WINTRY WEATHER WREAKING HAVOC ON BASEBALL SCHEDULE IN APRIL

The extended winter season has wreaked a lot of havoc on the major league baseball schedule this year…especially, this past weekend. On Friday, one game was postponed because of “inclement weather”; Saturday saw three games postponed and, on Sunday, the jackpot of postponements: six games were called off because of bad weather…SIX! Then, as I pondered the material for this blog, I saw, on MLB.com, that two games have already been postponed for today. My clock read 9:00 a.m., PDT and there was a postponement already!

With all of this bad weather (thanks, Punxsutawny Phil!), the burning question comes to mind:  Why aren’t the early games of the season being played in warmer weather ball parks/domed stadia? I counted 12 teams that either have a domed stadium, retractable roof or are located in warm-weather locations…TWELVE! They are…in random order…Tampa Bay, Miami, Toronto, Los Angeles Angels, Houston, Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco, Arizona, San Diego, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta and Texas. The Minnesota Twins, who used to play in a domed stadium, decided (when they built their new stadium) that they did not want a domed stadium or a retractable roof.  How is that working, Twins? With all of these great places to play baseball available, without danger of being “snowed out”, we have seen games being played in Kansas City, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Boston and New York.

The kicker was that game at Kansas City this past Saturday. Both teams were bundled up like they were going sledding…and, given the amount of snow that was falling, they very well could have gone sledding! It is time to revisit the idea of starting the first two weeks of the regular season in warm weather parks. So, the logical solution would be to start the major league season with cold-weather teams visiting warm-weather teams.  Of course, some of those cold-weather teams would kick up a fuss, saying they would not want to start every year on the road. To that, I would offer the question: would they rather play on the road or not play at all? While teams like the Angels (16) and Boston (15) have played a lot of games so far, other teams like Minnesota (11) and Kansas City (13) have not. Cleveland and Detroit have not played a game since last Friday…and the Tigers have an off day today!

Another way to solve the issue of bad weather in April would be to start the season later…around the third week. That, unfortunately, would go over like a lead balloon…MLB and the Players’ Association would not go for cutting the season from, say, 162 games to 150 games. That would make too much sense!

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BORAS FREE AGENTS: WHO WON AND WHO LOST

The 2018 major league baseball season is underway and it is time to look back and determine which of Agent Mogul Scott Boras won the off-season sweepstakes and which ones lost.

WINNERS (MAYBE)

Eric Hosmer:  The former slugging first baseman of the Kansas City Royals received the biggest deal…eight years at $144 million ($18 million a year). That is pretty good; however, think of the team that he signed with: the San Diego Padres! This team, out of the National League West, has not won a division title since 2006; their last winning season was in 2010. Their last appearance in the World Series was 1998…in fact, their record in the two World Series they have appeared in is 1-8. In a division that contains the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Rockies and Giants, the Padres are not expected to contend for a playoff spot for years to come.

J.D. Martinez:  J.D. signed a five-year, $110 million contract with the Boston Red Sox; with an opt-out option after the second year. That is a good deal; however, it was not the deal that Martinez and Boras was looking for…and, by holding out, Martinez lost out on an original offer of five years at $125 million. Initially, Boras said that Martinez was looking for a contract somewhere in the $200 million range…like that was going to happen! One thing going in Martinez’s favor: Boston has been a solid team over the past 13 years…three World Series titles. He can pick up a World Series ring, then opt out and sign with another contending team.

Jake Arrieta:  The 2015 Cy Young Award winner and proud owner of a World Series ring from 2016, Arrieta signed a three-year, $75 million contract…again, with a questionable team: Philadelphia. The Phillies have not been to the World Series since 2009.  There is absolutely NO WAY they are going to unseat Washington as NL East champions any time soon. Perhaps, Arrieta is content with just one World Series ring!

LOSERS (FOR SURE)

Mike Moustakas:  This guy really got taken to the cleaners! I don’t know who was at fault, but Moustakas did not get nearly as much as he should have…only one year at $6.5 million, with the same team he played for last season. Moustakas set a new Kansas City Royals’ franchise record for home runs in 2017 with 38. That amounts to his getting just about $171,000 per home run! Are you kidding me, right now? All Moustakas can do is keep his head down, play out the season and hope that he can sign a better contract for 2019.

Greg Holland: The 2017 closer for the Colorado Rockies played the longest game of “chicken” with MLB owners and finally, just a few days ago, signed a one-year, $14 million contract with the St. Louis Cardinals. That sounds like a good deal; however, he received a qualifying offer from the Colorado Rockies that would have paid him $17.4 million to close for a contending team in 2018.  Holland is the type of person, though, that could lift the Cardinals into a playoff contender.

 

So, there you have it, folks! Some winners, some losers and some that were “fleeced”. Agent Boras will not lose any sleep, however, as these five free agents netted his agency a cool $34.95 million. He stands to make more when Moustakas and Holland become free agents, again, after the 2019 season.

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TOP MLB FREE AGENTS STILL WAITING FOR OFFERS

As the countdown to the beginning of Spring Training slowly ticks on, there are several “big name” free agents who have not yet signed a contract. Most MLB players will be reporting to Spring Training sites around February 13. The first Spring Training games will begin February 22. So, what happens if Spring Training begins and the free agents have not yet been signed?

There have been reports that some of the unsigned free agents could band together and have their own Spring Training…just so they can get all of their pre-season workouts in while waiting for a contract offer. So, why haven’t these “big name” free agents signed a contract? To me, the answer is in two words:  SCOTT BORAS. The agent is representing four of those “big name” free agents…pitcher Jake Arrieta, first baseman Eric Hosmer, outfielder J.D. Martinez and third baseman Mike Moustakas. Any of these four free agents has the ability to turn an average team into a contender or a contending team into one that could go all the way to the World Series.

A pretty interesting comment was made by Kenley Jansen, closer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. During the Fan Fest over the weekend, Jansen was saying that perhaps players need to go on strike in order for the stagnation of free agency to be taken seriously.  Of course, Jansen has the comfort of knowing that he signed a five-year, $80 million contract before the start of last season and is signed through 2021. Perhaps, someone should tell Mr. Jansen that if the players go out on strike THEY WON’T GET PAID!

There are a couple of theories as to why these free agents have not yet signed.  One:  Boras and his players are way too greedy.  Case in point: J.D. Martinez has a five-year, $125 million contract offer from the Boston Red Sox. Apparently, that is not enough…when the free agent period began, last November, Boras told anyone who would listen that he would be seeking a contract in the area of $200.  So, I guess $125 million is not enough!

A second theory: There are several All Star-caliber players who are due to become free agents after the 2018 season.  Among them are:  Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Clayton Kershaw (who can opt out of his current contract), John Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon, Dallas Keuchel and Brian Dozier. Some baseball pundits believe that teams do not want to spend a lot of money this year and make a run after the free agents after next season.

My advice to the current free agents:  Take what is offered to you…you may not get a better offer. There are quite a few players in the majors who would love to have J.D. Martinez’s offer of five years and $125 million.

 

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SIX STARS TO JOIN MLB HALL OF FAME

The 2018 Major League baseball season unofficially began yesterday with the announcement of four players being voted into the Hall of Fame; they are: Chipper Jones, who played all 19 years of his career with the Atlanta Braves and received 97.2% of the votes; Vladimir Guerrero, slugging outfielder who spent the majority of his career with Montreal and the Angels; Jim Thome, five-time All Star left-handed hitting slugger; and Trevor Hoffman, one of only two relievers in MLB history to record 600+ saves. The quartet will join ex-Tigers Jack Morris and Alan Trammell in Cooperstown, NY in July.

Falling just short of being elected into the Hall of Fame was Edgar Martinez, arguably the top designated hitter in MLB history. Martinez received 70.4% of the votes…he needed at least 75% to get into the Hall. Most baseball pundits seem to believe that Martinez will make it next year…his final year of eligibility.

Of the four players elected yesterday, Jones was the most successful. Drafted first overall by Atlanta in 1990, Jones helped lead the Braves to 11 consecutive National League division titles and 14 in 15 years.  He helped guide the Braves to three World Series appearances, winning a World Series title in 1995.  Jones is the fourth player from that 1995 championship team to be elected into the Hall of Fame, joining teammates Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. In addition, Braves manager Bobby Cox is also in the Hall.

Jones hit 468 home runs in his career and drove in 1,623 runs.  He is also the second-best switch hitter in MLB history, trailing only the great Mickey Mantle. Jones was an eight-time All Star, winning two Silver Slugger awards and was selected National League Most Valuable Player in 1999, when he hit .319 with 45 home runs and 110 RBI. Jones won his only batting title in 2008 when he finished with a .364 average. He played 1,993 games at third base and the Atlanta Braves organization honored Jones by retiring his number 10 in 2013.

Nicknamed “Big Daddy Vladdy” or “Vlad the Impaler”, Guerrero began his career with the Montreal Expos in 1996 and retired in 2011.  In between, he collected 2,590 hits, smacked 449 homers, drove in 1,496 runs and also displayed speed with 181 stolen bases. In fact, Guerrero stole 37 bases in 2001 and followed that up with 40 steals in 2002. In 2004, Guerrero signed a free-agent contract with the Angels and starred with them for six seasons. He was a five-time All Star and won eight Silver Slugger awards…five in the American League and three in the National League. Guerrero went to the World Series only once, in 2010 with the Texas Rangers. The name Vladimir Guerrero may soon appear in box scores again as his son, Vladimir Jr., is currently in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization and has been listed as the third-best prospect in MLB at third base.

Known as the “Pride of Peoria”, Thome was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 13th round of the 1989 MLB draft…the 331st player overall selected that year. He made his debut with the Indians on September 4, 1991 and played his last game on October 11, 2012. In between, Thome belted 612 home runs and drove in 1,699 runs. He is the eighth-place all-time in homers and one of nine players to hit 600 or more round-trippers. Thome’s best season hitting home runs were 2001 when he slugged 49 and followed that up in 2002 with 52. He hit 40 or more homers six times in his career. Thome was selected as an All Star four times in the American League and once in the National League. He led Cleveland into the World Series twice…in 1995 and 1997; however, he did not win a World Series ring.

Later in his career, Hoffman was noted for entering a ball game to the strains of “Hells Bells” blaring through the loud speakers. Drafted by Cincinnati in the 11th round of the 1989 draft (the 288th player taken overall), Hoffman is only behind the great Mariano Rivera (who will probably be a first-year

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IS STANTON TRADE IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF BASEBALL?

I would like to see baseball commissioner Rob Manfred don his “Bowie Kuhn” cap and veto the trade of Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees, telling us that this trade “Is not in the best interest of baseball.”  The systematic dismantling of the Miami Marlins by new owner Derek Jeter is similar to the time when Oakland Athletics owner Charlie Finley tried to sell of three of his star players…starter Vida Blue, outfielder Joe Rudi and closer Rollie Fingers. Kuhn put the “kibosh” on the sale and there was quite a flurry of back-and-forth comments by Finley and Kuhn.

This case seems quite similar to Oakland’s in that Jeter is just beginning his purge…he is expected to trade away several more of his players. And…oh, by the way, does anybody think that Jeter trading Stanton to his former team is a little fishy?

One way that MLB has tried to prevent a team from “over-spending” on free agents and trade candidates is the so-called “luxury tax”. Teams that exceed the luxury tax threshold is taxed a percentage of the amount they have gone over that limit. The Yankees have exceeded the luxury tax limit over the past four seasons. The penalty for doing so is for a team to be taxed a percentage of the amount over the limit. The first offense is 22.5%, the second offense is 30% and the third…and subsequent offenses is 50%. Over the past several seasons the Yankees have paid nearly $300 million in taxes. Obviously, the luxury cap is not working for them. The Yankees would rather spend the money, make more money and pay the taxes and figuratively stick their tongues out at MLB.

The Yankees are certainly not the only team that has exceeded the luxury tax limit over the past few years. The Dodgers have paid over $81 million in luxury taxes and very nearly “bought” a World Series championship in 2017. Now, the question is: can the “Boys in Blue” make it back to the Fall Classic? Odds are they won’t…last year was the first time since 1988 that the Dodgers went to the World Series…their longest drought in franchise history.

So, is there anything Commissioner Manfred can do to prevent the Marlins from getting rid of all of their talented players? Probably not. The franchise has conducted a “fire-sale” twice before: After the 1997 and the 2003 seasons. Of course, that was a little different: those happened after the Marlins won World Series titles. This time, they are doing it just to get rid of current and future stars.

Rest assured, the people in Miami are not happy all of this is happening. After the team helped finance a new ball park, at a tidy cost of $515 million, fans were hoping the franchise would then put a competitive team on the field.  That has not yet happened and probably will not happen for several years to come. Have fun, Mr. Jeter!

 

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SOMETIMES “STEADY” VERSUS “FLASHY” CAN GET A PLAYER ELECTED INTO THE BASEBALL HALL OF FAME

Most of the time, when a former major league player gets elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame, it is as a result of his reputation as being “flashy” as well as putting up impressive numbers during a long and successful career. Then, there are players who get in because of steady, consistent performances. Two these kinds of players who were just recently elected into the Hall of Fame, were exactly that: steady, consistent players.

Starting pitcher Jack Morris and shortstop Alan Trammell, who both played the majority of their careers with the Detroit Tigers, were selected by a committee that focuses on players who played in the majors since 1970. Both players displayed remarkable endurance: Morris pitched for 18 years…13 of them with the Tigers…while Trammell lasted 20 years…all with Detroit.  Both players posted some very impressive career statistics.

Morris won 254 games in his career. That was not even in the top 40 list of most career wins; however, he won more games than Bob Gibson, Juan Marichal, Whitey Ford, and Luis Tiant. He recorded 20 or more wins three times and had 19 victories in 1984. Morris may not have displayed flashiness, like a Marichal or a Tiant, but he accomplished something far better: he won four World Series rings! Several notable superstars…Barry Bonds, Rod Carew, Ken Griffey, Jr., Tony Gwynn, Ty Cobb and Ted Williams…never won a single World Series ring!

Morris was consistent when it counted: in the post-season. He made 13 post-season starts and won seven games. In the World Series alone, he was 4-2 with a 2.96 ERA. To say that he was a “money” pitcher would be an understatement.

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In this day and age of free agency and higher-than-normal trade activity, not many players get to be on the same field for more than three or four seasons.  That makes the following stat so very incredible: Alan Trammell and his second-base teammate, Lou Whitaker, played together with Detroit for a staggering 1,918 games! Of the 2,188 games Trammell played, 2,134 of them were as a shortstop.

Again, like his teammate Jack Morris, Trammell was not flashy…not like an Ozzie Smith, or a Phil Rizzuto. Trammell was, however, consistent: a six-time All Star, winner of four Gold Gloves plus three Silver Slugger Awards…although, he would not have been considered a “slugger”, per se. Trammell hit only 185 career homers but did drive in over 1,000 runs. A lifetime .285 hitter, Trammell did hit .300 or better seven times and collected 2,365 hits. He was also durable: Trammell played in 139 or more games six consecutive years and had over 9,000 plate appearances.

Trammell and Morris played together on the Tigers’ 1984 World Series Championship team…the last time Detroit won a World Series title. Managed by the legendary Sparky Anderson, Detroit started that season 35-5 and cruised to 104 wins and won the division by 15 games. Then, in the post-season, the Tigers disposed of the Kansas City Royals in three straight and eliminated the San Diego Padres in five games.

In that championship year, Trammell hit .364 in the LCS and .450 in the World Series. Morris won one game versus the Royals and then went 2-0 in the World Series with a 2.00 ERA.

Flashy? No. Consistent? Yes. That is why Alan Trammell and Jack Morris will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2018. They were the epitome of what makes a solid player…they showed up every day or every start.

 

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PLENTY OF REASONS TO GIVE THANKS

Author’s Note:  A couple of weeks ago, someone told me that they would like to have me write about things other than sports. So, with that in mind, here is my latest.

     Another Thanksgiving has come and gone and as I sit here still trying to digest all that I ate yesterday, I am reflecting back on past Thanksgivings that provided some interesting memories for me and my family.

When I think about the “best” and “worst” Thanksgivings, I am reminded that those two actually happened in successive years. The worst Thanksgiving was when I was still in the military. I had the misfortune of being assigned “duty” that day. My “Thanksgiving Meal” was a greasy cheeseburger and fries that were tepid at best. Adding misery to that day was that my Detroit Lions not only lost to the Minnesota Vikings, they were shut out!

I received a “make up” on a traditional Thanksgiving meal, though, as a local family invited me and a couple of other sailors into their home.  I don’t remember much, except that the home was in Hubbard Woods…an affluent Chicago suburb.  I remember thinking: if I were to settle in Chicago, I most definitely would consider Hubbard Woods.

Coming in second in the race for the worst Thanksgiving ever, was when I and several of my co-teachers attended a convention in Orange County.  The first day was always the best as it was capped off by a wonderful sit-down dinner. That night, however, things began to go South very quickly.

Around 2:30 in the morning, our hotel’s fire alarm went off. A person on the loudspeaker and said that everyone had to evacuate.  So, off we went, down several flights of stairs, and out into the damp, chilly night. Of course, nobody had time to grab a coat!  After several minutes, we were allowed back into the hotel.

Then, less than an hour later, the fire alarm went off again! So, back down the stairs we went and once again we were back into the damp chilly night. Again, after a few minutes, we were allowed to return to our rooms. I found out, several years later, that a person had deliberately set fires; then, went around to the people outside and was offering bottles of water to them!  Of all the nerve!

The two ventures into the damp, chilly night took a toll on me and I wound up getting extremely sick and pretty much slept through Thanksgiving!

The year after my worst Thanksgiving turned out to be my best. That time, I met my wife and we went on our first date.  I remember inviting her over to watch the Lions beat the Oakland Raiders; however, she did not make it until after the game.  She confessed to me, years later, that she missed the game “on purpose”! Nevertheless, we had a great first date…Disneyland, no less…and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, sometimes, good memories are made and, unfortunately, sometimes, not-so-good memories are made!

 

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