A Whole New Ball Game

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Whole New Ball Game

Posted on 19 May 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

Minor League Baseball in the Chicagoland area is nearing the start of the 2013 season. That can only mean that summer is approaching in the Windy City. However, wait a few minutes and that weather can change. In Illinois there are ten Minor League ball clubs representing different levels and leagues.

KaneCounty

A change for one minor league club, the Kane County Cougars, was a note worthy move here in Chicago. This past offseason the Cougars seemingly long overdue became an affiliation of the Chicago Cubs. The Kane County program has been around since 1991 and has been affiliated with four Major League clubs before finally becoming apart of the Cubs organization in early 2013.

Kane County is a Class A minor league team that is apart of the Midwest League. They are located in Geneva, Illinois about 35 miles west of Chicago. The Cougars are perennially among the league leaders in attendance throughout the Midwest League. They also have made 13 post season appearances in their 22 year history.

Minor League clubs are directly affiliated with a major league team through a standardized Player Development Contract (PDC). The major league team may enter into a two or four year term with the minor league club. At the end of the term the two sides may renew a new term or the minor league team will be available to except a new PDC from a different organization. This year, the Cubs signed a two year PDC with the Cougars.

Major League organizations may decide their minor league affiliations for a number of reasons. They could be for geographic reasons, scouting, or organizational strategies. Attending Cougar games, it was always a common question asked as to why they were never apart of either Chicago professional team

In the past, Kane County has had major league talent step between the lines out in Geneva. Alumni members include: Triple Crown Winner Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Andre Either, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Willingham, and Misty May’s husband Matt Treanor. Pitchers include: Andrew Bailey, Josh Beckett, AJ Burnett, Houston Street, Ryan Dempster, and Trevor Cahill.

When Theo Epstein was brought on as President of the Chicago Cubs in 2011, one goal was to have an affiliated program in the backyard. The close proximity will be beneficial for many reasons. It will help with scouting and player development, call ups will be closer, and fans will now have access to the future prospects just a short drive away.

Fan interested will be more involved now being able to follow the future talent of the professional ball club. Currently, three of the top 10 Cubs prospects wear Cougar uniforms: Opening night starter Pierce Johnson, and infielders Dan Vogelbach and Jeimer Candelario. For once, the Cubs have note worthy minor league talent and some of it will be showcased just a short drive away from the lights of Waveland and Sheffield.

Comments (0)

Run For The Rawlings

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Run For The Rawlings

Posted on 08 May 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

This weekend marks the annual Run for the Roses. The 139th running of the Kentucky Derby is this weekend with the quest for the first Triple Crown winner since 1978 still out there. Major League Baseball currently has a Triple Crown winner of its own in the Tigers Miguel Cabrera. With the season now a month complete how are the ponies lining up at the one month pole?

Miguel Cabrera

The Atlanta Braves and Justin Upton got out to a fast start. Upton was named National League Player of the Month and appears to be enjoying the new scenery. He hit double digit home runs in the month, but the one negative was not very many guys were on base for the long balls. If his brother and Jason Heyward can start to get on base in front of him, look out National League. At one point the Braves were 13-0 when scoring a run and 0-3 when not. To this day, no team has ever won a ball game without scoring a run.

A surprise start came out of the Boston Gate. After the down year of 2012, Boston raced out to a fast start and the best record in the American League. They are healthier and currently Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are a combined 10-0.

It was a good month for pitchers named Matt as Matt Harvey and Matt Moore raced out to several wins. They are a combined 9-0 with an ERA under 2.

Also strong early runs have to go to the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates. One horse that has been doing it for years Mariano Rivera had 11 saves along with Jason Grilli of the Buccos.

Currently stuck in the middle of the pack is World Series favorites the Washington Nationals, and CY Young aces Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw. The two work horses are a combined 6-4 which is not quite elite numbers.

Could the Los Angeles Angels start to become the San Diego Chargers of baseball? The Chargers for the last few years on paper are always a team that is built up as a contender and every year they fall from grace and are home for the post season. The Angels with all of that offensive talent are under .500 and off to another slow start. Could a second straight year with an unimpressive April keep them out of the post season?

What could be viewed as an under the radar team in the middle of the pack is the Kansas City Royals. You will not find any Royal stats at the top of the lists, but collectively they currently are division leaders in the Central.

Still stuck in the gates for the 2013 race are a few surprises. The revamped team in Toronto has not quite showed up for their post position. Interestingly, two teams have team batting averages under .200 in the seventh inning on: the Blue Jays and Washington Nationals.

Los Angeles stars Josh Hamilton and Matt Kemp currently have 3 home runs combined and the batting averages are missing as well.

As the season turns into a new month, May will likely bring more moving and positioning for the summer run. And on the track for the run for the roses, have a little Goldencents. Enjoy the Mint Juleps and oversized floppy hats.

Comments (0)

B Strong

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

B Strong

Posted on 23 April 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

In the last week it was a proud time to be a baseball fan. There was no milestones reached, no must see plays, or terrific stat lines to wow over but there was something deeper that happened. The events that happened last week in the city of Boston were tragic. In the matter of minutes a tradition in the streets of Bean Town became a nightmare. The silver lining however, is that the great game of baseball and a great city became one and showed true beauty during a difficult time with honor and class.

BostonStrong

Growing up, my dad traveled a lot to Boston for work and I always associated that with the baseball team there. Not knowing any better, throughout the years I became a fan of the Red Sox. I have had the privilege to walk the streets of Boston where the marathon is held and watching the events last Monday hit home in a way. In addition, having a cousin currently preparing to run the Chicago Marathon made it strike another cord as well.

Last Monday was to be a special day in the city of Boston. It was Patriots Day in the city. The day is a holiday where fans take in a day game at Fenway and also celebrate Marathon Monday with the running of the Boston Marathon. In Major League Baseball as well April 15th was the annual celebration of Jackie Robinson Day across the league. Celebrating those two historical events, who would dream up anything but a festive day? But then a mere forty five minutes after the Red Sox won a ball game in walk off fashion, the earth shook with a moment in time that will now be linked to Patriots Day history forever.

If there is one city and one franchise that could rally around a tragedy like this it would be Boston and the Red Sox. That type of mentality is in their core as Bostonians. They are a tough, hard nose city. The Red Sox themselves have guys that are true leaders and role models that would not tarnish this tragedy. Guys like Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Dempster, and David Ortiz are community guys that will help shoulder the pain of a city and lead a city as one. They will bear that cross and honor the city through the healing process.

The following day, it was fitting the Red Sox played a game in Cleveland where in the opposite dugout was former manager Terry Francona and a few former teammates. It was as if the game of baseball created a chance for brethrens to come together in a time of grievance. Also during their short time in Cleveland, Jon Lester made a start on the same mound where in 2007 he made his comeback from beating cancer. On the field it was a three game sweep in the win column for the Red Sox, but much deeper it was a group of guys forced into leading an example for a city and rallying together to overcome pain.

Around the league as well, support was displayed for Boston. Ballparks and cities united and rivalries were put to the side. To name a few, in New York and Chicago they played Neil Diamonds’ Sweet Caroline which is a Fenway Park mantra. Ben Revere of the Phillies showed remembrance on his glove. For a few moments in time, Red Sox Nation was supported across the whole nation. It was later discovered as well that in the marathon was the brother of former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein who was unharmed. The Red Sox are a group that has a knack of sticking with you. It goes to show that while you may be able to take them out of Boston, the ties to Boston will always remain.

Over the weekend, the Red Sox returned home to Boston. They came home to cheers of unity and a nation banding together. Fittingly, it also marked the return and season debut of fan favorite David Ortiz. Big Papi wasted little time collecting a few hits, but also providing a touching pre game speech as well for the crowd. There are no stats to prove it, but that Saturday afternoon ballgame in April could be one of the biggest moments in Fenway Park lore.

In the city limits, Patriots Day will no longer be just for remembering the battles of Lexington and Concord, but also for the tragic events of 2013. Sox Nation will do their part in honoring the fallen. They will help ease the pain, but they will also never forget. As always, Sox Nation will B Strong.

 

Comments (0)

A Pair Of Aces

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Pair Of Aces

Posted on 15 April 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

In poker a pair of aces is nowhere near the best hand, but on the diamond a pair of aces can lead a team to the promise land. The old adage is pitching and defense wins championships and good pitching always beats good hitting. The one thing better then having an ace of a staff is having two.

DavidPriceMattMoore

In the 90’s the Atlanta Braves were well known for having two and sometimes three aces in Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. The trio led Atlanta to yearly division titles, personal accolades, and a world championship. The 2001 season saw the Arizona Diamondbacks enjoy a season headlined by one of the most dominant duos ever in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The two only combined for 52 wins regular season and post season, a CY Young, co Sportsman of the Year, and co World Series MVP’s. In short, that is not too shabby.

Currently, the top ten pitching duos are:

#10 – Atlanta Tim Hudson and Mike Minor. Hudson is the elder ace who is still getting the job done. He will eat up innings and touch that 15 win mark. Minor is up and coming and seems to be finding his stride toward the end of last year and starting off this season. They also have a third wheel in Paul Maholm whose 2013 is on a good start.

#9 – Chicago White Sox Chris Sale and Jake Peavy. They are another duo featuring a veteran and youngster. Both are capable of racking up strikeouts and dominant starts. However, there is the occasional DL stint or rough outing.

#8 – Los Angeles Angels Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. Both have been very consistent and productive. However, walk rates are subpar and strikeout rates are middle of the road.

#7 – Tampa Bay David Price and Matt Moore. Together they are two young guns with great out pitches that throw from the left side. Price is a yearly CY Young contender and Moore has yet to allow a run in 2013.

#6 – Boston Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Both have high potential that is waiting to be tapped. Injuries have held back both at times but 2013 could finally be the year. They both had excellent springs and are a combined 4-0 thus far this season.

#5 – Detroit Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. If you are a hitter, close your eyes and swing early. Both have well above average fastballs and dominate the strikeout leader board. They both also collect a ton of innings and can save a bullpen.

#4 – Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Both are CY Young winners that do not lose on their home mound. Each is capable of building long winning streaks and carrying the team for the night.

#3 – Philadelphia Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Suddenly this duo is seemingly under the radar within the division. They are two left hand pitchers with the x factor of pitching well in the post season. They are two trustworthy guys come late in the season and in October.

#2 – San Francisco Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. The Giants earn the 1990’s Atlanta Brave award as it is not just a duo. These two are also complimented with Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, and a resurgent Barry Zito. The offense does not need to score a ton of runs when any of them take the mound as they are all capable of winning 1-0 games. They all can be stoppers in their own way and it is the most balanced rotation top to bottom.

#1 – Washington Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. This is the duo that could most rival the 2001 Diamondbacks. This season each is likely to be in the CY Young running and at the top of all major pitching categories. The one question remains, can they pitch in October?

The pitching duo most likely to be next on this list comes out of New York. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are young and ready to help the Mets contend. Harvey is off to a blistering start in 2013 looking like an up and coming ace. Wheeler is the pitcher that was apart of the Carlos Beltran trade a few seasons ago. He is likely to join the big club sometime this year and is one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Each of these teams has the ability to avoid long losing streaks and stay in contention thanks to these duos. Aces are wild. Shuffle up and deal.

 

 

Comments (0)

Where To Start

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Where To Start

Posted on 04 April 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

One of the landmark days on the sporting calendar is Opening Day in Baseball. This past week officially kicked off the 2013 season with the first full week of games that count. Opening Day is a great time because all 30 teams start 0-0. Every ballclub breaks camp on the highest of highs that this could be the year. The outlooks and optimism is brighter then the shinning sun. The trouble though is the unpredictable element of weather come Opening Day and just how many ballparks will actually see the sun come first pitch.

openingday2012

With the new divisional structure of all six divisions having an equal five teams each, is it now time to look into how teams begin the year geographically? These teams spend around two months in the sunshine climates of Florida and Arizona, then travel to destinations that could have temperatures well below a Tim Wakefield knuckleball registering on a radar gun. Being from the Midwest, Opening Day could be 60 and sunny or 20 and snowing. A few years ago, the Cleveland Indians had an entire home stand snowed out. With the new realignment, should Major League Baseball look into realigning the first week of the season?

In a proposed schedule change there would however be two exceptions to the schedule. The first being the defending champions opening up with a home game to celebrate their championship. The NFL has made this a tradition for nearly the last decade and it has been received quite well. It has become a spectacle. The champion should play host to a new season and be recognized for their accomplishment. To be able to raise a banner in front of a home crowd and have a national audience viewing.

There is precedence for this as MLB has tried to put the champion on that opening night telecast. I remember a cold night back in 2006 when the White Sox played host to a cold, rainy banner celebration after winning the 2005 World Series Championship. Major League Baseball needs to go back to this type of commitment and turn opening night into a day full of festivities.

The second exception would be opening day in Cincinnati. For decades, the first pitch of every major league season officially took place in Cincinnati. The Reds remain the only team to always open the season with a home game and that should not be broken.

Aside from those two cities, the opening week should begin out west, down south, and in domes. This type of scheduling will give cold weather cities an extra week to shovel snow and will the cold weather away. It will ideally limit any snow outs in Cleveland and 12 degree wind chills in Chicago and New York. The ball clubs should break camps in the desert and sunshine state and not need long johns and parkas for Opening Day outside in Minnesota.

In addition, a change like this could be welcomed by all hitters. It is not the best feeling to foul a ball off your body or take a hit by pitch when the weather is 30 degrees outside. Those types of bruises tend to leave marks that will last a few extra days. The upgraded temperatures could help those early season batting averages not look like single digit wind chills in Philadelphia. Fantasy Managers will also welcome that too!

Here is how Opening Day could look under realignment:

On opening night, St. Louis would be at San Francisco as the reigning champions. Also, games would feature Pittsburgh at Cincinnati for the traditional Opening Day festivities and Minnesota at the LA Dodgers as the first interleague match-up.

The rest include: Philadelphia at Atlanta, Cubs at Milwaukee, Colorado at San Diego, Mets at Miami, Washington at Arizona, Kansas City at Seattle, Cleveland at Oakland, White Sox at Texas, Detroit at the Angels, Baltimore at Houston, Yankees at Tampa Bay, and Boston at Toronto.

Come each Opening Day hope springs eternal, and maybe springs a little extra warmth.

Comments (0)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here
BBA