The Weekly OC: Pace of play, Tyrone Brooks, Face of Baseball and more

SpringTraining

By Oliver Connolly

We’re back. It’s arrived. Another year of Major League Baseball. We’ll have Mike Trout highlight plays, nonsensical trades, Giancarlo Stanton bombs, rule changes, team feuds and lots of dumb opinions.

It’s going to be a lot of fun. Let’s get to the first Weekly OC of the season.

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1st Inning – Pace of play is not baseball’s problem

Getty Images - Pace of play has been the talk of baseball
Getty Images – Pace of play has been the talk of baseball

“Pace of play, pace of play, pace of play, pace of play”

As my great friend, philosopher and podcast co-host Steven Edwards says ‘if you want to speed up baseball record it and hit fast forward.”

There really is no issue with the pace of baseball. Sure there’s things we could do that could cut at most 25 minutes off games. Really? Like that matters. The NFL’s average game time is over three hours. Does anyone care? NO it’s the biggest thing in North America. The NFL is so big that we all had to educate ourselves on such things like pounds per square inch and watch 24 hour news channels discuss the heinousness of a man in a hoodie as Kabul was set ablaze once again.

You know what no one ever mentions with the NFL, or college football? The time of the games. People just don’t care, you know why? Action, importance and excitement. Baseball lacks action. It’s a quite secret. I LOOOVEE baseball and I never hide my love of the Red Sox. But it’s just a fact, runs are down, stars are down, action is down and games matter less and less. I’ll watch a Sox game on a Tuesday evening, they’ll play terribly and I’m never jumping up and down screaming ‘ARGHH WHAT ARE THEY DOING?!?! FIRE THAT GUY, SEND THAT GUY DOWN, WE’LL NEVER RECOVER.’

*note* this does not apply to Phillies fans

Why? Because we’ll play them again the next night, we’ll get them then and we’ll be back at .500.

There is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing’ we watch it on the diamond every summer. It’s the best, but deep at the back of your mind you know it’s too much. Every at bat should be crucial, every win should REALLY matter for your team and REALLY hurt your opponent. The NFL in that way (16 games) is an outlier. But even in the NBA (Where they still play too often) has half the amount of big leagues games. EVERY game matters, every single one. As the old adage goes, you’re going to win 54 games you’re going to lose 54 games it’s what you do with the middle 54 that matters. So hey, how about we play 54 games?

That’s obviously absurd but what isn’t is the need to get the feeling that every game matters, for the players it does (financially/legacy) but it’s not the same for the fans.

And what about in those games? I’d be fine with 162 games if it was all action, action, action. But in reality ‘action’ is on the decline. Major League ball is down in; runs per game, hits, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS and walks in a big way from the previous ten year league averages.

Stats – all per game, via Baseball Reference 2014 Previous ten year average
Runs per game 4.07 4.55
Hits 8.56 8.95
Home Runs 0.86 1.02
RBIs 3.86 4.33
Stolen Bases 0.57 0.59
BB 2.88 3.22
Batting Average .251 .261
OBP .314 .329
Slugging .386 .423
OPS .700 .742

 

 The key is to get runners in play. It’s not just the big ‘lack of power’ debate that has hurt the sport and its offense. It’s the lack of guys in play. More walks breeds more plays at the bag, more stolen bases equals more plays at the bag and on and on. That’s the beauty of baseball. You don’t need games finishing 3-2 with five bombs. You needs a 3-2 with a play or two at second or third in every single inning. That’s excitement and excitement and escapism is what we’re looking for. It’s not the time in which we indulge a feature film it’s the excitement. Is it Wolf of Wall Street? Action, action, action or is it Lord of the Rings?  They’re great films, I love them, but they go on and on and on. Pan shot after pan shot. We want quick cuts. We want Jonah Hill on speed one second and Leo DiCaprio snorting coke out of a hooker’s ass the next. Not Legolas and Aragorn running through the forest of fangorn.

Rob Manfred is doing the right thing. He’s brining progressive ideas to the table whilst realising the old guard are the guys with the expendable income and the core of the games current audience. But they need to wake up from the likes of the pitch clock (I originally loved that idea), umps asking players to get back in the box and the pace of play juggernaut that has engulfed the sport. Let’s not ask how do we shorten the time? Let’s ask what do we do in that time? Alter the strike zone (being discussed) lower the mound, change the bats, remove teams and inflate the number of good players on every team, allow more recovery supplements. Do whatever you need to do to generate more action (except eliminate the shift!) and you’ll have the audience you’re looking for. It’s not time that turns them off, it’s the time between anything actually happening.

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2nd Inning – Q&A with Tyrone Brooks

MLB.com - Tyrone Brooks has risen through baseball's ranks
MLB.com – Tyrone Brooks has risen through baseball’s ranks

Each week I’ll sit down with a baseball personality, player, front office exec or colleague and run through a few questions. This week I talk with Pittsburgh Pirates director of player personnel and future GM Tyrone Brooks.

OC: Tyrone your climb has been fantastic, can you give a little bit of detail as to how you first got into a club and your time to your current position?

TB: I truly started from the bottom, getting my foot in the door with Atlanta through a trainee program (internship) created by Hank Aaron and Stan Kasten (now with the Dodgers) in 1996 that gave me first exposure to baseball operations.  I was coming right out of college (University of Maryland) and Atlanta was coming off a World Series championship in 1995 and I just tried to be a sponge and absorb as much as I could by learning from individuals like Paul Snyder (a true legendary scout in our game), John Schuerholz, Deric Ladnier (now with AZ), Dayton Moore, Roy Clark and Dean Taylor (recently retired from the Royals) on a daily basis.  I truly happened to be in the right place at the right time.  During the course of the internship, I tried to learn as much as I could and show my value to the staff.  A month and half into the internship, a full-time opening arose and John Schuerholz sat me down to ask about my future plans.  When Schuerholz offered me a full-time job, I immediately jumped at the opportunity to learn from the best in the business.  I was able to get fully immersed into the Braves Way of scouting and player development, learning how we evaluated, signed and developed our own players while trying to master the administrative side involved with scouting and player development, including preparing the club for the MLB Draft. My first 2 1/2 years I dived into my role handling the administrative side while also spending as much time as I could learning from our scouts and player development people throughout the organization.  In time, I was able to build confidence in my own personal scouting evaluations.

Being in the right place at the right time was again a major theme, as when one of our scouts left his territory in the Midwest, I lobbied with new scouting director Roy Clark about taking over the area. Thanks to Roy Clark and the support of others such as Dayton Moore, Paul Snyder, Hep Cronin and John Flannery, I worked as an area scouting supervisor covering Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.  I was in the territory for three years and enjoyed the challenge of evaluating and finding players there.  To this day, I still cherish this opportunity.  At the end of the 2002 season we made some front office changes and Dayton Moore asked me about returning to the front office and I jumped at the opportunity to continue to grow further in this realm in Atlanta.

For the next 4 years I worked closely under Dayton and Frank Wren learning further about the administrative process of contracts, the arbitration process and working closely with our pro scouts.  It was a fascinating experience to assist Schuerholz and our front office with projects studying each organization and their potential assets (ML players and prospects). After the 2006 season I left the Braves and joined the Cleveland Indians as a pro scout based in San Francisco.  Like when I was an area scout, I immersed myself in the challenge of covering upwards of 25-28 teams each year with primary coverage consisting of the Pacific Coast League, Cal League, Texas League and secondary coverage of the AL and NL West.  It was a great experience working in the Indians organization to see another way of developing a winner and learning from a talented group of executives and scouts that included individuals such as Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti and Mike Chernoff.

After the 2009 season, an opening occurred in the Pirates organization and I was fortunate that Pirates GM Neal Huntington asked me to come over to the Pirates as the Director of Baseball Operations.  I worked in that role my first two years and then transitioned into my current
role as Director of Player Personnel.  Along with Assistant GM Greg Smith, I work closely with our pro and international scouting staffs as we scout the majors, minors and international baseball (non-Latin America).  It has truly been a great ride and I’ve been blessed to work with so many talented baseball people.  These last few years have been very special to be a part of an organization that has developed a winning culture that the city of Pittsburgh can be proud of. Neal Huntington, Clint Hurdle, owner Bob Nutting, president Frank Coonelly, our major league staff, our scouts and our player development staff have done a great job of finding and growing our players, building trust and giving them confidence to believe in their abilities.

OC: I would assume the use of numbers has been the biggest change to front offices as it has with the sport but what else if anything has changed in a drastic way?

TB: Outside of the use of metrics in the process of building a club, as an industry we have seen a tremendous influx of talented individuals come into our great game with new ideas, systems and processes that have changed the way the game is looked at from a front office perspective. Individuals that years ago may have never gained entry into what was a close knit fraternity, are now making significant impact in the decision making of franchises.  Staffs are much larger with more voices (and opinions) to be heard and the GM role has more considerations that go into the decision making process. Our industry is as strong as ever in attracting talented individuals from diverse backgrounds that are passionate about baseball.

OC: This year’s Pirates team is getting a lot of love and I’m driving the Bucs bandwagon. I love the continuity as well as the talent at all levels. How big an impact does continuity over maybe marginally more talented player’s impact your team’s roster construction?

TB: Continuity among our players and staff truly does have huge benefits. We have players that have grown up together at the major league level with the same voice in Clint Hurdle leading them these past 4 years. We’ve been able to bring in veteran players like Russell Martin, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano that have complemented our core group and fit right into our culture.  Through some hardships this group has learned to win together as a group.  We’ve also tried to build as much depth as possible as you never know what unexpected issues (injuries, etc.) will arise during the course of a season.

OC: Is it possible to put into words the effect Andrew McCutchen has on your organisation?

TB: When your best player is also one of your hardest working players too, that has a major impact on everyone.  That is a testament to his character.  They see how hard he is trying and they want to put in the same type of effort. He also made the choice to be a building block of this organization when others might have considered going elsewhere when the time came.  He has helped along with Clint Hurdle in making Pittsburgh a destination for players to play.

OC: How much of a desire do you have to still be a general manager the final shot caller (well 2nd after the owner!)?

TB: I believe we all hope for that type of opportunity if it come to fruition. In my younger years there was more of that sense of urgency (to become a GM) but I’ve learned to have a greater appreciation for being in a winning environment.  Being in a place where you feel like your opinion is wanted and trusted are the most important things to me at this stage.  We’re all growing with each year while faced with new situations in our changing game.  I’m very fortunate to be part of something special in Pittsburgh.

OC: Is there a particular player the front office is themselves excited to see on the diamond this year?

TB: As an organization we’re all excited to see how infielder Jung-ho Kang makes his transition from Korea (KBO) to the major leagues as the first Korean position player to go directly to the major leagues.  The decision to sign him from Korea was one that had many people involved from throughout the organization.  Hopefully this is the beginning of more things to come internationally for us.

OC: Finally, I’m always asked by people about getting into sports writing. You have a position that people dream off and you allow yourself to be accessible, but what advice do you give when people approach you about getting into the baseball world?

TB: First and foremost this is a great and fascinating industry to work in.  I’ve been blessed to be in this now for my 20th season.  Time does truly fly by when you are doing something that you love to do! For those wanting to pursue careers in the game, I try to express that make sure this is something you are passionate about.  You must have your heart in this to succeed and deal with the potential challenges that you will face. If you have the passion, then make sure you have an understanding of how you can immediately make an impact on an organization.  Understand yourself better than anyone by knowing your skill set, strengths and weaknesses to make you stand out above others. Like many industries, baseball is a people industry.  We put our trust in people each day and trust their abilities, work ethic and character.

I am passionate about seeing people live their dreams of working in this game.  Over five plus years ago I created the Baseball Industry Network (www.baseballindustrynetwork.com) to be an avenue to assist those trying to break into the game.  We’re now over 26,000 members and I take pride and joy in seeing individuals find their niche in this game.  Everyone has their own path that they must blaze and everyone has their own story to be told. The Baseball Industry Network can be followed on Twitter @tbrooksBIN.

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3rd Inning – The face of baseball

Getty Images - McCutchen is primed to be the face of baseball
Getty Images – McCutchen is primed to be the face of baseball

As some of you may know I’ve been out in Asia visiting my dad and travelling the globe before opening day arrives. I was stunned, as I always am, by the English Premier League’s global appeal. You walk down any street and there’s a kid wearing a kit or a barbershop with a dodgy Wayne Rooney Photoshop. My dad and I had a bet on who was the biggest sports star on the planet over the last ten years. The kind of figure where we could go into a Cambodian village say the name and the people would instantly recognize the name despite not knowing how to speak English. I went with Michael Jordan, Dad went with David Beckham (I knew Beckham was the better answer for Asia but I still contend MJ over the globe). It was an even split, most knew both, I guess more new the name Beckham. It led me to try other names of sports stars at virtually every restaurant we sat down in (I’m boring I know); LeBron, check, Kobe, check, Steven Gerrard, check, Manning, split decision, Brady, split decision, Pacquiao, God, Mayweather, check. What I realized was every sport had a go too star. When in the middle of the Mekong Delta, on a fishing village, when I mentioned them e.g. LeBron the ‘waiter’ would imitate a dunk. The NFL = Brady/Manning, Soccer = Beckham/Messi/Ronaldo/Rooney, NBA = LeBron/Kobe/MJ, Boxing = Mayweather/Pacquiao.

The goal of the exercise was to get to baseball players. To see if baseball had, ever, a transcendent star. Right now the game lacks star power, a true #FaceOfBaseball, they have the guys there but they haven’t been managed by the sport properly. Mike Trout is outrageous, Andrew McCutchen is ridiculous and Miguel Cabrera is a once in a generation stud. Yet all I got back from the waiter was a blank stare and some fried catfish. There truly is no face of baseball. Baseball hasn’t allowed there to be one. Does the sport need a face? Not really, but as all the other sports go global all the way to the Cambodian killing fields shouldn’t baseball follow suit? Absolutely. Deciding on that person and promoting them in a WWE fashion is what the new age head office absolutely must do. Deciding on that person is another matter.

image1I continued to ask throughout my trip about players. Of the current generation only one name they’d heard off, no lie, “A-Rod” not his name, not Alex Rodriguez “A-Rod.” Grim. Not even Jeter (except one obnoxious New Yorker who was chanting D-ERECK J-EEEETER at Changi airport). And of course that tells you one thing, the transcendent star isn’t any player it’s the Yankees. As I looked at the night market stalls with their really impressive knock off Manchester United and LA Lakers strips there was always the really good fake Yankee hat.

Therein lies the potential problem. For baseball to have a true transcdenet star does it have to be a player in pinstripes? Well how about D-ERECK J-EEEETER? He was a baseball star, a celebrity womanizer and a celebrity in his own right. But they haven’t even heard of him in most English cities.

I don’t have the answers I’m not qualified to figure out how to pick the right star to market and how to transcend them from California to the Island of Tasmania – My dad’s quick algorithm is a good top-15 player + an equally or even more famous girlfriend + good looks + a two continent sport = Beckham = transcendent super star – I know baseball has the people who deserve it and the people who could pull it off. I also know who I’d want to be that face that draws people in from all across the globe.

I asked my buddy Steven Edwards who he thought should be the face of the major leagues and their pursuit into the new markets of Australia, Holland (Europe) and the rest of Asia (love their current baseball stars).

Steven Edwards “This pretty much sums it up for me and you know my choice. Andrew McCutchen.

A guy who doesn’t forget where he came from…drafted by the team he wanted to be drafted by……could of gone elsewhere in free agency
but wanted to build something special in Pittsburgh. The guy at the All Star Game who would do anything for fans and nothing was too much
trouble…Has the smile of a kid who had just played catch with his dad for the first time.

Yeah that is a man crush.

Nobody tops Andrew McCutchen.”

Bingo. McCutchen is the guy. It’s not that there’s no other extremely worthy candidates; Cabrera, Trout, Kershaw, Posey, Pedroia and so on are all worthy. But there’s something different about McCutchen. Obviously the league has a problem with declining African-American players but that’s not it. It’s the personable, likeable, personality. The willingness to stop for a picture or autograph with anyone, the joy he has playing the game, the work ethic he puts in and the production that comes from that work.   

Baseball is globalizing. It has too. The new world means globalize or die. I know there’s fans who don’t care about the popularity of the game outside of their own living room, I have days like that myself, “I love it why do I care if other people do” I care because it’s the new age of business (and that’s what sport is) GLOBALIZE. The more the sport globalizes the better the sport will be. More eyeballs equals more revenue which equals better player recruitment, better players, better games and more fun watching them in your living room.

The sport needs to globalize, it needs a face and that face should be McCutchen.

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4th Inning – Power rankings

 

It’s our first power rankings of the year and the first of the preseason. Please remember it’s a new year. The San Francisco Giants are an A+ organisation but this year’s team is a B+/A. Please no “Hey man they were champs last year they should be number one!” It’s a new year and a fresh start for all thirty clubs.

WAS1 – Washington Nationals – They’re simply the best team in baseball on paper. They’re so loaded it’s silly. Their starting five; Strasburg, Scherzer, Zimmermann, Fister and Gonzalez. Incredible. Their lineup; Ramos, Zimmerman, Escobar, Desmond, Rendon, Werth, Span and Harper. You have to be kidding me? I tipped the Nationals to win it all last year and I’m leaning with picking them again this year.

LAD2 – Los Angeles Dodgers – Sure the Dodgers suffered a big blow losing Kenley Jansen but I’m not going to overreact and drop them down this list. The team has too much talent, the new front office did a great job of adding even more talent and, more importantly, big game experience.

SEA3 – Seattle Mariners – Here’s the simple logic for Seattle; they got better everyone in the AL playoffs got worse. Simple hey? They have solid players across the board, MVP calibre players and they’re into year two of a Robinson Cano dominant line up.

STL4 – St. Louis Cardinals – cue angry emails suspiciously sent from Missouri. The real interesting thing here is the situation surrounding Michael Wacha and his health. Can he hit 2013 form? If so I’m off to Vegas.

PIT5 – Pittsburgh Pirates – Young, athletic, continuity and good additions. I’m interested to see how Jung-Ho Kang does coming off a 40 HR year in Korea and being the first Korean to come directly to the major leagues.

LAA6 – Los Angeles Angels – Like many AL teams the Angels talent regressed and aged but they remain immensely talented. Garret Richards injury and Josh Hamilton’s contract starting on the DL.

BOS7 – Boston Red Sox – I’m a homer ok? But seriously, I like the offensive additions and balance of the roster as well as the flexibility to make any possible move the front office would like.

SF8 – San Francisco Giants – The defending champions lost some key personnel but who can bet against this organisation in this decade? I’m certainly not.

DET9 – Detroit Tigers – I think we’ll see a Miggy bounce back and they’ll survive the loss of Scherzer. It’s not going to be easy, but like the Giants I trust the club.

CHW10 – Chicago White Sox – I loved what they did this offseason. I’m a big Shark fan, I’m obsessed with Jose Abreu and I like the Robertson pickup. They’re in that weird ‘won the offseason’ vortex that doesn’t often seem to work out. But it’s an AL team in an average AL that got better.

TOR11 – Toronto Blue Jays – The Jays have another loaded offense adding catcher Russell Martin (who has to learn to catch the knuckleball) and I like the talent at the back end of their rotation. They could do with another front line starter due to the inconstancies of R.A. Dickey and Mark Buehrle.

CLE12 – Cleveland Indians – The Indians certainly have a shot at making the playoffs. They have a CY Young pitcher as their anchor but they need some more pitching.

SD13 – San Diego Padres – I love most of the moves the Padres made. They just made themselves better. They added; James Shields, Brandon Maurer, Justin Upton, Derek Norris and Matt Kemp. It’s much better overall team.

KC14 – Kansas City Royals – The Royals lost the anchor of their rotation (Shields to San Diego) but their bullpen has stayed intact and they’ve kept a large portion of their young core together.

CHC15 – Chicago Cubs – The Cubs had the most publicised offseason (outside of A-Rod) adding Joe Maddon, Jon Lester and building on their exceptional farm system. They’re L-O-A-DED with young talent that makes them extremely versatile and exciting.

BAL16 – Baltimore Orioles – The Orioles fall has been greatly exaggerated. They lost talented players but two of their best in 2013 barely produced in 2014. Their rotation remains steady and although they lost their best relief pitcher their bullpen remains steady.

OAK17 – Oakland Athletics – I like Billy Beane a lot I respect him jumping out infront of the rebuild, but I just don’t like the moves he made and their roster is worse now than in 2014.

NYM18 – New York Mets – If Matt Harvey is healthy all bets are off. I don’t think they have enough hitting but with their farm system producing at its current rate they can certainly go and acquire some. If their new highly talented prospects are as good as speculated think how good this rotation could be; Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Jon Niese, Bartolo Colon and one of Dillon Gee/Zach Wheeler/Noah Syndergaard or Rafael Montero.

MIA19 – Miami Marlins – The Marlins could certainly be in contention for a playoff place if they can hang around until Jose Fernandez returns from his injury. The new contract for Stanton will stop all the speculation around him every time they step off a bus at a ballpark.

TB20 – Tampa Bay Rays – I really like their young rotation; Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly. They have a chance to make some noise in the AL East.

NYY21 – New York Yankees – The Yanks are in real trouble. They need Tanaka to be GREAT this year and bounce back from his injury riddled 2014. The CC Sabathia news is worrying, the like of hitting is terrifying and they have the Alex Rodriguez cloud over them.

HOU22 – Houston Astros – I don’t that on the field they’re too much better than any team below them, but their organisation is certainly healthier.

TEX23 – Texas Rangers – They’re finally healthy but I’ll reserve my judgement until we see them.

 

MIL24 – Milwaukee Brewers – They collapsed catastrophically in 2014, I think it’ll carry through to 2015.

 

CIN25 – Cincinnati Reds – The Reds are secretly shopping their guys to detonate this thing some more.

 

ATL26 – Atlanta Braves – They’re simply building towards 2017, 18 and 19. It’s a smart plan.

 

MIN27 – Minnesota Twins – The Twins talent just isn’t up to it, but they have some really exciting young players that’ll make you switch to some Twins games.

PHI28 – Philadelphia Phillies – Yuck.

 

ARI29 – Arizona Diamondbacks – Double Yuck.

 

COL30 – Colorado Rockies – It’s time for them to completely blow it up. It hurts to lose stars but it’s better to win games.

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5th Inning – Look at the standings

 

Typically we’ll look at the standings here week by week but for the first edition of the year I’ll offer my first predictions for the final win totals in 2015.

AL East Win Totals
Boston Red Sox 90-72
Toronto Blue Jays 84-78
Baltimore Orioles 83-79
Tampa Bay Rays 83-79
New York Yankees 79-83

I have the Red Sox winning the division but it’s the most average, possibly closest, divisions in baseball. I don’t think the Yankees realize how bad they are. They have talented players but not enough depth and they just can’t get healthy. The biggest fluctuation could be the Rays. They have a good rotation and are a good outside bet to win the East.

AL Central Win Totals
Detroit Tigers 85-77
Cleveland Indians 84-79
Chicago White Sox 80-82
Kansas City Royals 78-84
Minnesota Twins 75-87

I love all the stories in this division; do the Tigers still have it? Will Cleveland make the playoffs? Can the White Sox outdo the Cubs? Can Jose Abreu dominate again? Will the Royals survive the loss of James Shields and head back to the playoffs? And what will Miguel Sano and Byron Buxton do? Boy it’s going to be fun.

AL West Win Totals
Seattle Mariners 90-72
Los Angeles Angels 84-78
Oakland Athletics 83-79
Texas Rangers 78-84
Houston Astros 77-85

I have the Mariners as the best American League team right now and I think it’s going to be a titanic post All-Star game finish between Seattle and LA. The Astros improvements will certainly continue.

NL East Win Totals
Washington Nationals 94-68
New York Mets 82-80
Miami Marlins 80-82
Atlanta Braves 70-92
Philadelphia Phillies 66-96

A cakewalk for the Nationals. I love both the Mets and Marlins this year, If the Marlins can stick in contention until Jose Fernandez returns from Tommy Johns they’ll certainly have a playoff push. Atlanta and Philly are two of the worst teams in the game.

AL Central Win Totals
St. Louis Cardinals 86-76
Pittsburgh Pirates 85-77
Chicago Cubs 84-78
Milwaukee Brewers 77-85
Cincinnati Reds 76-86

Another fun division with the most talked about offseason teams (the Cubs) and two of the best teams in the big leagues. I love the Pirates and their infrastructure but at this moment in time I’ll give a one game edge to the Cards.

AL West Win Totals
Los Angeles Dodgers 91-71
San Francisco Giants 81-81
San Diego Padres 80-82
Arizona Diamondbacks 77-85
Colorado Rockies 74-88

The Giants are the class organisation of the division but the Dodgers have the better team. The Padres have done a good job of buying low on high upside players and have done a great job of improving themselves over the offseason. The Rockies are in a terrible situation, it’s time to move on from some of their bigger stars and reload their ball club.

***

6th Inning – Five things I loved and hated about this week

Loved:

1 – The Panda’s full ‘f**k it, I just won another ring and got a huge contract I’m turning up to spring training in whatever shape I want’ attitude.

Boston Red Sox 2015 Spring Training

 

2 – Visiting Vietnam and learning what a wonderful, beautiful country it truly is.

3 – J.K. Simmons winning Best Supporting Actor for ‘Whiplash.’ I goddam love that film. The last fifteen minutes were the best fifteen minutes of cinema this year.

4 – Rob Manfred says he would consider shortening the season.

5 – Katie Nolan discussing Women in sports media, her brief stand-up career and new show.

Hated:

1 – Chris Bosh’s blood clots. Bosh is just a genuinely nice person, a future basketball HOFer and a champion. Someone who is great, sacrifices and wins religiously. I hope he gets healthy as soon as possible.

2 – Getting the sh*ts in Vietnam.

3 – Clay Buchholz will be the Red Sox opening day starter. Ok, maybe I don’t hate this. I get it. You don’t have to have your rotation set in March but man it looks rough when you pencil in Buchholz as the #1.

4 – Frank Caliendo narrates Alex Rodriguez’s letter. Anyone else just completely over everything to do with this thing?

5 – Losing Jurickson Profar for another year. It just sucks.

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7th Inning – League whispers

 

  • If no deal for Johnny Cueto is reached prior to opening day his camp will begin talks with the Reds over a trade to the Dodgers.
  • If the Red Sox relent and put Christian Vasquez into their trade package for Cole Hamels they’ll pursue Cubs third wheel catcher, Wellington Castillo, per sources.
  • Andrew Marchard of ESPNNewYork.com says the Yankees will employ a six-man rotation early in the year.
  • Iwakuma wants to stay in Seattle rather than hit free agency.
  • The Red Sox signed star Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada to a record deal that, including tax, will reach $60m+. I haven’t seen a great deal of Moncada other than what’s available on YouTube but he looks extremely strong with 20/20 potential and great bat speed. The Sox are loading up on positional talent and just adding even greater flexibility.

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8th Inning – Performances of the week

 

Rob Manfred – MLB Commissioner

Manfred is on a roll. He’s nailing his first full media tour, embracing everything

Masahiro Tanaka – Yankees Pitcher Spring Training

HE THREW WITHOUT DISCOMFERT, WOOOOO

Kobe Bryant – Grantland Basketball Hour

Kobe was terrific, his documentary out on Showtime 28th Feb. will be enthralling.

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Top of the 9th – Podcast of the week

 

I loved this pod from Paul “Sully” Sullivan talking about the Red Sox signing of Yoan Moncada. Certainly worth checking out right here.

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Bottom of the 9th – Mailbag

 

Every week we end with a quick mailbag. You can send in your questions via email ctbpod@gmail.com with ‘Mailbag’ in the subject line or alternatively via twitter @CTBPod with the hashtag #Mailbag.

“Do the Orioles have a shot in the AL East this year” – Joe Wedra, Myrtle Beach

Absolutely. The American League is wide open and the AL East is more wide open than any other division. Sure they lost some big time pieces; Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Andrew Miller and Nick Hundley. But they still have a solid core some big time offensive ‘bounce back’ possibilities with Matt Wieters and Chris Davis. The key question will be whether or not the Orioles rotation can repeat its 2014 performance. Last year they had the third-best staff ERA in the American League can they do the same with this five man rotation; Chris Tillman, Wei-Yin Chen, Bud Norris, Miguel Gonzalez and Kevin Gausman. Top-three? Maybe not. But it could easily be a top-six group and that should be enough for the O’s to make it extremely interesting.

“John Farrell says the Red Sox have not one ace but five. That’s bull mud isn’t it? I understand why Farrell said that and don’t know him for it. He can’t say the rotation is weak.” – Thomas Pringle, Oxfordshire, UK

It’s beyond ‘bull mud’ and Farrell knows it. As you pointed out he couldn’t come out and throw his pitching staff under the bus and it isn’t a bad group it’s just a non-versatile group lacking elite, front end, talent. The comments also came in light of the terrific latest edition of the ‘we didn’t get the guy we promised you we would get in the offseason after letting him go against your will the year before, here’s a new contract’ contract. I love sports.

Until next time.

Ollie is a podcast host/columnist for CTBPod.com. You can find him on twitter @OllieUKEZ or reach out via email at ctbpod@gmail.com with your thoughts on this weeks Weekly OC or for next week’s mailbag.

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