PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT/BASEBALL FOTTER AND OTHER NEWS AND NOTES

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     Here we are, its Thursday February 13th.  The day before another Valentines Day.  Just a note, in my opinion Valentine’s Day is extremely overrated as you should always treat your loved ones to such things as flowers, jewelry, etc. on a consistent basis.  Too many people are shallow in my mind as they wait for this day to flex their muscles.  This shallow behavior is all too familiar.  Anyways, sorry to get off track, but I had to voice my opinion on the day otherwise known as Saint Valentine’s Day.  Well, today is also the official day for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training for many Baseball Teams, which marks the beginning of the longest run in sports.  Here in Philly we are having another super snow storm that has added to an already unheard of total of 52 Inches of snow so far this winter.  So as snow, sleet, ice and rain are pelting the North East once again, our baseball teams head south to sunny Florida and Arizona.

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     So as we head into another Baseball Season, there are many questions that remain for every team in the league.  I would say that this may have been the quietest offseason as far as free agency goes.  There were not many big name signings throughout the league as Robinson Cano lead the way.  Jay Z made sure his client got his pay day.  The Yankees made some noise as always as they signed Jacoby Ellsbury (Boston), Brian McCann(Atlanta), Carlos Beltran(Saint Louis), and Mashiro Tanaka(The Best Free Agent Pitcher from Japan).  So the Yankees were very proactive in Free Agency, but this is no surprise.  The Seattle Mariners signed the top free agent, Yankee’s 2B Robinson Cano.

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     There were some other Free Agent transactions, however for the most part these moves involved average players.  In a stocking move yesterday, the Philadelphia Phillies signed free agent Pitcher A.J. Burnett to a one year 16 Million Dollar Contract…are you kidding me?  No folks, this is correct.  The Phillies are at the end of the line and I guess Ruben Amaro is trying to load up for one last magical run that will never come.  The Phillies window has closed.  And signing A.J. Burnett for 16 million is a major disappointment for me as a baseball fan.  If A.J. Burnett is worth 16 million, then what is Jon Lester worth.  The Red Sox signed Lester to a 13 Million Dollar Contract and Lester is a far better pitcher than Burnett, with a higher upside as well.

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     If we take a look back at the past few World Series winners, the formula remains the same.  Keep getting younger, mix in a few key free agents at position of need and build from the farm.  Well, Amaro has completely emptied the Phillies minor league system.  Since their World Series win in 2008, the Phillies have been on a constant decline.  Ryan Howard has only played in half of the Phillies games the past two seasons, due to various injuries.  Chase Utley has also missed significant time.  Jimmy Rollins is maybe one year from retirement.  The Phillies main offseason signing, Marlon Byrd is 36 Years old and definitely overrated and overpaid.  If the Phillies were going to try and revamp the outfield, why did they not just keep Shane Victorino.  Victorino is not only a better player than Byrd, but he is much younger and is a playoff beast.  Pitching, the back bone of the Phillies the past few years has also been a question mark.  Roy Halladay retired.  So that leaves Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee as the Phillies top 2 Guns.

     Well, yesterday it was reported that Cole Hamels has tendinitis in his shoulder and will not be ready for the start of the season, maybe not playing until May1st.  This is not exactly the news that the team wanted to hear that is going into the season expecting their entire roster to have career years to just have a chance of making the post season.  So what does Ruben Amaro do?  He goes and signs A.J. Burnett to a 16 Million Dollar Contract.  Don’t get me wrong, Burnett is not a horrible player.  However, he is 36 years old, and he has had major control problems his past five seasons.  He is definitely not the same pitcher he was with the Blue Jays and Marlins.  Yes he could be a nice third starter for the Phils.  However, I think this was an act of panic on Amaro’s part.  Why not save the 16 Million and ride the young talent in the pitching realm.

     The Phillies should have began rebuilding a few years back.  Instead, they head into the 2014 season with the oldest team in Major League Baseball with an average age of 33.  On top of that, they sign 40 Year Old Bobby Abreu to a minor league contract and 36 Year Old A.J. Burnett.  I would have to point to that Ruben Amaro has ruined this franchise.  But all of these moves in the offseason are typical of how the Phillies conduct business.  In a future post I will give my Preview and Predictions for MLB this season.  The Yankees have to be the favorite in the AL and the Dodgers in the NL.  However, never count out the Saint Louis Cardinals or San Francisco Giants who have won 4 of the last 5 World Series.

    Yesterday at work, I saw a coworker who had tears in his eyes.  I thought, what could possibly be wrong.  At that moment he informed me that Derek Jeter has announced that he will retire after this season.  Derek Jeter is that kind of player.  He is like Mariano Rivera.  These type of players are icons that bring fans so much joy and happiness.  Derek Jeter is one of those players that becomes a fan’s childhood idol so this is very big news for any Yankee fan, as well as Baseball Fans alike.  Of course in other notes, we had all of the Replay institutions that were put into the Rule Books.  I am sure this should ad to an already ever-changing game.

     As we sit in our homes watching another snow storm, pitchers and catchers are on their flights to Spring Training.  This should put a smile on any sports fans face that is going through withdrawal as Football Season is over.  Baseball means nice weather.  This alone puts a smile on my face.  Well, as I said I will have my preview and predictions soon to come.  The start of a new season also means a new Fantasy Baseball season.  Im sure there will be many draft parties to come.  Until next time, enjoy your day off of work here on the East Coast.  Thanks again to INTHENEUTRALZONE.  Until next time have an awesome weekend.

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BUSTED

     IN LIGHT OF THE RECENT BIOGENESIS INVESTIGATION AND THE 65 GAME SUSPENSION OF RYAN BRAUN FOR HIS USE OF PERFORMANCE ENHANCING DRUGS…MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL NEEDS TO REVISIT ITS DRUG POLICY IN THE FALL.  RYAN BRAUN, A FORMER MLB MVP IN 2011 FOR THE MILWAUKEE BREWERS WAS SUSPENDED YESTERDAY FOR  THE REST OF THE SEASON (65 GAMES).  RYAN BRAUN HAD BEEN SUSPENDED PREVIOUSLY AND WAS ABLE TO APPEAL THE DECISION AND BEAT THE SYSTEM.  NOW HE TESTS POSITIVE AGAIN.  THIS IS A TRAVESTY AND JUST REAFFIRMS THAT THE LEAGUE STILL HAS A PROBLEM WITH SUBSTANCE ABUSE THAT IS NOT GOING AWAY.  

     PLAYING PROFESSIONAL SPORTS IS A LUXURY.  ATHLETES THAT ARE GOOD ENOUGH TO MAKE IT BIG BECOME RICH AND ARE ABLE TO “WORK” IN A FIELD THAT EVERYONE WOULD DIE TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO SO.  IT IS SICKENING THAT THIS NONSENSE IS STILL A BIG ISSUE.  ONE WOULD THINK, THAT AFTER THE CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS AFTER SOME OF THE MOST PROMINENT PLAYERS WERE LINKED TO PED’S, THAT MODERN DAY PLAYERS WOULD STAY AWAY FROM THIS “BLACK CLOUD.”  

     GOING FORWARD, THE LEAGUE NEEDS TO ADOPT A MORE STRINGENT POLICY ON THE DRUG POLICY.  RYAN BRAUN HAS CERTAINLY LIED TO THE PUBLIC, LIED TO HIS TEAM, LIED TO HIS PLAYERS, LIED TO THE FANS, LIED TO THE LEAGUE.  THIS IS AN EMBARRASSING MOMENT IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL’S FACE.  RYAN BRAUN WORKED OUT A PLEA DEAL AND HIS SUSPENSION SPANS THE REST OF THE SEASON.  HOWEVER, WHAT MAKES THIS WORSE IS THAT BRAUN SAT THERE AND LIED THROUGH HIS TEETH A YEAR AGO, WHEN BRAUN TESTED POSITIVE FOR PEDS BEFORE.  HOWEVER, BRAUN APPEALED THE DECISION AND THE SUSPENSION WAS LIFTED.  WHAT MAKES THIS A REAL UGLY ELEPHANT, IS THE FACT THAT BRAUN IS STILL NOT SHOWING MUCH REMORSE FOR HIS ACTIONS.  BRAUN SHOULD HAVE BEEN MADE TO STAND IN FRONT OF THE LEAGUE, THE FAN’S HIS TEAM AND APOLOGIZE AND SHOW SINCERE REGRET FOR HIS ACTIONS AND LIES.  NO…INSTEAD…WE HAD A HALF ASS ATTEMPT TO ADDRESS THE SITUATION AND HE LEFT WITHOUT MAKING ANY TYPE OF INTERVIEWS OR A PRESS CONFERENCE.

     LISTEN…I AGREE THAT THERE ARE SO MANY PLAYERS THAT DID THIS BEFORE BRAUN AND THAT THEY ARE STILL AFFILIATED WITH THE LEAGUE.  HOWEVER, THE PUNISHMENT NEEDS TO MEET THE CRIME.  WHAT I WOULD PROPOSE TO MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL WOULD BE TO INSTITUTE A ZERO POLICY FOR PED’S AND STEROIDS.  IF ANY PLAYER TESTS POSITIVE ON A FIRST OFFENSE, THEY SHOULD AUTOMATICALLY BE SUSPENDED FOR ONE SEASON (BEING 162 GAMES.)  NOW…IF THE PLAYER RETURNS AND IS DUMB ENOUGH TO GET CAUGHT AGAIN…I FEEL THAT THEY SHOULD RECEIVE A LIFETIME BAN.

     WHENEVER I GET INTO THESE DISCUSSIONS, IT IS HARD TO IGNORE THAT SOME OF THE GREATEST PLAYERS OF THE PAST WERE GUILTY OF THE SAME INFRACTIONS.  HOWEVER, THAT WAS IN THE PAST AND THE LEAGUE HAS PROGRESSIVELY CRACKED DOWN MORE ON THIS PROBLEM.  I JUT FEEL THAT IF THE LEAGUE INSTITUTED MORE STRINGENT RULES, THAT PLAYERS WOULD THINK TWICE OF DOING IT AGAIN.  I MEAN, MONEY MAKES THE WORLD GO AROUND AND THESE GUYS MAKE MILLIONS.  I DO NOT KNOW TOO MANY PEOPLE THAT WOULD RISK THAT TYPE OF MONEY FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE DRUGS.

     WELL, THERE ARE NOW EVEN LARGER FISHES TO FRY.  THE TALK IS THAT THE LEAGUE HAS MORE EVIDENCE ON ALEX RODRIGUEZ (AROD).  AROD HAS REPORTEDLY BEEN FOUND TO HAVE TAMPERED WITH EVIDENCE AND OBSTRUCT THE INVESTIGATION.  IN CONCLUSION, THE LEAGUE SHOULD CHANGE THE POLICY TO MAKE MORE HEADWAY IN THIS PROCESS.  ONE THING REMAINS TRUE…THE LEAGUE HAS DONE A BETTER JOB WITH THE DRUG POLICY AND HAS COME ALONG WAY WITH IT’S RULES AND REGULATIONS.  IN MY ESTIMATION, RYAN BRAUN SHOULD BE BANNED FOR LIFE BUT HE LUCKED OUT WHEN HIS FORMER SUSPENSION WAS APPEALED.  AT THAT TIME, BRAUN SHOWED NO REMORSE.  MLB MUST DO THE RIGHT THING.  MORE TIO COME….Image

Remembering Darren Daulton

Almost 20 Years Ago…The Philadelphia Phillies took the city of Philadelphia on a magical run that ended in Toronto…with a loss in Game 6 of the World Series. Those of us who watched that season can remember all of the important moments that lead this team to its first World Series since 1983. Well, although that team was not able to bring home a championship…they did manage to take over the entire Philly Sports scene and during the playoffs they actually became America’s Team.

In 1992, “Dutch” as he was referred to, led the Major Leagues with 109 RBI. Daulton had 105 RBI in 1993 which was third in the league that year. During his 14 Year Career that was riddled with injuries, Daulton managed a career .245 Average, 147 HomeRuns (92-27/93-24) and 588 RBI (92-109/93-105). Of course, 1992 and 1993 were Daulton’s most prolific offensive seasons. He probably would have had many more seasons like those had he not suffered all of the knee injuries. During his total career, Daulton had a reported 14 Knee Surgeries. Knees are an important part of a Catcher’s game so that should speak volumes about his toughness.

Eventually, Daulton was traded and had a few more seasons after that. He actually was able to go out on top winning a World Series with the Florida Marlins. Daulton has been rated the 25th Best Catcher of all time in Bill James historical baseball abstract. The three time all star was a player that was loved by the fans and media alike. He would never back down from an interview. He is said to be responsible for starting a “fraternity” on that 93 Phillies Team that took care of off the field problems on their own. This Fraternity was called “Macho Row.”

Darren Daulton was the epitome of a Baseball Iron Man. Through all of the Knee Injuries he continued to rehab and come back. Actually, He won a Silver Slugger Award in 1992 and the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1997. Well…today some very sad news about Daulton was announced. “Dutch” has been diagnosed with two brain tumors. He is scheduled for surgery. This recent determination has come as a shock to many in the sports community. It was said he was not feeling well the past few weeks and saw a doctor. Now this. This is extremely sad news.

MLB I’m sure has A Heavy Heart for Daulton today as this news was announced. We can only hope that the surgery is successful. All of our prayers and thoughts go out to Daulton as this tragedy unfolds. Anyways…I chose to remember Daulton for that magical 1993 Season where he carried the Phillies to the World Series. God…please heal this man. Prayers and thoughts abound. I will keep everyone posted.

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SUMMER MADNESS

June. 21st…The Official First Day of the Summer. There are so many things that come to mind when we think of the Summer. School’s out for Summer…the kids are done school until September. Graduations…the newest year class of graduates, including Elementary, Middle School, High School, College, and Graduate School. Jeans and long sleeve shirts are shed for shorts, t-shirts, bikinis, swim trunks, bare skin, and sun dresses.

Sunglasses are on, sports cars, convertible tops down, car washes and waxes, sneakers and shoes replaced with sandals and flip-flops, summer sun and heat takes over the everyday weather patterns, barbecues daily on the grill, vacations galore, trips to the shore and beach, and numerous other changes.

In the world of sports it’s another exciting time of the year. The NBA and NHL are winding down…an NBA champion already crowned, an NHL Stanley Cup Winner yet to be determined, the NHL Draft and Free Agent Frenzy, and buy-out periods. MLB is almost halfway over…the All Star Game…teams with big leads…teams with disappointing seasons…injury bug alive and well…and the sprint towards the stretch run and post season. Finally, we have the NFL rookie, mini, and training camp still to come.

Summer is also a huge time period in the world of music. Many brand new CD’s have already been released. Festivals are happening just about every weekend. American Tours are firing on all cylinders. Even bands that have not played in years are making one more go around. Anyone that is a fan of metal and sports has to love the beginning of summer. The beginning of summer is the start of these worldly passions.

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TOP 25 PITCHERS SINCE 1990

Ok, so every time I do a “Top List” of any sort it takes a lot of thought, research, analysis, knowledge, understanding and obviously intangibles. When it comes to sports, it is always hard to rank certain players by position because of many different factors. Also, every expert has their own take on these lists and use different criteria when putting together such a list.

There are a few important notes to make when putting this particular list together. First of all, in my list the pitcher can be either a starter or relief pitcher. Of course, most of the pitchers that will make the list are starters, but there are a few relief pitchers that cannot be ignored. Secondly, it should also be noted that the 1990-Present Pitching Class occurred during the “Steroid/PED” era. However, although a lot of these pitchers have been linked to certain substances, it does not disqualify them from being in this List.

My Top 25 List will not be done in any set order, because of many reasons, one of which is that some of these pitchers are still active and have not completed their careers. As with any list, I am sure there will be disagreements and arguments against who made the list. This will always be true as each and every analyst has their own set of standards when it comes to athletes. The list will include certain players that have retired and some of them may have began their careers before 1990.
Best of the Best:
Greg Maddux- Greg Maddux probably makes the Top 10 List of all time…he was that good. He went 355-227, 3.16 ERA, 109 Complete Games, 35 Shutouts, 5008 Innings Pitched, 3371 Strikeouts and 999 Walks. Maddux pitched the majority of his career with the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves. His peak was in the mid nineties when he won Four consecutive CY Young Awards in a row from 1992-1995. Maddux was a master on the mound and rarely made mistakes. His control was exceptional and he definitely was one of the most dominant starters of this era.

Roger Clemens- Roger’s name has unfortunately been linked to steroids. However, Regardless of this black mark, Clemens was still one of the most dominant starters in MLB history. His numbers definitely support his place as one of the “Greats” but the PED allegations definitely sting. For his career which he pitched for the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays, and Houston Astros. Roger Clemens won an unheard of six CY Young Awards during his illustrious career. He was 354-184, 3.12 ERA, 118 Complete Games, 46 Shutouts, 4916 Innings Pitched, 4672 Strikeouts and 1580 Walks. As I stated, if not for the steroid allegations, Clemens would be in the Top 10.

Randy Johnson- Randy Johnson began his career with the Montreal Expos. Johnson was a freak of nature standing at 6’10”. His nick name was the “Big Unit” which uniquely described his imposing figure on the mound. He pitched the majority of his career with the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Yankees and finished with the San Francisco Giants. He finished his career with a 303-166 Record, 3.29 ERA, 4135 Innings Pitched, 4875 Strikeouts, 100 Complete Games, 37 Shutouts, and 1497 walks. Johnson won 5 CY Young Awards, was a 10 Time All Star, threw a no-hitter as well as a perfect game, and was the World Series MVP of 2001. Johnson was definitely the best southpaw ever during this era.

Mariano Rivera- Rivera is the first Reliever to make this list. Rivera is still active and has spent his entire career with the New York Yankees. For his career he is 76-58, 2.21 ERA, 1130 Strikeouts in 1230 Innings Pitched, a MLB record 618 Saves in 691 opportunities, an amazing 14 (30 Save Seasons), 7 (40 Save Seasons) and 2 (50 Save Seasons), 12 Time All Star, 5 Time Rolaids Relief Man of Year, 5 Time World Series Champion including a World Series MVP in 1999, an unprecedented 42 Post Season Saves in 141 Innings Pitched, an 8-1 Record and 110 Strikeouts and only 21 Walks. Rivera in my mind has to receive some votes for the Top 10 Pitchers of all time and is definitely the most dominant reliever to ever don a baseball uniform. Rivera as mentioned has spent his entire career with the New York Yankees.

Pedro Martinez- Pedro Martinez is the wild card of the list as he is well under 300 Wins for his career, but had it not been for injuries, he may have eclipsed this mark and then some. Martinez played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Montreal Expos, Boston Red Sox, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies. He ended his career 219-100, 2.93 ERA, 2827 Innings Pitched, 3154 Strikeouts, 760 Walks, 46 Complete Games, 17 Shutouts, and a .687 winning percentage which is the highest among pitchers with 200 wins in history. He won 3 CY Young Awards and was an 8 Time All Star. In 1999, Pedro went 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 Strikeouts. He only had 37 Walks in 213 Innings Pitched. This may be one of the greatest seasons on the modern pitching era. In 1997, he went 17-8, with a minuscule 1.90 ERA, 305 Strikeouts and only 67 Walks in 241 Innings Pitched with an amazing 13 Complete Games and 4 Shutouts. In 2000, Martinez had a career best 1.74 ERA. Martinez could have been so much more.

Tom Glavine- Glavine was one of the three stars that dominated the nineties and 2000’s for the Atlanta Braves along with Greg Maddux and John Smoltz. Tom Glavine finished his career with a 305-203 Record, 5 (20 Win Seasons), 3.54 ERA, 56 Complete Games, 25 Shutouts, 4413 Innings Pitched, 2607 Strikeouts and 1500 Walks. Glavine was also a 10 Time All Star, World Series MVP in 1995, and a 2 Time CY Young Award Winner. Tom Glavine was never an overpowering pitcher, but instead painted the corners like a master. Glavine in his prime was top notch.

John Smoltz- The Third member of the vaunted Atlanta Braves rotation during the nineties and 2000’s. John Smoltz is the only Starter/Reliever to make this list. Smoltz finished his career 213-154, 3.33 ERA, 53 Complete Games, 16 Shutouts, another 154 Saves, 3473 Innings Pitched, 3074 Strikeouts, 1010 Walks, in 21 Seasons. John Smoltz may not have the wins and Noteriety of Maddux or Glavine, but he was money in the post season. In the Playoffs, Smoltz was a tremendous 15-4, 2.67 ERA, 209 Innings Pitched, 199 Strikeouts, 67 Walks. He was a 1Time CY Young Award Winner as well as a One Time Rolaids Relief Man of the Year, an 8 Time All Star, and a 3 Time 40 Save Closer. Smoltz easily makes this list.

Curt Schilling- Curt Schilling is one if those pitchers that peaked later in his career and may have had better stats if he started earlier. With that being said, Curt Schilling was still one of the most dominant starters if his time. During his career he pitched for the Philadelphia Phillies, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Boston Red Sox while beginning his career with Baltimore and Houston. Schilling was 216-146, 3.46 ERA, 83 Complete Games, 20 Shutouts, 3116 Strikeouts in 3261 Innings Pitched, 711 Walks, 6 Time All Star and 3 Time World Series Champion. Schilling was a 3 Time 20 Game Winner, 3 Time 300 Strikeout Pitcher, and a 15 Complete Game Starter in 1998. In 5 Post Seasons, Schilling went 11-2, while posting a 2.23 ERA, 123 Strikeouts, 25 Walks in 133 Innings Pitched. He also finished with 4 Complete Games and 2 Shutouts. He won the World Series MVP in 2001 for the DiamondBacks and the NLCS MVP for the Phillies in 1993.

Mike Mussina- Mike did most if his damage as the most quiet pitcher on this list. First of all, he spent a majority of his career with the Baltimore Orioles and was their ACE during a time period where the team was really bad. During his 18 Year Career, Mussina was 270-153, 3.68 ERA, 3562 Innings Pitched, 2813 Strikeouts, 785 Walks, 57 Complete Games, 23 Shutouts, 5 Time All Star and one of the oldest pitchers to win 20 Games at age 39. Mussina only won 20 games once and that was as a Yankee. However, he was extremely consistent and put up some pretty darn good numbers.

David Cone- In 17 Seasons, Cone went 194-126, 3.46 ERA, 2893 Innings Pitched, 2668 Strikeouts, 1137 Walks, 56 Complete Games, 22 Shutouts, 2 (20 Win Seasons), 1 CY Young Award, 5 Time All Star and 5 Time World Series Champion. Cone also pitched a perfect game in 1999 as a New York Yankee. In his 17 Year Career he has an 8-3 PostSeason Record.

Orel Hershiser- Orel Hershiser finished his 17 Year Career with a 204-150 Record. He had a lifetime 3.48 ERA in 3130 Innings Pitched, 2014 Strikeouts, 68 Complete Games and 25 Shutouts, 1007 Walks. Hershiser was also a 3 Time All Star, 1 Time CY Young Award Winner, 1 Time World Series Champion as well as a World Series MVP. Hershiser holds the MLB record of pitching 59 Consecutive Scoreless Innings!

Ok, we’ll that was the Top 10. Now I will give you my 15 Remaining. Some of these pitchers are still active and some are retired.
1) David Wells (239-157, 2201K’s)
2) Kevin Brown (211-144, 3.28ERA)
3) Brett Saberhagen (167-117, 2xCY Young)
4) Dwight Gooden (194-112, 2293K’s)
5) Chuck Finley (200-173, 2610 K’s)
6) Jaime Moyer (269-209, 2441 K’s)
7) Roy Halladay (201-103, 67 Complete Games, 2x CY Young, 2097 K’s, 3.35 ERA)
8) CC Sabathia (195-104, 3.50 ERA, 1xCY Young, 2250 K’s)
9) Johan Santana (139-78, 3.20 ERA, 1988 K’s, 2xCY Young, 1st Mets No Hitter)
10) Justin Verlander (127-67, 1x CY Young, 1495 K’s, 2 No Hitters.
11) Billy Wagner- ( 422 Saves, 2.31 ERA, 1196 K’s, 9 (30 Save Seasons)
12) Roy Oswalt (163-96, 1818 K’s, 3x All Star)
13) Trevor Hoffman ( 601 Saves, 2.87 ERA)
14) Cliff Lee (127-79, 3.58 ERA, 1xCY Young, 1658 K’s)
15) Josh Beckett (132-98, 1xCY Young, 2x World Series Champion, 2x World Series MVP)

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FIRST MONTH OF MARATHON COMPLETE

I’m sure you have all heard the saying that the Major League Baseball Season is not just a season, but instead its like running a marathon. During that Marathon there are peaks and valleys, hot streaks, cold streaks, slumps, surprise teams, surprise players, surprise teams, overrated players, underrated players, record setting performances, career years, career ending years, injuries, sleepers, busts, and many other baseball moments that will last forever.

As April comes to an end…the first full month of the marathon is winding down. All of the top analysts have given their early picks, hashed, and rehashed what teams will go far, which will struggle, which players will do well, and which players will tank it. So far, I must admit that as a Baseball fan I have been surprised by many things in this first month.

Well, I think that many people are not surprised of the success that Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper is having in his sophomore season. Harper is second in the National League in average while batting .360 and hitting 9 HR, and knocking in 18. Harper also has a stalwart On Base Percentage of .440. Also, in the American League Miguel Cabrera is back on track for his second triple crown in a row.

Some excellent pitchers are struggling due to no run support. My American League pick for the CY Young as well as MVP Justin Verlander is just 2-2, while sporting a 1.95 ERA in 32 innings. In the National League, two of the Phillies Big 3 Cole Hammels and Roy Halladay are 1-3 and 2-2 respectively. They too have not benefited from a consistent offense.

However, the talk of the season on the mound so far has to be the Mets young star Matt Harvey. Harvey is 4-0 with a minuscule 1.54 ERA in 35 Innings while tossing 39 Strikeouts. Harvey is in the Top Ten of every pitching statistical category including a league leading WHIP of 0.69! This is definitely a surprise for anyone that is not a Mets fan. However, ask any Mets fan and they saw this coming. Actually, I picked Harvey for my Rookie of the Year in the National League, but this is actually impossible. Harvey had too many innings last year to qualify. Well, if he keeps throwing like this he could win a CY Young which would be the second Mets pitcher in consecutive seasons to win the award.

The Atlanta Braves Justin Upton, the first of two Upton brothers is the leagues early leader in Home Runs with 12. He is also batting .307 with 18 RBI. He is also sixth in Runs scored with 21. The Boston Red Sox are the early win leaders with an 18-7 record in the American League. In the National League, the Braves are 15-9, but are
3-7 in their last ten games. The surprise team of the National League has to be the Pittsburgh Pirates who lead the NL central with 15 wins.

In the American League there are two contrasting surprise teams. First of all Kansas City is leading its division with a 13-9 record. Probably the biggest surprise is the Toronto Blue Jays who were picked by many analysts to win the American League East and they are instead sitting at the bottom with a 9-17 record. Last years CY Young winner RA Dickey has struggled and is 2-4 and may be heading to the Disabled List.

For the first time since 1993, the Phillies have a player in the Top 10 of the league in batting average at this point with Michael Young, who is batting .354. The last player for the Phillies to have an average this high at this point in the season was Lenny Dykstra. Another surprise player has been Met’s catcher John Buck who has 8 HR and 23 RBI. This is the best start for a Mets catcher since Mike Piazza.

The Washington Nationals phenom Steven Strasburg has struggled and is just 1-4 at this point. The National League East has been no surprise as the Braves, Nationals, Phillies, and Meta have all competed. The American League has been pretty much where I thought it would be besides the Red Sox and Royals.

With April coming to an end…look for other stars to rise, some leaders to fade, teams to struggle, others to get hot. Baseball is the hardest sport to predict by early season results because of the length of the season, the ebb and flow of the games, the hot and cold streaks, injuries, etc. As May approaches, watch for Ryan Howard to get hot as he already has in the past week. Also, look for the Phillies starting pitching to get back on track. I see the Pirates coming back down to reality.

April showers bring May flowers. April Baseball brings May Gladiators. The Marathon has just started and as always the first month has been full of excitement. We had the brawl in Los Angeles where Carlos Quentin was hit by a Zack Greinke pitch, charged the mound, the benches cleared and Greinke suffered a break of the collarbone. Greinke has had surgery and is expected to miss at least eight weeks. We had the weird weather in which 3 games between the Mets/Rockies had to be cancelled. We had the Boston terror attacks and the ensuing game at Fenway Park that ignited and united the fans. As a fan of all sports…baseball has to be admired for its stories and ups and downs.

The Marathon has just begun. We have six months still until playoff baseball returns. At this point, it’s still anyone’s league. Even the Yankees are in second place without a few of their key stars. I’m not sure if anyone is excited as I am, but Baseball brings me happiness and joy, even during dark times in my life. Just to hear that crack of the bat and the pounding of the ball on the glove and all the fans cheering. Stay Tuned.

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MLB STRIKES OUT/PITCH COUNT NIGHTMARE

223. That is the single season strikeout record set by Mark Reynolds from the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. Adam Dunn came oh so close in 2012 fanning an astounding 222 times. A year after Reynolds set the record, he struck out 211 times making him the first MLB History to strike out 200 times in 3 seasons. He also struck out 204 times in 2008 and in 2011 he fanned 196 times with the Orioles. If he keeps this pace he definitely will set the MLB Career strikeout record easily.

Another modern star, Ryan Howard has struck out an amazing 157 times in 2010, 172 times in 2011, 186 times in 2009, and 199 times in both 2007 and 2008. 199 to me is just the same as 200. One short. Anyway, rounding out the list of 200 strikeout victims is Drew Stubbs of the Cincinnati Reds, who struck out 205 times in 2011.

Reggie Jackson is still the all time leader in punch outs at this point with an embarrassing 2,597 career strikeouts. Jim Thome, who has bounced all over the American and National League could break this record this season as he has 2,548. Sammy Sosa comes in third with 2,036 followed by Alex Rodriguez with 2,032 and Adam Dunn with 2,031. At this point when it is all said and done…Dunn will probably have the dubious credit of striking out a major league number of times.

Why does this topic have so much relevance in the decline of the game. Lets take a look at Rob Deer in the eighties. Rob Deer has some dubious statistics that will blow the average fan’s mind. First of all, in 1991 he officially had the worst average at .179, while still qualifying for a batting title. He is also the only player since 1910 to hit less than .220 in 4 seasons with 450 or more at bats. Deer had the American League single season record of 186 Punch Outs until he was past by Jack Kust. Most notably, Deer had seven seasons of 140 or more strikeouts.

The bottom line is that a record number of players are striking out a record number of times each year and if it continues these records will all follow. Strikeouts have become just as important and hassling at the same time. When all of these players strike out its just giving a bad first impression. The old time players did not strike out 100 times often, if they did they still had 200 Hits 30 Home Runs 100 RBI Etc. The On Base Percentages were also much more higher.

Ok…the other side of the argument is that we are now unfortunately living in the “pitch count era.” Complete Games are few and far between these days. Managers and Pitching Coaches are so routine that it may actually be ruining the sanctity of the game. Instead of letting the “ace” or “horse” go the distance…these pitchers are removed regardless of how well they are pitching and often they will leave the game on the winning side and when the game is over the team has lost.

What this phenomenon does not try to prove is that bullpens are not important and should be eradicated. Instead, one would argue that bullpens are still a very important part of the team concept and having a good bullpen can take a team far into the playoffs and ultimately a championship. However, at what cost are we taking starting pitchers out of the game way too early.

I can think of a few examples already in this fresh new 2013 season. Last Week, New York Met’s prospect Matt Harvey had a stellar first start. Harvey had went 7 Innings, while striking out ten batters and only walking two and giving up one measly hit. At this point he had only thrown less than ninety pitches and was on a pace for 110-112. Ok, one would argue, it’s early in the season and why risk “pushing a pitcher past their limit.” I say, bullshit. However, the Mets coaches stuck to the game plan and removed Harvey after 7 Innings. By the time was over, the bullpen had surrendered 2 Runs and Five Hits. This is a very frustrating concept.

Pre 1900, it was not uncommon for pitchers to throw as many complete games as starts. During this era, the average for complete games was 30. Pitchers were expected to complete games that they had started. Unfortunately, in the Twentieth Century the “Complete Game” is almost non existent. Today a good modern pitcher, staff ace, CY Young candidate may have an average of two complete games with five being unheard of.

For example, in 2012 only 2.6 percent of all Games included a complete game. To put this in perspective, as recently as the 1980’s, it was not uncommon to see good starters toss 10-15 complete games a season. In fact, in 1980, Oakland A’s Star Rick Langford threw 22 Consecutive Complete Games! Robin Roberts, a former Phillies ace threw 28 consecutive complete games in the 1950’s.

Not too long ago, Nolan Ryan threw 200 pitches in one game. That will probably never be done again. The new philosophy adheres to strict pitch counts and the evidence points to the fact that arm injuries increase after 100 pitches have been thrown. CY Young holds the current record of 749 Complete Games, a feat that will never be broken.

James Shields, the Tampa Devil Ray’s ace threw 11 complete games in 2011, the most since CC Sabathia’s 10 in 2008. The last pitcher to reach 15 Complete Games was the Phillies Curt Schilling who threw 15 Complete Games in 1998. Fernando Valenzuela was the last pitcher to throw 20 Complete games in 1980. Catfish Hunter had 30 in 1975. So the trend is very significant as you can see.

To put this theory in better perspective, the active leader in Complete Games is Roy Halladay with 66 in his entire career, with a career high of nine in 2010 for the Phillies. During that season, Halladay threw 251 Innings, went 19-10 and had a career high 230 K’s while only walking 30. He became the first Pitcher to amass 250 innings and only have 30 Walks since Grover Cleveland in 1923.

It’s obvious that Complete Games are becoming a thing of the past. Hitters are striking out in record numbers while starting pitchers are throwing less innings and getting less wins. These trends are really hurting the sanctity of Major League Baseball. My good friend Aaron has been researching these trends a lot and has very good insight on the problem. Stay tuned to Aaron for his vision, his ideas, and a solution to the problem.

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1993 PHILLIES: Looking Back

Whenever anyone in the Philadelphia Sports Arena hears the 1993 Phillies, everyone’s first thought goes to that Game 6 walk off home run by Joe Carter off of Mitch Williams to lose the 1993 World Series. However, anyone that really watched that team can remember that team was one of the most exciting teams in Baseball History.

In spring training, that team was picked to finish last in the National League East again just like the previous two seasons. However, there was a different feeling about this team. First of all, Catcher Darren Daulton was coming off an RBI crown, only the third catcher to perform this feat. Secondly, the Phillies had signed Jim Eisenreich an American League star that struggled with Tourette’s Syndrome. The team made him feel at home.

During the beginning of 1993 spring training, Third Baseman Dave Hollins who had set a record the previous year for being hit by pitches 19 times. Well, Dave set out a decree to his own pitching staff that if they did not protect him if he got hit, he was going to charge them in the clubhouse. Well, what do you know. During an early game in spring, Dave Hollins was hit by a pitch. The next inning, Tommy Greene came in and hit the next batter in the neck! This started an all out brawl and it was only spring training.

This started a season of which the team played with such camaraderie. The 1993 Phillies started out the season 8-1, the best start they had since 1964. This team was special from day one. They played together died together as a team. They developed the team concept of playing and had three platoons. Jim Eisenreich and Wes Chamberlain split duties in right field. Pete Incaviglia and Milt Thompson split Left Field. And Mickey Morandini/Mariano Duncan split second base. This was probably the last time that you saw this happen in MLB baseball. They also had great bench players…Kim Batiste, Rickey Jordan, Charlie Hayes to name a few.

On Mothers Day, the Phillies were down 3-0 in the bottom of the ninth and Mariano Duncan was facing Lee Arthur Smith, the most dominant closer of that time period. Duncan sent the Phillies home jumping up and down hitting the walk off game winning Grand Slam. After that game, the turning point in most of the former players minds, the team took off.

This Phillies team had 5 Starting Pitchers that won thirteen games that season. Curt Schilling was the Ace of the staff. Terry Mulholland, Tommy Greene, Danny Jackson, and Ben Rivera rounded out the Starting Pitching Staff. They had Mitch Williams who was known as the “Wild Thing.” Larry Anderson and David West were the set up men.

Darren Daulton, the teams star catcher, was signed to an 18 million dollar contract that offseason. John Kruk was the team’s star First Baseman. He also had a big mouth. John Kruk and Darren Daulton were both the team’s unquestioned leaders. John Kruk was always putting the team first. Jim Eisenreich hit .330. This team was intense.

Dave Hollins was injured in the middle of the season and was supposed to be out six weeks. Hollins miraculously came back in only two weeks, which really gave the team a huge boost. They also brought in Bobby Thigpen and Roger Mason. On July 7th…there was an amazing thing that happened. There was a double header that ended at 4:06 the next morning when Mitch Williams ended the game with an RBI game winning single in the fourteenth inning.

Lenny Dykstra “The Dude” was the lead off hitter. He had come to the team from the New York Mets. Dykstra was the type of player that would give you whatever you needed wether it was a walk, a single, a stolen base or a home run. He would work pitchers like you never saw. With him getting on base, the Phillies scored 100 more runs than any other team that season. He loved to play the game and had a lot of fun.

Jim Fregosi was calm all season and held the team together when they started to struggle at the end of the season. Mitch Williams recorded a Phillies record 43 Saves on September 27th. September 28th was the game where the magic number was one. There was a different hero every night. Lenny got the team started with a 2 run single. Then Mariano Duncan hit a Grand Slam in the seventh inning to go up 9-4. Finally, Mitch Williams ended it in a non save situation as the Phillies clinched the National League East.

The regular season was a huge offensive success as they had three players score 100 runs. Both outfield platoons knocked in 100 Runs. And going into the post season, this was the last time there was a playoff series before the league would go to a Wild Card format. The Atlanta Braves were Americas team and caught fire and would face the Phillies that series.

In game 1, Curt Schilling struck out the side in the first and Lenny Dykstra led off the game with a single and set the tone. The Phillies took a 3-2 lead into the ninth. Mitch Williams came into the game and Kim Batiste who was in as a defensive replacement made an error and the Braves tied the game. Then in the Tenth inning, John Kruk hit a double and Kim Batiste rited the ship with a game winning hit. Phillies win game one 4-3.

In Game two, the Braves beat the Phillies in a route. Greg Maddux and Mark Wohlers have up home runs to Lenny Dykstra and Dave Hollins as the Phillies lost 14-3. In Game 3, John Kruk hit a two run home run. Then the wheels came off and the Braves took game three to go up 2-1 in the series. Game 3 saw a duel between John Smoltz and Danny Jackson. The Phillies were leading and Mitch Williams made a two inning save and won 2-1 to even the NLCS to tie the series 2-2.

In Game 5, Schilling was on his game and there were a few great defensive plays. The Phillies went into the ninth up 3-0. Mitch Williams gave up the lead and the game was 3-3. In the top of the ninth, Lenny Dykstra hit the go ahead home run to take a 4-3 lead. Larry Anderson came in for the save. Phillies win…to go up 3-2 in the series. Lenny Dykstra had won the Game and he said “Didn’t I”. The Dude made it happen.

Game six was back in Philly and Tommy Greene was on the mound. Greene pitched a masterful game. Darren Daulton hit a two run double. Then Dave Hollins hit a two run home run to go up 4-1. Mickey Morandini then iced it with a two out two run triple. 6-1. Veterans stadium was rocking…chills are going down my back as I write this. The Wild Thing Mitchie Pooh came into nail the game down in the ninth as the Phillies won the NLCS pennant. I remember that day like it was yesterday.

This bunch of crazy wild players had come together and won as a team. Now they were in the World Series to face the Toronto Blue Jays. Of course…the Phillies were the underdogs again. In game one…Lenny Dykstra set the tone and the Phillies got off to a two run lead but gave up that lead and lost 6-4. However, in Game Two Terry Mulholland and Jim Eisenreich gave the Phillies a 5-0 lead and then Lenny Dykstra hit a home run to go up 6-3 in the seventh and so it went, Mitch saved the game.

In Game 3, Paul Molitor had a huge game and the Phillies lost 10-3. Game 4 was a barn burner that went back and forth and then the rains came. Lenny came up and hit another home run his second of the game to put the Phillies up 12-7. They were up 14-9 at one point. Then the Phillies bullpen gave up the lead and they lost this game 15-14.

In Game 5…Curt Schilling put the team on his back and Shut down the Blue Jays offense by throwing a 5 hit shut out at home. Back to Canada. Paul Molitor hit two home runs and the Phillies were losing 5-1 in the seventh. Then…like magic…the Phillies came back to take the lead off of CY Young Award winner to go up 6-5. Roger Mason nailed down the sixth and seventh inning and then came the eighth where Toronto had the bases loaded and Larry Anderson got out of the jam.

Of course, the rest is history. Joe Carter comes up in the bottom of the ninth and then that’s all she wrote. Mitch went hard and in and Carter broke the Phillies hearts. Everyone had their heart ripped out. However, just because they lost…does not make that team losers. In my mind, they were winners. They had an amazing season and should be proud of what they had accomplished. The 1993 Phillies were a magical team. I will never forget that season.

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Saint Patricks Day Fotter

Hey all…it’s been awhile. I have been very busy so sorry that there has not been much activity as of late. Nonetheless, here we are Sunday March 17th, Saint Patrick’s Day. Wow, spring is almost here so as I stated this is one of the most exciting times of the year in the world of sports and entertainment.

We are a week into NFL Free Agency and there have been many surprises as well as many no brained as far as player signings and releases. The Miami Dolphins have been extremely busy in the first week. The Dolphins secured the best free agent wide receiver in the market (Mike Wallace) and Brandon Gibson while resigning Brian Hartline. The Dolphins also signed Free Agent Tight End Dustin Keller. The Chiefs have also had a busy offseason in Andy Reid’s debut behind the helm. Getting Alex Smith was huge.

In the NFC, The Philadelphia Eagles have had an interesting free agent period this far mostly concentrating on Defense. Their Defense was the weak link do this only makes sense. It also fuels the debate on wether they will select the best quarterback Gino Smith with their first pick in the draft. Smith recently went 60/64 in passing at the combine. It makes perfect sense and would be the perfect fit for the Eagles behind their new boss. In other NFC news, Dallas has remained quiet so far and it’s fans are getting unruly.

Spring Training is winding down and there are so many topics up for debate. As a Phillies fan, this spring has been exciting to say the least. It is good to see Utley and Howard finally healthy. Michael Young has been a huge addition to the lineup and Domenic Brown has been a pleasant surprise. The question mark remains Roy Halladay and his health. His velocity is drastically declined which raised the question will he last the season? This will be vital how this plays out.

The NHL is winding down in its version of what they would like to call a season. Wow…48 games…no time to weed out the good from the bad. Of course…the Flyers have been a disappointment so far, but I did not see them winning much this year anyway. The East is a battle between Pittsburgh, Boston and Montreal at the top. The west is dominated by the once unbeaten Chicago BlackHawks. The defending Champion LA Kings are back and the surprise Minnesota Wild are at the top. It should be an exciting final month of Hockey.

In the entertainment world there are so much news and notes. As far as television goes…the series Walking Dead is getting more traffic than ever. I must admit…I thought this would be a horrible show before a friend of mine made me watch an episode. Now I am HOOKED. There is also the show Breaking Bad about the Cancer Patient turned Meth Trafficker, The Following which pits a sick twisted serial killer against the world, as well as another season of CSI, American Idol, and Grey’s Anatomy.

The Movies have been fast and furious beginning last week with Oz:The Great and Powerful (The Prequel to the 1939 Classic) and Jack the Giant Killer based on Jack in the Beanstalk. I highly recommend both of these movies for any age level. They were both extremely well put together.There are many other great movies to come. Next week will bring the sequel to the GI Joe series. And later this summer, The Man of Steel the highly anticipated Version of the Superman Series.

In world news…the Gun Control debate remains at the fore front with a standstill. Those poor families that lost Loved Ones in December must be frustrated as I know I am. This issue is beyond ridiculous. These automatic weapons should have been banned a long time ago and yet the Government has still not been able to put a dent in this ongoing crisis. The debt crisis has not gotten any better. HealthCare reform sucks and the economy sucks. This Government better act soon or their will be a revolt.

On Tuesday, Anthrax will release their cover album “Anthems” which is a collection of cover songs from bands like AC/DC and Deep Purple. Deftones also has a new album out. I highly recommend the new Buck Cherry Album “Confessions.” Ok folks…that’s all I got for today but just know…I am BACK!

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