What Channel is the YouTube on? (Part III) – Current Pitchers

Justin Verlander, Jacoby Ellsbury

In our first two parts we took a brief look at the current positional players who turn our heads, prevent us from changing the channel, and rack up the views on social media website. Positional players are always given more opportunities to make the highlights of the night, and plays of the week because the play EVERY DAY! Of course it’s easier when you’re given the chance to do it day in and day out. For the men on the mound, it’s not that easy. They have the even more difficult task of going out there and PREVENTING the moon shot artists, and base thieves from running amok; all of which are not easy tasks. If it was easy… anyone could do it. The difference between these pitchers and the others, is that THESE ones not only have it in their power to stifle offenses, but on any given day these guys can prevent anybody from reaching base.

To prevent this from becoming a painfully long read (FRAT) I’ve broken it up in to multiple parts. Today we look at the current pitchers in the game who are more than YouTube worthy. Our first two candidates: Justin Verlander and Yu Darvish.

verlander

Justin Verlander: Where do you start with Justin Verlander? To begin with, he is ARGUABLY the BEST starting pitcher in the game today, playing for what may be the BEST team in the game today. He not only earned Rookie of the Year honours as a 23 year old in 2006 with a 17-9 record, but he also helped pitch the Tigers to their first World Series appearance since 1984. Verlander is THE definition of what an “ace” should be. He expects to throw a complete game shutout in every start, and he also has the stuff to throw a potential no hitter with every start; something he has done on two occasions. His first career no hitter came the season after his Rookie of the Year season (2006); as a 24 year old in 2007 against the Brewers. In that game he would walk four batters, but strike out 12. The more impressive feat was that his fastball topped out at 102 mph in the 9th inning; on the 109th pitch he threw.

His second career no hitter came against the Blue Jays (sigh) in 2011. Verlander didn’t rack up the strikeouts like he did against the Brewers, but he did carry a perfect game into the 8th inning until issuing a walk to J.P Arencibia. Verlander would go on to face the minimum 27 batters in the game, and his fastball topped out at 101 mph on the radar gun.

Verlander is one of the premier strikeout artists currently pitching in the majors. In his nine seasons in the majors, he has topped 200 strikeouts in a season four times; including two seasons where he recorded 250+ strikeouts.

His mastery of the strike zone and K doesn’t end after 162 games either; if anything it’s just getting started. In the 2012 ALDS against the Oakland A’s, Verlander put on a performance for the record books. Verlander would make two starts against the A’s, going 2-0 with one complete game shutout and 16 innings pitched. He would also rack up 22 strikeouts in those two games, thus setting a new strikeout record for the ALDS

The reason for Verlander’s success in the K department can be directly attributed to his absolute filthy repertoire of pitches in his arsenal.

Verlander’s fastball is one of the best in the game and he will consistently throw it in the 94-96 mph range; with the ability to dial it up into the triple digits when he needs. He compliments his fastball with a superb circle change that he throws in the 85-88 mph range. He also throws two breaking balls, a slider in the 83-86 mph range, and a big, Bugs Bunny looping curveball that will sit in the 77-80 mph range. As intimidating as his pitches are, it’s the freakish control he has of said pitches that is really frightening; not to mention that he actually throws harder as his pitch count climbs. The below link may offer a little more insight into the type of toolkit that Mr. Verlander owns:

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/05/01/justin-verlanders-four-pitches-get-the-yu-darvish-gif-treatment/

And on top of all that, as if the awards and accolades were not enough, Verlander also just became the highest paid pitcher in MLB history when he inked a 7 year/$180 million contract in the 2012 offseason.

Oh… and he has been rumoured to be dating Kate Upton for the past year… so there is that too…

darvish

Yu Darvish: For most people, there introduction to Yu Darvish came via his dominant performance in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. The (then) 22 year old used his impressive toolkit to help pitch the Japanese team to their second consecutive WBC Championship. Darvish would post a 2-1 record to go along with 2.08 ERA and 20 K’s through 13 innings pitched. The tournament would also see the Japanese team use Darvish as a closer (recorded 1st career save) and as a reliever in the championship game against South Korea.

The big allure about Darvish during the 2009 WBC was that it gave MLB scouts their first real look at Darvish against potential MLB hitters. The reason this info was a hot commodity was because of the growin rumours of Darvish jumping from the Japanese Pro Baseball ranks and being available as a potential free agent to all 30 MLB teams; for a staggering posting price mind you. This wasn’t anything new. In fact Darvish had been on some MLB (Braves & Angels) radars since his High School days. During the 2004 MLB Amateur Draft the Angels, Dodgers, and Mets had all kicked the tires on signing
Darvish, but he remained adamant about playing pro ball in Japan.

There is always a bit of concern when signing Japanese players to play in the MLB. First is the often lucrative posting fee that an MLB team must pay the players current Japanese team, just so the two sides can actually negotiate a contract. MLB teams must present a sealed bid to the Japanese team. The team with the highest bid gets an exclusive negotiation window; only the winning bid is announced. After successfully winning the bid, then come the ACTUAL contract negotiations. When the Boston Red Sox won the bidding rights to prized Japanese pitcher Daisuke “Dice-K” Matsuzaka in 2006, they paid the chiefly sum of $51 million just to have the chance to sign him to a contract. See just because a team wins the right to talk to the player doesn’t mean that the player will necessarily sign with said team. This is why MLB teams tend to overpay for import players. The Red Sox for instance signed Dice K to a 5yr/$52 million dollar deal, even though he had never played in the MLB.

The other cause for concern is the actual quality of the player themselves. For every Hideo Nomo there are three Hideki Irabu’s and Kei Igawa’s. For every Ichiro and Hideki Matsui, there are five Kaz Matsui’s, Kosuke Fukodome’s, and Akinori Iwamura’s. Just because these players dominate the Japanese leagues and international play, does not mean that their successes will translate well into the North American game. There are two main obstacles that an import player must overcome in order to be successful. The first is the workload. For positional players it’s the 162 game schedule, for pitcher’s its getting use to pitching every 5th day. The second is the talent level. There is a HUGE difference in talent between the Japanese pro league and the MLB. More often than not, it is these two factors that prevent players from being successful in the MLB. Dice K for example finished with a career record of 50-37/4.52 ERA/609 K’s in five years for the Bo’Sox. Mind you they did win the 2007 World Series with him. But was it truly worth it?

In 2011, Yu Darvish announced the Nippon Ham Fighters that he intended to leave them to pursue a career in the MLB. The Texas Rangers proved to have the winning bid; paying just over $51.7 million just to talk with Yu. The Rangers and Darvish would agree to a 6 year/$60 million dollar deal in the 2011 offseason. Yu-Mania was about to be launched on the Rangers and baseball fans worldwide. Darvish arrived to 2012 Spring Training with all the hype and energy surrounding him of a rock star, or Fernando Valenzuela for that. He was unusual from the prototypical Japanese pitchers teams were use to, as Darvish stands at just over 6’5 and weighs 225 lbs. Dice-K for example was 6’0, 180; Nomo was 6’2, 205. In his last spring training appearance, Darvish gave the world a small glimpse of what he was capable of.

The first thing you may notice about Darvish while he pitches is his DISGUSTING pitching repertoire. If you missed it… take a look at this FANTASTIC .gif made possible by Drew Sheppard of Fangraphs.com:

yu

Darvish throws a four seam fastball in the 91-95 mph range that can top out at 98. He follows that up slurve/slider that he throws in the low 80’s with sharp, late breaking action. Darvish also throws a two seam fastball, cut fastball, TWO curveballs, a split-finger fastball, and a changeup! He’s like a Japanese version of David Cone, or Mike Mussina. Darvish says he throws two different curveballs, one a “fast” curve (78-81 mph range) and the other, a “slow” curve (69-71 mph range). In his earlier years, Darvish use to throw a screwball, which he mainly used as an out pitch. A shoulder injury caused him to permanently shelf the screwball. Even with all the scouting and technology in the game today it is a constant challenge to get a solid advanced scouting report on Darvish. That is the
benefit of being able to throw 8+ pitches. And if you think scouting him is hard… just try hitting him…

Yu had a VERY successful rookie/debut campaign for the Rangers in 2012. He went 16-9/3.90 ERA/221 K’s in a 191.1 innings pitched; Yu was also voted to the AL All Star team as a rookie. Besides making his MLB debut in 2012, Darvish also made his MLB Post Season debut as well. Darvish took the ball against the Orioles in a one-game Wild Card playoff. Darvish pitched well enough to get his team a win; unfortunately his team did not show up. The Rangers are not only expecting Darvish to help lead them back to the October baseball, but also help get them back into the World Series for the 3rd time in 4 years. Judging by his Opening Day 2013 performance against the Astros… I’d say the Rangers post season hopes are in good hands…

**Currently 7-2/3.03 ERA/105 K’s in 74.1 innings…. we may have our first 300 strikeout performance in over a decade.**

Stay tuned and don’t change the channel… more to come soon!

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What Channel is the YouTube on? (Part II)

trout and harper

Yesterday, I wrote about the joys and immense benefits that the internet, and more specifically YouTube, has brought to not just baseball fans, but to sports fans of all types. Now granted that pretty much any ballplayer is more than capable of making a highlight reel play at any given time, if and when they’re put into the right situation. But we don’t care about the average Joe here. Here we care about the human highlight reel, the “dont change the channel or leave the room” player; the YouTube player.

In Part I we took a long and much deserved look at a pair of Tigers who bring the hurt everywhere they go. I speak of the most feared 3-4 duo in baseball today; Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Today we’re going to pick up right where we left off by focusing on three of the most dynamic, exciting, and young players in the game today: Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, and Bryce Harper.

Mike Trout: Is there anything Mike Trout can’t do? The kid hits for average, he hits for power, he plays a gold glove level of CF, he has 50 steal potential; oh and he’ll only be 22 by the end of the season. Trout is one of those players who makes a routine single to the OF exciting, just on the off chance that the OF ho-hums the throw back to the IF. See if that was to happen there would be a pretty strong chance that Mr. Trout would be standing on 2B by the time the ball hits the IF glove. Trout can flat out fly! Look at the way he turns a routine grounder to the 2B into an infield single:

He’s one of those guys who are immediately thinking triple as soon as the ball is headed to the gap.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=21565505&c_id=mlb

Trout has the offensive toolkit to be a 30/30, 40/40, and cycle threat for years to come. He did recently become the youngest player in AL history to hit for the cycle, and may add a few more before all is said and done.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=27337659&c_id=mlb&topic_id=vtp_must_c

When he isn’t producing runs with his bat or legs, he is sure preventing them with said legs and glove. Trout blew up the baseball world last summer when he made a highlight reel, over-the-fence catch, in order to prevent a JJ Hardy HR. The catch was immediately heralded as the catch of the year, and drew comparisons to one of Trout’s teammates defensive resume; Mr. Torii Hunter. Just in case you missed the catch itself, or the 2012 MLB season for that… here it is:

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=22643503&c_id=mlb

The funny thing is a little more than a month later, Trout did the same thing to Gordon Beckham

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=23618697&c_id=mlb&topic_id=vtp_blackberry

Trust me; it’s not just the long ball he can take away. He also makes the liner to the gap disappear.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=27269413&c_id=mlb

And he has NO problem with the over the shoulder approach, or dealing with obstacles in his way; like the hill in the middle of CF at Minute Maid Park.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=26955285&c_id=mlb

Just remember the name Mike Trout. It’ll be hard to forget, especially when you hear it nightly on the Highlight of the Night segment, or the Plays of the Week for the foreseeable future.

Giancarlo Stanton: The man formerly known as Mike Stanton as been murdering baseballs since his days at Single-A Greensboro. In his first minor league season (2008) at A ball, Stanton hit 39 HR’S to go along with 97 RBI and a .293 batting average. His follow-up season saw him start at High-A ball where he went .294/12/39; he quickly was promoted to AA Jacksonville. Stanton would play only 52 games for Jacksonville, but my god they were 52 damn impressive games. During his stay in Jacksonville, Mike/Gio would bat .311, hit 21 home runs, and add 52 RBI. For those of you scoring at home, that equals 1 RBI per game played. Just stupid talent! Stanton not only left his mark in the stat column, but he also left it on oppositions. After a series against the Mississippi Braves, the Braves manager had this to say about Stanton:

“He looks like a 15-year-old playing on an 8-year-old’s Little League team.”

A few days later, Gio hit a 500+ foot home run that cleared the CF scoreboard in Montgomery. The Marlins would eventually call Stanton up to the big league club, and in his MLB debut Mike Stanton would go 3 for 5. His first career home run would come a few days later during interleague play off of Matt Garza. His first professional round tripper would be Grand Slam none the less.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=9118273&c_id=mlb

The pain and hurt for opposing rotations and bullpens has not stopped there. His home run totals have increased every year since he hit 22 in his rookie season (2010). He would add 34 more in 2011 and another 37 in 2012. Keep in mind that these homers are not of the “wall scraper” variety by any means; they’re pure rain makers… moon shots.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=14379797&c_id=mlb

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=11791047&c_id=mlb

I know what you’re thinking…”anybody can hit a bomb out of those sin bins in Cincinnati and Philadelphia.” And that is a very good point. Here is my rebuttal:

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=15216059&c_id=mlb

That my friends is the definition of a “tape measure” shot! Mind you it is batting practice, but the guy just launched the ball to the base of the Coca-Cola bottle at AT&T Park!! That’s absurd!! Sure it helps to launch a ball out of the stratosphere when you’re built like an NFL tight end or a fridge for that. But the impressive thing is that although Gio is built like the Incredible Hulk, he still has above average speed.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=8898681&c_id=mlb

Remember that TE comment above, well in high school Gio was a three sport athlete, and was even offered scholarships to UCLA and UNLV for football. Football’s miss turned out to be a huge win for the MLB and the Marlin’s! Although it would sure be fun to see Gio doing his best Tony Gonzalez impression; Gio does walk around at 6’6 240lbs. However, unfortunately for Gio he is currently stuck spinning his heels in baseball purgatory (the Marlins). But don’t you fret or shed any tears for Gio. Why you ask? Well because it is only a matter of time that he is packaged off in a future Marlins/Loria fire sale… ETA Winter 2013/14.

Bryce Harper: There probably hasn’t been more hype around a player than there was around Bryce Harper. Harper first gained national fame when he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 17 year old in 2009. He infamously dropped out of high school in order to obtain his GED just so he could enter the MLB Amateur draft a year early. His bat speed and power were unheard of for a high school kid. At a Power Showcase at Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field in 2009 Harper launched a 502ft blast that hit the catwalk at the back of the Tropicana. I apologize for the BS in the video, but just fast forward to the 3:35 mark… it is definitely worth it.

Needlessly to say Harper was the 1st overall pick in 2010 by the Washington Nationals; a team who had just landed uber pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg the year before. In high school, Harper was predominantly a full time catcher, but the Nationals didn’t believe that his catching game would transition to the major league level. So it was decided that Harper would make the transition to the OF. He did definitely have the arm for the OF from his years spent behind the plate.

In his big league debut in 2012 while playing LF, Harper gave us an early look at that rifle he calls a RF. Too bad the catcher can’t squeeze the ball…

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=21004035&c_id=mlb

Although he has made a somewhat seamless transition from catcher to outfielder, there is still always room to improve; although he already does do a really good Aaron Rowand impression…

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=27097807&c_id=mlb

It’s not just on the field that Harper is making can’t miss TV. Following a home run in the minor leagues, Harper decided to “thank” the pitcher for the muffin he had just been served.

I assume Harper has seen Field of Dreams, so he should be more aware of what can happen when you “show up” a pitcher or wink at them… let alone blow a kiss at them. Kids, someone needs to teach them a lesson. Enter Cole Hamels. Hamels didn’t take kindly to the rookie Harper stealing home against his Phillies. So the next night he went out and got him some old school retribution… Bob Gibson style.

Hamels even openly admitted to hitting Harper on purpose. An admission that earned him a suspension from the Commissioner’s office. Harper has been making a name for himself by playing hard and consistently pushing the envelope on his own physical abilities. Anybody who questions how hard he plays or the way he plays the game (Rafael Soriano) need to just ask Bryce what he thinks about those queries…

He even filed an application to have that phrase trademarked… genius business move? Or just plain old douche bag? Either way… he is sure damn exciting to watch play ball.

Stay tuned for Part III where we take a look at what current pitchers in the game today are worthy of racking up the YouTube views.

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What Channel is the YouTube on? (Part I)

Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera

Sports fans have it made these days. From the internet to all access channels dedicated to streaming highlights 24/7; it has never been easier to catch up on what you may have missed. And trust me there is a lot going on that you DO NOT want to miss. Growing up during the “dark days” before the internet, we had to make do with catching highlights on Sports Desk, the 6pm news, or wind up waiting for the always popular TWIB on Saturday morning. If we were lucky, we maybe had a Sports Illustrated subscription, or had a friend with one. It wasn’t just catching up on the days games that were hard, it was keeping informed on all the players and teams that were out there. I can’t even imagine what kind of impact YouTube would’ve had on my pre-pubescent being, especially during the heyday of Bo Jackson and Griffey Jr. Unfortunately I would have to wait a years in order to have sports highlights at my fingertips… anytime I wanted them.

Even now with the YouTube’s, ESPN’s, and MLB.com’s of the world, finding a specific athletic moment or feat is not as easy as it should be. MLB was one of the last major sporting associations to withhold their daily and archived highlights from the internet horde. Any and all highlights were distributed through MLB.com, or available only on MLB.com. Where the NFL and NHL allowed their fans to watch not only highlights, but WHOLE games on YouTube, the MLB kept to their Draconian ways and forbid distribution of highlights through YouTube. It wouldn’t be until early 2013 that MLB relaxed their distribution rules and allowed full access to their video archive through their website(MLB has even recently added an MLB channel to YouTube). And when the video vault was opened, it was like Quagmire discovering internet porn for the first time.

Baseball fans can now rejoice. We now have the ability to seek and view moments and players who were elevated to myth like statuses because we never had access to their highlights. Sure I had seen Bo Jackson run up the OF wall, but I never saw how the play developed. Yeah I gave Kenny Lofton a bit of respect growing up, but he never came close to Griff in my books and a lot of that had to do with the fact that the highlights catered more to the Griffey Jr’s of the world and less to the Lofton’s. I wanted to take a look back on some of the athletes who have defined why we have highlights, montages, and YouTube, and look at some of those who would have blown up YouTube and Social Media if it was around when they played.

Baseball, and the sporting world for that, is rife with athletes who are constantly pushing the envelope with out of this world athleticism, and redefining the term “human highlight reel” on a day to day basis. Some guys do it all. They grab your attention with jaw dropping power or blistering speed in the field and on the bases. These guys are the ones who make the ridiculous seem routine. But it’s not always the offense that turns heads. Sure chicks may dig the long ball, but as most of us know; defense wins you championships. Baseball is one of the few sports where an individual’s defensive forays can not only make or break a game, but also wind up on Top Ten lists for years to come.

Defense in baseball is a twofold attack; it comes down to the pitcher and the 8 guys behind him. A lights out pitcher can make both the offense irrelevant, as well as the defense behind him. Pitchers like Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, and Yu Darvish bring instant defense and potential no hit stuff with them every time they toe the rubber in the form of their pitching arsenal. In fact you don’t even have to start games in order to bring solid D, you could always close them; ask the Atlanta Braves and Craig Kimbrel. In the field, games are won and loss on the arms, legs, and most importantly gloves of the defenders. A lone defender can halt an offense single handily with a “web gem” or a strong throw to gun down an advancing runner. Middle infielders perform acrobatic double play routines, while third basemen man the hot corner waiting to make a diving stab up the line.

This past week alone baseball fans were treated to not one, but two REMARKABLE performances in less than 72 hours.

On Sunday, Miguel Cabrera mashed three home runs in a losing effort to the Texas Rangers. The second of the three home runs was on a mid 90’s two-seam fastball that ran in on Miggy’s hands. No problem however, as Miggy pulled his hands in and sent a line drive over the CF wall. The announcers were speechless and in awe. John Kruk summed it up nicely… “I don’t know what else to say…” Apparently he did though, as the booth would continue to talk about the home run for two more innings. Having already played second fiddle to Cabrera in the MVP voting; Mike Trout wasn’t about to let three home runs outshine him. So two days after Miggy had his big night in Texas, Trout went out against the Mariners and became the youngest player in AL history to hit for the cycle. For the 21 year old Trout, it was just another day at the office, and another addition to an already impressive resume.

Now that we’ve mentioned a few of their accolades, let’s take an extended look at the players who define why we have YouTube and highlight packs; both past and present.

Current Players

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Detroit Tigers

Miguel Cabrera: What more do you say about a man who is coming off the first Triple Crown performance in 45 years; not to mention the accompanying AL MVP that came with it? Nothing really, you let his bat speak for him. In 2012, the man they call Miggy went off on the baseball world to the tune of .330/44/139. That wasn’t completely shocking, that was Miggy just being Miggy. For his career (11 seasons) Miguel has averaged a 162 game line of .320/35/122. He grabbed the best player/hitter in the game today torch from Pujols about 4 years ago and hasn’t looked back. Through 44 games this season, Miggy is hitting a STUPID .387 to go along with 13 HR and 52 RBI! At this current pace he is set to defecate on his MVP season last year. As mentioned above Cabrera did recently have a 3 HR performance against an AL contender in the Rangers, and one of their top tier starters (Derek Holland)

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=27280135&c_id=mlb&topic_id=vtp_must_c

(As I write this Cabrera has 6 HRs in his last 4 games)

Miguel has been an impact player ever since he made his debut for the Marlins as a 20 year old in 2003. Cabrera would hit .268/12/68 in his rookie season and play a big role in leading the Marlins to their 2nd World Series title in franchise history. In his 5 seasons in Florida, Cabrera would be a 4x All Star and the cornerstone of a promising Marlins franchise. Back then he also played OF and looked a little different.

miggy marlins

Enter Jeffrey Loria’s bi-annual fire sale. Cabrera would end up being dealt to the Tigers in one of the biggest swindles in MLB history. The Tigers got Cabrera and former All Star/ROY Dontrelle Willis, while the Marlins received the turd sandwich of Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller. Miller and Maybin were both former top ten draft picks in the first round of the MLB Amateur Draft, and both turned out to be BIG disappointments for the Marlins. In Cabrera the Tigers received one of the best players in the game, who eventually turned into the BEST player in the game. You want power? He’ll give you power…

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=6805773&c_id=mlb

He even gives you highlights in the field… although maybe not for his glove…

http://www.opposingviews.com/i/sports/mlb/video-tigers%E2%80%99-miguel-cabrera-takes-groundball-face-gushes-blood

You gotta give it to him for being a team player though. But then again, who wouldn’t move to 3B in order to get Prince Fielder on your team…?

Speaking of Big Prince…

Prince

Prince Fielder: Prince has been destined to MASH a baseball since he was in the womb. Prince is the son of former MLB MASH artist Cecil “Big Daddy” Fielder, a man who knew how to swat a baseball out of states and ballparks alike. What Cecil also enjoyed doing was bringing his son Prince to the ball park as much as possible. Cecil had a big hand grooming his son for his future profession, including converting him to left handed as a child. Prince also received batting practice from the Tigers, and hitting lessons from his pops. There was a popular rumour that Prince once hit a ball into the upper deck of Tiger stadium as a 12 year old. Seeing him as a kid though… you could understand how it became a popular rumour…

Prince as a kid

Prince is a walking spectacle. He’s listed as a 5’11” 275lb first basemen. He may be the largest vegan on the earth. He is surprisingly athletic and had very surprising wheels for a big man; he does have two career inside-the-park home runs.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=20070813&c_id=mlb

Oh, and he can smack a pitch like no other.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=15781747&c_id=mlb

As the son of a man who topped the 30HR plateau on six occasions, including 51 and 44 in a season, Prince was destined to knock the cover off the ball. He is one of those few players that you never change the channel when he is up to bat. His swing and misses are almost as powerful as the homeruns themselves. Remember Prince was genetically designed for Home Run Derby’s… remember he is a 2x winner…

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=22976771&c_id=mlb&topic_id=vtp_asg_sponsor

Prince is a showman, a pure entertainer. He brings a child like fun to the game and can always be seen with a big ol smile on his face. His post game antics and theatrics are can’t miss TV alone.

http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=6511913&c_id=mlb

Tigers fans should be FOREVER thankful to have both Miggy and Prince… not to mention that bad man that goes by the name of Verlander.

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(Part II to come soon)

All Is Not Wells In Blue Jay Land…

reyes ankle

Lofty preseason expectations and dreams of October baseball were the talk of the town before April 2nd. With all the wheeling and dealing done in the offseason, it wasn’t just assumed that the Jays would make the playoffs; it was all but a guarantee. Even the sports book(s) in Vegas had the Jays as a favourite to win the World Series. There hadn’t been this much hype in Toronto since WAMCO was headlining at the Dome. Even the city’s beloved Maple Leafs were taking a backseat to all the hype surrounding the Blue Jays… you know… the only Toronto team that’s won a championship in the past 40 years. This was of course before April 2nd… Opening Day.

It’s now the end of April and an all to familiar scent is wafting through the city. The kind of stench that only rears it head when a team starts to piss and squander away leads and when they start to give starts and innings to the Aaron Laffey’s and Robert Coello’s of the world. It’s the end of April and the Toronto Blue Jays are 10 – 17. No Blue Jays team has ever lost 18 games in April, but this version sure tried to. 10 – 17. That’s good enough for 5th place in the always tough AL East; 8.5 games back of the John Farrell’s 1st place Boston Red Sox. Speaking of the AL East, the Jays went 4 – 10 against AL East opponents in April; the highlight being a 4 game sweep at the hands of the Yankees in New York. The Jays currently sit with the 4th worst winning percent (.370) in all of MLB. How bad is that? Well, they are only ahead of the surprisingly bad Angels, and annual cellar dwellers the Marlins and Astros.

It’s amazing how much difference one month can make. Fans went from planning the parade route and dusting off the mantle, to pulling out their Leafs jerseys and dreaming about a cup run. That’s how quickly things change in Toronto. It doesn’t help that the Blue Jays haven’t really given their fans a whole lot to cheer about and have looked pretty awful in general. The funny thing is that there isn’t just one glaring reason why the Jays have looked so spectacularly bad; in fact it honestly seems that they really do find new ways to lose games and blow leads.

So what went wrong? Where and when did the train jump the tracks?

If you’re a Jays fan and unfamiliar with why and how the Jays have looked so bad so far, please allow me to invite you to crawl out from under the rock you live and give you a refresher on why the panic button may soon be pressed.

Opening Week Struggles

The opening season of the year brought the Cleveland Indians to town where they went on to take 2 of 3 games; including the Home Opener. The Blue Jays only win in the series came in the 3rd game, a 10-8 affair that saw the Jays blow multiple leads. Throughout the series not one of the three Toronto starting pitchers made it out of the 5th inning, and both RA Dickey and Mark Buehrle looked mediocre at best

Following the Indians departure the Blue Jays looked forward to welcoming the Boston Red Sox and former manager John Farrell to town. The Red Sox series had WAY more hype than the opening series with the Indians. This was in large part to both John Farrell returning, and the Red Sox having become a so called “after thought” in the AL East. Newly acquired Josh Johnson toed the rubber in the opener and looked ho-hum through 5 innings, but left with the lead. Unfortunately Esmil Rogers and Jeremy Jeffress decided to take their gas cans to the mound. The Jays lost 6-4, and Jeffress was Designated For Assignment (DFA) after the game. JA Happ would deliver both a gem and a W for the hometown crowd in a 5-0 victory. Unfortunately for those who went to see RA the Knuckle Man pitch the tiebreaker on the Sunday, the Red Sox would pound the Blue Jays to the tune of 13-0.

Jose Reyes’ Ankle and why Jays fans can’t have nice things

Although the Jays offense was struggling to begin the season, it didn’t show with Jose Reyes. Reyes was the key piece in the blockbuster trade between the Marlins and the Jays in the offseason. He was something the Jays hadn’t had since the days of Devon White, or more recently Shannon Stewart; a legitimate leadoff hitter. He’s a sparkplug, an energy guy. The kind of guy who just loves to play the game. Reyes got off to an incredibly hot start in spring training and rode that right into the World Baseball Classic where he helped lead the undefeated Dominican Republic to a championship.

Once the regular season started; Reyes didn’t miss a beat. Through the first 10 games he was hitting .395 with 5 RBI, 5 SB, 4 BB, and a homer. He was as good as advertised and more. All he did was get on base (.465 OBP)….

and then… it happened.

It was a steal attempt following a single. Jose looked like he could breeze into the bag, and then at the last possible second he decided to slide feet first. POP. That was the feeling that Jose felt in his ankle. POP. We all knew we wouldn’t get a FULL 162 games out of Reyes, I mean he is injury prone to a degree. BUT TEN GAMES IN!?!!?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?? And wow did it look bad. The guy had tears in his eyes and had to be carted off, that is never a good sign. Then the wait for the dreaded MRI results. Is it a break or a sprain? A sprain means he comes back this season but when and to what capacity? Where a break may actually be better because it can allow for a better and more true heal. The diagnosis… severe ankle sprain… out 1 to 3 months. Jose Reyes is currently on the Blue Jays 60 Day DL.

Strengths as Weaknesses

It’s been well documented that the Toronto Blue Jays made a transaction or two over the offseason. They did so in an “all in” mentality, as they saw a window to win in the always crowded AL East. But they also did so out of necessity. The 2012 edition of the Blue Jays saw their starting rotation get absolutely decimated with injuries. Young impact arms like Drew Hutchinson and Kyle Drabek were forced to make the dreaded trip to Dr. James Andrews where it was revealed that Tommy John surgery was the answer to their ailments. Throw in the riddle that is Ricky Romero and pitching prospects that were a good year or two away and the Jays were entering 2013 with a paper thin rotation. Enter newly acquired NL Cy Young winner RA Dickey, potential ace Josh Johnson, and the savvy lefty Mark Buehrle. Now match them up with Brandon Morrow, JA Happ, and the aforementioned Romero, and the rotation went from an area of weakness to one of strength (at least on paper that is).

Well one month into the season and the area that was thought to be a strength sure looks a lot like a weakness. Here are the Jays starting pitchers lines through April:

RA Dickey: 2 – 4 4.50 ERA 1.30 WHIP

Brandon Morrow: 0 – 2 5.27 ERA 1.50 WHIP

Mark Buehrle: 1 – 1 6.35 ERA 1.52 WHIP

Josh Johnson: 0 – 1 6.86 ERA 1.89 WHIP

JA Happ: 2 – 1 3.86 ERA 1.25 WHIP

Ok, so JA Happ gets off the hook on this one, but the other four… WOW! Now you could make the argument that the 3 National League pitchers are just getting use to pitching in the AL, but unfortunately for Mark Buehrle he should be WELL ACQUAINTED with the AL, seeing as how he was a White Sox for 12 seasons! Dickey has looked both mediocre and awful thus far. He was on the receiving end of the Boston beatdown (13-0) and has been victimized by the long ball on a frequent basis. Now it is coming out that Dickey has been fighting through back and neck issues, something I’m sure every Jay fan wants to hear about their 38 year old ace. I still believe that Dickey will be a success in Toronto, it just better come sooner rather than later if the Jays still plan to contend. Josh Johnson and Buehrle have been brutal. Buehrle can be seen serving up taters for opposing batters to mash out of the park, where JJ can be seen trying to figure out how to hit the strike zone on a consistent basis. The lowlight for Johnson was the 1/3 of an inning pitched in miserable weather in Detroit. In that 1/3 of an inning Johnson was tagged for 7 runs. Patience is key in this situation… Unfortunately patience is also running thin.

You may have noticed that there was no mention of the 2012 ace Ricky Romero. Well that is because poor Ricky is still trying to find both himself, and the strike zone. Romero lost the 5th spot in the rotation to JA Happ who out pitched Romero in the spring. The Blue Jays then thought it best to have Romero figure things out in the minors, but not AAA Buffalo, no not even AA New Hampshire; but Class A Dunedin. As of the end of April Romero is still in Dunedin. He made his first start back on the 27th and looked good. Alex Anthopolous says that it’s up to Dunedin’s manager whether or not Romero gets promoted following another minor league outing. Perhaps Romero will get a call from the big club if the current rotation keeps sputtering.

Jays Fans Blood Alcohol Currently Higher Than Team Batting Average

Alright so that’s not completely true, but it is a tad honest. It has come out recently that Toronto fans may be the rowdiest and most belligerent in the game. I don’t think that is completely true. I think there are a fair amount of clowns and FIRST TIME DRIN-KERS out there that tend to have a few too many $12 pints and make youtube highlight reels of their antics. I think its RIDICULOUS to throw garbage and paper airplanes from the 500 level, especially while the game is on. But this is a SMALL SAMPLE SIZE of Jays fans, and a lot of those clowns are bandwagon fans to boot. Please don’t lump all Jays fans together, we’re not all ass clowns.

That being said, I don’t blame the crowds for booing and getting on the hometown team. The Jays have given the Rogers Center crowds very little to actually cheer for. The Jays offense looks to be all about the home run… AGAIN… and very little about timely hitting. This month alone Jays batters have looked completely lost when batting with two strikes. Instead of shortening up and looking for a cheap hit or just plain contact, they look long in their stride; still swinging for the fences. This approach, or lack of it, has resulted in absolutely no sign of timely or clutch hitting and a ton of runners left on base. Seeing as how the Jays have already lost 8 games by 1 run, perhaps a different approach at the plate could lead to more runs, and subsequently more wins.

Just Shut Your Mouth Jose

Last year while watching a game, a buddy and I were talking about how much Jose Bautista whines about an umpire’s strike zone. Granted, sometimes he does have a legitimate qualm with a strike call, but for the most part he is just bitching. Now most people would want their leader and captain to be fiery and competitive, but Jose has to pick and choose when to share his discrepancies with the man in blue. Personally, I believe that Bautista’s antics with the umps is what led to Lawrie’s tantrum at home plate and subsequent suspension. Perhaps if Jose had more tact, so would the younger members of the Jays. Now fast forward to this season. We’re one month in and Jose is back at it. Once again, granted that he is getting squeezed more often than most hitters, but do you ever consider that maybe that is because of him whining in the first place?! I can guarantee you that umps KNOW that the Jays bitch WAY more than any other team, and they come to town with that chip on their shoulder and lawn mower waiting to get started up. Jose, I implore you… please be more respectful to the man behind the dish, set an example… and good things may happen.

The Corpses of Blue Jays Past

yankees

I always thought Vernon Wells got a raw deal in Toronto. Okay, he got a sweet deal from JP Ricciardi and the Blue Jay brass, one to the tune of 7 years/$126 million (vomits), but from Toronto fans he got a raw deal. Once he inked that contract the spotlight focused squarely in VW. Unfortunately he did not perform the way that was expected of a player who commanded that type of salary and he was soon seen as a liability, or at least his contract was. This is the same thing that happened to Bryan McCabe with the Maple Leafs, a good, but not great player who had some good seasons but was paid to have GREAT or HALL OF FAME seasons. Both players would draw the ire and hatred of their respected fan bases. Both seemed unmoveable. McCabe because of a no trade clause and VW because of the absurd contract, but both did move on from Toronto. To this day, no one is sure how AA convinced the Angels to take on Vernon Wells contract, plus give back players, but they did. Since that trade, VW has been a baseball afterthought. He lost his starting role to uber phenom Mike Trout, and would rot on the pine if not for his contract status.

Amazingly, the Angels would also be able to trade the albatross contract that is Vernon Wells. This time the team (sucker) getting Wells was the injury depleted New York Yankees. Wells wouldn’t be the only former Jay headed to the Bronx as Lyle Overbay had also signed with the Bronx Bombers following his release from the Red Sox. Sure enough the Jays and Yankees were slotted to play each other 7 times in April. Sure enough the Yankees would not only win 6 of the 7, including a 4 game sweep, but Wells and Overbay would prove to be the reincarnate of Ruth and Gehrig against the Blue Jays. Wells would hit 2 homers against the jays and hit just over .500 in the 7 games, where Overbay would hit a game winning homer off Dickey and hit .333 in the 7 games. Because not only is it possible for the Blue Jays to get kicked while they’re down, but they also get pissed and defecated on as well.

Has There Been Any Reason To Cheer?

Fear not Blue Jays fans. There have been some silver linings to the nightmare month that was April. Now I am not here to kiss your boo boos and tell you all will be ok, because I honestly don’t know if it will be ok, I really don’t. But there are some positives that we can take away from April:

• JP Arencibia was the Blue Jays best and most consistent hitter in April. Although he hit for a low average (.240) his power numbers were very good with 8 HR, 2 2B, and 15 RBI. Now his naysayers will point out the low average and low OBP, but that is nothing new with JP. You should know by now that JP is a guy who will have minimal walks and swing and miss a lot, but he is also the guy who will MASH the ball all over the yard. I’ll take the power number and production any day from the catchers position in the lineup. If he does manage to become more selective at the plate, he will only see his offensive numbers and value go up

Kawasaki Bow 2

• I don’t think any Blue Jay has had more of an impact on the fan base than Munenori Kawasaki. When Reyes went down with the ankle injury instead of panicking and trading for the John MacDonald’s of the world, Alex Anthopolous just calmly called down to Buffalo and purchased Kawasaki’s contract from AAA. Anthopolous has signed Kawasaki to a minor league deal back at the start of spring training, hoping to use him as a stop gap until Ryan Goins stepped into take the fulltime SS job at Buffalo. Then Reyes ankle went pop… enter Kawasaki. Now Kawasaki is not going to win any batting titles, but he is going to bring a level of intensity that Blue Jays fans haven’t seen in years. He’s from the light hitter, decent defender school of shortstops. A guy who shouldn’t hurt you in the field, and who most likely wont help you at the plate. But man is he fun to watch. The way he goes all out for a grounder, how he runs a foul ball into the stands, and I haven’t even mentioned the borderline racial bow. I love it. I’m all in for the Munenori Kawasaki era no matter how brief it is.

Where do we go from here?
I don’t quite think it’s time to push that panic button, but it sure is coming close. What gets me to sleep at night is the fact that teams like the Angels, Dodgers, Giants, and Rays are all underperforming. I tell myself that it is STILL ONLY APRIL… then cry a bit more. But it is only April and the Jays haven’t looked like complete garbage. We’ve lost 8 games by 1 run and 5 games by 2 runs and our offense is showing signs of life. Edwin Encarnacion has been tearing the cover off the ball in the past week and some of the other components have shown signs of waking up. I believe that the Jays still have both the time and team to turn this season around.

Tonight’s game saw them take a 3 run lead on an Edwin BOMB to the 500 level only to give it right back to Boston. Instead of just sputtering and dying, the Jays managed to get a runner on and Edwin did it again. The Jays won on the long ball and a little timely hitting. I strongly believe that it is these type of games that propel a team into a hot streak and allow them to rattle off a few wins in a row. If this happens, April will just be an afterthought… after all…. April showers apparently bring May flowers.

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