Prospect Watch: Yordano Ventura

Leagues are clearing out Yordano Ventura quick, in ESP this AM he was up to 64% and that is up 23% from his last start.  If he is out there and you can drop anyone for a pitcher this is the prospect you want.

Many leagues drafted Ventura, but because of a rain out the Royals coaching staff decided to skip Ventrua’s first start rather than push him back a day.  The reasoning likely has to do with an inning limit and they might as well get the most out of later starts as possible.  In any case, most leagues seen a drop in his roster percentages and educated managers hung on to him and took the 5 game lapse.

His 2 starts since have been anything but evidence he was worth the wait.  In his first start he tossed 6 innings in a no-decision, striking out 6 and walking none, allowing no runs against the Rays.  His second start this past week Ventura pitched 7 innings against the Astros in a win giving up only a HR to Omar Infante while striking out 8 and walking one batter.

His fastball can hit 3 digits and his late innings are high 90s so his velocity is always testing a batters reaction.  Aside from (maybe) Tyler Skaggs this is the best pitcher you don’t yet know.


Prospect Pickup: George Springer

If he is on your waiver wire and you have the space this kid is worth the pick up.  He is as big a prospect name as Byron Buxton and Archie Bradley, but expect him to make a huge impact immediately with all the playing time Houston has to spare.

As big as a defensive back and as fast as a wide receiver this kid wide receiver, this kid could be as great as Mike Trout if he can hit as good.

Don’t wait on his production or he will be gone.


I Have Never Seen Jackie Robinson Play Baseball

I have never seen Jackie Robinson play baseball, he died years before I was born.

I have seen a few highlights of his career but can only recall one clip I have ever seen of him playing baseball and it is probably the most well known clip, Jackie steals home against the Yankees in the World Series.  Robinson played 10 seasons in the Majors and I have probably seen less than 10 minutes of game footage.  That goes across the board for most players before my time, watching old footage unless it is part of a documentary is just not something I have a desire to sit down and watch, I prefer to read about old-time baseball.  As the man with the waxed mustache would say it has a certain je ne sais quoi. 

By the numbers baseball historians will tell you he was a tremendous player, he hit .311 stole about 200 bases and drove in 730 runs, winning an MVP, a batting title, the rookie of the year, 6 all-star selections and one World Series ring.

They will further say Jackie Robinson accepted an offer from Branch Rickey to join the Brooklyn Dodgers organization in 1946, and worked his way through the system to debut with the Dodgers the following year on April, 15 1947.

As a kid growing up I knew the name Jackie Robinson, but I really didn’t know much about the man until I started reading baseball history books in high school.  Many people enjoy Revolution history, WWII history and early settler history.  My hobby has always been as I like to call it train-era baseball when players spent hours together between stations.  Books began to tell a tale of heroics of a man I never seen play.

In 1997 Major League Baseball universally retired his number across baseball.  That same year Ken Griffey Jr. asked permission to wear number 42 on the anniversary of his first game to honor Robinson; in 2009 it became a tradition league wide.  And in 2013 one of the most amazing films not just about baseball, but in cinema history was released with Chadwick Boseman portraying Jackie Robinson wonderfully in 42.  I have seen more film of Boseman portraying Robinson than Robinson portraying himself on the field.

Today you will hear many African-American players admit that they owe their place on the field to Robinson.  In the past Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson and Ken Griffey Jr. to name a few have made statements that without the efforts of Robinson they probably would not be playing baseball.   Even Martin Luther King Jr. himself credits Jackie Robinson for his part in the civil rights movement just by playing baseball with the Dodgers in the late-1940’s.

Andrew McCutchen, Derek Jeter, David Ortiz, Starling Marte and Curtis Granderson are some of the players in baseball I really enjoy watching anytime they are on tv.  Rickey Henderson, Harold Reynolds, Tony Gwynn and Willie Randolph are just a few of the players I loved growing up.  I may not have seen much of Robinson on film, but every time I seen Rickey steal a base, every time McCutchen dives to make a catch, each time Jeter make a great play, when Gwynn chased .400 and Ortiz rip a ball over the monster I see Jackie play.

Thank you for making the journey, Jackie.

“I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me … all I ask is that you respect me as a human being.”  ~Jackie Robinson


Greatest Baseball Songs

I am going to catch some heat for this list, music is so subjective and listener based that nearly every list will be different for sure.  To lesssn some of that blow back my list is in random order as they came to the page.

Before anyone asks where “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is, I thought it would be best left in its own category along with songs like the “National Anthem” or “Amazing Grace” that are cultural treasures rather than a commercial song.

Centerfield by John Fogerty is a special song to baseball in my opinion, it’s not directed towards any one team or even a league of play, it is the desires of a every child and player who has ever held a ball in their hand, to just play the game.  Several legends receive their shout outs including one fictional character, but the song is not an homage as many in history have been.

Whenever I am watching Bull Durham or hearing it at a park the song never grows old, it makes me feel like playing.

Bill Lee by Warren Zevon is actually a horrible and quirky song, but like an ugly dog it is so bad it is good and like its namesake incredibly odd.  I honestly can not listen to it all that often but if there was ever a song that so perfectly reflected it’s message it is “Bill Lee.”

Paradise by the Dashboard Light by Meatloaf is not as traditional a baseball tune as any other on this list, in fact the song is not really about baseball, it is about two teens making out in a car on Lover’s Lane.  Once you throw in the baseball to add significance and description to their “doings” it becomes sort of a baseball song.  But when you use Phil Rizzuto to do the deed it is a damn great baseball song.  Probably the most mainstream style music on this list, you could hear “Dashboard” playing on most any passerby’s car with a different feeling in each listener.

Tessie by the Dropkick Murphys is sometime forgotten as a baseball song, not by Bostonians, but by Hardcore Punk fans who love the Dropkicks.  Even Sox fans sort of miss the meaning because most don’t understand Tessie is not some girl, “Tessie” is a Broadway tune that the Boston teams sang to the opposition to distract them in the early 1900’s.  The Dropkicks took that history and turned it into a tune about the Rooters who sang a tune.  Why Fenway plays “Sweet Caroline” in the 7th rather than “Tessie” is a mystery to me.

To the Veterans Committee by the Baseball Project is one of dozens of great songs from a supergroup formed of three REM members and two alternative rockers who have a long history in the genre.  All of their songs are about baseball as their band name suggests, but this one is extra-special for any fan of Dale Murphy and a rallying cry to plead his case as a forgotten member of the Hall of Fame.  They also have a great tune titled, “13” that calls out specifically one PED user, but really is a message to all.

I could run this list all day long.  What are your favorite tunes?


The Rivalry Resumes

Every sport has a marquee game that can get the whole nation to tune in.  The NFL has the Packers and Bears, College Ball has Duke and UNC, NCAA football has Michigan and Ohio St and the NBA has Celtics and Lakers when the teams are competitive.

Baseball has the Yankees and Red Sox.

Is there a better rivalry in sports?  No.  Absolutely not.

19-games a year, also 11% of the schedule for two teams that share a division. 19-games can decide a division that is usually decided by far less.  19-games that mean everything for two great cities.

I root for one team and live in the other city.  I married a woman who roots for the other team.  These games mean everything to this household, but it a very good way.

For the next four days baseball is at near a World Series level.

Watch, enjoy, repeat.


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, and Two Reasons to Change

This photo of a Robert Roche, the executive director of the American Indian Education Center in Ohio standing face-to-face with a Cleveland fan who identifies himself as “Rodriguez” single-handedly changed my opinion, or at least cemented it to one side the Native American team name issue.

Roche annually protests the Cleveland home opener for baseball, and for the longest time I must admit I took a semi-neutral stance on the issue, but also a neutral stance is in a way a vote for keeping things status quo.  My thought, along with many sports fans is that it is just a team name, it’s not meant to be offensive, and in some way it is an honor to the American Indian Tribes.

I thought Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo was a cute image, but the team agreed to take the imagery off the hat and go with a “C” logo. The Blackhawks were very dignified in style, the Warriors use no association these days and the Braves were pretty neutral with no really Native American imagery on their uniforms since maybe the 1980s (don’t quote me on that.)  I will say I thought that Redskins was a fairly over the line name, but I also am a lover of tradition.  I felt that it was best to leave it untouched, in my opinion no owners were deliberately trying to disrespect Native Americans so why force them to change.

Then I saw this photo.  And two reasons to change, both grown men.

The look on Mr. Roche’s face is that of utter dismay and disappointment, like a father looking at a son who was just arrested for selling drugs.  And “Rodriguez” looks like he has not clue why Mr. Roche wants nothing to do with his extended hand and in fact later told reporters that he saw nothing wrong with his outfit.

I don’t think the name Cleveland Indians is offensive in nature, but the image and behavior it encourages is shameful and a disgrace to fellow humans with a particular genetic background.  I don’t know any full-blooded Native Americans or much-blooded for that matter so I don’t have first hand reaction to the tomahawk chop or drum banging and chanting, I would leave those opinions up to them, but for the love of the game, don’t let fans like “Rodriguez” give all fans a bad name.

America is a very sensitive society to the beliefs and opinions of others, why are the American Indians the only group this society openly offends and it goes unchecked?

For that I am sorry Mr. Roche and your fellow brethren.


Prospect Watch: Yangervis Solarte

One month ago the expectation was the Eduardo Nunez would break the season with the Yankees as the utility infielder and back up plan if Derek Jeter was to go down with injury.

Nunez spent parts of 4 season on the 25-man roster with Yankees and his play for much of those four seasons was generally considered acceptable.  That was until a career minor league journeyman came into camp and hit .429 with 2 HRs and 9 RBI in limited play.

Since camp has broken Solarte has not slowed hitting .471 in 6 games with 4 doubles and 6 RBIs.  Much of Solarte’s playing time has come at 3rd base since taking the job from Kelly Johnson who has again regained a starting role to fill in for injured Mark Teixeira.  Solarte is also capable of playing short in place of Jeter during rest days.

Solarte is only 25 but he has spent 7 seasons between the Twins and Rangers systems after arriving in America from Venezuela at 18 years old.

When a kid like this catches on it really energizes a team and their fans.  The last platoon-to-starter guy I remember being this excited about was Andy Stankiewicz who was eventually replaced by a rookie named Derek Jeter, maybe this rookie will replace the legend… but not until 2015.

Do you pick up Solarte?  Depends how deep your league is, but it is not out of the question if you want to gamble, but the realistic high for a season batting average is probably .280s.

Yankees trade Eduardo Nunez to Twins for Miguel Sulbaran

The Yankees and Twins have swapped a pair of prospects.  With the Yankees sending IF Nunez to the Twins for LHP Sulbaran.

Neither player is with the big club, but both had hopes to make the roster to provide depth.  Surprise play from Yangervis Solarte derailed Nunez’s plans to platoon around the infield and made him expendable.

Read more here: http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2014/04/twins-acquire-eduardo-nunez.html

Focusing on the Playoffs everyday of the year.


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