The Warning Track: Champions in Chicago. Finally.

5-3

Those two numbers put together still don’t quite make half of 108, as in 108 years, but 5-3 is now the bigger number in Chicago, and forever will be.

Or, even more appropriately, Bryant to Rizzo, for a groundball out that the 2016 Cubs managed to make look easy.

It wasn’t an easy play. It wasn’t an easy season, and it hasn’t been an easy 108 years. But the wait is finally over, with that 5-3 slow roller to third.

People knew their story, and people know their story. No longer is it a story of curses, of billy goats, of the most unfortunate of fan interferences in the history of the sport, of Lovable Losers.

It’s a story of odds-defiers. These Cubs became only the sixth team to come back from a 3-games-to-1 World Series deficit to win it all.

It’s a story of focus on one goal that was finally reached Thursday morning, at approximately 12:47 a.m. ET. The Cubs this year boasted the reigning NL Manager of the Year and Cy Young honoree, and will almost certainly feature this year’s NL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner once again. They won the division for the first time since 2008. They had the best record in baseball, and for much of the season were threatening for the best 162-game record in history.

Of course, it wasn’t enough. Now those narratives are all relegated to the sidelines.

It’s a story of fulfilled promises. Joe Maddon, arguably a Hall of Famer already even without a ring, coming to a city desperate to end the longest drought in American professional sports. The prospects with the highest expectations since before they were drafted – Kris Bryant, Addison Russel, Javier Baez, Anthony Baez – never succumbing to the pressure.

Hell, the combined age of that core group of gritty, unrelenting and, perhaps, dynastic athletes doesn’t even sniff 108.

Before this, the 112th Fall Classic in the history of Major League Baseball, I said that the Cleveland Indians winning it all would be the better story than the Cubs ending their drought, what with their scrappy attitude and the challenges they overcame to get to October, let along going 7-1 against two teams in Boston and Toronto that most had favored against them.

When 39-year-old David Ross homered to take the Cubs’ lead back to three, I thought I was wrong. When Ben Zobrist hit the game-winning double in the 10th, I knew I was.

So many numbers have been associated with the Cubs’ misery over the years. 53 managers since 1908. 2003, as in the fateful 2003 NLCS. 39,465, as in the days that have passed since their last championship, a span that saw the careers of Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente, Willie Mays, Bob Gibson and countless other icons begin and end.

But the only number that matters now?

5-3. Bryant-Rizzo.

A curse lifted. A team simultaneously closing the chapter and beginning an entirely new story.

Go, Cubs, Go.

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The Warning Track: Preseason Awards Picks

In the second part of The Warning Track’s 2016 predictions this week, we focus on the first installment of our Awards Watch and who will take home hardware at season’s end.

Most Valuable Player

The average age of all MVPs – American and National Leagues – since 2010 is about 27 years old. It’s a number that makes sense; 27 is right around when a player enters their prime, as most debut in the major leagues in their early 20s.

That number also brings hesitancy in predicting that some popular picks for MVP this year will end up reaching that status. In the American League, 21-year-old Carlos Correa – reigning AL Rookie of the Year – is the overwhelming favorite to bring home the hardware.

Despite his minimal experience (432 career PAs), it’s easy to see Correa as the second-best all-around player in the AL by season’s end, behind only Mike Trout.

His dedication certainly isn’t in doubt.

His numbers from 99 games last year translates to about 35 home runs and 115 RBI over the course of a full season. Those are certainly MVP totals, and when you consider his stellar defensive play and maturity, it’s no wonder he’s the favorite.

But again…he’s only 21. If he were to pull it off, he would be the youngest MVP in history. Heck, even Bryce Harper didn’t break out until his age-22 season last year (Not that that’s much older, but he did debut when he was 19). Then again, another perennially popular pick, Mike Trout, was only 23 when he finally won MVP. Perhaps that is motivation for the even younger Correa?

The lineup surrounding individual superstars also play a part in their MVP campaigns, of course. Defending AL MVP Josh Donaldson would not have driven in the most runs in the majors last year if Bautista, Encarnacion, Martin, et al. hadn’t been on base for him bring home.

Houston’s regulars have the potential to help Correa build his MVP case in that regard, but it’s over in the Senior Circuit where the lineup factor makes one superstar stand out: Anthony Rizzo.

Not only does he almost perfectly fit the age criteria – he’ll 27 in August – but Rizzo is set to reside in the heart of potentially one of the most threatening lineups in baseball, one that features young sluggers with more experience and on-base veterans Jason Hayward and Ben Zobrist. The only thing that might hurt Rizzo is the prospect of those batting before him mashing moonshots, thus robbing him of some RBIs. Not that he’s mind. 

Of course, Harper has a greater-than-good chance of repeating as MVP. But it most likely would require numbers greater than his 42 home runs, 99 RBI and 118 runs from 2015, and I’m hesitant to predict that happening with Washington’s lineup.

Still, the prospect of an even bigger year from Harper is an enticing notion. Unless you’re a Mets fan.

The Picks: American League

1. Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

2015 stats: 41 home runs, 123 RBI, .297/.371/.568

Predicted 2016 stats: 43 home runs, 117 RBI, .289/.357/.539

 

2. Carlos Correa, Houston Astros

2015 stats: 22 home runs, 68 RBI, .279/.345/.512

Predicted 2016 stats: 33 home runs, .288/.365/.598

 

3. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

2015 stats: 41 home runs, 90 RBI, .299/.402/.590

Predicted 2016 stats: 43 home runs, 93 RBI, .309/.406/.583

The Toronto Blue Jays have the best offense in baseball to start the season, and Donaldson is the heart of it.

The Blue Jays have the best offense in baseball at the start of the season, and Donaldson is the heart of it.

 

The Picks: National League

1. Anthony Rizzo, Chicago Cubs

2015 stats: 31 home runs, 101 RBI, .278/.387/.512

Predicted 2016 stats: 34 home runs, 118 RBI, .298/.401/.545

 

2. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks

2015 stats: 33 home runs, 110 RBI, .321/.435/.570

Predicted 2016 stats: 36 home runs, 109 RBI, .329/.428/.576

 

3. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

2015 stats: 27 home runs, 67 RBI, .265/.346/.606

Predicted 2016 stats: 54 home runs, 97 RBI, .273/.362/.636

Rizzo is the unquestionable leader of a Cubs team primed for 100+ wins in 2016.

Rizzo is the unquestionable leader of a Cubs team primed for 100+ wins in 2016.

Cy Young

The age factor for Cy Young-caliber pitchers since 2010 is the same story as it is for MVPs.

The average age is just under 29; however, when removing the outlier of R.A. Dickey – who won as a 37-year-old in 2012 – the age drops down to 27.

Kershaw is the obvious choice here to win his fourth Cy Young since 2011. That would tie him for third on the all time list with Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux. 

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However, Max Scherzer’s dominant first season in the National League – in which he very nearly threw the 24th and 25th perfect games in MLB history – gives Kershaw some competition, as does the ascension of 2015 NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta.

To make things even tougher for Kershaw in his pursuit of a record 8 Cy Youngs, there’s a rotation over in New York with three or four starters that are also in the mix.

And we can’t forget about his former teammate in Arizona charged with the mission of leading a renaissance in the desert.

Meanwhile, in the more offensive-prone AL, if anyone is going to finish the season with a sub-2.00 ERA for the first time since Pedro Martinez in 2000, it could be the rapidly-evolving Sonny Gray, seemingly the only bright spot that Oakland has to look forward to this year.

It could also be Dallas Keuchel, who dominated the league en route to winning the Cy Young last year, or also perennial Opening Day starter Felix Hernandez.

There’s also dark horse candidates in Carlos Carrasco, who at age 29 is due for a breakout, and Jake Odorizzi of Tampa Bay. Actually, anyone on the Rays staff is capable of at least breaking out in a big way in 2016, much like the Mets last year. 

One thing that is for certain: as good as the AL’s young sluggers look, the league’s up and coming arms might be even better before long.

 

The Picks: American League

1. Chris Archer, Tampa Bay Rays

2015 stats: 12-13,  3.23 ERA, 252 K

Predicted 2016 stats: 18-7, 2.86 ERA, 248 K

 

2. Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians

2015 stats: 9-16, 3.49 ERA, 245 K

Predicted 2016 stats: 16-10, 2.99 ERA, 240 K

 

3. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

2015 stats: 18-9, 3.53 ERA, 191 K

Predicted 2016 stats: 17-9, 3.20 ERA, 201 K

The Picks: National League

1. Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals

2015 stats: 14-12, 2.79 ERA, 276 K

Predicted 2016 stats: 19-5, 2.12 ERA, 260 K

 

2. Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh Pirates

2015 stats: 19-8, 2.60 ERA, 202 K

Predicted 2016 stats: 19-6, 2.46 ERA, 225 K

 

3. Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers

2015 stats: 16-7, 2.13 ERA, 301 K

Predicted 2016 stats: 19-9, 2.42 ERA, 300 K

One year of exposure to Scherzer won't be enough for hitter to get on base against him very often in 2016.

One year of exposure to Scherzer won’t be enough for hitter to get on base against him very often in 2016.

 

Best of the Rest

 

AL Rookie of the Year

The Pick: Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

The Why: A career .301 hitter in the minors, Buxton is being eagerly awaited by the Twins fanbase as the one who can hopefully push them over the cusp and back into contention. Buxton has shown to be an exceptional multi-tool player, as he put on display with what was easily the best play of Spring Training.

 

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The Contenders: Joey Gallo (TEX), Jose Berrios (MIN)

 

NL Rookie of the Year

The Pick: Steven Matz, SP, New York Mets

The Why: Because an ERA over 3.00 is frowned upon in New York.

The Contenders: Corey Seager (LAD), Trea Turner (WAS)

 

AL Manager of the Year

The Pick: Jeff Banister, Texas Rangers

The Why: Texas is ready to be relevant again after enduring consecutive World Series losses in the early 2010s. A healthy mix of veteran hitting, veteran pitching and an uberprospect in Joey Gallo should thrust them back into contention, and Banister into the spotlight.

The Contenders: Terry Francona (CLE), John Gibbons (TOR)

 

NL Manager of the Year

The Pick: Dusty Baker, Washington Nationals

The Why:  A veteran manager, returning from retirement and trying to reach his first Fall Classic as a manager after 3,176 games managed (thus far). A team looking to live up to the sky-high expectations of yesteryear.

The narrative is too good to pass up.

The Contenders: Joe Maddon (CHC), Chip Hale (ARZ)

 

Thanks for reading.

 

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a fairly consistent basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as hot button topics like MLB’s expansion mission, which players could be headed to new homes, and the latest clubhouse chemistry conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

The Warning Track: Predicting October’s squads in March

The weather is getting warmer, the grass is getting greener and Major League Baseball marches towards Opening Day on Monday, with a triple-header preceding on Sunday.

The business of predicting who will reign supreme in their respective division is always an obstensively exciting and enticing one, like waiting for 3-0 pitch and being confident that you’ll take it for ball one,, only to swing away and hit an infield popup.

Because for most of us columnists, barring some rare mercy from the baseball gods (sportswriting gods?), most of our predictions are destroyed by the time the All-Star Break rolls around.

Exhibit A: My World Series prediction around this time last year. 

There will be injuries, there will be unforeseen breakouts, there will be hypothetical apologies to fans for leading them in the wrong direction.

Most likely.

But before that time comes around, us columnists can revel in the glory of the return of regular season baseball, and with it the false feeling that we have more say in what the 2016 season is fated to become than the baseball gods do.

We begin by predicting the postseason field, with MVP, Cy Young, and other predictions to come later in the week.

American League East 

It’s easy to be enticed by the image of David Price leading Boston to the division crown, until you remember there is a huge possibility that last year’s costly acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval perform poorly for a second consecutive year.

It’s easy to fall in love with the home-run happy group in Baltimore, until you remember that they’re a strikeout-happy core as well.

It’s easy to conclude a 30 game suspension for Aroldis Chapman might not mean much to the Yankees’ already top-three bullpen in the long run, until you remember the average age of their core is high enough for them to be considered the senior citizens of Major League Baseball.

It would also be easy to buy into the Toronto Blue Jays and the steamroller of a squad they were in the second half of the season last year, led by eventual AL MVP Josh Donaldson…and it’d be easy to think that even if they were to regress a little bit, they’d still be the favorite for the division.

Which is why I’m going with Toronto, the club that has unfinished business in returning the Fall Classic to Canada for the first time in almost a quarter of a century, as well as a stable enough rotation that should do well to weather the absence of Price.

Pick: Toronto Blue Jays

1704050871_4558663698001_jose-bautista-home-run

American League Central

The AL Central has the potential to be very much like its counterpart in the Senior Circuit – extremely competitive, with tight races and tighter storylines.

It will be interesting to see how the White Sox move on from the Adam LaRoche controversy that dominated headlines for a time during Spring Training. But even if they do, and even if Jose Abreu fulfills his MVP potential, it’s tough to think they did enough in the offseason to improve on last years’ ballclub.

In Detroit, Miguel Cabrera will be Miguel Cabrera, but it will be acquisitions like Justin Upton and Jordan Zimmerman and, perhaps most importantly, a revived, down to business Justin Verlander that will decide the fate of the 2016 Tigers. There should be some fantastic showdowns between Detroit and the defending champions in Kansas City, with a grossly underrated Indians club lurking in the shadows.

And who knows? Sports Illustrated took care not to spotlight Cleveland, so that just might be enough to get them into October.

Pick: Kansas City Royals, somewhat hesitantly

royals

 

American League West

If he can shoulder the incredible weight of expectations placed upon him, Astros shortstop Carlos Correa (.279 avg., 22 home runs, 68 RBI in 99 games in 2015) could be the second best player in the American League by the end of the season, only looking up to division co-superstar Mike Trout.

There’s reason to believe the 21-year-old Correa could play a major part in ensuring the rest of the baseball landscape that 2015 was no fluke and Houston is here to stay in contention, not to mention Dallas Keuchel, Jose Altuve, Evan Gattis…the list of impact players goes on and on…

…as it does for in-state rival Texas, which is looking to stay relevant over the course of a full season again behind Prince Fielder, veteran Adrian Beltre and 2015 trade deadline acquisition Cole Hamels.

The Rangers will look to give Houston a run for their money, and they’ve got high-end prospects waiting in the wings looking to assist if need be.

It’ll be a two-horse race between that pair of Lone Star State squads as they feast on the work-in-progress A’s, the consistently underachieving Mariners (no, I won’t be making that mistake again) and the mind-boggling Angels, who might have had the most dissapointingly quiet offseason in baseball.

Trout can do a lot, some would say he can even do it all. But expecting him to be the player to step up every day is just too much for the young star, and Albert Pujols isn’t getting any younger.

Pick: Houston Astros 

astros

American League Wild Cards

1) Cleveland Indians 

The offense has the potential to impress, but even if it doesn’t, the starting rotation in Cleveland is one to be feared. That town deserves one adequate sports team, right?

2) Texas Rangers 

While the Astros’ youth may prevail for the division, the Rangers’ experience will lead them back to October. A healthy Yu Darvish – which would mean a terrifyingly dominant Yu Darvish – is the key for Texas.

 

National League East

The Phillies and Braves are still a few years away from returning to the status of contender, and the Marlins’ success depends largely on full seasons from Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, a much-awaited phenomenon that has to happen.

Will Bryce Harper make sure the 2016 Nationals live up to the expectations of yesteryear? How quickly will the Mets rotation – essentially made up of four aces – make the baseball landscape think that the 2015 Cardinals’ staff was nothing compared to the arms they have in New York?

Those will be the dominant storylines in what should be a tight NL East all season long in the top two spots.

But Yoenis Cespedes’ decision to return to New York long-term should be what pushes the Mets over the bump. If he can lead the offense to even a semblance of what it was in the 2015 home stretch (1st in the NL after the All-Star Break in runs, home runs, and doubles), New York will withstand Harper and an overall stronger Washington club to come out on top.

Pick: New York Mets 

cespedes

National League Central

What may be the best division in all of the four major sports associations is also the easiest to predict and call it a day.

Whether the Cubs will end their curse in October remains to be seen, but it would be mind-boggling if this group doesn’t at least improve on their 98 wins from last season. Taking the two most productive players away from their rivals in St. Louis is enough to sharpie them in for the NLDS.

It will be fascinating to see how the relatively young group in Chicago – which still has a healthy dose of experienced players –  deals with the monstrous amount of expectations thrust upon them, but if any manager in the game can keep the young Cubbies’ focus on their ultimate goal, it’s Joe Maddon.

The tougher question with the NL Central is whether it will again produce three postseason teams as it did a season ago.

Pick: Chicago Cubs  

maddon

National League West

Contrary to most sportswriters, I’m pretty sold on what the Diamondbacks have cooking in Arizona.

Already armed with an offense that has been top five in the NL in four of the past five seasons, the D-Backs went out a nabbed a legitimate ace who still has something to prove in Zack Greinke (19-3, 1.66 ERA in 2015 with L.A.).

That move simultaneously set off questions marks for every starter behind Clayton Kershaw in L.A., who have been plagued by injuries this spring. Meanwhile, while it is an even year and they still have what it is by far the best battery mates in the game in Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, San Francisco will need formidable comebacks from offseason additions Jeff Samardzija (4.96 ERA in 2015) and Johnny Cueto (4.76 ERA in 13 starts with the Royals in 2015) to be competitive.

And, let’s be honest, it’s time to see what Paul Goldschmidt (.321 avg., 33 home runs, 110 RBI in 2015) can do in October.

Pick: Arizona Diamondbacks 

Arizona Diamondbacks pitchers Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin (46) prepare to hit during a spring training baseball practice, Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, in Scottsdale, Ariz.  (AP Photo/Matt York)

National League Wild Cards

1) Washington Nationals

Harper will mash, Scherzer will break hearts, and Dusty Baker might just have his best season yet as a Major League Baseball manager.

2) San Francisco Giants

What? It is an even year.

giants gif

Thanks for reading.

 

 

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a fairly consistent basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as hot button topics like MLB’s expansion mission, which players could be headed to new homes, and the latest clubhouse chemistry conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

The Warning Track: Why 2016 Would Be A Great Year To Start Watching Baseball

This column originally appeared in the Daily Lobo, the independent student newspaper at the University of New Mexico, and can be viewed here.

Major League Baseball is in somewhat of a transitional phase the likes of which neither the sport, nor its fans, have never really seen before. It’s not experiencing an existential crisis, per se, but the sport has devoted much attention and resources towards tailoring a very traditional game for a younger generation.

The modern sports fan tends to prefer the fast and furious of the NBA and NFL over the more easy-going nature of our national pastime. That’s not a bad thing, but the overused cliché that “baseball is boring/too slow/just not that exciting,” will just make the lifelong baseball fan roll their eyes.

It doesn’t have to be any of those things, though, and most people who say baseball fits any combination of those three might not have taken the time to actually sit through a game.
As it turns out, the 2016 season might be the perfect time to do just that – give the sport a try.

You don’t have to fight the urge of resisting the sport any more. And with pitchers and catchers from most major league ballclubs reporting for Spring Training duty on Friday, you’re only going to hear about it more and more as Opening Day (which has as much a right as the Monday after the Super Bowl to be a national holiday) gets ever close on April 4.

At the very least, the boys of summer will keep you occupied until the boys of fall hit the gridiron once more.

Here are just some of the big reasons why this upcoming 2016 season is a great one to start watching the sport.

Parity Parade
Baseball’s “final four” of the 2015 postseason field – the Cubs, Mets, Royals and Blue Jays – had a whopping zero World Series Championships, collectively, this century. Their respective droughts added up to 188 seasons, until the Royals ended theirs by beating the Mets.

That that relatively inexperienced group of organizations was in the running to win it all in late October is no fluke; for the past few years they and other teams have rebuilt themselves to challenge perennial contenders like the Yankees, Giants and Cardinals. It amounts to an incredible level of parity in the sport, one in which fans would be reluctant to say who is going to make it all the way.

It could be the mega-hyped young Cubs, trying to end one of the most infamous and mocked droughts in all of sports. It could be the Astros, who last year shook off the label of division cellar-dwellers to reach October and look poised to go a step further. It could also be the Mariners, who have vastly underachieved the last few years. It could even be the Giants, vying for their fourth championship in seven years.

The point is, save for a couple organizations in rebuild mode, the postseason field tough to predict, between the established contenders and the teams trying to make a name for themselves as underdogs. It will make for an exciting season, but even more importantly, an unexpected one.

Now Batting: The Kids

Just as baseball is achieving a level of parity rarely seen historically in the sport, so too is there an unprecedented amount of young talent that has taken the league by storm.

Players like Carlos Correa (21 years old), Kris Bryant (24) and reigning National League MVP Bryce Harper (23) have started to hog the spotlight, and for good reason. With veterans like Albert Pujols (36), Alex Rodriguez (40) and David Ortiz (40) all playing in the twilight of their careers, the torch has been figuratively handed off to the young guns who have a big role to play in ushering in a new era.

And don’t forget about Mike Trout (24), either. Arguably the face of major league baseball ever since Derek Jeter’s retirement in 2014, he’s finished in the top 2 in American League MVP voting in each of his four full seasons. Any perfectly competent baseball fan could agree he’s already an all-time great.

Byron Buxton, touted prospect for the Twins, will be the next young star to make waves in the major leagues this year.

Byron Buxton, touted prospect for the Twins, will be the next young star to make waves in the major leagues this year.

Relishing the DH Rules While We Still Can

MLB stands out from the other “big four” American sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL) in that there is a stark difference between how American League and National League games strategize, due to the designated hitter rules in the AL.

Essentially, in the National League there must be a pitcher’s spot in the lineup, while the AL has a “designated hitter” to occupy that spot. The result is two leagues with distinct personalities – one with more offensive fireworks and one that prides itself on being essentially a chessmatch in terms of making decisions with pitchers.

It’s a fun dichotomy to experience, but it might not be around for much longer. Due to the recent increase in pitchers suffering long-term injuries at the plate, there is now, for the first time, very real consideration to employ the DH in both leagues.

Traditionalists of the game sigh at the thought of such a change, which could be implemented as early as 2017. For that reason, the person on the fence about baseball should take it upon themselves to experience the way the game has been played for virtually its entire history before the changes (may) take place.

Vin Scully’s Final Ride

Vin Scully, lone wolf broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 1950, is as much a baseball icon as Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson or Pete Rose.

From his ability to interweave personal anecdotes seamlessly into the game to staying insightful and reactive well into his 80s, to his catalogue of memorable calls at historic moments (see: Hank Aaron hits No. 715), Scully is a pure national treasure.

Which is why the baseball world shed a collective tear when he announced that his upcoming, unprecedented 67th season would be his final one. If there is just one reason to tune in to the sport for the first time in 2016, it’s to marvel and appreciate Scully’s magic behind the mic, and to experience his final year that marks the end of an era.

Thanks for reading!

mlb_scully_01

 

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a fairly consistent basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

The Warning Track: The American League Awakens at the Trade Deadline

*all stats are through the beginning of play on August 1st, all contract information provided by http://www.rosterresource.com

Who knew when the Astros acquired Scott Kazmir from Oakland, officially opening the floodgates of MLB trades, we were about to witness one of the wildest flurries of moves in recent memory?

Aces switched uniforms. Clubs on the cusp of postseason contention became World Series favorites. A face of the franchise in the West had to pull out his passport. The balance of power was decidedly shifted to the American League, with seemingly every NL star making the switch.

It all made for an incredibly entertaining week of trades, at least until we get to contracts and numbers. In addition with discussing the short- and long-term effects of the big deals, The Warning Track has also devised its very own unique trade rating; essentially we are adding the “surprise” factor of each trade (from a scale of 1-50) with its “logical” factor on a scale of the same size, resulting in a figure unique to the trade’s initial impact at the deadline.

Make sense? Hey, we said numbers aren’t fun. But we’ll do our best.

The Biggest Impact Trades

Cincinnati sends SP Johnny Cueto to the Royals in exchange for SP/RP Brandon Finnegan, SP John Lamb, SP Cody Reed

Surprise Factor: 18

Logic Factor: 40

Trade Rating: 58

 The team with the best record in the American League – and the second best record in all of baseball – got a much needed boost for their rotation in the form of Johnny Cueto, who is en route to posting a sub-3.00 ERA for the fifth year in a row.

That not only gives a jolt of life to a starting five that ranks 11th in the AL with a 4.35 ERA, but also a legitimate ace and Game 1 starter once October rolls around.

In addition to sending two minor league arms with big league potential to the Reds, Kansas City also shipped Brandon Finnegan, who has a 2.96 ERA in 14 games this season. The 22-year-old will most likely be used to help re-fortify a Reds bullpen that ranks 14th in the NL (4.24 ERA) in the coming years, and he was expendable to the Royals, who boast a bullpen with an MLB-best 2.25 ERA that achieved prominence during the 2014 postseason and hasn’t stopped breaking hitters’ hearts since.

Lamb and Reed will also help bolster a Reds rotation that also traded away Mike Leake to the Giants.

Kansas City took the Giants to Game 7 of the World Series last year, and that was with their ace, James Shields, struggling with a 1-2 record and 6.12 ERA in five postseason starts.

This year, they might not even need to go the distance in the Fall Classic. If peak regular-season Cueto shows up in October, it might have a whole different ending for the Royals, one they were 90 feet away from experiencing last year.

And they’re betting wholeheartedly on it happening; Cueto becomes a free agent following the 2015 season.

Cueto ranked in the top 2 in the NL in 2014 in ERA, wins, Ks, WHIP, BAA, and innings pitched

Cueto ranked in the top 2 in the NL in 2014 in ERA, wins, Ks, WHIP, BAA, and innings pitched.

 Detroit sends SP David Price to the Blue Jays in exchange for SP Daniel Norris, SP Matt Boyd, SP Jairo Labourt

Surprise Factor: 10

Logic Factor: 45

Trade Rating: 55

The Blue Jays are currently in the midst of the majors’ longest active postseason drought, having not had the chance to play in October since 1993. GM Alex Anthopoulos sent a message to the rest of the league over the past week: they’re on a mission to make sure that unfortunate streak comes to an end.

Well, acquiring a legitimate ace in David Price to go along with an MLB-best offense sure seems like a good place to start.

Toronto is lingering one game back of the second wild card in the AL, their MLB-best 5.3 runs/game offset by a pitching staff that ranks 12th in the Junior Circuit with a 3.99 ERA, resulting in a 53-51 record and unfulfilled potential.

The acquisition of Price, who had a 9-4 record and 2.53 ERA with the Tigers this season, changes all of that. Not since the days of Roy Halladay in the 2000s have the Blue Jays had a dependable, consistent No. 1 guy.

It’s possible they acquired Price as a rental – he becomes a free agent at the end of the year, and he is going to be offered buckets and buckets of cash – and they gave up starter Daniel Norris, who had a 2.53 ERA in the minors in 2014, to get him.

But that just legitimizes Anthopoulos’ message: Canada’s team is all in, gunning for home and the World Series, where Price is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA.

 

Colorado sends SS Troy Tulowitzki and RP LaTroy Hawkins to the Blue Jays in exchange for SS Jose Reyes, RP/SP Miguel Castro, SP Jeff Hoffman, SP Jesus Tinoco

Surprise Factor: 47

Logic Factor: 38

Trade Rating: 85  

But Toronto team wouldn’t stop at Price, oh no. Because if you have the MLB’s scariest offense, why not make it even scarier?

In what many deemed to be an impossible task, the club north of the border was able to reel in star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from the Rockies, as well as veteran reliever LaTroy Hawkins, who had a 3.33 ERA in 26 appearances for Colorado this season.

Almost everyone was shocked when the trade was announced, including Tulo himself, and for good reason. Colorado seemed to be committed to Tulowitzki, as in 10-year-contract-that-runs-through-2020 committed. But he does seem to be taking it all in stride.

In return, Rockies got three young, promising arms, officially going younger to partially remodel their team into one led by Nolan Arenado (25 homers, 78 RBI), Carlos Gonzalez (21 homers, 52 RBI), and now 32-year-old Jose Reyes (.281, 4 homers, 35 RBI), who has become an MLB journeyman over recent years.

With the move, Toronto fully upgraded at the shortstop position, as Tulo’s 2015 season has been superior to Reyes’ in nearly every way (.303 average, 13 homers, 56 RBI), and they have him for a few more years beyond the 2015 season, solidifying them as one of the big winners of the trade deadline.

If the baseball landscape was Westeros, and the Canada-American border The Wall, be prepared, American League…Winter is coming. In the form of the Toronto Blue Jays.  

 

Philadelphia sends SP Cole Hamels and RP Jake Diekman to the Rangers in exchange for SP Matt Harrison, C Jorge Alfaro, OF Nick Williams, SP Jake Thompson, SP Alec Asher, SP Jerad Eickhoff

Surprise Factor: 33

Logic Factor: 44

Trade Rating: 77

It finally happened: the Cole Hamels saga, the question of which contender he would be traded to, finally came to an end this week.

Would he go to the Dodgers, a possible No. 3 starter where he when be the No. 1 almost anywhere else? Would the Yankees land him, in the hopes of being led to their first postseason berth since 2012? Could he be sent to the Cubs as another big piece in the greatest baseball rebirth of the 21st century?

Hamels brings consistency and postseason experience to.....

Hamels brings consistency and postseason experience to…..

Answer D, actually: None of the above. In the end, Hamels, along with relief arm Jake Diekman, was sent to the 50-52 Texas Rangers for a whole bunch of Grade-A prospects as well as Matt Harrison, who has a career ERA of 4.21. The trade puts plans in motion for two franchises in very different stages of their reboots: the Rangers, fighting to stay relevant for next year and beyond in the face of overwhelming underperformance, and the Phillies, who are essentially now where the Cubs were a few years ago.

This is an agreement made solely for long-term interests: the Rangers hope they can contend next year and the Phillies hope they get to that level by 2020.

For Texas, it all comes down to health, seemingly their nemesis of the past two seasons. Their roster is full of stars, both fresh and experienced, and Hamels will boost a rotation that ranks 13th in the AL this season with a 4.44 ERA, as well as adding postseason experience.

Add in the return of Josh Hamilton, who led the Rangers to back-to-back Fall Classic appearances in 2010 and 2011, and the Rangers are hungry to steal some thunder from their upstart division rival Houston Astros…provided they can stay healthy.

Meanwhile, in the Senior Circuit, the Phillies acquired three prospects that ranked in the top five of Texas’ farm system at the beginning of the season, a pivotal cog in the massive reboot that will give the new Star Wars a run for its money.

 

Milwaukee sends CF Carlos Gomez and SP/RP Mike Fiers to the Astros in exchange for OF Domingo Santana, OF Brett Phillips, SP Josh Hader, SP Adrian Houser

Surprise Factor: 20

Logic Factor: 35

Trade Rating: 55

 Many criticized the Astros’ acquisition of Scott Kazmir over a week ago, saying it was their strikeout-prone lineup that needed help, and not their pitching staff that is already second best in the AL.

But Houston wasn’t done dealing, solidifying their status as postseason contender by snagging offensive and defensive nightmare Carlos Gomez from the Mets Brewers in a message that says they’re ready to capitalize on being 2015’s most surprising squad.

Gomez is batting .258 this season to go along with 8 home runs and 43 RBI, and he shines in the field too; he is 11th among active players with a defensive WAR of 11.1, which is tops for his new club.

In addition, Mike Fiers (3.89 ERA in 2015) gives the Astros rotation even more depth and potential to be on shutdown status in the postseason, seeing as they now have two pitchers (Kazmir, Dallas Keuchel) that rank in the top five in the AL in ERA.

Meanwhile, Milwaukee, still recovering from 2014’s second-half meltdown, is getting a plethora of young players in return, including probable Gomez replacement Domingo Santana, who is hitting .256 with 2 homers and 8 RBI in 14 games this season. Kyle Lohse, Francisco Rodriguez and Jonathan Lucroy all become free agents either this offseason or after 2016, so for all intents and purposes the Brewers might be in the beginning stages of a massive, multi-year rebuilding process in the same vein as the Phillies.  

Detroit sends OF Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets in exchange for SP Michael Fulmer, SP Luis Cessa

Surprise Factor: 17

Logic Factor: 45

Trade Rating: 72

Joke’s on you, baseball. Because, for the first time in seemingly forever, it sure isn’t on the Mets.

The same Mets we chided and criticized for years as being the joke of the sport, unable to stand up to the Yankees in the slightest, had an unreal start to the season and haven’t slowed down.

Rather, they’re neck-and-neck with the Washington Nationals for first place in the NL East as the calendar flips to August.

However, they remain one of the most imbalanced teams in the league, led by the third-best pitching staff in the NL (3.26 ERA) but held back by a deeply flawed offense that has scored an MLB-worst 3.54 runs/game.

Solution? Slugger Yoenis Cespedes line. Cespedes is already tops on the Mets with those numbers, as are his 18 homers and 61 RBI. GM Sandy Alderson might be on to something.

It’s a no-nonsense trade for the Mets, but also one that makes complete sense. And the Tigers, who are “rebooting” for next season, didn’t ask for much: two minor league pitchers who probably would never have seen the light of day at Citi Field, what with young phenoms 27-year-old Jacob deGrom and 22-year-old Noah Syndergaard pitching out of their minds, and 24-year-old Steven Matz waiting in the wings of a full-time rotation spot.

Cespedes brings a perennial Home Run Derby contender to Citi Field...among other things, of course

Cespedes brings a perennial Home Run Derby contender to Citi Field…among other things, of course

So be ready, baseball. The Mets have made their intentions knows. Time to start rooting for a Subway World Series, the first since 2000.

Thanks for reading!

 

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Warning Track: The Good and Bad of the All-Star Starters

*all stats are entering play on Friday, July 10th

The rosters for the 86th MLB All-Star Game were unveiled a few days ago, and we all can rest easy: It won’t be the National League versus the Kansas City Royals.

“Only” four Royals were named starters to the game earlier in the week – and that number has since dwindled down to three – while the other components of each team is made of some intriguing as well as frustrating components.

Such is the nature of selecting who is worthy, whether it be at the hands of fans, players or managers.

Oftentimes as baseball fans our first reaction, naturally, is to judge an All-Star squad by how represented our favorite teams are. But then we analyze each selection not by stats…but by straightforward feeling and emotion. The players we like, the players we hate. The obvious snubs and suspicious inclusions. The surefire Hall of Famers who absolutely must be present at All-Star Week versus egotistical youngsters who are all bark and no bite.

So that’s how I’ll “analyze” this year’s All-Star Representatives: likeability. We won’t delve too much into stats…WAR and home run numbers are more or less going to be tossed out the window. Instead we’ll see how good baseball fans all over the country did at picking the players that embody the spirit of the game – those who truly personify the meaning of “All-Sar” with their more vague and shadowed qualities, whether on or off the field.

Without further ado, away we go.

asg

 

National League Starters

Catcher: Buster Posey, Giants – Thumbs Up                     .300/.372/.493, 14 home runs, 57 RBI, 8.3 on the likeability scale

Who doesn’t respect Buster Posey, who has built a Hall of Fame resume before his 30th birthday.

Posey has already garnered Rookie of the Year and NL MVP Honors as well as two silver slugger awards three championship rings, and yet he still seems to fly under the radar.

Posey doesn’t command attention, because he doesn’t need to. He’s quietly the leader on one of the Senior Circuit’s model franchises, and is as much a part of Madison Bumgarner’s record breaking-October as MadBum is. Posey has arguably been the rock of the San Francisco Giant’s three world championships in five years.

When discussing who is the best catcher in the Senior Circuit, the debate basically comes down to Posey and Yadier Molina, who has taken on the villain role to more than a few teams in the league, as compared to Posey’s more youthful calm air.

Either option would get a thumbs up, but Posey’s subtle but superior success gets him a thumbs up.

 

First Baseman: Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondacks – Thumbs Up        .349/.466/.618, 20 home runs, 68 RBI, 68 walks, 59 runs, 8.8 on the likeability scale

One of the most cluttered positions in the National League as far as deserving candidates go, the 1B selection of Goldy gets a thumbs up for the sole fact that he is much like Posey – offensive firepower, defensively capable, club leaders, babe-faced – but lacking any rings to validate his success, which makes you feel for the guy who doesn’t hold a shred of visible ego.

Much of that lacking-of-rings-ness is, of course, due to his belonging to a Diamondbacks club that has underachieved for a long time, though things may be starting to look up for them (7-3 in their last 10 games, tied for second in the NL West).

Goldy’s standardly remarkable season and sympathy-for-being-on-an-unfortunate-team aside, the only other NL 1B I would have preferred to make the All-Star squad is Anthony Rizzo (.296 batting average, 16 home runs, 48 RBI, 24 doubles) for leading the resurgence resurrection of the Chicago Cubs, who would be a postseason squad if the season ended today.

But Goldy will do as well. Thumbs up.

 

Second Baseman: Dee Gordon, Marlins – Thumbs Down   .336/.358/.412, 1 home run, 21 RBI, 5.3 on the likeability scale

Ehhhh…ehhhhhh. 

This is the first of the NL selections that, while pleasant at face value just for the sheer fact that Dee Gordon is one of the most fun players to watch on the bases, doesn’t make much sense.

And I won’t shy away from saying that much of that is due to his belonging on the temporarily Stanton-less Marlins that is just a hard team to root for.

However, the bigger factor in lacking excitement about this selection: Kolten Wong of the Cardinals (.284 average, 9 home runs, 37 RBI), the superior candidate in almost every way.

Besides the fact that he leads all NL 2B in runs, home runs and RBI, along with being near the top in average and slugging percentage, he becomes one of the most complete players in the league – period – when you take into account some of the plays in the field that he makes.

Plays like this.

No big deal, tbh.

WE ARE NOT WORTHY.

Sure, Gordon can get on base and run around them almost as good as Billy Hamilton, but it’s hard not to be disappointed at the exclusion of Wong, who has come a long way from the player who go picked off to end a World Series game.    

 

Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta, Cardinals – Thumbs Up                .292/.349/.465, 12 home runs, 44 RBI, 8.5 on the likeability scale

It’s obviously tough to oversee the fact that Troy Tulowitzki has been a shoo-in for the All-Star game for so long, but so is the cold hard fact that he has regressed in recent years and is now not even the best player on his own squad.

On the flip side, Jhonny Peralta (.289 average, 12 home runs, 44 RBI) has had his best times in St. Louis, where he has hit .273 with 33 home runs and 119 RBI over a season and a half. Sure he was looked down upon two years ago when he was in Detroit for being busted for use of PEDs, but he’s become a feel-good comeback story since then with his transition to the National League, arguably becoming the best all-around shortstop in the majors over that span.

There really is no legitimate desirable second for National League All-Star shortstop.      

 

Third Baseman: Todd Frazier, Reds – Thumbs Up           .281/.337/.586, 25 home runs, 55 RBI, 9.0 on the likeability scale

Had voting ended two months ago, one month ago, even perhaps two weeks ago, the vote would have gone to Matt Carpenter, and righteously so. But his clear extended slump over the last month and a half ultimately cleared the way for Todd Frazier.

It may just be fate, as the Reds slugger gets the All-Star start on his home field, something that’s always easy to root for.

It’s even better when you take into account that Frazier has been giving superstar teammate Joey Votto a run for his money as the offensive leader in Cinci. Frazier will be busy next week, also participating in Monday’s Home Run Derby, where he shocked some fans with his strong performance in 2014.

Will next week’s All-Star festivities be the Todd Frazier show? It could be, and it would be incredibly satisfying.      

 

Outfielders: Bryce Harper, Nationals – Thumbs Up                          .343/.471/.709, 25 home runs, 60 RBI, 7.9 on the likeability scale

Matt Holliday, Cardinals – Thumbs Up                                     .303/.417/.421, 8.6 on the likeability scale  

Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins* – Thumb sideways      .265/.346/.606, 27 home runs, 67 RBI, 9.9 on the likeability scale if he was starting, 0.3 otherwise                                           *Being replaced by Andrew McCutchen

Fans were pretty much on-par with picking the outfield representatives for the National League.

Despite a bombastic ego that borders on major league villain outside of our nation’s capital, it would be criminal for any real baseball fan not to want Bryce Harper in the All-Star game with his outrageous performance thus far in 2015 – he’s already surpassed his career highs for single-seasn home runs and RBIs.

As such, fans gave him what he deserves: an All-Star start, in the form of the most votes for any NL player.

If the year had been 2013 or 2014 Harper would be getting a thumbs down, but he really came into his own in silencing his critics and letting them know with his bat that his first two seasons in the league were just a warmup, reminding us in the process that he isn’t even 23 yet, for Pete’s sake.

Matt Holliday also gets a thumbs up for his uncharacteristically fast start.

Holliday has been one of the most consistent hitters in the league over the last few years, although he hasn’t played for St. Louis in a few weeks due to injury. He is also one of those players who doesn’t get as much recognition as he should for his team’s success, but he is certainly among the most respected in the St. Louis clubhouse, a legitimate veteran of the league.

Starling Marte (.281 average, 13 homers, 48 RBI) would have been another ideal candidate to take left field at Cinci, as well as Joc Pederson in recognition of his unreal rookie season, but Holliday the quiet, seasoned veteran is just as deserving.

Stanton’s selection is where things get deeply underwhelming, due to his injury that will keep him sidelined for at least another month. He is a clear selection for the All-Star game each year, and rightly so as he is the preeminent power hitter in the bigs, but will be replaced by Andrew McCutchen (.302 batting average, 10 home runs, 53 RBI, 9.3 on the likeability scale), a worthy candidate in his own right.

Injuries are obviously a part of the game, as is missing the All-Star game due to some ailment, but this goes beyond next week’s festivities in that Stanton is beginning to garner an unhealthy reputation of health concerns.

Granted, his last two major injuries – a fastball to the face and breaking bones in his hand while swinging – are straight out of the Complete Fluke Department, but the fact of the matter is that the strongest basher in baseball has played more than 123 games only once in the last three years.

His latest injury looks to continue that trend, and that gets a big fat 0 on our likeability scale.

 

American League Starters

Catcher: Salvador Perez, Royals – Thumbs Up     .262/.274/.448, 14 home runs, 37 RBI, 7.9 on the likeability scale

Salvador Perez is one of the most consistent and reliable performers on the best team in the American League, one of the best catchers in the major leagues, and resides on a team that is easy to root for, unless you’re the Chicago White Sox.

He resembles Molina a bit more than Posey, as his defensive numbers are more sterling than his offensive stats (although his 14 home runs are tied with Posey and Yasmani Grandal for the most among catchers in either league), and will undoubtedly be one of the best two or three all-around catchers in baseball once 2020 rolls around.

 

First Baseman: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers* – Thumbs Up .350/.456/.578, 15 home runs, 54 RBI, 9.6 on the likeability scale *Being replaced by Albert Pujols, Angels

The Giancarlo Stanton of not only the American League in terms of hitting prowess, but of this year’s All-Star rosters; Cabrera, too, will miss the festivities due to injury, a big blow to the game and fans alike.

But not all is lost, because Albert Pujols and his AL-leading 26 long balls will start in his place, a comeback story of sorts. After a somewhat mediocre first couple of seasons with the Angels, The Machine is back to destroying baseballs – as well as opposing pitchers’ hearts – like it’s 2009. Pujols was the most feared hitter of the 2000s, and his return to form in 2015 isn’t as much surprising as it is relieving for fans watching him climb the career home run total list.

He’s not only one of the most consistent and powerful hitters of our time, but perhaps the only suitable replacement for someone like Cabrera, and for that, the AL starting first baseman gets a thumbs up.

 

Second Baseman: Jose Altuve, Astros – Thumbs Down  .298/.342/.413, 7 home runs, 36 RBI, 6.4 on the likeability scale

Dozier: 18 home runs, 45 RBI, 65 runs. Kipnis: 111 hits, 27 doubles, .904 OPS. Kinsler: 39 RBI, 49 runs.

Compare any of those other candidates for AL 2B, and Jose Altuve’s selection is maddeningly frustrating.

Altuve was incredible last year, leading the big leagues with 225 hits, and this selection feels like an extended formality to that performance instead of the more mediocre numbers he’s put up in 2015. He’s absolutely a likeable guy, no doubt about that; any guy who jumps to try and hit the ball into play deserves respect.

But this was arguably the most snubbed position out of both All-Star squads, with a multitude of impressive candidates deserving the start over Houston’s 2B.

 

Shortstop: Alcide Escobar, Royals – Thumbs More or Less Up .289/.328/.372, 2 home runs, 31 RBI, 7.3 on the likeability scale

Aside from Rangers phenom Carlos Correa (.282 average, 7 home runs, 19 RBI in 29 games) AL shortstops leave something to be desire when it comes to offensive firepower. Escobar is one of four Royals getting the start next Tuesday thanks to the fervor of the Royals fanbase, and although Boston’s 22-year-old Xander Bogaerts (.304 average, 41 RBI, 3 homers) leads him in almost every major offensive category, Escobar is a vital cog in the defensively-superior machine that is the Kansas City Royals, and for that, a high ranking on the likeability scale won’t be denied.

If only a career of 29 games would be acceptable to make an All-Star case. Next year, Carlos.

 

Third Baseman: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays – Thumbs Up .299/.358/.543, 21 home runs, 60 RBI, 8.5 on the likeablility scale

Baseball fans were salivating at the prospect of Josh Donaldson playing in Cinci – he was the leading vote-getter in all of baseball, and set a record for most votes for an All-Star candidate.

As in, all time. Ever.

Being the offensive leader on the best offensive team in baseball will get ya there, that’s for sure. And it wasn’t a tough decision for voters – no other 3B in the Junior Circuit comes real close to his numbers.  

 

Outfielders: Mike Trout, Angels – Thumbs Up        .305/.400/.604, 24 home runs, 50 RBI, 9.8 on the likeability scale

Lorenzo Cain, Royals – Thumbs Down                  .312/.371/.489, 8 home runs, 41 RBI, 5.6 on the likeability scale

Alex Gordon, Royals* – Thumbs Up                        .279/.394/.457, 11 home runs, 39 RBI, 7.5 on the likeability scale *Replaced by Brett Gardner

There is no debate surrounding Mike Trout’s selection, and there shouldn’t be. Period.

Lorenzo Cain, however, is a different story. Cain is the first and only starting Royal on the AL squad who I have a gripe with, primarily because out of the three selected AL All-Star outfielders, Cain is the one who should be replaced by none other than Detroit’s J.D. Martinez, who had an absolutely ridiculous June to bring his 2015 totals up to 24 home runs and 58 RBI to go along with a .291 average . He should be representing the Tigers and the AL in the outfield, both to recognize his play and to allow a bit more parity to the AL roster as well.

Meanwhile, the Royal outfielder who is worthy of being named starter, Alex Gordon, won’t be, due to a severe groin strain suffered on Wednesday that will take him out for a couple months. Excellent timing, eh? He’ll be replaced by the Orioles’ Adam Jones , who is a suitable enough replacement with his 11 home runs and 40 RBI except HE ISN’T J.D. MARTINEZ. But I digress. Trout makes up for it all.

 

Designated Hitter: Nelson Cruz, Mariners – Thumbs Way Up .300/.367/.546, 21 home runs, 51 RBI, 10.0 on the likeability scale

It isn’t Alex Rodriguez, and for that, you’ve done well, baseball fans.

 

Thanks for reading!

 

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

The Warning Track: The Nail in Pete Rose’s Coffin

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

A Dagger in a Legacy

One of the most polarizing topics in the baseball world for years has been whether or not to reverse Pete Roses’ banishment from the sport – effectively legitimizing his place in the Hall of Fame – given the caliber of history that the all-time hits leader’s name holds, set against the weight of committing major league baseball’s cardinal sin: betting on your team.

Heck, the debate itself is probably worth entry into Cooperstown.

But the tides have finally shifted in the favor of the faction that opposes his entry into the Hall, in light of new reports that Rose bet on games as a player, and not just as a manager, something which he has denied vehemently for years.

The Rose Dilemma, which has been woven into the very fabric of major league baseball culture in regards to safeguarding the integrity of the game, is one of sports’ greatest dichotomies.  On one hand, you have Pete the Player, the 17-time All-Star who led the Cincinnati Reds to two world championships en route to becoming the only player in major league history to amass 4,000 hits in his major league career, ultimately ending with 4,256.

Then there’s Pete the Gambler, the figure who conjures up images of devil horns and secret intentions banned from the sport for life after being accused of betting on Reds games while he was manager of the club in the mid-‘80s. Up until now, many thought that was the extent of it – an icon of the sport whose priorities unjustifiably changed when he stepped off the field and into the dugout.

And that was the basis of many arguments endorsing Rose’s place in the Hall of Fame – he is still an enormous part of baseball history, and if we can’t recognize his time as a gambling manager, we could at least hold his accomplishments as a player in high regard.

But with the news that at some point in his career, he was as illegitimate a player as he was a manager, those arguments have been silenced. The quiet is even louder considering how strongly he argued assumptions and accusations for years about what he may or may not have done while playing for the Reds.

Earlier this year Commissioner Rob Manfred gave Rose his blessing permission to participate in some – emphasis on some – All-Star Game activities in July, seeing as this year’s festivities will be held at Great American Ballpark. No arguments there; it would be incomplete without him in a sense. At least for one weekend, Rose, still revered by many in Ohio, and his presence will be something to celebrate in the city he helped to put back on the baseball map. Now, unfortunately, that weekend will be blighted in a overbearingly awkward way.

Some may despise Rose for corrupting the integrity of the game and his role in it, but those same people may also argue that the Hall of Fame is just as much about the history of the game as much as those who have played or managed their way into it. They have much in common to arguments supporting the entries of players like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and others from the steroid era; the Hall is about the history of the game, and it would be wrong to look over that time as though it never happened. When it comes to Rose, his name is nothing if not historic, despite his tarnished reputation that is all but shattered now.

But then again, if those enshrined in the Hall are honored for their upholding the integrity of the game…well, then it’s obvious why Rose continues to stay out of it, and that’s not even taking his banishment into consideration. So it shouldn’t even be considered…right?

That debate is certainly all but over now. No matter what Rose says from here on out about whatever illicit activities he may have participated in, we’ll have trouble believing him. He may not have taken steroids, but by betting on games during his tenure in Cinci as a manager and a player, his loyalty to not only the organization that is the MLB, but the very spirit of the sport, will forever be questioned, more and more until we can only reach one conclusion: he may have been special on the field, but he isn’t special to the game.

He was, at one point. He was the pride of our national pastime. But not anymore.

rose

 

Innovation of the Greatest Kind

Amidst all the changes introduced to the sport over the last couple years – pace of play rules, instant replay, the abolition of home plate collisions – meant to usher in a new era for the game, the greatest one of them all might still be on the way.

In fact, from the way she plays, it might already be upon us.

It was recently reported that 16-year-old French shortstop Melissa Mayeux has at least a shot to become the first female to play for a big league club. There are several ways that such an event could be described, including, but not limited to: huge, game-changer, H-I-S-T-O-R-I-C.

She’s well on her way to at least being looked at by MLB teams, something that may have been deemed unprecedented fifteen years ago. Arguably the toughest step in the process has been checked off for Mayeux: getting on MLB’s international registration lis, becoming the first female to do so. As of July 2nd, any major league club will be able to sign her.

16-year-old Mayeux currently plays on Frances under-18 national team, and is also a member of the senior national team.

16-year-old Mayeux currently plays on France’s under-18 national team, and is also a member of the senior national team.

Your move, Mo’ne Davis.

Over the course of its existence, major league baseball has overcome institutionalized obstacles – barriers that, more often than not, reflect societal norms. The idea that talent knows no skin color was established with Jackie Robinson, and over the coming decades as the sport spread oversees, the notion that talent knows no ethnicity was also born.

The very fact that Mayeux can even be considered by clubs is an enormous step forward not just for the game on a global scale, but for society. Her eligibility alone proves that talent knows no gender.

What makes Mayeux so special? As MLB Director of International Game Development Mike McClellan puts it, “she makes all the plays and is very smooth and fluid in the field. She swings the bat really well and is fearless.”

In other words…she sounds like has potential to play in the big leagues, at the very least. And why not? Her gender shouldn’t hold her back, especially not in 2015. That’s not even on the list of things to be considered, as it shouldn’t be. Instead, the ideal player has:

  • Talent
  • Integrity
  • Passion for the game

At first glance Mayuex fits the whole package. “I’d like to stay in the game for as long as possible,” Mayeux reportedly said. She’s also pretty damn good, as she has a shot at making the French national team for the World Baseball Classic in 2017, an event usually dominated by men.

It isn’t a given that Mayeux will get picked up by a team. But she’s already made an impact by starting to break down a barrier that has no place standing in American sports or culture. Talent knows no gender. We know that now.

Mayeux has proved it.

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

The Warning Track: Power Rankings, Week 10

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

All statistics are entering play on Saturday, June 13th

Fab Five

It was a week of regression for many teams who have been off to scorching starts through the first two months of the season as we are just past the one-third mark of the 2015 campaign, inevitably leading to some fresh faces among the Fab Five.

The Redbirds hold on to the top spot once again, but just barely. After dominating the Dodgers last weekend, taking 3 of 4 from the team with the second-best mark at home, the Cardinals stumbled a bit in Colorado, winning only one of three games in that set while giving up 17 runs. They’re off to a good start back home against the AL-leading Royals, having won the first game of that series 4-0 on Friday to become the first team in the majors to 40 victories.

Time will tell whether the Cardinals will be able to weather yet another injury, this one arguably the most impactful.

Lance Lynn, one of the Cardinals’ most durable starters, is also experiencing some forearm tightness and will be out for at least a couple weeks, leading to some more starts by Tyler Lyons that the offense may or may not have to win.

Meanwhile, the Houston Astros have fallen plummeted back to Earth after their surprising start, losing six straight before halting that streak against Seattle on Friday. A couple of blown leads by the bullpen as well as a rough offensive stretch where they only managed to score more than two runs once over that 6-game losing streak has them out of the Fab Five for the first time in quite a while, being replaced by a Pirates squad that has been on fire for a month now as they make their 2015 Fab Five debut.

The Bucs will arguably be the NL Central club that will give the Cardinals the most fits in the long run, and the only way they’ll be able to do that in the short term will be to keep winning, seeing as they don’t face the Cardinals again until mid-July. Their pitching has been incredible, tossing three shutouts over the past week to lower their team ERA to 2.90, only one of two teams in the bigs to have a team ERA besides….who else, the Cardinals at 2.66.

A 9-game winning streak by the Toronto Blue Jays has them holding the honor of being the hottest team in baseball by far as they make a move in the ultra-tight AL Eas. Toronto leads the majors in offense by 60 total runs, having scored 338 to the Yankees’ 278. They’ve scored 6 or more runs in 8 of 10 games in June, and double-digit runs twice in their last four runs. Oh and they’ve only given up more than three runs twice over that span. Those numbers will you to make your debut on the Fab Five.

Despite being 5-5 over their last ten games, the Royals stay in the Fab Five due to most of those being tight contests; 6 decided by two runs or less. A sweep of a strong and surprising Minnesota Twins team on the road reasserted them as top dogs of the American League after dropping two consecutive series. Salvador Perez (8-for-26) and Mike Moustakas (10-for-23) had strong offensive weeks for Kansas City, but they’ll need their bats to show up in St. Louis this weekend if they want to make a statement against the best record in the bigs.

A medicore couple of weeks by the Nationals (2-8 in their last ten, 3-11 since May 29th) has dropped the team many have pegged to win the World Series out of the Fab Five, reflecting the relative struggles of Washington’s star Bryce Harper (3 home runs and 6 RBI in 11 games in June compared to 5 dingers in the last 11 games in May).

So their place in the rankings is swapped with the Yankees, who reenter the Fab Five after reemerging as a force in the AL East by sweeping the Mariners and Angels to begin the month. They’ve given up only 2.6 runs per game to opponents in 7 June victories (out of 9 total games) and are scoring 5.4 runs in those same matchups.

Alex Rodriguez (.275, 11 home runs, 30 RBI) continues to be a surprisingly pivotal component of the Yankees lineup as his march to 3,000 hits continues, but it’s Brian McCann (6-for-18, 5 RBI over last 4 games) and Mark Teixeira (8-for-26, 4 runs, 5 RBI over last 7 games) that have helped spark the Bronx Bombers’ offensive surge of late. Upcoming series’ against the slumping Tigers and Astros will give the Yankees a chance to get some breathing room in the AL East, where just 3 games separates New York, Tampa Bay, Toronto and Baltimore, all playing at least .500 ball.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (40-21, 1st in the NL Central)

Ranking two weeks ago: 1

Last ten games: 7-3

Telling stats: MLB-best 2.66 team ERA, MLB-best 2.99 starter ERA, second in MLB in bullpen ERA (1.97), 4th in the NL in team average (.262), 3rd in MLB in doubles (113), 5th in MLB in WHIP (1.21), MLB-best 23-7 record at home    

 

2. Pittsburgh Pirates (33-27, 2nd in the NL Central)

Ranking two weeks ago: Not ranked

Last ten games: 7-3

Telling stats: 4th in MLB in doubles (111), 2nd in MLB in team ERA on the road (2.90), 2nd in MLB in ERA with RISP (9.13), 1 epic shutout  

 

3. Toronto Blue Jays (32-30, 3rd in the AL East)

Ranking two weeks ago: Not ranked

Last ten games: 9-1

Telling stats: MLB-best 338 runs scored, 4th in MLB in batting average (.268), 3rd in MLB in average with RISP (.295), 1st in MLB in average against lefties (.310), 4th in MLB on home runs (76), MLB-best .782 team OPS, MLB-best 131 doubles,

 

4. Kansas City Royals (34-24, 1st in the AL Central)

Ranking two weeks ago: 3

Last ten games: 505

Telling stats: 6th in MLB in average with RISP (.288), 5th in MLB in doubles (108), 3rd in MLB in triples (14), 5th in MLB in team ERA (3.38), 2nd in MLB in batting average against (.232), 4th in MLB in average on the road (.267)

 

  1. New York Yankees (33-27, 1st in the AL East)

Ranking two weeks ago: Not ranked

Last ten games: 7-3

Telling stats: 2nd in MLB in runs scored (278), 3rd in MLB in home runs (77), 3rd in AL in runs scored on the road (136), 3rd in AL in average with the bases loaded (.333)

 

Flawed Five

  1. Philadelphia Phillies (22-40, 5th in the NL East)

Telling stats: MLB-worst run -89 differential, 27th in MLB in batting average (.239), MLB-worst 36 home runs, MLB-worst 194 runs scored, 29th in MLB in OBP (.290), 26th in MLB in Team ERA (4.22), MLB-worst .355 winning percentage, 26th in MLB in opponent batting average (.268)

 

  1. Boston Red Sox (27-35, 5th in the AL East)

Telling stats: 29th in MLB in team ERA (4.76), 29th in MLB in starter ERA (4.76), 28th in MLB in opponent batting average with RISP (.290), 1 downright heartbreaker

 

    1. Seattle Mariners (27-34, 4th in the AL West)

Telling stats: Tied for MLB-worst .235 batting average, 29th in MLB in runs scored (208), 1 missing Felix Hernandez

 

  1. Milwaukee Brewers (24-38, 5th in the NL Central)

Telling stats: Tied for MLB-worst .235 batting average, 26th in MLB in runs scored (232), MLB-worst .287 team OBP, 28th in MLB in errors (51)

 

  1. Miami Marlins (26-36, 4th in the NL East)

Telling stats: 27th in MLB in opponent batting average with RISP (.281), 27th in MLB in ERA with the bases loaded (37.45), 25th in MLB in ERA in innings 7-8-9 (4.01), 1 failed managerial experiment

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

 

The Warning Track: An Oddly Annual Celebration By The Bay

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

A couple weeks after Shelby Miller of the Braves came one out away from pitching the first no-hitter of the 2015 season, Giants hurler Chris Heston indulged baseball fans with (finally) the first no-no of the year, becoming the first rookie to do so since Clay Buchholz in 2007.

But the more astounding feat? It’s the fourth year in a row that the Giants have thrown a no-hitter, following Matt Cain in 2012 and Tim Lincecum the last two years. That’s more than 7 MLB franchises have in their respective histories, with the San Diego Padres being the lone club yet to throw a no-no.

If there’s one thing the Giants of this decade are known for, too an almost comical extent, it is their consistent inconsistency. Everyone knows about the whole odd-year, even-year dichotomy, with the Giants winning the Fall Classic in 2010, 2012 and 2014 while failing to make the playoffs in the sandwiched seasons of 2011 and 2013.

They’ve even been difficult to figure out this season alone. After going 9-13 in April, the return of Hunter Pence spurred the defending champs to a spirited 15-4 run in late May, enough to propel them to the division’s summit for a short time. But they’ve slid back to a game behind the Dodgers after going 4-6 in their last 10 while giving up five or more runs six times in that span.

Nothing like a no-hitter to halt that streak, huh? By your rookie starter who has given up 16 runs over his last four starts entering the day, no less. Baseball has come to expect the unexpected from the Giants – fulfilling that unwritten mantra of the sport – whether in June or October, so perhaps we shouldn’t really be surprised at all by the caliber of Heston’s performance, or even its odd nature.

No-hitters do tend to be completely unexpected, coming at the most unusual points and, at times, for teams not known for their pitching. Exhibit A: the Giants themselves. Over the last three seasons of their no-hitter streak they’ve ranked 10th (3.50), 21st (4.00), and 7th (3.68) in the bigs in team ERA. They’re currently 13th for the 2015 campaign with a 3.78 mark.

And a pitcher can be destined to throw a no-hitter on any given day, or any given season. Tim Lincecum was among the league’s best from 2008 through 2011. It wasn’t until 2013 and 2014, when he had ERAs of 4.37 and 4.74, respectively, that he decided, seemingly out of the blue, to remind the baseball world what made him so good in years prior.

 

So no-no’s in four consecutive seasons? That hasn’t happened for one team since Sandy Koufax – who else? – took it upon himself to do it for the Dodgers every season from 1962 -1965. In fact, that’s the only other time it’s happened in major league history, making the feat all the more fascinating and strange.

But perhaps it isn’t as strange as it sounds for the oddball, consistently inconstent Giants, as much as it is a treat for a loyal fanbase that has ranked in the top 4 in ballpark attendance each year since their remarkable run of championships began in October of 2010. But the fact that every other year a no-hitter might be the highlight of the season when they celebrated a World Series win the fall before must take some getting used to.

It’s looking like that might be the case this season. It is an odd-year after all. But until we know for sure, Giants fans can celebrate – once again – a dominant performance by their pitcher, one of such a caliber that many teams haven’t seen from their own arms in years or decades.

But then again, they might be getting tired of it four years running. World Series championships and no-hitters. What more can a fan ask for?

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He is the assistant news editor at The Daily Lobo, the independent student newspaper at the University of New Mexico, and can be reached at lynchdavid695@unm.edu or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

 

The Warning Track: A Year of Resurgence

The Warning Track is a blog that covers all things Major League Baseball on a weekly basis, from discussing why some teams are getting hot, who’s in line for awards at season’s end and who is getting ready to make the leap to contender status, as well as off-the-field issues like first-time Commissioner Rob Manfred, which players could be headed to new homes, and A-Rod’s latest conundrum. 

If you have anything MLB-related that you would like to see discussed in the upcoming edition of The Warning Track, or have any comments at all, you may suggest/comment/rant/agree/disagree/tell me I know nothing about baseball at any time on Twitter @RealDavidLynch. 

 

The 2015 major league baseball campaign has been, thus far, dominated by surprising individual performances. Bryce Harper is finally doing what everyone in Washington expected him to do. Shelby Miller has pitched his way into the Cy Young discussion. A-Rod is etching his name into more pages of the records books. And Kershaw hasn’t been Kershaw thus far.

With all the fanfare surrounding individual players, whether for better or for worse, it’s easy to overlook the status of whole ballclubs, some of which are giving their fans new faith after years of holding the position as cellar-dwellar, lending a whole new dimension to a sport that prides itself on parity in the process.

 

Houston Astros

The Astros – who have averaged a 69-93 regular season record since they got swept in the 2005 World Series – have the best record in the American League at 30-18, second-best in the bigs only to St. Louis.

Read that sentence again. Take a deep breath, maybe two. It’s okay, everyone else it just as shocked as you are. Led by AL Cy Young contender Dallas Keuchel (6-1, 1.98 ERA) and hit machine Jose Altuve (.299 batting average, AL-leading 15 swiped bags), the Astros are coming into their own as a team that is completely defying all expectations – which, admittedly, were minimal – and becoming legitimate threats for the AL West crown.

It’s one thing to have brushed the 2015 Astros off as a team that is simply hot for the time being, but it’s nearing the end of May, and they have yet to lose more than three games in a row.

They embarked on a ten-game winning streak from late April to early May to make a statement, and so far they have justified it, as they are one of only five ballclubs in the major leagues (and only one of two in the American League) to have a winning record both on the road (15-8) and at home (15-10).

That being said, it’s time to take the Astros seriously, something I thought was still a couple years away from happening. They’re proving me and many others wrong, and the sport is all the better for it.

And when you take into account the youth that is energizing the team – Altuve is 25, George Springer 25, Luis Valbuena 29, Keuchel 27 – as well as the fact that Carlos Correa and Mark Appel (the 2nd- and 28th-ranked MLB prospects, according to minor league baseball’s Prospect Watch) have yet to arrive, maybe it’s time we settle in and enjoy this team, because their time might just be right now, and it might just last for the better part of the next decade.

 

 

Minnesota Twins

The Twins haven’t won more than 70 games in a season since 2010, when they were swept in the division series for the second consecutive year. They have’t advanced passed that round since 2002, where they lost in the ALCS 4 games to 1.

They’ve set a benchmark for futility and irrelevance for baseball, but lately they’ve been looking like a team ready to forget all of that history, to the tune of an 8-2 record in their last ten games and a 28-18 mark overall.

That’s good enough to tie them for first in an ultra-competitive AL Central division, where the Royals, Twins and Tigers are all separated by just 1.5 games.

But the Twins are the hottest of those three, as well as one of the hottest clubs in all of baseball, having not lost a series in over two weeks and outscoring opponents 27-11 on a current five-game winning streak.

These are the Twins, mind you. It’s been a long long time since they’ve been this intimidating. But they are, and the return of Torii Hunter, who spent his first ten big league season in Minnesota, is a big reason why. He’s 29 RBI and 7 dingers to go along with a .280/.333/.457 line. In addition, their pitching has improved by leaps and bounds this season. An AL-worst 4.57 team ERA from 2014 has undergone a seemingly impossible evolution in 2015, where they now sport a 3.94 team ERA.

They’ve also already won half as many extra-inning games this seasons as they did in all of 2014 (3-1 versus 6-7), showing that they have a newfound resilience to churning out victories.

Time will tell if the Twins can live up to the new expectations they’ve set for themselves, expectations they know they’re capable of. It isn’t the most common thing in baseball for a team to go from worst to first as the Twins are gunning to do this season, but at the very least, for the time being, it makes for a good story, and one that might be worth revisiting in the coming weeks and months.

 

Chicago Cubs

Unlike the Astros and Twins, the Cubs entered 2015 with expectations as high as a ball hit off the bat of Nelson Cruz, looking to end over a century of disappointment.

Although they’ve been inconsistent at time, they will have a record over .500 once the calendar flips to June – they are 25-21 entering play today – which for the Cubs is reason enough to get excited, especially seeing as they would be only one game back of a wild card spot if the season ended today.

Much of what the Cubs are expected to do this season and in the coming years is dependent on the performances of their stars – experienced ace Jon Lester, inexperienced phenom Kris Bryant, and budding MVP candidate Anthony Rizzo. So far the potential has not only been warranted, but fulfilled.

After struggling in April to begin his National League career, Lester (has pitched his way back into his starring role as rotation leader, giving up two earned runs or less in 5 of his last 6 starts. He hasn’t quite performed at the plate, but Rizzo, the undisputed face of the franchise at just 25 years old, has more than made up for it, batting his way to a .315 average to go along with 9 homers and 29 RBI.

But the star of the show, and the storyline of the season on the North Side, has been the arrival of basher Kris Bryant. After taking a couple weeks to adjust to the big leagues upon his advent, the third baseman began to hit like we all knew he would. He leads the team in RBI (31) and also has hit 7 longballs and crossed home plate 26 times, all top three for the Cubs.

Although a struggling bullpen (4.07 ERA) has caused them to drop some games in the late innings, the Cubs so far have been making their fans happy.

There’s excitement in the air on the North Side of the Windy City, and if the Cardinals ever cool off on their historic start, the NL Central race should be a fun one to watch down the stretch, especially with the Pirates winning their last seven and making a move toward the front of the pack.

 

 

David Lynch likes to talk about and write about movies, sports, and important happenings around the world. He can be reached at alex.695@hotmail.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.