Category Archives: MLB

2017 MLB Preseason Position Rankings

Tomorrow is Opening Day for Major League Baseball. It’s one of the greatest times of the year to be a sports fan. The Final Four will be played in Phoenix this weekend, the NBA and NHL playoffs are right around the corner, the Masters are next week and the NFL Draft is just a few weeks away. Those are all iconic sporting events, but there is only one America’s pastime. The Chicago Cubs finally broke the longest “curse” in professional sports history in 2016.

So what is in store for 2017?

Baseball is back, so we decided to rank the best of the best entering the 2017 season. Three of my colleagues and I ranked our top MLB players by position. The point system goes as follows:

1st Place = 6 points

2nd Place = 5 points

3rd Place = 4 points

4th place = 3 points

5th Place = 2 points

Honorable Mention = 1 point

*  = Unanimous

Starting Pitchers are ranked from 10 to 1 beginning with 11 points for the top position and ending with 2 points for the 10th spot. The total from our four lists were added together to come up with our final preseason rankings.

Top 10 Starting Pitchers

Honorable Mention: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers (6 points)

Honorable Mention: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners (8 points)

No. 10: David Price, Boston Red Sox (9 points)

No. 9: Johnny Cueto, San Francisco Giants (11 points)

No. 8: Noah Syndergaard, New York Mets (19 points)

No. 7: Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs (20 points)

T-No. 5: Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (21 points)

T-No. 5: Jon Lester, Chicago Cubs (21 points)

No. 4: Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants (29 points)

No. 3: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox (34 points)

No. 2: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals (35 points)

No. 1: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers (44 points)*

 

Top 5 Catchers

Honorable Mention: Evan Gattis, Houston Astros (2 points)

Honorable Mention: Russell Martin, Toronto Blue Jays (4 points)

No. 5: Yasmani Grandal, Los Angeles Dodgers (7 points)

No. 4: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals (8 points)

No. 3: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals (16 points)

No. 2: Jonathan Lucroy, Texas Rangers (20 points)

No. 1: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants (24 points)*

 

Top 5 First Basemen

Honorable Mention: Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles (3 points)

Honorable Mention: Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians (6 points)

No. 5: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves (8 points)

No. 4: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds (9 points)

No. 3: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks (14 points)

No. 2: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers (20 points)

No. 1: Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs (23 points)

 

Top 5 Second Basemen

Honorable Mention: Ben Zobrist, Chicago Cubs (4 points)

Honorable Mention: Ian Kinsler, Detroit Tigers (5 points)

No. 5: Brian Dozier, Minnesota Twins (8 points)

No. 4: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox (10 points)

No. 3: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals (12 points)

No. 2: Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners (20 points)

No. 1: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros (24 points)*

 

Top 5 Shortstops

Honorable Mentions: Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox (5 points)

T-No. 5: Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants (6 points)

T-No. 5: Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays (6 points)

No. 4: Addison Russell, Chicago Cubs (7 points)

No. 3: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros (13 points)

No. 2: Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians (16 points)

No. 1: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers (23 points)

 

Top 5 Third Basemen

Honorable Mention: Kyle Seager, Seattle Mariners (3 points)

Honorable Mention: Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers (4 points)

No. 5: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays (5 points)

No. 4: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (12 points)

No. 3: Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles (17 points)

No. 2: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs (20 points)

No. 1: Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays (22 points)

 

Top 5 Right Fielders

Honorable Mention: Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates (4 points)

T-No. 5: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays (6 points)

T-No. 5: Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants (6 points)

No. 4: Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (7 points)

No. 3: Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox (16 points)

No. 2: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins (19 points)

No. 1: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals (22 points)

 

Top 5 Left Fielders

Honorable Mention: Khris Davis, Oakland Athletics (4 points)

Honorable Mention: Alex Gordon, Kansas City Royals (5 points)

T-No. 4: Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs (7 points)

T-No. 4: Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers (7 points)

No. 3: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers (16 points)

No. 2: Starling Marte, Pittsburgh Pirates (17 points)

No. 1: Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets (23 points)

 

Top 5 Center Fielders

Honorable Mention: George Springer, Houston Astros (4 points)

T-No. 4: Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers (5 points)

T-No. 4: Adam Eaton, Washington Nationals (5 points)

T-No. 4: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates (5 points)

No. 3: Dexter Fowler, St. Louis Cardinals (9 points)

No. 2: Christian Yelich, Atlanta Braves (19 points)

No. 1: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (24 points)*

 

Top 5 Designated Hitters

Honorable Mention: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2 points)

Honorable Mention: Kendrys Morales, Kansas City Royals (4 points)

No. 5: Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (5 points)

No. 4: Carlos Beltran, Houston Astros (8 points)

No. 3: Victor Martinez, Detroit Tigers (9 points)

No. 2: Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles (15 points)

No. 1: Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners (18 points)

 

Top 5 Closers/Relief Pitchers

Honorable Mention: Cody Allen, Cleveland Indians (1 point)

Honorable Mention: Wade Davis, Chicago Cubs (4 points)

No. 5: Craig Kimbrel, San Diego Padres (5 points)

No. 4: Kenley Jansen, Los Angeles Dodgers (10 points)

No. 3: Aroldis Chapman, New York Yankees (11 points)

No. 2: Zach Britton, Baltimore Orioles (12 points)

No. 1: Andrew Miller, Cleveland Indians (18 points)

 

      

Paul Schaum        Alex Richter         Matt Hrncar         Ethan Buss

Ichiro: The New Mr. 3000

In 2002, the Houston Rockets selected China sensation Yao Ming, which certainly sparked the NBA. Playing 9 seasons with the team, he certainly had made an impact not just on the league, but the sports world in general.

One year prior, in 2001, the Seattle Mariners selected a player from Japan by the name of Ichiro Suzuki. In his rookie year, he won AL MVP and Rookie of the Year with an astounding batting average of .350 and 69 RBIs, along with 56 stolen bases to his credit. He also owns the record for most hits by a rookie (242). If you have ever seen him play, you can tell that he is beyond fast. His speed is lethal and predominantly due to his slap hitting abilities, he could beat out any throw no matter where he hit the ball.

Seattle Mariners

After 12 successful seasons with the Mariners, he was then traded to the New York Yankees in 2012, the team where all of the hot free agents go. Obviously not the hot numbers like he had with Seattle, but Ichiro still managed to make it to the ALCS with the Yankees in that same year but lost to the Detroit Tigers.

ichiro2

In 2015, he was sent to the Miami Marlins. The following year, in 2016, Ichiro would reach the pinnacle of offensive baseball. Only 29 players have achieved this prestigious honor, and on August 7, 2016, he became the 30th player in MLB history to accumulate 3,000 hits in his career.  Joining such names as Pete Rose, Derek Jeter, and Hank Aaron is an incredible honor that Ichiro should be proud of.

ichiro

If you were to watch footage of Ichiro in his early years with Seattle and then watch video of him with the Marlins, you wouldn’t find much difference. He still hustles like no other, has the same batting stance, and is still incredibly dangerous whenever he steps to the plate. He is 42. Let that sink in…42 years of age. In this season thus far, he is still batting an incredible .318 and doesn’t really show any signs of slowing down.

In hockey, there’s Jaromir Jagr (age 44); in football, there’s Adam Vinatieri (43); in basketball, there’s Kevin Garnett (40); and in baseball, there’s Ichiro Suzuki, Mr. 3,000.

matt

Matt Hrncar

Raised in a competitive family, sports has been the majority of my life. Not only playing but watching as well. Born in Oak Lawn, IL (suburb of Chicago), I tend to have a bias, but I try to keep an open mind. Nonetheless, I enjoy watching and talking sports.

Twitter: @ChiTownGuy24

 

Winners & Losers of MLB Trade Deadline

Another year, another trade deadline passed for Major League Baseball. You’ll always have some shockers and some head-scratchers, but it truly wouldn’t be a deadline without some curveballs. So without further ado, let’s see my Winners and Losers:

Winners:

  • Cleveland Indians
    The White Sox season is already in the dumps, so no chance to clinch the division at this point. This season, Cleveland has been the true sleeper. In the same division as the World Series champion Royals and the money-pitted Tigers, you wouldn’t expect the Indians to be making this big of a difference. Holding a solid 4.5 game lead over the 2nd place Tigers, the Indians added more talent to their pitching rotation. On Sunday, they acquired New York Yankee’s Andrew Miller, who is 6-1 with a 1.39 ERA in exchange for prospects. Gulp.

Miller

  • Baltimore Orioles
    The AL East division is extremely tough this year. The Baltimore Orioles are leading by a half-game over last year’s division champs, Toronto Blue Jays. It’s essentially a three-way race for first place in this division. That’s right, the Boston Red Sox are only a game and a half behind Baltimore, thanks to the young bats of Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr…. and of course, David ‘Big Papi’ Ortiz’s dynamic “final” year. The Orioles already have a stacked team, but on Sunday, they acquired Wade Miley from Seattle, who’s presence as a lefty could provide a spark to the pitching game.

miley

  • Chicago Cubs
    One of the best teams in the league just got better. We all know how amazing the Cubs are, but acquiring the fastest reliever in the game in Aroldis Chapman?! That’ll certainly help with their bullpen struggles.

Aroldis_Chapman

  • Texas Rangers
    Alright Texas, we see you. After 4 months, the Rangers have a solid 6-game lead over the Houston Astros, whilst dealing with injuries along the way. They’re good, right? Yes, but they’ve found a way to become better. They got Carlos Beltran, the power-hitting outfielder from the Yankees, as well as getting Milwaukee’s all-star catcher, Jonathan Lucroy. I can guarantee you, we will be seeing the Rangers in October this season and many more to come.

lucroy beltran

Losers:

  • Chicago White Sox
    Shocker, right? As a White Sox fan, it pains me to not see any notifications on my phone when it comes to the trade deadline. What started as a very promising  season in April, with an AL-leading record of 17-8, has become another disappointing year as reality set in; big bats went silent, management’s common sense went south, and quality/near-excellent starts from our pitchers get blown by the bullpen. After 4 months of play, they now are 51-54, 10.5 games behind the first-place Indians. When the deadline comes around, we’re going to sell sell sell, right? Not quite. The ingenious general manager, Rick Hahn,  traded one reliever to St. Louis and optioned an outfielder to AAA. Wait, so that’s it? After criticizing the team of being “mired in mediocrity,” he does absolutely nothing at the trade deadline. Let us fans soak in this mediocrity because with the management we have, there’s no chance we’re going to win the division any time soon.

rickhahn

  • Pittsburgh Pirates
    In my opinion, the most disappointing team in the National League. It all started last postseason, when they were embarrassed in the Wild Card game at home against the Chicago Cubs. Yes, they’re in a tough division with Chicago and the St. Louis Cardinals, but there can be no excuses. With an offensive powerhouse including the dangerous Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison, and David Freese, you’d expect them to power their way to the postseason, right? Well they have a lot of work to do if they want to make it there. They’re 10.5 games behind the Cubs, and they need to make changes. What do they do? Trade away one of their best starters in Francisco Liriano to the Blue Jays, and Mark Melancon to Washington. How does that help their struggling offense? Good question.

liriano

matt

   Matt Hrncar

Raised in a competitive family, sports has been the majority of my life. Not only playing but watching as well. Born in Oak Lawn, IL (suburb of Chicago), I tend to have a bias, but I try to keep an open mind. Nonetheless, I enjoy watching and talking sports.

Twitter: @ChiTownGuy24

Ken Griffey Jr. & Mike Piazza: Your 2016 HOF Inductees

Every day is a special day in the city of Cooperstown, New York, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, but what’s more exciting is adding additional players to this legendary building. Last year, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio solidified their place into baseball history with their enshrined plaques entering baseball’s holy grail. This year, we add two more; longtime Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey Jr. and Mets catcher Mike Piazza. To get into any Hall of Fame, you not only have to leave your mark on the game, but you have to win over the team, the city and the fans. No one displays better examples of that than these two players.

griffey

I had the honor of watching Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza when I was a little kid, and they were a blast to watch. Thanks to Griffey, I would always love to wear my hat backwards… as did many kids in my era. It didn’t mean cockiness, it meant confidence. He displayed that every time he stepped up to the plate. That sweet swing of his was something to behold.

As far as my favorite Mets players, no one tops one of the greatest catchers of all time, Mike Piazza. In the same state as the more popular New York Yankees, Piazza essentially revived the New York Mets franchise. His presence, his power, his incredible abilities behind the plate displayed nothing short of excellence.

piazza

Ken Griffey Jr. was first drafted in 1987 by the Seattle Mariners and led them to their first two playoff appearances in franchise history in 1995 and 1997. He hit .294 during his years with the Mariners, followed by .370 with the Cincinnati Reds, and .538 in one season with the Chicago White Sox. He totaled 630 home runs, which is good for sixth all time. On top of all that, KG is a 13-time All-Star, a 10-time Gold Glover and the 1997 AL MVP.

Mike Piazza is what you call the ultimate underdog story. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 62nd (!) round of the 1988 MLB Draft. In 1993, he set a rookie record for catchers with 35 home runs. In his first 10 seasons, he made the All-Star team. I the latter half of his career, he made it two additional times, making him a 12-time All-Star. He also won 10 Silver Slugger awards as the best catcher in the National League. During his 16-year career, he batted .308 as a catcher, which is hard to accomplish. His 427 home runs are the most among all catchers in MLB history.

Two of the greatest baseball players of all time are finally home, in Cooperstown.

matt

   Matt Hrncar

Raised in a competitive family, sports has been the majority of my life. Not only playing but watching as well. Born in Oak Lawn, IL (suburb of Chicago), I tend to have a bias, but I try to keep an open mind. Nonetheless, I enjoy watching and talking sports.

Twitter: @ChiTownGuy24

The Year of Rain: The end of the longest droughts in sports

Any and every sports fan knows about the end to Cleveland’s historic title-less drought by now, but that makes me wonder… what other droughts could be ending in the near future?

Before LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers completed an unprecedented comeback from being down 3-1 to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, the city of Cleveland, Ohio had gone 52 years without tasting victory. The drought is over, and the city’s sports teams are feeling it. The Indians own the longest winning streak in the league this season and are leading the American League Central Division.

Before we look into what curses could be broken and the droughts that can be ended, let’s reminisce about some of the other feats that have been accomplished this year so far.

How about we start with the sexiest of all accomplishments? “Big Sexy” Bartolo Colon hit his first home run of his 19-year career on May 7, 2016. At 42 years old, Colon became the oldest player in MLB history to hit his first home run. As a result, the sports world went nuts with memes, t-shirts and all sorts of “Big Sexy” products. Someone even simulated a season of MLB: The Show in which all of the players on the game were Bartolo Colon.

colon

The Villanova Wildcats won their first men’s basketball national championship since 1985. It took one of the best games in NCAA history and a buzzer-beating three-point shot by Kris Jenkins to end the 31-year drought.

nova

In 2015, the Kansas City Royals also ended a 31-year drought by defeating the New York Mets to win the World Series for the first time since 1985.

royals

A lot of fans have been experiencing the thrill of ultimate victory for the first times in their lives. Let’s see if we can predict what other fan bases will be joining them.

We start with four baseball teams, who are all among the best records in the majors, and all have a chance at bringing home the championship in 2016.

Chicago Cubs

The Cubs have quickly become one of the best teams in Major League Baseball after taking the traditional route of building from ground up. Most sports fans know of or have heard of the “Curse of the Billy Goat.” The North Side drought is the longest in professional sports. Let’s just say your great grandparents have not seen the Cubs win the World Series. It has officially been 107 years since the North Side claimed the title.

On the bright side, they made it all the way to the NLCS in 2015 and have one of the best records in the majors in 2016. The Cubs started blazing hot in 2016, getting off to a 46-20 record in the first few months of the season. They have cooled off since then, but many people still have the Cubs as the World Series favorites.

cubs

Can you imagine what the city of Chicago will look like if the Cubs win it all? Chicago Fire: the Sequel… too soon?

Cleveland Indians

Not surprising that the Indians would have one of the longest droughts in professional sports, considering the entire city had gone 52 years without a title.

The Indians have gone an astounding 67 years without winning the World Series. If only they could just find the next Willie Mays Hayes and Ricky Vaughn to lead them all the way.

But… the Cavaliers has given something to the city because the Indians now own the best record in the majors after rifling off 14 wins in a row following the Cavs magnificent title run.

indians

If the magic continues, this drought could end as well… leading the way for the Browns to complete the sweep.

HAHAHA I’m kidding. I doubt that RG3rd string can lead a team to the Super Bowl.

Texas Rangers

After all of the success that Ron Washington in Texas, it is hard to believe that the Texas Rangers have never won a World Series in franchise history. The franchise began in 1961, placing the drought at a long 55 years.

With star players like Nolan Ryan among the all-time Rangers greats, one would think that they would be able to win at least one title.

rangers

Nevertheless, they are among the best teams in baseball. They have a legitimate ace in Cole Hamels leading the way. It would not be out of the realm of possibility to see this drought end in 2016.

Washington Nationals

Before they were the Washington Nationals, they were the Montreal Expos. The Expos were not a very successful franchise; however, since they have moved to the nation’s capital, they have had some very competitive teams. They have also had some epic collapses including last season, when they gave up a large division lead to the New York Mets and ended up missing the playoffs all together, adding to the franchise’s 44-year drought.

Despite last year’s debacle, the Nationals have a championship caliber team in 2016. They lead the defending NL Champion Mets in the NL East, and they also have the reigning NL MVP Bryce Harper.

nationals

Washington D.C., who is tied for the title-less longest drought among sites with at least three major pro teams, may be a city of champions come October.

And finally… a man’s sport. Just kidding. Have you ever tried to hit a 100 mph fastball? Good luck!

Arizona Cardinals

The pride and joy of the desert has not won a Super Bowl, or even a championship since moving to Arizona. They were established in 1920 as the Chicago Cardinals and were eventually moved to St. Louis before ending up in the Southwest.

All the moves didn’t matter, as the team has not won a championship in 67 years.

cardinals

With veteran Carson Palmer behind center, swagmaster Bruce Arians at the helm and the “No Flight Zone” on defense, the Cardinals are looking to improve on their NFC Championship loss in 2015. Tyrann Mathieu is healthy this time around, so look for Arizona to make a run at the title in 2016.

What To Do With The White Sox?

Typical for me to start off my BDSSP debut talking about my favorite baseball team. Being in the AL Central, you would expect a lot of scratching and clawing for first place in the division. However, the Twins are one of the worst teams in the league, and are so far behind everyone that there are no worries about getting last place. Nonetheless, when you have players like Jose Abreu, Chris Sale and newly acquired Todd Frazier, you would expect at least division champs, but they’re not quite there yet.

sale

Coming out of the All Star break at a record of 45-43, they lost three straight to the struggling Los Angeles Angels, who themselves are having an extremely difficult year at 14.5 games back of the division-leading Texas Rangers. For those that have followed the White Sox for a while, you know that they have coined the term “rollercoaster” when describing their seasons of late. After the opening month of the 2016, with a record of 17-8, people (such as myself) were hoping for a Chicago vs. Chicago World Series… that was until reality set in.

The following month, they went 11-17 to bring their record to 28-25. Usually I’d be jumping for joy with a record like that, but considering Cleveland (with the help of LeBron and the Cavs) are one of the hottest teams in the league, and the defending World Series champion Kansas City Royals are looking for a repeat, it’s not good enough.

It certainly doesn’t help to have a seven-game losing streak in May, a five-game losing streak in June, and start the second half of the season being swept by the Angels. So much backlash, so much criticism…seems like the same old song and dance for the South Side. I honestly thought this offseason was one of the more productive offseasons the Sox have had in a while with notable signings that included 2nd baseman Brett Lawrie, catchers Dioner Navarro and ex-Tiger Alex Avila, ex-Cubs outfielder Austin Jackson, and of course the 2015 HR Derby champ, 3rd baseman Todd “Todd Father” Frazier.

Chicago White Sox's Todd Frazier, right, celebrates with Brett Lawrie (15) after hitting a three-run home run off Oakland Athletics' Chris Bassitt during the fifth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Sure, the division is still up for grabs, but we have struggled against the teams in our division, which is certainly not helping our cause. Another thing that is not helping our cause is the inability to find that third punch after the 1-2 rotation of Sale and Jose Quintana. But wait, we got James Shields from the Padres, so that should solve it, right? Nope. He’s 2-4 with a 6.43 ERA.

So with all this helter skelter, who do we blame? Robin Ventura (manager), Don Cooper (pitching coach), Rick Hahn (general manager)? As fans, it seems at this point it doesn’t matter. Whatever the majority of us demand, there is a 99.99% chance it won’t happen. But with the MLB trade deadline coming up, it’d be interesting to see if anything gets done. No way we’re catching Cleveland, who are 9 games ahead of us, but there’s still somewhat of a chance we can get the second wild card spot.

AL wild card 7-18-16

However, we have to win in order to have a shot at it.

matt

   Matt Hrncar

Raised in a competitive family, sports has been the majority of my life. Not only playing but watching as well. Born in Oak Lawn, IL (suburb of Chicago), I tend to have a bias, but I try to keep an open mind. Nonetheless, I enjoy watching and talking sports.

Twitter: @ChiTownGuy24