Can the Angels make history?

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The media has been quick to hand the
Yankees their 40th pennant. Mets fans are already picking which side of
hell they will be rooting for in the World Series. But a dramatic
comeback win on Thursday night was enough to remind you that these
Angels still have some fight left in them. As Game 6 looms, let’s take
a quick look and see if history is on their side.

Since the introduction of seven-game LCS play
in 1985, 30 teams have taken a 3-1 lead. This includes the 2009
Phillies, who defeated the Dodgers in five games to advance to the
World Series, and the 2009 Yankees, who will attempt to close out the
ALCS as Andy Pettitte opposes Joe Saunders in Game 6.

Excluding the Yankees, 23 of the other 29 teams have advanced to the World Series. So, who beat the odds?

1985 Royals: 
The first year of the best-of-seven format, the Royals caught fire
after a shutout by Danny Jackson in Game 5 to surge past the Blue Jays.
Though it wasn’t without controversy, the Royals went on to defeat the
Cardinals in seven games for their only World Series championship.

1986 Red Sox:
The season was rightly marred by the end result, but their comeback
against the Angels was remarkable in its own right. The late Donnie
Moore famously blew a save in Game 5 and the Angels never recovered.
Neither did Moore.

1996 Braves:
Behind lights-out pitching from John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg
Maddux, the Braves outscored the Cardinals 32-1 over the final three
games of the series on their way to becoming the first National League
team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in LCS play.

2003 Marlins:
This series is best — and unfairly — remembered for the Steve Bartman
incident in Game 6, but the Cubs actually had three chances to advance
to the World Series. Kerry Wood came up small in Game 7, allowing seven
runs over 3 2/3 innings as the upstart Marlins dashed Chicago’s hopes
at their first World Series since 1908. The Marlins went on to upset
the heavily-favored Yankees in the World Series.

2004 Red Sox:
The comeback by which all comebacks have become measured. Capped by
Curt Schilling’s “bloody sock” in Game 6 and Johnny Damon’s two homers
in Game 7, the Red Sox became the first ever team to win a series after
being down three games to none. The Red Sox swept the Cardinals in the
World Series for their first championship since 1918.

2007 Red Sox:
Boston walloped the Indians over the final three games of the series by
a score of 30-5, taking the final two games at Fenway Park. They were a
buzzsaw in the World Series, cruising right past a well-rested Rockies
team for their second World Series title in four seasons.

Of the six teams highlighted above,
only the 1985 Royals, 2003 Marlins and 2004 Red Sox were able to
complete the comeback on the road. With Andy Pettitte and CC Sabathia
in their way, the Angels have a heckuva hill to climb, but history
doesn’t preclude it from happening.

Tigers in discussions with Jordan Zimmermann

Jordan Zimmermann
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.

Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.

Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.

Blue Jays still focused on upgrading their pitching

Marco Estrada
AP Photo/LM Otero

Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.

The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.

Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.

Report: Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”

Jonathan Papelbon
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.

Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.

The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.

Minor league home run king Mike Hessman retires

NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Mike Hessman #19 of the New York Mets bats against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-0.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.

Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.

Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.