.  Aramis Ramirez was also able to pick up the slack upon Fielder’s departure clubbing 27 homers and driving in 105.  The Brewers also were down as a team although a furious finish allowed them to post back-to-back winning seasons for only the second time in 20 years.

Off the field, the jury is still out on getting his reputation back.  According this article in the New York Times, fans heckle Braun in every ballpark.  I am sure even if there was no question of his innocence, he still would be subjected to some sort of derogatory treatment.  Clearly, if all of Braun’s tests since last year have come back negative then there are fewer doubts about his ability on the field.  Will he be able to vindicate himself as times goes on?  It is tough to tell since he is the only player to successfully challenge a positive test.  Fairly or unfairly, there will always be a stigma attached to Ryan Braun.  Maybe after he retires, he will open up about what really happened.  Until then, it would be reasonable to harbor a small amount of suspicion while enjoying his tremendous feats on the field.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Bruce Bochy is on the Doorstep of the Hall of Fame

Last night, the San Francisco Giants wrapped up their second World Series title in the last three seasons by taking Game 4 4-3 in 10 innings, sweeping the Detroit Tigers.  This was Manger Bruce Bochy’s  third Series appearance having piloted the Giants in 2010 to victory and also taking the San Diego Padres in 1998 where they were swept by the record-setting New York Yankees.  Bochy joins a handful of managers who have either won multiple World Series or taken two different clubs to the Fall Classic.  All of which leads me to believe that Bochy is pretty close to entering the Hall of Fame for his managerial accomplishments.

Another World Series win would turn that frown upside down. Image: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Now how could I say this about a guy whose lifetime mark is 10 games over .500?  Easily.  Just consider some of the circumstances surrounding his success.  Before Bochy became manager of the Padres in 1995, that team made the playoffs exactly once in their 26-year history.  Bochy quadrupled that number by winning division titles in 1996, 1998, 2005 and 2006, with the team’s second pennant in history coming in ’98.  In 2007, Bochy headed up the coast to San Francisco to a team that had not won it all since moving West in 1958.  All he has done is win two titles and with the way General Manager Brian Sabean (himself a future candidate for Cooperstown) makes personnel decisions, there will be ample opportunities for more.  He is the 22nd manager to win more than one title; 13 of them made it to the Hall of Fame with Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa sure to be enshrined as well.   Bochy is also one of only 13 managers to have led two different clubs to World Series appearances.

One more World Series victory would punch Bruce Bochy’s ticket to Cooperstown.  Short of that, if he reaches the 2,000 win plateau (he has 1,454) that would make a strong case for induction.  At 57, Bochy could easily manages another 7-10 years if he so chooses.  For now, he should be recognized as one of the best, if not the best Field Boss in the game.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

In a Land of Tigers and Giants, I’ll Take San Francisco

The 2012 World Series is finally here. Glad that we get to see the best two teams fight it out to determine a champion but sad that the time is short in the Major League Baseball season. We get the San Francisco Giants, 2010 World Champions against the Detroit Tigers who last won it all in 1984.  Two historic franchises, one big battle for diamond supremacy.  Stars and MVP candidates on both sides, past Cy Young winners hoping for one or two final big outings in 2012.  One last hurrah before the action on the field hibernates for the Winter.

The San Francisco Giants celebrate winning the 2010 World Series.
Expect a similar picture in 2012. Image: http://www.katu.com

Who has the edge in this year’s Fall Classic?  Well, the Tigers come in having not played since last Thursday so their pitching staff is lined up exactly how they want it.  Then again, almost a week off this late in the season can make a hot team go cold and rusty.  The Giants have certainly made their fans sweat by being down 2-0 and 3-1 in both of their series only to come roaring back from the brink of elimination.   Some might say the team may have already played their best baseball and is spent.  Detroit has the best player in Miguel Cabrera and the best pitcher in Justin Verlander.  San Francisco returns many of the same important players that won it two years ago.

So who wins?  My prediction in March and then at the beginning of this postseason was the Texas Rangers.  I also said if it was not Texas, it would be whomever won the National League pennant.  I firmly believe that the best four or five teams in the National League are better as a whole than the four or five best American League teams.  Clubs like the Giants, St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds are better and mentally tougher than their AL counterparts.  In case you haven’t noticed, the National League has won three of the last four World Series and the last three All-Star Games.  It is commendable that the Tigers, who played below expectations for most of the season got hot late and found themselves at destiny’s doorstep.  However, the Giants have overcome so much more including the suspension of Melky Cabrera, coming back in round one against the 96 win Reds and ending the reigning champion Cardinals’ dream of a repeat.   San Fran will win this with much less drama.  Giants in 6.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Why Everyone Needs to Relax About the New York Yankees

Did I miss something?

Weren’t the New York Yankees one of the final four teams playing this year in Major League Baseball?   I’m not so sure, the so-called smartest fans in baseball (along with the media) seem to be leading me astray.  To be in New York the last five days you would think the Yanks lost 122 games and tied the other 40.  I get it, the hitting was historically bad against the Detroit Tigers.  To rehash the numbers that have been spouted endlessly recently would be a waste of my time and yours.  So now that everyone has started to exhale and maybe taken a couple of sedatives, here are some helpful insights from your favorite baseball blogger to help bring you back to reality.

The Yankees actually went farther in 2012 than they did in 2011.

Is this the logo of the New York Yankees or the Washington Generals? New York fans have me confused. Image: http://www.90feetofperfection.com

OOHH, I know, such groundbreaking stuff.  But it’s true.  You can look it up.  They lost the ALDS in 2011 to those (almost) same Tigers in five games.  So the Bronx Bombers had a more successful season this year than last and all I hear about is that they just lost 9 out of 10 to the Bridgeport Bluefish.    So once all of the fans around baseball (except those from Detroit, St. Louis and San Francisco) quit their snickering and glee from the Yanks’ dreadful ending, there is this cold, hard fact:  they would have traded places with Yankee fans in a second.  They would have loved to seen their own teams in that exact same spot because that would have meant a successful season.  Which brings me to the next point.

The Yankees had the best record in the American League, winning 95 games despite an array of injuries.  So now, people want this team dismantled by cutting and trading players as if this was a bad week of Fantasy Football.  Folks, you have to maintain excellence over the course of a 162 game regular season just to make it to the postseason.  So when you ask not to re-sign Nick Swisher, not pick up Curtis Granderson’s option and trade Alex Rodriguez (because hey that hasn’t been proposed 10,001 times) do you really have an idea what that means?  It means that while the playoffs are not a lock if you maintain the status quo, they may become even more remote by blowing up the team because now you are dealing with the unknown.  Do you suppose you snap your fingers, and BAM, here comes 100 wins?  So you want to dump Russell Martin and his .211 batting average?  Find a catcher who has experience handling almost 20 different pitchers in one season and is a rock behind the plate.  Go scan the waiver wire and let me know how that works out. Make all those changes and if the team goes .500, then what?  Fire Joe Girardi?  Trade Derek Jeter?  Exhume George Steinbrenner’s body?

2013 is not the year to make whole sale changes to the Yankees.  That will happen in 2014 when the self-imposed $189 million dollar cap will begin to take effect.  It makes sense to give this group one more shot at getting to the World Series.  It won’t be nearly as bad next postseason.  Logically speaking,  in 2011 it was the ALDS, in 2012, it was the ALCS.  So that means in 2013 it will be the World Series.  Then again, logic is not a word we would associate with most New York baseball fans.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Rays’ Rodney, Giants’ Posey Win Comeback Player of the Year Awards

Major League Baseball announced Friday that Tampa Bay Rays’ Closer Fernando Rodney and San Francisco Giants Catcher Buster Posey won their respective league’s Comeback Player of the Year Award.  The two took extremely different paths to the accolade that is bestowed upon them.

Fernando Rodney shot many imaginary arrows on his way to winning the AL Comeback Player of the Year. Image: hardballtalk.nbcsports.com

Rodney had a throughly mediocre 2011 with the Los Angeles Angels.  He appeared in only 39 games to the tune of a 4.50 ERA.  That’s not the ugly portion of his line.  In 32 innings, the righty walked an astounding 28 batters and allowed 26 hits.  Although he finished with 37 saves in 2009 for the Detroit Tigers, he compiled an ERA of 4.40.  In fact, the previous five seasons before 2012, his lowest ERA was 4.24.  And then like most downtrodden players that go to Tampa, Rodney’s career rebounded in a big way.  The 48 saves, second in the AL told only part of the story.  He appeared in 76 games, finishing 65 of them with get this, an ERA of 0.60. That is the lowest ERA in baseball history by a reliever.  About the only not-so-great thing about his year was his arrow shooting after recording the last out of each of his games.  One of those shots will come back to bite him.

Posey, the National League winner, was the 2010 Rookie of the Year as the Giants won the World Series.  On May 25th, 2011 he suffered a broken ankle during one of the most horrific collisions at home plate you will see.  There were questions about whether or not he would be the same player, let alone handle the demanding position of Catcher.  Well, all the third-year player did was capture the batting title by hitting .336 to go along with 24 home runs and 103 RBI’s and is considered the front-runner for the MVP Award.  In the deciding game of this year’s NLDS vs. the Cincinnati Reds, Posey clubbed a grand slam to lead the Giants to the NLCS.  This 25-year-old star caught an amazing 114 games behind the dish, much more than anyone could possibly expect.  There is one other thing you should know about him.  He will have a career that mirrors that of Derek Jeter’s.  He may not play as long because of his position but he will be every bit the performer.   Posey is already a leader and he is every bit as clutch as the long-time New York Yankee.  Too soon to make such a strong statement?  A .300 World Series average, a ROY Award and a possible league MVP says differently.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondback at http://venomstrikes.com

Derek Jeter’s Injury Dampens the Postseason Mood

This was supposed to be a post about how great both the American and NationaLeague Championship Series will be leading up up to the World Series. The history of the four participants speaks for itself; they have combined for a total of 48 World Series Championships.  Everything was going to resemble the 2003 and 2004 LCS’s from both leagues, all four of them seven game classics.

The next time we see Derek Jeter in uniform, it will be 2013. Image: http://www.coolchaser.com

Derek Jeter’s injury changes all of that.

This is not to say the New York Yankees-Detroit Tigers series won’t be competitve.  It certainly won’t diminish the showdown between the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants.  However, it won’t be the same looking at the Yankees and for that matter the rest of this postseason without Jeter.  Think about it, he has played almost as many post season games (158) as there are actual games in the regular season.  Since 1996, the Yankees have made the playoffs every season except for the 2008 campaign.  Derek Jeter has played in every single one of those postgseason games.  It is sort of like Mickey Mantle in the 1950′s and 1960′s.  The Yankees were in the World Series just about every year and there was Mantle, the best and most recognized player on the premier team in the sport showing off his game in front of the entire country.  Like Mantle, Jeter has excelled hitting .308 over his playoff career including a robust .321 in Fall Classic play.

So what happens to the Yankees without the Captain?  It will obviously be very difficult for this team to advance particularly since they are down two games to none at the moment.  However, to say they have no chance is not fair to the rest of the guys in that locker room.  This team has overcome numerous injuries to register the best record in the American League.  Stranger things have happened.  But none stranger than not seeing Derek Jeter at Shortstop for the Yankees in the ALCS.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

San Francisco Giants-St. Louis Cardinals: Battle of Champions

The National League Championship Series begins tomorrow night with the St. Louis Cardinals continuting to defend their World Series title by going out West to face the 2010 Champion San Francisco Giants.  Very rarely, if ever do we have the two most recent champions face each other the following season for the right to earn a return trip to the Fall Classic.  Throw in the Yankees who won it all in 2009 and we have the last three MLB Champions fighting for a title in 2012.  This NLCS promises to be a classic, two gritty clubs who were simply amazing in both of their prior series.  You have St. Louis, down 6-1 in the fifth inning in Washington in the fifth and deciding game coming all the way back to win 9-7.  That should be the most extraordinary story of this postseason….except that would belong to the Giants.  San Fran dropped the first two games at home to the Reds only to go on the road to win the final three games of the series.

Angel Pagan will be smiling all the way through October. Image: msn.foxsports.com

I have two guys in mind who I expect to have big series.  For the Giants, it is Angel Pagan, the former Met who was traded to San Francisco last December.  All Pagan did was lead the National League in triples with 15.  When Melky Cabrera, the best Giants player in the first half, was suspended 50 games for a PED violation, Pagan upped his game by hitting a sizzling .342 in August.   Although he batted a paltry .150 in the NLDS, Pagan got the team going in Game 4 with a leadoff home run.  Expect a big bounce back in this series.  On the Cardinals’ side, Allen Craig will look to shine just as he did in the 2011 postseason.  In this, first full season as a regular player, Craig was forced to make up for Albert Pujols’s departure and Lance Berkman’s injury.  He enjoyed a fine year as he hit 22 home runs and drove in 92 runs to go along with a .307 batting average.  Most of us will recall his two huge pinch hits during the first two games of last year’s World Series.  In that same Series, he homered in both Game 6 and Game 7 as the Cards took their second title in six seasons.  There is no reason for Craig to slow down now.

As good as the ALCS will be, I think Cards-Giants will be even better.  These are two historic franchises and the backdrop of a matchup between the previous two champions has this NLCS shaping up to be an epic battle.  The verdict?  Is it possible every game will be decided by run?  Doubtful but I think the Cardinal magic, after making an appearance or two will finally run out in 2012.  Giants in a seven game classic for the ages.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

New York Yankees-Detroit Tigers: Part Two

Expect a monster ALCS for Ichiro Suzuki. Image: http://www.yahoo.com

The American League Championship Series is set.  It will be as rematch from one of last season’s Division Series, the New York Yankees against the Detroit Tigers.  That series was won by the Tigers in five games.  This season, Prince Fielder has been added to the Detroit mix and in case you have been living under a rock, this week the big Yankee story is the pinch-hitting for and subsequent benching of Alex Rodriguez.  Throw in the fact that neither Justin Verlander nor CC Sabathia will be pitching Game 1 and you have all the ingredients of a series that has seven games written all over it.

The key players for me will be Austin Jackson for Detroit and Ichiro Suzuki for New York.  Jackson  again led the AL in Triples and his batting average jumped 51 points to an even .300. He had a miserable ALDS last year vs the Yanks, batting .125 with eight strikeouts in sixteen at bats.   He is a year older now and although his average was .250 in the just concluded set against the Oakland A’s, I look for this ALCS to be his coming-out party.   As for Ichiro, this may be his last chance at a World Series and though he batted only .200 the previous round, he did stroke a big RBI double in the Game 5 clincher.  I expect some big games from the future Hall of Famer, something along the lines of a .400 average with 5 doubles.

The prediction?  These are two teams are so evenly matched it’s hard not to see this going a long time.  If it comes down to the closers, I am taking Rafael Soriano over Jose Valverde.  For that reason and for the fact Derek Jeter is just as bit the MVP candidate as Miguel Cabrera, I go with the Yankees in seven.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

Farewell 2012 Regular Season

So long, old friend.

See you in six months.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the Major League Baseball playoffs just as much as the next fan.  However, there was some sadness as I watched Alcides Escobar of the Kansas City Royals go down on strikes for the final out of the 2012 MLB regular season.  After all, every day for the past half-year we have watched over a hundred games and viewed thousands of highlights.  And then, all of a sudden, it’s over.   Sixteen games yesterday and none today.   There is a sadness that comes with this day, one that for rabid baseball fans such as me, won’t be healed until Opening Day 2013.

It’s a shame we won’t see King Felix until 2013. Image: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

I’ll miss watching MLB Network’s Quick Pitch every morning and not just for the recaps.  Giving my youngest a bottle, I would flip on the TV before 7 AM to watch all the results and plays from the previous day.   My oldest, who is not interested in watching (but enjoys playing), would wake up around this time and lay on the couch.  I would hope (and still do) that by watching the highlights, he will become more of a fan.  Inevitably, a question gets asked about a team or a player and I am only too happy to oblige with an answer.   The middle one then stumbles out and demands to change the channel.  I’ll have to wait many months before I could relive that scenario (without the bottle part I hope).

I’ll miss trying to find out who won the late games.  Since I now blog for the Arizona Diamondbacks, each morning I was anxious to see what the Snakes had done after I had fallen asleep.

I’ll miss Los Angeles Dodgers clips, not because of the team but because I know I will get a chance to hear the great Vin Scully. 

I’ll miss channel surfing, hoping to catch an inning of Felix Hernandez, a moon shot from Jose Bautista or a laser throw from Jeff Francoeur.

I’ll miss the warm, sunny weather that embodies the great game of baseball.

I’ll miss the regular season of 2012 and every year because  it is the only regular season that really matters.  It is clear the NBA and the NHL are playoff-driven leagues and the NFL, while dwarfing baseball’s popularity, is a once-per week showcase.  Baseball is there every single day from April to October.  You follow your team, you read stories on them, you almost feel like they are family to you.

And then they are gone.

So long pal.  Opening Day is only 179 days away.

Follow me on Twitter @ltj41 and covering the Arizona Diamondbacks at http://venomstrikes.com

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