Archive for July, 2012

The Perfect Storm of Cole Hamels

Posted: July 25, 2012 by The Cheap Seat Fan in MLB
Tags: , ,

The Philadelphia Phillies had to make a decision, an impossible one. Either let Cole Hamels walk or pay the price to keep the anchor for the future of their club in tow. The price was going to be steep because Hamels has a mixture of everything that you could ask for from a free agent to be on his side: age (28 years old), results and the name your own price combination of being a left-hander in his prime.

Yet the challenge for the Phillies discussed for the better part of a year was how can they afford to give Hamels what he’d demand? With Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Ryan Howard already pulling in over $20 million per season, could they realistically give another deal like that out as well? Well, with the trade deadline bearing down and nearly every team with a glimmer of hope checking on what it would take to get Hamels on their side, the Phillies decided that it was better keep him than ship him, and decided to let history have its place.

Early on Wednesday morning a six-year, $144 million deal with his name on it was finished. Now that may seem like a lot for a guy that has never won more than 15 games in a season and been slid down the rotation with each acquisition the club has made the last few years, and the inevitable “is he worth it” debates have some legitimacy. Is Hamels the best pitcher in the game? Absolutely not. Is he even the best pitcher on his own staff? That’s highly debatable as well. But all of those points are irrelevant, because he had the almighty combination of potential, age and current status on his side to steer his future earnings.

But of the debating on what his results-to-check deal stop here: no player in history, outside of maybe Alex Rodriguez, has had better timing and cashed in on opportunity more than Hamels. The Phillies are in an impossible position of carrying high expectations, and not being out of the race. With Halladay, Howard and Cole Hamels all back and playing together for the first time since last year, they’ve put together their best stretch of the year over the last week with the trade deadline just a week away. How could they possibly get rid of the steadiest pitcher of the year while they are clawing out of the grave?

In the midst of all of this, all Hamels had to do was keep showing up for work every day, because his stock improved itself without him even throwing a pitch. Momentum plus timing plus securing the future of the franchise did all the work for him, and he received the biggest perfect storm deal of all-time. Now he has his deal and the Phillies have the best young arm on their team locked up for the remainder of his career.

The precedent set by the deal is staggering, and how it affects the rest of the team remains to be seen. Before last year, there had never been more than one $20 million pitcher in one rotation, now there are three in Philly. When all of the hype in the collection of pitchers that team is built around is removed, it comes down to stark reality of how much it is their responsibility to see to it this team wins. Will the organization have the finances to improve an aging and injury-prone offense now around their arms? There are a lot of tough-to-impossible to move contracts on the roster now, so this roster is going to have to do it the way it is now. But this is one situation where money really wasn’t an option, because it couldn’t be.

Isn’t it great when a plan comes together? Now let’s see where that plan lands the Phillies this season, and the rest of the team around their $60 million rotation going forward.

For more on the rest of the trade deadline deals, and me running into the slightly less than Hamels, multi-thousand dollar deal I inked to go to work each day, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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Hello all. It’s the busy season for me around these parts. Between keeping up with the end of the first half of baseball, all of the All-Star events, trade moves and the game itself, I haven’t been able to get everything in here as quick as I’ve put it out. But have no fear, I haven’t left you in the dust. Here’s a few previews and paths to my latest stuff. Afterwards hang around and I’ll let you know what will be coming out overall, as well as some new joints debuting exclusively here in the Cheap Seats.

But first, the view from The Cheap Seats at The Sports Fan Journal:

“Live Or Let Die: The Plight of the Phillies”

It’s the end of the first half of baseball season, but it’s starting to seem like both a whole lot more and a whole lot less all at once in Philadelphia. See, the Phillies have been bad; no other way to say it. By the lofty standards of the most consistent club in baseball over the last half-decade has set, it’s been a loud fall back to Earth. One that has seemingly come out of nowhere, but by looking a bit closer, the Phillies have been prone for this to happen.

Answers haven’t been easy to come by for Cliff Lee and the Phillies. Let me see what I can do help figure this out…

More than any other team in the game, the Phillies have lived in the moment the last few years. They smelled blood before they won their first World Series in over 25 years back in 2008, and ever since their return to the Series and subsequent defeat a year later, they’ve been out for it with every move they’ve made. In 2010 and ’11, they added the best pitcher in the world at the time, Roy Halladay, and the twice acquired ex-Cy Young winner Cliff Lee, locked up Ryan Howard to the biggest deal in the history of his position, and tacked on the brightest bricks on a crumbling Houston Astros club in Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. All of these were big-money, win-now moves, and the results were in line with what should have been: They dominated seasons on end and won, a lot. All of that adds up to being on the right track, right? Well, you would think so …

But then the reality of this method kicked in full-speed this season, and it became abundantly clear: There was a lot less time left for the Phils than assumed coming into the year….

For the rest of this, including whether the Phils should roll the dice or cash in what’s left, head to TSFJ here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/columns/live-or-let-die-the-plight-of-phillies/

“The All-Time, Dead or Alive Home Run Derby”

Major League Baseball’s All-Star week is upon us again, and with it comes the greatest skill exhibition in pro sports as well, the Home Run Derby. The annual gathering of each league’s best at attacking the boundaries set by outfield walls displays some of the most awe-inspiring moments of the season. In a few hours, Robinson Cano will look to keep Matt Kemp, Jose Bautista and Price Fielder, among others, off his heels as he looks to defend his title from last summer. While that’s no group to sneeze at, it could get a whole deeper if a few more contestants were made available.

If you could send any player ever to the Home Run Derby, would you take either of these guys? Keep digging to see my squad.

Now it may take a trip that only a DeLorean and Michael J. Fox can deliver to make it happen, but consider what a Home Run Derby would look like with EVERYBODY that ever made the long ball his business? Who would you want to see take their hacks against each other? More than that, who would be the last man standing? Today, we’re taking our hacks at settling at least half of that debate by proposing a few of the many candidates that would make the Ultimate, All-Time Home Run Derby an event to remember.

So what we did here today is got the debate started early, with some picks from myself, followed by the rest of the good folks here at TSFJ. Take a look at the case for each, and cast a vote on who’s got the best chance of taking the all-time crown below. And if you don’t see the best horse for the race, submit your own candidate for the crown. There’s no shortage of candidates qualified for the title…

To see who I picked as my choices for my dream Derby, as well as the rest of the staff over at TSFJ, follow this link here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-all-time-dead-or-alive-home-run-derby/

 

As for what’s to come? Today at St. Louis Sports 360, I’m covering who are the best options for the Cardinals make a trade deadline splash with. And towards the end of the week, I’ll be dropping my picks for first half MLB Awards, with a few shockers that show the baseball landscape is moving towards a brand new day about 100 mph…

As for what will be truly new in the OG Cheap Seats here, it’s time to make my long gone return to the NBA soon, and clear the air on what’s kept me away and what’s been the same and what’s looking new. Also, it’s about time to bring out this year’s summer history project. One that’s sure to spike debate in a brand new direction…

And if that’s not enough, we’ll talk about A day in the life of me that led me to cross paths with three Hall of Famers at once during the All-Star Game festivities in Kansas City and the question I posed that stopped the show…while hopefully bringing it forward.

 

Business is picking up in the Cheap Seats, but in between, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

There’s always a lot of talk about who deserves to make the All-Star Game, and then it is always followed by even more about who should have made it that didn’t. Even with the expanded All-Star rosters and vote after the vote campaigns put into the motion over the last few years, there will always be far too many Stars and not enough spaces.

Even after the enormous rosters become even bigger, and injuries help to even the honors out (thus why the exiting Chipper Jones won’t be mentioned below), the initial roster still says the most about the regard that guy’s season holds. While it can never been exact science, there are still those victims of happenstance that never make sense. And with that, I bring to you the CHEAP SEATS top 10 All-Snubs of 2012.

10. Michael Bourn: He’s bringing it all together this year. The shock isn’t that he’s back close to the top of the NL in steals again, it’s that he’s doing it hitting over .300 (he’s a career .274 hitter) and is hitting the ball over the fence as well (he’s hit 7 of his 20 career homers in the first half of this year). He’s been the best day-to-day hitter in the Braves lineup this year, including ASG starter Dan Uggla.

9. Scott Downs: The most effective, shutdown closer that nobody is paying attention to this year. After a brief fill in as closer, he moved back to full-time set up man and still was shutdown material. His total runs surrendered through his shifting? One; good for a 0.36 ERA.

8. Johnny Cuerto: He wasn’t picked for the team and hasn’t been bashful about attributing this to a bias from his potential manager to be in the game. But of the NL starter snubs, his is pretty resounding. His 2.26 ERA is the second lowest of healthy, eligible starters. If only he hadn’t bit, or kicked, the hand he needed to feed him this year.

7. Matt Holliday: It’s an amazing year for NL outfielders, but he should have still made his way in the mix. His 51 RBI are the most of any player not headed to the game, and followed up a .340 May average with a .363 June. He’s raised his average nearly 50 points in the last two weeks, and has more RBI than games played over that time span.

6. David Freese: Current biggest star in St. Louis has made it his business to show that last October was far from a fluke. Pushed out of the game by the fan vote for Pablo Sandoval, he’s second in home runs (13), RBI (48) and batting average (.286) out of all NL third basemen.

Freese is leading the Final Vote in the NL currently, but the fact he’s even a candidate is a crime.

5. Jason Kipnis: The Indians second year, second baseman may very well be the best player not named Cano at second base in the AL. Not only has he popped out 11 home runs, he’s added 20 steals as well. Ian Kinsler benefitted strongly from having his guy picking the team, because that’s the only way he’s headed to KC over Kipnis.

4. Aaron Hill: If all was even to performance and impact, Hill would be the starter at second base. He leads NL second basemen in average and home runs after hitting .370 in June, and completing the cycle twice during the span. More importantly, he’s pull the D’Backs back in to mix in the West.

3. Tyler Clippard: Washington’s closer of the moment has long been the most effective and versatile reliever in the game, and made an All-Star appearance last year. However, a year later his finest performance goes unrewarded. After the Nationals tried seemingly 25 different closers this year, they finally turned to Clippard who responded with 13 saves after building up 10 holds in front his predecesors already. He’s been a huge reason why the Nats have been able to hold their position at the top of the East.

2. A.J. Pierzynski: The intangibles have always been there, and the numbers are better than ever for him this year as well. The White Sox backstop leads all AL catchers in home runs and RBI. What’s the worst thing about this omission is that no less than two other backups were taken over him. All of this is caused because of the fact that the fan vote sent the fourth best catcher in the league to answer the starting call, but Matt Wieters should have been made to miss out, not AJ.

1. Zack Grienke: This is an oversight simply because of the caliber of season that is being had by seemingly unnoticed by one of the best players in the game. Despite the Brewers turning down, and trade waters running up on his shores, Greinke is turning in his best performance since his Cy Young season three years ago. He has 106 strikeouts while winning nine games with a 3.06 ERA.

 

Something tells me that he’s first on the waiting list for when the inevitable pitching replacement comes down over the next week, but there’s something to be said for making it on the first call. And then there is something to be said for it not happening as well. But at least he’s not alone in this notion.

 

For more on the injustices being made right and the road to the best All-Star break of em all, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

Well, it’s finally here, that part of the summer where the major team sports world is a one-trick pony. It’s the heart of the summer, also known as BASEBALL-ONLY SEASON. The NBA has drafted and Hard Knocks is months off. Now I am not naïve in the slightest, for I know that stretch of the year seems like Death Valley for a lot of sports fans. The NBA and NFL are big business/high interest. Life without them seems unbearable for some, and Sportscenter has the value of a high school Earth Science film on the marsupial mating rituals.

However, there are the brave few that need sports no matter what. It’s what makes their blood boil, and ESPN is the only channel they really know. For those folks who adapt as the year goes on, I gladly welcome you to my paradise on earth that is known as MLB-only time. For me, the season never really ends, but in actuality it’s just now hitting its stride and the story of the season is beginning to write itself as the halfway point is upon us.

So have no fear if you are late to the party, I’ve saved a seat for you. Here’s what’s happened and happening in Major League Baseball’s 2012 offering, as well as what could be on deck to come. If you pay close enough attention, you just may keep watching well after those other leagues have gotten back to whatever it is that they do.

Hamilton has only one of THE stories thus far, and considering what he’s been doing, that’s saying a lot.

There are still 30 teams in 24 different cities. The St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series last October, Albert Pujols plays in LA now, the Red Sox and Yankees still really hate each other, and when the clock turned over 2012, it officially ushered in 106 years of World Series-less time for the Chicago Cubs. Now that the table is set, let’s get you into the main courses thus far:

The Texas Rangers are still really good. Actually, they may be better than ever, which is amazing to ponder considering for the second straight year they lost an All-Star, ace pitcher (Cliff Lee in 2011, C.J. Wilson in 2012). But they are propelled by the best lineup in baseball, one that fields potentially six everyday All-Stars,led by Josh Hamilton, who is off to an unreal start and is looking every bit like a future $100 million man this winter when he meets free agency. That’s one loss they may not be able to stomach.

The National League is a lot different than when you last looked. None of last season’s division winners are in first place. The Phillies have spent much of the first half in last place actually, with $25 million parked on the disabled list between Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay and the recently returned Chase Utley….

 

For the rest of the debrief on baseball season and the steps to getting caught to it for our later arriving friends, check out the Cheap Seats at The Sports Fan Journal here: http://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/the-casual-fans-cheat-seat-baseball-season/

 

As for me working through a two weekend work week, and balancing out the craziness that is mid-summer ball season, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan