Get to the Point: Baseball Headlines for 8/31/2014

Another week of the baseball season has completed and the kids go back to school on Tuesday. There was some big news stories today around the MLB so let’s get right to the point and catch up on anything you may have missed.

The past two days had a couple of trades, including the biggest today which sent Adam Dunn from the Chicago White Sox to the Oakland Athletics. This gives the Athletics some much needed power and based on how they have played of late, someone who can make contact. See, that’s a joke because Dunn makes less contact than I do in the middle of the night with the toilet during my 3AM pees.

The San Francisco Giants made Kyle Lohse question his career choice, scoring 7 runs off of him in 5.2 innings. Pablo Sandoval even had a triple so if you see the Four Horsemen flying above your house later today you’ll know why.

After a very disappointing season where the Boston Red Sox couldn’t even trade him along with the rest of their rotation, Clay Buchholz pitched a 3-hit shutout against the Tampa Bay Rays. The win for Buchholz raises his record to 6-8 and the shutout lowers his ERA to somewhere in the 2 million range.

Home runs from Melky Cabrera, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion helped the Toronto Blue Jays beat the New York Yankees 4-3. J.A. Happ picked up the win for the Blue Jays while Brandon McCarthy took the loss for the Yankees. The win makes things a little more interesting to see who will finish second in the American League East and miss the playoffs completely.

A Sunday night game of historical proportions, the Kansas City Royals host the Cleveland Indians. Surprisingly this is a pretty good matchup. Danny Duffy will go for the Royals and T.J. House will take the mound for the Indians. Expect Netflix to run slower than usual tonight because for the most part this is a game America will skip in favor of Bojack Horseman.

Five Statistical Facts about Adam LaRoche

Why analyze the career statistics and facts from the career of first baseman Adam LaRoche? Well, I’m trying to do everyone I can. Not all players can make the Hall of Fame. Plus I believe LaRoche has had a pretty good career that doesn’t get the acknowledgement it deserves. So before you get absolutely bored about me gushing over LaRoche, let me share five statistical facts about him.

0 All-Star Appearances

Over 1300 hits, almost 250 home runs, and a very respectable career .340 on-base percentage yet LaRoche has never made an All-Star team. It’s a bit surprising, especially in 2012 when he finished sixth in the National League MVP voting. Certainly LaRoche is not one of the elite first basemen of his generation however it’s still shocking he was never able to crack an All-Star roster at least once.

A Week in Boston

Did you remember that LaRoche was once a member of the Boston Red Sox? He played in 6 games for them in 2009 after being traded there by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Only a week later the Red Sox decided to trade him to his original team, the Atlanta Braves, for first baseman Casey Kotchman.

Two 100 RBI Seasons

After four consecutive seasons of driving in 83 or more runs, LaRoche finally got to triple digits when he had 100 RBIs for the 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks. He repeated this feat again two years later when he drove in 100 runs in his first full season with the Washington Nationals.

Gold Glove Winner

The best season in LaRoche’s career was 2012. Offensively he set multiple personal records. This is also the only season when he won any major award when he took home a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger. LaRoche could have easily won another Gold Glove, specifically in 2009 when he only committed 2 errors in a career high 1435 chances.

Postseason Power

Overall LaRoche’s limited postseason experience is nothing remarkable. He’s only been there three times and never advanced beyond the first round. Of his 11 hits in the postseason, 4 were home runs including 2 in his most recent appearance back in 2012.

Photo Credit: By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Adam LaRoche”) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Five Reasons Why I Was Excited for the 2014 Philadelphia Phillies’ Season

As it turned out, there wasn’t much for me to get excited about this season for the Philadelphia Phillies. I wrote this article for Yahoo Sports taking a more optimistic approach toward my favorite team. My positive attitude did very little to help them. If anything, a few of the things I was excited about most turned out to be the biggest frustrations. The lesson: never enjoy anything.

The baseball season upon us, and Philadelphia Phillies fans have every right to complain about the lack of noteworthy offseason moves to improve the team.

Names like Marlon Byrd, Wil Nieves and Ronny Cedeno have entered the organization, a far cry from the days of Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee coming to town.

A city sometimes known as “Negadelphia,” because, for some reason, the fans in and around Philadelphia view their teams as a glass completely empty, there are still enough reasons for fans to look forward to the start of the 2014 season:

Ryne Sandberg

A fresh face and voice in the manager’s office will drastically change the team’s dynamic. Charlie Manuel had grown attached to the players who helped him win the World Series in 2008. New manager Ryne Sandberg has little past history invested with this team other than managing a few at Triple A Lehigh Valley.

As cruel as it may sound to Chicago Cubs fans, Sandberg is far too familiar with losing. This is good for the Phillies because Sandberg does not come off like a guy willing to accept going home for the winter without a trophy. With Sandberg’s fingers lacking a World Series ring, he will do whatever he can to pick up a win, even at the expense of angering players.

Sandberg will also have Larry Bowa as his bench coach. The two are the perfect combination of sweet and sour, although Sandberg’s brief time with the club in 2013 has proven he is capable of being harder on players than Manuel ever was.

A success or not, Phillies fans should be excited. Chip Kelly took over the Philadelphia Eagles for Andy Reid in 2013. Now they are a playoff team with a possible franchise quarterback. There is no reason to doubt Sandberg can find some young gems, too.

New Announcer(s)

Since before many of us could even speak to voice our displeasure, Chris Wheeler has been on the Phillies’ broadcast team. As of 2014, Wheeler will be quiet.

Fans have had a love/hate relationship with Wheeler over the years, a lot of it to do with his alleged feud with Harry Kalas. Wheeler has also been criticized for talking down to fans during games and getting too detailed about common knowledge facts.

Also leaving the broadcast booth this season is Gary “Sarge” Matthews. Matthews joined the Phillies’ broadcast team in 2007 as a color analyst. He too often faced negative comments; far less than Wheeler because Matthews did have a successful playing career during the 1980s with the team.

Two open spots now, the Phillies have the opportunity to bring in a new voice. They can either try finding a replacement for each or stick with having someone work all 9 innings with Tom McCarthy. Whatever their decision is, this is the first step toward a new era of Phillies baseball — hopefully away from the current nosedive.

A Healthy Ryan Howard and Chase Utley

Ryan Howard and Chase Utley will enter the 2014 season as healthy as can be. Howard’s Achilles tendon has been a plaguing issue while it has been Utley’s degenerative knees keeping him out of action from time to time.

Both are approaching the twilight of their careers if they have not already reached that point. Fans have to hope this offseason has been a relaxing yet productive one for both.

The last time Howard played in more than 100 games was back in 2011, a year where several of his numbers were already on the downtrend. Utley did manage to play in 131 games in 2013, getting back to a closer version of his younger playing days. Utley has, however, become a different player. Instead of 30 home runs a season, he has added on a few extra doubles.

Influx of Youngsters

The opening-day roster is nowhere near decided. We can still predict the team to feature several younger less-familiar faces.

Jonathan Pettibone may have the opportunity to join the starting rotation as will Miguel Gonzalez. The bullpen will feature Justin De Fratus, Jake Dekeman and Michael Stutes at least some point this season. These three are at a crossroads in their careers, making it the perfect time to break out as reliable candidates to be called upon late in games.

As far as the position players go, Cody Asche will probably take his spot at third base for the majority of games this season. The bench could have Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez and Darin Ruf among a few others. Coming off a season-ending injury, Ben Revere will be looking to continue the success he had before fracturing his foot.

While many of these names are not top prospects, they do have the chance to do more than veterans from recent past like Ty Wigginton or Laynce Nix who stuck around like a cereal-box prize, for a limited time only.

Cole Hamels

With Roy Halladay now retired and basking in the sun and sleeping in for the first time in years, Cole Hamels will have his moment to shine.

From the “Four Aces” down to two, the Phillies are left with duo of Hamels and Cliff Lee. Lee has already spent time as an elite pitcher while Hamels has been walking the line. The 2014 season will be the year fans can look forward to see what Hamels can really do.

Hamels has had his ups and downs with the Phillies, particularly in 2009 and 2013. One tremendously overlooked fact about Hamels is he never misses too much time.

The biggest problem Hamels had in 2013, aside from poor run support, was the number of hits he allowed. A 3.60 ERA with 205 hits allowed, both were his second worst in seasons where he pitched more than 150 innings.

There is very little reason to believe Hamels will not bounce back in 2014. He has a World Series MVP on his resume, he is only one win away from 100 for his career, and he has pitched 200 innings every season since 2010.

Hamels is a workhorse and a gamer. He may finish with a lower than deserving win total in 2014, but when he takes mound, he will keep the Phillies in the game.

The Best Team in Baseball: The Los Angeles Angels

A month has passed since the trade deadline and in this short period of time the division leaders have changed. This is most evident in the American League West where the Oakland Athletics, who made some of the biggest trades this season, have fallen out of first place. The Athletics haven’t so much been bad as much as the Los Angeles Angels have been much better.

The casual baseball fan might see the Angels’ roster and not think twice why they have the best record. Well-known names like Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton are at the center of this lineup.

Somewhat quietly, Trout is having an amazing season. His batting average is down to .290, but he has already set several career highs and remains only a few inches away from others. Hitting primarily out of the two-hole, Trout leads the team in RBIs by a good margin over Pujols.

While on the topic of Pujols, not the player he was once, this man has had a very respectable season. He should finish with close to 30 home runs and 100 RBIs which will make fans very happy based on the way things started out.

As for Hamilton, injuries have limited his playing time by quite a bit. He has had flashes of the player he was with the Texas Rangers without completing stinking up the baseball field. With that said, he’s probably not one of the team’s top three players.

I would however include guys like Kole Calhoun and Erick Aybar in this list of potential unsung heroes on the Angels. Both have been consistent throughout this season. Obviously, they do not have the star factor as others around the league or even on the team. Still, these two are anchors at the top of the lineup (Calhoun) and the five or six-hole (Aybar).

The real reason why the Angels are the best team in baseball is their pitching staff. Forgetting C.J. Wilson’s batting practice performances and Tyler Skaggs going down with an injury after pitching pretty bad for the most part, the Angels have gotten clutch performances from the rest of their starters.

Far and away their best pitcher was Garrett Richards who unfortunately is out for the rest of the season after hurting his knee in an attempt to cover first base. They still have Jered Weaver to lean on along with the biggest surprise, Matt Shoemaker.

Shoemaker has split time this season as a starter and a reliever. Overall he’s 13-4 with a 3.33 ERA and in the middle of a hot streak. He has averaged nearly a strikeout per inning, largely thanks to pitching out of the bullpen, and has made the Richards injury a simple shrug instead of implosion like an injury like this should have been for a team in a pennant hunt.

For all of the fuss about acquiring closer Huston Street in July, the bullpen for the Angels has been pretty good. Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen, Fernando Salas, and Mike Morin all have ERAs under 2.50. Now with one of the best closers in baseball, Street, blown leads could be a thing of the past.

I like the Angels’ odds much more than the Athletics. The Athletics have guys like Stephen Vogt hitting cleanup on a nightly basis. While a good story and a fun team to root for, the Athletics are much weaker than the Angels. Their pitching staff is only slightly better too despite all of the acquisitions they made to become a pitching heavy organization. When you can’t score runs, having a pitcher give up only 2-3 a game still results in a loss.

It will definitely be a fun rivalry to watch through September and possibly even into the playoffs between these two teams. The end result could even come down to decisions made by the two managers, Mike Scioscia and Bob Melvin. Two stubborn men with a system proven to work, this war could end up as a winner takes all fight to enter the World Series.

Photo Credit: By Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

My First Baseball Game

One consistency in my childhood was that every summer my dad would take my younger sister and I to the Poconos located in Northern Pennsylvania. This was an area best known for their skiing and heart-shaped hot tubs for honeymooners. I think a few people may have been mauled to death by bears there as well. This is a little less romantic of an idea than hitting the slopes or sipping champagne in a filthy tub the day after getting married so they leave the deadly bears off the brochures.

The Poconos was a good vacation spot because my dad had a former coworker who owned a vacation house up there which he apparently purchased before vacation houses were reserved for the extremely wealthy. We could spend as long as we wanted there without having to pay for the room. My dad’s friend was named Kevin, an easy person to remember because it’s the only friend my dad has ever had.

What I remember about Kevin was his large stature with a thick Brooklyn accent to make him even more frightening to a young insecure kid. Or maybe it was a Long Island accent. Most New York accents kind of run together in my ears and come out very unclear. Either way, my young ears usually could not understand a thing Kevin said except when he would use the term “taking a dump” in lieu of “poop.”

My fondest memory of going to the Poconos was seeing the cute wall ornament on the wall above the toilet that read, “Golf is like sex. You don’t have to be good at it to enjoy it.” This gave me hope. I have always been terrible at golf.

Kevin was a big baseball fan. At least he was a bigger fan than my dad was. My dad’s hobbies were working and grabbing his pants to keep from falling down. Last time I checked these are not heavily featured on ESPN.

Kevin had shelves with autographed baseballs displayed in his Poconos home. Some of the greatest legends to ever play the game had signed these balls. My dad was different. He had a shelf where he would put his loose change, specifically into a tin with a cartoon cow on it

I always envied the small collection Kevin had because I had never experienced anything like it. Autographs by Stan Musial, Willie Mays, and Duke Snider to name the only three I can specifically remember graced his shelf. I know there was another of a guy who was a top prospect in the New York Mets’ minor league system that never panned out. That autographed ball always turned me off. Growing up a Philadelphia Phillies fan always gave me a strong distaste for anything blue and orange. The more I think about it, maybe Kevin was from Queens. He was a Mets fans so that would make perfect sense. His second favorite team though had to be the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons. Yeah, a real indecisive mouthful of a team name. It’s like their parents are divorced and they cannot choose which they love more.

The Red Barons were the local team to the Pocono Mountain area. Their stadium was only a short ten minute drive away if there was no fatal car accident on the highway. This made for a very convenient night out and some of the best memories I had during my childhood summers not involving food.

At the time I went to my first baseball game Kevin had no children of his own. I was around seven years old and knew nothing about sports. Seizing the opportunity to have a vicarious son, Kevin suggested we go to a Red Barons game.

I don’t remember much about that first game. I know there were fireworks at the end. I also remember Gene Schall, a top prospect and now scout for the Phillies, hitting a game-winning home run. The final memory from that night is my sister eating so much cotton candy that she threw up. This was my first baseball game. It had a little bit of everything.

Either Kevin or my dad purchased a souvenir baseball from the gift shop for me during the game. I was seven so I didn’t care who I should have thanked, which is why I have no clue which man shelled out the cash. All that mattered was I was getting a gift and I have always enjoyed the presence of presents.

After the game ended, we headed out to where the players would exit to wait for them to sign my ball. In hindsight it may have been less about getting autographs and more about giving my dad and Kevin time to sober up.

I still have the ball from my first game somewhere buried with a slew of other unmarked baseball. The pen used to sign must have been near death because a lot of the signatures look extremely crude. I know now the best thing to use is a blue ballpoint pen on baseballs and a blue Sharpie on cards. Back then this was the least of my concerns. I was happy enough to have a chewed up red pen to get my autographs with.

Going to Lackawanna County Stadium remained a yearly destination for us whenever we went to the Poconos. We always managed to work a baseball game into our busy schedule of go-kart riding, batting cages, and eating foods my mom wouldn’t have minded us eating. It’s the excess that we ate those foods she would have been concerned about. I grew up a fat kid and I have my week long trips to the Poconos to thank for that along with just about every day of my life in my early life.

Now Kevin has a son. My dad talks to him on very rare occasions, like once every ten years. When his lone child was born male, I was devastated. No longer was I the apparent heir to his autograph collection. As much as I thought it would been great for him to have a son to teach baseball to I was greedy and wanted to claim what I thought I deserved.

It was time for me to pick up the pace on the collecting. I needed to make what graced his shelves look horrible by comparison to anything I could amass. I needed to have not only a bigger, but better collection than the man who introduced me to sports autographs.

The All-Time Tim Team: Part 1 – The Position Players

Growing up a person named Tim (with much harsher nicknames from classmates, teachers, and other figures in my life) I always had a connection with anyone who shared my given name. This was also the case in the baseball world as anyone also named Tim immediately became a player I respected.

So out of curiosity as to how good of a team I could build only using players with the same name as me, I have assembled the All-Time Tim Team. We may not be as good as the Toms or the Jims, but we are undefeated when playing the one-man team, the Nomars.

LF Tim Raines – Batting leadoff for the Timsville Tims is an easy choice: Tim Raines. Raines collected 2605 hits in his career with 808 stolen bases. Nicknamed “The Rock” he would be just that for this squad. The more he gets on base the more runs we will score.

CF Timoniel Perez – Second in the lineup is Timoniel Perez who because of the poor quality of Tims that have played in the major leagues qualifies as a fellow Tim. Timoniel, referred mostly as Timo, brings a career .269 batting average into the two-hole with a little bit of speed and good sacrifice bunting abilities. If Raines can single, steal a base, and Perez can bunt him over we’re off to a good start.

RF Tim Salmon – Completing the outfield and batting third is Tim Salmon. Salmon is an easy choice as he hit a Tim-leading 299 career home runs. Salmon also had a .282 batting average making him the biggest threat in the Tim-lineup. At this point all we would need is a deep fly ball or an early run.

3B Tim Wallach – The cleanup hitter for the Tims is Tim Wallach. A very underrated player who spent a lot of his career with the Montreal Expos before joining the Tims, Wallach hit 260 career home runs. With Salmon hitting in front of him he should see a few more fastballs.

1B Tim Naehring – A versatile infielder who can play all over, Tim Naehring has the fifth hole reserved for him while playing in the field at first base. A career shortened by injuries, Naehring did manage to have a .282 career batting average while reaching double digit home runs in the two seasons he was able to play in more than 100 games.

2B Tim Teufel – A Tim who deserves more credit than he got, Tim Teufel bats sixth and plays second base. Teufel was mostly a part-time player during his career with his most impressive quality being his on-base percentage: lifetime .336.

C Tim McCarver – Unfortunately Steve Carlton plays for the Stevetown Steves and Tim McCarver’s greatest asset as his personal catcher will be wasted. Instead McCarver will be depended on for his bat. As well-known as he is for being good at calling games, McCarver actually brings my squad a .271 batting average and some occasional pop.

SS Tim Bogar – Batting eighth and hopefully able to turn over the lineup for the pitcher is shortstop Tim Bogar. Bogar is incredibly light-hitting and mainly only there for defense and because I am more familiar with him than I am with Tim Foli.

Top Prospect: Tim Anderson – The Tims may not have the best lineup in the world however we do have a pretty good prospect on our minor league team, the Timsfield Fighting Tims. Tim Anderson is a shortstop who could soon join the Tims’ everyday lineup. Not a player who will ever set any home run records, he will best be suited as a top of the lineup guy while still contributing plenty of gap power.

Coming up soon I will reveal the All-Time Tim Pitching Staff. Trust me when I say we depend on them to win us games.

Mike Schmidt’s Career Through the Eyes of a 1990s Child

When through tears Mike Schmidt announced that he was retiring from baseball in 1989, I had not even reached my terrible twos.

To my parents, I was still a baby angel full of hope, capable of maybe one day replacing Schmidt as the greatest third baseman of all time. Bad genetics and a lack of motivation to work hard, I never made it beyond getting cut from my high school team on the first day of tryouts. Schmidt would have to stay the best, at least until my non-existent son makes the majors.

Schmidt was first presented to me when I became a Phillies fan obsessed with the team’s upsetting history full of losing seasons. He was the only member of the team to be in the elite 500 home run club and since he hit each one in a Phillies uniform, it was even more special.

The call from Harry Kalas that afternoon in Pittsburgh when he reached 500 and the pure joy Schmidt showed as he rounded the bases made me a fan, despite never having actually seen him play anywhere other than a highlight reel.

Older generations got to live Schmidt’s career. A rare combination of power and Gold Glove play in the field, Schmidt deserved each of his 12 trips to the All-Star game and 3 MVP Awards.

Enough footage of Schmidt’s career does exist for me to have an idea as to why he was so beloved. However, enough other facts aid the reasons why fans sometimes had a tough time embracing him.

Schmidt was a home run hitter, often sacrificing contact for a heavy swing. In four of the seasons he led the league in home runs, he also led in strikeouts. Having followed Ryan Howard‘s entire career in Philadelphia and witnessing the frustration when he performs similarly, it becomes quite clear that the legendary stories of fans reluctantly appreciating Schmidt were probably recurrent.

Not all of the hearsay about Schmidt is negative. He is the team’s all-time leader in hits, home runs, runs scored and many other offensive categories. Nothing anybody says can take this away from him.

Schmidt also was a member of the 1980 World Series team, the first group of men wearing Phillies red to ever win the championship. Highlights show Schmidt in his prime with his “pornstache” looking as thick as it ever did. Surrounded by Afros and skinny-fat athletes who had never lifted a barbell in their life, Schmidt had his best season that year to finally give Phillies fans what they had waited forever to have — a championship. To many, this is all it takes to earn the city’s respect for life.

When I first became a devoted Phillies follower, they had a rookie whom some saw as the heir apparent to Schmidt. This young third baseman was the 1997 Rookie of the Year, Scott Rolen. Like Schmidt, Rolen had a slick game at the hot corner and provided the team with middle-of-the-order power. Unfortunately, for Rolen, he was surrounded by far less talented players during his time in Philadelphia. During the Rolen Era, the Phillies were lucky to win 80 games in a season.

Comparisons between the two third basemen continued throughout Rolen’s stay in Philadelphia. In parts of 7 seasons with the Phillies, Rolen hit only 150 home runs but won 4 Gold Glove Awards. By the time Schmidt had played 7 seasons with the Phillies, he had not even reached his prime.

Rolen was never actually destined to break Schmidt’s records. The two were different players whose career comparisons only come up in conversation because of their Philadelphia connection.

At the time of his retirement, Schmidt was 7th in career home runs with 548. He has since dropped down to 15th, thanks largely to the inflated muscles and skulls that came from flagrant steroid use.
The truth still remains the same: Schmidt is one of the truly great players, and I never had to see him play live to know it.

Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout: Who You Should Draft First in Fantasy Baseball

Maybe a little too late now, however, I see this being a debate next year for your 2014 draft with very little changing between now and then. Would would you choose?

For the past two seasons Miguel Cabrera has won the American League MVP while being the best player in either league. Coincidentally, Mike Trout has finished second in both seasons in the MVP race. The two have a very different style with oddly similar results. If you are lucky enough to have the first overall pick in your fantasy baseball draft, which one do you choose?

Pro Miguel Cabrera

In each of his 10 full seasons in Major League Baseball, Cabrera has hit 30 home runs and driven in over 100. His lowest batting average in any of these seasons was still a very respectable .292. Even more impressive, he has not struckout 100 times since 2009. Cabrera gets on base a lot and is sure to drive anyone home who already happens to be standing on first, second, or third.

For the most part he has also stayed healthy. The 2013 was the first season since he became a regular starter that he played in less than 150 games, finishing the season with 148 games played. Cabrera’s prolonged consistency is something you should not overlook when pairing him up against Trout.

Con Miguel Cabrera

Cabrera is slow, grounds into a lot of double plays, and starting the 2014 season at 30-years-old one can only assume his time to suffer an injury is right around the corner. This is of course an assumption, the only way to think of Cabrera negatively.

Cabrera will also not have Prince Fielder in the lineup in 2014 for some added protection. Of course, he never needed Fielder in the first place. There still could be a slight adjustment period and something to consider.

Pro Mike Trout

One of the few players who could bat leadoff or cleanup, Trout still has something to prove. Only two full seasons on his resume, Trout has improved in some categorizes and gone slightly down in others. However, the change up or down was not drastic.

With 30 more at-bats in 2013 than he had in 2012, Trout scored 20 fewer runs and hit 3 less home runs. A big catalyst for this might be his 110 walks he drew in 2013 compared to the 67 the season before. Trout’s speed is also a threat to add fantasy points to your lineup. He steals bases and he rarely hits into double plays which in some leagues is as beneficial as hitting as many home runs as Cabrera would.

Con Mike Trout

As mentioned, Trout’s numbers did not go up significantly with more at-bats in 2013. Fewer chances due to pitchers pitching around a lot more often, Trout should have still been able to improve in some categories.

The most significant drop came in the stolen base department. In his rookie season Trout stole 49 bases. A year later in 2013 he only stole 33 despite being on base a lot more and having an increased amount of opportunities. Trout also strikes out more often than Cabrera does, 139 and 136 times in each of his two seasons.

When making your final decision as to which to select, be sure to take a look through your league’s point system. If speed is a major plus then you may want to lean toward Trout. If home runs are what you are in more need of, Cabrera should be your guy. It’s hard to go wrong with either choice. The difficult decision will come in round two.

Ten Facts and Statistics about Baseball’s Grand Slam

The biggest hit of them all, a grand slam occurs when a player at bat hits a home run with the bases loaded. One mistake by the pitcher and suddenly there are 4 more runs on the scoreboard against his team.

Okay, so you probably already knew what a grand slam was. I’ll stop insulting your intelligence and refrain from using the excuse I was trying to help out any readers who might be more tennis aficionados as this is the term used for winning the four major tennis tournaments in one year. Certainly you are probably far less familiar with some of these facts and statistics about clearing the bases with a grand slam, but after reading it you can brag to all of your baseball-nerd friends.

Most Grand Slams: Alex Rodriguez, 24

Love him, hate him, or love to hate him Alex Rodriguez has more grand slams than anyone else. As of the 2014 season Rodriguez has 24 grand slams, one more than New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig.

Most in a Single-Season: Travis Hafner and Don Mattingly, 6

Two first basemen with very different career outcomes, Travis Hafner and Don Mattingly, hit more grand slams in a single-season than anyone else. Hafner and Mattingly both had 6 grand slams total in one year. Hafner hit his 6 in 2006 and Mattingly did it 19 years earlier in 1987.

First in the Postseason: Elmer Smith

On October 10, 1920 the first ever postseason grand slam occurred when Elmer Smith of the Cleveland Indians hit one off of Burleigh Grimes of the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5 of the World Series. Smith went deep in the first inning and helped the Indians win 8-1. That same game Bill Wamsbsganns turned an unassisted triple play. An Elmer, a Burleigh, and a surname Wamsbsganns; they just don’t make names like they used to.

All-Star Game

Only once has a player hit a grand slam in the All-Star game. Fred Lynn of the California Angels stepped up to the plate against Atlee Hammaker, whom to my knowledge has no relation to anyone in Game 5 of the 1920 World Series, and hit a grand slam at Comiskey Park.

The First Ever: Roger Connor?

Since statistics were as accurate as a Chuck Knoblauch throw to first base back in the early days of baseball, nobody is exactly sure who hit the first grand slam. Credit is however given to Roger Connor who did it in 1881. Ten years earlier Charlie Gould hit one while playing in the National Association. Since this is like the WWE acknowledging WCW’s title lineage, Connor gets the credit.

First At-Bat

Four players have hit a grand slam in their first at-bat at the big league level. They are Bill Duggleby (1898), Jeremy Hermida (2005), Kevin Kouzmanoff (2006), and Daniel Nava (2012). Duggleby, Kouzmanoff, and Nava hit theirs on the first pitch they saw while Hermida hit his while coming off the bench as a pinch hitter.

Tony Cloninger

On July 3, 1966 pitcher Tony Cloninger hit two grand slams in one game. He is still the only pitcher to accomplish this. By the end of the season he had hit 5 home runs and made himself a household name among families who care about grand slams hit by pitchers more than anything else.

Two Grand Slams in One Inning

Fernando Tatis was a dangerous power hitter in his day. Chan Ho Park apparently thought differently as he went right after Tatis in the third inning with the bases loaded not once but twice. Tatis is the only player to have hit two grand slams in the same inning. Thankfully for Park he was not the first pitcher to give up two grand slams in the same inning as Bill Phillips of the Pittsburgh Pirates suffered the safe fate in 1898.

Switch Hitting Bill Mueller

Bill Mueller was an average player whose biggest accomplishment is the frequency that his name comes up in trivia questions. The question is, “Who is the only player to have ever hit a grand slam from both sides of the plate in the same game?” The answer of course is switch hitting Bill Mueller who did it in 2003 when playing for the Boston Red Sox.

The Batterymates

In the same game catcher Buster Posey and pitcher Madison Bumgarner hit grand slams. They are not the first teammates to hit grand slams in the same game, but they are the first batterymates. Never before had a catcher and the pitcher hit grand slams in the same game. Lucky enough for the San Francisco Giants they beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 8-4 that day making both slammies necessary.

Photo Credit: By jimcchou on Flickr [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Road Trip Ideas for Baseball Fans

A road trip is a perfect time to bond with friends and experience moments you would not otherwise have the opportunity to. Sometimes a reason for a road trip can be hard to justify. For a baseball fan there are plenty of reasons to fill up the car with gas and head onto the highway. These are ten road trip ideas every baseball should consider taking at some point in their life.

A Trip to Fenway Park

The ancient cathedral of baseball lure in Boston, Fenway Park usually comes first on the list of baseball parks for fans to visit. The Boston fans have given this stadium its own personality. A change from the modern stadiums, only by visiting this park can you truly understand why Red Sox fans are so obsessed with selling out the park.

A Trip to Wrigley Field

The same that can be said about Fenway Park can go for Wrigley Field in Chicago. Home to the Chicago Cubs, this is another destination at the top of ballparks to visit. A community that has made this more than an old stadium with ivy on the outfield walls, the traditions taking place each game is worth the trip alone. You may even get lucky and see someone famous sing ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ during the 7th inning stretch.

Cooperstown

Located in upstate New York is the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. This is more than your usual sports road trip. Going to Cooperstown is a pilgrimage. For true die hard baseball fans you will think you have died and gone to heaven. Cooperstown has the Hall of Fame at the end of the street with endless memorabilia shops surrounding it. This is truly a paradise for fans of the game.

Cooperstown on Hall of Fame Weekend

Visiting Cooperstown at any time is magical, but going there on Hall of Fame Weekend is even better. Many living Hall of Famers come into town to sign autographs and pay tribute to the new players entering the elite class. While it may be much busier at this time, it is definitely worth it to see the fanfare.

Spring Training

Escaping the colder weather in other parts of the country is always good. Add to it that you will be attending near-exclusive practices and games of major league players at small venues and you have a great road trip all planned out. Whether you go to Florida or Arizona, spring training is something baseball fans need to spend at least a week in March enjoying.

A Minor League Team in Every League

You might be amazed at how many different minor league teams they are at different levels and in different leagues. While the game does not change, the atmosphere can. From the Eastern League games to the ones in the Cactus League, they all have a different experience. Take in the games and the local city culture on each trip. These parks have more of a town experience than the major league teams in major cities.

The All-Star Game

The All-Star Game comes around only once a year and in each the location is different. While you can take in the game when it’s local, why not make it a reason to travel to a new city? Other events taking place that weekend make this an even more attractive event. The Home Run Derby, the Futures Game, and Celebrity Softball Game will give you plenty of reasons to go to the stadium.

The World Series

We never know where the World Series will take place until the League Championship Series wraps up. You may have to hope one of the teams in the finals is within driving distance in order to plan it out. It doesn’t take being at Game 7 to experience the World Series to its fullest. Even a boring game by World Series standards is one worth watching live.

Opening Day

You can usually make it to opening day at your home ballpark. The suggestion here is to see the opening game somewhere else. There’s a lot of hope on the first day of the season. Batting averages are all at .000 and everyone starts with a clean-slate. Some years when the first game takes place overseas you may even have an excuse to grab the passport for your trip.

Follow Your Favorite Team Around

Like a groupie to a rock band, following your favorite team around for a road trip or even longer can be an experience you will never forget. You will have the opportunity to truly feel like a member of the team and know what it’s like to be on the road for days at a time.

Photo Credit: By flickr user jimcchou (http://www.flickr.com/photos/jimchou/246066558/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons