Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Game with Zero Fans

Today the Baltimore Orioles hosted the Chicago White Sox at home in front of zero fans. This is not an exaggeration. The Orioles had zero fans in attendance for the first time in baseball history.

Due to the recent riots in Baltimore the Orioles have had to postpone their previous two games against the White Sox for precautionary reasons. Today they decided they would close the park and not allow any outside people in to watch the game, just to ensure nothing bad happened.

Seeing clips of the game on television I thought it looked like one of the strangest sporting events of all time. No noise, no fans, no production, just the game. In a way it was beautiful, just the players on the diamond focusing on playing the wonderful game of baseball while a couple of blocks beyond the outfield wall protests are taking place. For the time being in that little area of Baltimore where two teams suited up to play America's Game, there were no worries, protests, riots, nothing. Just the quiet sound of a bat hitting a ball, and the chatter of teammates cheering each other on. Although the circumstances that allowed this to happen are upsetting, and I hope for the best to the city and people of Baltimore, there is a part of me that appreciated watching a game with no theatrics, just the players out on the field playing the wonderful game of baseball.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Baseball Movies

Today I am going to do something a little bit different. Instead discussing recent games or players, I am going to discuss the make believe ones in the world of movies.

Sports movies, baseball ones more specifically, have always been one of my favorite genres of movies. The thing about baseball movies is that although they are about the same sport, they are all so different from one another. The movies can touch on athleticism, overcoming adversity, romantics, teamwork, etc. The messages in baseball movies are so diverse and touch on so many different topics within, which is why I find them so intriguing.

I am going to discuss three baseball movies today, from three different time periods, and three differing aspects of the game of baseball.

1. The Sandlot

Growing up as a kid who loved the game of baseball, this represented my childhood dream; to play pick up games of baseball with my friends every day of summer break. The great thing about this movie is that it is not about professional athletes or adults dealing with the game of baseball. Instead it is about kids, simply playing the game that they love, and enjoying themselves. Even at the age of 21 I still enjoy watching The Sandlot just as much as I did when I was seven years old. It is a movie, in my opinion, that will never go out of style and is relatable for all ages.

2. Moneyball

While the Sandlot was released in 1993, my birth year, and was a childhood movie, Moneyball was released when I was in high school. Money Ball is based on a true story about professional baseball within the Oakland Athletics organization. The movie is based on the 2002 season of the Oakland Athletics and their general manager Billy Beane. The thing I love about this movie is that even though it is about baseball, it puts a lot of its focus on the behind the scenes action done by the general manager. It is an exciting  and unique movie based on present day baseball, but instead of a player or coach being the main character, it is a general manager. This movie is one of my favorites.

3. Love of the Game

Earlier I stated how a type of baseball movie sometimes focuses on romantics, well this is one of those movies. This is a movie about a player who loves the game of baseball, but must retire and give up the game he loves due to his age. The main character is a pitcher, pitching in his final game of his career. Throughout the movie while he is pitching there are flashbacks about his life and how he got to where he is now. Instead of the focus of the game itself, this movie focuses on the relationship between the game and a player, and how hard it is to let go of the game.

All three of these movies are about the game of baseball, but are different in so many ways. Focusing on the childhood fun of the game, the aspects of professional baseball, and the romantics, these three movies rank among my top all time favorite movies, and if you haven't seen them, I recommend that you do.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Power Rankings

We have completed the first two weeks of the season. It has been an exciting two weeks and sets us up for an explosive summer of baseball and playoff contending teams fighting it out to the finish. I have composed a list of my top 3 teams up to this point in the season.

1. Detroit Tigers

Entering the third week of play, the Tigers led all of baseball with the best record of 10-2. Their pitching staff led by ace David Price is packed with talent throughout their entire rotation. But, in my opinion, their pitching isn't even the most terrifying part about facing the Tigers. That would have to be their explosive lineup. With players such as Kinsler, Martinez, Cabrera, and Cespedes, there is not a part of the lineup that I would feel safe pitching to.
2. St. Louis Cardinals
Led by the best overall starting pitching ERA in baseball, the Cardinals are at the head of a competitive NL Central division entering week 3. The biggest questions that lingered about the Cardinals were their bench depth and if the starting pitching would be strong enough. Well, to this point, the starting pitching has proved itself. With a lineup of Carpenter, Heyward, Holliday, Adams, and Molina, the Cardinals are a force to be reckoned with in the NL this year.
3. Kansas City Royals
Another team in the AL Central, along with the Tigers, enter my top 3 power rankings. The Royals who are a young and hungry team picked up where they left off last season. Beginning the season 9-3 on the backs of Hosmer, Gordan, and Perez. The biggest battle for the Royals this year will be to beat out the Tigers for first place in the division. It will surely be an exciting ride in the AL Central this season.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tempers Flare in Kansas City

The picture featured above is the slide that started it all this weekend in the series between the A's and Royals. In the first game of the series Brett Lawrie slid into Alcides Escobar at second in an attempt to break up a double play. The slide resulted in a knee injury to Escobar, which resulted in a pour of anger and emotions from the Royals.
In the unwritten rules of baseball, when someone on the other team does something dirty to one of your teammates you return the hurt. Whether that be sliding into one of their players dirtily or beaming them with a pitch, you let them know what they did will not fly. And that is what Royals pitcher, Yordano Ventura, did the day after the dirty slide. Pictured to the left is the clearing of the benchers after Ventura is tossed for hitting Lawrie. Nothing happened when the benches cleared and the retaliation seemed to have done its due diligence. That is, until game three came around.
In the first inning of game three A's pitcher Scott Kazmir hit Lorenzo Cain in the lower leg with nobody on and 2 outs in the bottom of the first. Unsure if it was intentional or not, home plate umpire warned both benches. This led to an explosion from Royals head coach Ned Yost, which resulted in him being ejected from the game. Lets fast forward to later in the game when 100MPH throwing reliever Kelvin Herrera steps up to the mound. Herrera whizzes a ball inside that backs Lawrie off the plate. He then brings another one behind the head of Lawrie that resulted in Herrera being ejected from the game.
The revenge had already been given to Lawrie in game 2 of the series, Herrera stepped beyond the unwritten rules of baseball and broke them in the process. You never, ever, ever, in the game of baseball intentionally throw at someone's head; no matter what. After throwing at Lawrie and making his way to the dugout, Herrera pointed at his head and allegedly yelled, "When I face you next time I'm hitting you in your head."
Here is my take on the matter.
When all this drama began it started with Lawrie playing hard and trying to break up a double play. The only reason any of this even went down was because Escobar got hurt. If he wouldn't have gotten hurt nobody would have cared about Lawrie's slide. It was not necessarily the cleanest of slides, but the guy was playing hard. You can not fault him for that. With Escobar getting injured and the possibility that the slide was a little excessive, then yes you plunk him the next day. But after Ventura hit Lawrie that should have been the end of it. Herrera, in my opinion, needs to be suspended for a while. Not only did he throw at Lawrie's head unwarranted, but then expressed that he would make sure he hit him in the head the next time. That is wrong. That is ugly for the face of baseball and the Royals. Lawrie paid the price for the slide already, it was over and done. There was no need for Herrera to do what he did.
The upcoming games that the Royals and A's play later this year should bring about some fireworks as well. It will be interesting to see how these teams react.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Questions Surrounding Teams

With a season that is 162 games in length and stretches well over a period of six months, it is hard to tell right now which players will come out with strong statistics when it is all said and done. However, what can be seen up to this point is the production in Spring Training.

While these games do not count for anything, and the starters often play less than half the game, some statistics did surprise me. One team that really stood out was the New York Mets. The Mets have been quite frankly an irrelevant team for a couple of years now, but had an outstanding Spring Training record of 17-11. As a stated before, these games do not necessarily have any meaning or foreshadowing of what might come this season, but the Mets still put up a very impressive showing this spring. Along with them, the Royals, A's, Pirates, and Dodgers, all had records well above .500. While these teams have done well, injuries have plagued others. With the regular seasons starting very soon, I am excited to see what will happen in the first couple of weeks.

The Return of the Cubs

As a Cardinals fan it both excites, and pains me to say that the Chicago Cubs are quickly on their way back to being contenders in the NL Central.

It has been many years since the Cubs, and their fans, have been a part of a playoff game located inside the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. Luckily the times may soon be changing. With the #1 ranked farm system in baseball, and MLB's #1 prospect, Kris Bryant, the Cubs are not that far away from once again being a team that finds themselves playing deep into the month of October.

The friendly rivalry between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals is one that I have enjoyed watching in my years of being a baseball fan. In the early 2000's the dominate Cubs and Cardinals battled and bruised each other throughout the regular season, both always making a strong surge for a playoff spot. While the present day rivalry is still fun to watch, the lack of playoff promise that the Cubs have had in previous years makes it not have that same feeling that those games used to have. With the upcoming stars of the Chicago Cubs that will soon find themselves in the MLB in less than a month, that rivalry will once again flourish as these two teams will undoubtedly put on a show every time they meet this season, and many seasons to come.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Will Ferrell Plays in Spring Training Games

Tomorrow Thursday March 12, comedian Will Ferrell plans on playing all nine positions in Spring Training games. The actor has had a lot of humorous stunts, but this one, in my opinion, takes the cake. He is going to play in five different games in one day in order to fulfill this plan of playing every position. To add to that, he is flying by helicopter to one of them. Talk about showing up in style! My question is, does he get to bat? I personally would love to see Will Ferrell try and hit against a MLB pitcher. I really hope I get to see him pitch an inning tomorrow against hitters. As a hitter there is no winning in this situation. If you get a hit there is no reward because it was off of an actor, and if he gets you out you will be the laughing stock of the league for years to come. As a fan of baseball and Will Ferrell I very much look forward to watching this happen tomorrow.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Josh Hamilton Relapses

Josh Hamilton has once again fallen to his inner demons, hopefully he can once again bounce back. Former first round pick had troubles in years past with drugs and alcohol forcing him to drop out of the game of baseball for some time. Against all odds, while in the darkest corner of his life, he fought back and got into the league. He is now a prominent player and an incredible talent. Josh Hamilton has shown the nation how strong he is to overcome his drug and alcohol addiction of the past. Now the question remains, will he be able to do that again? Earlier this week Hamilton turned himself into MLB officials, saying that he had relapsed on alcohol and cocaine. Hamilton has had recent injuries that have led to lack of success and pain. The silver lining in this story is that he turned himself in and has realized his problems. As a fan of not only his abilities, but his character, I can only hope that Hamilton can fight past his problems once again and get back onto the baseball field. For a guy that has gone through hell and back, you can only hope for the best. It is still unknown what actions the league will take on behalf of Hamilton's breaking of the drug policy.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Spring Training

Yesterday players reported to Spring Training for the upcoming 2015 season. While the process of getting ready for the season is a routine every year, there are a lot of changes for teams this year especially.
The biggest change for Spring Training is that for the first time in 20 years, the Yankees enter training without Derek Jeter. Along with this change of the face of the franchise going on, the Yankees are also building towards a rebound year after a disappointing season last year, that resulted in an absence from the playoffs. With players healthy and ready for a return to the top of the AL East, the spring is the first big step the Yankees must make.
There are a lot of changes however for a new and improved Padres team. With the addition of a large amount of big name players, including an entirely new outfield that features Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Justin Upton, the Padres are making a push this season for a playoff spot. The talent is there, the spring will bring time for the players to come together as a team. Hopefully for the Padres the talent comes together and produces a team that contend for a playoff spot.
A new face is also in the presence of the St. Louis Cardinals who are a consistent playoff team. Jason Heyward will be the new Right Fielder for the Cardinals who are hoping his speed, bat, and glove,  will spark the team and propel them into not only another playoff run, but one ending with a championship this year.
Overall, Spring Training brings a lot of new opportunities to teams, and in divisions with a lot of questions on who will come out on top, the journey begins now.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Banning Defensive Shifts in Basball

The new commissioner in the MLB, Rob Manfred, could lead to new changes in the game that has seen very little change throughout time. Throughout its years baseball has clung to its historic ways, remaining true to the way the game has always been played. That is one of the major appeals of the game, its ability to withstand time and cling to its legendary history. The heroes of the past played the same game the rookies of today play. With that being said, Rob Manfred has recently said that he is thinking about banning shifts in baseball. Placing restrictive rules on a game that has succeeded with its simplistic rules for many years. Not only is the idea of changing the game so drastically a fear, but in the ways that he would do so is a whole another level of fear as a fan. Will he regulate where each position player must stand? Will there be a square that they can't leave until the ball is hit? It baffles me that such an idea could be placed into the historic game of baseball. If something like restricting managerial decisions on shifts will be taken out of the game, what is the next thing that will be taken from MLB baseball in an attempt to change a game that simply does not need to be changed? As fans of the game I am curious to hear your thoughts as well. If it occurs, will it be a positive or negative change for baseball?