Pujols, Harper, Little League & the Astros @ MLBRT 7/8

There’s a lot to talk about in this week’s edition of MLBRT… so, let’s get to it…

This week’s questions…

1) Albert Pujols recently hit his 600th HR in grand style as in he slammed a bases-loaded HR for #600. In his last few years, Pujols has not been putting up the slash numbers he had as when he first entered MLB (2001), and then did for the next 10 years with the St. Louis Cardinals, plus 1 year when he went to the Los Angeles Angels (2012.) Yes, his OBP and slugging percentages have been radically reduced from those stellar years. But, outside of an injury plagued second year with the Angels since 2014 he still has hit at least 28 HRs, driven in over 100 in 2 years and 95 in the other and in 2017, he is on track to hit at least 28 HRs and drive in 130. 

The question… How many more years do you think Pujols can play MLB, and when he finally does retire, where do you think he will rank among the all-time greats? (Note: Pujols has a contract to play for the Angels until 2021.)

When his career is over, where will Albert Pujols rank among the all-time greats?


Dan: 
I think Albert Pujols will play out his contract. He’s still competing at a high level and I believe he wants to hit 700 home runs. The way he’s been playing this year clearly shows he still has some years left in him and at the rate he’s going, I can’t see why he won’t play out the length of his contract.

When he retires he’ll rank among the all-time greats. I’m not sure if he’d crack the top 10 quite yet, but he is in the top 20 and even top 15 in my eyes. Easy first-ballot Hall of Fame player.

Joe: If, Pujols quit MLB tomorrow he is obviously in the Hall of Fame in my mind… first ballot HOFer. His numbers already rank among the best of the best in the Hall.  As it stands right now (6/8) he needs 312 runs to hit the 2,000 mark in runs scored, 123 hits to achieve 3,000 hits, already has hit 608 doubles, needs 141 RBIs to reach 2,000 RBIs. All of those marks are achievable assuming he can play 4 more years until his contract ends.  Hell, with 52 hits in 54 games he probably reaches 3,000 hits for his career this year sometime, and, he probably reaches 2,000 RBIs sometime next year. leaving only the 2,000 runs scored mark as his most difficult achievement left. Which, IF, he plays until 2021? He probably also attains.

You know how many players have ever done that? ONE.

Of the  arguably three best offensive producers hitters in the Hall… Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays… only Aaron has achieved those benchmarks.

If, Albert Pujols reaches those numbers by the time he retires… and in my opinion he will… then he needs to be in the conversation as one of the top four offensive producers to ever to have played the game.

Steve: Pujols ranks right now in my top 10 of all time. Some may disagree with me, but he has done it all. All Star appearances, Gold Gloves, Hits for average, hits the ball out of the park. A fan favorite, and for all accounts he has done it the right way. He has never been subject to question as far as the steroid era goes. So he is in my top 10 right now, no matter what he does moving forward.

2) It is not unfair to say the Chicago Cubs’ season has been underwhelming after finally ending a century-plus drought and achieving a world championship in 2016. However, as of Monday morning, at just one game over .500, they are only one game behind the division leading Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central.  

The talking heads of the media have many reasons for why the Cubs have been stuck at, or under, .500 in 2017, including some players are experiencing a collective “sophomore jinx” and they are experiencing a “hangover” from ending their billygoat curse. And… criticizing manager Joe Maddon has been climbing the list with a bullet.  

In your opinion, to use a ESPN.com headline, is the “Cubs’ Joe Maddon making the grade?”

Joe Maddon

Dan: I don’t think you can put all the fault on the manager. The pitching just isn’t there, they did make a couple changes in the offseason that hasn’t really helped the team out as much as they were hoping for and several players have started out with slumps such as Rizzo and Arrieta. A manager can only do so much, but he isn’t the one playing on the field. It’s up to the players, ultimately, to win games and deliver quality appearances whether it’s on the mound, in the field, or in the batter’s box. The fault falls on the players.

Joe: There is this little piece on ESPN.com called a “Cubs Confidence Meter” and it is an informal poll where people can click on 1 of 3 choices… (1) Repeat: This is the year again, (2) Relax: Stay clam. Enjoy the ride or (3) Reflux: Dynasty? Try Heartburn.  70% of those participating in this poll have clicked on choice #2… Real stay calm. And, that’s just what is going to happen with the he Cubs this year: they will stay the course and Joe Maddon will be  the manager at the end of the year regardless of any results what so ever.

The only way Maddon loses his job is if the Cubs totally fall apart and finish near the bottom of their division… next year in 2018.

Steve: After sweeping St Louis, and a strong outing against Miami, I think the Cubs are about to turn things around.

They need to keep Ian Happ a the top of the batting order, put Schwarber down a bit. He is not a lead off hitter. Maddon will experiment with this and he will be fine. He is easily making the grade. He will probably be in Chicago as long as he wants after winning it all last year.

3) MLBRT has discussed the Houston Astros excellent start to 2017 a few times so far sin the season has begun, but as of Monday morning, they are currently on a 10-game winning streak, lead their division by 13 ½ games and are on track to win 116 games, which would tie the regular season MLB record for most wins held by the 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 1906 Chicago Cubs. 

In your opinion, are the Astros headed for a possible season for the ages?

And, if they achieve at least 110 wins and successfully maneuver through MLB’s post season tournament to the World Series, will they eventually come out with the ring or suffer the fate of the 1954 Cleveland Indians (111-43) who got swept by the New York Giants 4-0 in the World Series?

How good can the Astros be in 2017?

Dan: I think the Astros are definitely headed for a season of franchise-record proportions. Do I think they’ll set any major league records? No, not for wins, but I certainly believe they can hit 100+ this season.

If, they get to 110+ wins, they will be my pick to win the World Series. I don’t really see another team who can really stop them off of first glance in the American League. They might run into a couple of hiccups in the World Series vs a National League team (most likely Washington), but I still believe, at this moment, the Astros would come out on top with the World Series crown.

Joe: The Astros will eventually hit a rough spot in their season and come back to the other teams in their division BUT they will still win that division by at least 6 games. I don’t see them having a season for the ages. However, if they did and if they wound up in the World Series, I doubt they would completely fall apart and lose to the NL participant 4 games to none.

Steve: I said it in a recent RT discussion that the Astros are headed for the World Series as long as they stay healthy. I will not steer away from that. But, the Cubs have recently started to come to life, so I still like them to win it all again as long as they can pick up another arm at the deadline.

I don’t see the Astros winning 116 or more games, as they will probably settle down a but, but they will win over 100 games. Season for the ages? For the Astros it will be but for all of Baseball, I can’t see it right now.

4) Back on May 27th, Bryce Harper told a group of Little Leaguers, “As much as they might tell you, ‘It’s OK you guys lost today,’ no Johnny. No participation trophies, OK? First place only, alright?” 

What is your opinion on what Harper told the kids? 

Bryce Harper and Little Leaguers…

Dan: I like it.

If, you look past the outside of his words and look at the meaning of what he was saying, it makes perfect sense to how the professional leagues of baseball works. It makes perfect sense to how college baseball works. It makes perfect sense to how the world works. The goal isn’t just to congratulate yourself based on your participation, the goal is to be the best and come out on top. If you lose, that’s not a bad thing. What it does is shows you that you have stuff to work on. You can always improve. And with each loss, you need to take it as a learning opportunity to get better so that you become the best. The only goal that should matter is you playing/being your best and winning. If, you’re getting an award/trophy for coming in second, eighth, whatever, it’s pointless. You want that first place trophy. That’s the only one that counts and matters.

Joe: Let me say this right up front…  I do not believe in “participation trophies” on an level of competitive sports. I do not care if it is the peewee league.

Therefore, I see nothing wrong with what Harper told those kids.

Steve: Stupid Stupid move Bryce Harper. I mean he is right, but stupid thing to say.

You are taught as a young kid, it is not about winning and losing, it is about how you are playing the game. Showing integrity. Learning the basics. It is not until you grow where winning and losing seriously matter. I mean if you think about it, people lose their jobs if they do not win, so what he is saying does have merit. It just was not the right thing to say to Little League Baseball players.

5) On May 31st, CBS.com’s Bill Reiter wrote, “… here’s a not-so-secret fact, commish, one the tech world shouldn’t have to tell you: Young people live in the moment, and they crave authenticity, and they yearn for excitement. What they’re looking for is Harper’s fists flying… and Strickland’s, too… and baseball selling the idea that players policing themselves isn’t just great theater. It’s a rich part of the history of the game that too-squeamish owners and commissioners have spent years trying to erase… this isn’t just about the thrill of the fight, though that’s certainly true, too. It’s about Harper, and Strickland, playing out a saga once quite common in the game. Because the place to settle disagreements, slights real and imagined and revenge-is-a-dish-best-served-cold plots isn’t in some office building in New York City. It’s in those 60 feet, six inches somewhere between the plate and the mound. And the players know it.” 

Reiter added, “‘Yup,” one former long-time player told me. “Harper had to get him. Bryce gained a lot of respect across the league.” And, as important, among fans across the country.”  

What are your thoughts on what Reiter wrote? Is there a place in baseball for “settling your differences on the field’’ and “allowing the players to police themselves?” 

Giants’ pitcher Hunter Strickland & Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper in a fight after Harper was hit by a pitch.

Dan: I agree with Reiter to a point.

I don’t think that it needs to become a free-for-all on the mound if a player feels like a pitcher hit him on purpose because that’s part of the game. But, I do think that Harper was in the right against Strickland. He was obviously still very upset about something that happened several years ago and threw intentionally at Harper. Harper wasn’t having that and charged the mound. The amount of restraint that needed to be applied to Strickland just to get him off of the field and into the dugout shows you everything you need to know about the kind of person Strickland is. And, the only way to take care of the situation was to charge the mound and handle it out there. Granted the fighting was horrible and they looked like the inflatable waving-arm balloons, but I think what they did was the correct way to handle the situation.

Regarding players policing themselves, I think it comes down to a case-by-case basis. Obviously, if a fastball inside got away from me and hit you in the leg, there’s really no reason for you to charge the mound at me and get us both ejected/suspended over an accident. If, I threw at your head or behind your back and it was clear as day that I was intentionally throwing at you and nothing seems to be done about it, or across the league, then the batter needs to handle what he needs to handle.

While I think the suspensions were a little steep for Harper, I thought they let Strickland go with a rather easy suspension. I would’ve took two games off Harper’s suspension and applied it to Strickland’s. But, whether you handle the situation on the field or leave it alone, I think the first and foremost decision that needs to be made, at a split second decision and usually in a heated moment, is the well-being of the team. “Will me charging the mound hurt or help my team?” If it helps, then go ahead. If it hurts, then why do it? Ultimately the team comes first in baseball and that’s what needs to be at the forefront of every player’s mind.

Joe: I do think there is a need for the players to “police themselves” on the field of play… how far it should go is the real question to me. And, that is walking a fine line.

I worry that if it starts to escalate and hotter heads prevail, we could revisit a scene where the Giants’ pitcher Juan Marichal came to bat and had words with the Dodgers’ catcher John Roseboro and promptly took his bat and whomped Roseboro over the head. 

Steve: I am going to be as logical as I can here.

How is it fair when a pitcher, who has the ability to throw a 95 mph baseball can throw at a guy, and risk serious injury to the hitter, and just get suspended for literally a game. Where the hitter, if he comes at you, will get suspended longer. Also, if the hitter were to come after the pitcher with the baseball bat, he would be likely subjected to criminal charges. I don’t like the way this is, I never have. The players need to have more discipline and severe consequences when these occurrences happen. Sure its fun to watch, but this is not hockey, or boxing, it is baseball.

Extra Innings…

Mickey Mantle Day at Yankee Stadium, June 8, 1969
Mickey Mantle & Joe DiMaggio

On this day in 1969…

The Yankees hold “Mickey Mantle Day” and retire his uniform number 7 in front of a crowd of 60,096.

Mantle is presented with a plaque from Joe DiMaggio that will be hung on the center field fence in Monument Park.

Then Mantle turns the tables and he presents Joe D. with his own plaque and Mantle tells the crowd “His should be just a little bit higher than mine.”

 

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