Yankees Looking to Strike Out

Standard

One of the biggest stories in baseball’s off-season was the trade of all-star outfielder and reigning National League Most Valuable Player Giancarlo Stanton from the Miami Marlins to the New York Yankees. Along with reigning American League Rookie of the Year, Aaron Judge, the acquisition of Stanton gives the Yankees two of Baseball’s heaviest hitters. Each are capable to slugging 50 home runs in a hitter-friendly ballpark like Yankee Stadium, even for a right-handed hitter.

But while we can expect 100 home runs between the two, I also expect a good number of strike outs. In fact, both Stanton and Judge can rack up at least 300 strikeouts together and it would not surprise me that at the end of the 2018 season, Stanton and Judge each have a minimum of 200 strikeouts.

In Judge’s rookie year, he struck out 208 times in 678 plate appearances, or one strike out for every 3.26 plate appearances. The Yankees as a team struck out a total of 1386 times that season. That is 6th most in the American League, 12th most in the Majors. If you do the math, that means Judge accounted for 15 percent of the team’s strikeouts. Baseball reference is projecting Judge will have 161 strikeouts in 549 plate appearances.

Stanton will be going into his 9th season in the majors. Last year, he made through an entire season without a significant injury since 2011. In 2017, Stanton struck out 163 times in 693 plate appearances, or one strikeout for every 4.25 plate appearances, or 12.7 percent of the Marlins strikeout total (1,282). It’s a little better than Judge but that is still quite a lot.

Compare the numbers of those two to that of Boston’s Mookie Betts. Betts struck of 79 times in 712 plate appearances last season, or one strike out for every 9.01 plate appearances. And Betts is no slouch at the plate smacking 24 home runs in 2017 and a career-high 31 the year before (in 2016).

The Toronto Blue Jays could not reach the Yankees in the standings but almost caught up to them on the strikeouts list. The Blue Jays accumulated 1,327 strikeouts last season, 8th most in the American League and 17th most in the Majors. 170 belonged to Jose Bautista or 12.8 percent of the team’s total.

There have been those who felt part of the reason the Blue Jays had poor season was the number of strikeouts the team had. But that’s fewer compared to the Yankees who ended up clinching the first wild card spot. And the Minnesota Twins, the second wild card team, had 1,342 strikeouts. Perhaps you can make the case if a good number of those strikeouts came with runners in scoring position. But overall, that doesn’t seem to matter. And the Yankees are willing to see Judge and Stanton swing and miss a good number of times in order to see them launch one into the seats.

The Yankees are expected to contend and their success this season will rest on the shoulders of Judge and Stanton. But if swinging at air was a commodity, I would bet the house that those two will be striking out a lot this season.

Also see:

Get the Right Player First, then Spend the Money
Stability Key to a Successful Team?
A Baseball Record You Likely Never Heard of… But Should

Advertisements

Fans in Ottawa and Miami Have No Right to Gripe About their Teams

Standard

PHOTO: Postmedia

Two teams were in the news this week, the Ottawa Senators and the Miami Marlins. Both are experiencing a level of turmoil.

The Senators have been slumping. They were expected to compete in the Eastern Conference again after being one win away from an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final. But the attention has been more towards off the ice where there have been rumblings that the team could be on the move. Owner Eugene Melnyk would like to see the team play out of an arena that is located in the downtown area. People have not been coming to Kanata where the plays its home games a half-hour drive outside of Ottawa.

The Marlins were recently sold by Jeffery Loria to a group led by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (brother of former US President George W. Bush and son of former US President George H.W. Bush) and New York Yankee great Derek Jeter. Jeter is quickly finding out that being an owner of a team is a lot different than being a superstar athlete on an iconic franchise. His first controversial move as an executive was to agree trading the team’s superstar Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees. It was a deal that was met with shock and disappointment.

The one common denominator in this is low attendance. This is much on the fans as is on owners or management. Canadian hockey fans have always used attendance to make their arguments on whether a team should move or not. I would suggest if that is the case, people in Ottawa and Miami have no reason to bitch and complain. They have done squat when it comes to showing up at games. I’m not targeting season-ticket holders who actually pay their hard-earned money to see a good product. I’m particularly pointing the finger at fairweather fans and the media who constantly cry foul over these decisions from a distance.

Ottawa is not known as a huge sports market. The only other professional team is the CFL’s Renegades. Miami on the other hand is a great sports market having been home to the NFL’s Dolphins and NCAA’s Hurricanes for decades. Those teams seem to draw well. Yet the Marlins, the Florida Panthers of the NHL, and even the NBA’s Miami Heat are struggling to gets fans to see their games.

Having a strong season-ticket and fan base, and new stadium or arena does not guarantee that a team will succeed or commit to staying in the community for a long time. Just ask fans of the Cleveland Browns. They have been burned by bad management decisions resulting in badly coached teams. In 1995, then owner Art Modell moved the Browns to Baltimore where the team became the Ravens and won a Super Bowl in 2000. The Browns would re-enter the NFL as an expansion team in 1999.

Folks in Cleveland have a gripe and therefore have carte blanche on critiquing players, coaches, and management. I don’t think you can extend that to fans of the Senators, Marlins, or just about every other professional sports team in North America. They may have not made the bed but they sure deserve to lie in it.

Also see:

Stability Key to a Successful Team?
There is Something to be Said About Loyalty
Dave Cameron is the Reason for Senators’ Turnaround 

SIDEBAR:

This is the last of five articles in fives day. This is also my final post for 2017. It has been a busy year for me both personally and professionally. I hope to continue delivering great sports opinion to you in 2018. Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noel!

Kadri and Stroman Don’t Not Need to Tone It Down

Standard

“Why is everybody always picking on me?” from Charlie Brown by the Coasters.

You have to wonder if the Toronto media needs to manufacture a crisis just to keep them relevant. Take Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri. He has been playing great this season. Floundering under previous coaching regime, Kadri has been a key piece of a resurgent Maple Leafs team. He reinvented himself from a pure goal scorer to a grinding, more defensive player. Once again, the media narrative in Toronto are calling for the Maple Leafs forward to stop with his antics.

And then there is Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman. He is one who is never shy of showing his emotions when on the mound. He still has learn how to harness it properly. But once he does, American league batters better watch out.

I had my share of criticism of Kadri. But it has always been about his game. Same with Stroman. It’s always been on baseball. If others focused more about their game than what they do outside the rink or diamond, then they may have a point. These critics are the same ones who think Don Cherry is all wet when he comes on to say stop celebrating over scoring the tenth goal of the game when your team is up 10-0.

You have heard me say I always like athletes who play with an edge. An edge is who do more than just relying on their talent to succeed. They are far more feisty, and play with more passion than others. They may be nice guys outside the game, but when the puck drops or the pitch is thrown, it is all business.

Both Kadri and Stroman are not the only ones who need to play with an edge. Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews are just two NHL players that have led their teams to Stanley Cup championships. Sure the two are known for their scoring but many seem to overlook the fact that they like to get dirty, sometimes more often than we like to think. They grind, hit, get in opponents faces, and yes, they will drop the gloves and throw some punches. I like to see if sports writers in Pittsburgh and Chicago would disavow their team’s respective championships when they learn it’s not just skills that won them the Cup.

So Kadri and Stroman don’t need to tone it down. They need to channel that emotion to win games. If those two can do that, the better their respective teams will be in the long run.

Also see:

Stroman Will be Fine
James Reimer Deserves Better
Bad Blood is Good for Sports

Donaldson Will be on the Move… to a New Position

Standard

I don’t foresee the Blue Jays trading Josh Donaldson as others in the media are insisting the team does. That is not to say if a team like the Yankees are willing to sell the farm, General Manager Ross Atkins should listen. But short of that, the Bringer of Rain will stay in Toronto. You can’t have a contending team, either this year or in future years, without a leader. Donaldson has proven that he is a leader. Players like him don’t grow on trees so I would think carefully before trading him away.

I expect the Blue Jays will sign Donaldson to a contract extension during off-season. Maybe 5 years, maybe 7, but the team will have the former American League Most Valuable Player under contact for a long time. That being said, in a couple of years, when prospects Vladimir Guerrero, Junior (3rd baseman) and Bo Bichette (shortstop) are expected to be ready for the big leagues, the Blue Jays will have to make a change on the left side of the infield. Troy Tulowitzki’s contract will be up after the 2018 season. So it is likely the current shortstop won’t be resigned by the Blue Jays. Donaldson will need to move and having him in the outfield would make sense.

The move would enable Donaldson to play defense without making a huge impact to his health. Donaldson is getting up in age (he’s 33 years old as of December 1st). He has battled a number of injuries that have caused him to miss some games. That hasn’t hampered his defensive prowess at third base. But you have to wonder if Donaldson can maintain his level of production if he stays there. Having Donaldson in the outfield should also prolong his career as it did for former Blue Jay slugger Jose Bautista.

There is no question keeping Donaldson is vital if the Blue Jays want to consider being a contender. Even if the next two years will be seen as somewhat of a rebuild, what better guy to have as the face of the franchise than Donaldson? He won’t be Toronto’s third baseman for long but he will be in Toronto for a long time.

Also see:

Vintage Donaldson was on Display in ALDS
Health will Determine if the Blue Jays Contend
The Maple Leafs Need Their Own Bringer of Rain

Roy Halladay: An Ace Among Aces

Standard

I was on the news desk Tuesday afternoon when I received a news text on my phone notifying me that police in Florida found the wreckage of a small engine plane in the Gulf of Mexico. It went on to say one unidentified person was killed and that the plane belonged to former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay. The worst case scenario entered my mind the next few minutes until another text confirmed the body recovered from the wreckage is that of the former Cy Young winner.

In between Joe Carter’s World Series clinching home run and Jose Bautista’s bat flip, there was Halladay. He was arguably not only the best pitcher but also the best player on a mostly terrible Blue Jays team each and every year. Halladay’s appearance every fifth day was the reason baseball fans in Toronto still kept their hopes up. He was for 11 seasons the face of the franchise. I first saw Halladay pitch on the final day of the regular season in 1998 against the Detroit Tigers. A home run by Bobby Higginson with two outs in the top of the 9th inning was the only hit Halladay would allow in a 2-1 Blue Jays victory. That was Halladay’s first of 67 complete games of his career.

In the age of sabremetrics and large bullpens, Halladay was an ace among aces. When he took the ball to start the game, he usually goes deep into the game and for the most part finishes it. No pitcher today could be as dominant as Halladay was. The innings pitched, the complete games. Not every start translated into a win but he kept the team in a position to win. Another former Cy Young winner Greg Maddux has something named after him called The Maddux. That is where a pitcher finishes a game that he started and throws no more than 100 pitches. That could easily have been called the Halladay.

It is not hard to see how respected Halladay was in Toronto, the baseball community, and the sports world in general.

RIP Roy 1977-2017

Baseball’s Back? It Never Left

Standard

Getty Images

There has been a lot of talk about how the 2017 World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers has being the greatest in the history of sport. There are some who would put the 2016 series between the Chicago Cubs and the Cleveland Indians as the best. The last two World Series not only went the distance but also ended long droughts. For the Astros, Wednesday’s win over the Dodgers enabled them to clinch the first title in their 57-year history of the franchise. For the Cubs, their championship in 2016 was their first World Series crown in more than 100 years.

You can argue whether the last two World Series were the greatest in history. It shows that you don’t need two big market teams, or even the two best teams, to get excited about a championship. The fact that people are talking so much about how great baseball has been over the last few years has been music to this man’s ears. People in Toronto have not been excited about the Blue Jays between their championship years in 1992 and 1993, and 2015. And all it took was the flip of a bat.

However, I’m not convinced with people saying baseball is making some kind of resurgence. ESPN’s Max Kellerman declared on First Take that baseball is back. With all due respect, the sport never left. There is no question that baseball has gone through its share of some tough and even troubled times. But it’s survived dead ball, juiced ball, juiced players, riots, tie games, throwing games, and work stoppages. Things people say are leading to the demise of baseball.

I have been sick and tired of hearing the game of baseball being kicked repeatedly on the ground. There are those who have written off baseball for dead and are now kicking themselves. Those who abandoned baseball and ran over to football are finding out the grass (or turf) isn’t any greener. That game has seen its share of troubles, most recently concussions, domestic violence, and the misguided political rhetoric led by NFL players. If sports were stocks, people who invested heavily on the NFL are now banging on doors trying to sell. While people were ready to anoint American football and the National Football League as America’s pastime, the game of baseball was going about their business in keeping their crown. I can bet the same people who swore off baseball after the player’s strike in 1995 are now rediscovering (some albeit reluctantly) how great the game is again.

Through it all, the game of baseball has hardly changed since Abner Doubleday first created it (some say supposedly) almost two centuries ago. So I don’t know where all this talk about baseball being gone and back from the dead is coming from. The players have changed but, in my mind, it’s always been here, alive and well.

Also see:

Surprised by the Blue Jays’ Success? You Shouldn’t Be
Rooting Against Someone is Gutless… and the Bat Flip Heard Around the World
The Past is Starting to Catch Up to the Patriots

Asians Continue to Get the Short End of the Stick on Racism

Standard

While there has been tremendous outrage towards Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, there was hardly any against Yuli Guriell. The Houston Astros first baseman made a gesture towards Los Angeles Dodgers starter Yu Darvish, a Japanese-born pitcher, after hitting a big home run off Darvish in Game 3 of the World series. Yes, Guriell got suspended for 5 games by Major League Baseball. But his punishment will begin at the start of next season as oppose to during the playoffs. I would prefer to force Guriell to play at least one game in front of what should be a hostile crowd at Chavez Ravine during this year’s World Series and appear in all 3 games next August when the Astros play the Dodgers in Los Angeles in the 2018 regular season. Let the paying public be able to tell Guriell what they think of his gesture. McNair’s comments about inmates running the prison was damning but I would argue it was towards all players regardless of the colour of their skin. But the fact there has been more outrage towards McNair and not much towards Guriell is a damn shame.

I won’t go into a diatribe about how there is a double standard when it comes to how people perceive racism. But it is no secret that those of Asian decent have been getting a raw deal when it comes to racial slurs or gestures hurled towards them. In an earlier post, I mentioned an encounter I had with a black woman at a store years ago. She wasn’t afraid to hurl such a slur towards me and many in the store didn’t bother to challenge her. My guess is that because she was black, any condemnation towards her would be perceived as racist. Therefore, she had a free ride to say hateful things towards me. I suppose until a Chinese or Japanese person gets shot by a white police officer, we will continue to get the short end of the stick.

There will be those who will dismiss this as a racist piece but last I checked, Orientals (or Asians as an associate of mine prefers to be called) are a “visible minority”. Most, like me, have no ill will or any disrespect towards blacks. But you are kidding yourself if I’m going to bow down to anyone who considers they race to be superior than mine, no matter what colour their skin is, what language they speak, or what religion they belong to.

There have been protests in the past when there is a movie out that portrays Chinese, Japanese, or Koreans in a negative or disrespectful way. But I hazard to guess that was not enough to get the people running Hollywood (i.e. Harvey Weinstein) to change their attitudes or at least to be on the same level as the black community, or gay and lesbian community. It appears having Asians as victims (real or perceived) is not as lucrative as other racial or gender groups. Just ask those behind Black Lives Matter.

Despite this act of racism by Guriell, Asians will continue to be a part of a sport that is the fabric of the United States of America and here in Canada. Darvish, to his credit, took the high road. No raising of fists or kneeling during the national anthem. If there is one thing Japanese people do well is rise above the racial intolerance. They have done it in the past and will continue to do so.

Also see:

Racism Knows No Bounds
Political Correctness has No Place in Sport
Sports is Not a Platform for Activism

Bautista Should be Regarded as One of the Best Blue Jays Ever

Standard

As we head into the final days of Major League Baseball’s regular season, the Toronto Blue Jays will be contemplating what might have been. Missed opportunities, injuries, and players performing well below their expectations.

This is also likely the final season of one Jose Bautista. He is set to become a free agent at the end of the year if the Blue Jays do not pick up his option for 2018.

Despite what was a lacklustre season by his standards, Bautista showed flashes of his old self in the final two months. During the final home series of the season, fans at Rogers Centre gave Bautista a standing ovation whenever he came to bat. They also gave him a rousing applause this past Sunday when was replaced defensively in the middle of the ninth inning in the team’s final home game.

Bautista is one of the best players to wear a Blue Jays uniform. To me, he is one of the Top 5 best Blue Jays of all time. Maybe even Top 3. I would put Roberto Alomar and Roy Halladay ahead of Bautista. Joe Carter and Dave Stieb are the others in my Top 5.

Perhaps the only great move made by General Manager JP Ricciardi was acquiring Bautista from the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008. At the time he was a utility man with no regular position in the field and he was penciled in just about anywhere in the batting order whether it was leading off or batting ninth. It was during his time with the Blue Jays that Bautista went from a bench player and a floundering free-swinger to a bonafide 30-home-run-a-year slugger and one of the leaders of the team.

It is easy to see why Bautista is highly regarded as one the best baseball players in the game. He is a 6-time All-Star, twice led the American League in home runs, and is a 3-time Silver Slugger Award winner. Bautista also won back-to-back Hank Aaron awards in 2010 and 2011 as the American League’s top hitter as voted by media and fans.

The pinnacle moment for Bautista was in the 2015 American League Division Series. Bautista came to the plate in the 7th inning after the Texas Rangers took the lead on a controversial play in the top half of the inning. The Blue Jays managed to tie the game up before Bautista’s at-bat. A well-placed base hit would have given the Blue Jays the lead. But the situation screamed for the knife to be put in the heart of the Texas team. The third pitch delivered by Sam Dyson to Bautista was sent to the second deck in left-centre field for a 3-run home run. That home run brought not only the stadium, but the city and the country to its feet.

The fact that he was not able to win a World Series championship is the only blemish on his otherwise successful career. His accomplishments alone may not get him into Cooperstown. But in terms of within the franchise, Bautista is one of the best. And one day he will have his own spot on the Blue Jays Level of Excellence.

Also see:

Rooting Against Someone is Gutless… and the Bat Flip Heard Around the World
Bautista’s Fate with Blue Jays in His Hands
Everyone Loves an Outcast

 

Contact Won’t Kill Sport, Petty Rules Will

Standard

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

I recall the 1994 baseball players strike where there were cries that fans will never watch a game again. That same sentiment was echoed in 2004 when the NHL locked out its players which lasted the entire season. Everyone, at least in the media, believed this was the end of professional hockey as we know it.

Fast forward to 2014, both baseball and hockey have never seen their respective sport become more popular than before. Labour strife has not killed sport as a lot of experts have suggested. Earlier this year, members of the United States Women’s Ice Hockey threatened to boycott the Women’s World Hockey Championship over money. It hardly got any negative press. In fact, many in the media stood up and applauded as did hockey fans on both sides of the border. These people who said they would never see a game again because of the bickering over money are making Donald Trump the most honest man in the world.

The latest threat making the rounds is concussions. Contrary to popular belief, head injuries is not news. The difference is, thanks to advancement in medical technology, we are now seeing the consequences of getting hit in the head. That has caused doctors and others in the medical profession to call for rules in place to prevent such injuries. But how? There have been penalties in place for hits to the head but it is as clear as mud. As we are witnessing it being put into practice, the new rules have not prevented more head injuries and players are not sure what’s allowed and what is not.

There is a false notion that people watch hockey for goal scoring. No questions that scoring goals is important, it what determines who wins or loses. But as I have said before on a number of occasions, it takes more than scoring goals to win games. And part of that is preventing goals from being scored. That involves a certain level of contact. Plain and simple. We have witnessed during all-star games where if defence is non-existent, it makes for a boring game. You can’t defend if you are not allowed to make contact, or at the very least there is the possibility of making contact.

The violent nature of hockey or football is not going to kill the sport. What will kill sport is putting in rules that will hinder the player’s ability to perform to the best of their abilities. Can’t hit in the head? Can’t go below the knees? The “sensitive” area is certainly off-limits. So what part of the body is left to make contact? You realize that these ridiculous calls for safety are being championed by those who don’t give a damn. They wear suits, glasses, have a PhD in something, not the qualities I associate with a sports fan. They claim they are doing it in the best interest for sports, but don’t believe it for a second. The lack of contact in sports, and the petty rules enforcing it, is going to do far more damage than the cancellation of the World Series or losing an entire NHL season.

Also see:

Have Attitudes Towards Athletes Who Boycott/Strike Changed?
The Latest Futile Attempt to Ban Fighting in Hockey
Hockey is a Tough Sport, Get Use to it

What If Making Trades Was That Easy

Standard

This Blue Jays season has been so disappointing that even the recent (and some would say expected) trades of Francisco Liriano and Joe Smith to contending teams were met with frowns by media and the like. Not so much that these players were dealt away, more like what we got in return. Pouting at Ross Atkins for making the trades is one thing, actually pulling the trigger on one is more difficult than people like to believe. Some folks blindly believe the Blue Jays can pick players up at a drop of the hat. And many of them work in sports media. If only it were that easy.

I have listened to sports talk radio for years and too many times I hear callers ask the host the same question: “why can’t (insert team here) get (insert player here)?” or “they should trade (insert player here) for (insert player here), that would be a great trade.” I remember hearing one caller insisting the Blue Jays should trade Kevin Pillar to the Dodgers for Clayton Kershaw, straight up. First off, you have to convince me the Dodgers would be willing to part with their ace for then Toronto’s young unproven outfielder. Secondly, the idea immediately comes off as a pipe dream. There is no logical basis to make the trade other than to promote phony outrage and anger that someone would not take such a trade proposal seriously. It makes you wonder the kind of people who listen to sports talk radio shows and whether that is the kind of people advertisers want to be associated with.

But let’s just say (for the sake of argument) acquiring the players we wanted was that easy. For starters (and I’m speaking from the Toronto sports fan’s perspective), the Blue Jays would surpass the Yankees as the franchise leader in World Series championships. Maple Leafs fans would be bragging about a Stanley Cup dynasty, not lamenting about not winning the Cup since 1967. If making a trade was that easy, no one would be talking about consequences such as the lack of parity it would cause or how the trade will impact the other team.

Another thing to think about is if trades were that easy, why would teams need general managers? If you believe the armchair GMs, all you need to do is pick up the phone, announce your demands and bingo, you get the player you want. Anybody can do that. In fact, why not just walk into a store and take whatever you want on the shelf? That kind of act would land you in jail but it seems some people feel it’s the way to do business in professional sports.

It probably took Alex Anthopoulos weeks if not days to negotiate the trade that brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto. There were those who didn’t want the team to part with Brett Lawrie, the Blue Jays’ third baseman at the time, who ended being one of the players the Blue Jays sent to Oakland for Donaldson. That was one of the challenges Anthopoulos had to face. Perhaps it is all Pat Glillick’s fault. Glillick made things pretty easy during his tenure as Blue Jays GM. His blockbuster trade in 1991 that brought Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter from San Diego led to two World Series Championships and now everyone thinks they can be a general manager in sports. But all kidding aside, if only making trades were that easy. What should the Blue Jays do about Jose Bautista? Why not ask Justin Bieber?

Also see:

Even if Bautista and Encarnacion Return, the Blue Jays Still Have Areas to Address
Firing Exposes Incompetence… Among Fans and Media
Get the Right Player First, then Spend the Money