Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Opposite Field: A Baseball in Uganda Documentary

Opposite Field is a documentary that touches on the sport of baseball in the third world country of Uganda. For the first time in 70 years of the Little League World Series a team from Africa made the cut, the magical team from Uganda. Their true, and sometimes gritty, and inspirational tale is told in this documentary. I covered this documentary when it was just a viral documentary on the internet and with the hard work of the producers and everyone who had their hands on the documentary the piece is making its way to television.

What: Opposite Field: A Baseball in Uganda Documentary

When: December 5, 2015

Where: Fuse TV

Internet Link/Clip:

Tune In Alert:
On Saturday, December 5 at 9/8c, Fuse will present the television premiere of OPPOSITE FIELD, the true story of a Ugandan baseball team that made history by becoming the first African team to qualify for the Little League World Series.

In 70 years, the Little League World Series has never hosted an African team. One team from Uganda is determined to make history and stand proudly for their country on the international stage. Opposite Field follows the coach and players of this inspirational team as they take on some of the best, and best-funded players in the world as well as international bureaucracy in this incredible rollercoaster of a story. The documentary was filmed over the course of three years and chronicles the ups and downs of the coach and players’ journeys and also features MLB players Jimmy Rollins & Derrek Lee (retired), who spend time guiding and rooting the team on as they strive to make their legacy playing America’s pastime.

OPPOSITE FIELD is directed, written and narrated by Jay Shapiro and co-produced with John Gentile (Sky Dancers), Nick Goldfarb (Requiem for a Dream) and Krista Saponara (The Street Stops Here). Director of Photography is Jason Krangel and the film is composed by Aleks de Carvalho (Body Snatchers).

Searching for Minor League Depth: Rex Brothers

EDIT: The Chicago Cubs acquired Brothers from Colorado in a trade today

Yesterday when we searched for minor league depth for the New York Yankees this upcoming season we showcased a former Yankees farm hand and recently DFA’d pitcher by the Colorado Rockies, Mr. Tommy Kahnle. We mentioned in the article that Kahnle was designated for assignment alongside three of his teammates, John Axford, Wilin Rosario and Rex Brothers. Axford is not a great fit for the Yankees and there just isn’t the room on the Major League roster for Rosario but I believe that Brothers may be willing to accept a minor league deal and I believe it should be the Yankees that are offering him one. Now.

First and foremost Brothers is still just 27-years old and is a former first round pick as recently as the 2009 MLB First Year Players Draft. Brothers was drafted 34th overall in that draft class by the Colorado Rockies and made his Major League debut just two years later on June 6, 2011. Brothers is still just first year arbitration eligible in 2016 and will not be eligible for free agency until the 2019 season.

Brothers has averaged, and keep in mind he pitches half his games inside Coors Field, a 3.42 ERA in his career while striking out 10.3 K/9 and walking just 5.2 BB/9, His walk rates are a little higher than you would like to see them but his home run numbers, again especially considering his home park has been Coors Field, are under 1.0 per nine innings pitched with a 0.8 HR/9. Brothers’ FIP, 3.89, suggests that he is the pitcher the stats say he is and on a minor league deal that would be a hell of a steal for the Yankees bullpen.

Brothers may go out and find a Major League deal making this post moot, and honestly at his age and with the relative risk in terms of contract, durability and age he should, but if he doesn’t then Brian Cashman better be making some phone calls. ASAP. 

My 2016 Hall of Fame Ballot as it Stands Today

The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, of which I am now a lifetime member, allows me certain perks and benefits. One of those perks and benefits is that I get an IBWAA Hall of Fame ballot. Many don't like to but I prefer to release my ballot online and I will do so today, as it stands as of right now. If a woman can change her mind then so can I.

I like to push the agenda that I feel most strongly about, electing the players that deserve to be in the Hall of Fame into Cooperstown. This is likely the worst possible analogy I could come up with but it works, just because you didn't get caught killing someone or just because you killed before DNA was mainstream it doesn't make you any less of a murderer. Many guys used SOMETHING that is banned by today's standards and are in the Hall, I know that in my heart. Look at "greenies" for example, players like Hank Aaron openly used them. They weren't banned then, they are banned now. Keep that in mind before killing or attacking my personal opinion and preference in MY Hall of Fame ballot. Instead, leave yours in the comments section below.

As many of you know you get 10 votes every single offseason and here are mine:

1. Barry Bonds
2. Roger Clemens
3. Ken Griffey Jr. 
4. Jeff Bagwell
5. Trevor Hoffman
6. Gary Sheffield
7. Tim Raines
8. Edgar Martinez
9. Mike Piazza
10. Mike Mussina

Sammy Sosa was caught corking his bat. That's still illegal, probably always was. I also find it tough, and yes it's unfair, to truly judge players I have never seen personally. Maybe Alan Trammell deserves to be in, all I have is the back of his baseball card to judge him by. He's borderline, and likely on my ballot in a year that isn't as stacked, but not this year. This is Trammell's final season on the ballot and he may lose out to the numbers game... and that's sad.  

Brian Cashman Ranked 5th in Top 10 GM’s List

Depending on who you ask you can ask 100 people what they think about Brian Cashman and you are likely to get close to about 100 different answers. The organization obviously loves him, he’s entering his 18th season as the team’s GM in 2016, and judging by Twitter the majority of the fans hate him. A lot of the beat writers and bloggers understand that no GM is going to bat 1.000, and of course there are some level-headed fans that do as well, and some even know how hard it is to actually make a deal in Major League Baseball. Overall the perception of Cashman is always changing because no one truly knows Cashman. Cashman served under King George, George Steinbrenner, and had his decisions and moves overruled or undermined while now his unlimited cash flow has been cut off by Hal Steinbrenner. Will the real Brian Cashman please stand up?

Many have tried to decipher how well Cashman does as a GM and the latest to try is Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. Davidoff released a publication titles “Top 10 Current MLB General Managers in the Game” and Mr. Cashman made the list at #5. Davidoff’s exact quote was this:

“Ah, yes. Mr. Cashman. The mere refusal to advocate for his immediate firing draws venom from many fan corners. The Yankees haven’t won a playoff game since 2012, for crying out loud! Look at the other names on the list. Only (John) Mozeliak can relate to Cashman on one very important career track: in 18 years on the job, not once has Cashman made a “sell” trade, nor has he picked in the top half of the draft. Every other man ranked here has benefited greatly from playing the long game. Never has Cashman enjoyed an opportunity to do that. The decision to go crazy two winters ago, bringing aboard Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Masahiro Tanaka – as opposed to ramping it down upon the retirement of the Core Four – was driven by ownership, and it also reinforces considerable financial room for error that Cashman possesses.”

Well said Mr. Davidoff, well said indeed. To finish out the Top 10 list by Davidoff you have John Mozeliak of the St. Louis Cardinals in the top spot followed by Theo Epstein of the Chicago Cubs, Jon Daniels of the Texas Rangers and Brian Sabean of the San Francisco Giants.

New York Yankees & The 2016 Hall of Fame Vote

The 2016 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is coming to the voters in the BBWAA and the IBWAA soon so I wanted to focus on that a bit today before it finds itself in all of our emails. There are quite a few former members of the New York Yankees on the ballot, some more notable than others, so we will showcase them today in preparation for the vote.

  • If it were not for the steroid suspicions and allegations Gary Sheffield would be a no-brainer vote for the Hall of Fame this season.  The Yankees signed him before the 2004 season in free agency and got two MVP-like seasons out of the right fielder before Father Time began to catch up to Sheffield a bit. Sheffield finished with 509 home runs, usually a total lock for Cooperstown, and finished his career with a .292 average and more walks than strikeouts. 

  • Believe it or not Lee Smith was once a member of the New York Yankees. Smith pitched for the Yankees for about 15 minutes, almost literally, in 1993 before finished his career with 478 career saves. 

  • Mike Mussina, another lock (although not as much of one as Sheffield, in my opinion that will forever be held back by the steroid era and overall suspicion of everyone that played in the era. Mussina never won his 300th game and only won 20 games once. Mussina never won a Cy Young Award and never won a World Series. All Mussina did was pitch in the toughest division in all of Major League Baseball, the AL East, during the inflated steroid era and was likely a better pitcher overall than either John Smoltz or Tom Glavine.

  • Roger Clemens isn't getting into the Hall. He should, we won over 350 games and never failed a drug test. Clemens was named as a steroid user in the Mitchell Report though in 2003 as a member of the New York Yankees and that will likely keep him out despite his credentials. All the wins, all the K's, the Cy Young Awards and World Series to boot. All for nothing. 

  • Tim Raines was a switch-hitter and an on-base machine before Moneyball and will likely never get the credit for it that he deserves. Raines stole 808 bases in his career So what if he did it for Montreal, and the Yankees at the beginning of the Dynasty Years, he was just as good as Tony Gwynn or Rickey Henderson in a lot of categories. Raines was good at everything. 

FanDuels and DraftKings Still Under Attack

Every day it seems like we hear more and more criticism and litigation against popular daily fantasy sports sites like FanDuels and DraftKings. It all started when the daily fantasy sports leagues dealt with an insider trading bout and has gone downhill from there. It has even gotten to the point now that if you live in the state of New York you cannot participate in the daily fantasy “gambling” that’s going on at these two sites. FanDuels and DraftKings are in hot water and big trouble and now leagues such as Major League Baseball are getting dragged down with them.

Major League Baseball along with the NBA, NHL and MLS were part of a motion that seeks to add them as defendants to a class-action lawsuit filed against these two companies. All told a whopping 51 companies were named in the lawsuit after either having invested into FanDuels and/or DraftKings or facilitated gambling. The lawsuit includes claims for “negligence, breach of contract, unjust enrichment as well as civil RICO and civil conspiracy.”

Other notable companies being listed in the lawsuit are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, J.P. Morgan, Capital One and PayPal.

It’s awfully convenient for MLB to be making money off of, advertising for and partnering with DraftKings and FanDuels in the same season that new Commissioner Rob Manfred meets with Pete Rose about his lifetime ban for betting on baseball… isn’t it? 

This Day in New York Yankees History 11/25: Exit Bob Sheppard

On this day in 2009 the long time New York Yankees public address announcer Bob Sheppard announced that he would not be back to do any more games. The 99 year old Sheppard cited age and lack of stamina, imagine that, for the reason for his retirement. Bob was the voice of the Yankees, and the "Voice of God," for over 50 seasons and saw the likes of Joe DiMaggio, Derek Jetah, and Mickey Mantle in his time with the team.

Also on this day in 1980 the Yankees and George Steinbrenner hired Gene Michael to be their manager. Michael would be the 25th manager in Yankees history and would replace Dick Howser after he led the Yankees to a first place finish in the AL East and a 103-59 record. "Stick" did what Howser couldn't though when he won two American League pennants in his first two seasons as the manager.

Finally on this day in 1970 the Yankees catcher Thurman Munson was named the American League Rookie of the Year. Munson received 23 of the 24 first place votes in an absolute landslide over the Indians Roy Foster.