Tag Archives: MLB

Robots in the Major Leagues?

Former Oakland manager Bob Melvin argues with Angel Hernandez in a 2021 game

By Ryan Harless

Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.

January 20, 2023

If you are a baseball fan and have been paying attention to things happening in the league, you might be aware of the umpire problem. Umpires have been a part of the game since its inception. They are the enforcers of rules and, although they are human, they are ideally going to be impartial. But at the end of the day, they are in charge of the game and usually, what they say is final.

Recently Major League Baseball (MLB) has started to allow teams to “challenge” out calls on the bases as well as other fielding calls. When this happens, the umpires gather and listen to a crew in New York City break the play down and tell them what the correct call is. It works very similarly to American Football’s challenge rule.

The main instance where the shortcomings of umpires is the most prevalent, however, is with balls and strike calls. Teams are unable to challenge these calls meaning that even in crucial moments, the umpire can dictate that phase of the game.

While MLB has done many things to make the game more appealing to fans, they have also tried to make the game faster. They have already begun using a pitch clock to prevent unnecessary time between pitches in the minor leagues, with the possibility of major leagues usage this coming season.

One of the most divisive of these ideas is the implementation of “Robo” umpires. This would mean that a program reads where the pitch was located when it crossed the plate and spit out its ruling on every pitch.

The use of “Robo” umpires would change a lot of things we know about the game of baseball. While I like that it will likely ensure a definitive strike zone for every game going forward, I cannot help but feel badly for catchers. For their entire careers they have been taught how to receive pitches to give the umpire the best look as well as giving their pitcher the best chance to get a strike. “Catchers would really be required only to block balls in the dirt and throw,” ESPN’s Buster Olney said of the changes.

This would not change anything outside of balls and strikes as there would still be field umpires in charge of making calls at each base, but it would still be a massive change to the game.

Using “robo” umpires has proven to be divisive in baseball. Some personalities are in favor of the idea while others say they would prefer the human element to remain in the game. In mid-2022, Chicago Cubs catcher Yan Gomes said, when asked about the robot strike zone, “The best thing in baseball, and professional sports in general, is the human element of things.”

Jared Sandberg, manager of the El Paso Chihuahuas, said of the change, “I know there’s been some times where there’s been some frustrating calls, a ball clipped the zone or clipped the corner, or is off the plate and clips the line. So there has been some frustration, but it has brought some consistency to the game.”

For me personally, I was apprehensive of the idea of taking human umpires out of the equation. I agree with Gomes on the human element of the game. But the more I have watched and really paid attention to the game, I feel like umpires are able to let their ego take over the things that are happening on the field. Even though the umpire has the final say, there has always been an understanding that players and managers can confront umpires within reason when it comes to calls.

Sometimes, toward the end of games where umpires have been especially inconsistent, players’ tempers boil over when something small doesn’t go their way and they often get ejected from the game. I like that this way there will be a definite call on every ball and strike and there will be no major inconsistencies. On a large scale, I rarely agree with Commissioner Rob Manfred’s ideas on improving the game, but I think that robo-strike zones will be something we grow to appreciate… even if it takes a little while to get used to it.

The Era of the Dollar

By Ryan Harless

Ryan Harless is a third-year undergraduate at BGSU from Hillsboro, Ohio. He is majoring in Sport Management with a Journalism Minor. Baseball and golf at all levels are his primary interests but he is also interested in combat sports, hockey, basketball, and football.

January 11, 2023

The Era of the Dollar

Major League Baseball has a money problem. With the rise in popularity of professional sports and rise in revenue, there will always be disparities in how the teams choose to spend their available money.

Over the 2022-2023 MLB offseason, we have seen teams such as the Mets and Yankees spend lots of money in free agency. MLB writer for The Score, Travis Sawchik tweeted that, “The Mets spent more in free agency in one night ($315 Million) than the Pirates have spent since 2010 ($207 Million).”

This is a very jarring stat (especially if you are a Pirates fan). Many fans will see that and think, they should really limit how much teams can spend. However, I propose a different view on things.

The Cincinnati Reds were purchased in 2006 by Bob Castellini for $270 million. Castellini is on record saying that it was his goal to bring a winning team to Cincinnati. (As a lifelong Reds fan, I will use the Reds as a reference throughout the article). Castellini is also on record as saying to upset fans, “Where are you gonna go?” when asked about mounting unrest in the fanbase.

The Reds are currently worth 1.075 billion! More than three times what he paid for them well over a decade ago. Since his first season as owner in 2006, the Reds have only finished with a record over .500 five times and have only made the playoffs four times.

In recent memory, the Reds have had great players on their team. Now disgraced Trevor Bauer won the first Cy Young award in the team’s history in the shortened 2020 season. The next year, he went to the Los Angeles Dodgers in free agency. Before that, there was Nicholas Castellanos who was the heart and soul of the 2020-2021 Reds. He put up better numbers than almost anyone on the team, but after his contract was up the Reds didn’t even call to offer him another deal.

The Reds are not alone in this situation. Teams like the Pirates, Athletics, Orioles, and Marlins have all had good players ripped away from them simply because the owners didn’t want to spend their money on them.

Don’t get me wrong, I know there are cases where owners just don’t see much of an upside with certain talent. But I also know that every single Major League Baseball team is owned by a billionaire and is backed by other very wealthy people.

Instead of fans getting in an uproar at Steven Cohen for shelling out over 800 million dollars this offseason, we should direct our attention to another group – the group of owners who are sitting back and collecting record profits while their team and fans rot in last place.

Professional sports are a lucrative investment for anyone who has the money to get their foot in the door. But that just isn’t what sports are about. I know sports are a business, but I firmly believe that if you purchase a professional sports team to make money, you are in it for the wrong reasons.

Sports are supposed to be an escape for everyday people like you and me. It’s not a giant game of Monopoly for billionaires to buff up their bank accounts.

If you are looking for an answer on how to make this stop, I do not have one. The obvious choice is to just quit paying attention and going to games. Make the owners feel it in their pockets. But why should we as the fans be punished because the owner of our favorite team won’t open up his dusty wallet?

Caption: New York Mets owner Steven Cohen

Conspiracy Theories, Scandals and Public Trials: The Houston Astros Investigation on Twitter

By Griffin Olah

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Journalism minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey

The Houston Astros are a topic that has been discussed ad nauseam within the sports world. Everyone is focusing on the punishment, the crimes, and the reactions. The investigation, however, is no longer the focus. If you remember back to the middle of January, however, you may remember the craziest day in recent baseball history. This is the day that social media handed down the confirmation of the Astros cheating scandal that the MLB was looking for. Instead of a private investigation, the Houston Astros were tried by the public eye for the world to see, spawning some of the greatest stories in recent memory.

Once allegations came down, a relatively unknown podcast host and Yankees fan by the name of Jimmy “Jomboy” O’Brien saw his following grow faster than he could ever imagine. O’Brien, the proprietor of Jomboy Media, was best known for posting the video of Aaron Boone’s now-infamous “Savages in that Box” rant on Twitter (Young, 2019). When he saw the Astros allegations, however, he transformed into internet sleuth. When the world was in disbelief of the claims of the Astros cheating, O’Brien delivered a bombshell packed into a simple 2:20 video on Twitter. O’Brien cracked the code and found video proof the Astros cheated.

O’Brien’s initial tweet was retweeted over 37,000 times and liked more than 100,000 times. A lesser-known media man was now an internet sensation and the leading authority on everything Astros related. Then, the talk about buzzers leaked and Jomboy Media again went to work to expose the latest scandal. O’Brien found a new image containing what may have been an electronic buzzer on Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos’s batting glove. 

At the same time as O’Brien’s image came to light, a new account vied for interest. After the Astros fired manager AJ Hinch and general manager Jeff Luhnow, the Red Sox firing manager Alex Cora and the Mets firing their manager Carlos Beltran, it seemed like the scandal was done. Then, the buzzers came to light. 

A private account on Twitter, @S0_blessed1, began a tweetstorm that changed the landscape of MLB. The anonymous account accused Astros superstars Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman of wearing buzzers under their jerseys to relay signs to them. Curiously, the account apologized to their “tio,” which means uncle in Spanish. Speculation immediately ran as to who the uncle was and why this person was exposing more possible methods used by the Astros on their way to a now tainted World Series victory. 

As the identity of @S0_blessed1 was being searched for, many reputable sources agreed with the account’s claims. Cincinnati Reds pitcher and noted critic of the Astros Trevor Bauer confirmed that he had heard talk within MLB about the Astros wearing buzzers. O’Brien also confirmed he was hearing similar things from sources in MLB. 

Amid this media storm, many people were looking for the identity of the anonymous account. Based on the “tio” comment, many pointed to Carlos Beltran, the disgraced former Mets manager. Since the account broke the news of Beltran’s firing days before the Mets formally announced it or any other major media outlets carried it, many believed the owner of the account was close to the former player and manager. 

Twitter then took the bait from Beltran’s “niece” and ran with it. Kenny Ducey found the home run in the ALCS that was mentioned in the “niece’s” tweets and slowed down the end of Altuve’s trot. The slow-mo video seems to show Altuve holding his jersey tight against his body and telling the mob of teammates at home plate to not rip off his jersey. Then, there is the disputed audio of Altuve possibly saying “I’m wearing a wire.” 

That last part, as already stated, had been disputed. Some have said that it is Altuve speaking Spanish, which many people would not be able to lip read and equate to a wire. Altuve himself did not dispute the fact that he didn’t want his jersey torn off, telling dugout reporter Ken Rosenthal that he, “got in trouble with [his] wife” for taking his shirt off on television in the past (Garro, 2019, para. 9). In the past few days, Carlos Correa came out and confirmed that Altuve’s wife was not happy with him for taking his shirt off and also mentioned an “unfinished tattoo that looked kinda bad” on his collarbone that he didn’t want to show on television (Anderson, 2020, para. 7). 

Obviously, possible proof that Altuve was wearing a wire in the 2019 postseason, which was not part of the Commissioner’s Report, would make the scandal grow even more with possibly worse repercussions. While immunity was granted to the players in relation to the investigation into the 2017 iteration of the sign-stealing scheme, a new investigation may not be so kind. The potential ramifications are mind-numbing to think of, and the accusations themselves destroy any possible respect or goodwill for the team. 

Without Twitter and the dedication of the public to get to the truth, none of this would come to light. While the Commissioner conducted his own report, the findings are limited when compared to the scope of the Twitter investigation. Clearly, all Twitter sources are not to be trusted, and some here are untrustworthy. As the days wore on and the tweets from @S0_blessed1 became more and more ludicrous and eventually disappearing, the account’s credibility was called into question. Eventually, it was determined that the account was run by a noted Twitter troll, or someone who dispenses false information for comedic or personal value, and almost none of the information was considered true. But if the account made up all its claims, why is there so much evidence supporting it? 

Twitter is often seen as a cesspool of false and fake information, which is true in part. Some believe that it has no value in modern society, which can also be true. Nobody, though, can diminish the role that social media, and Twitter, in particular, played in the investigation into the Astros’ nefarious ways. One of the main principles of journalism is to be the watchdog for larger government entities, corporations, and organizations. On January 16. 2020, Twitter took on that role and conducted its own investigation. Without internet sleuths like Jomboy, Kenny Dacey and so many others, the full extent of this scheme may never have been realized. Maybe in the future, Twitter and the public as a whole can solve more of these mysteries and bring to light the wrongdoings of teams, organizations, corporations and other massive entities like the Houston Astros.

References

Anderson, R.J. (2020, February 16). Astros’ Carlos Correa fires back at Cody Bellinger, reveals new reason why Altuve didn’t want jersey removed. CBS Sports. Retrieved from: https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/astros-carlos-correa-fires-back-at-cody-bellinger-reveals-new-reason-why-altuve-didnt-want-jersey-removed/

Bauer, Trevor [@BauerOutage]. (2020, January 16). I’ve heard this from multiple parties too, for what it’s worth…[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/BauerOutage/status/1217888647468310528?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1217888647468310528&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fsports.yahoo.com%2Fa-new-astros-cheating-conspiracy-theory-has-set-twitter-ablaze-205503577.html

Ducey, Kenny [@KennyDucey]. (2020, January 16). Altuve making sure he keeps that jersey on (via r/nyyankees)[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/KennyDucey/status/1217888139072745474

Garro, A. (2019, October 19). Congrats to the Astros for clinching a trip to the World Series in the most adorable way possible. Cut4. Retrieved from: https://www.mlb.com/cut4/jose-altuve-keeps-jersey-on-after-winning-alcs-with-homer

Jomboy [@Jomboy_]. (2019, November 19). Astros using cameras to steal signs, a breakdown[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/jomboy_/status/1194348775965437952?lang=en.

Jomboy [@Jomboy_]. (2019, November 18). I have no idea what an electronic buzzer looks like but someone just sent me this as a ‘maybe that’s[Tweet]. Twitter. https://twitter.com/jomboy_/status/1196525061659906050?lang=en

Oz, M. (2020, January 16). A new Astros cheating conspiracy theory has sent Twitter into a frenzy. Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved from: https://sports.yahoo.com/a-new-astros-cheating-conspiracy-theory-has-set-twitter-ablaze-205503577.html

Young, D. (2019, August 17). Jomboy is obviously good for baseball, and the Yankees should lighten up. New York Daily News. Retrieved from: https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/yankees/ny-jomboy-savages-mlb-bill-simmons-20190817-hho4pn2mlvcghjdmlozroxh4se-story.html

Igniting MLB’s Cold War: The Coming Battles on Labor

By Griffin Olah

November 12, 2019

Griffin is a second-year undergraduate BGSU student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

Last winter, the hot stove sat cold. Top of the line free agents like Craig Kimbrel, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Dallas Keuchel waited and waited as minor signings and under-the-radar trades filled the feeds of baseball news. It stayed like that until March, when Machado and Harper both signed an excess of $300 million and a surprise Mike Trout extension broke the bank at $430 million. In a span of a few weeks, the hot stove heated back up to its former glory, then fell cold once again, leaving talented players like Keuchel and Kimbrel unemployed into the regular season.

Naturally, talk turned towards owner collusion and tanking. And that led to the biggest problem facing Major League Baseball in the coming years: Labor Strike.

The current CBA for the MLB is set to expire in 2021, and negotiations have been nearly nonexistent so far. Not since 1994 have players sat out of regular season baseball action, and the threat is imminent. After the last offseason, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) is closely watching the market for this coming offseason. After small changes done by owners -such as a luxury tax, a cap on international free-agent spending and the proposal to cut down the number of minor league teams- they now have a plethora of excuses to answer why they don’t want to give away massive free-agent payouts. The MLBPA, however, is ready for a fight.

That fight might have already started. On November 5th, Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopolous, on a conference call, divulged that he was already in contact with 27 other teams and knows what their free agent goals and trade targets are (Nightengale, 2019). As soon as this went public, sirens went off at the MLBPA offices. Here, a current GM is possibly admitting to collusion on the part of owners. The next day, MLBPA Chief Tony Clark announced the MLBPA would be investigating Anthopolous’s statement. (Nightengale, 2019). Following Clark’s announcement, Anthopolous “walked back his words, saying he misspoke, didn’t discuss free agents or the free-agent market, and that he apologized for the confusion” (Passan, 2019, para. 12). 

Like any situation regarding the complicated labor structure of an industry, this is just the start of an incredibly complex issue. The media, however, seems to be in agreement: the owners are greedy and just looking to keep their own money. Some point to the fact that the Tampa Bay Rays, with the league’s lowest payroll, made the playoffs, or that St. Louis Cardinals owner Bill DeWitt said that owning a team in baseball isn’t as profitable as many people think while his team, that he bought in 1995 for $150 million, is now valued at $2.1 billion (Stephen, 2019). These proponents of players’ rights believe that the owners make enough money to share it with the players they employ and have no right to suppress the market as they have the past two offseasons. It’s understandable that not every team is in a market like Los Angeles or New York or Boston where money comes rolling in from TV deals, sponsorships, and other sources, but teams like the Cardinals have the money. They can afford to bump the luxury tax line and flirt with crossing it. This makes the fact that Red Sox owner John Henry wants his team to slash payroll even more egregious (Shaikin, 2019). If a team that historically pays out the top salaries in the league wants to cut payroll to save money, maybe something is amiss among the owners.

In a complex issue, however, there are two sides, and one is not recognized. What about the owners and the teams’ perspective? Do all the players agree with Tony Clark coming after the people that write their checks? Sure, there will always be a vocal section of dissenters for any topic, but do they represent the ideas of all the players? The media only focuses on what’s wrong with the owners and why they need to change. Instead, how can the system be fixed? Yes, the trend of increasing revenue and decreasing salaries is concerning to anyone on the players’ side, but in the age of superstar mega-contracts like Harper, Machado, and Trout, can teams afford to pay anyone else? Owners are not the only ones in the wrong in this situation, and that needs to be recognized by the media and the MLBPA in order to create a CBA that can help everyone in the game, not just the owners or the players.

References

Nightengale, B. (2019, November 6). MLBPA launches investigation into Braves GM Alex Anthopolous after free agency comments. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2019/11/06/mlb-alex-anthopoulos-free-agents-mlbpa/2513159001/

Passan, J. (2019, November 7). Union chief’s rebuke of GM heats up baseball’s cold war over free agency. ESPN. Retrieved from https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/28025583/union-chief-rebuke-gm-heats-baseball-cold-war-free-agency

Shaikin, B. (2019, October 19). MLB’s next collective bargaining agreement could reward younger players sooner. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from https://www.latimes.com/sports/story/2019-10-19/mlbs-next-collective-bargaining-agreement-reward-younger-players-sooner

Stephen, E. (2019, November 7). Tony Clark’s statement on collusion was a necessary stand against MLB. SBNation. Retrieved from https://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2019/11/7/20953616/tony-clark-mlbpa-statement-collusion-mlb-labor-war

Whose Fault is it Anyway?

By Griffin Olah

October 3, 2019

Griffin is a second-year BGSU undergraduate student from North Ridgeville, Ohio. He is a Sport Management major and a Spanish minor. His primary sports interests are baseball and football, both collegiate and professional, but he is also interested in basketball, MMA, boxing and hockey.

The Cleveland Indians’ 3-year reign over the AL Central has come to an end, and the Tribe has missed the postseason for the first time since 2015. The preseason division favorite finished in second place in the Central and third in the AL Wild Card with a 93-69 record. This season definitely did not go according to plan for anyone involved, but reasons for missing must be analyzed. 

Most media attention focuses on shoddy leadership, particularly from owner Paul Dolan, as the primary reason the Tribe sits on the outside looking in on the postseason. Before the season began, Dolan ordered the payroll to be cut. Following an embarrassing sweep in the ALDS at the hands of the Houston Astros (Torres, 2019), this was particularly puzzling. The 2018 iteration of the Indians was flawed for sure, with the top-heavy offense and top of the line rotation carrying the team to 94 wins, but there was no addition over the offseason (Perry, 2019). Following a three team trade of first basemen sluggers with the Rays and Mariners that netted the Indians Carlos Santana and Jake Bauers while losing Yandy Diaz and Edwin Encarnación, the Indians sat quiet for the offseason. 

The reasons behind the blame placed on the Dolans vary based on the article, but there are two main ideas. The first is that the Dolans either don’t care to spend or don’t care about the team’s success. Following the Astros’ sweep, the Indians had a window to improve and a few key contributors on the open market, including relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, outfielder Michael Brantley and third baseman Josh Donaldson. All four left in free agency on contracts that the Indians could have afforded if the Dolans opened up their pockets. There is also the infamous comment from Paul Dolan telling fans to “enjoy” Francisco Lindor when asked about resigning him (Meisel, 2019). The other idea is that it is the fault of ownership. This group believes that the Dolans went farther than restricting the resigning of players, they instructed President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti and GM Mike Chernoff to cut payroll. The Indians “cut more than $15 million from the 2018 Opening Day salary obligations and reversed almost a decade-long trend of year-over-year increases” (Perry, 2019, para. 5), which led to the team not only losing key pieces of the 2018 team, but not being able to add any players at all. The Indians have a creative front office, but they were severely handicapped by the Dolans strategy and plans for the future.

Was this the reason that the team missed the playoffs? Yes, the offseason was flawed- letting Michael Brantley and Yandy Diaz leave was particularly painful for Indians’ fans both before and during their quality seasons- but there is a lot more to the picture than just the Dolans’ unwillingness to spend. The outfield was a serious issue, but one that was addressed by Antonetti and Chernoff. The Indians promoted outfield prospect Oscar Mercado in May, who went on to have a Rookie of the Year caliber season. They swung a major deadline deal with the Reds and Padres that brought in a year of Yasiel Puig and 5 of Franmil Reyes, shoring up the outfield and strengthening the overall lineup.

So, if the off-season concerns were addressed, what was the issue? Injuries. The Indians’ rotation, known across baseball as one of the most formidable in the sport, was decimated. Perennial Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber broke his arm on a comebacker to the mound, second ace Carlos Carrasco was diagnosed with leukemia and missed a significant portion of the season, and surging Mike Clevenger dealt with a back issue that caused him to miss over a month of the season. Jose Ramirez disappeared for the first half and then recaptured his MVP form in the second half, only to break his hamate bone in his right hand and miss the critical end of the season.

Even with all the injuries, the Tribe were still competitive, finishing 8 games behind the surprising Twins and 3 games behind the Rays for the second Wild Card spot. When looking at the season as a whole, where can the blame truly lie? The media puts it on the tight-walleted Dolans, but it should rest on the string of bad injuries. Would Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco give the team 3 more wins over the season? If Jose Ramirez performed to his MVP caliber the first half, could the team have won a few more games? These questions directly impact the win total of the 2019 Indians, possibly even more so than questions surrounding the Dolans’ choices over the offseason. So, in the ultimate question of “Whose fault is it anyway?” The answer rests solely on the unpredictability of baseball and the Indians’ lengthy IL.

References

Meisel, Z. (2019, March 25). Paul Dolan discusses the dollars and sense behind the Indians’ payroll and Francisco Lindor’s future. The Athletic. Retrieved from https://theathletic.com/884023/2019/03/25/paul-dolan-discusses-the-dollars-and-sense-behind-the-indians-payroll-strategy-and-francisco-lindors-future/

Perry, D. (2019, September 30).The Indians have been eliminated, and it’s mostly the fault of ownership. CBS Sports. Retreived from https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/the-indians-have-been-eliminated-and-its-mostly-the-fault-of-ownership/

Torres, L. (2019, September 30). The Dolans don’t care that the Indians missed the playoffs. Beyond the Box Score. Retreived from https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2019/9/30/20889710/cleveland-indians-ownership-dolan-missed-playoffs-cheap

Gary Sanchez: New York’s Next Superstar

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

The New York Yankees had by far the most interesting season in all the MLB this year. To sum it up, their year had three parts. The first part ranged from opening day until the All-Star break, where fans saw a continuation of the previous season with their team showing flashes of greatness only followed by long periods of disappointment. Sporting an everyday lineup filled with injury prone veteran players, fans had to hope t00at these men would play above their potential every game in the very tough AL East. But to their disappointment, we watched as Alex Rodriguez, Brian McCann, and Mark Teixeira struggled mightily and went through lengthy absences due to injury. When the All-Star break finally arrived, the Yankees sported a .500 record of 44-44, this is where the second part began.

Following the break, the Yankees ended July going 8-8 and capped it off by getting swept by the dreadful Tampa Bay Rays. This generated a lot of chatter about what New York would do at the trade deadline, either stay course and hope the team could rebound and make a push for the playoffs, or cut their losses and sell some of their top players to build for the future. General Manager Brian Cashman chose option number two and at the deadline agreed to multiple trades which resulted in Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Ivan Nova being shipped to different teams. The pool of players that New York brought in return were highlighted by highly touted prospects Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres among many others. To go along with these trades, the Yanks also decided to part ways with Alex Rodriguez when they cut him on August 13th and thanks to the pressure he was feeling from the fans, Mark Teixeira announced he would retire after the season.

With all of this said, the Yankees now had a totally revamped major league roster to go along with a much improved minor league system. Part three occurs when NY called up their top prospects Gary Sánchez, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin. Each player helped spark the team and allowed them to realistically contend for the post season. But as everyone is well aware, Gary Sánchez was the heart and soul in the last two months of the season.

On August 3rd Gary Sánchez was officially moved up to the big leagues and while many knew of the incredible skill set this young man had, no one could have predicted he would go on the tear he did. After making all the trades they did, New York was seen by many as officially entering the rebuilding stage, they were trying to get these young players at-bats and playing time so when the 2017 season rolled around they would at least have some level of experience. But to baseball viewer’s amazement, Sánchez played historically good and not just because he was a rookie. In two months, Sánchez was able to break multiple rookie records, was the main reason his team even sniffed the playoffs, and somehow put himself in contention with Tigers pitcher Michael Fulmer to win AL Rookie of the Year. In just 53 games, Sanchez’s slash line was .299/.376/.657 to go along with an incredible 20 home runs and 43 RBI, those stats are nothing short of amazing.

Image result for gary sanchez                                                                                                 Image via nypost.com

Ever since two of the Yankees all-time legends, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter, retired, New York has been dying for their next superstar. After spending millions of dollars on big names like Jacoby Ellsbury and Masahiro Tanaka, it’s only right the next star would work himself up through the team’s system. The buzz and hype that Sánchez generated from his play is ver similar to what Jeremy Lin did to the city when he came to the Knicks, not just the city of New York was in a state of shock and utter disbelief but as was the entire nation. In an article titled Gary Sánchez has impressed the baseball world written by Erik Boland, there is a quote from an opposing AL team executive describing his view of Sánchez, he says, “I’m buying. I don’t think it’s a fluke. That’s a stupid pace he was on, but . . . with that swing, he should be a 30-home run guy, I would think.” This just adds to the point of how in just two short months, Sánchez has already won over many people in the league thanks to his consistent high level of play.

During the 53 games he played at the major league level, it is impossible to find just how many articles were published about this player or how many times he was mentioned in broadcasts because simply everyone in the sports world wanted to talk about Gary Sánchez. He could have done what he did on any team in the league and would still be receiving a crazy amount of attention, but the fact that he did this in New York City, the center of the sports world, only added to the hype.

It is hard to wrap your mind around the fact that in such a short time Sánchez has already put himself in the center of the Yankees plans for years to come, looking to him as the player they need to build around. Even though his club still missed the playoffs, his efforts helped shift the view of the team from being in a state of rebuilding, to being one that should contend in 2017. Obviously in sports it is impossible to predict if a player can continue to have such an incredible level of play but when discussing Sánchez, how can you doubt him anymore? His tenure with New York this year was filled with many claiming it was beginners luck but night after night he kept producing. No adjustment could be made to slow him down and now fans are eager for next year to see the numbers he will put up. The 2016 New York Yankees season will simply go down as the year Gary Sanchez emerged.

Leicester City: The Greatest Sports Story. Ever.

 

By Nate Flax

As the clock hit the 96th minute of the Tottenham – Chelsea match, the entire soccer world realized that the greatest underdog story in sport history had concluded. After trailing 2-0 at halftime, Chelsea came back to draw with the second place Tottenham Hotspur, thanks to a brilliant 80th minute equalizer by Chelsea’s Eden Hazard. As the final whistle blew to end the heated London Derby, Tottenham’s title hopes were dashed and for the second year in a row, a new Premier League champion was decided at Stamford Bridge. However, this time it wasn’t one of England’s heavyweight contenders, but instead a club that had been written off before the season even started.

Leicester City

Located right in the heart of England, world-famous clubs, always surrounded Leicester with Manchester just to the North and London to the South, but until this year, very few that did not follow the BPL closely even knew a soccer club existed there, even though the team was founded in 1884 (132 years ago). The Leicester City Foxes were simply insignificant, finishing at the bottom of the table the year before and had only received promotion into England’s top league the year before that. They entered the season 5000-1 odds to win the title this year and featured a team that had cost just £80 million to put together (to put in perspective Manchester City spent £80 million on one transfer alone earlier in the year). Billy Beane’s Moneyball scheme wouldn’t stand a chance against this. Other recent previous 5000-1 odds as explained by ESPN’s Paul Carr included 16-year-old Paul Chaplet’s chances at this year’s Masters (where he shot 21 over par and finished dead last) and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ chances to make the playoffs with a month left in the season and their record sitting at 14-35. The odds for Elvis Presley being found alive were also 5000-1.

Being written off before the season even started, Leicester really had no chance of failing any expectations given to them, quite frankly because there were no expectations to start with. But that’s when everything clicked. Led by Riyad Mahrez, Danny Drinkwater, Jamie Vardy, and seasoned manager Claudio Ranieri, the Foxes outdid themselves by continuing to be that pesky opponent that just wouldn’t give up even though they seemingly had no business competing with powerhouses like Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea. Yet somehow, with Chelsea holding Tottenham to a draw, Leicester City sat seven points clear on top of the table with just two games to play, making it impossible for anyone to catch them, and crowning them the kings of England. With the third smallest budget in the Premier League, the Foxes became the first team not named Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal, or Chelsea in 21 years to win the title, and just the sixth to win out of 48 that have tried since 1992. After a season that proved that money can’t always guarantee a crown, Leicester City concluded the fairy tale of a season that underdogs could previously only dream of.

Who’s in the Wrong? Curt Schilling or ESPN?

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

Curt Schilling has been in the news lately for all the wrong reasons. The former Major League Baseball pitcher has served as a baseball analyst for ESPN since 2010, but this past Wednesday was fired from the network because of the “transphobic” comments that he posted on Facebook.

                                                                            Image via awfulannouncing.com

To give a little background, Schilling first entered the public eye in 1988 when he debuted for the Baltimore Orioles as a right-handed pitcher. The former second round pick then went on to play for the Astros, Phillies, Diamondbacks, and Red Sox over the course of 19 seasons. During his career, Schilling won three World Series titles (including being named co-World Series MVP in 2001) and was a six-time All-Star. Arguably the most memorable part of his MLB tenure came in game 6 of the 2004 ALCS when he was on the Red Sox and pitched while having a torn tendon in his ankle causing blood to become visible through his sock, this game is now known as “the bloody sock game.”

Sadly these are all just memories and now the former MLB star is seen as transphobic by many. As stated earlier, Schilling was let go by ESPN because of a post he shared on Facebook, it was a picture of a man dressed as woman  and read, “Let him in! To the restroom with your daughter or else you’re a narrow minded, judgmental, unloving, racist bigot who needs to die!!!” He also added a comment that said, “A man is a man no matter what they call themselves. I don’t care what they are, who they sleep with, men’s room was designed for the penis, women’s not so much. Now you need laws telling us differently? Pathetic.” This post was obviously a response to the recent uproar caused by North Carolina passing a law which restricted public restroom and locker-room use to individuals based on birth sex. In simpler terms, people are angry that a person who was born a man but has since changed genders to a woman, will still be forced to share a locker-room with men even though they are a woman now.

This actually is not the first time that Schilling has been disciplined by the network for comments he made about popular social issues. In August of 2015, Curt was suspended from ESPN after he posted a meme on twitter that read, “It’s said ONLY 5-10% of Muslims are extremists…In 1940, ONLY 7% of Germans were Nazis, how’d that go?”

With all of this said, is it wrong for ESPN to fire Mr. Schilling because he expresses his personal beliefs? Some will argue that a man is entitled to his own opinion and he should not have to keep it to himself when we live in a country that takes pride in their freedom and where the First Amendment of our Constitution protects our freedom of speech. This is true but technically in the First Amendment it states that only the government cannot restrict freedom of speech from anyone. So actually ESPN did not infringe on his First Amendment rights and legally has the power to fire him if they wish.

Many of the stories that have been written about Curt Schilling and his recent termination state that what he said and more importantly how he said it was wrong but also credit him with starting a public conversation concerning a very popular issue. In an article from The New York Post titled “Curt Schilling got fired for his Common Sense on Bathrooms,” author Linda Chavez is inspired from Schilling to ask an important question. She writes, “Are Americans being intimidated into accepting public behavior that many feel threatens them — namely, allowing biologically male or female individuals to use public bathrooms that are designated for the opposite sex?” While this was a pretty “raw” way of giving his opinion on this certain topic of discussion, it has caused more and more people to start talking about something that may be looked at as a “sensitive” subject.

The statement ESPN issued regarding Schilling’s dismissal reads as follows, “Curt Schilling has been advised that his conduct was unacceptable and his employment with ESPN has been terminated.” In an article titled “Curt Schilling’s Crassness, Not Politics, Got Him Fired From ESPN” from forbes.com, author Alex Reimer claims that the analyst was only fired because of the way he gave his opinion, not the opinion itself. He writes, “Curt Schilling isn’t being persecuted for his right-wing views. He’s being persecuted for the crass and crude ways he expresses them.” This is very interesting and makes one think that if he had stated his views in a more appropriate way would he have still been let go?

It is unclear whether the public will ever know if the former pitcher was let go because the network thought his views were offending or if it was only because of the way he said it. One thing that is clear is that Schilling will not be a part of ESPN’s staff moving forward. Following his termination, Schilling was quoted as saying, “I’m not transphobic, I’m not homophobic.” So the question I have now is that if a different analyst, who doesn’t have a history of being outspoken, would have said something similar (in a gentler way) would he or she have been fired?

 

 

 

Hard Work Pays Off, Just Ask Jeremy Hazelbaker

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

It is pretty common to hear a feel-good story about a professional athlete, whether it is about them coming from a low-income family or overcoming a devastating injury. But Jeremy Hazelbaker’s story is a unique one, it is about perseverance, dedication, and dealing with adversity.

                                       Image via http://www.ksdk.com

Currently, baseball analysts are spending their time discussing Trevor Story’s historic start, but one player that has maybe been more impressive than Story is the rookie outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, Jeremy Hazelbaker. Similar to Story, Hazelbaker was only given a shot in the big league this year because of something that happened to another player. For Story, he was given the opportunity because Rockies shortstop Jose Reyes is on paid leave from the MLB stemming from a domestic violence case. In Jeremy’s case, he got his shot because of an injury that Cardinals shortstop Ruben Tejada suffered which opened up a spot for him on the 40-man roster. With that said, let it be known that Hazelbaker certainly earned his spot and it was not only because of the injury. In Spring Training, the prospect showed the team that he was capable of playing all three outfield spots, led the club with two homers, and was one of the top base stealers in the entire league.

This is one of those feel-good stories because not only did the Ball State alum earn a spot on the team on the last day of Spring Training, but also because he had been in the minors for the past seven seasons before finally breaking through this year. Originally a fourth round pick of the Boston Red Sox, the outfielder’s path to the majors included playing in 751 minor-league games where he had 3,104 plate appearances. At this time last year Hazelbaker was sitting at home wondering if he would ever get another chance in professional baseball after he was cut by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The only team to reach out to him after his release was the Cardinals, who signed Hazelbaker to a minor-league contract. He then went from AA to AAA in 2015 sporting an average above .300 at both stops. Hazelbaker was rewarded for his excellent play with a contract that paid him $18,000 a month, more than he had ever been paid before, and an invitation to Big-League camp. He made the most of his chance and as described before, eventually made the Major League club out of Spring Training.

As of Monday, the 28 year-old is batting .394 with three home runs, seven runs batted in, and an OPS of 1.239 through the first two weeks of the 2016 season. Those numbers are eye-popping for any player, let alone one viewed as a career minor-leaguer. The rookie has also earned praise from his teammates through his play. In an article from baseballamerica.com titled After Long Stay In Minors, Hazelbaker Arrives, writer Derrick Goold includes a quote from Randal Grichuk one of Hazelbaker’s fellow outfielders. Grichuk is quoted as calling Jeremy “the greatest hitter ever.” This is definitely a stretch but it is obvious that Hazelbaker has not only earned respect from the coaching staff but also his teammates.

The coverage of the (kind of) young outfielder hasn’t been the same as that of Trevor Story, but I venture to think this player maybe prefers it that way. As he has joined the MLB’s top hitters atop the leader boards, more and more stories are being written about him by the day. Hazelbaker’s story is very appealing to baseball writers because they know that we as fans crave these kind of feel-good tales about players overcoming obstacles to ultimately succeed at the highest level. Similar to myself, Jeremy hails from a very small town. He grew up in Selma, Indiana which has a total population of 858. There is no doubt that this man, who is one of the hottest topics of conversation in baseball, is the talk of the town and is serving as not only an inspiration to all the kids from back home but also to anyone who is at a cross-roads whether in sports or life in general.

It is pretty obvious that the player will eventually slow down in terms of his production but he has certainly impacted many from his dedication and humbleness. In an article from USA Today titled Jeremy Hazelbaker’s big league dream comes true with Cardinals, author Bob Nightengale includes a quote from the player himself where he demonstrates this humbleness. Jeremy is quoted as saying, “this is stuff you think about, even dream about…But at the same time, it’s not something you can prepare for. I can’t thank them enough for giving me this opportunity.” The stories that members of the media have wrote about the player have all been positive ones that emphasize the player’s determination and credit him for finally reaching the big leagues because of his incredible work ethic. It is my hope that Hazelbaker stays consistent throughout the 162-game season and I am confident he will, solely because of the motivation he has gained from his past failures.

 

 

Trevor Story is Writing His Own Story

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

Major League Baseball kicked off the 2016 season on April 3rd and the first week has been an entertaining one to say the least. There were a couple interesting storylines going into the season such as how Zack Greinke would do in his first start for the Arizona Diamondbacks, if the Chicago Cubs would be able to meet expectations, and whether the San Francisco Giants would be able to win the World Series again with this being an even year. But Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story has stolen the spotlight during week 1.

                                         Image via http://www.m.mlb.com

2 off-seasons the Rockies traded their superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the Toronto Blue Jays for SS Jose Reyes among others. Fans were shocked that the team decided to ship their franchise player to Toronto but most understood that they are in the midst of rebuilding for the future. After arriving in Colorado, Reyes finished the 2015 season productively but this past off-season the veteran was brought up on domestic violence charges in Hawaii. Currently the MLB has placed Reyes on paid leave and a timetable for his return is uncertain, but the question now is will he even have a starting spot when he returns? The person that is responsible for creating this question is none other than rookie shortstop Trevor Story.

Story earned a starting spot on the Rockies after he posted impressive numbers this Spring Training. Even after his stellar performance in the spring, no one predicted for him to get off to this kind of start, not the fans, the media, or any baseball analyst.

In the Colorado Rockies first game of 2016 they faced the Arizona Diamondbacks led by their newly acquired ace, Zack Greinke. In 2015 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Greinke posted the ninth best ERA in baseball history with a 1.66, so expectations were high in his first start of 2016. But don’t bother telling Trevor Story he should be intimidated by Greinke. Story became the first player in MLB history to hit two home runs in a big league début on opening day, both coming off  Greinke. With this breakout performance, Story had the Colorado fan base going wild. There was even a picture that circulated around social media of a fan wearing a Tulowitzki jersey that had Story’s name taped over Tulo’s.

                                                                                                    Image via http://www.denverpost.com

Following his opening day performance, expectations were through the roof for the former 1st round draft pick. So as everyone predicted of course, he would hit another home run in his second career game off of talented pitcher Shelby Miller. With this, Story became the third player in baseball history to hit three home runs in the first two games of his career. But he wasn’t done yet, in his fourth career Major League game, Trevor Story homered twice against the San Diego Padres becoming the first rookie in baseball history to begin a career with two multi-homer games in his first four games. Another notable record that Trevor is a part of is becoming the fifth player to homer in their team’s first four games of the season.

As of now, the Rockies shortstop is batting .333 with 7 home runs in 6 games…Wow. The numbers he has put up cannot be described as anything less than astounding. And he’s on pace to get video game like stats.

You should give credit where credit is due, it is not easy to follow in a superstar’s footsteps, just ask New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius when he took over after Derek Jeter retired. The question that was asked after his first game and is still asked now is if Trevor Story is going to be able to keep up his historic run? An article titled Rockies’ Trevor Story Homers in Record 4th Straight Game from cbc.ca.com, includes quotes from Story and teammate Carlos Gonzalez, Story says, “I’ve said it before, I’m not trying to hit home runs, sometimes it kind of happens,” and later Gonzalez adds, “He’s fearless. He’s playing like a Hall of Famer right now.” With his quote, Story appears humble while downplaying his recent success and his teammate known as CarGo praises the young player like most of his other teammates are probably doing.

The media coverage around the rookie phenomenon has been extensive and rightfully so, this kid has become the talk of not only Rockies fans and media but media and fans league-wide. At this point, Story is probably accustomed to being swarmed by mobs full of baseball writers, journalists, and reporters following games. But there have already been some wild comparisons between the former LSU Tiger and some of the MLB’s all-time greats. In an article from The Score com titled How Does Story’s Debut Rank Against MLB’s Greatest? Author George Halim stacks Trevor Story up against Babe Ruth among others. First he writes about Story, “In his first four major-league games, the Rockies rookie is the best hitter in the majors, and the greatest of all time.” Well that is quite the statement if I do say so myself, later Halim talks about Hall of Famer Babe Ruth, “At one point, he was the home run king, and his career is among the greatest ever. But Ruth’s first four major-league games? Not so historic.” So as you can see with this specific example it is ridiculous to even put Trevor Story in the same sentence as Babe Ruth. Story has gotten off to a historic start but there is still no need to compare him to any Hall of Famers because he has still only played seven career games at the Major League level.

There is no telling how long this player will stay hot or continue to mash home runs for his team but even if he doesn’t hit another homer all year he has still broken multiple records and caused a league-wide media frenzy during this first week of baseball. Personally I am rooting for Story to continue his excellent play because it makes baseball so much fun to watch. Only time will tell what player he will eventually become but he has certainly made a name for himself quickly. I also recommend you to pick him up in your fantasy league if you haven’t already, you can bet I have.