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2014 season

Hello all! First, an apology for the long layoff. With the summer of my lifetime giving way to fall, my already crowded writing schedule has only gotten bigger. In addition to wrapping up an e-book for my Presidents Baseball franchise, I’ve also taken on a second book for the Sacramento Historical Society, this one detailing the Governor’s Mansion. (If you can’t deduce what the first book is about, well, why are you bothering reading this site?) On top of that, Last Token Gaming, the video game commentary site I’ve been working on with friends for over a year now, has taken on a bigger staff and following. Even after graduation, I’ve been busy enough to still need a weekly planner to organize everything. And I wouldn’t have it any other way!

This isn’t to imply I’ve had a shortage of things to write about for BBP. We are, after all, in the midst of a surreal playoffs that featured an Orioles vs. Royals ALCS. That alone gives me carte blanche to unspool endless references to the last years either team won the World Series, 1983 and 1985 respectively. (The ultimate question in that vein for the ALCS: “Sister Christian” or “I Want to Know What Love Is”? Which year had the better power ballad?) Or, more dishearteningly, I could write a grueling eulogy for my Los Angeles Dodgers, who saw their season end in a manner so laden with deja vu that Yogi Berra would throw his hands up in a flippant, silent gesture. Seriously, what can I say beyond Clayton Kershaw getting rocked in the seventh inning twice in a series by left-handed batters named Matt, after he had dominated lefty hitters all season? And that, in true “only the goddamn Dodgers” fashion, this isn’t the first time a left-handed batter named Matt dressed in red has helped dash LA’s World Series dreams in consecutive years?

So, rather than masticate the remainder of the postseason or pathetically try to elicit sorrow for the demise of my $240 million team, I’m going to skip ahead just a hair and lay down my picks for this year’s award-winners. This won’t be an unbiased guess at who will actually win each one, but rather who I think should. Luckily, this year’s probable winners are so clear-cut and widely agreed upon for the most part, that who I think should win and who actually will should end up intersecting 100 percent.

Rookie of the Year:

Jose Abreu, AL: From the get-go of the 2014 season, this was likely going to be an easy pick no matter what. At first, you could have made a Floyd Mayweather-esque bet on Masahiro Tanaka receiving it for the Yankees, but his mostly flawless season was derailed for weeks by a partially torn UCL. Thus, the prime choice for AL Rookie of the Year is another international import: Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox. The Cuban first baseman quickly announced himself as one of the most surefire hitters in the entire game, walloping 36 home runs and 107 RBI. And that’s alongside a .317 average, proving Abreu is a genuinely resolute batter rather than just a one-note slugger. The White Sox as a whole don’t look like an emerging threat in the AL Central right now, but any South Side fan could forget their team’s shortcomings while watching Abreu’s mammoth shots leave craters in ballparks across the country. Continue reading

I know that I’ve been MIA for a while now, and I’d like to take a quick moment to explain why. As a lot of you know I am a lifelong Twins fan. Hearing Terry Ryan’s vote of confidence for Ron Gardenhire last month broke my heart. When you couple that with the Ray Rice situation, and the Chris Kluwe issue, which I wrote about in my last article, I needed a break.

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As the wise philosopher Ron Burgundy once put it: “Boy, that escalated quickly.”

In perhaps the most dizzying trade deadline ever, the American League erupted in an arms race in mere hours. First, my Oakland Athletics made a what-the-hell-but-it-makes-sense-when-you-cool-down trade with the Boston Red Sox, sending Yoenis Cespedes in exchange for Jon Lester and Jonny Gomes. Lester, of course, almost guaranteed comes as just a rental for the playoffs, but given his exceptional stats this year and playoff gumption in Beantown he’s worth it. Gomes, a key part of Oakland’s youthful last-minute run to a division crown in 2012, returns with a fresh World Series ring in tow and a chance to get another by strengthening the outfield.

Of course, the immediate reaction was panic over losing Cespedes, who will be a free agent after 2015. Yes, he dazzled A’s fans with a highlight-reel glove and a bat that won back-to-back Home Run Derbies. But peel yourself away from those highlights, and the truth is that while he’s a dynamic player, he was still hitting in the .250 range, and brilliant plays don’t equal top fielding percentage. Considering how stellar Josh Reddick has been upon returning, as well as Oakland’s eye-popping run differential, they have enough depth to make up for Cespy’s absence. (Almost forgotten in this shuffle is the fact that the Twins benefited in a trade for once, acquiring lefty starter Tommy Milone for Sam Fuld, who has already made his presence felt in the reshuffled Oakland outfield.)

Only hours after that, however, came the biggest announcement of all: The Detroit Tigers, already stacked with aces, landing David Price in a three-team deal. I’m not going to even try to be neutral here: I hate, hate, hate that this deal happened the way it did, and I’ll take some space to explain just why. First, the more rational part. To put it simply, Tampa Bay didn’t come close to getting the return they needed for parting with the best pitcher in their young franchise history. Remember, the Royals had to send a package to the Rays that included Wil Myers just to get James Shields, so the crop for Price should have been even bigger. By all accounts, when the Rays were languishing in last, this was what they were rightly demanding from interested teams. My Dodgers, for example, would have likely had to deal both Joc Pederson and Corey Seager, a highly valuable outfielder and infielder who are among the best prospects in the entire game.

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It’s that time of year again. And if you’re an amateur GM like me, then the fast-approaching trade deadline means you are glued to www.mlbtraderumors.com (currently my home page on both my desktop and laptop).

We’ve already seen the Oakland A’s land the second best pitcher in Jeff Samardzija. They also picked up Jason Hammel, who has been having an amazing season.

With no glaring holes, and now the strongest rotation in baseball, the A’s look tough to beat. Should one of their players go down they still have as a trade chip Tommy Milone to dangle.

But that is just a couple of pieces and two teams. With this being a down year for a lot of teams (loving  Boston Wrong this season personally) I see this having the potential to be a massive trade deadline. Continue reading

Hello again Brushback faithful! It’s only been a few weeks since my Max Scherzer piece, but it feels thrice as long given the extent of things packed into my college graduation summer. And trust me, I’m not saying that with any complaint. In addition to a whole bevy of personal projects that of course includes this site, I’ve completed the first chapter of the book I’m writing for the Sacramento Historical Society about the history of baseball in my city. In a poignant end to that first step, I spent all night into the wee hours of the morning wrapping up this chapter, an assiduous approach that recalled my many all-nighters spent working on papers in college. (To further cement the moment, I wrote to the music of Kid Creole and the Coconuts on infinite loop just as I had in the same finals that Max Scherzer inspired me through.)

As I spent the weekend in Yosemite National Park immediately after the chapter was submitted to my boss, I was understandably feeling pretty triumphant. These good vibes led to a humorous train of thought about how my successes in baseball writing are the closest I’ll come to achieving glory in the national pastime. I may never turn on a fastball for a legendary game-winning home run, or pitch a perfect game, but hell: Why can’t we baseball writers receive some love too?

How about a great baseball movie of the “Moneyball”/”61*” ilk to chronicle our struggles and triumphs? I envision a tense scene of the writer at his laptop, struggling to come up with the right word. He types and erases a couple in frustration, just like a batter swinging and missing pathetically at the first two strikes. But then, he digs in and focuses on that next word even harder. “The Natural”-style music cues up, and in slow motion he types out the perfect word. The announcer intones: “Holy cow, what an adjective!” OK…not exactly stirring stuff, but allow me a little indulgence over my accomplishments here! None of my teams have won a World Series since we all had mullets and George Bush Sr. was in one of the two highest offices in the land, so I’ll celebrate my little victories as I please. Continue reading

On some Major League teams this year Tommy Milone, with his six wins and 3.55 ERA, would be approaching the level of Ace.  On this year’s Oakland Athletics squad, even with season-ending injuries to AJ Griffin and Jarrod Parker, he has been reduced,  to the role of Triple-A insurance policy.

The A’s have been the league’s most dominant team this year, at least according to winning percentage and run differential. And Billy Beane is going for a trophy, as evidenced by this weekend’s acquisition of Ace Jeff Samardzija and middle-of-the-rotation guy Jason Hammel.

The deal coincided with an agreement between the Athletics and the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority (which still needs approval from the Oakland City Council) whereby the team will remain in what I guess is now called the O.co Coliseum.

I love this. The market settles at least some of its differences with the team, agreeing to make some upgrades to the nearly 50-year-old venue by Opening Day 2015. The team makes a commitment to try to build on the strong first-half of the season by acquiring arguably the best starting pitcher available in this year’s trade market – giving up a stud shortstop prospect in the process of doing so. Continue reading

The reception that Tony Gwynn Jr. received upon his first at bat after the tragic loss of his father was beautiful. MLB.com writes about it, but putting into context the passion that Phillies fans have for the game, it’s meaning, and the players that play for them and around the country make them my favorite fan base in the entire game.  Their reaction to Gwynn’s at bat last night was passion at its finest and respect for the loss of his father.

Devin Mesoraco has hit a homerun in five consecutive games played. I remember when Ken Griffey Jr and Don Mattingly had their great homerun streaks, and not to be mean to Devin, but they were superstars… . His stats are showing that he is riding the wave of his career.  Will it last?  His numbers are gargantuan compared to previous seasons… I for one hope he’s for real, and that we will not be seeing his name smirched for PEDS, but look what it’s come to!  Because he’s not Griffey Jr. or Mike Trout a person can’t help but have a seed of doubt sewn in. I wonder how long the tarnish will be on the game? Continue reading

As you know Hall of Fame baseball player Tony Gwynn died Monday at the young age of 54. Most people who read my posts know that he’s the 19th ranked hitter in all time hits, and his career batting average of .338 left him tied at 18th all time, and that the only hitter from 1940 through the modern day ahead of him is Ted Williams. Incidentally, contemporary Hall of Fame hitters Wade Boggs and Rod Carew (to whom he is most often compared) rank 33rd and 34th respectively.

Photo credit: Galaksiafervojo via Wikipedia

Photo credit: Galaksiafervojo via Wikipedia

We know of the abundance of awards he won, the batting titles and the All-Star games. His stats are readily available at any myriad of sites, but Mr. Padre is and was far more than the sum of his statistics. He could easily have been Mr. Baseball, or Mr. San Diego, as a kid who grew up there, played high school ball there, played college baseball about two hours from home at Long Beach State, and then returned home and played his entire career with the Padres. He even went on to coach the San Diego State Baseball team after his playing days ended.

The Gwynn family is a baseball tradition. Tony is clearly its leader, but his brother Chris played several years and son Tony Jr. is currently playing with the Phillies. Sr.’s attention to detail and video taping of all of his at bats throughout his career revolutionized hitting, and the art of analyzing both hitters and pitchers for the entire future of the game.

In today’s world it’s easy to see a tribute via Facebook.com or Twitter, but with their force-fed information streams it can also be easier for those tributes to quickly become yesterday’s news.

I believe Tony deserves better than that. I want to leave a lasting record of what he meant to me and to some of his friends, colleagues, and other baseball and sports dignitaries. Here’s what they have said about Mr. Gwynn. Continue reading

It’s time again for the most important sporting event in the world — and I couldn’t care less, even if I was paid handsomely. This is Baseball season and this is America, and while I sound like Glenn Beck via The O’Reilly Factor for a moment I’m actually quite OK with that (for the only time in my life).

Padres fans tire of putrid play

The Padres are sick and tired of losing … at least the GM and the team owner are, but someone forgot to tell the Padres hitters. Note to Phil Plantier… your job is hanging by a thread that you might as well let go, and do the honorable thing and resign! I’ve had conversations with Padres fans on Facebook, and they are starting to resemble a group of Twins fans that I’ve grown to appreciate (and collect). They want manager Bud Black to be terminated as well. So expect big changes in SD because unlike here in Minnesota… winning matters!

One Mauer contract quietly ends

Speaking of Minnesota… Kemps Ice Cream has let its contract with Joltless Joe Mauer of the Bilateral Leg Weakness and .250-.260 batting average expire. It’s his first endorsement loss of his career that I could find online. If he keeps hitting like a backup middle infielder I suspect that this will not be his first celeb deal to go the way of the Great Auk.

Surprising Twins capitalize on lucky draw Continue reading

Simmer Down, Manny

Hey Manny Machado! You must be a fan. The feeling is mutual, but replay shows you were just a little over emotional my friend.

Mattingly wearing down?

The Dodgers are usually left to my friend and colleague Marshall, but something tells me that he’s too depressed to deal with the underachievers in Chavez Ravine. Plus I know he has a lot of other things going on. Don Mattingly, you are one of my all time favorite players in the history of the game. However, your assessment the other day that your team just isn’t very good was a cop out on par with “guns don’t kill people …” and “**** happens.”

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