The Cardinal Way Is Once Again On Display

The St. Louis Cardinals came into existence in 1882 as the St. Louis Brown Stockings and their team history is one of the best and deepest in all of professional sports. The Cardinals 11 World Series Championships are the second most in Major League Baseball history. The Cardinals have a litany of Baseball Hall of Famers that includes Stan Musial, Bob Gibson, and Ozzie Smith. Since 2000, the Cardinals have only had one losing season with two World Series Championships in four appearances in the Fall Classic over that stretch. After winning the World Series in 2011, the Cardinals fell one game short of making the Fall Classic in 2012. The Cardinals made the World Series last year, but they were knocked off there by the Boston Red Sox in six games. The Cardinals came into this season expecting to once again be a playoff contender, but for the most part things have been a little different.

Since the start of the MLB season, the Milwaukee Brewers have been the team to beat in the National League Central as they have held down the top spot. A month ago the Brewers had a 5.5 game lead over the Cardinals in the division. But now the Brewers are tied with the Cardinals for first place in the division. The Cards have rallied to catch the Brewers in spite of the fact that they are currently without catcher Yadier Molina who is sidelined with ligament damage in his thumb. Molina is a six-time National League All-Star and he has also won seven Gold Glove Awards for his prowess behind the plate. Without a doubt Molina is the heart and soul of the Cardinals, but the Cardinals have a never-say-die attitude along with the next man up mentality as each player knows that he must be up for the challenge. This is the same mentality that the Cardinals used in 2006 when they won the World Series.

In 2004 and 2005, the Cardinals won 100-plus games in both seasons, but they were unable to win it all. The Cardinals only went 83-78 in 2006 and they were able to win the World Series. After winning the World Series in 2011, the Cardinals saw longtime first baseman Albert Pujols leave via free agency to join the Los Angeles Angels. In two years without Pujols, the Cardinals have two postseason appearances to their credit. Now the current Cardinals team is not littered with superstars, but with a bunch of guys that do everything very well.

Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams is in his third season and in each year he has improved. Adams is currently second in the NL in batting average (.323) while he also has 12 homers and 43 runs batted in. At 34-years of age Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday is not the power threat that he once was, but he still leads the club in runs batted in with 50 and he has a .376 on-base percentage. Last year as a member of the Detroit Tigers, shortstop Jhonny Peralta was suspended by Major League Baseball for 50 games due to his role in the Biogenesis scandal. The Cards signed Peralta last winter to a four-year deal worth $53 million and he is currently leading the team in home runs with 14.

In the past few years the Cardinals pitching rotation has been defined by starting pitcher Adam Wainwright. Since 2009, Wainwright has led the NL in wins on two occasions and his 12 victories this season are leading the Senior Circuit. Wainwright is also leading the National League in earned run average this season at 1.83. But aside from Wainwright, starting pitcher Lance Lynn has emerged in the Cardinals rotation. In 2012, Lynn was fourth in the NL in wins with 18. So far this season Lynn is 11-6 and he has a decent shot of winning 18 games if not more this season. If Lynn does win 18 or more games in 2014 it should mark the Cards once again winning the NL Central.

Under manager Mike Matheny, the Cardinals simply do not beat themselves. The season the Cardinals have only committed 47 errors which is the second fewest in the National League and their pitching staff has only given up 20 unearned runs.

In their next eight games the Cardinals do not play a team that currently has a winning record as they have two home games with the Tampa Bay Rays before traveling to take on the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres respectively.The Cardinals are anticipating getting Molina back from the disabled list at some point which will be a tremendous shot in the arm for this club. In spring training I projected the Cardinals to win the 2014 World Series and come October, this battled test club may still emerge when the smoke clears.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

 

Is It Time For The Rockies To Trade Tulo And CarGo?

Troy Tulowitzki

Troy Tulowitzki

In 2007, the Colorado Rockies came out of nowhere to win the National League Pennant for the first and only time in franchise history. The Rockies would make the postseason again in 2009, but since then things have gotten worse as they have only had one winning season. The Rockies began this season with a record of 26-20 and there was optimism from their fan base in the Rocky Mountains as they appeared as if they were going to contend with the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants atop the National League West. But the Rockies are now 40-56 and they’re in last place in the NL West as they are 13 games behind the Giants and Dodgers who are tied for first place in the division. The Rockies currently have the second worst record in the National League and with the July 31st trade deadline looming in Major League Baseball, the Rockies should listen to offers as far as dealing their two best baseball players in All-Star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and outfielder Carlos Gonzalez.

The Rockies drafted Tulowitzki in the first round of the 2005 MLB Draft and by 2006 he made his Major League debut. When the Rockies went to the World Series in 2007, Tulowitzki batted .291 with 24 homers and 99 runs batted in as he finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting. Tulowitzki is a four-time NL All-Star and he is also one of the premier shortstops in baseball. For his nine-year MLB career the 29-year old Tulowitzki is a lifetime .299 hitter and he has averaged 30 home runs and 102 runs batted in. If Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd is open to trading Tulowitzki, what would make him enticing to potential suitors would be the fact that he is under contract through 2021.

As far as potential suitors for Tulowitzki, the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets make the most sense. After 20 years in the Majors, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is retiring at the end of the season and the Bronx Bombers need a replacement for him. After winning the World Series last season, the Red Sox have struggled mightily this season; especially at shortstop. The Mets have not had a winning season since 2008 and they are in need of something to pump some life into their fan base while also filling a void at shortstop that they have been unable to fill since Jose Reyes left as a free agent in 2011.

The Yankees have the money to cover Tulowitzki’s salary, but they don’t have the prospects that the Rockies may seek in return. However if the Yankees would be willing to take on most or all of the $129 million that is remaining on Tulowitzki’s contract then the Rockies and O’Dowd might take a bite. The Red Sox have the finances and the prospects that the Rockies would covet in a deal for Tulowitzki. The Mets have the prospects to make a trade with the Rockies, but they are still a team that is strapped for cash and taking a stab at Tulowitzki is a long shot.

The downside for teams trying to trade for Tulowitzki is that he cannot stay healthy. Tulowitzki has never appeared in all 162 games during the regular season and he hasn’t appeared in more than 140 games since 2011 which could scare teams off. It didn’t help Tulowitzki’s case that he limped off of the field tonight in a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Carlos Gonzalez

Carlos Gonzalez

For Gonzalez his baseball journey began in 2002 when he was signed as a 16-year old from Venezuela by the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2007, the Diamondbacks would trade Gonzalez to the Oakland Athletics who would turn around and trade him to the Rockies in 2009. Gonzalez had his best season in 2010 when he led the National League in batting average (.336). Gonzalez also hit 34 home runs that season along with 117 runs batted in and 26 stolen bases as he finished third in the NL MVP voting. Gonzalez is a three-time National League All-Star, but like Tulowitzki, the man dubbed as “CarGo” cannot remain healthy. For his seven-year MLB career Gonzalez has never appeared in more than 145 games and this season he has only appeared in 56 games due to a thumb injury. Gonzalez is under contract with the Rockies through 2017 and he is still owed $53 million.

If the Rockies were to trade Gonzalez the two teams that jump out as potential suitors are the Red Sox and the Seattle Mariners. As is the case with Tulowitzki, the Red Sox have a need in the outfield that Gonzalez could fill. The Mariners need help in the outfield and they also need a bat in their lineup that can provide protection for All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano.

Aside from being out of the race in their division, the Rockies are also 12.5 games off of the pace in the National League’s Wild Card race. This team is not going anywhere with Tulowitzki and Gonzalez on their roster and the time for O’Dowd to re-tool the Rockies is now. More than anything the Rockies need help on their pitching staff as their 5.06 team earned run average this season is the worst in baseball. Pitching always trumps hitting and trading the bats of Tulowitzki and Gonzalez can bring some arms back to Denver where the Rockies are in dire straits of that.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

 

The Curse Of Nolan Ryan On The Texas Rangers

Nolan Ryan

Nolan Ryan

Over the years the term “cursed” has applied to several Major League Baseball teams. In 1918, the Boston Red Sox were coming off of winning their third World Series Championship in four years. But following the 1919 Major League Baseball season, then Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold the rights to pitcher/outfielder Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. Frazee used the money of the sale of Ruth to finance a Broadway play entitled “No, No, Nanette”. With Ruth on their roster the Yankees would win four World Series Titles. And now the Yankees have won more World Series Championships (27) than any other MLB franchise. The sale of Ruth to the Yankees was dubbed as the “Curse of the Bambino” as the Red Sox would not win another World Series Championship until 2004. In Game of the 1945 World Series, then Chicago Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley ejected ticket holder Billy Sianis and his goat from Wrigley Field in Chicago. Many people have said that as Sianis exited Wrigley Field he proclaimed that “the Cubs would never win” and that he placed a curse on the North Siders. The Cubs have not made the World Series since 1945 and they have not won it all since 1908. Then there is the case of the Texas Rangers and Nolan Ryan.

The history of the Rangers goes back to 1961 when they began playing Major League Baseball as the Washington Senators.  The Rangers moved to Arlington, Texas in 1972, but they were unable to secure a postseason berth until 1996. And from 2000-2008, the Rangers only had one winning season.

In 2008, Ryan was named as the Rangers team president and by 2009 he was a part of an ownership group that purchased the team. Ryan would go on to be named as the Rangers CEO in 2009 and he would oversee the biggest stretch of success in franchise history. From 2008-2013, the Rangers posted winning records in each year which was highlighted by consecutive American League Pennants in 2010 and 2011. But a power struggle began within the Rangers organization between Ryan and Rangers president of baseball operations Jon Daniels. After the 2013 Major League Baseball season ended, Ryan resigned from his post with the Rangers.

It didn’t take Ryan that long for Ryan to land on his feet as he was hired by the Houston Astros this past February as a special assistant to Astros owner Jim Crane. Without Ryan on board this season, the Rangers have taken a nosedive.

The Rangers finished the first half of the MLB season with a record of 38-57 which is the worst in the league. The Rangers are 21 games behind the first place Oakland Athletics in the American League West and with 67 games left their season is all but over.

The Rangers have been bitten by the injury bug in 2014 as they currently have nine players on the 60-day disabled list. The Rangers are 1-14 in their last 15 ballgames and they are on pace to lose 95 games in a season for the first time since 1985.

Ryan’s new team in the Astros are currently 40-56. It may not sound that significant, but the Astors are on pace to have their first non-100 loss season since 2010 and with a young nucleus led by outfielder George Springer, Houston is looking to a contender sooner rather than later.

Mentally and physically, Ryan is as tough as they come. Ryan spent 27 years in Major League Baseball as a starting pitcher. Ryan threw 7 no-hitters and he retired as baseball’s all-time leader in strikeouts with 5,714. Ryan also won 324 games and the same winning formula that he had as a player was brought to the front office. Ryan was a great player and typically great players improve the play of the people around them which is what happened when he was in the front office in Arlington.

There was a clash between Daniels and Ryan with the Rangers. Instead of the sides being able to work things out, the egos of Ryan and Daniels got the best of them which has helped the team’s downfall this season. With Ryan and Daniels in the Rangers front office, the team continuously lost out in retaining their players in free agency, as they were able to win at least 90 games in each season from 2010-2013. Now the Rangers are in the process of trying to start over from scratch as Ryan and the Astros are on their way up.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

 

It Is Time For MLB To Forgive Pete Rose

The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York is a place to honor the greatest contributions of people to the game of baseball as it tells a tremendous story. Cy Young was immortalized there because he won more games (511) than any other pitcher in Major League Baseball history. On September 6, 1995, Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. broke the unbreakable record of “The Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig when he appeared in 2,131 consecutive games. Ripken’s streak would end with 2,632 consecutive games and in 2007 he was enshrined in Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Then there is the case of Pete Rose. Rose is MLB’s all-time leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), plate appearances (15, 890) and at-bats (14,053), but he is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

In 1989 then Major League Baseball commissioner Bart Giamatti banned Rose for life including permanent ineligibility into the Baseball Hall of Fame due to Rose’s involvement in betting on baseball games while he was managing the Cincinnati Reds. What made the matter worse was that Giamatti died only eight days after banning Rose for life. Since Giamatti’s death, the two MLB commissioners that have succeeded him (Fay Vincent and Bud Selig) have refused to overturn his decision regarding Rose.

In the years that have followed the banishment from the game that he loves, Rose had admitted guilt and remorse over his betting on baseball games and he should now be enshrined into Cooperstown.

For 24 years Rose played the game of baseball with reckless abandon as he was nicknamed “Charlie Hustle”. Rose was a 17-time Major League Baseball All-Star, three-time World Series Champion, and a one-time National League MVP. In 1978 Rose came as close as any player has come to breaking Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak as he had a hit in 44 consecutive games.

Rose did bet on the Reds while managing the team between 1984-1989, but at least he bet on them to win. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but on his way out as MLB commissioner, the time is now for Selig to lift Rose’s lifetime ban.

Rose has recently gone public regarding his banishment and he makes a compelling argument for his reinstatement. The late 1990′s to the mid-2000′s will be defined as the “steroid era” in Major League Baseball. Players linked to steroids such as Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds are still a part of the game of baseball.

In 1998 McGwire surpassed Roger Maris’ single-season home run record of 61 when he went yard 70 times. McGwire would retire in 2001 before returning to the Cardinals in 2010 as a hitting coach. McGwire is currently the hitting coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 2001 Bonds would surpass McGwire’s 70 home runs when he hit 73 homers. In 2007 Bonds surpassed Henry Aaron’s mark of 755 career home runs. Bonds finished his MLB career with 762 career home runs and his 756th home run ball is at Cooperstown. Up until his retirement that season, Bonds’ jersey was on sale at MLB.com. The Giants also brought Bonds back this year as a guest spring training instructor.

In 2011, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was selected as the NL MVP. Shortly thereafter reports surfaced that Braun tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, but he skated by on a technicality due to the fact that the tester did not immediately ship Braun’s test to the lab. Braun would subsequently be suspended by Major League Baseball last season for 65 games due to being linked to the Biogenesis Scandal. In spite of this Braun was never asked by Selig to return his MVP award.

After the 2011 MLB season, the Kansas City Royals traded outfielder Mekly Cabrera to the Giants. In 2012 with the Giants, Cabreara was in the midst of a career season as he was batting .346 with 11 homers, and 60 runs batted in. Cabrera was selected to the National League’s All-Star team in 2012 and he was also named as the game’s MVP. But shortly thereafter Cabrera tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. San Francisco was in the midst of a postseason run and Giants general manager Brian Sabean declined to bring Cabrera back to the team in spite of the fact that he was eligible. The Giants would go on to win the World Series without Cabrera. Cabrera was in search of a big payday that off-season, but he had to settle for a two-year, $16 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays.

Last year then Texas Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz was suspended by MLB for 50 games due to his involvement in the Biogenesis Scandal. The Rangers let Cruz hit free agency last winter where the Orioles signed him to a one-year deal for $8.5 million. Cruz was voted by the fans to this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game and he is currently second in the American League in home runs this season with 28. Cruz is set for a huge payday in the off-season for his services.

While steroids were a part of baseball, some folks in MLB turned a blind eye to it and in spite of drastic measures by Selig to eliminate it from the game, the players that have used performance-enhancing drugs have been welcomed back with open with open arms while Rose continues to get the dry shaft.

Major League Baseball continues to be filled with hypocrisy. Ty Cobb was an open racist yet he is immortalized in Cooperstown as one of the best baseball players. With next year’s MLB All-Star Game set to take place in Rose’s hometown of Cincinnati, the time is now for things to come full circle. 25 years have gone by without Rose having that burden lifted off of his back. Rose made a big mistake and he has indeed paid for it. But if Selig and MLB continue to turn their backs on him they will continue to set the wrong precedent.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Sherman Versus Crabtree Is A Throwback To The Old NFL

Michael Crabtree, Richard Sherman

Michael Crabtree, Richard Sherman

There is no debating that the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers are two of the best teams in the National Football League. The Seahawks and Niners have gone on to represent the NFC in the last two Super Bowls. The Niners were looking to get back to the Super Bowl this past February when they were denied that chance by the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game. The Seahawks would go on to defeat the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 48, but in the mind of many football observers, the real Super Bowl took place at the NFC Championship Game between Seattle and San Francisco. These two teams are as close as two squads can be in the NFL as the road to the NFC West Title runs between them. Both organizations went to the Pac-12 Conference to hire their current respective head coaches. In 2010, the Seahawks lured Pete Carroll away from the University of Southern California and in 2011 the Niners would go to Palo Alto, California to talk to former Stanford University head football coach Jim Harbaugh to give the National Football League a shot. In an era of parity and passing in the NFL, the Seahawks and Niners are a throwback to a different era of football that was blue-collar and defined by blood, sweat, and tears. Both teams talk big, but more importantly they can each back it up when they step between the white lines. And aside from the overall team rivalry between the Seahawks and 49ers, there are some interesting individual rivalries, but one in particular takes the cake.

49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree and Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman entered the National Football League at opposite ends of the spectrum. Crabtree was a two-time All-American at Texas Tech University before the Niners made him the tenth overall selection of the 2009 NFL Draft. Sherman went to Stanford to play wide receiver, but he would be converted to cornerback there. Sherman had to sweat it out during the National Football League Draft in 2011 as his name would not be called until the fifth round.

In his first three seasons in San Francisco, Crabtree was unable to live up to the lofty expectations for him as he failed to gain 1,000 receiving yards in any of those campaigns. Crabtree took his game to another level in 2012 with 85 receptions, 1,105 receiving yards and 9 receiving touchdowns in helping the 49ers reach the Super Bowl.

In Sherman’s first season in Seattle, he tallied four interceptions and would be named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team by the Pro Football Writers of America. In Sherman’s second season he would have 8 interceptions with 3 forced fumbles as he was selected as an All-Pro. Last season Sherman would once again have 8 interceptions which led the National Football League and in the process he helped the Seahawks raise the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions for the first time in franchise history.

Crabtree and Sherman have taken different paths to the NFL, but they will be forever linked by last January’s NFC Championship Game.

In the closing moments of the game the Seahawks were leading the 49ers by a score of 23-17. San Francisco was driving for the potential game-winning score when 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw the football to the end zone in the direction of Crabtree. Crabtree was being covered by Sherman who would deflect the football in the direction of Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith who would seal Seattle’s victory with an interception. Crabtree would finish the game with 4 receptions for 52 yards while Sherman had a pair of tackles along with that infamous pass deflection. Sherman is known to talk smack to his opponents during games. After the play Sherman extended his hand to Crabtree who would respond by shoving Sherman. In his on-field, post game interview with Fox’s Erin Andrews, Sherman referred to Crabtree as “a sorry receiver”. In the era of social media, Sherman’s post game rant has been talked about, dissected and mocked. Both players want to put it behind them, but with training camps in the NFL set to open later this month and with the Seahawks and 49ers expected to be favorites to win the Super Bowl, we’re still talking about it and rightfully so.

Like it or not the National Football League is entertainment. And in the entertainment world the villains are the ones that sell the tickets. Sherman has embraced that role as he is the NFL’s version of “Roddy Piper” as he is quickly becoming the player that America loves to hate and he is a man that has never met a camera that he hasn’t liked. When the video game Madden 2015 is released later this summer it will be Sherman that will be gracing the cover. On a team of stars Crabtree has always stayed in the background, but after an Achilles injury limited him to just five games in the regular season last year, he is ready to once again be a force for the Niners like he was in 2012.

Due to the salary cap and free agency, it has become tougher to see lengthy rivalries like we did in the 1970′s between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders. We are fortunate to be witnessing a great rivalry right now between Seattle and San Frnacisco. The first time that the 49ers and Seahawks will meet in the upcoming season is not until Thanksgiving and the nation will be glued to their television sets to see the latest installment of Crabtree vs. Sherman. Like I said before the Niners and Seahawks are must see TV with all eyes on Sherman and Crabtree.

Source: Pro-football-reference.com

The Mets Patience With Duda Is Paying Off

Lucas Duda

Lucas Duda

The New York Mets have not had a winning season since 2008 and when a team has been denied a winning campaign for that long they tend to become desperate for answers. In 2008, the Mets used their first round pick of the Major League Baseball Draft on former Arizona State University first baseman Ike Davis. The Mets expected Davis to be a power hitter for them for years to come. Davis made his MLB debut with the Mets in 2010. Davis would hit 19 home runs along with 71 runs batted in that season as he finished seventh in the National League MVP voting. An ankle injury limited Davis to just 36 games in 2011, but he bounced back with 32 homers and 90 runs batted in for the 2012 season. Heading into 2013′s spring training a bout of valley fever slowed Davis down. Last year Davis would only bat .205 with just 9 home runs and 33 runs batted in.

In 2007, the Mets drafted first baseman Lucas Duda in the seventh round of the MLB Draft. Duda worked his way through the Mets minor league system and like Davis, he made his big league debut in 2010. The biggest difference between these two players is that Davis was expected to be a cornerstone of the Mets franchise while Duda was an afterthought. By trade Duda was a first baseman, but with Davis entrenched there he was moved to right field. Duda’s time in the outfield was the equivalent of converting a 310-pound National Football League offensive lineman into a wide receiver.

After a subpar 2013 season by Davis, the Mets had a decision to make as far as first base goes. Would it be Davis or Duda that they would stick with?

The Mets began this season by platooning Davis and Duda at first base. But on April 18, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson decided to pull the trigger on a trade that sent Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates which opened the door for Duda to be the everyday first baseman in New York.

By nature most Met fans were skeptical that the team gave up on Davis while the team appeared to be stuck with Duda as situations such as these have happened in the past on numerous occasions. As soon as Davis joined the Pirates he hit a grand slam which added fuel to the fire of beleaguered Met fans, but since then things have changed drastically.

This season Duda is leading the Mets in home runs (14), runs batted in (48), and on-base percentage (.351). Duda’s .478 slugging percentage this season is close to being a career high for him and he is turning into Alderson’s type of power hitter. Duda does not have a high batting average, but he is not striking out as frequent this season as he has in the past while he is on pace to hit 25 home runs and have 85 runs batted which would both be career highs. Duda is becoming a better contact hitter which is providing protection in the Mets lineup to third baseman David Wright and All-Star second baseman Daniel Murphy which is something that neither player has had in the past few seasons.

June was Duda’s best month of the season as he batted .282 with 5 home runs, 17 runs batted in, and a .380 on-base percentage. Duda is becoming someone that Mets manager Terry Collins can rely on to step up and get hits in keys situations; especially right now as the Mets have won six out of their last seven ballgames.

Davis on the other hand has a .242 batting average with 4 home runs and 23 runs batted in as he has appeared in 72 games with the Pirates.

The Mets are still not ready to become a contender as they currently have a record of 44-50 which is good for fourth place in the National League East, but for once they have made the right decision as they traded Davis in favor of Duda.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

Why The Oakland Athletics Are Good For Major League Baseball

Billy Bean

Billy Bean

Every year you can count on big-market teams in Major League Baseball such as the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Boston Red Sox to be at the top of MLB’s list for the highest team payrolls. A high payroll doesn’t always guarantee success on the baseball diamond which brings me to the Oakland Athletics. The A’s began this season with a payroll of $83.4 million which was the 25th highest in Major League Baseball. But for the majority of the season Oakland has been in first place in the American League West and currently they have the best record in MLB. The A’s have won the AL West in the last two years and since 2000 they have had eight seasons in which they have won at least 90 games. But the Athletics tend to get lost in the shuffle.

Since moving to Oakland in 1968, the Athletics have won four World Series Championships including three consecutive titles from 1972-1974. But there is a huge financial divide in the Bay Area between the A’s and the San Francisco Giants.  Whereas the Athletics began the season with a payroll of $83.4 million, the Giants began the season with a payroll of $154 million which was seventh highest in Major League Baseball. The Giants enjoy more financial security as they have the territorial rights to Northern California’s Silicon Valley which is literally a gold mine. In spite of all of their trips to the postseason since 2000, Oakland has only advanced to the American League Championship Series once without making any appearances in the World Series. The Giants on the other hand have had five trips to the postseason since 2000 and they have claimed a pair of World Series Championships.

When Billy Beane took over as Athletics general manager in 1997 he took the tools that he learned from his predecessor Sandy Alderson of sabermetrics which concentrated on walks and on-base percentage as opposed to just batting average, home runs, and runs batted in. The formula became known as “Moneyball” which was turned into an award winning book by author Michael Lewis. Sabermetrics have worked for the A’s in the regular season, but not in the playoffs which could change this season.

Aside from the sabermetrics, small-market general managers like Beane have concentrated on developing talent in their minor-league systems. In the past teams such as the Yankees and Dodgers that have lucrative television deals could swoop in at any time with a bag of money and poach the best players from teams like the A’s. Beane is savvy in developing players and trading them when their stock is high. Beane’s system led the A’s to their run in the early to mid-2000′s. From 2007-2011, the Athletics had four losing seasons, but Beane re-tooled Oakland’s minor-league system and he is reaping the benefits now.

The name of the game in baseball is pitching. The old adage is that good pitching will trump good hitting any day of the week and twice on Sunday. With a current team earned run average of 3.10, the A’s have the best staff in MLB. The Athletics are set to hit the All-Star break with three of their starting pitchers (Scott Kazmir, Sonny Gray, and Jesse Chavez) all with at least 7 victories this season. Beane pulled off the shocker of the baseball season so far last week when he made a trade with the Chicago Cubs to acquire starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija. In 17 starts with the Cubs this season Samardzija was only 2-7, but he had an earned run average of 2.83. Samardzija made his first start with the Athletics last Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays and in seven innings of work he struck out five batters while only allowing one run.

With Samardzija and Hammel in the fold for the Athletics, their pitching staff is so deep right now that Beane actually had to demote starting pitcher Tommy Milone who is 6-3 with a 3.55 earned run average this season to the minors. Milone will eventually rejoin the big club, but with Gray and Samardzija, the A’s have power arms that can carry them deep into October.

Moneyball is the name of the game for the A’s, but they have some big boppers in their lineup as well. Infielders Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss are tied for the club lead in home runs with 19 while outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has 14 and all three players are on pace to hit 30 homers this season.

Donaldson was drafted by the Cubs in 2007, but he was traded to the A’s in 2008. Donaldson has developed into a fine Major League Baseball player. Last season Donaldson finished fourth in the American League MVP voting and this season he has been selected to his first All-Star team.

After stints with the Red Sox, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Philadelphia Phillies, the A’s brought Moss in off of the scrap heap in 2012 and he has finally found a home. In two-plus seasons in Oakland, Moss has 70 homers and 202 runs batted in.

When Cespedes defected from Cuba he was a relative unknown when the Athletics signed him in 2011, but he is making a name for himself with his bat and his defense as well. On the season Cespedes is batting .257 with 14 homers and 56 runs batted in while defensively he is daring runners to try his cannon of a right arm.

This Athletics team is littered with guys that were castoffs and afterthoughts by other baseball teams. Once you sprinkle that in with Beane’s ability to draft and develop talent, the A’s have a great formula that is proving to once again be successful.

As a team that A’s play baseball like they are in the backyards having fun as kids and the same passion is illustrated by their fan base when they come to the Oakland Coliseum. The A’s appear to be a team of destiny and this time around they have their eyes on a deep postseason in October.

Source: Baseball-reference.com

LeBron James Is Making Fools Of Us

LeBron James

LeBron James

Since LeBron James was a youngster he has been a basketball prodigy. James was featured in SLAM Magazine when he was only 14 years old. In James’ last year of high school some of his high school basketball games were nationally televised on ESPN. Before James even played one game in the NBA he was already dubbed as the “The Chosen One” and “King James”. Before signing an NBA contract, James had already agreed to a $90 million endorsement deal with Nike. All of this took place before James was 19-years old.

In the first seven years of his NBA career, James put the Cleveland Cavaliers on his back as he led the Cavs to their only NBA Finals appearance in 2007. After the 2009-2010 NBA season began there was speculation that James might not return to Cleveland being that he was scheduled to become a free agent that summer. In the summer of 2010, NBA teams were lining up for the services of James. In an unprecedented move, James made his “decision” to join the Miami Heat on live TV. In the aftermath James received a ton of criticism from fans and media alike which included some fans in Cleveland burning his jerseys.

James would join power forward Chris Bosh and shooting guard Dwyane Wade in Miami to form the NBA’s latest version of “The Big Three”. Over the past four seasons the trio has combined to win a pair of NBA Championships in four trips to the NBA Finals.

Once the 2013-2014 NBA season ended Wade, James, and Bosh all opted out of their respective contracts with the Heat. Now James has once again been given the green light to make suckers out of all of us.

When James originally joined the Heat in 2010 he knew all along that he intended to take his talents to South Beach. But he strung everyone along because he knew that he would be able to get away with it. And to me James is doing the same thing this summer.

James resembles the prettiest girl in high school that knows the she has the ability to make all of the boys croon over her. In this case it is some NBA executives that are doing whatever it takes in order to woo James to their respective city.

NBA free agency began on July 1, but there hasn’t been that much action as far as signings going on because everyone (players, agents, and general managers) are all waiting to see what James will do in order to have an idea of how things will break down for the rest of the summer. Whether it is print, online, or television, people are focused on “The Decision Part 2″ from James.

Like he did in 2010, James knows where he wants to play basketball at next season. But instead of James letting people know, he has NBA executives flying all around the country for meetings with him.

In 2010 James took a ton of criticism for this and he should be prepared for another hefty dose of it; especially if he does not re-sign with the Heat. In all sports there have been situations where superstar players wanted new contracts, but not sense former National Football League quarterback Brett Favre’s garbage of will he retire or won’t he retire have we seen anything like this where a player such as James is holding an entire league hostage.

Yes professional sports is a business, and James is that rare type of player with unearthly ability, but it should not give him a free ride to do whatever he wants. James has won two championships with the Heat, but he is not fully committed to them. If James were he would hurry up and put his name of the dotted line. In 11 NBA seasons, James is a 10-time All-Star, four-time NBA MVP and a two-time NBA Champion, but his indecisiveness right now is overshadowing all of the tremendous things that he has accomplished on the basketball court. But by the look of things James is once again going to milk his moment in the sun this summer for all that it is worth.