By: Rob Schardt
Yesterday, we saw one of the coolest things in baseball all year. That being the Little League Classic that was held in Williamsport Pennsylvania. This event is the second one ever to be held, but I believe it's brings humanity and innocence to the game of baseball. We saw the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies face off in front of all of the Little League World Series Teams and fans.
Hours before the game started, we saw players from little league teams greet the Phillies players as they walked off their plane, then the Phillies boarded a bus with the little league players. This is every little kids dream and I know for sure I would have loved to have gotten this opportunity. It wasn't just about baseball, these kids were asking about favorite foods, favorite video games and what they enjoy to do with their free time. The Phillies players most certainly appreciated this because they felt it was a great refresher about what life should be about.
The New York Mets, also had this same experience and appreciated every second of it. We saw the entire Mets starting rotation join the Little Leaguers in the stands which was on of the coolest moments in sports I have ever seen. When you have players like Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, sitting next to you I for sure would be stunned. These kids appreciated it just as much as the players as we saw with Jake Arrieta. Arrieta said he has been watching the Little League World Series many years but never actually been to Williamsport. He was also given the chance to speak to Mid-Atlantic star Gregory Bruno and both players, greatly appreciated the opportunity to pick one another's brains. Rhys Hoskins took in and cherished every single moment of this opportunity and we saw him taking selfies with the kids and eating popcorn with them.
Players like Todd Frazier, Michael Conforto and Scott Kingery returned back to Williamsport this as Major Leaguers. These three players took part in the Little League World Series when they were younger and Frazier himself won the entire tournament. This experience for these Little Leaguers is something they will never forget, as it is not an everyday thing where you get to speak to someone who these kids hope to be like one day. This is one of the best things in all of sports and I hope continues for years to come.
By: Ross Sutton
In case you haven’t noticed, the A’s are one hell of a story to follow right now. After being 11.5 games out of first place and in fourth place in their division as recently as June 16th, the A’s are now only one game back of the Astros in the AL West and have a sturdy 3.5 game hold on the second Wild Card spot over the Mariners. Since the middle of June, the A’s have been on a complete tear through the majors, winning nearly 75% of their games during this stretch. I’m sure this won’t be the last time an underdog team is compared to the 2002 Oakland A’s team that was featured in hit movie “Moneyball”, but yet again, the A’s are shocking the world with their great play.
A while back, I wrote a blog about how I wanted the A’s to make some impactful moves at the deadline in order to go all in to make it to the playoffs this year, and this wish was granted by the A’s front office, as the team was very active at the deadline, and afterwards. Over the last few weeks, the A’s acquired Jeurys Familia from the Mets, Shawn Kelley from the Nationals, Mike Fiers from the Tigers, and Fernando Rodney from the Twins. Oakland clearly went after bullpen arms (Familia, Kelley, Rodney) to make their elite bullpen even more dominant and another solid, reliable arm (Fiers) in order to stabilize their starting rotation. I LOVED these moves and I truly believe the A’s are a top five teams in the American League after making these acquisitions.
Sure there are some similarities between this year’s A’s team and the “Moneyball” team in 2002, but the 2018 A’s were definitely the team that was considered to have a better chance to be a contender. At the end of last year, the A’s and their fans saw some of the young talent they had in the organization, as Matt Olson and Matt Chapman showed a lot of promise. Some thought the A’s were another year or two away from contending, including myself, but that was clearly wrong, as the A’s look great right now and have a really good chance to get into the playoffs this season. As I was watching the MLB Network this morning though, I couldn’t help but get goosebumps and think of my favorite movie (Moneyball) while watching the highlights from Oakland’s dramatic walk-off win against the Astros from last night that put them only ONE game back of the reigning World Series Champions. In case you haven’t seen some of the key plays from last night's game, please watch these two highlights and try not to feel the same way I did.
A’s Tie The Game
Matt Olson Home Run
This team has everything working for them right now, and I can’t wait to see how far they go this season.
By: Ross Sutton
This has been a weird season to be a Yankees fan, as the Bronx Bombers are 30 games above .500 and have the second-best record in all of baseball, but they are still no where close to being in first place in the AL East. So now with the team’s ace Luis Severino struggling over the last few weeks, star players like Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez missing time due to injuries, and the team playing uninspired baseball recently, a question must be asked, “Can the Yankees still catch the Red Sox in the AL East even though they are currently 10.5 games back?”. I had hope up until recently, but now, I have given up on the division, as it just doesn’t seem possible for the Yanks to catch Boston at this point in the season.
In my opinion, I just mentioned the two biggest problems the Yankees have right now, Severino has not been good lately, and Judge and Sanchez are not in the lineup because of injuries. I’m not exactly sure what the problem is for Severino right now, but he has to be the dominant pitcher that Yankees fans have come accustomed to by the time the playoffs roll around if the Yanks are going to make a run at the World Series this year. I think the best thing to do right now would be to let Severino get some rest, maybe missing a start or two would be beneficial to the young ace so that he could get right physically and mentally. I wrote a blog a while back about how messed up I think the current Wild Card format is and how dominant teams like the Yankees get screwed by having to play in a one-game playoff despite being a top team in the league. I still completely agree with this opinion as I think it is ridiculous that New York might not even get to play a full series in the playoffs because of the current Wild Card format. But with that being said, the format is what it is for this year, which means the Yankees need Severino to be dominant for the Wild Card game.
Judge and Sanchez also really need to get healthy so they are ready for the playoffs. Judge’s injury is pretty weird in the sense that the original timetable for his return was 3-4 weeks, but that time has already passed and Judge’s injury still has not healed, and he doesn’t seem to be very close to returning to the lineup. This obviously makes me worried, but I do not think the Yankees are an organization to mismanage injuries the way the other New York team does, so I have faith that Judge will be okay sooner rather than later. But in the meantime, can Cashman please trade for Curtis Granderson?? Granderson has cleared waivers which means that any team in the league can make a trade for him and I cannot watch any more games where Shane Robinson is playing. The Yankees cannot possibly be thinking of catching Boston when Robinson is an everyday player, sorry Shane. Even though Granderson is much older and not as good as he once was when he previously played for the Yankees, I still believe he would be a helpful addition to the team while Judge is hurt. As for Gary Sanchez, I’m still pretty sure the Yankees are a better team with him in the lineup and behind the plate, even though he cost the Yankees the game against the Rays the last time he played by being lazy behind the plate and on the base paths. Romine has also been great while filling in for Sanchez, playing awesome defense and hitting well too. But I still think Gary Sanchez is the best catcher in all of baseball when he is right at the plate, and playing good defense behind the dish and I want THAT Gary Sanchez back in the lineup so badly, so please get healthy and start hustling more when you’re playing Gary. If these problems are fixed by the time the playoffs start, I think the Yankees can still win the World Series this season.
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Who Will Win The NL MVP?
By: Ross Sutton
In my opinion, the National League has a much more compelling MVP race than the American League, where Mookie Betts and Jose Ramirez look to be the two favorites. For the National League though, there is an extremely close race between guys like Javier Baez, Nolan Arenado, and Freddie Freeman, so I’m going to break down the case for each guy winning the NL MVP Award this season.
Javier Baez (Chicago Cubs):
Javy Baez is one of the most electrifying players in the league, as he has a certain flare to his game where he can do something incredible at any moment, whether it is on offense or defense. Baez has been playing elite, Gold Glove caliber defense his entire career, but his offensive game has taken a step up this season. So far in 2018, Baez is hitting .300 with a .922 OPS, along with 25 homers, 88 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases. Baez has already set new career highs in home runs, RBIs, and stolen bases, so it is pretty clear that he has taken his offensive game to the next level. If Baez can keep up this efficiency at the plate, he will hit over .300 for the first time in his career. Not only is Javy making an impact at the plate, but he has been a wizard on defense, making a spectacular play almost every night, including this one from the other night against the Royals (Baez also hit a home run and a triple in this game). You’ll notice that Baez is playing third on this play, showcasing his versatility on the diamond. Baez has been asked to play second, shortstop, third, and even first so far this season, as many of the Cubs star infielders have been forced to miss time due to injuries. This versatility only strengthens Baez’s case for the NL MVP.
Nolan Arenado (Colorado Rockies):
Since 2015, Nolan Arenado has been one of the best players in all of major league baseball, consistently hitting around .300 with 40 home runs and 130 RBIs. So far this season, Arenado has a .306 batting average with 29 home runs and 81 RBIs, so Arenado has not shown any signs of slowing down this year compared to years past. The crazy numbers over the last few seasons and another typical Arenado season this year makes the Rockies stud third baseman a top candidate for the NL MVP Award. Much like Baez, Arenado plays world class defense, as he has won the Gold Glove at third every year in his career, which is pretty unbelievable. In case you don’t believe me, here is a highlight reel of some sick plays by Arenado. If Arenado won the NL MVP Award this year, it would likely be partially due to the fact that he has been overlooked in the MVP race in years past, only finishing as high as fourth in the final vote.
Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves):
Much like Arenado, Freddie Freeman has been one of the best and most consistent players in the league over the last few seasons. So far in 2018, Freeman is hitting .315 with 18 home runs, and 69 RBIs. These numbers don’t quite jump off the screen like the numbers of Baez or Arenado do, but Freeman has been one of the biggest cogs in the Braves lineup this year, where they are in the middle of a divisional race with the Phillies and (kind of) Nationals. Freeman’s MVP case is similar to Arenado’s in the sense that if he won it would likely be because of lack of recognition in previous MVP votes. Also like the other candidates I mentioned, Freeman also plays great defense, as he has been a mainstay for the Braves at first base for years. I think Freeman needs to have a big final two months of the season with lots of homers in order to close the gap in the MVP race, as his power numbers are not very special right now. It would also be huge for Freeman’s MVP case if the Braves topped the Phillies and won the NL East.
Overall, I think Nolan Arenado is the pick right now for the NL MVP Award, as he is probably the best defensive player on the planet and also puts up insane offensive numbers year in and year out. There is still almost two months left though, so maybe Baez, Freeman or others can play well enough to edge out Arenado for MVP.
All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com
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Watch Out For The Rays (In A Year Or Two)
By: Nick Wells, Sam Gagliardi, and Rob Schardt
Nick’s Winner: Atlanta Braves
Atlanta had three needs that were obvious going into the deadline: bullpen help, a consistent starter, and another reliable utility player to add to the bench. GM Alex Anthopolous went after these top needs, strengthening the bullpen by acquiring Brad Brach from the Orioles and Johnny Venters from the Rays for international slot money the Braves can’t even use (thanks Coppy). Then AA went out and got OF Adam Duvall from the Reds for Lucas Sims, Matt Wisler, and Preston Tucker. Wisler and Tucker are out of options, and all three would’ve been unlikely to make the 40-man roster this offseason. Duvall, the former All-Star, has been excellent defensively and his presence will mean that Ender Inciarte will sit out against lefties with Ronald Acuña Jr. moving over to CF. The Braves were frequently mentioned in talks about Chris Archer, but a deal never came to fruition. However, with the deadline getting uncomfortably close with no moves for a starter, the Braves traded INF Jean Carlos Encarnacion, reliever Evan Phillips and catcher Brett Cumberland (along with a little bit of that sweet international slot money that doesn’t mean a whole lot to the sanctioned Braves) for starter Kevin Gausman and reliever Darren O’Day. The latter is currently sidelined (dugouted?) for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury but can help the team beyond 2018. Gausman however can have an immediate impact if the change of scenery and improvement of defensive support can help him relax and just throw filth.
Nick’s Loser: Washington Nationals
The Nats started the deadline day a game under .500 but 5.5 games behind first place, so it would’ve made sense for them to make a move that could put them more solidly in contention. Possibly a move for a catcher, a position they desperately needed an upgrade in. So, they got rid of righty reliever Brandon Kintzler by sending him to the Cubs for pitcher Jhon Romero. That is all. Done. After reports came out that Bryce Harper was available, GM Mike Rizzo came out with a statement saying that “Bryce isn’t going anywhere.” Folks, he’s a free agent at the end of the season, and if the Nationals don’t figure it out and make the playoffs, anywhere is exactly where Harper is going to go. Rizzo believes in what this team can do and thinks they can stick around and compete the rest of the season. It would be a real shame if they didn’t though. An absolute tragedy. Sadly, last night they held BP against the Mets defense, winning 25-4. Did the Kintzler trade fix the Nationals problems? It’s definitely too early to tell, but for now, after not making any meaningful moves to push them forward, they’re LOSERS.
Sam’s Winner: New York Yankees
As much as it pains me to admit it after they eliminated my Indians from the playoffs last year, the Yankees are clear winners this trade deadline. I love what the Yanks did by adding J.A. Happ. They needed a starter and they got the best starter — besides Archer — on the market. Happ, an undeserving — but albeit — allster, has been solid this year with 11 wins, while averaging 10 SO/9 innings. He als has postseason experience. Happ may not pay big dividends in the playoffs, but in a pivotal race to try and beat the Red Soxs for the East title, Happ adds length and dependability to the Yanks rotation down the stretch. Their best move, however, by far that will be far more rewarding come October, was the addition of Zach Britton. If he, alongside Chapman, Betances, and Robertson, can return to the Britton of two years ago, I’m not sure I’v ever seen a more imposing bullpen. If you don’t take the lead on the Yanks before the 6th inning in October, good luck.
Sam’s Loser: Milwaukee Brewers
This reasoning has little to do with what the Brew Crew did do, but all to do what they didn’t do. First, with the addition of Moustakas and Schoop, they now possess one of the most vaunted lineups, 1--9, in all of baseball. However, baseball in October is won because of pitching not hitting. And the biggest weakness the Brewers needed to add was a frontline starter, an ace preferably. Worst, the trade market’s biggest fish, Archer, went to a division rival, the Pittsburgh Pirates who are only a few games behind the Brewers for a Wild Card spot! Not wanting to pony up the prospects, ok I can maybe understand. But after going all in adding good hitters, why not finish the job? Then letting him fall in the lap of your division rival in the midst of a playoff race (!?!) and for the next 3 years (!?!): unforgivable.
Rob’s Winner: Philadelphia Phillies
Personally, I believe the Phillies were winners in this situation. I know it’s a little bit of a stretch, but Wilson Ramos was an All-Star this year. Ramos is currently hitting .297 with 14 home runs, 53 RBI and a .834 OBP. Before Ramos got hurt he was one of the best hitting catchers in the league if not the best. This move caught many by surprise because the Phillies already have Jorge Alfaro at catcher, who many think is their catcher of the future and I believe he is a stud. This move gives the team a veteran presence on the field, who has been around the game of baseball for many years and knows how to call a baseball game. Ramos can most likely help mentor Alfaro and develop him into a top catcher in the league. Ramos hasn’t played since July 14, but when he returns I bet he and recently acquired Asdrubal Cabrera will help the Phillies young team remain in first place and win the division. Also the Phillies would acquire LHP Aaron Loup from the Blue Jays. Loup can bolster the Phillies bullpen that has been doing pretty decent recently. Loop is very effective against lefties throughout his career including only giving up 5 total home runs to lefties in his entire career (565 plate appearances). Bullpens help teams in deep playoff runs, but I believe all these move were great for this Phillies team which can use veteran assistance.
Rob’s Loser: New York Mets
Well, fellow Mets fans, I hate to do this, but once more we lost on the trade deadline. For the past few months all we have seen in the news was that one of the Mets star pitchers would be dealt by the deadline. Well the time came and the team did nothing about it. The most talked about name was Zack Wheeler and where he would end up. I thought the Mets were in the driver’s seat to make a big move happen and they completely balked at moving him. Over his past few starts Wheeler was absolutely dealing with a 3.20 ERA over the last 2 months. He made a strong case that he should be traded to a contender and to be honest I wish he was because he does deserve it. I get it the team does not want to go into a total rebuild, but at least move some parts and get back some prospects for them. Players like Jose Bautista or Devin Mesoraco could have been dealt for prospects but that did not happen either. I do not know what was going on in the front office, but I understand it. It takes a lot of courage to pull the trigger on a move that will bring in the right prospects for a team. The Mets obviously aren't winning anything this year and after getting blown out 25-4 (the worst lose in franchise history), fans are embarrassed and are wondering if the team should have made a move of 2. We also do not know if the team should have moved deGrom or Syndergaard either and got a ton of prospects for them, but I know for one thing, many people maybe unhappy they did because people feel as if the run for the Mets is over and the team's pitchers didn't live up to the hype. I don't hate them not moving those 2 pieces if they didn't get the right players back, but if they did then we will see the effects down the road. I do believe however, that they should have traded a veteran that could help a team down the stretch.
By: Ross Sutton
The Rays were very active during the trade deadline this year, mostly as sellers. The only time they gave up prospects was when they traded for the now former centerfielder of the Cardinals, Tommy Pham. Pham has been a late bloomer in the majors, as he had his first really good season last year with the Cardinals at age 29. His numbers have fallen off a bit since last then, but he has shown he can be great before, so maybe he can to get back to that elite level of play with the Rays. The Rays gave up prospects Justin Williams, Genesis Cabrera, and Roel Ramirez to get Pham, so it was a pretty even trade. Williams is ranked as the Cardinals 9th best prospect and Cabrera is the Cardinals 14th best prospect according to MLB Pipeline. That being said, the Rays still have control of Pham through the 2021 season while he is arbitration eligible, so the team-freindly contract is a huge plus for Tampa Bay.
The Pham trade was a good move by the Rays in my opinion, but that wasn’t even the best move they made today, as they traded Chris Archer to the Pirates for prospects Austin Meadows, Tyler Glasnow, and a player to be named later. I think this trade favored the Rays much more than the Pirates, as Pittsburgh gave up quite a lot for a pitcher that has a 4.31 ERA this year. I know Archer has a very team-friendly contract, but Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow are two of the most talented young players in baseball. Even though I believe the Pirates gave up too much for Archer, I really respect the fact they are going for it this year and trying their best to make a push for a wild card spot. Before the All-Star break, the Pirates general manager, Neil Huntington, said that the team would have to go on a run before they make some big moves, and then they won 9 gams in a row, so I love that Huntington put his money where his mouth is and supported the team at the deadline. Not only did the Pirates get Archer, but they also acquired reliever Keone Kela from the Rangers to fortify the back-end of the bullpen.
The Rays already have players in the majors that they see as their core group for years to come with Blake Snell, Willy Adames, Kevin Kiermaier, and Jake Bauers, so when you add talented players such as Tommy Pham, Austin Meadows, and Tyler Glasnow to the mix, this Rays team could be extremely good very soon. Then to make matters even worse for opposing teams in the league, the Rays have a loaded farm system with Brent Honeywell, Brendan McKay, Jesus Sanchez, and Matthew Liberatore waiting in the wings to contribute at the major league level. So with all that being said, I think the Rays proved why they are one of the most well-run franchises in all of baseball.
By: Sam Gagliardi
Is the window opening or is it closing? When taken out of context, this terminology may sound a bit out of place, but every baseball fan knows exactly what this question is referring to, especially around the MLB trade deadline. Teams must decide to either sell off players for the future, or acquire for the here and now. No team seemed to be stuck in a quasi open-and-close scenario quite like the Cleveland Indians.
Before the season, the Indians were a sexy pick to make it back to the Series after a disappointing ending to last season. However, as the their inconsistent season has played out, and other super-teams in the AL have exceeded even their already-lofty expectations, the Tribe has been forced to re-calibrate on the fly at the trade deadline. You can certainly never count any team out of October baseball. It is a crap-shoot by nature, and when you possess, possibilities the games best starting rotation and 2 of the game's top-5 best position players — Lindor and Ramirez — like the Indians do, they'll have their shot to win it all. But should the Tribe consider mortgaging their farm — pun intended — to try and win it all this year? Yes, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, and Michael Brantley are all impending free agents, but their starting rotation and Lindor/Ramirez combo are mostly all under contract through 2021. Somehow the Indians made the best of both worlds, and have reemerged on the other side, as a even scarier October out.
Through it feels like forever ago, the Indians made the best pitching-move of the deadline. First, Brad Hand is this years Andrew Miller. Statistically, his ERA may have increased from last year but Hand is throwing his slider with greater tilt and, for lack of a better term, nastiness. With Miller — who could be considered, in a way, a new deadline acquisition after he returns from a 2-month abscess any day now — and Allen, Manager Terry Francona has 3 bonafide ace-closers to manipulate and close games out every opportunity in October. Adam Cimber is a nightmare for right-handed hitters — with batters barely hitting above .200 against. And in a series against Judge and Stanton or Correa, Altuve, or Bregman, he can be a huge match-up weapon. The Indians had to sacrifice their no.1 prospect Francisco Mejia, but with Yan Gomes making the All-star game this year and signed through 2021, it helped lessen the blow.
Finally, after strengthening the bullpen, the Indians made a logical move to shore up the last remaining weakness: the outfield. They acquired Leonys Martin from the Tigers today for thier no.9 rated prospect Willi Castro. Martin is batting .251 with 9 home runs. He also is tied for the AL lead with 9 outfield assist in just 94 games played. While the current black hole that has been the Indians center field position this year has statistically cost them wins, Martin has contributed to over 2 wins with a 2.1 fWAR. He is not the flashy trade that a Bryce Harper would have been, but Martin is not free-agent eligible until 2020 and plays a much better defensive center field than Harper. Platooning him with Rajai Davis, can make this acquisition a stellar, savvy under-the-radar acquisition if Martin can stay healthy.
Both these moves help the Tribe now and later on. They had to repair the bullpen and outfield for this coming October, which they did. They had to find viable future-bullpen arms for when Miller and Allen enter free agency, which they did. And they had to keep most of their remaining top-tier prospects for future trades or a future era after 2021, which they did. The Indians will not catch Houston, New York or Boston for the best AL record, but best believe it, come October, no team will look forward to facing them.