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Picking apart the top guy in the National League this year is no easy task. There was brilliance at the plate, as well as over and above dominance on the mound that was worth noting as well. There were also shifts in the waves of impact across the year as well. From the hot start of Tulowitzki and Puig, to the way that Lucroy and Kershaw threw their clubs on their backs, as well as the postseason clinching efforts of McCutchen and Posey. But with all things considered, there was one man’s effort that literally overpowered the rest of the pack and stood out above the rest. Here is his story….

2014 National League Stan Musial Player of the Year—Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

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“Most Valuable Player” is a term that, at best, is variously defined. Sometimes it is the biggest stat monster, while in other cases it is the player whose presence made the biggest difference on the course of the season. I personally tend to graze the fence between those two elements and think of it as the player who makes the biggest impact on the season, where his performance made the biggest day-to-day impact, while also improving his team’s fortunes and changing the layout of the season.

Giancarlo Stanton checked off each of these boxes with ease this season. The rhetoric on Stanton has been that he is one of the game’s great young talents, BUT….then the conversation always took away from what he was accomplishing on the field. Between injuries, playing for a perpetual lame duck franchise and being the favorite trade rumor on the yearlong hot stove league, what he was actually capable of on the field was taking a backseat.

Yet the receipts that Stanton turned in this summer were enough to drown out any other background noise around his play, because what he accomplished was a thorough destruction of all things pitching related, and in the course of it all, he raised the Marlins into immediate respectability as well. During his year 24 season, Stanton crushed NL pitching to the tone of a league-best 37 home runs. And they were not just run of the mill shots either, as quite often they were the type outfielders or pitchers do not bother turning around to see land either. His “average” (because these type of shots are common for him alone) long ball checked in on average at 415 feet, and defined the term ‘moonshot’ by getting up to 85 feet high and leaving the park at 107 mph, on average. He hit seven shot that went at least 450 feet this year, including a 484 shot in April that flat out defied logic. That is a complete obliteration of the baseball, and he made it his specialty this summer.

But there was more to Stanton than just his signature impact, as he began to round out his game even more. He set career-highs in RBI (105), hits (155), doubles (31), runs scored (89), stolen bases (13), walks (90) and posted his second-best batting average of his career with a .288 mark, despite playing in 22 more games than he did when he set his career high of .290 in 2012. The 37 long balls tied his career best also set in 2012, while his 299 total bases led the National League too, as did his .555 slugging percentage.

Pitchers attempted to wise up to approaching Stanton, and intentionally avoided him 24 times this year, one less time than he been purposefully passed in his entire career to date. But that approach did not breed the expected results, because it put Stanton in place to create opportunity for the other emergent Marlins on the year and created a far better outcome than was expected. With Stanton both as a conduit of run production and an element to be created around, the Fish improved by 15 games from the previous season, even without their emergent star in pitcher Jose Fernandez. This is a credit to having their premier property in Stanton both available, producing and maturing throughout the entire season.

His season was brought to sudden, and scary, stop in mid-September when he was hit in the face by a pitch. Subsequently, the Marlins (smartly) shut his season down, but Stanton is mostly back to good health and in position to return to the field on time next season. But while the clipped schedule on the year shorted him likely from a 40 home run year and an RBI title (where he finished second to Adrian Gonzalez), it should not take away from the fact that no other player made a more decisive difference more often than Giancarlo did. And therefore, he deserves the year’s top NL nod for works done and the path he not only laid, but drug into place this year.

Runners Up

  1. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: I discussed the brilliance of Kershaw’s year in his Pitcher of the Year column, and he did make a calculable push for MVP as well. No player made a bigger difference in the direction of the pennant chase than he did and he had one of the great seasons in recent history off the mound.
  2. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates: He finds a new way to steer the Pirates every season, and an MVP-caliber year is his norm. This year he finished third in average (.314), first in on-base percentage (.410) and topped 20 home runs and 80 RBI for the fourth straight year, while playing a brilliant center field as well.
  3. Buster Posey, Giants: He went into overdrive in the second half, hitting .354 after the break and finishing fourth in the NL with a .311 average. Once again spearheaded a Giant charge into September.
  4. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers: He had a brilliant overall year, pulling himself into the talk for the NL’s elite at catcher. He led the Majors with 53 doubles, 46 of which set an MLB record for a catcher.
  5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals: In a team full of bigger names, he was the most important property. Rotating between second and third base as needed, Rendon posted 21 homers, 39 doubles, 83 RBI and 17 stolen bases.
  6. Josh Harrison, Pirates: His breakout year was crucial to filling the many capacities he did for the Pirates. The first-time All-Star spent time at second and third base, shortstop, left and right field, and nearly took the NL batting title as well, hitting for a .315 second place finish.
  7. Adrian Gonzalez, Dodgers: He played a brilliant first base and led the NL in RBI at 116. Gonzo added 41 doubles to his resume as well, and was the key run producer for the talented Dodger lineup.
  8. Yaisel Puig, Dodgers: He did a little bit of this and little bit of that, providing whatever was needed for LA at the given time. Puig hit .296 with 16 homers, 69 RBI and played his sometimes awe-inspiring (and sometimes confounding) game on the bases and with the glove.
  9. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies: Oh what could have been. Tulo’s most brilliant campaign to date was once again curbed by injured. When his season ended in August, he was sporting a .340 average, with 21 homers and 69 RBI in just 315 at-bats.

Previous CSP Votes

2013: Yadier Molina, Cardinals

2012: Buster Posey, Giants

2011: Ryan Braun, Brewers

2014 CSP/BBBA BALLOT REVIEW

 

Stan Musial Players of the Year Awards

NL: Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins—.288 avg/37 HR/105 RBI, 31 doubles, .555 slugging %

AL: Mike Trout, Anaheim Angels—.287 avg/36 HR/111 RBI, 39 doubles, 115 runs scored

 

Walter Johnson Pitchers of the Year Awards

NL: Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles Dodgers—21-3 record, 1.77 ERA, 239 strikeouts, 6 complete games

AL: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners—15-6 record, 2.14 ERA, 248 strikeouts, .200 average against

 

Willie Mays Rookie of the Year Awards

NL: Jacob deGrom, New York Mets—9-6 record, 2.69 ERA, 144 strikeouts, 22 starts

AL: Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox—.317 avg/36 HR/107 RBI, 35 doubles, .581 slugging %

 

Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the Year Awards

NL: Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves—47 saves, 1.61 ERA, 92% saves converted, 13.9 strikeouts/9

AL: Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals—46 saves, 1.44 ERA, 96% saves converted, 90 strikeouts

 

Connie Mack Managers of the Year Awards

NL: Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants: 88-74 record, 2nd place NL West; Wild Card winner

AL: Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles: 96-66 record, 1st place AL East; First division title since 1997

2014 is now officially in the books in the Cheap Seats, and onward to 2015. Stay locked here for more on the upcoming free agent blitz, as w@CheapSeatFanell as a variety of other biz as well. And if you need to now in the moment, as always follow on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

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The MLB awards season continues here today, but where the games usually ended this past summer. It’s time to recognize the top relief pitchers in each league, one that is fairly familiar to these parts, and another that may very well be on his way to digging in the same fashion…

 

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2014 National League Goose Gossage Winner—Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves

It is becoming old hat at this point for this nod to go the Braves fireballer. Well actually, the hat probably looks about as worn out as Kimbrel’s does by September, because since he took ahold of the Braves’ reins in the ninth innings four years ago, he has set the curve for all relievers in the game.

For the fourth consecutive year, he landed at least a share of the NL saves title, this time notching 47 in 51 opportunities. It is the third straight season he converted at least 92% of his save chances, and by reaching at least 40 saves this past year, he became the third player to ever reach that mark in four consecutive seasons.

To be only 26 years old, his performances are becoming regularly aligned with history at quite an early rate. He is already the all-time saves leader in Atlanta, as well as becoming the only player to begin his career with four saves titles. Via his combo of power fastball, which he varies between 95-to-100 mph at will, and spiking curveball that scrapes 90 mph itself, he has become a strikeout factory. He became the fastest pitcher to ever reach 400 K’s this year, needing just over 230 innings to reach the mark (a rate of 14.8 k’s per nine innings). For his career, he has rang up strikeouts against 42% of his opponents, and he allowed six less baserunners than innings pitched this year.

The numbers are regularly impressive, but what he represented in Atlanta has continued to increase in value yearly. He is the lynch pin of the Brave pitching staff, the truest example of what it means to make playing a team an “8 inning affair”. In a year where the Braves bullpen had to confront more injuries than in many others, his presence assured that the end result remained the same.

And has long as he continues to man the ninth with that signature glare into home plate, beating the Braves stands to be task done much easier earlier than later.

Runner Up 1: Aroldis Chapman, Reds

Runner Up 2: Mark Melanco, Pirates

 

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2014 American League Goose Gossage Relief Pitcher of the Year—Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals

The American League’s answer to Kimbrel is another compact, fireballer that keeps the opportunities to an absolute minimum. In fact, Holland was even more proficient in slamming the door shut, closing out 46 of the 48 opportunities he was presented with. It was a continuation of the reputation he put into the atmosphere last year: Greg Holland is the best in the biz in the junior circuit.

His 5’10 and barely 200 pound structure belies the fact that he possesses some of the most overpowering raw stuff in the game. Holland’s 46 saves were good for second in the AL, while he converted at least 96% of his chances, the top mark in the league. The top gun in the three-headed KC monster pen of Wade Davis and Kelvin Herrera continued his dominant fashion in how he goes about his business, striking out 90 batters in just over 60 innings and allowing only 57 baserunners on the year—of which only 10 runs were credit against him, for an ERA of 1.44.

One of the Royals great strengths as they made their first run to the postseason in 29 years was the reliability of its bullpen. With Holland—who made his second All-Star appearance in as many years—leading the way, the KC bullpen tied for the AL lead in saves, led in save percentage and yielded the third fewest bases of any AL unit. For Holland, it continued a two year streak where he has posted an unworldly

line of converting 93-of-99 save opportunities, while posting a 1.32 ERA over his last 129.1 innings and striking out 193 batters against only 38 walks and a .170 average against him.

The question of who would be the next standard bearer in the ninth inning after Mariano Rivera walked away seemed to be simply answered by saying Kimbrel. But Holland is making quite the push to make that a “not so fast” conclusion.

Runner Up 1: Fernando Rodney, Mariners

Runner Up 2: Jake McGee, Rays

 

Past Winners:

2013: Craig Kimbrel (Braves), Koji Uehara (Red Sox)

2012: Craig Kimbrel (Braves), Fernando Rodney (Rays)

 

For more commentary on the awards year, the free agent bonanza to boom and the game just being the game, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan

 

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A decade ago, there was nothing much to Mizzou Homecoming weekend, for “us”. A game, maybe a few more people in town and that’s about it. It lacked buzz or anticipation. And it needed a kick up a few notches.

Well those days are long gone, and the end of October’s best fresh take on an old tradition has come back around. It’s Mizzou Black Homecoming weekend, and as always, not only is something great in store, but it’s still getting better. There have been a lot of great Black Homecoming events the past few years, but this year stands to be the best yet—somehow, yet again.

Homecoming is about getting back to where the memories happened, but making new ones in the process. The Tailgate is bigger, the parties are sharper, the venues are nicer and the experience keeps getting greater.

So, with no further delay, here is all the info you need to make sure that if you say “maybe next year” this time, you were doing so knowing what is going down without you. So don’t be THAT guy or girl….nobody likes them. So, as always, whether you’re one year removed or 10, it’s time to get back to where you once belonged with the next chapter in the blowout that is Black Alumni Homecoming Weekend.

 

****FRIDAY, OCTOBER 24****

Off The Highway Cool Out Happy Hour—Trops On The Southside (5:00)

3805 South Providence, 65203

It’s one of those fixes you can’t quite get anywhere else than when you touchdown back in CoMO, so why wait to scratch it? Meet up with everybody as they come in at Tropical Liquors off South Providence. Silver Bullet, Rum Runner, Cherry Bomb, all of em? Kick it off with the comeback that keeps kickin.

Night Scene, Part 1—NPHC Stepshow, Missouri Theatre (8:00 pm)

203 South 9th Street, 65201

Think Fall Fest, but all grown up. Go back in time while stepping forward in it at the all-new, updated and renovated Missouri Theatre in downtown Columbia as the NPHC frats and sororities take to the stage to claim top billing on the yard. Coming complete with special seating opportunities and a full-service bar, this Missouri Theatre has grown up along with us.

Night Scene, Part 2—Alumni Afterhours Party, Tonic Nightclub (10:00-1:00)

122 S. 9th Street, 65201

The last few Friday nights have gotten crazy quicker than expected, so we had to grow with the show. Come over to the heart of downtown Columbia to keep the Friday night moving as it should. With two full bars and plenty of seating arrangements, step upstairs and get into the night.

 

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****SATURDAY, OCTOBER 25th****

THE ALUMNI TAILGATE IV—8:00 and rolling, Corner of College & Stadium

Hospital Parking Lot, across from Hampton Inn & Suites

Once again, we called and A LOT of you answered, so we had to step it up again. Come to the parking lot on the corner of College & Stadium on the University side (across the street, up the hill and in the lot from where we were last year) for the staple event of the Black Alumni Homecoming experience, the All-Day, All-Out tailgate.

Starting off with the Coolers & Eggs Breakfast Brunch and rolling straight through game time and beyond. Burgers, brats, hot dogs, anything you bring out, it can all get run through the grill. Show up at the right time and never know what may bless your plate. All offerings are accepted as the more that shows up, the more there is to go around.

Also, if you want to set up your own area to grow out our area as much as possible, land spots are $25 per and if you meet us up there early, we can take over as much space as we need. Plus, there will be surprises in store for the setup as well.

The Game Is The Game: Missouri Tigers vs. Vanderbilt Commodores, Time TBA.

Faurot Field (If you can’t find it, you’re in no shape to be driving)

Your Top 25 Tigers will take to the field to face SEC opponent Vanderbilt at a to be determined time. Tickets are available through the Mizzou box office, Stubhub and other resale sites. The tailgate location is a short walk to the main entrance of Faurot.

The Night Scene Part II: Noir Mizzou, a new Alumni Experience

Location: RSVP to Discover

Done are the days of making something of the last night, and a new Alumni-sponsored experience awaits. Dress the part, take the part and discover the experience of Noir Mizzou. The event is 21+ and is a Black and White style themed event. Meaning: dress to the 9’s to join a room full of 10’s.

A limited number of 300 tickets will be made available for the event, and no walk up entries will be granted. The location of the event will be revealed on the afternoon of the event during the Tailgate. And a certain number of tickets will be made available via raffle at the Tailgate as well.

For tickets, head to the event website.

 

****Other Business****

DON’T GIVE UP ON HOTEL ROOMS! Many rooms will be vacated over the next few weeks, and can be acquired by joining Columbia-area hotel wait lists, Hotwire, Priceline, Orbitz, etc.

For more info as it develops, any late changes, additions or to get on-site info, follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan. For other info, follow @DaRealMattOates, @B_Wash5, @FranchICE06, @Twend_Setter, @DChristianII, @IDOKICKS, @GatorBell and @NoirMizzou.

 

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Detroit Lions

NFL Week 8 takes to the field tonight in Tampa, and the Cheat Sheet resumes after a third straight week of reaching double-digit wins. And has the eighth time around the 2013 NFL takes shape, this may be the most straight-forward week of the season thus far on the picks sheet.

There is big time landslide potential in the London Jaguars/49ers matchup, as there is plenty of space between the Seahawks/Rams, Chiefs/Browns, Saints/Bills and Broncos/Redskins. A few clubs that had underwhelming starts see them come back to life in recent weeks, such as the Steelers, Panthers and Falcons have a chance to continue their resurrection as well. Yet the week also holds some neck-to-neck faceoffs in Detroit and Cincinnati, as well as a few chances for the favorite to fall as well.

Time to get into it again shortly, and to see if the season remains charitable to the Cheat Sheet as well.

FREE MONEY PICKS: 0-3

Upset of the Week: 1-1

SEASON RECAP: Week 7: 11-4, Season: 62-29

Thursday

Carolina Panthers (3-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-6) [CAR -6.0, Over/Under: 40]

Sunday

San Francisco 49ers (5-2) at Jacksonville Jaguars (0-6) in London [SF -16.5, Over/Under: 40.5]

Dallas Cowboys (4-3) at Detroit Lions (4-3) [DET -3.0, Over/Under: 51]

Cleveland Browns (3-4) at Kansas City Chiefs (7-0) [KC -7.5, Over/Under: 39.5]

Miami Dolphins (3-3) at New England Patriots (5-2) [NE -7.0, Over/Under: 45]

Buffalo Bills (3-4) at New Orleans Saints (5-1) [NO -12.0, Over/Under: 49]

New York Giants (1-6) at Philadelphia Eagles (3-4) [PHI -6.0, Over/Under: 52.5] **$$ Free Money Pick #1 $$**

New York Jets (4-3) at Cincinnati Bengals (5-2) [CIN -6.5, Over/Under: 41]

Pittsburgh Steelers (2-4) at Oakland Raiders (2-4) [PIT -1.5, Over/Under: 40.5]

Washington Redskins (2-4) at Denver Broncos (6-1) [DEN -13.0, Over/Under: 58.0]

Atlanta Falcons (2-4) at Arizona Cardinals (3-4) [ARI -2.5, Over/Under: 44.0] **Upset of the week**

Green Bay Packers (4-2) at Minnesota Vikings (1-5) [GB -10.0, Over/Under: 46.5]

Monday

Seattle Seahawks (6-1) at St. Louis Rams (3-4) [SEA -11.0, Over/Under 42.0] **$$ Free Money Pick #2 $$**

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It’s that time again.

The time to get back to where so much of it started at. To what may or may not have been the best days of your life, but what for certain are some of the most unforgettable…while making some new days to not forget again. The end of October, so its time to get back to where you once belonged.

It’s Homecoming, got dammit.

And not just any, but it’s Mizzou Homecoming, and if you have been in the last few years, you know something big is in store. From Friday, October 25 and Saturday, October 26 we need Black Mizzou of all ages to come and takeover Columbia. If you’ve missed out, it’s time to finally quit saying “next time”, because you are missing out. Homecoming has become about as big of a deal as can be imagined, and for the Black Mizzou, Homecoming has become an event that’s worth calling off on Monday for, a year early.

So make it down early, stay as long as you can handle it. The numbers have grown each year, as have the events. The tailgate grew so much last year, new rules are going into place to work it out this time (see below), but it still is what it always has been: a weekend of pure partying and being a real Tiger back in the jungle. Whether you’re 10 years gone or barely one, this is what Black Mizzou Homecoming is all about…

****FRIDAY****

Straight off the highway, Into the Fryer—TROPS on the Southside (Happy Hours): It’s a whole new type of experience, but it’s still where to get started off at (as well as about half the reason you came in the first place, don’t lie). Stop by, meet up with who you’re coming to see and get ready for the rest of the night.

Greek Alumni Happy Hour—Missouri Theater (4-7): For our returning Greeks, the department of Greek Life is hosting a happy hour event on the roof of the Missouri Theater and wants for all returning NPHC members to come out and be represented. Enjoy cut prices on drinks and food, as well as a view of downtown Columbia that’s all-new.

The Nightscene—Bangkok Gardens (811 Cherry Street, Columbia MO 65201 – 11:00 to 1:30): It got so big last year, that we had to add an extra floor this year. Get there early to eat, stay after to party. Enjoy happy hour drinks and a two floor party experience that’s everything you’ll need in one event.

The Hampton Inn & Suites on the corner of College & Stadium, where the tailgate will be located on the corner of.

****SATURDAY****

BLACK ALUMNI TAILGATE PART III –All Day, Corner of College & Stadium (by the Hampton Inn & Suites) 8:00 until the coals go out: It’s the main event, made early. The biggest event of the weekend for Black Alums starts with breakfast on corner and ends when we say it does.

We’ll be out there early, and advise you follow suit. The Keg and Eggs brunch is out early, and then its full into the brats, burgers, chicken and whatever else finds its way to the pit. Offerings are accepted, and the more that comes in, the more there is to go around.

If you’re in town already, pull yourself up. If you’re coming in early, head straight to the spot. Space is limited, and due to the growing nature of the tailgate, we are telling everybody to come out as early as possible and set up your plot. Whether it’s just backing your car in next to the tailgate area, or setting up a tent and stretching it out, the earlier you make it out, the better chance you have of getting your own space.

Black Homecoming Festivities and Yard Show—Stotler Lounge, Memorial Union (1-3 pm): Get back into the school spirit with the showing of the undergrad homecoming activities and a NPHC Step/Stroll off. Taking place between the Law Library and Alumni Center, between Stankowski Field and Jesse Hall, more details as this develops, but it’s a must see part of the weekend experience.

Your BCS #5 Missouri Tigers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (6:00): MIzzou is riding a high and is the biggest surprise of the college football season. At six, they take to the field to prove that numbers don’t lie and have a chance to take a step closer to locking up and SEC East championship. The game will be live at Faurot, on the radio at the tailgate and on the screens at the Sports Zone bar that will neighbor the tailgate grounds. The night kicks off with yet another SEC win for our Tigers.

Rounding It Out—The Blue Fugue (9:00-1:00; 120 S. 9th Street, Columbia MO, 65201): The last move of the weekend should be the best, and that’s what the move down to The Blue Fugue is. Bringing back those vibes of Athena, Silhouette and Dali’s, all in one, this is the final spot for the alumni weekend. Whether you’re there to get your party in or to just catch a table with some drinks, this is where to be. There will be a small cover, but the age is restricted to 23 and up so it will stay true to the Alumni culture.

Here you have it, Black Alumni Homecoming Weekend. And while the events are where we’ll be at, the experience of the old town is something to see. If you’ve got questions, ask them, but don’t drag your feet because it has become the must attended event of the year at the Alma Mater.

Hotel rooms are still available, and will be opening up regularly over the next few weeks. Watch as many outlets as you can (Priceline, Orbitz, etc) to find availability, and if you have rooms you are releasing, please leave the info here in the comments section below.

For more info as it develops, follow me on Twitter @CheapSeatFan, as well as contact @FranchICE06, @DaRealMattOates, @B_Wash5, @Twend_Setter or @GatorBell, as well as follow the hashtag #MIZHC on Twitter.

More Info

As for the Mizzou vs. South Carolina game on Saturday, here are ticket outlets with plenty of seats remaining:

Stubhub: http://www.stubhub.com/missouri-tigers-football-tickets/missouri-vs-south-carolina-10-26-2013-4183967/

Vivid Seats: http://www.vividseats.com/ncaaf/missouri-tigers-tickets/missouri-vs-south-carolina-10-26-1365019.html

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For a while, it’s been my intention to start bringing together links and info on all of the different outlets I’m writing at back here to CSP, so that followers can know where to see everything I’m at in a given week. When I started up, this was the only place I was writing at,  so it was simple to see everything I was putting out by simply logging on here each morning and see what is waiting. However, since then I’ve become a bit more involved elsewhere, and I keep regular columns on multiple sites, so keeping up can be a bit more difficult now than even a year ago.

So, from now on, I’ll be posting a new weekly recap column here on Sundays or Monday’s bringing the entire week that was together. It will consist of my primary outlets of the m0ment for me, as well as any new print or radio/podcast work I do in the course of the week.

I suppose this is a good thing! A way to keep things small as they grow, and hopefully continue to do so. So at any rate, here’s where things have been over the past week.

 

Monday–I took a look back at the Cardinals weekend in Milwaukee, and how their offense finally kicked out of tough early season rut at i70Baseballhttp://www.i70baseball.com/2013/05/07/cardinalsbrewers-three-thing-to-walk-with/

Wednesday--Right here at CSP, my summer series on who’s in, out or in-between being a Hall of Famer one day continued, with the curious case of Carlos Beltran’s career was examined: https://cheapseatsplease.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/in-out-or-in-between-carlos-beltran-and-cooperstown/

Friday–The Cardinals first trip to Chicago of the year was chronicled, as Yadi Molina’s exploits on the bases determined the direction the series both started and finished: http://www.i70baseball.com/2013/05/10/cardinalscubs-three-things-to-walk-with/

Friday–Right now in Boston, there’s really something remarkable going on, as the Red Sox are tackling free agency in a quiet, yet resoundingly successful way. Here’s my word for the week in the other Cheap Seats at The Sports Fan Journalhttp://www.thesportsfanjournal.com/sports/baseball/how-the-red-sox-rebuilt-the-right-way/

 

For more commentary in the moment, make the move you should have made a long time back, and follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan.

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In the first of this summer’s project series for me here at CSP on what active ballplayers could be due for a call to Cooperstown, I’ll be taking a look at the credentials of Adrian Beltre. In a certain way, Beltre has flown under the radar, from a production perspective. He is veteran of (…) years, spent initially with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and then moving along to the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox and now Texas Rangers. In a time where third base depth is at arguably the highest group caliber it has ever been, Beltre has stayed consistent as any throughout the years, and now with Chipper Jones retired, he is the longest tenured everyday third baseman in the game. He has quietly offered up a very good career, and is entering into his crucial years for potential immortality. Here’s what he has both in his favor, against it and potentially where it all lands.

The numbers (pre 2013):

– 15 seasons (age 34) .279 average, 351 home runs, 1215 RBI, 2227 hits, 463 doubles, 30 triples, 115 stolen bases, .331 on-base %, .476 slugging percentage

1. The Case For: In making a point for Beltre, looking at the complete body of work is important. He’s already reached 350 career home runs, and has nine seasons of at least 20. His single-season high is 48 with the Dodgers in 2004. What’s more is that he’s shown great ability to be a consistent overall run producer as well; he has topped 80 RBI in nine separate seasons, and his in-prime years have seen him best 100 in three consecutive seasons since 2010. Beltre is one of the rare players that broke in as a teenager and stuck; he is entering his 16th season and is only 34 years old. Across that time he has played in an average of 141 games per season, and topped 150 in seven seasons.

Yet the greatest asset of his game perhaps is his defensive acumen. He has become the best defensive third baseman in the game currently, and has won the previous two American League Gold Gloves, bringing his career total to four. The Fielding Bible, which measures a variety of defensive metrics, as named him the best at the position in six separate seasons.

2. The Case Against: In the midst of his career, he slipped dangerously close to the “wasted” potential category of players…in a perspective way. The huge spike of home runs that he hit in 2004 followed a stretch he averaged 21 home runs a year for the next four years, in addition to not getting his average above .276 in any season, and has low as .255. Basically, he went through a very mortal stretch. In that time, a brand new stretch of third basemen came along in David Wright, Evan Longoria and Ryan Zimmerman that took the spotlight at the position. Basically, he spent a good portion of his career being average, but the high seasons have added up and made some growing impressive totals here at the back end of his prime.

Beltre's acumen in the field is truly an asset, as he is among the premier best corner infielders of his time.

Beltre’s acumen in the field is truly an asset, as he is among the premier best corner infielders of his time, with both range (.958 fielding %) and arm.

3. Similar Players (through age 33)

Ron Santo (.279 avg, 337 home runs, 1290 RBI, 2,171 hits, 353 doubles)

Cal Ripken, Jr (.280 avg, 310 home runs, 1179 RBI, 2227 hits, 414 doubles)

Orlando Cepeda (.298 avg, 354 home runs, 1252 RBI, 2144 hits, 384 doubles)

4. Cooperstown Likelihood (what’s it going to take): Third base is a developing position in regards to Hall of Fame caliber players. There are 13 HOFers currently considered to be primary third basemen throughout their careers. Of them, the “magic number” rule (500 HRS, 3000 hits, etc) isn’t in play for that many at the position. Only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews have passed 500 homers, while George Brett and Wade Boggs are the only members of the 3,000 hit club. Beltre’s projection over the course of the remainder of his career put him short of both of those numbers, so the complete body of work is what he’ll have to lean on.

He’ll likely pass 400 home runs, which would put him in the top 5 all-time at third. It would be helpful to surpass Darrell Evan’s mark of 414 to pull him closer to his contemporary, Chipper Jones, who’s 468 have him third all-time currently at the position. If he averages 150 hits a year over the next four seasons, he’ll top 2,800 hits, which would a very strong case of placing him among the elite of bats to play the position. It would move him into range with a player that he has some in common with, due to his defensive acumen: Brooks Robinson.

Robinson, a 16-time Gold Glove winner, is the absolute standard defensively at the hot corner. Beltre, the standard bearer of his era, could present an intriguing case on his behalf by approaching (or surpassing) Hoover’s 2,848 hits, which currently stands as the fourth best total of all-time for the 3B. It also would pull Beltre past Chipper Jones, the preeminent offensive third baseman of his time.

Overall, there’s more work to do, but Beltre is currently in good range. For intangibles, not winning a major award in his career isn’t helpful, nor is not having a championship on his resume. But luckily he plays a position where there’s a lot of growth during his time, and he’s had multiple seasons of finishing in the top 5 in AL MVP race (2004, 2012). Advanced metrics show him already on the verge of being a candidate: Baseball-Reference’s JAWS meter places him as the 13th most productive 3B all-time, and there are only three players (Craig Nettles, Edgar Martinez and Scott Rolen) in between him and breaking into the elite area of the position manned currently by Paul Molitor and Brooks Robinson. Adding in his defense and continued offensive production at an average rate into his decline seasons, and Beltre has a much better than expected case for being a member of Cooperstown eventually.

So when it’s all said and done, when the question is asked, is Adrian Beltre In, Out or In-Between, as things stand already, in my estimation, he’s really the definition of IN-BETWEEN as it stands right now.

For more on the season as it unfolds (and some of everything else as it unfolds around me), follow me on Twitter at @CheapSeatFan