The Week Ahead: The Strasburg era begins

Leave a comment

Finally, it’s Stephen Strasburg time.

On Tuesday, the man with the million-dollar arm (or $50 million, if
Scott Boras gets his way) will be the first player selected in the
First-Year Player Draft.

After months of hype and wonder over Strasburg, he of the 100-mph
fastball and ridiculous control, he’ll finally be a pro. Well not
exactly. He’ll have to sign first, and don’t expect that to happen
quickly. But you get the point.

The MLB draft obviously doesn’t compare to the NFL or the NBA when
it comes to hype and excitement, but the presence of Strasburg, the
greatest pitching prospect since — well maybe, ever? – should make Tuesday fun.

After the Nats make him the top pick, things will get a little more
complicated, as teams stock up on more mortal talents like Dustin
Ackley and Aaron Crow.

You can see a nice mock draft here, and a good list of the top 33 prospects here.

There’s yet another list here.

On Tuesday, return to Circling the Bases for a recap of the draft. You’ll be able to find bios of the top players on Rotoworld.com.

Now, on to a great week of baseball action …

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH

  • Yankees at Red Sox, June 9-11: They’re the top two teams in
    the AL East, fierce rivals, and longtime antagonists. Their fans hate
    each other even more than the players do. What’s not to like?
  • Phillies at Mets, June 9-11:
    These two teams have been trying to create their own version of Red
    Sox-Yankees. And while it hasn’t reached that level, it still makes for
    some entertaining baseball. It helps, too, that they’re No. 1 and 2 in
    the NL East.
  • Mets at Yankees, June 12-14: In the latest version of the Subway Series, these two teams bring their rivalry to the new Yankee Stadium for the first time.
  • Red Sox at Phillies, June 12-14:
    Could this be a preview of the World Series? Way too early to say, of
    course, but it’s an interesting idea to think about. Also gives Boston
    a chance to rest Big Papi.
  • Dodgers at Rangers, June 12-14: Heck, maybe THIS matchup is a
    World Series preview. The Dodgers are dominating the NL, and the
    Rangers just keep on making fools out of everyone who expects them to
    start losing.

    ON THE TUBE

    Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Rays at Yankees (ESPN)
    Wednesday, 7:10 p.m.: Yankees at Red Sox (ESPN)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Cardinals at Indians (FOX)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: White Sox at Brewers (FOX)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Mets at Yankees (FOX)
    Sunday, 1 p.m.: Mets at Yankees (TBS)
    Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Cardinals at Indians (ESPN)

    *Check local listings

    And finally, for some fantasy tips for this week, click here.

  • Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

    BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
    Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
    18 Comments

    It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

    Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

    Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

    Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

    In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

    Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

    Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

    MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

    BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
    Getty Images
    1 Comment

    Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

    Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.