Results tagged ‘ American League ’

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching Puts NL Over AL

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In the new “Era of the Pitcher”, how fitting was it that this contest was dominated by one big bomb (from Prince Fielder) and suffocating hurling from the NL mound studs.  The AL fared okay, but without their big horses to match up, the NL just had too much firepower coming from that mound.

On the Twins front, Michael Cuddyer saw one pitch…and flied out to shallow right field.  He also played two innings at first base.  Not all that spectacular, but I’m sure a thrill for him nonetheless.

I always look forward to the Midsummer Classic each year, and this one (despite a lackluster AL performance) didn’t disappoint.

On to the second half!

Waddaya Know…Cano?!

The 2011 MLB Home Run Derby was pretty much a mirror image of all that came before it.  Usually in these things, the first round sees the biggest totals put out, after which the competitors begin to tucker out (especially in the final round).  Not this year.

No player even hit TEN HR’s out of Chase Field in the first round, and the second round was pretty pedestrian as well.  But then, in the final round, both Adrian Gonzalez and Robinson Cano put on quite a show, with Cano ultimately coming out on top.  He had that “pure pull” swing working all night long; looking as if he was doing little more than flicking his wrists to send the ball deep into right field.

Despite the slow start, it was still (as usual) a fun show to watch!

Tonight, Jered Weaver will take the mound for the AL, while Roy “Doc” Halladay will start for the NL in the All-Star Game.

Michael Cuddyer: Our All-Star

Congrats to Michael Cuddyer on making the AL All-Star squad as a reserve.

Though perhaps not utterly deserving based purely on the stats, I’m glad Cuddy will be making the trip to Arizona next week because of what he means to the Twins organization.

All teams need leaders, and Michael is exactly that right now for this team.  He came up through the Twins’ system as a blue-chip prospect, is the only player to be a part of every Twins division title since 2002, and will play anywhere you ask him (I’ve seen him at first, second, third, left, center, and right).

So, in a down year for individual Twins, I’m excited that Cuddy gets this thrill.  I even have a crazy idea for AL skipper Ron Washington: Remember Caesar Tover?  Well, how about a similar Cuddy experiment July 12?!  Think about it…!

Living Up To The Billing

The 2010 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was billed as a pitchers duel. It started off with these two gentlemen…
0_david-price_opsq-88198-mid.jpg
0_ubaldo-jimenez_opv1-2025-mid.jpg…and didn’t wander too far from the script.

The first run of the game was scored by the AL in the fifth inning on a Robinson Cano sacrifice fly…

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…after Dodger pitcher Hong-Chih Kuo’s throwing error allowed a man to stand on third base.

It wasn’t until the seventh inning when the NL finally began to build a rally, capped off by a bases-clearing single from Brian McCann:

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The American Leaguers didn’t do anything else until the bottom of the ninth, when David Ortiz led off with a single and, with one out, John Buck did likewise.  However, NL right fielder Marlon Byrd nabbed the ball on a hop and fired to second, gunning down the lead-footed Big Papi (and the AL’s serious chance of tying things up):

gallery-ortiz-ap.jpg The obvious game MVP was McCann:

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Matt Capps retired one batter to pick up the win, while Luke Hughes took the lose and Jonathan Broxton recorded the save.

About the only scary moment of the game came when Ryan Braun made a diving catch…

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…and rolled right on top of his wrist.  He came away from the play unscathed, but could have very easily broken his wrist on the play.  Whew!

All in all, the 2010 ASG was a tight, well-played contest, and I was disppointed to hear today that it garnered such poor ratings on FOX.  To me, the ASG is an event I look forward to every summer, and I don’t see why more people don’t get excited about it.  Perhaps in this day and age of round-the-clock media coverage the fans actually need a “break” as much as the players, but not for me, I guess.  I remember watching the game with stars in my eyes as a child, and I still do to this day.

King David

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The Sad State Of Baseball Economics

mmw_baseball_101608_article.jpgAfter watching my beloved Minnesota Twins got stomped by the New York Yankees in the first round of the playoffs this past season, and then seeing Cleveland-bred C.C. Sabathia and Cliff Lee pitch the Yanks and Phillies into the World Series, I believe that now is the time for me to comment on the sad economic state of baseball these days.  This has always been a very hot-button topic for me (as I root for the small-market Twins), so I would like to take a few moments to explain why the current system is broken and what can be done to fix it:

Basically, the problem started way back in the 1900s, when both the American and National Leagues were first established.

mathewson-ruth-wagner-cobb-johnson.jpg Instead of free agency, there was something called the reserve clause, which was essentially a legal precedent that baseball used to keep players on one team until their owner decided differently.  The players were treated not too much different from a cattle-range steer, to be bought and sold as commodities.  It wasn’t, by any means, the greatest system in the world (as the only option a player had to fight against an unfair salary, which were very common in those days when most owners made Carl Pohlad look like the Monopoly Guy, was to quit playing altogether), but it did help the competitive balance of the game, allowing all teams (if managed/owned sensibly) to have a shot at competing for a championship.

That all changed in the 1970s when Curt Flood of the St. Louis Cardinals challenged the reserve clause all the way to the Supreme Court.

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Though Flood didn’t actually win his case, he shed so much light on the matter that a free agency sytem was quickly established by MLB. During the 1980s, the system actually worked like it was supposed to…players had better rights, AND the game was still competitive.  But, starting in the mid-1990s, salaries began exploding (along with the economy) and suddenly the system was skewered.  Teams in huge economic markets like New York, Los Angeles, and Boston were able to throw huge wads of cash in the pockets of all the top free agents, all but assuring there services.  Sometimes, in the case of Ted Turner’s Atlanta Braves, all it took was an incredibly rich owner to give a team a distinct advantage.

Those big markets had (and continue to have) such an advantage for a few different reasons: First and foremost is the fact that, just by sheer geography, a team like the Yankees can much more easily fill their ballpark every night than, say, the Twins can out here in Minny.  Also, teams on both coasts have established their own TV networks (YES Network for the Yankees and NESN for the Red Sox), which bring in enormous profits compared to what the Twins get from Fox Sports North.

After about ten years of this broken system, when the same teams started making the playoffs year in and year out, MLB Commissioner Bud Selig established the “luxury tax” system into the game.  Essentially, this is known as the Robin Hood system, as it robs from the rich to give to the poor.

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This has helped a little bit (e.g. the Twins signed Justin Morneau to a long-term deal and have at least a shot at doing the same with Joe Mauer), but it din’t get to the root of the problem, as teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Mets can continue to reach into their deep pockets to get the best players.  Essentially, they are saying “luxury tax be damned” and just paying the fine for going over the payroll limit.  This is evidenced very toughly for Twins fans by these two photos:

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johan-santana.jpgThe Twins gave very decent offers to both Torii Hunter and Johan Santana, but couldn’t come close to matching the amount of years the Halos offered Hunter or the sheer dollar amount the Mets dangled in front of Santana.  Another obvious example was the beginning of this season, when the Yankees went out and got C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett, while the biggest moves the Twins made was signing Nick Punto, bringing in R.A. Dickey (what a joke) and getting a Joe Crede whose back was so bad that he essentially a non-factor.  Those “moves” were all we could afford.  Imagine how different the 2009 ALDS might have been if Hunter had been patrolling the outfield instead of Delmon Young, or if Santana had made the Game One start instead of Brian Duensing.

Now, to be fair, there are some criticisms of instituting a salary cap into MLB, but I would like to give my rebuttal to two of them:

1. Why should the Yankees be penalized for running an efficent system?  It seems as if Yankee fans could just criticize Carl Pohlad for being a tightwad all those years and not spending money to improve his team, but that really isn’t a fair criticism.  First of all, George Steinbrenner isn’t really spending much (if any) of his OWN MONEY on the Yankees, instead relying on seemingly endless revenue streams based on his sheer geography.  Without those streams, other owners (like the Pohlad family) would be dipping into their own personal reserves, which would be like you paying for your office supplies/furnishings or me paying for Wal-Mart shelf labels. 

Secondly, then, is that if teams know they can’t spend with the Yankees, then why even try?  The Twins know that, under the current economic system, they are already beaten in trying to sign free agents, so instead we save our money to try and lock up as many of our good players as possible (which, in this age of inflated salaries, is fewer and fewer each season).

2. The second criticism of the the salary cap is that it really isn’t needed, due to the fact that the 1998-2000 championship run of the Yankees was accomplished primarily with home-grown players like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posade, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera.

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That may be true, but funny how those great players STILL WEAR YANKEE PINSTRIPES! Instead of losing those great players to a higher bidder, the Yanks can just keep them.  Plus, whether the free agents work out (Jimmy Key, Paul O’Neill, Johnny Damon, Sabathia, etc.) or flop (Kevin Brown, Chuck Knoblauch, Carl Pavano), the Yanks can just “pay through” and be done with it.  If the Twins make a mistake in signing the wrong player to an expensive contract, it would hamper the organization for a decade.

Thus, until MLB institutes a salary cap like the NFL and NBA (to a certain extent) have in place, the economics of the game will remain skewered towards the large markets, and that severely troubles me.  I consider baseball to be my favorite sport, the one that captivated me as a child and still does to this day, but right now the NFL is gaining ground and fast due to the fact that in the NFL setup, all teams have a chance to be competitive.  It is only through bad ownership (Al Davis, Matt Millen, etc.) that teams completely fail.

I know that this situation isn’t likely to change anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean that it is right or correct.  Until Bud Selig can take charge of the National Pastime like he should and not just cater to the owners, the Yankees will continue to unfairly dominate the Twins for years and years to come.

A.L. Steals Another One

2009_AS_game.jpg(I was out of town for the A.S. Game, thus am just commenting on things now…)

For whatever reason (probably because of the rich history of the event), I am an MLB All-Star game junkie. I started watching the Midsummer Classic in 1997, the same year the American League began their current winning streak, and have been hooked ever since. I mean, how can a baseball fan NOT be excited about the biggest gather of current stars in the same place, as well as the fact that the actual game means more than any other professional sports’ All-Star games (almost put together). I am also in the minority (at least I think) of people who LOVE the fact that the game determines which league gets home field advantage in the World Series…I would never want to go back to those by-and-large boring contests of the 1990s, where the Home Run Derby and pregame ceremonies far eclipsed the game itself. Thus, this year was no less exciting for me.

 First, there were the always-touching pregame ceremonies…
Stan.jpgOld-time St. Louis Cardinals such as Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith, Red Schoendist, Bob Gibson, and Stan Musial (picture above) were honored before the ceremonial first pitch. As a self-proclaimed “baseball historian”, I always find it exciting to see those stars of yesteryear and remember their past greatness on the diamond. It was also quite interesting to see how the metaphorical St. Louis baseball torch is being passed from Stan The Man to Albert Pujols. Stan owned St. Louis since his retirement, and only Pujols has been able to carry that mantra since.

The network then made a big deal about the ceremonial first pitch, as it was thrown out by some guy you probably have heard of…
Barack.jpgLet’s just say that maybe he should stick to hoops (although at least he didn’t bounce it too badly!).

The game then began with the two horses (Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum) taking their respective mounds for either league…
DocLink.jpgRight out of the gate, the National League looked like a circuit that has had its hind end handed to it for a while now, as some fielding jitters allowed the AL to take an early 2-0 lead.

 In the second inning, though, the NL came storming back…
Yadier.jpgYadier Molina singled to score David Wright and Shane Victorino, and was quickly driven home himself when Prince Fielder hit a ground-rule double, giving the Senior Circuit a 3-2 lead.

For the next few innings, the contest was dominated by pitching. Only a Joe Mauer double in the fifth, preceded by a Derek Jeter fielder’s choice, finally tied the contest at 3-3…
MauerJeter.jpgArguably the biggest play of the night, though, came in the seventh inning, when pinch hitter Brad Hawpe sent a towering fly to left-center off the first pitch he saw from Jonathon Papelbon. Carl Crawford drew a bead on the missile, though, and timed a perfect leap to rob Hawpe of four bases…
Catch.jpgThen, right away in the next half-inning, Curtis Granderson tripled off of NL reliever Heath Bell, and later scored on a sacrifice fly from Adam Jones, giving the AL a lead it would not relinquish (not with Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera next out of the pen). Granderson took home MVP honors for his triple and run-scored…
Curtis.jpgSo once again, the 2009 version of the MLB All-Star game was another exciting experience. The game was well-contested and full of tension, while (selfishly) the AL extended its winning streak and will now have home turf come late October. Plus, Joe Mauer (1-3, double), Joe Nathan (1 scoreless inning), and Justin Morneau (two hard-hit outs) had good showings in the game.

Twins Notes:

-Relief pitcher Kevin Mulvey is up, third-string catcher Jose Morales is down, as the Twins want a 12-man pitching staff going forward.

-Late breaking news: Alexi Casilla may still be a bonehead; letting a ball skip right past him on one occasion last night and then failing to cover the base on another. Let’s just chock it up to “I want to impress Gardy” nerves and keep our fingers tightly crossed.

Preview (46-44, 3rd, 0.5 GB CWS): Scott Baker (7-7, 5.42) vs. Scott Feldman (8-2, 3.83). One big key for the Twins in the second half is to have Baker and Liriano pitch better than they did in the first 81. That starts tonight.

My All-Star Ballot (NL & AL)

2009-mlb-all-star-ballot1.jpgWhen I was younger, voting for the annual Midsummer Classic was more of a science to me than anything.  I would pore over the stats to try and determine who, categorically, was having the best season and vote for them above all other alliegences.  In recent years, however, I have come to take a different approach: Just vote for the guys who I want to see in the game (within reason, of course!).  Sure, the game actually “counts” now in terms of World Series home-field advantage, but at its core it still is really just a fantastic exhibition event that the fans love…the meaningfullness is only to keep the players interested.

That being said, here are what my current AL & NL All-Star ballots currently look like (barring any severe injuries or horrific slumps during the following month):

American League

C: Joe Mauer

1B: Justin Morneau

2B: Dustin Pedroia

3B: Evan Longoria

SS: Derek Jeter

OF: Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, Denard Span (Write-In)

National League

C: Brian McCann

1B: Albert Pujols

2B: Chase Utley

3B: Ryan Zimmerman

SS: Jose Reyes

OF: Ryan Braun, Raul Ibanez, Justin Upton

Also, if I had to pick the starting pitchers for each team right now, I would go with Roy “Doc” Halladay for the Americans and Johan Santana for the Nationals.

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