Five Underrated Sports Moments

1) Joe Carter’s game winner 1993 World Series.

Five time All-Star Joe Carter had a near Hall of Fame career.  While his numbers don’t transition well to the analytics world that we know today, he still made an impact with his power and speed through his career. Carter spent a long time in the league making his impact most notably in the 1993 World Series where he not only sent home the Philadelphia Phillies but also gave Toronto their second straight World Series title. Carter’s homer literally won the World Series for the Blue Jays yet it seems to be ignored in history. The fact that this home run was in Toronto also makes it one of the craziest atmospheres in baseball.

2) Lance Berkman’s game tying single, game six 2011 World Series.

David Freese’s game winner will live on in baseball history.  We all tend to forget that it was actually Lance Berkman that saved the series for the Cardinals in game six. The Cardinals were down to their final out and final strike when Berkman shot a single up the middle that kept the game going for the Redbirds.  While Freese’s homer is obviously the moment that should be played over and over again, it was Berkman that made everything possible. Lance had a great career but this moment was by far the biggest of his career. 

https://www.mlb.com/video/berkman-s-game-tying-single-c19955467

3) Derek Fisher’s game winner with .4 seconds left 2004 Western Conference Semifinal.

The Lakers had plenty of guys that took the spotlight in 2004.  Shaq and Kobe were in their prime and dominating the league. Big shot Robert Horry was the guy known for hitting the game winners, hence the nickname.  However it was a shot in the 2004 Western Conference semi-final that stuck out to me. The Spurs and Lakers were battling for dominance in the Western Conference and this game was the swing that led to the win for Los Angeles.  The Lakers seemed done after the Spurs took the lead on a shot from Tim Duncan. This game was over and then out of nowhere the role player Derek Fisher launched a shot with .4 seconds on the clock and sent the fans home, giving the Lakers a 3-2 advantage in the series.  If this shot doesn’t happen we likely see the Spurs versus the Pistons in that year’s NBA Finals. 

4) DeWayne Wise saved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. 

I watched this game live on WGN when I was in high school.  Soft tossing Mark Buehrle had a very underrated career that had a few highlight moments and one was on July 23rd 2009.  Buehrle threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. That perfect game was nearly taken away by Gabe Kapler leading off the ninth driving a ball deep to center field.  Little known DeWayne Wise was playing shallow in center and immediately broke into a full sprint back to the wall jumping up off the wall knocking the ball back into play, juggling it before hauling it in. Wise never did anything else in his career that was noteworthy but this catch was awesome and will stay in my memory forever. 

5) Hatteberg’s walk-off for 20 straight. 

We all know the story of Moneyball.  The real world story of Scott Hatteberg is still hard to believe. The former Red Sox catcher seemed like his career was over after suffering an arm injury that forced him out of the position he had played his whole career.  Hatteberg only hit 106 homers in his entire 14-year career. By far his most memorable homer was on Sept 4th 2002 when he took the first pitcher from Royals pitcher Jason Grimsley over the right field wall and gave the A’s their (at the time) record 20th straight win.  While the story was made more famous by Hollywood years later, the actual game was as dramatic as it comes. Oakland had blown a massive lead and needed the former catcher to just get on base but he swung his way into history. If you haven’t seen Chris Pratt’s portrayal of the homer you have to watch Moneyball, he absolutely crushes the performance.

AL East Preview and Prediction

New York Yankees

The New York Yankees found themselves back on top in 2019.  Holding off the Tampa Bay Rays and winning the American League East for the first time since 2012.  I was shocked when I saw that up until last season the Yankees had gone six seasons without taking the division crown. Both the Baltimore Orioles and the Toronto Blue Jays had won the division more recently than New York.  

The Yankees have a great lineup.  The potential injuries of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge are not going to be a problem with the delayed start to the season.  Resigning Brett Gardner will cover the injury of Aaron Hicks. New York has a loaded lineup. The move of Gleyber Torres should hurt defensively but the power that Torres brings should overshadow most defensive liabilities.  The Yankees will get the return of Miguel Andujar provides a problem that most teams would love to have. Last year’s emergence of Gio Urshela gives the Yankees two serious offensive threats at one position. Andujar has been working to potentially play multiple positions to allow another big bat into the lineup.  The Yankees have tons of talent in the lineup and should be ready to jump out as an offensive force.

The Yankees rotation took a big blow before the season started.  Injuries to James Paxton, Luis Severino and Domingo German have left the Yankees in a tough position.  Behind ace Gerrit Cole is Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ Jordan Montgomery and….. New York’s pickup of Cole will hide some of the injuries for a small time.  If Paxton is not able to recover New York will have to find some proven rotation arms to back up their freshly signed stud.  

The Yankees bullpen is loaded.  Chapman, Britton, Ottavino, Green and Kahnle are just some of the names that make up this ridiculous;y talented pen.  They have it all.

Verdict:

This is the Yankees division to win.  Their rotation scares me enough to see the possibility of Tampa making a run but the Yankees were able to figure things out last season when they didn’t have Gerrit Cole.  It will be tough to bet against them.

Boston Red Sox

Mookie Betts- traded.  Chris Sale- Tommy John Surgery.  This has not been a great start to the 2020 season for the Boston Red Sox. 

The offense is still very solid even without Betts. Boston was able to add Alex Verdugo, a long time prospect that will be given the chance to show whether or not he can live up to the hype.  Verdugo is going to join an offense that still has some serious talent. JD Martinez, Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts and Andrew Benintendi will make up the core of the lineup that still make them a serious threat to the division.  The addition of Kevin Pillar will add a little more pop to the lineup coming off of a 21 homer season. Boston will need a repeat in production from infielder Michael Chavis who will get opportunities at both second base and first base.  The depth of the lineup continues with the addition of veteran Johnathon Lucroy to go along with Christian Vazquez who had a terrific 2019 season. The Red Sox may have lost their best player but this is still a lineup that has serious talent.  Martinez, Bogaerts and Devers are still All-Star level talent that can lead this team. 

The biggest issue for Boston will be the starting staff.  With Chris Sale missing the entire 2020 season an already weak rotation will have to hope veterans Martin Perez and Colin McHugh can step up and show the potential they both had many years ago.  Eduardo Rodriguez will have to step into the role of #1 starter coming off of a career season. Rodriguez’s 19 wins and 3.7 WAR headlined a huge 2019 season for the 27 year old. The Red Sox will have to value their veterans as there is no clear relief coming from the minor league system. The Red Sox top rated prospects are mainly positional players.  The highest rated pitcher in the system is Bryan Mata who had pitched in the future’s game in 2018. Mata is still just in Double-A and will not likely make the strides to get to the majors in 2020.  

The bullpen dug themselves out of a hole in the second half of 2019.  Brandon Workman worked his way into the closer role and will enter the season in that role.  Matt Barnes, Josh Taylor and Darwinzon Hernandez have all progressed into a strong set up man crew but they will need more arms to step up to make it through the whole season.  

Verdict:

Boston’s pitching is going to be a problem.  Losing Chris Sale and trading away David Price has put them in a tough situation.  They are in the process of rebuilding what was once a vaunted farm system. They have a strong lineup that doesn’t have a lot of depth but the starters are as good as any in the division. If Boston can get any sort of support from the rotation they have enough offense to be a threat in the division.  This is going to be a rebuild but the talent is still very young and should be competitive.  

Tampa Bay Rays

It is impossible to question the moves made by the Tampa Bay Rays. They have proven that they are ahead of the curve analytically.  The Rays were active in the offseason adding Jose Martinez, Hunter Renfroe, Manuel Margot and Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to an already deep roster.  To try and have an idea of what the lineup is going to be is a waste of time. The Rays are built better than ever to utilize the platoon lineups.  Their mix of power, speed and on-base ability throughout the roster makes them unique and adaptable to any game. The Rays have the advantage of not leaning on a core of players so no injury should really determine the season.  If Austin Meadows, Joey Wendle, Brandon Lowe and Yandy Diaz can take the next step in their development this team is going to be tough to handle. The eventual call up of Wander Franco and Vidal Brujan will make another impact in the lineup if they need a jolt at any point.

The Rays rotation is highlighted by the top three.  Blake Snell, Charlie Morton and Tyler Glasnow can match up with any team’s top three. If Snell and Glasnow can stay healthy in 2020 a team that is so well known for utilizing their bullpen may have one of the strongest rotations in all of baseball. Yonny Chirinos took steps in the right direction last season finding mixed success in the bullpen and the rotation. Tampa Bay has a few interesting prospects that could find their way into the rotation.  Two-way player Brendan McKay and prospect Brent Honeywell could both find themselves in the majors this season.  

The bullpen is similar to the rotation.  Nick Anderson stands out is the potential closer but there are multiple arms that are ready in any situation.  Jose Alavardo, Diego Castillo, Oliver Drake, Colin Poche and Chaz Roe all have nasty stuff. This team is unpredictable and that makes them tough to handle.

Verdict:

My head says this is the Yankees division.  New York is more fragile than Tampa Bay. The Rays could easily win this division if the starting pitching stays healthy.

Baltimore Orioles

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s just a really long tunnel. The Orioles were able to rebuild what was a horrific farm system. They are currently ranked 13th overall by MLB.com heading into the season.  This ranking includes four players in the top 100 overall, headlined by the #4 overall prospect Adley Rutschmann. The future looks bright for the Orioles but the 2020 season will not be the first year of the turnaround.

Baltimore’s offense doesn’t have a particular player to build their lineup around. Veteran Trey Mancini is the closest thing to a star player with a 135 OPS+, but he may be trade bait for a contender as the year goes on. Anthony Santander was a nice surprise in 2019 blasting 20 homers in limited at bats.  He will be looked upon to garner more playing time in 2020. Another surprise was the play of Hanser Alberto. Alberto led the Orioles in BA (.305), adding some pop with 13 home runs. OF Austin Hays found his way to the majors last season and will be looked upon as the first hope of what’s to come. 

John Means came out of nowhere in 2020 making it to the All-Star game. Means will be looked upon to carry the load for a rotation full of journeyman veterans.  Tommy Milone, Alex Cobb and Wade LeBlanc are going to be holdovers as the organization waits for their young starters to take the next step. Grayson Rodriguez and DJ Hall headline the upcoming starters that will soon be mainstays in the rotation.  Both starters are still considered at least one year away from being ready for the majors.

The Orioles bullpen has rising star Hunter Harvey to go along with Mychal Givens, their most proven arm in the back end.  The pen will feature a litany of other young arms trying to establish themselves in the majors. 

Verdict:

The Baltimore Orioles are at least a few years away from any sort of contention but the work they have done on their farm system has been impressive.  Moving on from Trey Mancini and Mychal Givens in order to continue to bolster their farm system is the best choice for the organization. The problem Baltimore has is they are going to be very low balled by any team interested in Givens and Mancini. Another tough year is ahead for the Orioles and their fans. 

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays believe in their young talent.  The second generation stars Bo Bichette, Cavan Biggio and Vlad Guerrero Jr make up a young core that will be the backbone of the organization.  These young stars are flanked by the power of Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Rowdy Tellez and Teoscar Hernandez. The Blue Jays have built a lineup that will be nightmares for opposing pitchers for years to come. 

The Blue Jays needed the arms to compete with the elite in the American League and they worked hard to find those arms in the offseason adding Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark, Shun Yamaguchi and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Toronto added some veteran arms to give them stability as they await the incoming talent Nate Pearson and Anthony Kay.  Pearson ranks 7th overall prospect in all of baseball while Kay is 67th. They will soon be joined in the top 100 by another drafted arm Alek Monoah the former #11 overall pick is an imposing 6’6” 260lbs and he brings serious strikeout stuff. In his first 17 innings in low-A he Monoah struck out 27 hitters and dominated. He is still far from MLB ready but when he is it will be impactful. 

The Blue Jays have a very formidable closer in Ken Giles.  He propelled them to a mid-level ranked bullpen. He will be backed up in 2020 by AJ Cole, WIlmer Font and potentially Shun Yamaguchi if he doesn’t end up in the rotation.  If Toronto is able to get the innings they expect from their new veteran rotation the back end of the pen should be able to solidify victories.  

Verdict:

Toronto is still a few years away from being serious competitors but they have a lineup with very real potential for explosion.  If the rotation is able to provide them with any sort of support this team has the real ability to compete for third place in the division.  The playoffs are unlikely but watch out for Toronto they are making waves. 

     2020 Season Standings 

  1. Tampa Bay Rays
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Boston Red Sox
  5. Baltimore Orioles

A look at Yelich

The reports are that Christian Yelich has signed a 9-year extension with the Milwaukee Brewers worth around $215 million.  This contract is a slam dunk, homerun, touchdown and every other possible success pun you can possibly think of. The 2018 MVP is now the face of Brewers baseball for the foreseeable future and Milwaukee got him at a discount in today’s market. 

Let’s look at what got us to this point.  The Brewers had to make a move to compete with the 2018 off-season that saw the St. Louis Cardinals add Marcel Ozuna and a Cubs team that had been in control of the central division for two years.  Milwaukee gave up a handful of prospects highlighted by Lewis Brinson (#13 overall at the time). The group also included Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto. Brinson has been below average, Yamamoto is nothing special and Isan Diaz is still TBD.  The Brewers gave up a core of mediocre prospects to get a guy that could be the best player in baseball behind Mike Trout for the next ten years. 

We look back at the three headed monster that was once the Florida Marlins outfield and we all knew that there was a historically great player there, we just didn’t pick the right one.  No one was listening when Team USA manager Jim Leyland was telling everyone that on this team of great players Christian Yelich was going to be the future batting champion. We laughed when he was put into the leadoff spot.  It was a look into the future, Yelich was quietly proclaimed the next big thing. The world just seemed to ignore it.  

Yelich is the player of the analytics era combined with the classic tools.  Yelich has a 14.7 offensive WAR over the last two seasons. He has led the league in OPS the last two seasons.  He was the fourth best base runner in the league last season. He has the classic power numbers and stolen base numbers.  Yelich is 28 years old, this contract will take him into the decline of his career. Milwaukee is a small market team that made this move because they have seen how quickly things can change in Major League Baseball.  Prince Fielder left them for free agency, Ryan Braun stopped juicing and went into immediate decline. Players like Yelich are not found every day. In the case of the Brewers they made a smart move and got the diamond in the rough known as Miami.  Despite still having three years of control over Yelich making this move allows the Brewers to build for the future around him and their young second baseman Keston Hiura.  

Milwaukee may not like this contract in six years.  Contracts like Joey Votto, Miggy Cabrera and Albert Pujols are examples of guys cashing in during the prime of their careers.  Yelich deserved this money. The Brewers fans deserve to have this guy be the face of their franchise. It is a good move for the organization right now.

The Story of Marcell Ozuna and the St. Louis Cardinals


Marcell Ozuna signe a 1-year $18 million dollar “prove it” contract with the Atlanta Braves officially ending his two-year relationship with the St. Louis Cardinals.  The St. Louis Cardinals were in need of an impact bat in the middle of their order. Long gone were the days of Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday anchoring the middle of the order striking fear into the opposing pitching staff.  Ozuna had two years left on his contract when he was picked up in 2017. Those two years were supposed to be a showcase of his excellency, forcing the Cardinals to make him a huge offer cementing him as the new face of baseball in the gateway to the west. Ozuna was going to cash in and both the player and the team will live happily ever after.  That would have been a great story unfortunately professional sports is not a fairy tale.

The Cardinals picked up a 27-year old, two-time all-star coming off of a breakout season where he posted a .312/.376/.548 slash line to go along with 37 homers, 128 RBI and a gold glove.  It wasn’t former teammate Christian Yelich that was the future MVP, Ozuna was considered as the prized piece. The Cardinals gave three pitching prospects Daniel Castano, Zac Gallen, Sandy Alcantara and outfielder Magneuris Sierra for Ozuna.  Alcantara was named an all-star in 2019 giving him one more than Ozuna in his time with St. Louis while Zac Gallen has become a part of the rotation for the Arizona Diamondbacks.  

When the acquisition was made the Cardinals looked like the clear winner adding the power that was going to take them out of the dreaded middle pack of the central division.  The days of Jhonny Peralta, Jedd Gyroko and Randal Grichuck batting cleanup were over. Finally a power bat to accommodate the on-base prowess of Matt Carpenter and Dexter Fowler.  The 2017 Cardinals needed this bat.

2017 Team Stats (Non-Pitcher)

ISO: 176

Slug: .439

WRC+: 107

Entering 2018 was exciting with their new power bat the Cardinals had to improve their offense…right?

2018 Team Stats (Non-Pitcher)

ISO: .169

Slug: .419

WRC+: 100

Ozuna’s first season in St. Louis was marred by a shoulder injury, limiting his production.  His slash line .243/.330/.435 was not nearly as productive as his final year with Miami. Coming into the 2019 season the team added Paul Goldschmidt to go along with Ozuna, that should have helped…right?

2019 Team Stats (Non Pitcher)

ISO: .177

Slug: .428

WRC+: 105

The Cardinal offense continued to be mediocre in 2019 even though Ozuna was electric to begin the season hitting ten homers in his first 27 games, he floundered down the stretch, hitting just .219 in the second half.  Ozuna had a chance to erase two years of sub-par production and looked to be on the right track in the NLDS, hitting two homers with a slash line of .429/.478/.857 in five games against his new team. Continuing that production could have changed the opinion of the public on Ozuna, unfortunately the NLCS wiped away any memory of dominance at the plate.  The numbers are literally not worth typing at this point.  

Two years with Marcell Ozuna did not change the offense for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Ozuna provided the fanbase with some mathom shots that showed the potential he brings to any lineup but he came into the 2018 season out of shape and injured.  His swing produced long home runs but resembled a cleanup hitter at your local slow pitch softball league. Those guys can hit the ball pretty far to, doesn’t make them major league All-Stars.  Both the Cardinals and Ozuna have found themselves in a place that they could have never imagined.   

St. Louis is currently looking at a potential outfield of Tyler O’Neil, Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader.  Banking on a bounce back season from Bader and a breakout season from O’Neil are large questions marks for a team that is always looking to compete.  With super prospect Dylan Carlson on his way there is some hope for the future of the Cardinals outfield but if Ozuna could have been the player the Cardinals thought they traded for it you could have the building blocks of a great outfield for years to come. 

Ozuna was supposed to be that building block entering his age 29 season, this offseason was supposed to be the one that paid off in the long run of his career.  Whether it was the Cardinals or someone else this was the time that the “Big Bear” was supposed to get his contract that could allow him to find a permanent spot to hibernate for the rest of his career.  Accepting a one-year deal was the worst case outcome for him. If he is not able to pick up his production this could be a trend that follows him for years to come.  

Trades don’t always work out for most teams.  This one didn’t set the organization back, but it leaves them in a vulnerable place as we see the progression of the prospects.  Marcell Ozuna and the St. Louis Cardinals was supposed to work. Sports stories don’t always have happy endings…luckily for both their stories continue, this was just a crappy chapter.

MLB DFS Lineup July 19 (Draftkings)

P: Jacob DeGrom, New York Mets, $10,600

The Giants have been hot up until their matchup against Thor last night.  The Giants team total is set at a pedestrian three runs tonight in San Francisco, a very pitcher friendly park.  DeGrom is not the highest priced pitcher on the slate, which means you will save some money.  San Francisco is still striking out at over 26% as a team even with their recent hot streak.  

P: Tyler Mahle, Cincinnati Reds, $6,000

The Cardinals are hot, but they still feature a watered-down lineup with a lot of strikeouts.  Tyler Mahle is way better against righties than lefties and the Cardinals will feature only a few lefties that are not overly scary DFS players Dexter Fowler, Matt Wieters and Tommy Edman.  

C: Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees, $4,600

Kyle Freeland has given up five earned runs or more in six straight starts.  Sanchez’s price has come down due to recent struggles but a matchup with the homer happy Kyle Freeland is a great play.

1B: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds, $3,400

Adam Wainwright has troubles versus lefties.  With multiple options in the Cincinnati lineup. I have chosen Joey Votto who over 49 at-bats versus Wainwright has hit him to a tune of a .995OPS.  Votto has been a disappointment all season but at this cost against a pitcher getting killed by lefties he makes almost too much sense.

2B: Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays, $3,900

Stacking against Kyle Freeland and Jordan Zimmerman are a theme for today’s lineup.  Biggio has been put in the middle of the order for the Blue Jays since his call up.  All six of Biggio’s homers have come against righties. I am looking for him to go yard tonight. 

3B: Vlad Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, $3,700

Power. Power. Power. Vlad brings ridiculous power to the table against Zimmerman.  End of story.

SS: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers, $3,900

Seager has not returned to his rookie year form after a litany of injuries has slowed him down. His struggles have forced a lower cost at a prime position on a big slate.  Seager will face rookie Zac Gallen who

OF: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, $5,300

Judge may be the chalkiest of chalk plays in a Yankee stack.  Freeland has a real issue with giving up bombs and Judge will happily oblige him. Look for a double dinger day.

OF: Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, $4,900

Lourdes is the light to our firecracker Blue Jays stack.  Gurriel hits in bunches and an already juicy matchup with Jordan Zimmerman should be a great showcase of one of the hotter hitters in baseball over the last few weeks. He is the highest price Blue Jay for good reason, and he will show it tonight.

OF: Matt Beaty, Los Angeles Dodgers, $3,600

Beaty is coming off one of his best games of the year posting 26 fantasy points against the Phillies including a homer and three runs scored.  Beaty has a low price tag and high upside against Zac Gallen.  Check the starting lineup before you finish your lineup.  If he is in it, he is a must start at just $3.6K.

Stackable Teams:

Blue Jays

Yankees

Brewers

Sneaky Stack:

Pirates

Angels

DFS Picks Day Slate

I Talk Sports DFS Lineup (Day Slate) September 12 2018-

P: Carlos Carrasco, Ross Stripling

C: Martin Maldonado, Astros

1B: Edwin Encarnacion, Indians

2B: Brian Dozier, Dodgers

3B: Matt Carpenter, Cardinals

SS: Alex Bregman, Astros

OF: Corey Dickerson, Pirates

OF: Marcell Ozuna, Cardinals

OF: Joc Pederson, Dodgers

Looking at the day slate you have multiple options at pitcher.  Carrasco has the best matchup at a more affordable price.  The Rays can be a tricky to understand at times but they strike out a lot.  Gerrit Cole is an obvious choice vs the Tigers but his cost will leave you will little to know room to stack some potentials stud hitters. Save yourself almost 2K  for some hitters.

For potential lineup stacks the obvious choice is the Astros going against Daniel Norris. The Astros middle of the order can feast of of Norris.  Alex Bregman and red hot Tyler White are potential bats that can bring you some power.  White was a little to pricey so I decided to go with the upside of a cheap Edwin Encarnacion.  I also like the Dodgers in a . must win spot against the pesky Reds and Anthony Desclafani.  Brian Dozier and Joc Pederson were affordable options that have homerun potential in Great American SmallPark.

2018 Nationals: What went wrong?

The 2018 Washington Nationals entered the seasons as clear favorites in the National League East race, potentially favorites for the National League Championship.  They would be at the forefront of the baseball world as they were set to host the 2018 All Star Game. With a rotation that featured Stephen Strasburg Gio Gonzalez and Cy Young winner Max Scherzer that Nationals had a rotation that screamed NL crown.  Impending free agent superstar Bryce Harper was going to lead this team to the next level, potentially convincing him to stay in Washington after rather then hit free agency in 2019.  As it so often happens in sports though projections and hype are tough to live up to.The Nationals currently sit one game under .500 at 69-70 a shocking 7.5 games back of the first place Atlanta Braves and 4.5 games behind the second place Philadelphia Phillies. A team projected to win their division by most sits in third and is showing no signs of progression.  We are left to ask, What went wrong?

There have been multiple players that have underperformed for the Nationals in 2018 but we have to point the finger at the guy looking to cash in over the winter of 2019. After a strong start to the year, he’s all but collapsed. Harper posted a .986 April OPS, followed by an .856 May and a .675 June, one of the worst monthly performances of his career. By Baseball-Reference’s numbers, he’s only barely classified as a productive player for the season, with 0.1 WAR. That puts him below the batting value of two of the team’s pitchers. (Scherzer, with 0.3 offensive wins above replacement, and A.J. Cole, with 0.2.) While Harper struggled the team struggled as the Nationals fell below .500 for the first time in the season on July 4th.

Blaming Harper is the easiest route especially for those who believe he is a bit overvalued in today’s baseball standards (I am one of those people).  Injuries plagued this team as well.  Injuries that included former #1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg led to a decline in a starting rotation that seemed to be carrying a sluggish offense. Strasburg’s injury seemed to be the final unravelling of a team that was on the brink of falling a part.  The Washington rotation outside of Max Scherzer fell a part to a tune of 5.36 ERA during the time he was absent. Despite the tailspin Nationals management was not giving up on the season, picking up long time Royals reliever Kelvin Herrera to sure up the back end of the bullpen that has been in question for multiple years.  This signified the commitment to try and make one last run for the playoffs that was quickly dwindling away.

The pick up had little effect on a team that seemed to have all but given up.  As the trade deadline approached Washington saw no hope in continuing its efforts.  Announcing that for the right price Bryce Harper would be up for grabs.  There were no takers for the 25 year old soon to be free agent.  Washington was stuck, a season going no where a star that is sure to leave.  It was team to unload what they could.  Daniel Murphy, Matt Adams, Ryan Madson were all sent packing to teams that were truly contending.  The Nationals 2018 season was all but done.

Moving on from Dusty Baker and solidifying the bullpen was suppose to make this team the better. They followed all the prototypes of a contender, deciding not to resign aging veteran Jayson Werth, calling up phenom Juan Soto, returning Adam Eaton to the lineup.  Everything made sense for them.  But there is something that this team has had trouble with since their move to Washington.  Team chemistry has been an issue.  Fights in the dugout and lack of true leadership has always been an issue.  Bryce Harper is a once in a generation talent, but from the start of his career he has been thrust to a position that only mature players can make work.  He is not a leader, he is just a great player.  Losing Jayson Werth, an under appreciated voice of the locker room with experience as long as his grizzly beard was a lose that people did not take into account.  An inexperienced manager that has never had to make big decisions cost them games down the stretch.  Injuries to a bullpen that was suppose to be “fixed” put them in a situation where they currently only have two players that were on the opening day bullpen.

I am a believer in great talent but sometimes you have to have the veterans around them to make it work.  Anthony Rendon, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Juan Soto are great talents that you can build around, but they are not leaders.  This team still has a bright future even without Harper in 2019.  Victor Robles would most likely assume his role with the team next year and the return of a strong rotation will put them in the race with the Braves and the Phillies.   This team’s 2018 was a bust but they can have a fresh start next year with a huge shadow of Bryce Harper gone.  Nationals fans will miss their superstar but maybe its better that he is gone.

 

Matt Carpenter the best at the top.

Matt Carpenter has entered himself into the National League MVP race over the last two months of the 2018 season after many wrote him off, including yours truly.   I went so far as to write an article about the Cardinals moving Tommy Pham into the leadoff position was what was best for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Just like Carpenter and his salsa I am ready to eat my words.  Carpenter has found himself in this situation while being primarily in the lead off role. His potential MVP status has opened my eyes to the evolution of the lead off hitter as a force in MLB lineups.

Traditionalist have a predetermined idea that a leadoff hitter should be someone with speed. A player that can turn a single into a double or even triple by being on the move. But today’s MLB doesn’t work that way anymore.  Baseball is a game of statistics as well as ever changing dynamics.  Players like Billy Hamilton and Dee Gordon can change the game with their speed, but they are the leadoff hitters of the past.   The new form of leadoff hitters are players that force a pitcher to be on their game right away or be down by one run.

Today’s leadoff hitters focus more about getting on base and provide much more power.  Look at the impact that George Springer had for the World Champion Astros during their great 2017 run in the playoffs.  Springer was able to jump on get me over fastballs to start the game and put an immediate run on the board.  Lead off hitters now rely on patience and launch angles to beat up on the opposition rather than using their speed.

Look at a list of impactful leadoff men in today’s game and see that there is a new trend in the game.  Joining George Springer are star caliber players like Charlie Blackmon, Mookie Betts, Anthony Rizzo, Corey Dickerson, and even Bryce Harper have spent time in the leadoff spot for their respective teams.  Managers are beginning to understand that their best hitters will not only be getting more at bats but they will also be in a position to see a few get me over fastballs that can be deposited in the seats.  Instead of pitchers trying to pitch around these players they are forced to pitch to them at least once rather than start a game with a runner on base.

Matt Carpenter is currently leading the National League in homeruns. While a large portion of those homeruns are solo shots he is still making an impact from the lead off position.  What is overlooked is that he has the protection of the middle of the order forcing pitchers to throw to him.  The worst thing a pitcher can do is to put a man on in front of the middle of the order.  Carpenter has to see strikes, he has to be challenged and he more you challenge him the better he has been.  This is the new idea of lead off hitters.  In a way its like a slow pitch softball approach, why not get your best player as many at bats as you possibly can?

Time to sell. Is that a bad thing?

The Cardinals stepped into the second half taking a glass is half full approach.  By moving on from Mike Matheny all their problems would magically dissapear.  The bullpen would pitch better, Ozuna and Fowler would start hitting, the defense would play error free.  After just six games they realized that not only was the glass half empty but it has been thrown to the ground and shattered.

Sitting five games back in the Wild Card is an illusion of potential for a team that has lost its way.  While they only sit five games back they have to jump two teams in their own division just to make case for the second spot. It is time to open their eyes and see that this is a team that has to find a new direction.  I wrote a piece earlier in the month talking about the potential of trading “ace” Carlos Martinez in hopes to have a return that can set them up for future success.  While it is unlikely that they move on from Martinez they have to see that it is time move the pieces that are not going to be a part of the future.   Players like Jedd Gyroko, Jose Martinez, Kolten Wong,  Tommy Pham and Bud Norris have to be put on the trade block.  Each one of these players have friendly contracts and assets that can intrigue true contending teams.

Players like Jedd, Jose and Kolten may not bring you high valued prospects in return, but  they can allow the team to open up spots for young talent. Players that are ready in the minors like Patrick Wisdom and Tyler O’Neil need to be called up and put into bench roles while Yairo Munoz and Harrison Bader should be given the chance to play everyday to see what they can bring to the table on a day to day basis.  The players that can bring you the most value on the market like Bud Norris and Tommy Pham should be moved in order to restock your system with top 15 potential players.

So why not move your hottest hitter Matt Carpenter or your bad contract Dexter Fowler or your “big” offseason pickup Marcell Ozuna?

Carpenter is the player you have to build around, moving him full time to first base is your best option and can bring you stability to work around for your infield.

Fowler’s contract will most surely be impossible to move.  The reality is that you have to put him on the bench and try and find a suitor in the offseason that will help you take on some of his salary (Very Unlikely).

Ozuna is injured.  He has little to no value at the moment unless you want to sell low.  Shut him down and let him go fix his shoulder injury.  If you would like to move him next season before he becomes a free agent then look into it then.  He has to much potential as a great trade piece when he is fully healthy.

It’s hard for a front office to admit that the season is a bust.  I am not admitting that it is a bust yet, but what the organization is putting on the field is not one that can make it to the playoffs let alone compete in an extremely competitive 2018 National League Central.  Let the young kids come up and see what kind of impact they bring.  Being a seller at the deadline does not admit defeat it can show a better understanding of your personal.  This team needs a change, they need fresh faces beyond Mike Shildt.  Let the young guys play and see if it can turn things around.  Use Poncdeleon, Gomber and eventually Dakota Hudson in the bullpen if their is not a spot in the rotation.  Let Bader get as many at bats as he can and see if he changes your team dynamic.  Cardinals fans may not like the idea of “selling” but they will have to understand that sometimes selling just means admitting your mistakes.   Everyone can accept that.

Who is Trae Santos?

The Frontier League Homerun Derby took place at Carshield Field in O’Fallon, Missouri this week.  Fans filled the stadium for a chance to see former Cardinals greats compete with Frontier League All-Stars in matchup of local favorites vs. unknown up and comers.  Former Cardinals Mark Whiten, Ray Lankford, Kerry Robinson and Rick Ankiel were set to put on a show for the thousands in attendance. To their surprise they were upstaged by a little known first baseman playing just across the river for the Gateway Grizzlies.  His name was Trae Santos.

Trae Santos put on a show from the first pitch launching mammoth homers over the giant right field wall at Carshield Field.  Santos ran through the Frontier League competitors smashing 22 homers in the first two rounds, setting up a matchup with former Cardinal P/OF Rick Ankiel.  Santos dispatched of Ankiel rather quickly beating his 3 homers in just a few swings.  Fans that had come to see the former Cardinals greats swing left wondering who was this power hitting machine manning first for the Grizzlies.  Who was Trae Santos?

In 2005, star pitcher and first baseman Trae Santos led the Guam Little League team all the way to the semifinals of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. With that success, the Santos family made a momentous decision. They decided to move their family to America where Trae began to make his mark the baseball community. Drafted in the 17th round of the 2013 MLB draft by the San Diego Padres out of Troy University.  Playing 4 seasons in affiliated ball Santos had trouble standing out.  Hitting his peak during the 2015 season, Santos hit 14 homers and drove in 60 runs for the Fort Wayne Tincaps of the Midwest League. Unable to improve on those numbers the Padres released Santos after the 2016 season, leaving Trae at a crossroads in his career.

“The phones weren’t really ringing last year.  I just kept working on my swing and hitting the gym everyday. Waiting for that opportunity.” said Santos when asked about taking the 2017 season off.

Manager Phil Warren gave Trae a call with an invite to tryout for the Gateway Grizzlies.  With the departure of long time first baseman Craig Massoni their was an opening on the Gateway roster.   Looking for pop in the middle of the order Santos seemed to fit right into the needs of the team.  Beating out Kristian Brito for the starting first baseman spot, Santos jumped right into the middle of the Gateway lineup.  Santos came out the gates struggling in 2018.  Showing signs of rust from the year off of competitive baseball.  After a few weeks into the season Santo was hitting well below .200.  Phil Warren refused to give up on the young slugger.

“I sat Trae down and told him to stop putting so much pressure on himself.  These guys are out here trying to get you out.  Stop worrying so much and just do what you know you can do.” said Warren.

The brief conversation paid off huge for Santos as he was able to turn things around almost immediately.   Hitting .288 with 11HRS, 34RBI’s, earning himself a slot in the Frontier League All-Star game his comeback was complete.

Santos has had a roller coaster career so far in baseball.  Right now he is heading towards the top of the coaster in hopes that there will not be the long drop this time.  At the age of 25 getting a call back to affiliated ball will be a long shot.  But the statement he made during the Homerun Derby will live on in the history of the Frontier League.  Maybe Santos will not be the second player ever to make it to the Majors but he will go down in the Frontier League history books along with the creation of the Baseball’s Best Burger and Brett Gray’s 25 strikeout night.

Come see Trae Santos lead the Gateway Grizzlies in the second half of the season beginning July 14th vs. the River City Rascals.