St Louis Cardinals v Philadelphia Phillies - Game 5

Cardinals continue Cinderella run, will meet division-rival Brewers in NLCS

20 Comments

Do you know where the Cardinals were exactly one month ago? Oh, just 6 1/2 games behind the shoo-in Braves in the Wild Card race. Yet in the space of one month, not only did they leapfrog the Braves to win the National League Wild Card, but they also earned a trip to the NLCS by knocking off the heavily-favored Phillies in the division series. Way to mess with the narrative, guys.

It’s often said that the playoffs are a crapshoot and anything can happen over the course of a five-game series. And that’s absolutely true. If the ball bounces your way in October, unexpected things can and usually do happen. Roy Halladay was brilliant in his own right on Friday night and if he got even a little bit of help from his offense, we may have been talking about Cliff Lee facing the Brewers in Game 1 of the NLCS on Sunday. However, Chris Carpenter was just a little bit better and fortunate enough to get the razor-thin margin of support he needed, including some fantastic plays by his defense.

This isn’t to slight the Cardinals at all. The Rays understandably got most of the national attention after topping the Red Sox for the American League Wild Card, but the Cardinals actually had the better record between the two teams in September. With an 18-8 record in in the final month of the season, the Cardinals entered the playoffs as arguably the hottest team in baseball. It’s very easy to dwell on the negative of the high-profile losing team, as we saw with the “collapses” of the Red Sox and Braves and are already witnessing with the losses of the heavily-favored Yankees and Phillies, but the Cardinals are no pushovers. Armed with the league’s best offense, they belong here.

There might be less eyes on the NLCS than there would have been if the Phillies were involved, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fantastic baseball between the Cardinals and Brewers. I don’t think I need to remind you that these teams don’t like each other very much. Those games had playoff-level intensity way back in early August, so I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us now that a trip to the World Series will be on the line.

Reds prospect Juan Duran suspended 80 games

Banned
1 Comment

Juan Duran, a minor-league outfielder in the Reds’ farm system, has been suspended 80 games following positive tests for the performance-enhancing drugs Drostanolone, Stanozolol, and Nandrolone.

Duran is 6-foot-7 with big-time power, averaging 23 homers per 150 games since 2011, but he also strikes out a ton and struggles to control the strike zone. He spent last season at Double-A, missing a lot of time with injuries and hitting .256 with six homers and a .728 OPS in 59 games as a 23-year-old.

Duran is on the 40-man roster and is considered a quasi-prospect, but he’ll be ineligible to play until July and figures to head back to Double-A once reinstated.

The Blue Jays will talk long term deals with Jose Bautistia and Edwin Encarnacion

Jose Bautista Blue Jays
1 Comment

Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.

But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.

Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.

But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.

The Rays are REALLY ready to get to work on that new ballpark

rays logo
2 Comments

Last month St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays reached an agreement that would allow the Rays to seek a new ballpark outside of the St. Pete city limits, anywhere in the Bay Area. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports¬†today that the Rays have submitted a required report to that end which “describes how they plan to evaluate potential ballpark sites across the Tampa Bay area” and serves as a rough outline of the sort of facility they’re looking to build.

They submitted it 39 days before deadline. Ya think they’re eager to get moving?

As for the specifics, it sounds like they’re shooting for a Braves or Cardinals style destination place with surrounding entertainment, retail and the like. The Braves are achieving that by basically building the park at a mall and plan to surround it with other mall/entertainment district-type development. The Cardinals built a downtown park, but have developed Ballpark Village after the fact. This is to be contrasted with downtown parks which either counted on existing city businesses or spurred separate development.

All of which makes sense given that there isn’t one dominant location in Tampa which all but demands development there. Tampa has a few different areas that might make sense and the place is generally more spread out than older cities. It also makes sense for the Rays’ owners who are likely well aware that being in the real estate business is just as good for them as being in the baseball business.

Will anyone EVER break that record that was broken nine years ago?

Hank Aaron
Associated Press
12 Comments

In 2007, Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run. He would go on to hit six more, finishing his career with 762. That was nine years ago and, at present, the active home run leader is nearly 80 homers behind him and no sure bet to come close. The next closest guy is over 200 homers back and clearly entering a period of decline.

All of which raises the question: will anyone EVER pass the home run total of Hank Aaron, who is in second place on that list?

Maybe you think that’s not really a pertinent question. We tend not to ask whether people who do not, by any objective measure, hold a record will have their records surpassed. But you’d be wrong. Why, just today, on Hank Aaron’s 82nd birthday, at least two journalists speculated whether anyone would ever become the all-time second place home run king:

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 2.01.17 PM

That’s from Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated. As always, it’s excellent work from Cliff. Right up there with his seminal “will anyone ever catch Lou Brock in stolen bases?” and “who can catch Trevor Hoffman in career saves?” pieces.

Then there’s Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who approves of the question posed and has his own response:

You can imagine how those tweets were received by those parts of Twitter who are all about PED apologia, math, objective standards, noting that Aaron admitted that he took a PED that would have him banned today too and stuff like that. As always, these things get ugly.

Not that they have to be. It’s almost as if, if one were to try, one could celebrate the amazing inner-circle Hall of Fame career of Hank Aaron, full as it is with nearly unsurpassed accomplishment, without applying a revisionist gloss to the one accomplishment that, according to all objective measures and the accounting of Major League Baseball, has been surpassed. That one could talk about Aaron without slagging on Bonds.