MLB RT 8/14

Here is the latest debates from the gang. Archie is out this week, so it’s Joe, Sandy, and myself leading the way on this week’s MLB RT topics.

Black players1) The question/issue keeps arising in the media that “there aren’t enough black or African-American stars in MLB. Is this a problem? Or, is it just that Black athletes tend to gravitate to other sports these days?

Stephan– I think that baseball is as diverse as it gets. The variety of whites, blacks, Hispanics, Dominicans, and now include Japanese players. I think baseball has just enough in each race to make things equal. Lets face it, the media is going to see what they want to see. I don’t think this is the case at all.       

Joe– It’s not a problem in my mind. I just think, at this point in time, Blacks are playing other sports… basketball or football… and not baseball. And, that’s just the way it is.

If MLB wants to do something… a program to entice Blacks to play more baseball go for it. But, I just hope the rationale for doing such a program is to promote the sport to that group of folks and not because the MLB powers that be say it is due to some sort of institutional racist policy that needs to be fixed. That is just not the reality.

I think baseball is, right now, bigger in the Latin and Asian countries and that’s where a lot of players are coming from these days.

Sandy– First you have to separate blacks and African Americans as there are many players that are black, but not African American. I think the majority of blacks are from the Dominican Republic. There probably isn’t as many African Americans in baseball as there are in the NBA, but I don’t see it as a problem in baseball as I do that players make a personal choice of which sport they pursue.       

2) The Feds’ Operation Strikeout is an investigation that has recently led to a US Attorney’s office in Florida announcing that Anthony Bosch (Biogenesis) has been charged and arrested and is expect to enter a plea deal where he says he is guilty and is also expected to turn state’s evidence and cooperate with the feds. Do you expect any new names to be exposed that will lead to either further “scandal” in MLB or is it the same old same old? And do you care?

Stephan– I am all but certain you will see some names mentioned, and they will be held to the same standard as the rest of the

Anthony Bosch
Anthony Bosch

“guilty” players. As far as Anthony Bosch getting suspended? This is absolutely not a surprise to me. He will cooperate, and pull a Canseco, but the only problem is for Bosch is that things are already exposed.

Joe– If, some other names are exposed, I wouldn’t be shocked, but, I don’t expect there to be many new names coming out of this latest turn of events, if any.

I do expect more stuff will come out about certain players already named and/or previously suspended and the depth of their involvement.

Are ya listening ARod?

Do I care… yes. But, it is getting a tad old and I gotta ask how come no other sports get scoured the way MLB does when it comes to PED use?

Sandy– I heard there are new players names that will come out and most likely will be suspended.  There won’t be big name stars as far as I know.  Don’t know if it will lead to further scandal, maybe just continue as a scandal, but it will show that some players just don’t get it, that using PEDs is wrong, or they just don’t care.

3) The independent Atlantic League took a step into unmarked territory this weekend when it started playing games under a new set of rules designed to speed up the pace of play. 

The league announced on July 17 that it would implement six rules including:Atlantic_League_logo.svg

* automatic intentional walks;

* reduced number of warm-up pitches;

* designating pinch runners for catchers when they reach base to allow them to put on their equipment;

* the use of a limited number of timeouts for visits to the mound to talk to the pitcher;

* and requiring umpires to enforce the current rulebook more strictly.          

Stephan– Automatic intentional walks are a good thing. I think it will help speed up the game as the pitcher won’t have to throw 4 pitches just to walk a guy. I do not like the limit on warm up pitches. As a former pitcher, you need to make sure that you are loose enough to start throwing 90 plus MPH. Designating pinch runners is a horrible idea. I don’t think this impacts much as it you think. The timeout factor is a must. This goes back all the way to little league baseball. They even have limits to the mound. It will help speed up the game. I think as far as the umpires go, they all should be consistent to the rules, so the game can run more consistently throughout each game. So overall, some of the rules are good changes, but some need some more modifications.     

Joe– The only thing that is germane to the discussion is the last point on the list in the question… “… (require) umpires to enforce the current rulebook more strictly.”

For instance… the MLB rule book states in various rules… (rule 8.04) “When the bases are unoccupied, the pitcher is to deliver the ball to the batter within 12 seconds.” That is from the time the pitcher is in possession of the baseball with the batter in the batter’s box ready to go to when the ball is thrown. The penalty for an obvious delay of this rule is a “ball” added onto the count.

(rule 8.05) if a “pitcher unnecessarily delays the game”, the umpire can call a balk when runner(s) are on base. Next time you watch a game clock how long the average time between pitches is. Like maybe 20 seconds? Maybe 25? Sometimes 30?

Also, an umpire can penalize the batter for not getting into the batter’s box in a timely manner. (rule 6.02) “… the batter shall take his position in the batter’s box promptly when it is time at bat.”  If the batter attempts to leave the batter’s box, the umpire can still allow the pitch to count and call “ball” or “strike”.  

Enforce the rules and games will be shorter… I suggest significantly so.

Sandy– Not sure what the question is, but most of those rules are dumb. I’d be okay with pitchers not getting so many pitches to warm up. I don’t follow the Independent league, so not sure what the current rules are, I would think they mirrors MLB. Most fans aren’t concerned with the length of the game, because they want to get their moneys worth.

4) Theo Epstein asked Cub fans to give him five years to turn the Cubs around. This was three years ago. Are the Cubs really just two years away from contending again? 

Theo Epstein
Theo Epstein

Stephan– The Cubs in my opinion ARE about 2 years away. What they are lacking is a couple of solid arms to help them out. I think the offense will come together with Rizzo, Castro, and now with Abreu in the mix. Bring in Kris Bryant over the next year and by 2016, as long as they have some decent pitching. They may compete for a playoff berth.

Joe– Not sure. I think the Cubbies need some bats and some arms. Can Epstein get those players in the next two years and transform the Cubs? Sure….

Will he? Of that I am not so sure.

But I think his track record with the Red Sox was not exactly terrible so he should get the benefit of the doubt.
Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo have each experienced rebound seasons from last year and Jake Arrieta has emerged as a front-end starter for the Cubs. Travis Wood is probably a # 3 or 4 arm.

The Cubs acquired shortstop Addison Russell, the no. 6 prospect in baseball (according to Baseball America’s midseason rankings) in their trade with Oakland to add to the likes of Kris Bryant and fellow shortstop Javier Baez, as well as Arismendy Alcantara. The organization also features the likes of Jorge Soler down in Double-A and a quickly rising 2014 first round pick in catcher Kyle Schwarber. And, outfield prospect Albert Almora. 

The nucleus is there to build around and the minor league is well stocked.

The Cubs now having a logjam at the shortstop position but that means they have pieces that can be traded for whatever the front office thinks is an immediate need or other seemingly endless possibilities on the major league level going forward.  One website I saw projected Russell as the true future shortstop for the Cubs and then move Castro to second or centerfield and/or Baez to second, third, or the outfield. Alcantara can also move around the infield and/or play in center.

Or go the aforementioned trade route for a big time arm.

Also the Cubs pitching is so-so but not terrible. And, they have arms that may be f MLB ready and not that far off in the future. Whether that’s the next 2 years is debatable.

The Cubs are said to have bucks to spend in the off season and Jon Lester, Max Scherzer, and Justin Masterson are all names that may be, (probably will be?) available and within the realm of possibility. My feeling is Epstein should go after Lester.

The 2015 season could produce a lineup that will see Rizzo at first, Baez at second, Russell at short, Bryant at third, and Castro in center within the next year and a half. Pick up another outfielder or two and maybe an outfielder and a catcher until Schwarber is ready and the lineup is not too shabby. Plus, with a decent pitching staff especially if a Jon Lester is signed.

So Theo Epstein is on the right track and should at least be able to produce a playoff capable team in the next 2 years. Beyond that… a Red Sox type miracle? Time will tell.  

Sandy– No. They are on the right track and have taken steps forward. They are a young team as only 6 players are 30+ years old.  They don’t have any big name players, but I guess they have 2 years to acquire some veteran players.

5)Trout Mike Trout or Jose Abreu. Who wins the AL MVP? 

Stephan– Has to be Mike Trout. He is leading the Angels to a likely playoff berth, and as of now, hold the second best record in baseball. The award typically will go to the one who leads there team to the post season. And let’s face it, the White Sox are heading in the opposite direction. Though, I think Abreu does have a solid case for it.

Joe– As of 8/11 Mile Trout’s stats read… 81 runs, 33 doubles, 5 triples, 27 HRs, 85 RBIs, 63 walks with126 strikeouts and a slash line of .299/.388/.580. That projects to (barring injury or a prolonged slump) 116 runs, 47 doubles, 7 triples, 38 HRs, 122 RBIS, 90 walks and an eye popping 180 strikeouts. With a slash line that would be effectively the same.

As of 8/11 Jose Abreu stats… 60 runs, 29 doubles, 1 triple, 31 HRs, 86 RBIS, 31 walks and 100 strikeouts with a slash lineAbreu of .304/.362/.610.  That projects to (barring injury or a prolonged slump) 93 runs, 45 doubles, 2 triples, 48 HRs, 134 RBIs, 48 walks, 156 strikeouts. And like Trout… his slash line should effectively remain the same.

Trout walks more and scores more… sort of like Mickey Mantle used to do… and he strikes out a lot… yep like the Mick used to do. Heady company.

But, ya know who Abreu reminds me of? Mark McGwire… check this out… McGwire’s final stats for his rookie year… 97 runs, 28 doubles, 4 triples, 49 HRs, 118 RBIs, 71 walks, and 131 strikeouts with a slash line of .289/.370/.618. A little less in the doubles compartment but otherwise very similar.

He finished 6th in the MVP vote that season. 

Now… here is my best guess on Trout/Abreu… Abreu wins ROY in a walk… and loses out to Trout by a whisker in the MVP voting. But, don’t be surprised if Abreu pulls off the rarity of winning ROY and MVP. Only Fred Lynn (Red Sox) and Ichiro Suzuki (Mariners) have done it, 1975 and 2001 respectively. Abreu’s numbers are that damn good.

But, I think Trout has been edged out twice now for MVP and the BBWAA finally will reward him for his excellence.

Sandy– They are pretty close in stats, but that doesn’t always mean anything with the BBWAA. In 2011 Ryan Braun won the MVP over Matt Kemp even though Kemp had better stats, but since the Dodgers didn’t get into post season Kemp was left out. That shouldn’t even be a requirement since the award is an individual award not a team award. I think Trout will get it even if both deserve it.

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