Monday, July 30, 2012

Cliff Lee Isn't Going Anywhere!

It's that time of year again.  The MLB non-waiver trade deadline is fast approaching, and there have already been a number of trades consummated ahead of the deadline.  Among others, Detroit has added Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.  Ontario Native, catcher George Kottaras is headed to the Oakland Athletics, who somehow have become one of the hottest teams in baseball.  The Anaheim Angels bringing in Zack Greinke to an already potent rotation.  The Pittsburgh Pirates showing they're ready to make a push by adding Wandy Rodriguez.  Ichiro is a Yankee.  The White Sox, not yet ready to roll over to the Tigers, added Francisco Liriano yesterday.  Last week the Dodgers brought over Hanley Ramirez to bring the total amount of hitters in their lineup to two....  Last but not least, the Blue Jays kicked things off in a sense with Houston in a ten player deal that brought in J.A. Happ and Brandon Lyon. 

The deadline is tomorrow, Tuesday July 31 at 4pm, and you can bet that there is still a lot of movement to come before then.

After missing out on Greinke, I suspect that the Texas Rangers will still make a hard push to add an arm.  Perhaps James Shields, Josh Beckett, or maybe even Josh Johnson if they can make Miami an offer they can't turn down.  Atlanta is also looking to add an arm after missing out on a deal that was in place last week to acquire Canadian Ryan Dempster from the Cubs.  The Dodgers are still looking to add one more arm, and improve their offense in any way they can. (Let's face it....  It wouldn't take much to improve that offense)  The Athletics still want to add a middle infielder and have been linked to the Jays in talks regarding Yunel Escobar.  Toronto in turn is apparently interested in Brett Anderson, but as we know, if we've heard about it, it's probably not true.  The Silent Assassin works only in the shadows....

The latest rumors surfacing today center around Canadian  Justin Morneau.  The Giants, Dodgers, and Blue Jays are apparently interested in adding the first baseman.  He would be a fit on any of these three teams.  The best fit would of course be the Dodgers, but Blue Jays fans can hope right?

One team in particular I expect to be active ahead of the deadline is the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Phillies have performed well below expectations this year and after this weekend now find themselves 12.5 games out of a playoff spot.  They have pieces to move.  Shane Victorino is very likely going to be putting on a different shirt by the end of the week, as is Joe Blanton.  Both players are looking at becoming free agents following the 2012 campaign, and there is definitely a market for both of them.  Juan Pierre will likely be moved and Hunter Pence has become an interesting name as well.  He still has some time left on his deal, but despite this there are still some analysts around the industry who think there is a good chance that Philly will move him too.  There are a lot of teams who could use offensive outfielders right now.  (Again, I'm going to pick on the Dodgers.  Bobby Abreu is your starting LF?  Really?)

However There is one player in Philadelphia that I can tell you will definitely not move before tomorrow.  Despite numerous reports that the Phillies may be shopping him, I will tell you with great certainty, Cliff Lee is not going anywhere.  Frankly, I am sick and tired of hearing the Lee speculation.  There is no meat to this rumor.  At all.

Now, I get criticized for sometimes for not being opinionated enough on this blog, or sure of my self when I write.  Well, how is this for being opinionated and certain:  If Cliff Lee gets traded before tomorrow's non-waiver trade deadline, I will shave my head bald.  (and yes, I do still have a full head of hair, and will post pictures to prove it.)

Cliff Lee is absolutely not moving.

The Phillies have made it known that they still want to come into next season with Halladay, Lee and Hamels as their big three.  Now I realize that teams make this type of claim all of the time and then retract on it.  But this is different.  For some reason people have failed to remember why Lee signed in Philly in the first place, leaving a small fortune (to you and I anyway) on the table with the Yankees.  At the time of his free agency, Lee's son was in remission from Leukemia and Philadelphia apparently has the #1 children's hospital in the United States.  This was a huge factor in why Lee signed on for a second tour with the Phillies, and the reason I know that will keep him from approving a trade anywhere.  (Lee has a no-trade clause that allows him to submit a list of 21 teams the Phillies can not trade him to without his consent.)

Technically The Phillies can trade Lee to 8 teams whether they have his consent or not, but they won't.  When asked if he planned on keeping his expensive starting rotation in tact, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. responded by saying:  "Plans can change, but that's what the plan is right now." 

Plans won't change.  I'm betting the hair on my head that Lee will make his next scheduled start tomorrow night against Washington.  Three hours after the deadline has passed.

Who will move before tomorrow night?  Your guess is as good as mine.  I've given a few of my loose predictions on who will move before tomorrow.  Who do you think will be walking out of a new home clubhouse by the end of the week?  Please feel free to share your predictions in the comments section below.

Happy Trade Deadline!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Happy All~Star Day!

 The annual All-Star game has arrived!  Even though there seems to be a lot of negativity towards all-star games in different professional sports, I still look forward to the Major League Baseball All~Star game every year.  Being a non-contact sport (or at least, most of the time non contact) I believe the Baseball mid-summer classic to be the most competitive of the all-star games, because players can go out and play hard yet still return to work for their respective clubs a few days later.  Anyone who says that these players don't care about winning doesn't actually watch these games.  Pitcher's are throwing their best stuff, players are running out ground balls, and fielders are chasing after balls and charging in on grounders.  I remember watching Grady Sizemore diving for a ball in extra innings a few years ago and I think we all remember Jose's feet first slide into the wall at last year's game.

Despite the fact that the game does count for something, (home field advantage in the World Series) I do understand why at times fans have trouble taking the game seriously.  I certainly do.  If it is really to be sold as a "competitive" game that counts for something, then shouldn't the best players play?  If you have a starting pitcher who is pitching well, don't you want to leave him in there for more than an inning or two?  Would the American League not have a better shot at winning if they were to let Verlander take the ball for as long as he is dominant tonight?  Shouldn't the best players be on the field for the majority of the game, rather than sitting them down half way through the contest in order to carry out the school yard mentality that everyone should get a chance to play?  Especially when baseball still has the unwritten rule that there should be a representative from every team, regardless of whether any players on that club are worthy or not.  If everyone does indeed get a chance to play, then at times there are guys who shouldn't even be at the game that will find their way onto the field.

If it were a real game and each league was genuinely concerned about home field advantage in the World Series, then I also think the team selection should be different.  I have come to realize that the fan vote is a part of the game that will never go away.  However when it comes to the reserve players, I believe that each league should have a say on who is on their team and not just leave the decisions up to the team's manager.  There should be some decision makers there from around the league to help in the final selection of each League's All Stars.  I'm not suggesting a representative from each of the 30 teams, but maybe someone from each of the top two teams in each division.  That gives you a selection committee of six people, who see every division between the six of them, to select the best players to represent that league and compete for home field advantage.

Staying on the subject of player selection, I would like to share a letter with you that was sent to me late last week.  It deals with the omission of Edwin Encarnacion on the American League roster.  This letter is written by a fan to Ron Washington, the manager of this year's American League squad.  I certainly agree with the opinion that there is no way Edwin should have been left out with the year he's having, but the rest of the opinions within the letter do not necessarily reflect those of myself.  I think the letter is both interesting and makes some valid points.  So I would like to share it with you.
A Letter to Ron Washington from a fan:

Dear Ron Washington,

First of all, let me congratulate you for taking your Texas Rangers to the World Series last season and as a result, earning the right to manage the American League All-Star team this season. Now that the Commissioner has placed home field advantage for the World Series as the prize for winning the All-Star game, this honour that you have earned, carries a significant weight for the entire American League. 

With this kind of reward available to you, I would think that you would choose to take the players who give you the best opportunity to win. After looking at the roster that you put together, I can’t help but think that you had a slightly different agenda. I found it very intriguing that 7 of your Rangers were chosen. This is almost twice as many representatives as the Yankees and Angels, who each have 4 representatives. And, if Yu Darvish wins the 34th roster spot via the fans’ final voting, you would have 8 of your players on the roster. I can’t help but think there’s a tad bit of favouritism involved in your selections. I certainly realize that Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli were voted to the game by the fans, but in addition to these players, you felt that Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, Matt Harrison, and Joe Nathan were also deserving of All Star selections.

I cannot disagree with you on your selections of Andrus, Harrison or Nathan, as each of these players was near the top of their respective positions in terms of production. However, I think your professional relationship with Ian has clouded your judgement. Kinsler was hitting .276 with 9HR, 40RBI and 15SB while Jason Kipnis of the Indians was also hitting .276 but with 11HR, 49RBI and 20SB. Cleveland has only two representatives, why not give them a third? 

I’m also curious why you would not choose a player who was hitting .295, had scored 55 runs, hit 23 homeruns, had 58 RBIS and stolen 9 bases? Of course, I’m speaking of Edwin Encarnacion. Instead, you felt that Billy Butler and Adam Dunn were more deserving of selection for the DH spots. Butler was hitting .293 with 31 R, 16HR, 48RBI and 1 SB while Dunn was hitting .210 with 57 R, 24HR, 58RBI and 0 SB. Granted, you’re obligated to follow the unwritten rule of having one member from every team in the league, so I understand the selection of Billy Butler. Plus, with Butler being a member of the hosting Royals, it’s a very smart PR move. The selection of Dunn gives you a less consistent hitter with a slightly bigger bat. It also handcuffs you slightly on the defensive side as Dunn would only be an option at 1B and DH while Edwin could play those positions as well as 3B and LF for you, should the need arise.

But, who am I to question the opinion of a major league manager who has taken his team to the World Series two years in a row? Your logic makes no sense to me other than to make sure your players are the ones who are recognized instead of players who are more deserving. For your sake, I hope you win the All Star game and make my opinion a mute one. If you don’t, maybe next time you could look outside your own clubhouse.


A Common Baseball Fan

Feel free to give your opinion on this letter, or on the all-star game in general below in the comments section. 

I hope you all enjoy the game this evening!