I’ve been reading and watching a lot lately about the Washignton Nationals and their plans to shut down Stephen Strasburg for the season – including any potential playoff run – after 160-something innings.
I come away with three observations.
1 – I can totally understand why teammates, fans, former players and even Strasburg himself might be upset by this situation (though it’s arguable just how upset they are). Players’ careers are short and chances to go deep into the playoffs don’t come along every year. Look how often the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s appeared to be the league’s best team only to falter in the postseason. Continue reading
Commissioner Bud Selig has argued the last few seasons that Major League Baseball has solved its competitive balance issues by levying a luxury tax against teams that spend too much, but local television deals may be bringing those issues back with a vengeance.
Teams on the West coast with new ownership groups, television contracts and competition for popularity were the biggest winners of this year’s non-waiver trading period, which ended a few hours ago.
In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants competed for the top honors, trading respectively for outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence on deadline day. I’ll give the trading period edge to the Dodgers due to their additional acquisition of Hanley Ramirezfrom Miami.
In the American League, the Rangers trumped the Dodgers at the deadline by acquiring Chicago Cubs starter Ryan Dempster. But the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had already made their big rotation move, adding Zack Greinke.
One similarity among all those teams is HUGE new television contracts that are dwarfing the numbers being housed by teams in the Midwest. The Dodgers were purchased for $2.15 billion in March by Magic Johnson and Mark Walter in a deal that stunned sports industry observers.
Part of what made the deal work, according to the Wall Street Journal, is the opportunity the team will have in 2013 to either launch a regional sports network in the second largest market in the country or “hold an auction for the rights to telecast Dodgers games.”
Recent rights deals signed by the Angels and Rangers are reportedly worth $150 million a year. Lee Berke, a sports media consultant, told the Journal the Dodgers’ status as the top brand in the market could command even more than $150 million annually – perhaps as much as $300 million annually, according to the Journal’s story.
I peeked at the American League East standings last week and for a moment I thought they had been printed upside down. Perennial powerhouses in New York and Boston were languishing in fourth and fifth place while Baltimore sat atop the division with Toronto and Tampa jockeying for second place.
Another look this morning shows that things might be normalizing a bit. The Yankees have edged into third, overtaking Toronto. But the Red Sox remain in last and the Orioles still top the East, although just 4.5 games separate the top from the bottom.
So with a questionable starting rotation and injuries to David Robertson, Mariano Rivera, Michael Pineda and Brett Gardner hampering their season so far, just exactly where will the Yankees ultimately end up? We enlisted the assistance of Brandon C., co-manager of Pinstripe Alley, to provide some insight. Here’s what he had to say:
Brushbackpitch: What were your expectations for the Yankees heading into the season and what are they now? Continue reading
The Miami Marlins have a new ballpark, a new manager, a new name and a number of high-profile free agent signees joining a solid nucleus of young players who are developing into solid players. Adding Ozzie Guillen as the field general alone would make Miami a team to watch, but all these other factors make the Marlins one of the most difficult teams to project heading into the season.
There’s already been a couple dust-ups with the stream-of-consciousness speaking Ozzie. His comments about his post-game drinking raised eyebrows. Then his expression of admiration for Fidel Castro infuriated Miami’s Cuban population. But that’s what you get from Guillen, a hard-nosed baseball guy who has no filter when speaking.
None of us at Brushbackpitch.com project the Marlins as a playoff team, but I do believe this is a team that could find itself right in the mix as the season winds down. So just how high is the ceiling for this team? Michael Jong, manager of the fan blog Fish Stripes, shared his thoughts with Brushbackpitch.com. Here’s what he had to say:
Brushbackpitch: Marlins added Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell to Hanley Ramirez and youngsters like Giancarlo Stanton in the offseason, so they’re very talented. But they’re also in a division with Philadelphia, Atlanta and up-and-coming Washington. How good can this team be?
The Dallas Mavericks were hosting the Miami Heat in an NBA Finals game tonight about a half-hour away from the Ballpark at Arlington, leaving a lot of empty seats and plenty of room for me to roam about as I made my first trip to see the home of the Texas Rangers.
And plenty of roaming there is to do. There’s the suite level. On my budget nobody was going to let me in the rooms but a friendly usher did let me wander around a bit. The rooms are named after Hall of Famers and are decorated with art featuring their namesakes.
There’re plenty of restaurants and concessions stands, some fairly generic with the typical ballpark fare and others Irish pubs or wine bars.
Over the last couple years we’ve had some great debates about the inductees and potential inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame at our sister site, Zoneblitz.com.
We’re going to try to start doing the same thing here at Brushbackpitch.com as well, starting today.
Jeff Idelson, Baseball Hall of Fame president, announced on the MLB Network that, in his 14th year of eligibility, pitcher Bert Blyleven received the necessary 75 percent of votes to make the Hall. Blyleven’s self-promotion sometimes went over the top but his 287 wins, despite playing for some lousy teams, and two World Series championships certainly helped his argument. Nor did his career totals of 3,701 strikeouts and 242 complete games hurt.
Joining him will be Roberto Alomar, who played second base for seven teams during a 17 year career. He stole 474 bases, earned 10 straight gold gloves and made 12 straight All-Star games. He received 90 percent of the vote and, Idelson said, the third highest vote total ever.
They join Pat Gillick, who was tapped by the Expansion Era Committee.
That leaves a number of the 33 candidates on this year’s ballot still on the outside looking in, including Barry Larkin, Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Jeff Bagwell and several members of the controversial “steroid era,” which we’ve written about several times in other contexts and certainly will cover under this heading as well.
So what do you think? Are this year’s selections the right ones? Who should have gone in and who should have stayed out?
We’re looking forward to hearing from you at brushbackpitch.com.
I loved what the Texas Rangers did in 2010. They overcame near bankruptcy to contend. They sent a top-notch prospect and others to Seattle to grab Cliff Lee for a pennant chase and it almost worked to perfection, as the Rangers pushed San Francisco in the World Series before falling.
I also think the Rangers are going to be serious players for years to come. They are now well financed and a television deal with Fox Sports Southwest makes them a real, big-money player near the likes of the Yankees and the Red Sox.
But I’m stymied by the latest news from Arlington, Texas. Various reports have the Texas Rangers close to dedicating big money – about $96 million for six years, according to at least one report – toward signing third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Now, Beltre’s not a bad player, not by any stretch. By most accounts his defense at third base has always been very good, though there are also suggestions that he’s slipping a bit, and even if he isn’t yet, he’d be 37 at the end of a six-year deal.
The bigger question I have is his offense. This is a guy who has had two monster seasons out of 13 in the big leagues with the bat. He hit .334 with 48 homers, 121 RBI and a 1.017 OPS in 2004 at the age of 25. And he hit .321 with 28 homers, 102 RBI and a .919 OPS in 2010 with the Red Sox.
I hoped it was a bad idea that would fade away after the season ended but as Major League Baseball approaches its winter meetings next week it appears that further expansion of the playoffs is not only going to be on the table, but is likely to pass with little opposition.
Thus Major League Baseball will take one more step toward becoming another league that waters down its regular season in favor of a playoff format that invites too many teams to take a shot at the championship.
I initially didn’t like the expansion to four playoff teams with a wild card included but it was a necessity when each league was split into three divisions. And I grudgingly will admit that it has created some fantastic races, this year included when San Francisco, San Diego and Atlanta fought tooth and nail to the season’s final weekend over the last two playoff spots.
The Fall Classic, sans Bronx Bombers and Philadelphia Phillies, starts tonight.
Yes, the upstarts, Texas and San Francisco, vanquished heavily favored foes and the league’s two hottest teams embark on a tight matchup tonight. Here are our thoughts:
Rangers in seven
Usually you can predict the winner of the World Series by asking a simple question, “Who’s happy to be there, and who wants to win?” That isn’t the case this year because frankly, neither team was supposed to be here. With that said, this should be a phenomenal series. The matchup is perfect. San Francisco has great pitching and adequate hitting. The starting rotation is outstanding, and the bullpen is deep. With all due respect Mr. Halladay, Tim Lincecum has become the best big game pitcher in the National League, and if Brian Wilson isn’t the best closer, he’s certainly a fair representation.
The Giants lineup doesn’t feature one great hitter, but there isn’t an easy out 1-8 in that lineup either. They also have in Pablo Sandoval a rare luxury for any NL team heading to an AL park: a designated hitter. Texas is the exact opposite, great hitting and adequate pitching. Cliff Lee is the best player in the Series, but the rotation drops off some after that. With Josh Hamilton, Vlad Guerrero, Ian Kinsler , Michael Young, etc., etc., the Rangers will show the Giants the strongest lineup they’ve seen all year. Neither team plays brick wall defense, but both feature some great players in the field.
So call it a toss-up.
I’m a Giants fan for two decades, so I really want to pick them to win. However, I think the Rangers have so much momentum heading into this series, along with Lee, I have to go with the Rangers in 7. I guess.
Rangers in six
The pitching matchups will be fantastic. Offense will be scarce. But I think the Rangers have the potential to put up a few more runs than the Giants do.
Plus, the momentum garnered by taking out the heavily favored Yankees will keep them hot. Games will be low scoring and close. But the Rangers will prevail.
Giants in six
Well, pretty clear whoever I pick will lose. I pick the Giants.
Pitching and homefield advantage. Should be a good series.
Major League Baseball begins the next step toward the World Series tonight as Texas hosts the New York Yankees in game one of the AL Championship series. New York publications already spent some time today talking about how important it is for the Yankees to win so television ratings stay strong but other national experts think Texas might have at least one advantage in the run game.
All three of the Brushbackpitch writers correctly predicted two of four Divisional series. Rich missed on the American League but nailed both National League series right on the nose. Andy hit Texas winning in five and Philadelphia sweeping the Reds but missed on Philadelphia’s win over Atlanta and the Yankees whitewashing of the Twins.
Tony hit the Texas and Philadelphia series but didn’t hit them squarely on the correct number of games. So … who cares? Yeah, you’re probably right.
Anyway, here are our picks for the League Championships:
New York over Texas, six games
Philadelphia over San Francisco, five games
New York over Texas, six games
Philadelphia over San Francisco, five games
Texas over New York, six games
Philadelphia over San Francisco, six games