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2015 Major League Baseball Preview: Most Overrated and Underrated Players in the Game 0

Posted on April 03, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Despite being one of the best offensive and defensive players in the game over the last six years, Adam Jones gets little respect from baseball "experts".

Despite being one of the best offensive and defensive players in the game over the last six years, Adam Jones gets little respect from baseball “experts”.

As we prepare for the start of the 2015 Major League Baseball season, the key to success for most teams will be whether their premium players can live up to their high profile and then who will emerge as breakout players in 2015.

ESPN recently ranked their top 100 players across Major league Baseball and as always, there are some definite head-scratchers amongst their picks. They seem to have certain players that they regularly move to the top of their list while others who have registered similar statistics and are just as crucial to their teams are for some reason downgraded.

Below is a look at five players that I believe are rated too high and five others who should be ranked higher.

Most Overrated:
Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels – ESPN Rating: Number 1
Now don’t get me wrong, Mike Trout is a great player, but it makes absolutely no sense that he is ranked as the number one player in baseball by ESPN and Adam Jones of the Baltimore Orioles (more on him later) doesn’t crack the top 25. If Trout were truly the best player in baseball, then he would be among the best in the league when his team needed him the most. Yet, in 2014, Trout batted right at the Mendoza line (.200) with runners in scoring position and two outs. He did not have a home run and drove home 15 runs. Conversely, Jones, who is also a much better defensive player, hit .319 with 2 home runs and 22 RBI in the same situation. Others in the top 25, including Giancarlo Stanton, Miguel Cabrera and Josh Donaldson were also significantly better than Trout in those tough situations.

Chris Sale – Chicago White Sox – ESPN Rating: 7
Good left-handed pitchers are certainly valuable, but Chris Sale made 26 starts in 2014 and hasn’t started more than 30 games in any of his three seasons as a starter for the White Sox. He certainly deserves to be in the top 25, but is he really more important to his team than Jose Abreu (ranked 12th overall), who played in 145 games last season and hit .317 with 36 home runs and 107 RBIs? Illustrating my total disdain for how these ranking are compiled, Sale was ranked 18th a year ago after going 11-14 during the 2013 season.

Paul Goldschmidt – Arizona Diamondbacks – ESPN Rating: 9
Okay, I really need someone to explain to me how someone like Paul Goldschmidt could go from hitting 36 home runs with 125 RBI in 2013 to 19 home runs and 69 RBI in 2014 and actually improve on the ESPN top 50 list from 16th to 9th. I know he was injured and played in only 109 games, but others on the list actually improved their numbers in 2014 without moving up significantly in the ratings. I also don’t understand why Goldschmidt is held in such high regard when he struck out 110 times in 109 games last season and in his career has struck out 438 times in 462 career games.

Carlos Gomez – Milwaukee Brewers – ESPN Rating: 27
There is no question that Gomez is a good player, but is he really better than fellow centerfielder Adam Jones (ranked 40th)? Both players are 29 years old and excellent defensive centerfielders, but offensively there is little comparison. In 2013 and 2014 Gomez had the two best seasons of his career with nearly identical numbers of .284 batting average, 23 HR in 2014 and 24 in 2013 and 73 RBI each seasons. He also struck out 146 times in 2014 and 141 in 2013. For his career, his batting average is .260 and he has an OBP of .314, Slugging Percentage of .420 and .734 OPS. Jones has hit 25 or more home runs in a season four times, including 33 in 2013 and 29 in 2014. He also has driven in at least 82 runs four times, including 108 in 2013 and 96 in 2014. In addition, Jones has hit .280 or better in each of the last five seasons and .270 or better for seven straight years and has a career batting average of .280, OBP of .320, .461 slugging percentage and .781 OPS. How ESPN can say Gomez is significantly better makes absolutely no sense. Read the rest of this entry →

Spare the Grizzlies 8

Posted on January 31, 2015 by Peter Getty
Fresno Grizzlies

Fresno Grizzlies

The offseason is an important time for a baseball team. The winter is when a team’s farm system gets more attention than usual. For the Giants, that usually means there’s going to be some derision for their feeder teams. But is the Giants farm system really that bad?

Golden Gate Sports ran an article that puts the Giants farm system into better perspective. It’s easy to disregard the Fresno Grizzlies, our AAA team, which was 13 games behind last season – and hasn’t fared much better for years. The trouble is, this ‘ineffective’ farm system has produced some of the most valuable players of the Giants roster over the last 10 years!

Next time you hear a fan complaining about the Giant’s farm teams, remind them about the players who came up through that very system, leading to three World Series wins over five years.

Madison Bumgarner and Pablo Sandoval, both essential pieces of this year’s championship, were drafted by the Giants. Matt cain and Tim Lincecum, vital to the 2010 and 2012 teams, were too. And what would we have done without Travis Ishikawa’s World Series home run in 2014? Or Brian Wilson’s 2010 strikeout of Nelson Cruz? All these players played on farm teams for San Fran.

In fact, 13 of 25 players on this year’s World Series roster were drafted by San Fran. Two others had only ever pitched for the Giants. Similar numbers were true for 2012 and 2010. According to calculations made by Golden Gate Sports, a full 68% of the Giant’s full 40-man roster officially called San Francisco their first professional home.

This all points to the whole point of a farm system. I’d argue that they don’t exist to win minor league championships, but first and foremost to groom players for an eventual place on the major league team. After all, in the AAA’s Pacific Coast League, where the Grizzlie’s placed last in 2014, Reno had the best record. Reno is the feeder team for the Arizona Diamondbacks, who ranked last in the National League West, and dead last in the entire league.

So, which farm system is really working out?

Peter Getty’s love of sports began at the age of nine. Baseball first caught his attention when, growing up, he played catch with his dad, Gordon Peter Getty, the former CEO of Getty Oil.  During his youth, Peter participated in all the usual team sports–baseball, basketball, soccer and football. After coming to the realization that he was “awful” at all of them, he decided to be content with being a major sports fan by writing about them. Based in San Francisco, Peter stays current on all the Northern California teams, and has an excellent understanding of all professional sports. In addition to his posts on Sports Then and Now, you can also check out his own blog.

Will Rob Manfred Make Baseball Better? 2

Posted on January 25, 2015 by Dean Hybl
On his first day as commissioner, Rob Manfred sent a letter to baseball fans outlining his immediate areas of focus.

On his first day as commissioner, Rob Manfred sent a letter to baseball fans outlining his immediate areas of focus.

Today is the beginning of a new era in Major League Baseball. After more than 20 years, Bud Selig has finally relinquished control of “America’s Pastime.” His replacement, Rob Manfred, will have a hard time being as bad for the game as Selig, so hopefully he will be a refreshing change for the sport and help return it to previous glory as one of America’s treasures.

Manfred’s first action was to write a letter to baseball fans telling them of his desire to grow the game among youth and within urban areas.

It is a nice thought, but based just on the language of his letter, I have a feeling he has a different strategy for how to achieve that growth than I do.

As a life-long baseball lover and the father of a nine-year-old son who enjoys baseball, but has many other sports, activities and technology tugging at his time and interest, here are three things that I think would help achieve his goal to strengthen the sport for generations to come.

1.Make Watching and Enjoying Baseball Affordable – I understand that baseball is a business and one of the goals is to make money, but as the middle class continues to struggle in a country where the gap between income levels is continuing to widen, all entertainment options must recognize that continuing to increase prices will ultimately reduce the number of people interested in their product. Last year my family spent a day in Baltimore that culminated with attending an Orioles game. The combined cost for tickets (we sat in the lower deck along the first baseline), parking, food and merchandise was quite hefty. For a one-time thing, it was something we could budget for and afford. However, going to a game would not be something we could afford on a regular basis. When the Orioles were contending in the early 1990s, tickets to games at Camden Yards were tough to find and the Birds often led the league in attendance. Though they have been successful again over the last three seasons, there seems to still be a lot of empty seats even for big games. I can’t help but believe that the fact that it is just really expensive to go to a game is one reason. I know even the new Yankee Stadium is rarely completely full and with tickets for their games higher than anywhere else you can understand why.

If Manfred wants the next generation of fans to continue attending games, then he better make sure that the game experience doesn’t become so expensive that their parents can’t afford to take them to games in person or to buy a hat, jersey and other merchandise without taking out a loan. I know that like the NFL, MLB is looking to continue increasing their revenue, but if going to major league games ever gets to the point that the only people attending are the wealthy and the inner-city poor who receive tickets through charity organizations supported by the team, it will not help grow the overall love for the game. Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering “Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks 1

Posted on January 24, 2015 by Dean Hybl
"Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks has passed away at the age of 83.

“Mr. Cub” Ernie Banks has passed away at the age of 83.

The baseball world lost a legend with the passing Friday of Hall of Famer Ernie Banks at the age of 83.

Though “Mr. Cub” was most associated with the team for which he played his entire 19 year career, for fans outside of Chicago he is likely best remembered for his famous line “Let’s play two”, which epitomized his love for the game and acceptance as one of the superstars of the first full decade in which African-Americans played in the major leagues.

Since it has been 44 years since his retirement and 56 years since he was the dominant player, and back-to-back MVP winner, in baseball, it is easy to forget just how great a player Banks was.

After a stint in the U.S. Army and time with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League, his contract was sold to the Chicago Cubs in 1953 and he made his major league debut late that season. The lanky 6-foot-1, 180 pound shortstop moved into Wrigley Field for good in 1954. He finished second to Wally Moon (Hank Aaron was fourth) in the Rookie of the Year voting as he hit .275 with 19 home runs and 79 RBI.

Many like to point to Cal Ripken Jr. as the pioneer of the power hitting shortstops, but Banks was blasting long balls while anchoring the Chicago infield three decades before Ripken entered the league. He blasted 44 home runs in 1955 to set a new record for shortstops in a season, but eclipsed that mark in 1958 when he led the league with 47 home runs and 129 RBI to win his first MVP award.

He followed that up with another monster year in 1959 (45 HR, 143 RBI) to win his second straight MVP award. In 1960 he claimed his second home run title as he hit 41 home runs with 117 RBI. He also won the Gold Glove award for his fielding prowess at shortstop.

Though Banks was just 29 and would play for another decade, he would never again reach such illustrious power numbers. Read the rest of this entry →

2015 Baseball Hall of Fame Selections: Tough Choices Abound 2

Posted on January 02, 2015 by Dean Hybl
Pedro Martinez seems to be a lock for the 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame class.

Pedro Martinez seems to be a lock for the 2015 Baseball Hall of Fame class.

After seeing three first-year candidates join the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014, the class of 2015 has the potential to match or exceed that total. However, unlike a year ago when all three inductees appeared clear-cut (as much as any in this post-PED era), there are fewer guarantees and more questions surrounding the 2015 candidates.

Even with there being more unpredictability amongst the potential 2015 class, there are two players whose inclusion seems to be nearly certain.

Last year the Hall of Fame welcomed the two most consistent pitchers of the 1990s and early 2000s in Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. This year it should open the doors for the two most dominant pitchers of the same era (at least among pitchers not linked to PEDs) in Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez.

With 303 career victories, two no-hitters and 4,875 career strikeouts, there seems little doubt that Johnson will reach the Hall of Fame in his first season of eligibility.

The same should be true for Martinez. Though he won significantly fewer games (219) than several pitchers who have fallen short of HOF selection, his career ERA of 2.93 during the PED era might be one of the most impressive statistics of all-time. In addition, his three Cy Young Awards and .687 career winning percentage are also worthy of a spot in the Hall.

It is very possible that a third first-year-eligible pitcher could earn selection, but this is when the 2015 selection process starts to move into the land of confusion.

To some, the combination of his 213 career victories and 154 career saves, along with an amazing 15-4 post season record is enough to warrant a vote for John Smoltz. However, critics will point out that except for the 1996 season when he won 24 games and the Cy Young Award, Smoltz never won more than 17 games in a season and his time in the bullpen was so brief (only three seasons) that it really shouldn’t be a boost to his candidacy the way his relief career was for Dennis Eckersley.

Given that his career resume isn’t significantly better than that of two other pitchers who have received only minimal support since becoming eligible (Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling), it could be a tough road for Smoltz to Cooperstown.
Read the rest of this entry →

Remembering Sports Greats Lost in 2014 6

Posted on December 31, 2014 by Dean Hybl
Earl Morrall spent 22 seasons in the NFL and helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a perfect record in 1972.

Earl Morrall spent 21 seasons in the NFL and helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a perfect record in 1972.

One inevitable component of the end of the year is reflecting on those who we lost during the previous year. As always, we said goodbye to many sports greats during 2014.

Below are brief remembrances of just a few of those who passed away in 2014. Click here to check out a more comprehensive list.

Jean Beliveau – Hockey Hall of Famer – 83 years old
A member of the Montreal Canadiens for 20 years and a member of the NHL Hall of Fame, Jean Beliveau helped lead his team to 10 Stanley Cup Championships and is considered by many as one of the 10 greatest players in NHL history.

Rob Bironas – NFL Kicker – 36 years old
After bouncing around the Arena Football League and several NFL tryouts, Rob Bironas finally got his shot with the Tennessee Titans in 2005 and was their kicker for nine seasons before being released prior to the 2014 season. He developed into a Pro Bowl kicker and scored 1,032 points while converting 85.7% of his field goal attempts.

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter – Professional Boxer – 76 years old
Best known by many for the feature film “The Hurricane” in which Denzel Washington chronicled his life as a professional boxer and 20 years in prison, Rubin Carter had a career record of 27-12-1 as a middleweight and lost to Joey Giardello in his only championship bought. He was twice convicted of a triple murder, but the conviction was eventually overturned and Carter became a champion for those wrongly accused of crimes. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Horton Smith: First Masters Champion
      April 3, 2015 | 8:58 am
      Horton Smith

      Horton Smith

      In 1934, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month became the first winner of what is now considered among the most prestigious of all golf tournament championships.

      Horton Smith made his professional golf debut in 1926, in 1929 he won eight tournaments and in 1930 finished third in the U.S. Open and tied for fourth at the British Open. However, he entered the first-ever Masters (then known as the Augusta National Invitational) in 1934 without having previously won any of the tournaments that would eventually be considered the “majors”.

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