Friday, March 31, 2017

2017 NL West Predictions

When you think about the National League West; you tend to think about the San Francisco Giants and their three World Series titles in the last seven years, or maybe even the Los Angeles Dodgers and their cavalcade of stars both on and off the field. But what you might not realize is that this division has a ton of talent in it and might not be as predictable as you think. Arizona and Colorado have made several improvements to both their clubs and their respective chances of making some noise in the division. But, have they done enough to unseat the champs? Let's go.

5. San Diego Padres
Though there are not many certainties in the NL West this season, one certainty is that the San Diego Padres simply stink. The last two seasons under GM A.J. Preller's watch have seen trades to acquire Wil Myers, the Upton brothers, Matt Kemp and the signing of then staff ace James Shields, only to see everyone of those players except Myers traded away shortly thereafter. And now; outside of Myers, who is a legitimate superstar with 40/40 potential, the Padres batting order looks like something out of a spring training program. There are a few youngsters, however, to keep an eye on as the season progresses: Travis Jankovski in centerfield. Ryan Schimpf at second base. and Ben Zobrist-like utilityman Christian Bethancourt. They did sign Eric Aybar to play shortstop, hoping to drain him of what little baseball life he has left. And speaking of hoping to get the most out of an aging player, San Diego brought in left-hander Clayton Richard and right handers Jared Weaver, Jholys Chacin and Trevor Cahill to go along with Collin Rea and Jared Cozart to fill out their rotation. Brandon Maurer and Carter Capps are the only two bright spots out in the San Diego bullpen, and if nothing else, could bring in sizable returns if moved by the trade deadline. All in all, it's going to be a very long year in San Diego in 2017.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks
Although I am picking them to finish fourth, there are some phenomenal pieces to this Arizona Diamondbacks ball club. For starters, they have one of the best players in baseball that no one talks about in Paul Goldschmidt. "Goldie" is an absolute model of consistency; with his ability to get on base, hit 30+ homeruns/drive in 100+ runs perennially and has even added a speed element to his game by recording double-digit steals in the last three seasons. Two other players that no one(outside of us fantasy nerds) really talks about are: centerfielder A.J. Pollock - a dynamic two-way player with a top third of the lineup bat and sweet-swinging third baseman Jake Lamb. These two, along with Goldie, would be monster-salary earning superstars if they played for a big market organization. The biggest strength of this club lies within the depth of their starting pitching. Former Cy Young Award winner Zack Grinke leads the staff, followed by 2016 disappointment Shelby Miller, Archie Bradley and Patrick Corbin. With Rubby De La Rosa having to be shut down to avoid Tommy John surgery, the D-backs added free-agent lefty Jorge De La Rosa(no relation) and then traded their second baseman Jean Segura to Seattle for the highly touted right-handed Taijuan Walker. And just as much as the starters are a strength, so too is the bullpen very much the weakness. With no real impressive ninth inning candidates, Arizona was forced to sign seasoned journeyman Fernando Rodney to play the role of closer in 2017... yikes. I believe the Diamondbacks will definitely take a step or two in the right direction this season, but not enough to put them in the playoff picture.

3. Colorado Rockies
This is absolutely going to be one of my favorite teams to watch during the 2017 season. Although little known, Colorado has a starting rotation full of youth and potential. Right handers John Gray, Chad Bettis and Eddie Butler pitched well enough in 2016 to convince Rockies management to release long time ace of the staff Jorge De La Rosa. Combine those three with the brothers Tyler (Anderson and Chatwood) and you have a starting staff ready to turn some heads the season. Though they lost Boone Logan to free agency this off-season, Colorado did acquire former Kansas City closer Greg Holland this off-season to go along with Jake McGee, forming a truly solid back end of the bullpen. As for the offense, which now includes the recent addition of the right-handed slugging utility stud Ian Desmond, may be the deepest lineup in the National League, and maybe even in all of baseball. At the top of the order, Gerardo Parra and D.J. LeMahieu are both on-base machines and the latter may just win a batting title someday.  Behind those two are four absolute bashers of the baseball, including Charlie Blackman, Nolan Aranado(my '17 NL MVP), Trevor Story and Carlos Gonzalez. And even with Desmond on the shelf to begin the season, the Rockies have the powerful Mark Reynolds to man first base in Desmond's absence, which is an absolutely perfect fit for a ballpark like Coors Field. They are called predictions for a reason, and I am predicting that the Colorado Rockies will be one of the two National League Wild Card teams in 2017.

2. San Francisco Giants
From the top of their rotation to the back end of their bullpen, the San Francisco Giants have one of, if not the best assembled pitching staffs in our great game. 2015 World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner is not only the ace of the staff, but might be the best hitter on the team as well. And it's only because of MadBum that Johnny Cueto is a number two starter, because he would definitely be the ace of 90% of all other teams in the National League. Once you're done dealing with those two, all you have to do is face the nasty repertoires of Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore. In the bullpen to go along with George Kontos and Will Smith, San Fran added the services of All-Star closer Mark Melancon to shut the door in the ninth inning. Offensively, it's pretty much the case of "same team, different year". After acquiring former Yankee Eduardo Nunez from the Minnesota Twins at last year's trade deadline to play third, the Giants have as good a hitting infield as they have ever had: including Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford. San Francisco can even do a little lefty/righty mix and matching when need be, thanks to adding sluggers Mike Morse and Nick Hunley to their bench. And though they have Denard Span and Hunter Pence in the outfield, I believe the one move the Giants could make to improve their roster is to add a power-hitting outfielder. Though it is not an even year, look for San Francisco to be around in October this season.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers
When you have the best pitcher on the planet, a top three closer and a lineup that goes on for days, you make it pretty easy for me to pick you to take first. Even if you can somehow best Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill proved in last year's playoffs that he is a more than capable number two and doesn't need 95+mph on his fastball to do so. Rotation spots 3–5 will be filled from a deep pool of starting pitchers: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Julio Urias, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kasmier and Kenta Maeda. And, not only did LA re-sign they're phenomenal All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, but they also added the wipeout slider of long time foe Sergio Romo to deepen the pen. As for the other side of the ball, the addition of second baseman Logan Forsythe by way of trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, has given the Dodgers the slick hitting leadoff second baseman they have long been searching for. Add Forsyth to a top of the order that already includes 2016 rookie of the year Corey Seager, and the proverbial table will be set more often than not for the rest of that incredible lineup: including Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzales, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal.  Could we see another National League championship series involving the Dodgers and the Cubs? Could be, and if so, round one was pretty damn good.

Ready... FIGHT

Game Thread: New York Yankees @ Atlanta Braves 3/31

Uh oh ladies and gentleman but I think we just had the return of the game thread here on the blog. These are exciting times as we finish off the exhibition season and begin the real season on Sunday. Tonight the Atlanta Braves break in their newly built SunTrust Park with an exhibition game against the New York Yankees. This should be fun, these games always are. The Yankees will send Michael Pineda to the mound for his final spring tune-up before the regular season while the Braves will counter with the ageless one Bartolo Colon.

Pineda has not faced this group of Braves much as the Atlanta offense has a whopping 11 at-bats against the right-hander combined during his career. Pineda is entering a contract season though in 2017 and we as Yankees fans may be in for a treat as we watch him throw this season for no other reason than that. Players tend to do better in their contract seasons, period, so maybe this will be the season Pineda finally puts it all together. Only time will tell.

Colon on the other hand has seen this Yankees offense quite a bit as he has bounced around the league during his career to varying degrees of results. Starlin Castro, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Holliday and Gary Sanchez have all hit above .300 against Colon albeit in small sample sizes, especially the sample size for the Yankees catcher. Like Pineda though none of these stats matter once the bright lights go on and the game gets started so let’s get to it.

The game will be played at 7:35 pm ET inside SunTrust Park in Atlanta and can be seen on the YES Network locally in New York, Fox Sports South in the Atlanta area and MLB Network if you’re out of either market. Enjoy and Go Yankees!

I’m Hungry: The Texas Rangers Two-Foot Long Tamale Dog

You guys know how the start of every year goes. New Years Resolutions are thrown out there, although I never participate myself, diets are gone on and people try to change. By around March or April they are back in their stretchy pants and they are back to being the person that they always were and were always meant to be, and that’s not an insult or meant as a bad thing. I just truly believe you are who you are and you shouldn’t fight that or want to change that for anyone. Anyway, before I get too off topic and ramble on I’ll digress and agree to disagree. What also comes around on the blog right around this time of the year are these amazing new dishes and foods that you can get at the ballpark that make you want to take that new, healthy and dieting you and throw them off a cliff. The Texas Rangers two-foot long tamale dog is just that.

At Globe Life Park this season the Texas Rangers will be selling a 24-inchg tamale filled hot dog. The tamale filled hot dog will be covered in chili and nacho cheese and will set you back a whopping $27, but really that’s going to feed like a family of four if we are being honest or two really REALLY hungry people.

Texas will also be selling “Texas Snowballs” this season which are essentially shredded brisket covered in funnel cake batter that is fried and topped with powdered sugar. I love brisket and who doesn’t love a funnel cake? Road trip anyone?

And now that you’re drooling and hungry again just a few hours after your lunch break my job here is done. Have a great day everyone and stay strong to those who are serious about getting healthy and losing weight and/or changing their lives for the better. I know I joked about it earlier but I truly think people can do whatever they set their mind to as long as they are doing it for all the right reasons. Go you!

SunTrust Park Could Change the League

The New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves play an exhibition game tonight in Atlanta down at the newly built SunTrust Park. While I tried my best to get tickets to the game they kept their tickets, which were only made available to season ticket holders, tight to their chests this time around. Since I can’t be there tonight in person I figured I would talk about all the things I’ve read about SunTrust Park as I think it could change the way stadiums are built for the foreseeable future in the league. Or maybe I’m just looking too far into things as I tend to do sometimes. Either way come with me.

The Braves purchased “The Battery Atlanta” which is a 60-acre complex that will house the $622 million ballpark but that’s not all that will be there. There are restaurants, retail shops, residential areas, a concert hall and even a four-star hotel in the development as the Braves look to be a one-stop shop for all your needs when you come out to the ballpark. That I thought was interesting maybe more so than the green seats, the brick walls and the throwback feel the stadium brings to metro-Atlanta.

Now while the Braves aren’t the first organization to bring shops, eateries and living quarters in and around the ballpark they may have been the ones to do it the best. St. Louis, Boston and the Los Angeles based teams also have these accommodations but, and maybe I am just bias as a metro-Atlanta resident, it just feels like the Braves did it better. The Braves fans have always said that they absolutely loved Turner Field as there was an absolute ton to see and do inside the Stadium, and I would agree as I have been there more times than I can count now, but the outside of the stadium just always seemed… I don’t know… blah? Borderline dangerous maybe? I’ve seen one fan call the outside of Atlanta’s Turner Field “Bosnia, Georgia” before if that tells you anything but this new stadium just seems… I’m at a loss for a fancy vocabulary word here so I’ll just keep it simple and say “better.”

So I look forward to seeing the new stadium tonight on television and I truly look forward to seeing it live and in person with my children and that special someone in my life. As always. Enjoy the game tonight everyone.

Is Joe Girardi the right manager?...

As we enter the last year of Joe Girardi’s current contract, the question begs to be asked if Girardi is the right guy to lead the Baby Bombers into their new era.  I have to preface this by saying that I have never been a big fan of Joe Girardi.  When Joe Torre left, I wanted Don Mattingly as the manager despite my dislike for guys with no prior managerial experience.  I am a Donnie Baseball fan so it is what it is.  He’ll always be my favorite for the job even if you can give me countless reasons for why he would not make a good Yankees manager.  So, let’s set aside my Mattingly homer-ism.  I am still not a fan of Girardi’s. 

We have had ten years of Joe Girardi at the helm if you count this year.  He has produced one world championship and he’s made five post-season appearances:
  • 2015:  Lost AL Wild Card game to the Houston Astros
  • 2012:  Lost ALCS to the Detroit Tigers, 4 games to none
  • 2011:  Lost ALDS to the Detroit Tigers, 3 games to 2
  • 2010:  Lost ALCS to the Texas Rangers, 4 games to 2
  • 2009:  Won World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies, 4 games to 2
The only championship year that Girardi has produced was the year the Yankees spent over $400 million to “buy” CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Mark Teixeira.

The only pro that I have for keeping Girardi is the lack of immediate recognizable and available talent to take over.  I am not really interested in managers that have been hired and fired multiple times although it did work out with Joe Torre.  Regardless, I am ready for a change.

If the Yankees choose not to re-sign Girardi at the end of the year, I would prefer they clear out the coaches too.  As a result, I am not in favor of naming Tony Pena or Rob Thomson as Girardi’s replacement. 

Due to today’s international flavor in Major League Baseball, I think a bilingual manager would be a very good idea.  During the WBC, it was floated that former Yankee Hensley “Bam Bam” Meulens is interested in becoming a major league manager.  Meulens is currently hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants and he was the head coach for Team Netherlands in the recent World Baseball Classic.  He doesn’t meet my criteria of prior managerial experience but I like the connection to the Yankees organization even if he never found success with the big league club. 

Sandy Alomar, Jr is another solid candidate.  Alomar doesn’t have a connection to the Yankees, but his dad was once the second baseman for the team.  He is currently first base coach for the Cleveland Indians and is one of the top current managerial candidates in Major League Baseball. 

Another guy I like is the bench coach for the Chicago Cubs, Dave Martinez.  I felt that Martinez should have gotten the Tampa Bay Rays job that went to Kevin Cash when Joe Maddon opted out of his contract and went to Chicago.  Martinez will be a major league manager in the not-so-distant future.

Not sure why I am rattling off guys with no managerial experience given my disdain but I guess I am too quick to dismiss re-treads too.  The lack of managerial experience can be allayed by a strong, experienced bench coach. 

Manny Acta, currently the third base coach for the Seattle Mariners, has the managerial experience but he’s already been hired and fired a couple of times.   I know, there I go again.  Still, he could fall into the ‘third time’s a charm’ category.

I have no idea who the Yankees would hire if Girardi is done but there are guys out there who deserve the opportunity and would be excellent in leading the Baby Bombers to the Promised Land. 

I am not really trying to identify who should take over for Girardi with this post but rather take the position that it is time for change.  Major League managers do not have a long shelf life.  After a certain amount of time, a new voice is needed.  The days of managing for 50 years like Connie Mack of the Philadelphia Athletics no longer exist. 

Perhaps you are a lover of Joe Girardi.  That’s fine.  We can have differing opinions.  At the end of the day, all we really want is another World Series championship or rather championships.  Until it happens, we can debate who is the best guy to lead the team.  For me, it’s not the former catcher from Peoria, Illinois.

Girardi Will Unleash the Kraken Second This Season & Other Notes

Ladies and gentleman tonight the New York Yankees play their final exhibition game of the 2017 spring training and Grapefruit League season and on Sunday the team faces off with the Tampa Bay Rays on Opening Day. In a nutshell the regular season is here and the hard decisions facing the roster just have to be made and some of those decisions have already been made and announced by manager Joe Girardi. Here are a few of those as we try and get caught up here on the blog this morning. Oh and ladies and gentleman, it’s almost time to unleash the kraken for a 162-game schedule. Anyone else get chill bumps or was it just me?

Girardi discussed the lineup for the season on Tuesday in an interview and revealed that he was leaning towards having Brett Gardner lead off followed in order by Gary Sanchez, Greg Bird, Matt Holliday and Jacoby Ellsbury. You know what Joe? You had me until you said Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury is not a fifth hitter in a lineup, he’s more like an eighth or ninth hitter at this point assuming he isn’t going to be leading off. Fifth? Really Joe? I see a whole lot of “Jacoby Ellsbury Sucks” and “Fire Joe Girardi” tweets in my future and on my twitter timeline. (Follow along all season long by following @GreedyStripes so this shameless plug will be worth it, please)

Also Joe announced that Ronald Torreyes will be the Yankees starting shortstop while Didi Gregorius misses the first month of the season or so with a right shoulder strain. I guess it just made too much sense to have the better hitter in Robert Refsnyder play second base while Starlin Castro slid over to shortstop. Whatever, what do I know?

The final major announcement was that Adam Warren will work out of the team’s bullpen, as expected, and is no longer in the mix for the team’s starting rotation spots they have open. That leaves just Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino and my pick Jordan Montgomery fighting for just two spots.

And now we’re all caught up. I think. I hope. Have a great Friday everyone. TGIF.

Friday’s Thoughts…

I am ready for the weekend!  I hope Masahiro Tanaka is too…

Stand before the Judge.

I was starting to get worried that Manager Joe Girardi was going to say that he had decided to go with Aaron Hicks for right field, but fortunately, he made the right decision in announcing that Aaron Judge had won the competition.  Aaron Hicks returns to his role as the team’s fourth outfielder. 

How about a starting win this year?

As expected, Luis Severino has been named as the fourth starter in the rotation.  I am really hoping that he puts up a “W” in his first appearance so that we don’t go into Year 2 as a starter trying to chase wins.  I am cautiously optimistic or pessimistically hopeful but I’d like to see Severino prove that he is the right choice.

The Eight Man Bullpen.

Congratulations to both Jonathan Holder and Chasen Shreve for making the Opening Day Pen.  As expected, Bryan Mitchell will join Adam Warren, Tommy Layne, Tyler Clippard, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman to round out the crew.  Unfortunately, this means that Ben Heller did not make it and will head to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to await his call. But like death and taxes, it’s inevitable that Heller will be part of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre-New York shuttle. 

The Starting Shortstop for the New York Yankees.

Sadly for me, it is “Mighty Mouse” (Ronald Torreyes).  Pete Kozma will be added to the 40-man and 25-man rosters to serve as the backup shortstop while Didi Gregorius is out.  Either way, there’s not going to be much offensive production from the position until Didi returns.  So hopefully Starlin Castro and Greg Bird are able to get out of the starting blocks very quickly this year. 

No word what move will occur to open the 40-man roster for Kozma but the most logical answer is the placement of Tyler Austin on the 60-day DL (foot).

At least he wasn't traded.

Rob Refsnyder didn't make the final cut and will be on his way to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to start the season.  He left recognizing that his bat is his ticket back. 

Can we keep this winning going into next month?...

The Yankees keep steamrolling through the exhibition schedule. 

In the latest Grapefruit League action yesterday, they crushed the Philadelphia Phillies, 14-1.  The game was over after the first 1/2 inning when the Yankees put 9 runs on the scoreboard in the top half of the 1st frame. 

Newly named 4th starter Luis Severino cruised through five innings, allowing 5 hits, one run and one walk.  He struck out 4 Philly batters.  On the other side, Jerad Eickhoff, one of the Phillies' better young pitchers, only lasted two-thirds of an inning while giving up 6 runs to inflate his Spring ERA to 81.00.  Yikes! 

I should probably quit ragging on Mighty Mouse.  He homered and had 4 RBI's in the victory.  Gary Sanchez and Rashad Crawford also homered in the game for the Yankees, who are now 24-8-1 for the Spring with one game to go (opening the new stadium in Atlanta with the Braves later this evening).

Have a great Friday and a wonderful weekend! 

So it Seems the Yankees Came Down to Georgia

Good morning everyone and Happy Friday to you all. The weekends aren’t as amazing as they used to be in my world, because reasons, but one day they will be again. Life has a funny way of working things out and the world has a way of letting you figure things out when you’re ready so I just remain patient and hopeful. While I pass the time while the world and life takes their sweet time trying to jump start this s*** I think I’ll watch a Yankees game tonight because New York is coming down to Georgia tonight to take on the Atlanta Braves.

I think the official blogger/journalist/news reporter/professional writer/displaced fan term for when your favorite team who only comes down to your new home town once every three or four years is “yay” but you guys can correct me if I’m wrong on that one. Until then, yay!!!!

This Day in New York Yankees History 3/31: Welcome to Coors Field

On this day in 1995 in front of a crowd of 47,536 the New York Yankees lost the first ever game at Coors Field, an exhibition game, 4-1 to the Colorado Rockies.

Also on this day in 1984 Roger Maris announced his #9 jersey retirement from the Yankees on an episode of ABC's Sports Beat with Howard Cosell. New York planned to retire the jersey number at Old Timer's Day that July. Maris showed much disbelief in learning the news and was very happy to be recognized for his seven years in pinstripes.