Home Run Derby Alternatives

The Home Run Derby is just around the corner, or the weekend actually, and it is once again time to celebrate baseball’s best home run hitters…or at least the best of those who want to participate.

For the players, it seems that the Derby is more of a one time thing that only young players want to experience. The Bobby Abreu power outage after his Derby victory has deterred players from participating in this mid-year event.

From a fan’s perspective the Derby is really fun when you are watching it in person, but kind of boring to watch on TV.

So if players are hesitant to participate and fans may be getting bored of this event, what is baseball to do?

If I had my way, I’d take after the NHL and create a skills competition, headlined by the Home Run Derby. This superskills competition could demonstrate the many aspects of the game of baseball that are rarely highlighted.

This skill competition could have five events, each one highlighting a different baseball skill.

For the outfielders, a throwing contest could take place. Outfielders would line up at different parts of the ballpark and throw home. Accuracy and lowest arc with fewest hops determines who moves on. Players can start from short outfield, to mid to deep, and finally to the wall. At each spot they could have three throws to get the ball into a target. This event will showcase the best outfield arms in baseball, and would be very entertaining.

For the fast lead-off hitters, a speed contest will take place. Runners will have to go from home to second, home to third and all the way around the bases. The fastest combined times wins. This will give fans a true appreciation for just how fast a Michael Bourn or a Jose Reyes really are.

For the pitchers, an accuracy competition could take place. Targets will be set up on each of the corners of the plate, as well as high and low. Pitchers will be rewarded for demonstrating accuracy with all pitches. Fastballs can earn one point, and breaking balls and change-ups two points. Players will compete against each other with the players with the most points moving on.

To demonstrate just how good the hitters are at directing the ball, a competition where hitters have to hit the ball to specific targets in the field will take place. Players will have to be able to hit grounders, line drives and fly balls to each part of the stadium. Points will be awarded for hitting close to a target. The closer to the target the more points are awarded.

And to end the superskills competition the standard home run derby will take place, though with fewer players. The fewer players will speed up the derby and make it even more exciting.

If baseball did something along the lines of the above proposal, popularity of the game will increase. The NHL already understands the benefits of a skills competition and baseball could expect the same rewards.

It may take some convincing, however, for the players to accept such a proposal. Players may be hesitant due to the threat of injury, but these events should not be too taxing on the athletes.

The Home Run Derby is good the way it is, but could be much better of more baseball skills were highlighted for the fans to enjoy.

All-Star Rosters announced

The All-Star rosters were announced, so let the complaining begin.

I’m actually not to outraged about this year’s lineups. Both teams have new players that deserve to be there and both teams only have one or two question marks. I’m not going to dive into who was snubbed, because there are always going to be deserving players who missed the team.

Let’s start off with the positives about these teams. The most deserving, yet surprising, All-Star is Alex Avila of the Detroit Tigers. Avila is not all that well-known, but apparently his numbers have spoke for themselves as the fans voted him the starting catcher for the AL squad. Avila is hitting .299 with a .900 OPS and 46 RBIs. Avila has been the best catcher in the AL and is rewarded with a starting spot in the ASG.

Another pleasant surprise for the AL squad is outfielder Matt Joyce. Joyce has been tearing it up for the Rays this season, hitting .302 with an .890 OPS and 40 RBIs. Joyce has been carrying the Rays offensively and was key in keeping the Rays afloat when Evan Longoria was out with injury.

On the National League side it was good to see Jonny Venters, Ryan Vogelsong and Starlin Castro to get recognized for their efforts this season. Venters has been the best relief pitcher in all of baseball and Vogelsong is easily the comeback player of the year thus far. And Castro has been the one shining spot on the black hole that is the Chicago Cubs. It’s good to see that the coaches and players recognize these three unknowns by putting them in the ASG.

Now for the negative.

The only real problems I have with the rosters this year are Derek Jeter of the Yankees and Carlos Quentin of the White Sox.

Jeter is only hitting .260 with a .649 OPS and only 39 runs. He hasn’t had a good season and should not be in the game, let alone a starter. Just visit my previous post for a rant on fan voting.

Also in the AL, Carlos Quentin undeservedly made the ASG.  Quentin is hitting a lowly .253 with a .874 OPS. He does have 49 RBIs and 17 home runs, but there are many other players who are more deserving of an All-Star bid (just take a look at the final vote list).

Like I said before, I’m not going to dig too deep into who got snubbed and who didn’t deserve to make it. These squads are full of veterans and new guys and should make for a great game.

New Home Run Derby Format

New this year that will be fun to watch is the home run derby draft. Taking from the success of the NHL ASG fantasy draft, MLB has elected Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder to select teammates to compete in the home run derby. I think this will create some more buzz around the home run derby, which has been lacking in the last couple of years, and should lead to a great show.

Arguing with Umps

As I was sitting at watching the Braves-Mariners game today Eric Wedge disagreed with a strike call and subsequently was tossed from the game. Replays showed that the pitch was close, too close to take with two strikes, but was probably a strike. Wedge saw that his hitter, Jack Cust, disagreed with the call and immediately started yelling at the umpire. Wedge was ejected, but he was not done. He came storming out of the dugout and screamed at the umpire for a few minutes.

This tirade by Wedge got me thinking, should players and coaches be allowed to argue with umpires? There is already a rule that you cannot argue balls and strikes, but there is no rule against arguing other plays.

If there is a close play at first, coaches are allowed to go out and talk/argue with the umpire about the call. But why should they be allowed to do this? The calls are rarely changed, these tirades usually take a couple of minutes and nothing productive comes from it, at least for baseball in general.

I understand that these ejections and arguments may spark a fire under the players, but couldn’t that be solved in some other way? Why should these umpires, who are just trying to make a living in the sport they love, have to tolerate being berated day in and day out?

If I were at work and started berating a fellow employee because I disagreed with his work, I would be fired almost on the spot. If I went on tirades on a consistent basis, as managers seem to do, I would never get another job again.

So why is arguing allowed in sports?

Sports, and baseball specifically, has a lot of subjective calls, and as such, these calls are often disputed. I would be ok with managers or players disagreeing with a call, but these tirades have got to go. For example, if a batter disagreed with a strike, he should be allowed to turn around and simply say he disagrees. But he should not be allowed to get in the umpire’s face and start cursing at him. Same thing goes for any other play.

I know arguments and ejection have been a part of the game for a very long time, but i think it is time they go. Especially in an age when MLB is trying to shorten the game, Bud Selig should implement a rule that gives an automatic three game suspension for any argument that results in an ejection.

By implementing a rule like this one, arguments would be cut down, and games would be quickened. No longer would coaches waste four or five minutes ripping into the umpire. Players won’t argue because they would be missing games if they do.

In addition to the automatic three game suspension, longer suspensions could be given to repeat offenders. The threat of longer suspensions will almost completely eliminate the arguments.

Manager tirades and face-to-face arguments are somewhat entertaining but are not beneficial to the game of baseball, and as such should be eliminated.

The same goes for all sports. We don’t need to see football coaches screaming in the ears of sideline officials, or hockey coaches yelling at linesmen. Eliminating these screaming coaches and players would be very beneficial to the world of sports.

All-Star Game- Should the fans get the vote?

With only a few days left in All-Star Game voting, the question again arises, should fans really be voting for the All-Star starters?

In my opinion, the answer is no. Here’s why.

By allowing fans to vote, the league is simply making the All-Star Game a popularity contest. If you wonder why there are always so many Red Sox and Yankees in the ASG it’s because they are the most popular players on two of the most popular teams. Players like Hideki Matsui and Ichiro Suzuki always draw a lot of votes, deserving or undeserving, simply because they are popular Japanese players. They get all of the votes simply because they are from Japan.

The fan voting also allows for ridiculous stunts like the the one pulled by the Red Sox and the San Francisco Giants. Each of these teams is encouraging their fans to vote for the opposing team’s players. I am not entirely sure of the reason, but Giants position players (none of whom deserve to be in the ASG) may get in simply because of this popularity stunt.

I understand the allowance of the popularity contest, but I do not agree with it. I know that the most popular players will (logically) bring in the most fan attention and as a result, bring in the most money. From a business standpoint, the fan vote is great. It makes the game as popular as it can be, and therefore makes MLB as much money as possible.

However, Major League baseball also had this genius idea to make the ASG determine home field advantage for the World Series. Because of this (albeit absurd) decision, baseball must therefore put the best players from both leagues on the All-Star teams. If this is supposed to be a true test of which league is better, then the best players from both leagues should be in the game. The fans do not give an accurate depiction of who is actually the best player at each position.

For example, Derek Jeter, As of June 21, was leading the AL shortstops in voting. With his .260 average, .648 OPS and only two home runs, Jeter is the fans’ choice for best American League shortstop. The fans are getting close to being correct, having Asdrubal Cabrera and his .293 average, .833 OPS and 12 home runs second in voting. But at this rate, the fans are going to get it wrong.

I think it is good that MLB is trying to get fans to participate in what is clearly the most popular ASG of the four major sports, but if this game is supposed to be the best players from both leagues then put the best players from both leagues. Give the guys that deserve a chance the opportunity to play in the ASG.

I do recognize, however, that taking the vote away from the fans could lead to a diminishing viewreship of the ASG. With less fan interaction, the game may fall to the level of the NFL Probowl, which no body wants. I think a compromise between fan voting and some other sort of voting should be implemented to keep the game popular, and actually put the best players in the game.

This is my proposition.

Let the fans vote for the starters, but have their vote cont for only 1/3 of total vote.

The second third of the vote would go to the players and coaches. Players and coaches  know who is doing the little things correctly and will be able to correctly identify the true all-stars.

The final third of the vote should go to the sports writers. The sports writers follow the game closer than anybody in the world. Sportswriters interact with the players everyday, watch every game and pour over all of the statistics in baseball. Sportswriters will give the fairest and truest vote of actual all-stars.

This proposition will keep the fan interaction, keeping the popularity of the game, and put more deserving representatives into the ASG. More deserving players leads to a better depiction of which league is better, making the determination of home field advantage more tolerable.

Regardless of how the ASG is conducted, it will be a fun experience for everyone in it and it will be enjoyable to watch…even if there are too many Yankees and Red Sox in it.

Give the ping its love

While football and basketball have been thriving in the collegiate world for years now, college baseball needs some loving as well.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t initially like the ping of the metal bats and I really didn’t like the fact that college games used to last upwards of four hours. But with the new regulations on bats (and the fact that I worked in college baseball this past season) I have come to not only appreciate the collegiate game of baseball but actually come to enjoy it.

College baseball players, like all college players, are the most enthusiastic bunch of athletes there are. The love for the game that these guys have is amazing and makes watching the game really really fun.

Why am I bringing this up right now? Well, in case you didn’t know, the College World Series is happening right now, and the finals are almost set. Florida has already punched its ticket to the finals and awaits the winner of the Virginia-South Carolina winner, which is happening right now.

This year has been full of Cinderella stories and great games and should be watched by everyone. California, whose baseball program was literally discontinued in the fall, is back and made it to the College World Series. They have, unfortunately, lost, but their story was amazing.

I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time speaking on behalf of the greatness that is college baseball, but I’m just trying to let you all know that it is just as exciting as college basketball or college football and should be enjoyed by all.

As mentioned before, the new bat regulations have made the game better. Now the games aren’t 20-10 and five hours long. Now the bats are more similar to wood bats than ever before and give an accurate depiction of these players’ power. Games are shorter, pitching is better and the sport is more fun to watch.

So turn on ESPN 2 right now and watch the end of the UVA – South Carolina matchup and enjoy the rest of the College World Series.


Jim Riggleman resigns

Today it was announced that Jim Riggleman resigned as the manager of the Washington Nationals. Riggleman is the second manager this week to resign, the other being Edwin Rodriguez.

While Rodriguez was likely to be fired soon anyway, Riggleman was leading one of the hottest teams in baseball. But, according to reports, Riggleman was upset with the Nationals for not picking up his option for the 2012 season. Riggleman told the Nationals ownership that he would quit unless his option was picked up. His option was not picked up and Riggleman followed through on his threat, he quit.

Riggleman’s resignation was selfish and immature. Riggleman completely disregarded the team, the players and the fans with his selfish act. Riggleman may have felt that the Nationals were going to move on from him, but too bad. He signed a contract and he should live out that contract. This situation is similar to NFL players holding out of preseason for bigger contracts. It was you who signed the original deal and it is your duty to live out that contract. If the team does not want you long term, then too bad. That is their decision to make.

Not only did Riggleman not live out his contract, but he also showed that he doesn’t care about his players. Riggleman was leading the Nationals through one of its best stretches in recent history. The Nationals were rolling and without regard to his players, Riggleman quit. Imagine the backlash if a player, say Jayson Werth, just up and quit in the middle of the season because he wanted a new contract. There would be outrage by his teammates, by the ownership and by the manager. But Riggleman apparently does not care about his players, fellow coaches or the fans. Riggleman was only thinking of himself, and is a disgrace to managers across sports as a result.

It will be tough (as it should be) for Riggleman to get another managerial job, something he probably didn’t consider. If I were an owner I would never hire this guy. Maybe he has had some success, but this move demonstrates that he only cares about himself. This move makes me believe that Riggleman will put his interests before the team’s interest or the players’ interest, something I would not want in a manager.

Riggleman’s move is a surprising one, and one that I don’t understand. However, he will have to live with the consequences of his action. I just hope that the consequences suit the crime.

Cuban and the Dodgers

With Bud Selig rejecting a proposed TV deal, Frank and Jamie McCourt still haven’t been able to reach a divorce settlement, leaving the Dodgers in limbo. If the McCourts can’t find a way to make payroll tihs month, Selig and MLB will be foreced to take control of the organization and put the Los Angeles Dodgers up for sale.

If that happens, there is one man I want running the team: Mark Cuban.

Why baseball rejected Cuban’s offer to buy the Cubs and the Rangers I cannot understand. This man is the best owner in sports, period. He loves his franchise, loves his players and loves to win. Something most owners, especially in baseball, seem to lack.

Cuban is very good to his players, to his fans and would be very good for Major League Baseball. So Cuban has had a few run-ins with NBA commissioner David Stern. He has gotten better though. The number of fines he has incurred seems to have dwindled over the past season or so.

Cuban and baseball are a match made in heaven. With no salary cap, Cuban can immediately put together a winning franchise. Players will flock to his team because he treats them so well. And if Cuban buys the Dodgers, baseball will be able to make Los Angeles a power market yet again.

With Cuban at the helm, the Dodgers could return to their glory days and could become the Yankees of the west.

But Bud Selig and the rest of baseball owners do not want that. They don’t want an NBA owner joining baseball because they are afraid of how good he will be. He will be one of the very few owners that actually cares more about winning than profit. He will force the rest of baseball owners to spend more money to compete, something they would prefer not to do.

And Selig doesn’t want Cuban because he likes a quite owner. He doesn’t like it when the owner is making big news, criticizing umpires or spending lots and lots of money. Selig only allows the Yankees to do that.

I imagine Cuban will own a Major League team eventually. Maybe it won’t be the Dodgers, maybe it won’t be until after Selig retires, but eventually Cuban will be a MLB owner. And when that day comes, baseball will be better off as a result.

The little things….

Tim Hudson had one of the most impressive ballgames I have seen in a very very long time. Not only did he throw eight shutout innings, during which he retired 20 consecutive batters, but he also provided his own run support, blasting a two-run home run off of Ricky Romero.

The unfortunate part about Hudson’s outing yesterday was that he shouldn’t have had to be a one man wrecking crew. The rest of the the Atlanta Braves lineup failed to produce any run support and achieved this failure by coming up short on some baseball fundamentals.

The failure to do the small things almost cost the Braves an impressive win. Fortunately Hudson’s heroics saved the Braves.

But I would like to point out a few occasions in which the Braves could have made their victory easier, if only they had done the little things.

The first mental error by the Braves came in the bottom of the first inning. Jordan Schafer led off the inning with a single to center, but was promptly picked off first base by Romero. I’m all for stealing bases, but Schafer has to be smarter against left-handed pitching. He didn’t even see Romero’s move before taking off, and as a result was picked off. If Schafer had simply waited for Romero to throw over, he may have been successful.

The next error by the Braves came in the bottom of the sixth. Alex Gonzalez led of the inning with a great at-bat, which ultimately resulted in a double in the left-center gap. Jason Heyward followed and failed to do the little thing. Heyward forced a 3-1 count, a great count for a hitter. But instead of waiting for a pitch he could successfully hit to the right side, Heyward swung at a pitch that was down and away (and likely ball four) and grounded out to third base, failing to move the runner over. The difference between a runner at second with one out and a runner at third with one out is immense. Heyward’s inability  to move the runner over resulted in another inning without runs for the Braves.

Yet another fundamental error occurred in the next inning. David Ross led off the inning with an infield single, and moved up on a throwing error by shortstop Yunel Escobar. Nate McClouth did a great job pulling the ball on the ground to get Ross to third (what Heyward needed to do the previous inning) and Diory Hernandez stepped up to the plate. Only needing a fly ball, Hernandez swung at a bad first pitch, grounding the ball to short allowing Ross to be thrown out at home. Not only did Hernandez not get the runner in, but it was later reported by Ross that Hernandez missed the squeeze sign. Hernandez failed on two counts, not getting the runner home and missing the sign, both unacceptable for a team that is struggling to score runs.

I’m not trying to pick knits, but if the Braves are going to make the postseason with its current lineup, it is going to have to do the little things to score runs. Players need to move runners over by making productive outs and need to execute at-bats correctly. Players can’t miss signs that result in easy outs. Fortunately for the Braves, Tim Hudson rescued the inept offense by providing a spectacular performance of his own, but the Braves cannot rely on this type of outing every night.

Irreplaceable Players

Today it was announced that Albert Pujols will be out 4-6 weeks with a fractured forearm. The injury occurred when Pujols and Kansas City’s Wilson Betemit collided at first base after a chopper up the middle. Pujols immediately fell down with pain and was removed from the game.

Clearly the Cardinals will sorely miss Pujols for his duration on the DL, but this injury got me to thinking, who are the most irreplaceable players in the Bigs today? I’ll do this in countdown form and give my top Five irreplaceable players in baseball. Not only will the talent and ability of the player be taken into account, but the surrounding players on these players’ teams will also be taken into account. Without further ado, here’s my list.

5. Miguel Cabrera-  When he’s not in rehab, Miguel Cabrera is one of the best hitters in baseball. Cabrera averages 29 home runs, 103 RBIs , a .314 batting average and a .391 on-base percentage. If all goes well this season, Cabrera will again match those numbers. Cabrera is the only major threat in the Detroit Tigers lineup and should strike fear in the pitcher every time he steps to the plate. If Cabrera were to go down with injury, the Tigers would rapidly fall in the division. If he were out an extended period of time, the Tigers would have no chance at winning the division,

4. Jose Reyes- The fact that the Mets cannot win without Jose Reyes has been proven again and again. His tremendous speed and ability have him wreaking havoc on opponents every time he comes to the place (just ask the Atlanta Braves, who have seen Reyes get on base and score seemingly every at bat).  While only having 302 at bats, Reyes already has 103 hits and has already scored 54 times. At this rate, Reyes is on pace to get 232 hits and score 122 times. Over his injury plagued career, Reyes has averaged 76 runs, 135 hits and nearly 40 stolen bases per season. Again, that is with injuries. His terrific combination of speed and ability makes him truly irreplaceable. And the fact that the Mets have no one to support Reyes in the lineup makes him even more irreplaceable.

3. Troy Tulowitzki- Tulo is one of the most dynamic shortstops in the game today. To go along with his tremendous glove, Tulowitzki is the best hitter at his position, and one of the best hitters in the game. This season Tulo has 13 homers and 46 RBIs to go with his .342 OBP and his .276 average. While his batting average and on-base percentage do not yet meet his season averages of .289/ .360 respectively, he is on pace to hit 30 home runs and drive in 105 RBIs, which is much higher than his season average of  17 homers and 64 RBIs. Granted those averages were lowered by the tremendous amount of time he missed last season due to injury, but he is still a terrific threat in the lineup. And without the threat of Tulowitzki, the Rockies have little to go with. Todd Helton is getting old and Carlos Gonzalez is having a down year. If Tulo were to go down, so would the Rockies.

2. Chipper Jones- As has been shown in the past, and is currently being shown in miniature form, the Atlanta Braves go as Chipper Jones goes. When he’s in the lineup, the team wins, when he’s out of the lineup, the team loses, simple as that. Jones is currently suffering from an abductor strain and has missed the past two games. For his 18 year career, Jones has averaged a .305 average, .404 OBP, 25 home runs, 85 RBIs and 85 Runs for the Braves. And with the lack of talent around Jones, the Braves deeply suffer when Chipper is injured.

1. Albert Pujols- Pujols this year is having a down year, by his standards at least, but he is still the most feared ball player in the game today. He leads the Cardinals in runs scored (52), is tied for first with home runs (17), and is second on the team in RBIs (45) and OPS (.855). For his career, Pujols is has an average of .329 and an OBP of .423. He also has 425 home runs and 1275 RBIs. While the Cards do have the likes of Colby Rasmus, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman to temporary fill in for La Machina, Pujols will be sorely missed.

Well there you go, my top-5 irreplaceable players in baseball. You may ask, why no pitchers? While pitchers are arguably the most important part of a baseball club, they only pitch once every five days (well starters at least) and one pitcher cannot carry a ball club to the post season like one position player can. Roy Halladay, for example, is easily replaced by the likes of Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Tim Lincecum is easily replaced by Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. Pitchers can be replaced much more easily than can good hitters.

If you feel I got something wrong or would like to give your opinion on irreplaceable players please do so.


About a week ago a story was published about talks of realignment in Major League Baseball. The possible changes include moving the Astros to the American League, changing the divisions or just scrapping the divisions all together.

While I’m not a fan of having more NL teams than AL teams, I am not in favor of realignment. At this time there is just no logical move that would be easy for everyone involved. The Houston Astros are rumored  to be the team that would be moved from the NL to the AL, but if this were the case the Astros would have to be placed in the AL  West (in order to make things even).

On paper this seems ok, but geographically it makes no sense. Houston (in case you didn’t know) is located on the southeastern part of Texas. And Texas (in case you didn’t know) is really really big. So having the Astros play the majority of their games two timezones away would be very tough on the team. While the Rangers have to deal with this problem a little bit, the Astros would have even more of a problem.

Another problem is that the Astros are the only team that would even make sense to switch from the NL to the AL. Every other team in the NL Central is too far east to make a change possible.

Knowing the problems just mentioned, baseball is considering abolishing divisions altogether and just having two leagues with the top three or four teams making the playoffs.

This idea could work out, except that it would create more tough traveling. This time, however, the teams in the central part of the country would have an advantage because they wouldn’t not have as dramatic of time changes as teams on the east or west coast.

I also do not like this plan because it takes away the thrill of division races and rivalries. Without divisions, the Giants-Dodgers, Cubs-Cardinals or Phillies-Mets wouldn’t have as much meaning. They would still be rivals, but it would be more like an interleague rivalry.

With two conferences and no divisions, there would be less excitement in playoff races. There would still be battles for the top four spots in each conference, but there would be fewer total races. It would be similar to basketball or hockey, where every team makes the playoffs, and there is no excitement until the postseason.

While I do not necessarily enjoy having uneven leagues, the current situation is much better than any of the proposed options of realignment. Like the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”