Archive for December, 2013

Replay, Finally

Posted on December 30th, 2013 by Matt | Posted in Games

Instant replay in baseball is long overdue, but it seems that the wait is finally over. Sure, there has been replay on disputed home runs for years, but that was as far as they were willing to take it. While other sports, specifically football, have leaned on replay heavily for years with great success, baseball has been stubborn to follow suit. Whether it was due to the traditions of the game, or worries about making games longer, or whatever else, no plan of action was ever put into place. For the 2014 season, however, that appears to be changing for the better.

Challenge System?

While the details of the Major League Baseball replay system have not yet been announced (or finalized), there has been some hint to the system thanks to the Arizona Fall League. The Fall League used limited replay challenges as a test for next season. Managers were able to challenge calls they felt were incorrect, umpsuch as safe/out at first base, or a fly ball that might not have been caught on the dive. Balls and strikes are not challengeable. This system seems like a great solution because managers will be able to simply challenge the umpire and ask for review as opposed to dragging out the game with long-winded arguments that never go anywhere. Take the time that is used for the argument to replay the play, and the game can be up and running faster than before.

Avoiding the Disaster Call

The biggest area of improvement for baseball by implementing a challenge review system will be the avoidance of a major mistake changing the course of the game. For example, the Armando Galarraga near-perfect game from 2010 would not have been wasted on a bad call from umpire Jim Joyce. The 27th out of the game was clearly made at first base, but Joyce called the runner safe and the party was called off. Joyce is actually one of the best umpires in the game, but he made a mistake. Unfortunately for him and Galarraga, it happened at the worst possible time. If replay was in place at that time, the call would have been overturned, and the perfect game would be on the record books for all of history. This rule change can’t go back and fix that mistake, but it can prevent it from happening again.

Time to Move Forward

There are certainly ‘traditional’ baseball fans who don’t want to see expanded instant replay, but they are probably in the minority. Most fans just want a fair game with correct calls, and this is a major step in that direction. For baseball to continue its massive growth in popularity, it will need to stay on top of new technology and use it to improve the product on the field. For fans, players, coaches, and even umpires themselves, having more access to instant replay is a great thing. It will be exciting to see how it is put into use and what new chapters will be written in baseball history with the help of the replay challenge system.

Polar Opposites – David Freese for Peter Bourjos

Posted on December 14th, 2013 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards, Photos, Players

The St. Louis Cardinals have a well-earned reputation as one of the best-run franchises in all of baseball. One look at their recent resume would suggest that they do, in fact, know what they are doing. A constant presence in the playoffs, the Cardinals seem well-positioned to remain as a force in the National League for many years to come.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, on the other hand, seem to be trending in the opposite direction. After a very successful first decade of the new century, the Angels have started throwing money at their problems – only to end up with more problems. The last two off seasons have seen the Angels making the biggest splash, first with Albert Pujols, and next with Josh Hamilton. Neither of those moves have paid off to this point, and the Angels appear to be going nowhere fast.

An Obvious Move for St. Loius

Given the fact that the Angels have a glut of outfielders and no third baseman to speak of, the Cardinals made sense as trade partners. The Cardinals have plenty of infielders to go around, but were a little thin in bourjosthe outfield department – especially center. Peter Bourjos is one of the fastest players in baseball and a great defensive outfielder. In addition, he hits better, and for more power, than your average speedy outfielder. When he can stay healthy, Bourjos is an enviable player that forces the opponent into a lot of uncomfortable positions.

But Not for the Angels

While it is easy to see why the Cardinals would be interested in Bourjos, it is not so obvious why the Angels would be willing to deal him for David Freese. Although Freese will live in St. Louis history forever after his amazing 2011 World Series performance, his 2013 campaign left a lot to be desired. He posted career lows in just about every category, and flopped in a big way in October. He is only under contract for two more years, as opposed to three for Bourjos, and will be more expensive to boot. Sure, the Angels needed a third baseman, but way Freese? And freesewhy give up Bourjos?

Seemingly One-Sided

As it stands, this trade seems like an easy win for the Cardinals. They addressed a significant need without having to part with anything of too much value or pay high free agent prices. The only obviously trouble that could be lurking on St. Louis end is the injury trouble that seems to follow Bourjos. If he can stay on the field, he’s an asset – but that’s a big if. For Anaheim, the deal seems less than desirable. Sure, Freese could rebound and be a useful player for the next couple years, but there is a chance that his useful days are behind him. Typically, hitters numbers get worse when moving from the National to American league, and Freese certainly can’t afford to go down much from where he was in 2013. It will all play out in time, but St. Louis fans sure have to feel better about this deal as it looks today.

The Robinson Cano Sweepstakes

Posted on December 7th, 2013 by Matt | Posted in Baseball Cards, Jerseys, Players

It isn’t breaking news that Robinson Cano is one of the best players in all of baseball. He has been excelling for the Yankees for the better part of the last decade, and as a power hitting second baseman, his skills are rare. As the biggest fish in the free agent pond this offseason, Cano is looking to cash in big-time. In a strange move, Cano has ditched super-agent Scott Boras in favor of rapper-turned-businessman Jay-Z. The idea of Jay-Z sitting down with some of the general managers and owners around the league is an entertaining thought all of its own. Cano, and Jay-Z, have floated the idea of landing a contract north of $300 million in total value. Crazy? Maybe, but then again maybe not.

Abundance of Riches

The game of baseball has never been wealthier than it is right now. Revenues are at an all time high, attendance is strong, TV ratings are up, and on and on. In short, it is a good time to be a baseball player. As it relates to Cano, it is a great time to be a free agent with a great track record of reliable and durable performance. Great canosecond basemen are hard to find, and ones of Cano’s level are basically once-in-a-generation players. This is obviously a player that is going to land a giant contract, no matter which uniform he happens to put on.

Sustained Greatness

On the most visible team in the most visible market in the league, somehow Robinson Cano has flown slightly under the radar. The last time Cano missed more than three games in a season? 2006. This isn’t Cal Ripken, but pretty darn close. During that span, Cano has only hit below .300 once, and that was five years ago. He has amassed 200+ homers and has a career OPS of .860. The numbers on the back of his baseball card are so consistent they almost seem like a misprint. There should be no mistake when considering the talents of Cano – he is truly one of the very best players in the game.

Potential Suitors

It seems inevitable that Cano will go back to the Yankees, because it doesn’t seem like they ever let a great player like this get away. However, with the Yankees insistence on getting below the luxury tax number next season, it might not be as sure a thing as it seems from the outside. Also, there is the Jay Z factor to consider. This is his first free agent negotiation, and his first chance to make a big splash. Can he convince a team in another market to take the leap on Cano and sign a contract near that $300 million mark? Not only would that mean a huge payday, but it would also put him in position to land future clients impressed with his work. The Rangers, Mariners, Dodgers, and others have all been tossed out as possible landing spots, but only time will tell where, and for how much, Robinson Cano will sign on the dotted line.


Blockbuster Surprise – Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler

Posted on December 1st, 2013 by Matt | Posted in Baseballs, Players

In the age of social media, it seems that there are very few surprises left when it comes to the transactions of professional sports teams. Typically, there are days or weeks of speculation and rumors before a big deal comes together – if it ever does. That was not the case when the Detroit Tigers decided to send slugging first baseman Prince Fielder, and his large contract, south to Texas for second baseman Ian Kinsler. In fact, this trade came out of positively nowhere. It was a done deal before the first rumors even broke, and suddenly the landscape of the American League had changed pretty significantly. Who got the best of this swap?

Why the Tigers Moved Fielder

By looking a little deeper, it is pretty easy to understand why the Tigers would be interested in moving a player like Fielder. For one, they had a logjam at the ‘all-bat, no-defense’ positions. In 2013, they were using the combination of Fielder/Cabrera/Martinez to play first base, third base, and DH on a nightly basis. While princeall are excellent hitters, they are equally bad defensive players. Specifically, playing Cabrera at third was a minor-disaster that certainly hurt Detroit pitching throughout the season. With this trade, Martinez can remain as the regular DH and Cabrera can slide over to first base. When prospect Nick Castellanos is ready for the big leagues, third base will be wide open for his arrival.

All of that doesn’t mention the financial implications. Detroit had well over $100 million still committed to Fielder over the next several years. They are already on the hook for a huge Verlander contract, and faced the possibility of seeing Max Scherzer walk or have to trade him. Now, they may have the dollars to resign Scherzer and keep that deadly pitching staff intact.

Why the Rangers Moved Kinsler

Just like in Detroit, Texas was working on a logjam of their own. With Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler in the middle infield, prospect Jurickson Profar was without a position. After the trade, Fielder adds to the power of the Rangers by filling first base, and Profar can take over second base full time. The downside for the Rangers, of course, is they have to take on a long and expensive contract kinslerfor a slugger who may be on the downward side of his career (although Detroit ate some of the salary). This trade makes sense on some level for both teams, but the Tigers seem to have gotten the ‘safer’ end of the trade.

For Collectors

For baseball card collectors, this adds a new team to the careers of both Fielder and Kinsler and new merchandise to go along with it. Fielder in a Tigers uniform may become more valuable down the line considering he only spent two seasons in the Motor City. Ian Kinsler was probably never a prime target for collectors to begin with, and this trade likely doesn’t change that fact. Rookie cards still hold the most sway in the collecting world, so Fielder with the Brewers and Kinsler in his early Texas days are probably going to remain the most valuable pieces for these two players.