Monday, November 30, 2009

My take on the World Baseball Classic

Now that this season is over, it is important to look back and make changes that improve the game for players, fans, and all those involved. In recent years, the World Baseball Classic was implemented to connect the various baseball-playing countries across the globe. Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig has high hopes for the game and what it could do for the worldwide audience.

There are many implications connected to playing the World Baseball Classic and how it affects the regular season play of the athletes who participate. For the players in the United States, this tournament takes place before the season. Many of them have not had the opportunity to see enough live pitching and hitting to compete at the highest level of competition. By rushing the progression of their off season routine, these players are ill-prepared to succeed for the teams that are paying their salaries.

While I am intrigued by the idea of international competition in baseball, it is a difficult process to execute successfully. It is selfish to think that only players of the MLB will be affected. ANY player that participates from ANY country will need to be ready to compete in this tournament. It requires extra effort on top of what they are trying to do to make their respective teams better.

At this point in time, I don't know if the WBC will have any effect on baseball's fan base. On a personal note, I am far more interested in what Geovany Soto could offer the Cubs than how he plays against the United States team in the Classic. If national pride is the reward for winning the WBC, I'll pass seeing as we can barely convince Lebron James to lead the resurgence of the "Dream Team."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Progress made (or lost) by the Steroid Policy

It is difficult to gauge how effective the steroid policy has been. The media controls much of what the public knows about the game, and therefore controls their knowledge of steroid use. One thing it is hard to deny is the number of big names it has turned up in the past few years. Top players like Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, and Roger Clemens have all come under fire for their consumption of banned substances. They have all paid the price whether it was from suspension or public scrutiny.

Another important concept is that the results of this policy must be judged over the span of ten years or more. Use of performance enhancing drugs has become so widespread in Major League Baseball that it is difficult to determine which substances are being used from year-to-year. Until there is solid evidence that a type of drug has been completely filtered out, the statistics may not be relevant for another decade or so.

To give the commissioner some credit, he has the public on his side. He is working hard, or appears to be, on making the game better for years to come. Bud Selig has shed light on the problem and made it known that abusing steroids will no longer be tolerated.

At this point I would grade the policy: B. It has turned up many liars, the game is slowly becoming what made it a national pastime, and players who cheat are getting the suspensions they deserve. Let's check back in a few years.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Offseason Report: Pitchers

Everybody needs pitching. EVERYBODY. No team can ever be good enough at that position. That is why this is another big off season for Major League Baseball. There is a solid group of starting pitchers up for auction. In a struggling economy with so many competitive teams gearing up for next year, it will be interesting to see how GM's across the league handle free agency. For a short preview, here is a list of the top free agents (in no particular order):

  • John Lackey - Not a flashy pitcher, Lackey will get the job done. He makes them hit it where your players are standing. On occasion, this will lead to a bad inning or two. The big thing with Lackey is postseason experience. He had posted a 3.12 ERA over 14 games. Looking for a veteran to stand next to your ace, this is your guy.
  • Joel Pineiro - This might be considered a risky pick by some analysts. Pineiro put up good numbers last year and looks to put up solid back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2002-2003.
  • Jason Marquis? - Yes, that is a correctly placed question mark. Jason Marquis? He was the old man on a talented Cubs pitching staff less than 2 years ago. However, he looked was the ace of the Rockies for the first half of the season. We won't talk about the second half, but he is still sought after by several teams at this point.
  • Mike Gonzalez/Rafael Soriano - The Braves are on the verge of losing two TALENTED relief pitchers. Mike Gonzalez looks to move into a closer role, Soriano's position, whether or not it is with the Braves. Soriano will be a closer, but where? These two will get paid wherever they go.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Outlook for Manny, A-Rod, others

Anybody who has watched a Yankees postseason game can see the change in Alex Rodriguez this year. He has ridiculously low playoff numbers for signing one of the biggest contracts in history. Things have changed. A-Rod looks like somebody trying to win the Mr. October title.

At this point in the Yankees playoff run, Rodriguez has 8 hits and 4 home runs. He had the same amount of home runs in their 5 previous postseason series. When A-Rod starts heating up, so does the rest of the team. His success seems to have energized the entire lineup. They are all playing good baseball at the most important point in the season.

Every article you read about Alex Rodriguez is about the amazing series he had in the first round or the energy he brings to the clubhouse. Has he been forgiven that easily?

It would be difficult to argue otherwise. He successfully avoided some of the short term consequences of using performance enhancing drugs. By putting up huge numbers and helping his team win, fans across the nation have softened when it comes to A-Rod talk.

I'm watching SportsCenter right now and they are talking about how he looks like he's taking batting practice! It's possible that I need to get over it and accept his talent, but this seems crazy. He still cheated the game. What he did was wrong, and many have forgotten about his suspension earlier in the season. I knew Alex Rodriguez would eventually regain his throne, I just did not think it would be this soon.

A great site I have started to visit...

The Internet is one of my main sources for current sports news. It is the best way to find the most recent events going on in the sports world. Recently I have started to visit

When I started posting on this blog, I began looking at some of the other sites around the community. With drug use being such an important topic in baseball, I found that I people had a lot to say. After browsing a number of different pages related to my content, I found a few that I like to visit daily. One of these is, a blog about the most recent baseball and political news.

While a majority of the posts are directly related to the sport, some pertain to current political happenings and war coverage. For those who come to the site just view baseball posts, clicking the headline titled "Baseball-Only Content" will allow visitors to do just that. This is convenient for people like myself who are most interested in what is going on in the baseball world.

The major draw when I first started visiting Baseball Crank was the broad spectrum of information on baseball. Upon scrolling down and examining the left side of the page, one can find articles such as "Changing Pitcher Workloads 1920-2004" and "Hall of Fame Outfielders, 1920's-1930's." Having access to accurate historical data like this is invaluable, especially with the amount of information being posted on the internet today.

After returning to the site over the next couple days, I realized that this was a truly interesting perspective on the game. If I did not have a new post to check out, I found hundreds of others that kept me reading. I'll admit baseball can get a little dry with games almost daily for several months. Baseball Crank examines stories from around the league to keep readers updated and does it in a way that exposes the brighter side of the game.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Offseason Report: Free Agent Hitters

Though not as deep as in years past, there are several free agent hitters looking for new homes next season. The ugly truth is that many teams don't have money to pay the high salaries they demand. When all is said and done, it will be interesting to see where the 2010 free agent class lands.

After listening to MVP talk for the last month on ESPN, I noticed that one of the all-time greats is in the running. He has never won the award despite being one of the most consistent position players over the past two decades. This 10-time All-Star, 3-time Gold Glove winner, former AL Rookie of the Year, and World Series MVP is the most deserving of any candidate.

I realize that there are several other candidates making their case for MVP. For instance, the Minnesota Twins Joe Mauer. Without a doubt the best catcher in the game today, he is hitting .366 with 28 home runs and 93 RBI. These are surely MVP numbers, but will the Twins make the playoffs? No. Is the most valuable player in the league truly valuable if that team doesn't have a shot to win it all?

Many would argue the case for another Yankee, Mark Teixeira. His current stats look like this: .294 BA, 39 HR, and 121 RBI. These are unquestionably MVP-type numbers. While this is a solid season, much of the reasoning behind his candidacy is what he did for the team while Alex Rodriguez was serving his suspension for testing positive under the MLB testing policy. People keep talking about how he handled the pressure of a big contract with great poise while playing on one of the biggest stages in baseball. I argue otherwise.

This New York Yankee has played as well as anybody in the running. After posting his seventh 200+ hit season, Jeter is hitting .335 with 18 home runs and 66 RBI. If it seems like I am dwelling on past achievements, I'm not. He has done all of this while playing impeccable defense, acting as glue for a team filled with controversy and young talent, and maintaining a flawless public image. It doesn't hurt that his team looks to be a front runner in the American League playoffs.

While I am not eligible to vote Derek Jeter as the AL MVP, I sure hope the people who do recognize his achievements as one of the most consistent, unselfish shortstops in the game.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Steroids in 2009: 3 Most Interesting Stories of the Season

The release of the Mitchell Report and investigation of players using performance enhancing drugs have turned up some very important evidence. Players are being held accountable for their actions and serving long suspensions during the season. Even though they are annoying and intrusive, sports reporters brought about some very interesting topics in 2009. Here are my top 3 stories related to performance enhancing drugs for this season:

3. Mark McGwire, Hitting Coach of the St. Louis Cardinals
Even though this happened at the end of the season, it caught the attention of nearly every baseball fan in the nation. The man who seemed to hit baseballs out of the atmosphere, the man who has denied ever using steroids, is back. While many of us can remember his good years, the image that really stands out is McGwire testifying before grand jury. This job may be just what he needs to fix his image in the public eye.

2. Manny Ramirez, OF Los Angeles Dodgers
This story was HUGE at the beginning of the season. Baseball was coming to an end with so many big names being called out. It turns out Ramirez tested positive for a banned fertility drug that is used to mask steroid use when coming off a cycle. His sentence: 50 games. Sure, this sounds like a lot of time. The Dodgers did fine while he was gone, and Manny was back for the most important stretch of the season. Either way, LA did nothing and ManRam was a non-factor.

1. Alex Rodriguez, World Champion
Anybody who has been reading the blog could probably see this coming. It should be known that I am not an Alex Rodriguez or a Yankees fan. I just think he performed well under some very heavy adversity. With the steroid allegations, nagging injuries, and disappointing years with the Yankees, the odds were definitely stacked against him. In the end, he put up some amazing postseason numbers and led his team to the championship. Enough said.