Tag Archives: American League

First Albert Pujols, and now Prince Fielder bolt the National League

At this hour, it appears Prince Fielder will be skipping over Lake Michigan from Milwaukee to play with the Tigers in Detroit, and that has to be a bit worrisome for the National League.

Earlier this post-season, Albert Pujols bolted from the Cardinals to the Los Angeles Angels. If the Fielder deal comes through, that will mean that the top two sluggers in the NL have jumped to the AL.

With free agency, there are no doubt a zillion reasons athletes consider when deciding to sign with a particular team. With Pujols and Fielder – both slugging first sackers – I have to think that the designated hitter position in the AL was a factor, and possibly a significant one.

Even if their legs give out, they’ll be able to keep coming to the plate in the AL longer than they would in the NL. An American League team can offer a slugger the DL and thus stretch that multi-million dollar contract a bit longer.

Baseball is better when the pitchers hit

A recent spate of inter-league play has gotten me thinking again about the designated hitter rule. It’s not that I’m anti-DH per se. It’s simply that I think baseball is more entertaining when the pitchers hit.

When kids play the game of baseball, everybody hits. You’re supposed to hit. Baseball is a game that tests all your skills.

At the Little League and high school levels, the best hitters are often also the best pitchers. That changes once players go pro, as pitching becomes a specialty almost to the exclusion of hitting.

And that’s a shame.

I’ve always thought it was cool when a pitcher contributes to his own cause with a timely hit or a well-placed bunt. Earl Wilson slugged a number of home runs for the Tigers back in the 60s, and he was a gas to watch. There was never any shame in the at bats that Bob Gibson had for the Cardinals. Last October, Jonathan Sanchez of the Giants ripped a triple at AT&T Park that was one of the biggest hits of the year as San Francisco took the world title.

The American League shows no signs of chucking the DH, and that means extended careers for a number of guys with bad knees and exhausted legs. Fine for them.

But in real baseball, the batters plays the field and the pitchers hit.

The Ball Caps Blog 2011 American League All-Star ballot

Here’s my All-Star ballot for the AL:

Catcher – Alex Avila of the Detroit Tigers dominates in most categories, so he gets the nod over Matt Wieters of Baltimore.

First Base – Adrian Gonzalez is having the (green) monster year expected of him with the Red Sox, so he gets the nod over powerful Mark Texeira of the Yankees.

Second base – A tough call here, but I’d start Robinson Cano, whose power trumps Howard Kendrick of the Angels.

Third base – Alex Rodriguez of the Yanks. What a weak year for the hot corner in both leagues.

Shortstop – Asdrubal Cabrera of the Cleveland Indians, hands down.

Outfield — Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays leads the field, with Curtis Granderson of New York and Jacoby Ellsbury of Boston.

Designated Hitter — David Ortiz of the Red Sox.

Pitcher: I’d start Jon Lester of Boston by virtue of his nine wins, with teammate Josh Beckett, Jared Weaver of the Angels, Justin Verlander of Detroit and CC Sabathia of New York filling out the staff.

In the bullpen, the closers would be Brandon League of the Seattle Mariners and the incomparable Mariano Rivera of the Yanks.

This is the ballot I’m submitting for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance All-Star team. Check out the alliance with a click!

 

DH – David Ortiz, with honorable mention to Victor Martinez

Does the term ‘pennant race’ mean anything any more?

“Pennant race” conjures images of clutch hits, great catches, overpowering pitching and long shadows slanting across the diamond. But with baseball’s division structure, there isn’t a true pennant race left.

Right now, the team I follow — the San Francisco Giants — has a slim lead over San Diego and Colorado in the National League West. The Yankees and Rays are locked in a tight battle in the American League East.

To me, the pennant represents the league championship, rooted in the pre-playoff American and National leagues when eight or 10 teams vied for the title and the right to play in the World Series. So it was in 1909 for the Pittsburgh Pirates, as illustrated above.

In a diluted way, today’s races for the division championship and even the wild card playoff spots are a part of the pennant chase.

So I’ll do my best to cast off my curmudgeonly traditionalist attitude and accept that even a team in the hunt for the wild card is in a “pennant race.”

I don’t want to burst anyone’s gonfalon balloon.

So long, Rockies, and yo, Phillies!

Things can sure turn around in a hurry in a baseball game, particularly at Coors Field in Denver. As I drove home from work tonight, the Rockies were leading in the top of the 9th with closer Huston Street on the mound. I pulled into the driveway as Jimmy Rollins scratched out a single, then turned the engine and radio off.

By the time I got through with the my arrive-at-home ritual and plopped into the recliner, the Phillies had taken the lead. My jaw dropped as I checked the MLB.com app on my iPhone and saw that the game was still going. A quick flip of the channel and I watched as Brad Lidge recorded the final two outs.

It was amazing how quiet the ballpark got. The Phillies move on to the National League Championship Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, giving baseball a pair of dynamite bi-coastal matchups. The Yankees and Angels, of course, are in the ALCS. Both series should offer plenty of drama.

In honor of the Phillies, I’ve posted above a photo of myself in my Phillies cap, which I picked up while coaching one of my sons’ Little League teams a few years back. The shot is just old enough so that those 1990s mirrored sunglasses are definitely out of style.

For most of us, it’s ‘Wait Until Next Year’

Playoffs notwithstanding, for most baseball fans today is the first day of the long winter. The season is over, the concession stands are empty, the lockerrooms bare as the players have packed up to go fishing or hunting or whatever they do in the off-season.

For followers of the Chicago Cubs, the Cleveland Indians, the Kansas City Royals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the San Francisco Giants, another year has passed without post-season play. We small- and mid-market fans will watch glumly as the Cardinals, Dodgers, Phillies, Rockies, Angels, Red Sox, Yankees and Tigers or Twins stretch their seasons.

For those teams, hope remains for October glory, a pennant, a World Series champagne spray. But for most of us — like this crushed Cubs fan — our refrain is “Wait until next year.”

Spring training can’t come soon enough.

Less than excited about baseball wild card races

We’re in a wild card race. Awesome!!!

Well, hardly. Wild-card races in Major League Baseball have been running for a couple of decades, and I still can’t fully accept them.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ll take a wild card berth. As I write this post, I’m listening to the Giants and the Dodgers. I want the Giants to sweep LA this weekend as I simultaneously pray for the Colorado Rockies to drop each game in their series with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But the race for a wild card berth doesn’t nearly get me as excited as someone claiming a league or division title. Way back in the late 60s as baseball contemplated following the NFL into multi-division playoffs, I can remember my father telling me that the playoffs were supposed to be the antidote to the all-too-frequent runaway teams atop the old single-division American and National leagues.

In many years, that vision has come through. But — Yankees and Red Sox fans, don’t hate me — I grow weary of the same teams returning to the playoffs year after year after year. The seemingly endless run of playoff appearances by the Atlanta Braves is a good example. They hoarded playoff appearances, although I must admit my judgment carries the bitter tinge from their only Series victory in recent memory, in 1995 over the Cleveland Indians.

Then there was the ’97 series, in which the NL wild card team – the Florida Marlins – defeated the Tribe in the series. Where’s the justice in that?

I know I’m fighting the last war by whining about the wild card concept, so let this be my last harangue on the subject. I will now turn my attention back to the Giants, and hope against hope that their stellar pitching and anemic hitting manage to sneak them into the playoffs, on the road to a World Series victory against an AL team that won 20 more games in the regular season.