Friday, July 10, 2015

How To Fix The Home Run Derby

The All-Star Break is upon us and that means it's time once again for the Home Run Derby. Maybe the inexplicably boring and pointless four hours of baseball all year long, despite being centered around the most exciting moment of any game.  It shouldn't be this way.  Getting the best sluggers in the game together for the sole purpose of hitting a baseball as far as possible shouldn't be so dull.  So, how do we fix it?  I've got some solutions.


The format (either whatever nonsensical playoff-bracket style they are using this year, or the boring old format of years past) is simply broken.  Nothing about it is entertaining or fun.  It feels like work for everyone, both the players trying to squeeze another couple of home runs out of their last "outs", and the fans trying to keep up with the half-dozen minor changes every year.  Just scrap it all.  The only thing that should stay the same is that it's a bunch of all-stars trying to hit home runs in ugly All-Star caps so New Era can get a nice boost in sales during July.


Hold on, I know that seems like it would only make things longer, but I'll get to that later.  In the meantime, it would be a lot more captivating if fans of every team (or at least most teams) had a horse in the race.  Expand the field to somewhere between 20 and 30 players (or, more simply, each team that sends a hitter to the ASG gets to participate.  This year, that would be 23 guys), getting more eyes on the event.  Plus, who wouldn't want to see Dee Gordon in a Home Run Derby?


It's simple.  All 20-30 batters get 10 swings.  Home Run or not, it counts against that number.  At the end of the 20ish batters getting 10 swings, whomever has the most home runs in that time wins.  That's it.  Game over.  Come back tomorrow for an actual baseball game.


Needlessly adding minutes and minutes per batter is guys just staring at pitches down the middle.  Screw that.  Have an umpire back there.  If you don't swing at a strike, it counts against your swing total.  Don't like it?  Get a better pitcher next year.  Alternatively, don't take such a silly thing so seriously.


Let's say you win the one-round home run derby by hitting 7 homers in your 10 swings.  Awesome!  Here is a $100,000 for the local charity of your choice.  Did you show up and lose?  Don't worry about it, Puig, here is $10,000 for The Boys and Girls Clubs of Los Angeles.  If there is a tie, either the two winners can split the prize, or the sponsors can pony up a second grand prize, their choice.

So now, worst case scenario, even if it's still boring as crap and takes 4 hours, at least we raised ~$250,000 for local charities in almost every MLB city.  Good publicity for the players, the event and the league itself (as well as Taco Bell or State Farm or wherever the money for the donations come from).


Just kidding.  Wouldn't that be really stupid?  What next, the All-Star Game determining home field advantage for the World Series?

There it is, five simple steps to fixing the Home Run Derby and making sure the ESPYs aren't the 2nd most exciting thing in sports the second week of July.

You're Welcome, Major League Baseball.


Good luck to Pujols in the actual Home Run Derby.  Also, hopefully the AL wins the ASG so we can get Game 7.... in Kansas City.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Johnny G, The Red Baron and Why The 2015 Angels Are Always Fun to Watch

Yeah, it's the middle of May and the Angels are still under .500.

Yeah, we had to deal with the entire Josh Hamilton fiasco throughout April and now the Angels are paying him to play for rival Texas.

Yeah, Jered Weaver has looked more like Jeff Weaver for 85% of his starts.

But honestly, this year has already been a lot of fun.

Last night against the Colorado Rockies, Johnny Giavotella (Howie Kendrick's replacement at 2nd base) hit his 6th Game Winning RBI of the season.  Considering the Angels have only won 16 games to this point, that is quite the impressive feat (even more impressive, he only has 13 RBI on the season, so roughly half of his RBI's have won the game for the Halos).  Not only is Johnny G ridiculously clutch, he is also just a fantastic at-bat to watch every time he steps up to the plate.

He makes the pitcher work almost every time up, even if he isn't getting on base or driving in a run.  He knows what he is looking for and when he gets it, he almost always connects.  Although I don't know if messing with success is the right thing to do, Johnny G seems like the perfect #2 hitter for this Angels lineup.  He would make things happen, he isn't afraid to sacrifice an at-bat to move a runner over and he can drive in more runs hitting higher in the lineup.

Also a ton of fun to watch this year is Kole Calhoun (who has been dubbed the Red Baron by Angels announcer Victor Rojas).  Calhoun has been a pretty solid outfielder for the Angels the last couple of seasons, slowly improving his game piece by piece, but it seems like 2015 is the year he puts it all together.  He leads the Angels in batting average, is 2nd on the team in RBI (despite hitting lead-off) and has been gold glove caliber every night in Right Field.  His at-bats are what you want from a traditional lead-off guy.  He sees a lot of pitches and when he gets on base (second on the team in OBP) he has enough speed to distract the pitcher.  Kole Calhoun is one of two Angels who should be locks for the All-Star Game, and hopefully the rest of the country catches on soon enough.

Even though this year hasn't been without it's pitching woes (don't get me started on Weaver, Shoemaker or Houston Street), it's also had plenty of surprises as well.  Hector Santiago came over last season in the trade that sent Mark Trumbo to Arizona (we also got Tyler Skaggs in that deal), he immediately got off to a rough start (0-7, with a 4.50+ ERA).  He eventually calmed down and had a mostly respectable 2nd half of the season, but expectations were still pretty low coming into 2015.  Now, he has a 2.57 ERA (HALF of where it was this time last year) and has looked pretty damn good in all six of his starts so far this year (even in giving up four runs to the Giants a few weeks ago, he was locating his pitches pretty well and a few got away from him).  He isn't going to be winning a Cy Young anytime soon, but as a #4 Pitcher, he is exactly what the Angels need right now.

Speaking of pitching, the true ace of the staff this season has been... wait... this can't be right... no, yeah... it's CJ Wilson.  Aside from one bad start in his 2nd game of the season, Wilson has been far more consistent this year than in his first few as an Angel.  While Weaver has struggled and Richards is getting back to 100% after knee surgery last August, Wilson has certainly stepped up as the ace of this staff.  While the Angels are 4-3 in games started by Wilson, he has certainly given them the best opportunity to win (with the exception of that start against the Royals in his 2nd game of the year).  His walks and home runs are way down, as are his WHIP and ERA.  Even if he hasn't been perfect, I'll always feel good about a game CJ Wilson is starting in 2015.

So there you have it, just four of the multiple reasons why the 2015 Los Angeles Angels are always fun to watch.  I also got through this entire article without mentioning the MOST fun reason to watch the Angels: Future President of Earth Mike Trout.  Yeah, you know... the best player in baseball who basically eliminated his only weakness, the high fastball.  Even if this season ends with 85ish wins and an early exit in the playoffs, it will a lot of fun to watch thanks to guys like Johnny G, The Red Baron and the gang.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The First Cut Is The Deepest

So there I was.  Harmlessly flipping through channels on Tuesday night.  The Angel game had ended early so I flipped over to see what the Dodgers were doing.  Then I finally saw it.  Howie Kendrick in Dodger Blue.  Not only was it difficult to see, but it was Howie driving in a go-ahead run against the Padres.  Thankfully, the Padres eventually took the game, but the damage was done.  My heart was in two.

I'm really happy with what Johnny Giavotella has been doing for the Angels over the last month or so.  He had a three-hit game in Wednesday's rubber match with the Mariners and has been solid defensively at 2nd base.  But in the long run, he is no Howie Kendrick.  Since Adam Kennedy left the club in 2006, Kendrick has been a constant, and been my favorite player, especially through the dark times (2010-2012).

Literally two articles ago was my Ode to Kendrick, so going over all the reasons I'll miss him is redundant.  But actually seeing him play baseball in a Dodger uniform for the first time stung a lot more than I was ready for.


Fortunately, the play of the Angels has been good enough to start the season that little things like seeing Howie in a Dodgers uniform and Hank Conger in an Astros uni aren't hurting THAT bad.

The pitching has been marvelous, especially CJ Wilson with his 8 Innings of shutout baseball against the M's on Tuesday.  Weaver was a little shaky on Opening Day, but had he not been facing Felix Hernandez, he probably would have had better run support.

Hitting has been a little inconsistent, but like I said earlier, Giavotella has been a pleasant surprise while guys like Calhoun and Aybar try to find their groove.  David Freese looks like the player we THOUGHT we were getting last year, and Matt Joyce looks like he could actually contribute while Hamilton is... away.  (I'll probably do another article on Hamilton at some point in the near future, meant to do one about a month ago)

Looking forward to the home opener tonight, and with any luck, we can open our season taking 4 of 6 from the 2014 AL Champs (Royals) and everyone's sexy pick to the be the 2015 AL Champs (Mariners).  My only concern is that Hector Santiago is on the mound tonight, and to say that he got off to a slow start last season is like saying King Joffrey from Game of Thrones is kind-of a jerk.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

My 2015 Hall of Fame Ballot

Listen, I already know what you are gonna say... "But Josh, shouldn't this post have been made a few days ago, or like... a week ago?"  And yes, you have a valid point. But, a few contributing factors led to this being delayed:

1. About now is when the douchey "my opinion actually matters in all this" baseball writers will post their actual ballots to their own blogs for those cheap HoF frenzy hits.  So if in this bizarro world where I'm actually given a Hall of Fame vote, I'd be the douchey baseball writer who posts his own list after the inductees have been announced.  (But not the one who let his dumb fans fill in his ballot for him, like Dan LeBetard, what an idiot)

2. The holidays were a busy time and I've just now gotten back to a regular schedule.

3. I'm really lazy*.

*- Biggest contributing factor

So, the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 has already been announced, and for the most part, baseball writers got it right... But I still have a ballot of my own.  So, following the actual rules of voting for the Baseball Hall of Fame (i.e. No Pete Rose), here is my highly anticipated list:

1. Randy Johnson, Pitcher.  Montreal Expos (1988-89), Seattle Mariners (1989-98), Houston Astros (1998), Arizona Diamondbacks (1999-2004, 2007-08), New York Yankees (2005-2006), San Francisco Giants (2009)

He is one of the four guys who actually made it in this year, and good for him.  He was one of the scariest pitchers to face in all of baseball for nearly 20 years, especially for left handed batters.  But what really gets him in the hall?  

BHWP (Birds hit with pitch):
Randy Johnson - 1
Rest of baseball, ever - 0

Those are some really impressive numbers there.  Congrats, Randy.

2. John Smoltz, Pitcher.  Atlanta Braves (1988-2008), Boston Red Sox (2009), St. Louis Cardinals (2009)

My 2nd guy is also a pitcher and also made it in the hall this year.  What makes Smoltz really special is that he did whatever the Braves needed from him for twenty years.  

Braves: "Hey Smoltzy, we need a great starting pitcher and a World Series ring"
Smoltz: "How's 157 Wins and a 1995 World Championship sound?"

Braves: "Hey Smoltzy, we screwed up and forgot to sign a closer, you good?"
Smoltz: "I can do 158 Saves and a 2.30 ERA over four years..."

Braves: "So... John, hate to do this to you again... but we really need a third starter behind our young guys..."
Smoltz: "I guess I can do another 47 wins over four years and lead the league in games started at age 39..."

John Smoltz is a pro and a damn fine hall of famer.

3. Mike Piazza, Catcher. Los Angeles Dodgers (1992-1998), Florida Marlins (1998), New York Mets (1998-2005), San Diego Padres (2006), Oakland Athletics (2007)

He is the greatest hitting catcher of all time.  He probably hit the most important home run in New York, NY's history on September 21st, 2001.  He also may or may not have done steroids.  That is the real reason he is the first guy on my list who ISNT on this year's class.  It's a stupid reason, because unlike Bonds, Clemens, McGwire and Sosa... there isn't any real proof he did or didn't.  There is a really good chance that we will elect a number of hall of famers over the next 10-15 years that at one point or another took a steroid of some sort for one reason or another.  Why are we going to exclude one of the nicest guys in baseball and the best hitting catcher of all-freaking-time?  It's stupid and another reason why the BBWAA is a joke.

4. Craig Biggio, Second Baseman, Catcher and Outfielder.  Houston Astros (1988-2007)

Another guy who would do whatever his team asked of him and did it all really well.  Not your prototypical hall of famer, but if you compare the careers of Craig Biggio and Derek Jeter (who likely is a first ballot hall of famer in 2019), they are very similar.  Smaller guys who played their hearts out day in and day out, put up good to very good stats just about every year and were clubhouse leaders.  If they were to swap teams, Craig Biggio is the one with 5 World Series rings, without a doubt.

Also, I really like when guys have careers of 15+ years and they stay with the same team.  Dude gets bonus points just for that.

5. Edgar Martinez, Third Baseman and Designated Hitter.  Seattle Mariners (1987-2004)

Here is another gripe of mine.  When the Hall of Fame takes this holier-than-thou stance against specialty positions.  There are very few Closers or Relief Pitchers in the hall, and zero guys who made a career out of being a Designated Hitter (I know you are going to say Jim Rice, but he played FAR more games in the Outfield than at DH.  Martinez played a huge majority of his career at DH).  It's stupid.  Edgar Martinez is the best and most consistent full-time DH of all time, and deserves a spot in the Hall for that accomplishment.

If you are the best at something, you should be recognized... even if it's just hitting.  There are certainly guys already in the Hall who took fielding about as seriously as Martinez did.  It's dumb and needs to be rectified.

6. Pedro Martinez, Pitcher.  Los Angeles Dodgers (1992-1993, Montreal Expos (1994-1997), Boston Red Sox (1998-2004), New York Mets (2005-2008), Philadelphia Phillies (2009)

"Why is Pedro so low?" you might ask.  Well, because the little bit of my blood that still secretly roots for the 1998-2003 Yankees freaking hates Pedro Martinez.  Also, his hall-of-fame worthy years were only about half of his career.  Johnson and Smoltz (the other pitchers so far) were at the top of the league for 15-20 years.  Pedro was there for about 7.

That's not to say what Pedro did in those seven years wasn't some of the best pitching performances of all time... but rolling his short-term success (comparatively) into the fact that I hated Pedro for a long time... he is sixth on my ballot.  Still a hall-of-famer... but screw him for throwing 72-year-old Don Zimmer onto the ground by his damn ears.  Piece of crap.

7. Curt Schilling, Pitcher. Baltimore Orioles (1988-1990), Houston Astros (1991), Philadelphia Phillies (1992-2000), Arizona Diamondbacks (2000-2003), Boston Red Sox (2004-2007)

You know what is going to be one of the great injustices in baseball history?  The fact that Curt Schilling won't be a hall of famer, but his damn bloody sock has been there for a decade.

There are a lot of reasons to not like Curt Schilling.  He is a crap baseball analyst.  He lost thousands of people their jobs by mismanaging his video game studio.  Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS.  

But after all that, he does have far too many fantastic postseason starts (and consistently great regular seasons) to not be in the Hall.  He probably never will be, but at least his DNA will be there forever.

8. Lee Smith, Pitcher.  Chicago Cubs (1980-1987), Boston Red Sox (1988-1990), St. Louis Cardinals (1990-93), New York Yankees (1993), Baltimore Orioles (1994), California Angels (1995-96), Cincinnati Reds (1996), Montreal Expos (1997)

The only player on my ballot that I never actually saw play (sorry, Tim Raines).  He was the career leader in saves until Trevor Hoffman finally passed him 15 or so years later... one of the best closers of all time who will probably never earn his spot in the hall because of BBWAA prejudices.  It's a dumb thing that needs to change.

9. Barry Bonds, Left Fielder.  Pittsburgh Pirates (1986-1992), San Francisco Giants (1993-2007)

So.... Yeah.  Did Steroids.  Did Lots of them.  Was a complete dick.  

However, the Hall isn't without it's assholes (see: Ty Cobb, everyone who didn't let Black People play until the 1940's, etc).

Also, there is little doubt in anyone's mind that without Steroids, Bonds would have ended up with 500 home runs, 500 stolen bases, 2000 Career Runs and a lifetime batting average hovering around .300.  Those are some solid Hall of Fame numbers, even without the extra 250 Home Runs that Steroids added.  

I know it's the BBWAA's way of "punishing" Bonds for his illicit steroid use (in an era when AT LEAST 75% of the players had to be taking them) and all those years of him not being nice to them... but screw that.  He was already on his way to be one of the best players of the 1990's before all the steroid stuff really started.  It's another dumb thing that makes me hate what the Baseball Hall of Fame stands for.

10. Troy Percival, Pitcher.  California/Anaheim Angels (1995-2004), Detroit Tigers (2005), St. Louis Cardinals (2007), Tampa Bay Rays (2008-2009)

Okay, this is my Homer Vote.  Yeah, it probably could have gone to someone like Sosa or Raines who deserves it more... but Troy Percival was the lone bright spot on those late-1990's Angels teams.  He had an impressive 350+ career saves over a relatively short (for a closer) big league career.  

I've even forgiven him for retiring as an Angel, then coming out of retirement to pitch three more seasons, then retiring as an Angel again as though nothing happened. 

Actually, wait... screw that... I haven't.  Sammy Sosa gets this vote.  Screw you, Troy... Angel fans never forget...