Articles By Charlie Miller
Trading baseball players between teams has been part of the charm of the game since the 1800s. Ornery players traded after disputes with managers, struggling players traded for one another in hopes that a change of scenery will bring life back to their game, aging stars traded for young prospects, pitching traded for hitting, difficult contract negotiations avoided by trades, financially embarrassed teams trading players for cash — the game has seen all kinds of reasons for swapping players.
As we enter the annual trading season that is July, I am reminded of three trades over the winter that teams would love to have back.
Giants receive Melky Cabrera from Royals for Ryan Verdugo and Jonathan Sanchez
Back in November, this deal seemed to make sense for both clubs. Sanchez was a young pitcher with enormous talent yet to completely harness it. Cabrera, very much the same, just hadn’t quite figured everything out. Or had he? Perhaps careful observers in Kansas City would have thought Cabrera had indeed turned the corner in his career, not merely put together a career year, never to be matched again.
This trade clearly made sense from San Francisco’s perspective. The pitching-rich Giants have starters Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner leading their rotation and all three are still very much affordable. The Giants were starved for some kind of offense, and Cabrera looked the part.
Cabrera, a .270 hitter who averaged nine homers and 57 RBIs in four full seasons with the Yankees, never quite seemed to unlock his potential. A year of the same with the Braves landed him in Kansas City for 2011. Rededicating himself to the game, Cabrera figured a few things out and hit a career-best .305 with 18 home runs and 44 doubles. What to Kansas City may have appeared to be a career year, was Cabrera, at age 26, just hitting his prime.
Sanchez had shown vast potential alongside Lincecum and Cain in San Francisco for a few seasons. In 2010, the lefthander held hitters to an NL-best 6.6 hits per nine innings. The downside was that he led the league in walks with 96 even though he pitched just 193.1 innings, 30th in the NL. While the Royals thought a change of scenery might be just what the pitching doctor ordered for Sanchez, he has struggled mightily this season, looking lost on the mound at times.
And last Tuesday night Cabrera sprinkled a little salt in the Royals wound as he accepted the MVP award for the All-Star Game in the Royals stadium.
Astros receive Jed Lowrie and Kyle Weiland from Red Sox for Mark Melancon
In December the Red Sox saw a need for help in the starting rotation and saw former setup man Daniel Bard as the solution. In order for that experiment to work, the Sox needed a suitable substitute for Bard in the bullpen. Enter Mark Melancon from Houston. And somehow Boston brass felt like Marco Scutaro and Mike Aviles were sufficient for shortstop. Then in January, Boston decided that there wasn’t enough pitching and that perhaps Jose Iglesias was ready at short, so the Sox traded Scutaro for pitcher Clayton Mortensen. The net effect was that Boston created a hole at short that Aviles has filled.
Melancon was a disaster to begin the season. In his first four appearances in April, he recorded just six outs and allowed 10 earned runs earning a quick demotion to the minors for almost eight weeks. But since his return, the righthander once traded from the Yankees with Jimmy Paredes for Lance Berkman, has pitched 13.2 innings with a 0.66 ERA and 0.73 WHIP. And the much-traveled Mortensen has been sufficient in a long-relief role, averaging more than two innings per appearance with a sub-2.00 ERA.
Meanwhile, Lowrie has been one of the top offensive shortstops in the National League, leading the Astros with 14 home runs. A recent ankle injury has shelved Lowrie for what could be six weeks, but he has proven he can be a productive player.
This trade is not exactly a debacle in Boston history, but once Iglesias didn’t prove himself at short, and with Bard’s shuttling in and out of the rotation, the dominoes have not fallen Boston’s way.
Yankees receive Michael Pineda and Jose Campos from Mariners for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi
Maybe the Mariners fleeced the Yankees by trading damaged goods in Pineda, but New York has gotten zilch to this point for their once-prized prospect Montero. Many observers felt that Montero alone should have been enough to pry Pineda from Seattle.
The 19-year-old Jose Campos is pitching in Single-A for the Yankees while Pineda is recovering from shoulder surgery and won’t be available until May 2013 at the earliest. Montero and Noesi haven’t been as good as advertised for the Mariners, but the M’s are willing to allow the two to learn the game at the big league level, something the Yankees really couldn’t afford to do.
A strong recovery by Pineda in 2013 will take the sting out of this trade, but for now, the Yankees might like to have this one back.
Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for July 16, 2012.
1. Rangers—All-Star Matt Harrison pitching like Cy Young Matt Harrison.
2. Yankees—Odds-on favorite to be first team to clinch.
3. Nationals—Pine tar flap with Ozzie didn’t faze Bryce Harper.
4. Braves—Hottest team in the National League putting heat on Nats.
5. White Sox—Two more one-run wins over the weekend.
6. Angels—Continue tough stretch, four at Detroit, three vs. Texas.
7. Giants—Will Giants trade for a hitter again this season?
8. Reds—Fans enjoyed flashing the brooms over the weekend.
9. Dodgers—Defense gave away a game — can’t afford many of those.
10. Pirates—Stay in first place was brief, but upcoming schedule is friendly.
11. Tigers—Beginning to look like a team deserving of division title.
12. Rays—Offense still nowhere to be found.
13. Orioles—Wheels beginning to come off at Camden Yards.
14. Blue Jays—Chance to make a statement this week at N.Y. and Boston.
15. Red Sox—Return of Jacoby Ellsbury should spark offense.
16. Cardinals—Bullpen wasn’t up to challenge at Cincinnati.
17. A’s—Creeping into the wild card discussion.
18. Mets—Falling out of contention fast.
19. Indians—Slipped into third in AL Central.
20. Brewers—Playing nine in a row vs. top three teams in NL Central.
21. Diamondbacks—Mustered only three runs over the weekend at Wrigley Field.
22. Marlins—Offense will struggle without Giancarlo Stanton.
23. Phillies—Time to see just how much pride this team has.
24. Royals—11 of next 14 games are against Twins and Mariners.
25. Twins—Trying to avoid worst record in the league two years in a row.
26. Mariners—Just can’t generate any offense.
27. Cubs—Hottest team in the majors over last three weeks.
28. Padres—Will San Diego begin the trading frenzy?
29. Rockies—Wasting away Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez primes.
30. Astros—Last season in National League turning into a disaster.
In the 17 seasons that have concluded with a postseason since baseball expanded to the three-division format in 1994, 66 of the 102 teams that were in first place at the All-Star break went on to win their division (64.7%). Of the 136 teams in line for a playoff spot, 87 of them actually made the playoffs (64.0%). So, there’s a pretty good chance that four of the six division leaders will hang on to their leads. So which teams are most likely to see their leads vanish?
Here’s a look at how the races might shape up in the second half.
While the Orioles and Rays toyed with fans earlier this season, no one really believed that the Yankees and Red Sox would finish near the bottom of the division. Baltimore is hanging around longer than expected, but the wheels are beginning to come off. Three members of their opening week rotation are now working in the minors. The Rays may have a late charge in them if a healthy Evan Longoria can lift the struggling offense, and the Red Sox are too talented not to find their way into the race. But this is New York’s division to lose, and the Yankees won’t let it slip away in September.
The Detroit Tigers are the most disappointing team in the American League. And Chicago may be the most surprising. Playing with as many as 10 rookies and a rookie manager (at any level), the Sox are beginning to build a little cushion. But Detroit started to put some wins together at the end of the first half and will find a way to win this division. The lineup is potent, the bullpen is sound, and the rotation is good enough. It’s the defense that must improve, and expect manager Jim Leyland to see that it does.
Most fans thought when the Angels signed Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson that this would be a dogfight to the finish. The Rangers are just too good for the Angels this season. Texas has a deeper lineup and a much better bullpen than their adversaries on the West Coast. Los Angeles had a terrific June but gained no ground on Texas. This could be a runaway for the Rangers.
AL Wild Card
The Angels will secure the first wild card spot, but the second will be up for grabs through the final weekend of the season. Both Boston and Tampa Bay from the East will be in the race, while Chicago or Cleveland could take advantage of a softer division schedule in the Central. Tampa Bay finishes the season with trips to Boston and Chicago before hosting the Orioles in the three series that could determine the final wild card spot. Expect the Rays’ starting pitching to be the deciding factor and give Tampa Bay the final playoff spot.
The Marlins are streaky enough to put together at least one more run. The Mets have provided a great story this season, especially when R.A. Dickey is on the mound. But this isn’t the Mets’ year. Atlanta will hang with Washington behind the Braves’ solid pitching and deep bullpen. The Nationals, who own the best record in the NL, have the best pitching and a talented, energetic lineup. However, the Nats don’t exactly have pennant race experience on the field. But their manager Davey Johnson knows how to navigate pennant races. It will get tense down the stretch, but Washington will hang on and bring postseason baseball to our nation’s capital for the first time since 1933.
This may prove to be the most exciting, free-for-all race in the majors this season. With the division-leading Pirates, the second-place Reds and defending world champion Cardinals, the NL Central could go any of three ways. The Reds, who finish the season with a road trip to Pittsburgh and St. Louis, don’t seem to have enough pitching to win this division, and the Pirates may not have enough offense. Will that open the way for the Cardinals? This race will stay tight, and the two factors that will likely determine the outcome will be health and acquisitions. The Cardinals are the deepest team that can withstand injuries, but also have a roster full of injury-prone players. One or two minor injuries in Pittsburgh could easily derail that team. St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak has shown the moxie to make shrewd deals during the season. It will be interesting to see if the Pirates are willing to part with some young talent and swing a major trade of their own. While we can’t expect magic dust to settle in St. Louis again this season, I’ll still give a slight edge to the experienced Cardinals at the wire.
Over the past few weeks, the Dodgers and Giants have exchanged blows and swapped a little time in first place. Somehow the Dodgers continued to win without Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, who provide the bulk of the Los Angeles offense. With Kemp coming back after the break and strong pitching, the Dodgers will finish in first place.
NL Wild Card
Talk about a real free-for-all that could see lead changes multiple times over the last couple of weeks of the season. The Braves, Giants, Marlins, Cardinals, Pirates, Reds and maybe even the Diamondbacks, Mets or Phillies could be a factor. When it all shakes out, it will be the Giants hosting the second-place team in the Central division. And we’re going with the Pirates, who will make their first postseason appearance since 1992.
Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
This is the 11th season that the All-Star Game has “counted.” If you recall, way back in 2001, both teams ran out of pitchers and the game ended in a tie after 11 exciting innings, leaving fans at the stadium and TV viewers disappointed, to put it mildly.
So, in all his wisdom, Commissioner Bud Selig — along with TV executives — led efforts to bring some meaning back to the All-Star Game. The result is that the All-Star Game determines home-field advantage for the World Series.
I don’t understand how players and teams accept determining home-field advantage by teams elected by the fans in a popularity vote. No disrespect to Pablo Sandoval, but the National League will play the game with one of its best players, David Wright of the Mets, starting on the bench. Dan Uggla, maybe not even the third-best second baseman in the NL, will start the game, leaving Brandon Phillips of the Reds out of the game completely.
(And before you start going all Dusty Baker on me, it’s clear to most everyone outside of Cincinnati that Jose Altuve is the most deserving second baseman in the NL, and it doesn’t make sense to take three second baseman, so Phillips must be left out.)
And even the players aren’t above the whole popularity thing. How else do you explain why A.J. Pierzynski wasn’t selected by his peers to represent his league? He’s having as good a season as any catcher in the American League, but he’ll be watching from home as the AL tries to secure home-field advantage.
With the starters voted in by the fans, some players elected by a survey of players, and other reserves selected by the manager, how can we expect the best of each team to be there?
And without the best vs. the best, how can we use this game to determine home-field advantage?
While there are so many things wrong with that, it isn’t the only problem MLB has with its midsummer showcase.
In case you missed it over the winter, there was a clear directive from MLB requiring players selected for the game to be there. No more begging off with slight or phantom injuries. So, how’s that working out?
The Nationals’ Ian Desmond, selected as a reserve for the National League, has already begged out of the game due to an injury involving his side. Okay. However, over the weekend he seemed healthy enough to get four hits in seven at-bats with two home runs and two stolen bases — and that was just Saturday and Sunday. How does that make sense? Even with the Nationals in position to make the playoffs for the first time since 1981 when the franchise was in Montreal, Desmond doesn’t seem too concerned with helping his NL mates secure home-field advantage for the World Series.
The game no longer reflects the way the game is played on a daily basis. Only in the All-Star Game do we see pitchers throwing no more than two innings. Since that’s the way the game is played, if you really wanted to win, wouldn’t you stock your team with relief pitchers who have mastered the one-inning appearance?
And rarely do we see All-Star managers attempt to get favorable matchups. There’s no lefty vs. lefty strategizing like you would see during a pennant race. In case you haven’t noticed, there are no setup men on either roster. Not only are there some deserving candidates, but those pitchers are perfectly suited for this type of game.
And managers take great pains to get everyone in the game. If they were really trying to win, would you see Matt Joyce replacing Josh Hamilton or Howie Kendrick subbing for Robinson Cano? Those are just two of the moves made in last year’s game.
And I know that this year’s situation is rare, but we have a manager (Tony La Russa) selecting a good portion of the team for the National League and actually running the game, but with no stake in it whatsoever.
Here are a couple of suggestions to improve the All-Star Game for the fans.
1) Forget home-field advantage for the World Series
I know that players treating this game as meaningless is what caused MLB to overreact in the first place. But here’s a thought: Tie players’ foundations to the game. Most players have a cause they support, and if they don’t already, being selected to play in the All-Star Game would give them a reason to find a cause. Only foundations and charities of players who participate will benefit. Winning players’ foundations will benefit more than the losers. How many players will beg out of an opportunity to boost their charitable work? No more than are begging out now.
2) Keep player selection as is
Keep the fans involved in selecting players. Keep the players vote. Allow managers to select reserves. And, by all means, keep the rule that all teams must be represented. No group of fans should be left out of this classic.
3) Make it a complete All-Star week
I really like the idea of the Futures Game. It’s a terrific way to reward prospects and give the fans a glimpse into the future. The Futures Game should be played at the site of the All-Star Game on Monday night, prime time, when there’s no other baseball. After the All-Star Game on Tuesday, honor the past with an Old-timers All-Star Night. Rather than having the recently retired Randy Johnson face the aging Yogi Berra, have a three-inning game with older players from the 1950s and ’60s. Then have a seven-inning version with more recently retired players like Cal Ripken, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. You think fans wouldn’t flock to see those guys in uniform one more time? After an off-day on Thursday, it’s back to the regular season on Friday.
Oh, and the solution for home-field for four games in the World Series? How about taking the most wins in interleague play? After all, that seems to be a more fair and accurate way to judge the better league anyway.
- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
I don’t care much for the Home Run Derby. Never really have. I usually watch parts of it, but I can’t stay in front of a TV and watch the entire spectacle. And what little time I will spend watching, I’ll have the mute button handy to avoid as many “Back-back-back..blah-blah-blah” home run calls as possible. I’m sure it’s better in person, but I would be much more interested in reactions from other players than actually watching guys swinging for the fences.
If you knew that I was such a fan of small-ball, speed and defense, it really wouldn’t surprise you that I’m not crazy about the homerfest that prefaces the annual All-Star Game.
But my apathy for this event won’t prevent me from making a few suggestions that would help the affair.
First, I would create second and third levels in the stands in the outfield that would offer bonus points for hitting longer home runs. In some stadiums, this could simply be the upper decks. But the hitters should be rewarded for longer, more prodigious clouts. After all, the longer the home run, the more fans seem to get excited. I would make the third level almost impossible to reach. The scoring would be simple and easy for fans to grasp. A point for a home run in the first level, reaching the second level would be three points and the third level even more.
Secondly, I would divide the home run area into nine sections from foul pole to foul pole. Hitters would receive bonus points for each section reached with home runs. That rewards hitters who have power to all fields. Again, simple scoring, would reward hitters a bonus point for hitting a home run into a second section. Then maybe even two bonus points for the third section. Seeing guys trying to go oppo could be fun.
But the biggest change would be to make this a bracket competition. Have each of the four AL hitters go head-to-head with a counterpart from the NL. Follow that with semifinals and finals. I understand that means the players hitting the second- and third- most home runs may not continue, but it would create some drama throughout the night. I would suggest three innings for each match, and allow only three “outs” per inning.
Those three changes just might be enough to pique my interest for the entire night.
- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for July 9, 2012.
1. Rangers—Scored fewest runs so far in July.
2. Yankees—Largest lead in the majors — and growing.
3. Nationals—Success seems to follow Davey Johnson everywhere.
4. Angels—Lead majors with 13 shutouts.
5. White Sox—Robin Ventura deserves tremendous credit for team’s success.
6. Braves—Finished first half with sweep at Philadelphia.
7. Dodgers—Last in majors with 107 fewer extra-base hits than Red Sox.
8. Giants—Given up 55 runs in nine games since four straight shutouts.
9. Pirates—Won six of last seven series to end first half.
10. Reds—6-9 vs. St. Louis and Pittsburgh so far this season.
11. Rays—Tampa Bay is 37-7 when scoring four runs or more.
12. Orioles—Terrific managing job by Buck Showalter.
13. Mets—R.A. Dickey should be starting the All-Star Game.
14. Cardinals—World champs had identical 46-40 mark last year.
15. Tigers—Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in top four in RBIs in AL.
16. Blue Jays—Only team with two teammates combined for 50 homers.
17. Indians—Forgotten team in AL Central race.
18. A’s—Bad time for All-Star break, won 17 of last 25.
19. Diamondbacks—Trevor Bauer could be huge boost in second half.
20. Red Sox—Lead majors with 314 extra-base hits.
21. Marlins—How much can Carlos Lee boost offense?
22. Brewers—Trade bait Zack Greinke will make three consecutive starts.
23. Twins—6-13 vs. division leaders; 30-36 against all other teams.
24. Mariners—Only team in AL with as many as 50 losses (51).
25. Royals—All-Star Game hosts are 34-33 after horrific start.
26. Phillies—Entering the break in disarray.
27. Rockies—Rox are 9-22 since early June.
28. Padres—Ended first half with downer thanks to Cincinnati.
29. Cubs—Finally, a break from the cellar, thanks to the Astros.
30. Astros—Rebuilding continues; growing pains may intensify.
Every season just before the Fourth of July, I put together my two All-Star teams and marvel at how my rosters differ from the fan vote, and to some degree the players’ and managers’ choices. But it’s usually the fans that are most off base. But I get it. This is a popularity vote. No matter how much MLB tries to convince fans that “This Time it Counts,” or some similar slogan, fans vote for their favorite players.
But I must say, the fans did a much better job this year. As usual, the Yankees showed well at the ballot box, as did the Giants in the National League with Buster Posey leading with more than 7 million votes. More votes were cast than ever as Josh Hamilton shattered the record by topping 11 million votes.
My rosters have 34 players, at least one representative from each team, a starter and backup at each position, and I didn’t ignore setup men like the managers did. Oh, just for fun, the starters appear below in my suggested batting order as well.
So, without further setup, here are my two 2012 MLB All-Star rosters.
CF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh
Quickly, and awfully quietly, becoming one of the best all-around players in the NL, McCutchen has been clutch with the bat, his legs and with the glove for the surprising Pirates this season.
RF Carlos Beltran, St. Louis
The newest member of the 300-300 and 2,000-hit clubs leads the NL with 60 RBIs and is second to Ryan Braun with 20 home runs.
1B Joey Votto, Cincinnati
This may be the easiest selection of both leagues. Best pure hitter in the National League and best first baseman in baseball right now.
LF Matt Kemp, Los Angeles
The Dodgers’ center fielder was having too good a season to leave off this team even though a balky hamstring has robbed him of more than a month.
3B David Wright, New York
The fans really blew this one. Wright, hitting .354, is leading all third basemen with 50 runs and 53 RBIs.
DH Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
The 2011 NL MVP had a rough offseason, but on the field picked up right where he left off last season.
2B Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati
A handful of second sackers could start for the NL this season, but Phillips gets the nod because of his awesome defense.
SS Rafael Furcal, St. Louis
No one at the position especially stands out in the NL, but Furcal leads shortstops with 52 runs and has driven in 31 from his leadoff spot.
C Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia
Anytime a catcher is leading the league in batting average, you have to allow him to start. Ruiz is batting .356, handles pitchers well and is tough to steal on.
SP R.A. Dickey, New York
Forget about Dickey being the best feel-good story this season; he’s the best starting pitcher in the NL this year. The Mets are 13-3 when he starts, 30-34 when he doesn’t.
C Yadier Molina, St. Louis
Molina has more home runs and RBIs than Ruiz, but his batting average is 44 points lower. A close call at backstop in the National League. Any of the three (with Ruiz and Posey) could start. All three can hit, handle pitchers and throw. But no catcher throws like Yadi.
C Buster Posey, San Francisco
I like having three catchers, but Posey offers some pop and is a tough out off the bench.
1B Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
After a slow start, Goldschmidt is batting .327 with 19 doubles and 10 homers since May 1.
2B Jose Altuve, Houston
Don’t think this is a token appearance by an Astro, because Altuve can really play. He leads second basemen with a .308 average, but only half as many homers and RBIs as Phillips.
2B Aaron Hill, Arizona
I guess hitting for the cycle twice in 12 days earns an All-Star spot.
3B Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco
Even though the Panda missed 35 games with a wrist injury, he’s proven to be the second-best third sacker this year, keeping his average above .300 all season.
SS Ian Desmond, Washington
Desmond has the most pop at the position with 39 extra-base hits and 43 ribbies.
SS Starlin Castro, Chicago
Still learning nuances of the game, but he’s proving that his league-leading total of 207 hits last season was no fluke.
OF Melky Cabrera, San Francisco
With a .352 average, Cabrera deserves to start, but unfortunately, so do three other guys.
OF Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado
Fans got to know CarGo in 2010 as he chased the triple crown. After an injury-plagued 2011, he’s resumed the chase this season and resides among the top six in each of the three categories.
OF Giancarlo Stanton, Miami
It took a while for Stanton to get going, but his .915 OPS is eighth in the league and his 38 total bases rank fifth.
OF Dexter Fowler, Colorado
I know he was awful the first six weeks, but since May 27 he’s hit .348 with a 1.055 OPS to bring his average up to .289 and his season OPS to .926.
SP Matt Cain, San Francisco
Tossing the first perfect game in Giants history is enough to get Cain on the team, but he also has two shutouts and a 0.950 WHIP.
SP Gio Gonzalez, Washington
The Nationals have the best rotation in the NL and Gonzalez has been at the top of the rotation all season.
SP Stephen Strasburg, Washington
Even though the Nats are trying to limit his innings, Strasburg deserves an inning in K.C. on Tuesday.
SP James McDonald Pittsburgh
The Dodgers probably regret trading this rising star for a month of Octavio Dotel back in 2010.
SP Cole Hamels, Philadelphia
With Roy Halladay on the shelf and Cliff Lee still winless, the Phillies have relied on Hamels to stay afloat during the first half.
SP Wade Miley, Arizona
The Diamondbacks are 9-4 in his starts. They supported him with two, one, zero and two runs in those losses.
SP Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
The reigning Cy Young just edges teammate Chris Capuano.
RP Sergio Romo, San Francisco
Called on for a few save opportunities, Romo has a sub-1.00 WHIP and ERA.
RP Aroldis Chapman, Cincinnati
He may be the most feared pitcher in the game on Tuesday.
CL Tyler Clippard, Washington
Originally a setup man, Clippard is 13-for-13 in saves since taking over as closer in late May.
CL Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta
Kimbrel has followed his tremendous rookie season with another dandy so far this season.
CL Huston Street, San Diego
He’s a perfect 12-for-12 in save opps and in 11 of those saves he’s faced no more than four batters. In 21 innings he has 28 Ks and given up only eight hits and six walks.
CF Adam Jones, Baltimore
The Gold Glover in center is batting .302, has scored 52 runs and is now on the very short list for best player in the AL. Hamilton is the lone AL outfielder with more extra-base hits.
2B Robinson Cano, New York
The Yankees’ second baseman is arguably the best player in the league.
LF Josh Hamilton, Texas
Slowed some by injuries (surprise), Hamilton is having another MVP season.
3B Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Perhaps the closest call in either lineup, Cabrera just edges Adrian Beltre in runs, homers and RBIs.
1B Paul Konerko, Chicago
Two of the best first basemen in the NL last season — Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder — now play in the AL, but Konerko has been the best this season.
DH David Ortiz, Boston
Certainly Edgar Martinez has an argument, but Big Papi may be the best DH ever.
RF Jose Bautista, Toronto
Hitting only .239, but improving, Joey Bats still leads the league in bombs.
SS Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland
One of the best defensive players in baseball, Cabrera owns the highest OPS among AL shortstops.
C A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago
Evidently the White Sox veteran is not the most popular among fans or players given that he wasn’t even selected to the squad. He’s our starter.
SP David Price, Tampa Bay
The hard-throwing lefty is tied for the AL lead with 11 wins.
C Joe Mauer, Minnesota
Working on another batting title, Mauer is still among the elite catchers in the game.
C Matt Wieters, Baltimore
A defensive whiz, the switch-hitting Wieters can provide some punch at the plate. He’s batting .403 vs. lefthanders.
1B Prince Fielder, Detroit
The Tigers have been disappointing this season, but Fielder has not.
1B Albert Pujols, Los Angeles
First of all, how can you keep one of the game’s biggest stars out of this game? And secondly, he’s hitting .324 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs in 48 games since May 9.
2B Jason Kipnis, Cleveland
Leading the Tribe in hits, RBIs and steals, Kipnis is also one of the best defenders at his position.
3B Adrian Beltre, Texas
The reigning Gold Glove winner is a beast with the bat as well.
SS Elvis Andrus, Texas
The best team in the AL is full of All-Stars.
OF Mike Trout, Los Angeles
He’s batting .339 with a .938 OPS and leads AL outfielders with 22 stolen bases even though he spent the first month of the season in the minors.
OF Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles
Manager Mike Scioscia has had trouble finding a position for Trumbo, but with a .981 OPS and 20 jacks, he must be in the lineup everyday.
OF Austin Jackson, Detroit
Buoyed by a .404 OBP, the rising star is fifth among AL outfielder in OPS.
OF Curtis Granderson, New York
He doesn’t consider himself a power hitter, but he’s followed his 41-homer season with 23 by the break.
DH Billy Butler, Kansas City
It’s a shame that there aren’t more stars for the hometown fans.
SP Justin Verlander, Detroit
The reigning Cy Young, MVP dude is having an “off” year with a 0.98 WHIP and 2.69 ERA.
SP Matt Harrison, Texas
He wasn’t selected merely as a favor from his manager. Harrison has a 1.42 ERA over his last eight starts — all Texas wins.
SP Jake Peavy, Chicago
One of four pitchers with a sub-1.00 WHIP in the AL.
SP Jered Weaver, Los Angeles
A stint on the DL didn’t keep Weaver, who leads the AL with a 0.92 WHIP, off the team.
SP Chris Sale, Chicago
Drafted in 2010, Sale leagues the league with a 2.27 ERA.
SP Felix Hernandez, Seattle
King Felix is having a fine season, but honestly he is the only All-Star on either roster who made it solely because every team must be represented.
RP Ernesto Frieri, Los Angeles
Traded from San Diego in early May, he’s tossed 24.1 scoreless frames for the Halos.
RP Vinnie Pestano, Cleveland
He has 19 holds and only one blown chance.
RP Scott Downs, Los Angeles
If Ron Washington needs a lefty for a key out, Downs is one of the best.
CL Jim Johnson, Baltimore
He has been versatile throughout his career, but this season he’s proven he can close effectively.
CL Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay
After an awful 2011 season, the lights-out closer isn’t the first pitcher to re-establish himself with the Rays.
CL Ryan Cook, Oakland
Leads the A’s with 11 holds and is tied for team lead with seven saves. Didn’t allow a run in his first 21 appearances covering 23 innings.
- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for July 2, 2012.
1. Rangers—First team to win 50 games.
2. Yankees—Can they withstand injuries to CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte?
3. Nationals—Best team in the National League? No one is arguing.
4. Angels—Terrific June, but gained no ground on Rangers.
5. Giants—Run of four shutouts propelled Giants into first place.
6. Reds—Brandon Phillips not an All-Star? He would start on our team.
7. Dodgers—Should have Matt Kemp back in lineup after All-Star break.
8. Orioles—Traded for Jim Thome to boost offense.
9. Rays—Team is batting just .232; desperately need Evan Longoria back.
10. Blue Jays—Best last-place team in baseball.
11. Braves—Mike Minor over Stephen Strasburg in only win of series.
12. White Sox—Pitching staff led by rookies.
13. Mets—Fans really blew the third base voting. #DavidWright
14. Pirates—Bullpen is tied with Reds for NL’s best ERA at 2.73.
15. Cardinals—No bridge between starters and late-inning relievers.
16. Red Sox—Best they could do was a split at Seattle?
17. Diamondbacks—Wade Miley pitching like an ace.
18. Indians—Hosting Angels and Rays in key series to finish first half.
19. Tigers—Should make some hay vs. Twins and Royals before break.
20. A’s—Closer Ryan Cook is well-kept secret.
21. Marlins—No team happier to see calendar turn from June than Marlins.
22. Brewers—Potential Zack Greinke trade in the making?
23. Twins—At .324, Joe Mauer is chasing another batting title.
24. Mariners—Scored nine runs in their last eight games.
25. Phillies—Sweep at Miami was painful.
26. Royals—Testing six-man rotation.
27. Astros—Jose Altuve, Jed Lowrie impressive middle infield.
28. Padres—Yasmani Grandal switch-hits bombs for first two hits of career.
29. Rockies—Pitching staff performing at “worst ever” levels.
30. Cubs—Youngster Brett Jackson may be on way to join Anthony Rizzo.
Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National Leagues and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's — June 18-24 — standouts.
AL Player of the Week
Will Middlebrooks, Boston
The Red Sox are confident enough in rookie Middlebrooks that they were willing to part with long-time fan favorite Kevin Youkilis last weekend. The young third sacker hasn’t disappointed and seems to be getting better. Last week he hit .625 with a 2.007 OPS with three home runs and 10 RBIs.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Justin Verlander, Detroit
Verlander still hasn’t pitched a perfect game, but he defeated both the Cardinals and Pirates last week, holding the two teams to 10 hits over 16 innings. The righthander walked only five and struck out 10 in winning both his starts for the Tigers. Verlander’s last four starts (all wins) have come against National League teams.
NL Player of the Week
Jason Heyward, Atlanta
The streaky Braves rightfielder has been on-again off-again this season, but was definitely on last week during a road trip to Boston and New York to visit the Yankees. He led the National League with nine runs and had seven extra-base hits. He batted .522 with three homers and five RBIs.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Wade Miley, Arizona
The Southeastern Louisiana alum may be the best-kept secret in the big leagues. The Diamondbacks have won seven of his last 10 starts, and scored a total of three runs in the three losses. Last week, Miley defeated the Mariners and Cubs, tossing a total of 15 innings and giving up just 12 hits and one walk. He whiffed 15. He is now 9-3 with a 2.19 ERA for the season.
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for June 25, 2012.
1. Rangers—Three players on pace to drive in more than 100 runs.
2. Yankees—Bronx Bombers bashing way toward top of AL.
3. Dodgers—Only six homers so far in June; eight players have more.
4. Rays—Only team hitting below .200 (.196) in seventh inning and later.
5. Reds—Upcoming West Coast trip should be good for pitching stats.
6. Orioles—Scored 10 runs in last seven games.
7. Angels—Won seven of 10 but lost ground to Rangers.
8. Nationals—Lost four of six to Baltimore this season, but still in first place.
9. Giants—12 saves by five different pitchers in June (13 wins).
10. Blue Jays—Jose Bautista finding his power stroke.
11. Braves—NL East shaping up to be fun battle.
12. White Sox—Trade for Kevin Youkilis should improve offense and defense.
13. Diamondbacks—Shortstops are batting .301 this season without Stephen Drew.
14. Cardinals—Much better result vs. Royals this weekend.
15. Pirates—Won 18 of 27 over last 30 days.
16. Mets—Major League-worst 4.84 ERA from seventh inning on.
17. Red Sox—Scored 68 runs in last nine wins.
18. Indians—Batting .266 vs. righthanders, just .215 against lefties.
19. Tigers—Where’s the offense? Scored eight runs in last five games.
20. A’s—Who would have guessed? Lead majors in runs during June.
21. Phillies—Season is slipping away but Ryan Howard to return soon.
22. Brewers—Played five extra-inning games already in June (won two).
23. Marlins—Majors’ worst record and ERA in June.
24. Mariners—Tom Wilhelmsen has been terrific answer as closer.
25. Royals—Unfriendly Kaufman; eight more road wins than at home.
26. Twins—Trevor Plouffe hitting .351 with 10 homers in June.
27. Astros—5.80 ERA in June has been a killer.
28. Rockies—Sure, Troy Tulowitzki is missed, but starters have 6.40 ERA.
29. Padres—Batting just .153 with runners in scoring position and two outs.
30. Cubs—Bright side: Took two of three from Southsiders last week.
Was B.J. Upton’s chopper off R.A. Dickey down the third-base line a hit or an error? By my standards, it was an error. By most official scorer’s decisions on a nightly basis, it was a hit.
It doesn’t carry the same weight as a block/charge in basketball or pass interference/no call in football — those decisions affect the outcome of the game — but every night in every baseball game the official scorer decides hit or error at least once. And while it doesn’t affect the outcome, it does play havoc with batting averages, ERAs and, as we saw last night, even history.
Wednesday night in St. Pete, this is not just your garden variety hit/error decision where the Mets' Dickey might call the press box during the game to have the scorer make a change, only to have Upton make a subsequent call to have it changed back. No. There’s much more import here.
You see, this was the only play in which the scorer ruled a hit for the Rays.
Dickey faced just two batters over the minimum during his sterling effort. Third baseman David Wright made an error on a ground ball by Elliot Johnson leading off the ninth inning. Had the no-hitter still been in effect, this would have been a defining moment. Instead, it was just another error.
The deeper issue I have is that official scorers have become much too hitter-friendly over the years. A quick glance at error totals through the years supports this. I understand that fielders are better, gloves are better, fields are immaculate eliminating most weird bounces, but it seems that in order to be charged with an error these days, the ball must bounce out of a glove, a throw sail wide or a ground ball must squirt through a fielder’s legs.
Wright should have made that play on Upton, in my opinion. From a pitcher’s perspective, an out should have been recorded. It wasn’t, so charge an error. However, by most scoring standards, this was a hit.
Last night, as the Cardinals were nursing a 1-0 lead in the ninth inning, a ground ball up the middle just eludes shortstop Rafael Furcal, allowing a runner to reach. My call: Error, no question. Official Scorer: Hit. In this instance, other than Alejandro De Aza of the White Sox having another hit in his column this morning, there was no impact whatsoever. No ERA effect, no game-changer, no history re-writing.
Questionable scoring decisions occur every night in every game. Most have no lasting effect, and most even would be considered “correct” by experts. And there are review processes in place under certain circumstances. But let’s not start changing calls just because a no-hitter is in play.
Upton was the third batter Dickey faced in the first inning, so no one is thinking no-hitter at that time. And with a 1 in the column under H on the scoreboard, no one is thinking no-hitter for the remainder of the game. So the suspense, the tension, the superstitions, the excitement of watching history unfold — all of that is gone.
The Mets are appealing to MLB to have the scoring changed to an error, giving Dickey a no-hitter. I’m sure the Mets would love to celebrate two no-hitters in one season after playing 50 years without one, but the moment is gone.
- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Each week Athlon Sports looks back at the previous week's best baseball players in the American and National leagues, and recaps the most outstanding pitching performances. Here are last week's—June 4-10—standouts.
AL Player of the Week
Mike Trout, Los Angeles—Following teammate Mark Trumbo, who received this honor last week, Trout posted a .520 batting average for the week, leading the American League with 13 hits and 10 runs, which tied teammate Torii Hunter. The 20-year-old outfielder began the week with a 4-for-4 performance against Seattle and ended with eight hits and eight runs in the Angels’ three-game sweep at Colorado.
AL Pitcher of the Week
Andy Pettitte, New York—The Yankees thought Pettitte could help the team by logging quality innings and mentoring young pitchers along the way. However, the veteran, who will turn 40 on June 15, has been one of the team’s best starting pitchers since signing earlier this season. Last week the lefthander threw 7.1 shutout innings in a win over the first-place Rays, and he turned in six innings in a win over the crosstown Mets.
NL Player of the Week
Jason Kubel, Arizona—Kubel was signed over the winter to bring offense to a suspect lineup, and the leftfielder hasn’t disappointed. Last week Kubel batted .409 and slugged .818 with two home runs. He had 12 RBIs, all coming over a four-game stretch, which included a weekend sweep of the Oakland A’s. Kubel had three RBIs in the Diamondbacks’ one-run win on Friday and added two more in the one-run win on Sunday.
NL Pitcher of the Week
Ryan Dempster, Chicago—After a string of 18 consecutive starts without a win (dating to last August), Dempster finally broke through with two wins last week. The Cubs’ righthander tossed 15 shutout innings in his two starts, beating the Brewers on three hits over seven innings and the Twins on four hits and a walk over eight innings. He struck out nine and allowed just eight baserunners en route to posting a 0.53 WHIP and 0.00 ERA.
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for June 11, 2012.
1. Dodgers—Won last six games in which they have at least one hit.
2. Rangers—Won only three of last 10 vs. AL West.
3. Rays—Convincing sweep over the Marlins.
4. Nationals—Waltzed out of Fenway with a sweep.
5. Yankees—May be old, but still team to beat in AL East.
6. Orioles—Lost 12 of last 19 with three wins in extra innings.
7. Braves—Followed eight-game losing streak by winning eight of nine.
8. Reds—Chapman finally appears human in loss to Tigers.
9. Marlins—Streaky Fish back on the skids.
10. Angels—Only one loss since May 18 by more than two runs.
11. Giants—What’s wrong with Tim Lincecum?
12. White Sox—Paul Konerko making case for MVP.
13. Mets—Lost six of seven since Cardinals left town.
14. Blue Jays—Jose Bautista beginning to heat up a bit.
15. Pirates—Ended the week tied for first place.
16. Diamondbacks—Making a charge to defend their title.
17. Indians—Brash Chris Perez keeps saving games.
18. Cardinals—Redbirds need starting pitching and bullpen help.
19. Red Sox—Lost six of seven.
20. Phillies—Dropped two nail-biters at Baltimore over the weekend.
21. Tigers—Ended the weekend at Cincinnati on high note.
22. Brewers—Road trip to Kansas City and Minnesota this week.
23. Mariners—No-hit the best team in the National League.
24. Royals—Still bullish on future, but present not too bright.
25. Twins—Won nine of 12, won 15 of 17 in June 2011.
26. Astros—Won four of Lucas Harrell’s last five starts.
27. Rockies—Outscored by 27 over last five games — all losses.
28. A’s—Lost 14 of 18, now facing NL West.
29. Padres—One positive: Closer Huston Street is back and healthy.
30. Cubs—On pace to lose 108.
With the 2012 Major League Baseball Draft underway this evening, we decided to take a look back through history at the top picks at each slot, from 1 to 50. There are some Hall of Famers on the list, but some had to be left out. And there are a few slots that will probably make you scratch your head and ask, “Who’s that guy?”
50—Dennis Eckersley, Cleveland, 1972
Became a Hall of Fame closer with Oakland after a 150-win career as a starter. The Indians received Bo Diaz and Rick Wise from Boston among others for Eck in a 1978 trade.
49—Carlos Beltran, Kansas City, 1995
Rookie of the Year for the Royals; too bad they couldn’t afford to keep him.
48—Cal Ripken, Baltimore, 1978
Seven shortstops were drafted ahead of Cal in 1978, including Buddy Biancalana, Lenny Faedo and Rex Hudler. Evidently, the Orioles thought more of Robert Boyce, Larry Sheets and Edwin Hook, who were drafted ahead of the Iron Man.
47—Tom Glavine, Atlanta, 1984
Five high school hurlers were selected ahead of Glavine, including Greg Maddux. Glavine wore his draft slot number on his back for 305 major league wins with the Braves and Mets. An Atlanta legend.
46—Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia, 1995
Two years before taking Rollins at No. 46, the Phillies grabbed Scott Rolen with the same number. Give Rollins the edge here due to loyalty to the franchise. He has meant more to the Phillies than Rolen. The Brewers nabbed Yovani Gallardo here in 2004. He may replace Rollins on this list someday.
45—Tom Gorzelanny, Pittsburgh, 2003
So, what did you expect? Gerald Laird? Jed Lowrie? You find a better guy.
44—Joey Votto, Cincinnati, 2002
There were no good options at No. 44 until Votto showed up in 2002. He rewarded the Reds with an MVP in 2010 and likely will win another.
43—Bob Knepper, San Francisco, 1972
Knepper won 47 games for the Giants before being traded to Houston for Enos Cabell. I guess the Giants wish they had taken Eckersley with this pick, you think?
42—Dennis Leonard, Kansas City, 1972
As tempting as it was to put Mookie Wilson here, we just couldn’t ignore Leonard’s 144 wins for the Royals during their glory years in 1970s. The three-time 20-game winner played his entire career in Kansas City.
41—Fred Lynn, Boston, 1973
Two years later, the former USC star would be named Rookie of the Year and MVP for the AL champion Red Sox. Oddly enough, every season from 1980 until his retirement after 1990, Lynn hit below his career average.
40—Huston Street, Oakland, 2004
Street earned the 2005 Rookie of the Year award. He was traded with Carlos Gonzalez for Matt Holliday after the 2008 season. How’d that work out for ya, Oakland?.
39—Don Baylor, Baltimore, 1967
Baylor played 511 games over six seasons with Baltimore, getting some MVP votes in 1975. He was then a part of six-player deal just prior to the start of the 1976 season that brought Reggie Jackson to Baltimore. Baylor was named MVP in 1979 with the Angels.
38—David Wright, New York Mets, 2001
Of the 37 players drafted ahead of Wright, 14 have yet to see time in the big leagues. His 175 home runs and 682 RBIs are second to Mark Teixeira’s 293-947 among players drafted in ’01.
37—Frank Viola, Minnesota, 1981
Sweet music won a Cy Young in 1987, helping the Twins to the World Series championship. Mike Scott won a Cy Young in 1986 helping the Astros to the playoffs. Adam Jones of Baltimore may trump both in a few years.
36—Johnny Bench, Cincinnati, 1965
In the first draft ever, the Reds called Bench’s name in the second round. Bench holds the distinction of being the first Hall of Famer drafted. Among the seven catchers selected ahead of Bench were Ray Fosse, Gene Lamont and Ken Rudolph. Twenty years later the Montreal Expos would call Randy Johnson’s name at No. 36.
35—Johnny Damon, Kansas City, 1992
Economics lesson: In six seasons with the Royals, Damon played in 803 games, scored 504 runs and racked up 894 hits and made a total of $7,089,000. In one season with Oakland he played in 155 games, scored 108 runs, with 165 hits, and made $7,100,000.
34—Mark Gubicza, Kansas City, 1981
Gubicza won 14 games for the 1985 champion Royals and won 20 in 1988. After making 327 starts for Kansas City he ended his career with two forgettable starts for the Anaheim Angels in 1997.
33—Dave Burba, Seattle, 1987
Somehow Burba managed to win 115 and lose only 87. That seems better than Milt Wilcox’s 119-113 career record. Those were the best choices.
32—Dave Magadan, New York Mets, 1983
Magadan made history with eight consecutive hits to begin the College World Series. Actually received some MVP votes in 1990 after hitting .328 for the Mets.
31—Greg Maddux, Chicago Cubs, 1984
Perhaps the best pitcher of his generation, the Professor won 355 games and logged more than 5,000 innings. He won four consecutive Cy Young awards from 1992-95, and finished in the top five another five times.
30—Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia, 1971
The Hall of Famer hit 548 home runs for the Phillies with three MVP awards over an 18-year career. He anchored a lineup that won five division titles, two pennants and the 1980 World Series.
29—George Brett, Kansas City, 1971
Two Hall of Fame third basemen were drafted back-to-back in 1971. Brett is Mr. Royal — with three batting titles, 3,154 hits and a .305 lifetime average. He was the heart and soul of the best teams in franchise history.
28—Lee Smith, Chicago Cubs, 1975
Smith made closing look excruciating and painful, but he mastered it to the tune of 478 career saves. He had just 180 saves for the Cubs before a trade to the Red Sox for Al Nipper and Calvin Schiraldi.
27—Vida Blue, Kansas City Athletics, 1967
Of his 209 career wins, 124 of them came with the A’s. He was named MVP and Cy Young winner in 1971 and was a mainstay in the rotation that won three straight World Series titles from 1972-74.
26—Alan Trammell, Detroit, 1976
Two shortstops were selected ahead of Trammell in 1976. Neither reached the major leagues. Trammell played 2,293 games, all for the Tigers. He hit .419 in the 1984 postseason with three home runs, nine RBIs and seven runs in eight games.
25—Bill Buckner, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1968
Forget about the error and remember the 2,715 hits over a stellar 22-year career. Buckner had 837 hits in 773 games for the Dodgers prior to being traded to the Cubs in a deal that brought the Dodgers Rick Monday, the first player ever drafted in 1965. Buckner was then dealt to the Red Sox in a trade for Dennis Eckersley.
24—Terry Mulholland, San Francisco, 1984
Mulholland played for 11 different teams in a 20-year career that lasted until he was 43. He went from front-line starter to lefty specialist. I suspect Chad Billingsley will make this list here by 2015.
23—Mo Vaughn, Boston, 1989
Mo was one of the most feared hitters in the American League for a short period of time. Owns an MVP and was a member of three All-Star teams. Jacoby Ellsbury is right on his heels.
22—Craig Biggio, Houston, 1987
Two years earlier the Cubs drafted Rafael Palmeiro in this slot, and although Palmeiro has huge numbers, he wasn’t half the gamer that Biggio was. Biggio made the All-Star team as a catcher and second baseman, and owns 3,060 hits, 668 of them doubles.
21—Rick Sutcliffe, Los Angeles Dodgers, 1974
After winning Rookie of the Year with a 17-10 mark for the Dodgers in 1979, two years later Sutcliffe was dealt to the Indians for Jack Fimple, Jorge Orta and Larry White. Oops. He later won a Cy Young with the 1984 Cubs.
20—Mike Mussina, Baltimore, 1990
Mussina narrowly missed winning 20 games five times before accomplishing that feat in his 18th and final season. He rewarded the Orioles with a 147-81 mark over 10 seasons, then dissed them by signing a huge deal with the Yankees. He made 21 postseason starts, but never won a ring.
19—Roger Clemens, Boston, 1983
However tainted you may believe Clemens’ record is, he won seven Cy Young awards, an MVP, finished third in Cy Young voting another three times. He retired with 354 wins, 4,672 strikeouts, 46 shutouts and a 3.12 ERA. In 34 postseason starts, he was 12-8, including 3-0 in eight World Series starts.
18—Willie Wilson, Kansas City, 1974
The New York Mets are certainly rooting for Ike Davis to take over this slot one day, but for now it’s Wilson. The speedy center fielder stole 521 bases from 1978-87. He owns a batting title and finished fourth in MVP voting in 1980. At age 36, he stole seven bags in a six-game ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays.
17—Roy Halladay, Toronto, 1995
Drafted in the same slot as Phillies teammate Cole Hamels, Halladay is among the career leaders for active pitchers in several categories. He owns two Cy Young awards and has finished in the top 5 another four times. His average season since 2002 is 16-7 with a 3.02 ERA.
16—Lance Berkman, Houston, 1997
A Texan through and through, Houston made the former Rice star the No. 16 pick in 1997 and promoted him to the big leagues in July 1999. Enjoying a resurgence with St. Louis this season, the five-time All-Star has a lifetime .410 on-base percentage.
15—Jim Rice, Boston, 1971
Between 1975-86, the consistent Rice averaged .307-31-110 with 95 runs (excluding the strike-shortened 1981 season). He won just one MVP, but was in the top 5 six times. In 1978 he had 406 total bases.
14—Don Gullet, Cincinnati, 1969
For whatever reason, the No. 14 slot isn’t very strong. Lots of above average candidates, but no Hall of Famers. Tino Martinez, Tom Brunansky, Derrek Lee, Jason Varitek, Jeff Weaver and Jason Heyward made the short list. But Gullet enjoyed the most success with his original team. He was the ace of the Big Red Machine in 1975-76 before signing with the Yankees as part of the first-ever free agent class in 1977. He appeared in four World Series with the Reds, the first at age 19 in 1970.
13—Manny Ramirez, Cleveland, 1991
Before “Manny Being Manny” became popular, Ramirez played eight seasons with the Cleveland Indians, hitting 236 home runs with 804 RBIs. He never won an MVP, but finished in the top 10 for eight consecutive seasons.
12—Kirk Gibson, Detroit, 1978
The former Michigan State star receiver was drafted into baseball by his home-state team. In 12 seasons with the Tigers, he hit 195 home runs and batted .273. But stats don’t show the impact that Gibson had on his teams. He won the 1988 NL MVP with modest numbers (.290-25-76). Billy Wagner, Nomar Garciaparra and Jay Bruce received consideration here as well.
11—Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh, 2005
Until McCutchen was drafted, Greg Luzinski (aka The Bull) was the best here. McCutchen is the centerpiece around which the Pirates are rebuilding.
10—Mark McGwire, Oakland, 1984
Although it’s unfortunate that Big Mac has become synonymous with the Steroid Era, it’s difficult to ignore his 583 homers, 363 of which came in an Oakland uniform.
9—Kevin Appier, Kansas City, 1987
The righthander spent 13 of his 16 seasons with the Royals, with whom he earned 115 of his 169 wins. He logged more than 200 innings eight times, and had 10 seasons of double-digit wins.
8—Todd Helton, Colorado, 1995
The former backup to Peyton Manning and closer at the University of Tennessee, Helton has become the face of the Colorado franchise. He is Mr. Rocky.
7—Frank Thomas, Chicago White Sox, 1989
The Big Hurt terrorized American League pitchers for 16 seasons in a White Sox uniform. He made his major league debut 14 months after being drafted, then played eight seasons before posting his first sub-.300 batting average. He had back-to-back MVPs in 1993 and ’94, and finished his career with 521 home runs, 1,704 RBIs and 1,494 runs.
6—Barry Bonds, Pittsburgh, 1985
Two of the greatest stars of this generation (Bonds and Derek Jeter) share this slot. Bonds’ numbers are absolutely off the charts (as is his hat size). Seven MVPs — four consecutive — 2,558 walks, 762 home runs and 2,227 runs. He was walked intentionally 120 times in one season. And in his pre-bulked-up days, he won eight Gold Gloves and stole more than 500 bases.
5—Ryan Braun, Milwaukee, 2005
Mark Teixeira, Dale Murphy and Dwight Gooden all have strong cases, but Braun has become the face of a franchise and is committed to Milwaukee through 2020.
4—Dave Winfield, San Diego, 1973
Winfield made his major league debut a few weeks after the draft and 3,110 hits, 465 home runs and 1,833 RBIs later he’s in the Hall of Fame. In seven full seasons in San Diego prior to bolting for New York via free agency (when have we heard that before), he averaged .284-22-88 with 19 stolen bases.
3—Robin Yount, Milwaukee, 1973
Four years later the Brewers drafted another shortstop in the third slot, and fellow Hall of Famer Paul Molitor became a teammate of Yount’s for 15 years in Milwaukee. During their time together, the two combined for 4,736 hits. Yount gets the nod with two MVPs and spending his entire career with the team that drafted him.
2—Reggie Jackson, Kansas City Athletics, 1966
Jackson owns four home run titles and five strikeout titles, but Mr. October electrified crowds in Oakland, New York and L.A. He was at his best when the lights were the brightest. In 27 World Series games, he batted .357 with 10 home runs. Just what were the Mets thinking with Steve Chilcott at No. 1?
1—Alex Rodriguez, Seattle, 1993
As tempting as it was to go with Ken Griffey Jr., who energized baseball fans in Seattle; or Chipper Jones, who has spent his entire career with the Atlanta Braves, and most of those seasons in the postseason; the best overall player is Rodriguez. And there is no argument here. A-Rod is among the best to ever play the game.
Well, there you have the best players drafted at each lot, 1-50. In case you’re wondering which team seemed to be the best at spotting talent over the last 47 years, the Kansas City Royals placed seven players on this list. But of course, that is far from a reliable evaluation given that the Giants get credit for drafting Bob Knepper and the Brewers get no credit for Paul Molitor when counting from this list.
For what it’s worth, the Yankees, Cardinals, Angels and Rangers — franchises that participated in all 47 drafts — did not show up at all. Thurman Munson at No. 4 (Yankees), Ted Simmons at No. 10 (Cardinals), Frank Tanana at No. 13 (Angels) and Mark Teixeira at No. 5 (Rangers) were close calls.
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for June 4, 2012.
1. Rangers—Roy Oswalt signing makes the best even better.
2. Dodgers—Catcher A.J. Ellis quietly covering for the injured Matt Kemp.
3. Rays—Weekend showdown with Orioles avg. att.: 20,200. Sad.
4. Marlins—23-9 since a tough 8-14 April has Marlins at top of division.
5. Braves—Five upcoming Interleague series take Braves through AL East.
6. Nationals—Gio Gonzalez won all five starts in May.
7. Orioles—Adam Jones second in the majors in total bases.
8. Yankees—Fewest blown saves in the majors.
9. Mets—Johan Santana makes Mets history with no-hitter.
10. Angels—Angels closer to first place than Cardinals #Pujolseffect.
11. Reds—Bolted into first place.
12. White Sox—White-hot Sox on blistering pace, leave Tigers, Indians in dust.
13. Blue Jays—Jays have won six of Drew Hutchison’s nine starts.
14. Giants—Streaky Barry Zito wins another two starts.
15. Phillies—Cole Hamels having huge season in contract year.
16. Indians—Lost seven of nine and grip on first place.
17. Cardinals—Best run differential in NL, but have dropped to .500.
18. Red Sox—Rookies Daniel Nava and Will Middlebrooks breath of fresh air.
19. Pirates—James McDonald had an 0.89 WHIP and 1.54 ERA in May.
20. Tigers—Revolving doors at second base and right field.
21. Diamondbacks—Last three-game winning streak ended May 1.
22. Brewers—Sweet four-game sweep at Dodger Stadium.
23. Royals—Only starter with wins in back-to-back starts is Bruce Chen.
24. Mariners—Suffered four losing streaks of four-plus games.
25. Rockies—Dexter Fowler, Carlos Gonzalez carrying the offense.
26. Astros—Won seven of nine, then lost eight in a row.
27. A’s—Scored 21 runs in last 11 games — nine came in one game.
28. Twins—Former Rule 5 pick Scott Diamond has 1.86 ERA in six starts.
29. Padres—Only franchise without no-hitter.
30. Cubs—Trade talks heating up in Chicago.
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for May 29, 2012.
1. Dodgers—Scored six or more runs in seven of last 10 games.
2. Rangers—25-2 when allowing three runs or less; 5-16 otherwise.
3. Orioles—Outscored Royals and Red Sox on homestand, but lost 4 of 6.
4. Rays—Fernando Rodney finally blew a save.
5. Yankees—Andy Pettitte has found the fountain of youth.
6. Nationals—Sweep at Atlanta has Nats cruising.
7. Reds—Won eight of nine and next nine vs. Pirates and Astros.
8. Braves—Tough week drops Braves to fourth, but still squarely in hunt.
9. Marlins—Can gain ground in East this week.
10. Blue Jays—Lost five straight and Baltimore and Boston visit this week.
11. Cardinals—Losing record outside the division.
12. Indians—Majors best at 10-2 in one-run games.
13. Mets—8-2 when R.A. Dickey starts.
14. Angels—Lookout! Pujols and Angels hitting their stride.
15. Phillies—Roy Halladay’s shoulder is balking.
16. Giants—Melky Cabrera (.369) having a terrific season.
17. White Sox—June schedule lines up well for Sox.
18. Tigers—Must improve defensively to climb in standings.
19. Red Sox—4-8 at Fenway Park vs. AL East.
20. Diamondbacks—Offense better; pitching worse in May.
21. A’s—Bullpen has 2.55 ERA, 1.16 WHIP.
22. Pirates—Third-best ERA (3.23) in majors.
23. Mariners—Starters allowed just 33 homers in 49 starts.
24. Astros—Won seven of nine prior to losing last two at Los Angeles.
25. Brewers—Opponents batting .185 off Zack Greinke at home; .369 on road.
26. Royals—Jonathan Broxton doing nice job as fill-in closer.
27. Padres—Get to play Cubs next.
28. Rockies—Cubs only team in NL playing worse right now.
29. Twins—On pace to have worst two-season stretch in franchise history.
30. Cubs—Scored 18 runs in last nine games — all losses.
Mike Trout or Bryce Harper?
Proposing the question to most casual fans as to who the top rookie in baseball is this season, most answers will include Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, either at the top or near the top of their lists.
If you watch the baseball highlight shows, you know Harper has a cannon arm, swings a powerful bat from the left side, has tremendous speed and is daring on the basepaths, enough so his first major league stolen base was a steal of home off the Phillies’ Cole Hamels, as the lefthander was throwing to first. Whether it’s throwing or running (or even losing a fly ball in the lights), the 19-year-old phenom has been a lead part of the highlights many nights. The media throng for his major league debut in Los Angeles against the Dodgers was unreal.
But there’s a 20-year-old outfielder on the other coast who is upstaging the Nats’ rising star. Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels made his debut last season as a teenager and didn’t have great success, but wasn’t exactly overmatched either. And after a strong start at Triple-A this season, Trout was recalled the day before Harper made his ballyhooed debut. But Trout’s recall was quickly and easily buried by Harper’s debut.
Sometimes the substance of a good steak gets lost in the sizzle on another plate. Trout’s substantive exploits on the West Coast have been overshadowed by Harper’s sizzle on the East Coast. And it’s understandable given fans’ thirst for the spectacular. A Bryce Harper pop out in his debut somehow seems more exciting than an RBI double off the wall by a 20-year-old in his second season.
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for May 21, 2012.
1. Dodgers—Won 9 of 11, five of them without Matt Kemp.
2. Orioles—Closing in on June with best record in American League.
3. Rangers—Lost four of seven vs. sub-.500 teams.
4. Braves—In the midst of what could be 41 straight vs. winning teams.
5. Rays—Scored 13 runs in last five games, but managed to win two.
6. Nationals—Stephen Strasburg beats Orioles with arm and bat.
7. Blue Jays—Casey Janssen has three perfect saves.
8. Yankees—Only 8-11 since Mo Rivera’s last save.
9. Marlins—Best team in baseball this month.
10. Cardinals—Costly injuries have caused evaporation of division lead.
11. Reds—Ended the weekend within a half-game of St. Louis.
12. Indians—Batting .264 vs. righthanders, just .210 vs. lefties.
13. Phillies—Finally jumped over Mets to get out of cellar.
14. Tigers—Austin Jackson (not Fielder or Cabrera) has Tigers’ best OPS.
15. Mets—Tough luck for Johan Santana: 1-2, 2.89 ERA.
16. Giants—13 players have outhomered the Giants this month.
17. A’s—Josh Reddick is only bright spot offensively now.
18. White Sox—Showed the Cubs who their daddy is.
19. Red Sox—Starting pitching has made an about-face.
20. Diamondbacks—Welcome sight getting Chris Young back in lineup.
21. Mariners—Swept Rockies in Denver without throwing ace King Felix.
22. Angels—Fired hitting coach Mickey Hatcher; improved 0.2 runs/game.
23. Pirates—Paltry .254 OBP in May leaves offense in trouble.
24. Astros—Winning record at home, getting killed on the road.
25. Brewers—Ryan Braun swinging hot bat in May (.381).
26. Royals—Irving Falu has 12 hits in seven major league games.
27. Padres—Have two fewer home runs than Josh Hamilton.
28. Twins—Breaking even (3-3) against their own division this season.
29. Rockies—Rockies are crashing and burning.
30. Cubs—Bryan LaHair is fifth in majors with a 1.044 OPS.
On Tuesday night, Josh Hamilton hit four home runs off Baltimore pitching.
How rare is that feat?
It’s been accomplished only 14 times since 1900; 16 if you go back prior to the turn of the century when rules were different. That’s four fewer than the number of perfect games during that time.
The list of the 14 players to accomplish it spans from Pat Seerey, who had a nondescript seven-year career and finished with 86 career homers, to Hall of Famers Willie Mays and Lou Gehrig, two of the greatest to ever put on a uniform.
Gil Hodges is on the list, Duke Snider is not.
Lou Gehrig did it, Babe did not.
Seattle’s Mike Cameron made the list; Seattle’s Ken Griffey Jr. didn’t.
The Cardinals’ Mark Whiten, yes; The Cardinals’ Mark McGwire, no.
Willie Mays, uh-huh; Hank Aaron, nope.
Before Tuesday night, it had been nine years since a four-homer game. While that seems like a long span, it’s just the fifth-longest between quadfectas. There were 15 years between Willie Mays’ four shots in 1961 and fellow Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt’s clouts in 1976. Another 10 years passed before Bob Horner put four in the seats for the Braves in 1986.
15 Miscellany Facts About Four-homer Games
1. Only once has a team lost when a player hit four home runs. That was Horner in 1986. The Braves forgot to keep the Expos from scoring and lost 11-8.
2. Shawn Green holds the record for most total bases. In addition to the 16 courtesy of the homers, he added a single and double for 19 total bases.
3. You must hit in the middle of the order to do this, evidently. Only Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 6 hitters have accomplished it. Spots 1-8 have hit three in a game, but table-setters and the bottom third have never gone deep four times.
4. Only twice has a team failed to score in double figures. The aforementioned Braves in’86 and Chuck Klein’s Phillies in 1936 defeated Pittsburgh 9-6.
5. Stereotypical offensive positions do this. Only outfielders and corner infielders have done it. Every position except pitcher has pulled off a trifecta.
6. The shortest time between four clouts is 21 days. Mike Cameron hit four on May 2, 2002 and Shawn Green followed that on May 23.
7. Three franchises have had two players pull it off. But only one franchise, the Philadelphia Phillies, called the same city home. Klein and Schmidt were the two Phillies to do it. Gil Hodges did it as a Brooklyn Dodger, Green as an L.A. Dodger. Joe Adcock was with the Milwaukee Braves, Horner was with Atlanta.
8. No one saw Horner’s four clouts on live TV, although Ted Turner’s Superstation TBS broadcast every game. But during the Goodwill Games — a brainchild of Turner’s — in 1986, TBS delayed Braves’ telecasts.
9. Adrian Beltre has the distinction of belting home runs in two games in which a teammate has hit four. He hit in front of Green (and Beltre laid down a sac bunt in the first inning to get the Dodgers’ offense rolling), and also hit a home run hitting behind Hamilton.
10. Fans rarely have gone home completely happy. While most fans are thrilled to see the rare event, only twice have the home fans witnessed their team accomplish it AND win the game. Gil Hodges thrilled the fans in Brooklyn and Carlos Delgado made the Jays’ fans happy with a come-from-behind win.
11. Eleven of the 14 times it has been accomplished by a visiting player.
12. Two stadiums have been the site of two feats. Shibe Park was the site of two of the first three occurrences. Gehrig did it there against Philadelphia in 1932, and Jim Seerey of the White Sox broke the Athletics’ spirit with four in 1948. It’s happened twice at Baltimore, Chicago and Milwaukee, but in different stadiums in each city.
13. Connie Mack, the long time owner/manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, is the only manager to watch his pitchers allow an opponent to hit four home runs in a game twice.
14. No pitcher has ever given up four home runs to the same hitter in a game. Only three times on this list has one pitcher allowed three of the four.
15. Were there any close calls for a fifth? Only three times have hitters come to the plate with a chance for a fifth home run, twice by the same player. The first, Lou Gehrig hit a rocket to deep center field for an out in his sixth at-bat after hitting four home runs. The only other was Mike Cameron. He actually made it to the plate twice. The first ended in him being plunked by Mike Porzio (imagine that). It may or may not have been intentional —it was on a 1-1 count — as Porzio gave him one pitch to hit. Cameron came up again in the ninth and hit a liner that backed up right fielder Magglio Ordonez for an out.
The complete list (since 1900)
Lou Gehrig, New York Yankees
June 3, 1932
New York 20, at Philadelphia 13
The Athletics’ George Earnshaw is one of only two starting pitchers to give up three of the four home runs. Yankees third baseman Tony Lazzeri also deserves some accolades for hitting for the cycles that day. Not to be too overshadowed, Babe Ruth also went deep, but only once.
Chuck Klein, Philadelphia Phillies
July 10, 1936
Philadelphia 9, at Pittsburgh 6
The Pirates (with three Hall of Famers in the lineup) tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the ninth, which gave Klein an extra at-bat in the 10th.
Pat Seerey, Chicago White Sox
July 18, 1948
Chicago 12, at Philadelphia 11
Like Klein, Seerey also needed extra innings to hit his fourth. Seerey’s solo shot in the 11th provided the winning margin.
Gil Hodges, Brooklyn Dodgers
Aug. 31, 1950
Brooklyn 19, Boston Braves 3
Hodges’ first blast came off Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. The Dodgers’ first baseman had nine RBIs. Pitcher Carl Erskine had five hits and Hall of Famer Duke Snider also went deep.
Joe Adcock, Milwaukee Braves
July 31, 1954
Milwaukee 15, at Brooklyn 7
Lew Burdette was the winning pitcher with 6.1 innings of relief. It was a banner home run day for the Braves, as Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews hit two out and Andy Pafko hit one. Hank Aaron did not go deep, but had a double and a single. By the way, Gil Hodges hit one out for the home team.
Rocky Colavito, Cleveland Indians
June 10, 1959
Cleveland 11, at Baltimore 8
Colavito followed Tito Francona and hit in front of Minnie Minoso, who also homered. Indians pesky second baseman Billy Martin also went deep. Colavito is the only player to hit four home runs in a game and have a win as a pitcher. (Colavito was the winning pitcher in relief of for the Yankees against the Tigers in 1968.)
Willie Mays, San Francisco Giants
April 30, 1961
San Francisco 14, at Milwaukee 4
There were seven home runs hit by Hall of Famers that day. In addition to Mays, Hank Aaron hit two and Orlando Cepeda hit one. Giants Felipe Alou hit one and Jose Pagan hit two of his 52 career homers. The Giants’ ninth inning ended with Mays on deck as Jim Davenport grounded out to second.
Mike Schmidt, Philadelphia Phillies
April 17, 1986
Philadelphia 18, at Chicago Cubs 16
In no doubt the wildest affair on the list, the Phillies were once down 12-1. Hall of Fame lefthander Steve Carlton lasted just 1.2 innings and allowed seven earned runs in the worst start of his career. The Phillies took a 15-13 lead into the bottom of the ninth before the Cubs sent it into extras. Schmidt hit number four in the 10th to break the tie. The game ended with the tying run at the plate. Schmidt is the only player on this list to hit home runs off brothers in the process. Rick Reuschel allowed the first two before his brother, Paul, gave up Schmidt’s fourth.
Bob Horner, Atlanta Braves
July 6, 1986
Montreal 11, at Atlanta 8
The Expos’ starter Andy McGaffigan gave up three blasts before closer Jeff Reardon, who recorded a save, yielded the fourth.
Mark Whiten, St. Louis Cardinals
Sept. 7, 1993
St. Louis 15, at Cincinnati 2
Whiten heads the list with 12 RBIs and is the only player to include a grand slam among his four round-trippers. First baseman Gerald Perry scored in front of Whiten on all four homers.
Mike Cameron, Seattle Mariners
May 2, 2002
Seattle 15, at Chicago White Sox 4
After Jon Rauch (yes, that Jon Rauch) gave up Cameron's first as the starting pitcher, reliever Jim Parque gave up his second, also in the first inning. Parque proceeded to give up Nos. 2, 3 and 4 as well, becoming the only reliever to give up three of the four. Hitting in front of Cameron was Bret Boone, who hit two homers of his own that day. That had something to do with the fact that all four of Cameron’s clouts were solo shots. Cameron had two chances for a fifth. He was hit by a pitch in his next plate appearance, then lined out to deep right.
Shawn Green, Los Angeles Dodgers
May 23, 2002
Los Angeles 16 at Milwaukee 3
In perhaps the greatest statistical day ever, Green had a double and single to go with his four dingers giving him 19 total bases. Adrian Beltre, Green and Dave Hansen went back-to-back-to-back in the ninth.
Carlos Delgado, Toronto Blue Jays
Sept. 25, 2003
Toronto 10, Tampa Bay 8
Delgado is the only player to hit four homers with just four plate appearances in the game. His fourth tied the game in the eighth before the Jays added two more for the comeback win. His final two clouts had a Republican slant coming off Joe Kennedy and Lance Carter.
Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
May 8, 2012
Texas 10, at Baltimore 3
The former AL MVP hit four two-run shots surrounding a double, giving him eight RBIs. Hamilton ended the night with a .406 average, 14 home runs and 36 RBIs, leading the American League in all three categories.
Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez suffered through an 0-fer day against Baltimore in the Red Sox’ 9-6 loss in 17 innings. The first baseman struck out in the 17th representing the tying run against the Orioles’ Chris Davis, who
began the day simply as the DH and ended it with a win. Gonzalez was the first AL cleanup hitter to go 0-8 since Andre Thornton of the Indians in 1984.
The last time (before Sunday) that a position player picked up a win on the mound in the majors. Rocky Colavito of the last-place Yankees won a game in relief of Steve Barber against the first-place Tigers.
At the end of the weekend, the five AL Central teams were a combined 21 games below .500 at home. They were two games over .500 on the road. So much for playing for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Home runs from pitchers in April. It marks the first season since 1994 that no pitcher has gone deep in April. So, maybe Albert Pujols shouldn’t feel so bad.
Mariano Rivera’s age, uniform number and record for postseason saves.
Save in the minor leagues by Rivera prior to notching 608 in the major leagues.
We often hear baseball pundits talk about the value of hitters being surrounded by other feared hitters in the lineup. It’s easy to see the impact of not having protection behind hitters in the lineup. We learned the importance of that nearly a decade ago watching Barry Bonds walk 232 times in 2004, with 120 of those intentional.
But what about the table-setters hitting in front of the big guns? A clear example is happening right before our eyes in Cincinnati.
Shortstop Zack Cozart is hitting.196 batting leadoff and .354 batting No. 2. Similarly, when center fielder Drew Stubbs bats leadoff, he’s a paltry .107. But put him second in the order and his average jumps to .373. Stubbs also struggles in the seventh spot at .182.
That is what you call the Joey Votto Effect. Votto is the Reds’ No. 3 hitter, and this helps explain why Cincinnati has committed more than $200 million to their first baseman.
- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Mariano Rivera vows that he will come back next season, telling reporters last week, “I am coming back,” and to “write it down in big letters.” So…MARIANO RIVERA IS COMING BACK NEXT SEASON.
There. Mo obviously does not want his career to end this way.
But how else could we expect Rivera’s career to end? We don’t expect him to lose the effectiveness of his cutter. It doesn’t appear that he will ever wear out by pitching. So how else could baseball keep Rivera from answering the call to the bullpen?
A knee injury while shagging flies during BP. Yeah, that’s the only way to stop the Sandman — the best relief pitcher in the history of the game. Rivera may never be too old to pitch. He may never be too old to break bats with his devastating cutter. But maybe he is too old to shag flies during BP.
But Rivera resolves to come back and has no regrets.
“If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen doing something I love to do,” explains Rivera. “And shagging I love to do. I’d do the same thing, without hesitation. The reasons why it happen, you have to take it as it is. You know, just have to fight.”
His illustrious Hall-of-Fame career began inconspicuously enough. There was no fanfare like we’ve seen recently with Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg. None of that, “he’ll be the next whomever.”
Very quietly, on May 23, 1995, Rivera took the mound as the starting pitcher — that’s right — starting pitcher for the Yankees at Anaheim against the Angels’ Chuck Finley. His manager was Buck Showalter and his catcher was Mike Stanley, the Yankees’ cleanup hitter that day.
Rivera didn’t last long. He struck out Tony Philips swinging, then caught Jim Edmonds looking. After that, the Angels began to catch up to the Sandman. The future New York closer gave up a three-run jack to Edmonds, then walked Tim Salmon on four straight and Showalter was out of the dugout with the hook. Bob Macdonald was summoned from the Yankees’ bullpen but the damage was done. Joe Ausanio and Scott Bankhead followed Macdonald, but Finley was too good.
In 3.1 innings, Rivera gave up eight hits, three walks, five runs and struck out five. Of his 89 pitches, 50 were strikes. There is no record of how many bats Mo may have broken that day.
He made seven more starts, winning three of them, before making his first relief appearance on Aug. 1. And even that beginning was nondescript. He gave up three runs over two innings, blowing a save in relief of Andy Pettitte before the Yankees scored three runs of their own to make Rivera the winner.
Rivera completed his rookie season with a 5.51 ERA and 1.507 WHIP and looked like anything but a Hall of Famer.
But in 1996, the idea of starting was scrapped for good. He was John Wetteland’s setup man for the world champs in 1996, appearing in 67 games and tossing 107.2 innings. He had five saves and 26 holds and blew just three save chances. He had a more Rivera-like ERA of 2.09 and 0.994 WHIP in his second season. He finished third in Cy Young voting and 12th in the MVP race. By the fall of 1996, everyone knew the name Mariano Rivera.
Rivera’s first save came at Yankee Stadium on May 17, 1996. He induced the Angels’ Garret Anderson to ground into a double play turned by Derek Jeter in a game won by Andy Pettitte. His last — make that his most recent — came on April 30 of this season vs. Baltimore. That was save No. 608 for his career. His next save will come sometime in April of 2013 at the age of 43.
|1||May 17, 1996||Angels||Andy Pettitte|
|100||June 11, 1999||at Marlins||Orlando Hernandez|
|200||Aug. 1, 2001||Rangers||Sterling Hitchcock|
|300||May 28, 2004||at Devil Rays||Javier Vazquez|
|400||July 16, 2006||White Sox||Jaret Wright|
|500||June 28, 2009||at Mets||Chien-Ming Wang|
|600||Sept. 13, 2011||at Mariners||A.J. Burnett|
|608||April 30, 2012||Orioles||Hiroki Kuroda|
What they’re saying about Mo...
“Rivera has shagged entire pro career. In Single-A in ’91, his mgr Brian Butterfield watched, said, ‘This guy’s our best outfielder.’”
— Tweet by Joel Sherman of the New York Post
“I saw it all go down. It’s hard even to talk about it tonight. I mean, Mo has meant so much to us on a personal level, and his significance on the field, on the mound. But the bottom line is we’re the New York Yankees, and nobody is going to feel sorry for us.”
— New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez
“You have freak injuries, and this is one of them. We had a guy carrying a box down the stairs that broke his foot. You can fall off a curb. You have to allow him to be an athlete and a baseball player and have fun out there. I’ve never seen Mo do anything recklessly, or seen Mo dive to try to rob a home run. It’s the way he exercises.”
— Yankees manager Joe Girardi
“I always argued he was the best pitcher of all-time. Not just the best reliever, but the best pitcher of all-time.”
— New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira
Runs scored by the St. Louis Cardinals while Adam Wainwright was in the game during his first four starts this season, spanning 20 innings.
ERA of the first-place Texas Rangers’ bullpen in April.
ERA of the last-place Los Angeles Angels’ bullpen in April.
Cumulative batting average in the major leagues this season, the lowest for a season in the DH Era. In 1972, the season prior to the DH rule, the majors’ average was .244. The league batting average has declined each year since 2006.
Home runs by the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier in 163 at-bats. Their teammates have combined for just three homers in 545 at-bats.
Consecutive games with a hit by the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval to start this season. Before being held hitless by the Padres on Saturday, Sandoval established a new San Francisco mark for a hitting streak to start the season, beating the old mark of 16 set by Willie Mays in 1961.
Home runs for Albert Pujols in the month of April. The future Hall of Fame slugger also had just four RBIs for the month, easily the lowest totals of his illustrious career. For the first 11 seasons of his career, he averaged seven homers and 21 RBIs in April with lows of five and 15.
Last week we presented the best of the young guys — 25 and under. Now the old dudes. Needless to say this roster is one huge injury risk. As was the case with the 25-and-under list, I’m using Opening Day (April 4, 2012) as the cut-off. Players had to be at least age 35 on that day to qualify. I can’t tell how tempting it was to fudge on the age eligibility and include Carlos Beltran, who is 20 days too young, and Roy Halladay, who missed by 40 days. Doc immediately becomes this team’s ace next season.
A.J. Pierzynski, Chicago White Sox
Last season was the first time A.J. spent any time on the DL in his career. Remarkable. So far this season, he’s batting better than .330. Easy to run on though.
Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox
He has played close to 2,000 games for the White Sox after both the Dodgers and Reds traded him. This is likely to be his third straight .300-30-100 season.
Michael Young, Texas
Okay, crucify me now for taking some liberty here. But Placido Polanco? Jamey Carroll? Marco Scutaro? Jerry Hairston? Not much to choose from here. At least Young has played 433 games in his career at second base, and he can still hit like a 30-year-old. He made 14 starts there last season and three already in 2012.
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees
Clearly A-Rod is in decline, but he's still a feared hitter in the middle of one of the best lineups in baseball. And he's one of the guys on this team who isn't a liability on defense.
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
There can be no argument here. Just when you think Jeter might be slowing down, he carries a .400 batting average into late April.
Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs
He’s turned himself into an horrific outfielder and has some horrific holes in his swing. Other than that, the Cubs should be excited about the $54 million they owe him for 2012-14. Just nudges Carlos Lee off the team.
Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels
Yes, I know he plays right field now, but I’m sure he can still handle himself quite well in center. No doubt he’s in decline though. He has yet to homer and has as many strikeouts as hits (19).
Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle
Ichiro is not the same player that arrived in the States in 2001, but he’s borderline All-Star quality still. Having Ichiro and Jeter hit 1-2 (in some order) makes for good table setting.
Tim Hudson, Atlanta
I know he’s been injured, but he appears to be healthy and ready to join the Braves’ rotation without a hitch. He can lead this staff.
Ted Lilly, Los Angeles Dodgers
He’s 2-0 with a sub-1.00 ERA and WHIP this season. While those trends won’t continue, he’s still a reliable No. 3 starter for the Dodgers.
Jamie Moyer, Colorado
Anyone who is older than me can have a spot on this roster. Sporting a 2.55 ERA can earn you a spot in the rotation.
Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati
Last season looked like the end for Arroyo as he struggled mightily. But 2012 has brought new life with just two walks in 26.2 innings with a 2.70 ERA in a hitter’s park.
Bartolo Colon, Oakland
We have no idea what to make of Colon’s unbelievable comeback. He won a Cy Young and 21 games in 2005, but has won just 25 games since. But he’s allowed less than one base runner per inning this season over 34 frames. We’ll ride him until his arm falls off, then turn to Hiroki Kuroda.
Scott Downs, Los Angeles Angels
Every bullpen needs two lefthanders. Downs limited left-handed hitters to a .179 average last season. I think that’s more indicative than his slow start this season.
Matt Thornton, Chicago White Sox
Opponents are batting .216 so far this season as the White Sox are asking him to get tough outs every night it seems.
Fernando Rodney, Tampa Bay
Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey doesn’t get enough credit. From Soriano to Farnsworth and now Rodney, the Rays’ bullpen doesn’t seem to miss a beat. Not to mention Peralta and Benoit. So, we’re relying on Rodney in late innings in front of Mo.
Rafael Betancourt, Colorado
It was tempting to take Joe Nathan for this role, but Betancourt has proven to be consistent even in Colorado.
Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees
This may be the only position on the roster where the old guys have an advantage. We would rely on Rivera to save big games for us, no matter the age restrictions.
Chipper Jones, Atlanta
Chipper's knees just aren't responding well enough to keep him on the field. But he's a tremendous asset in selected spots off the bench.
Jose Molina, Tampa Bay
As tempting as it was to turn to the recently retired Ivan Rodriguez, we decided to include only active players. Molina would be familiar with the backup role and capable of making starts for an extended period. And since his name is Molina, he is tough to steal against.
David Ortiz, Boston
Since this writer still refuses to recognize the designated hitter in my lineups, Ortiz would be a serious weapon coming off the bench.
Todd Helton, Colorado
Helton loses out to Konerko due to durability issues, but Helton gives the team some punch off the bench and is a solid defensive replacement for Konerko.
Lance Berkman, St. Louis
Rife with nagging injuries (but who on this team isn’t?), Berkman is a switch-hitter who still believes he can play the outfield. Truth is, he probably can as well, or better, than Soriano. Great guy in the clubhouse, just trouble keeping him healthy.
John McDonald, Arizona
Edging out Alex Gonzalez and Marco Scutaro, McDonald provides some defensive help off the bench.
Jerry Hariston, Jr., Los Angeles Dodgers
No matter who he plays for or what position he plays, Hairston contributes with his bat, glove and on the bases.
Will be Eligible Next Season
Jose Valverde, Detroit
Rafael Furcal, St. Louis
Carlos Beltran, St. Louis
Roy Halladay, Philadelphia
- Charlie Miller (@AthlonCharlie)
Each week during the season Athlon Sports looks at the best and worst baseball teams in the league. Here's our MLB Power Rankings for April 30, 2012.
1. Dodgers—Sweep of Nationals proved Dodgers are best — for now.
2. Rangers—Lost first series of the season over the weekend.
3. Rays—David Price making early Cy Young bid.
4. Cardinals—Of three NL pitchers with four wins, two are Cardinals.
5. Braves—Craig Kimbrel has saved four of last five wins.
6. Nationals—Respectable debut for Bryce Harper.
7. Yankees—Only four AL teams have allowed more runs.
8. Blue Jays—Edwin Encarnacion leading the offense.
9. Tigers—Recent slump has allowed Indians and White Sox in the race.
10. Diamondbacks—Joe Saunders emerging as D’backs’ ace.
11. Indians—Derek Lowe and Jeanmar Gomez ERA: 2.40; other starters: 4.90.
12. Reds—Won seven of 10 with Cubs and Pirates on docket this week.
13. Orioles—Next 15 games will be tough stretch.
14. Phillies—Big games at Atlanta and Washington upcoming.
15. Giants—Won eight of 12 to get back on track.
16. Brewers—Corey Hart carrying the offensive load so far.
17. Rockies—Opponents are hitting .285, third-worst BAA in majors.
18. Mets—David Wright carrying a .506 on-base percentage.
19. Red Sox—Won six of seven against weaker teams.
20. White Sox—Next 15 games are within the division.
21. Angels—Scored 11 runs in last seven games, won only one.
22. A’s—Only AL team with fewer runs than Angels.
23. Mariners—Clean-up hitters are batting .194 with 22 Ks and 18 hits.
24. Pirates—Batters Nos. 6-9 hitting just .167.
25. Marlins—Scored 13 runs in last eight games, won one.
26. Astros—Outhomered 26-13 but outscoring competition.
27. Cubs—Won five of eight behind strong pitching.
28. Padres—4-1 when Cory Luebke starts, 3-15 when he doesn’t.
29. Twins—Four of last seven losses were by one run.
30. Royals—Jonathan Broxton settling in as closer.