If the Florida Miami Marlins Brass Ran Baseball: An EJSIC Hypothetical

Last night saw the ushering in of a new era of baseball in South Florida.  The newly re-minted Miami Marlins opened the 2012 season playing host to the St. Louis Cardinals in their brand-spanking-new, $515 millon ballpark.

And it’s a doozy.

I’ve made my thoughts known on this ballpark and its inhabitants here before, so I won’t drone on and on in this post about the eye-piercing color schemes, the overgrown bath toy in center field or any of the other “qualities” that set this park apart from all the others. I also will not dwell on the My Little Pony fetus of a new logo the team has donned.

I shall name him Fluttershy Jr.

Instead, I would rather focus on the, somewhat humorous, notion of what other, more understated, teams across Major League Baseball would look like if the owners and marketing folks at the Marlins got a hold of them.

So, we threw it around the conference room and here are some of the ideas we came up with: Continue reading

MLB Round-Up Dog Days Edition

The only thing hotter than the temperature is… screw it, there’s nothing hotter than the August sun right now. As the remaining games dwindle, the races get tighter.

Team of the Week

American League – Toronto Blue Jays. I thought the great birds of the North would slowly fall southward in the standings as the season progressed, and they have to a degree. However, they’re still managing to stay in a thick AL East race. Sure, they’re 8 games behind the first place Yankees, but they are 59-52 to date and just completed a 3 game smack-down of the Rays.

National League – Cincinnati Reds. The first place Reds continue to stay ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals with the third best record in the Senior Circuit. They’ve also won 4 straight games and have posted an 8-2 record in the last 10 games. They start a crucial series with the Cards tonight in Cincy.

Position Player of the Week

American League – Chone Figgins (Seattle). The free agent signing has been a big disappointment this season after leaving the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This past 7 days he looked liked the player of old. He batted .522 and scored 3 runs with 3 stolen bases.

National League – Ryan Braun (Milwaukee). The Brewers continue to be an intriguing team looking like a contender one week while looking horrible the next. Braun posted an MLB-best .538 average.

Player of the Week

American League – Trevor Cahill (Oakland). 17 innings pitched, 0 earned runs, 2 wins, 1 complete game, and 1 shutout in 2 games for the young Oakland pitcher.

National League – Tim Hudson (Atlanta). The Braves ace pitched in 2 games the past 7 days. He recorded 2 wins with a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings with 9 strikeouts.

MLB Round-Up 5/17 edition

Last week, you may have noticed a change in format in the weekly MLB Round-up post. That format will be used again this week. As a refresher, it included a team of the week, position player of the week, pitcher of the week, and an upcoming series to keep an eye on.

Team of the Week

Cincinnati Reds – Manager Dusty Baker has had his Reds floating around .500 for much of the early season, but after going 5-1 last week (and 8-2 in their last 10 games), the Reds have ascended to the top of the NL Central standings. Winning 2 out of 3 over the weekend against the visiting Cardinals cemented the Reds claim to first place. Can they stay there?

Also, apologies to the Los Angeles Dodgers who have posted a 9-1 record over the last 10 games and reemerged as a contender in the NL West.

Position Player of the Week

Eric Hinske (Atlanta) – The veteran utility man and pinch-hitter posted a .529 batting average over the past week in route to helping the Braves win 5 out of 6 games. Hinske recorded 4 doubles, 1 home run, 8 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of .941. Perhaps the most outstanding stat comes from the Twitter account of Braves beat writer, Dave O’Brien. On Sunday, he wrote, “Eric Hinske has more extra-base hits in 6 games as ATL LF than Diaz, Cabrera had combined in 31 games at the position.”

Pitcher of the Week

Bronson Arroyo (Cincinnati) – In my preseason previews of each division, I did think Cincinnati could compete this season, but admittedly, their play as of late has been a bit surprising. They’ve received good pitching and run support. And in the past week, no Cincy pitcher was better than Bronson Arroyo. Arroyo pitched twice (winning both games), threw a complete game gem, and recorded an ERA of 1.69. Lights out work from a veteran pitcher is always welcomed in the manager’s office.

Series to Watch

During the week, the Red Sox and Yankees player twice (Monday and Tuesday) followed by the Yankees and Rays playing Wednesday through Thursday.

But the real series to watch comes on the weekend in the form of Interleague Play, one of commissioner Bud Selig’s best decisions in my opinion.

Boston visits Philadelphia for a weekend series has caught my eye. Boston has played better baseball since their horrid start with a resurgence from Big Papi. The Phillies to seem to have found their groove and appear ready to take off at any minute. Should be some good baseball.

Edinson Volquez speaks about positive test

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Edinson Volzquez was banned 50 games by Major League Baseball Tuesday under the substance abuse policy (aka performance enhancing drugs). The Dominican native who is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, spoke with EJSIC.

EJSIC: Edinson, when did you learn of the suspension?

EV: About one hour before it broke.
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EJSIC: Edinson, the question every person wants answered is why? Why did you do it?

EV: (Mumbled Spanish)

EJSIC: English, please.

EV: It was unconventional. My rehab is going really well. It was so well, I was afraid of getting back too soon.

EJSIC: Too soon? But don’t you want to be back on the mound, pitching at a high level?

EV: Very much so, but the Reds were talking about speeding up the process. I wasn’t ready yet.

EJSIC: How were you not ready? You’re the future ace of the organization. They wouldn’t hurt you.

EV: Do I have to spell it out for you? Dusty Baker. I don’t want to pitch for him. The rest of my teammates entered a pool in Spring Training. We chose the pitcher most likely to have his arm blown out this season by the manager. The majority chose me. That would be two years in a row. It scared me to death. I wouldn’t mind missing the whole season. I just want to play baseball, not get killed.

EJSIC: Have you talked to Dusty about this?

EV: If you bring up the myth of arm-killing, he just works you even more. I’m too afraid. My family needs this.

EJSIC: Thank you, Edinson. EJSIC wishes you the best luck in your recovery.

EV: Gracias.

The rehabbing pitcher left the EJSIC interview room with a tear or two in his eye. We’ve all heard of the harm Dusty Baker can inflict on a pitching staff, but none of us thought it was this bad. God bless the Reds pitching staff.

Two Questions: NL Central

EJSIC’s baseball preview travels to the Midwest where the largest division in Major League Baseball resides. It is the National League Central.

Chicago Cubs

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1. Can they bounce back? The Cubs were the preseason favorites to win their third straight Central division title last year, but they were horrible. They did not even challenge the rival Cardinals down the stretch. But manager Lou Piniella is looking for resurgences from Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, and ace Carlos Zambrano. All three will need a strong 2010 campaign to keep the Cubs in the race.

2. Does the departure of Milton Bradley help? Bradley is a talented player, but he never fit in Chicago. The fans booed him, he struggled hitting in the National League, etc. He’s gone to Seattle now which brings up the question of team chemistry. Will the Cubs be better without him?

Cincinnati Reds

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1. Will the Reds offense come through? General Manager Walt Jockety made a few moves in the off-season, mainly focusing on position players. Orlando Cabrera will be the everyday Short Stop and the disappointing Willy Taveras is gone. The Reds will be relying on Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Scott Rolen, and Brandon Phillips to provide the power in a hitter-friendly ballpark.

2. Will Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman pitch in the majors this season? The Reds outbid the big market teams for the lefty phenom. There is still a possibility that Chapman may make the starting rotation out of Spring Training, but it seems more certain that he’ll start in the minors. His outings during the spring have been solid though. If he does make his debut before June, I’ve got August 15th as the day his arm falls off due to manager Dusty Baker overusing him.

Houston Astros

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1. What does Roy Oswalt have left? Oswalt has been the Astros ace for the past few seasons, but 2009 was a career worst for him. Some questioned if the heavy workload was finally hurting him. Oswalt can regain his status as a dominant pitcher with a good season in 2010.

2. Do the Astros have enough offense to compete in the division? Miguel Tejada has returned to Baltimore and Lance Berkman is entering the last guaranteed season of his contract. Berkman is also coming off the worst season of his career. The Astros will be counting on Berkman’s bat to return as well as a bounce back from LF Carlos Lee. Hunter Pence’s continued development into a power hitter is also something to watch.

Milwaukee Brewers

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1. Is Randy Wolf enough to improve the rotation? The Brewers have a future ace in Yovani Gallardo, but the rest of the rotation was horrible last season. Wolf was brought in to be a veteran presence. The Brewers also traded for Doug Davis from Arizona to strengthen the rotation.

2. Does Corey Hart return to form? Right fielder Hart was an all-star a few seasons ago, but he struggled in 2009. He’s not a dominating player, but he’s very solid. He fields his position well, he can hit for power or percentage, etc. The Brewers are a better team when he’s on his game. He provides protection for Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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1. How good can Andrew McCutchen be? The Pirates center fielder was dynamic last season as a rookie in 108 games. Now that he’s got some experience and a full season ahead, the guy will delight fans in the Steel City. He’s a five tool player who will soon be a perennial all-star.

2. Can the Pirates finish above .500? They haven’t accomplished that feat in an American professional sports record in 17 years. That’s right, no American professional team has endured as many consecutive losing seasons as the Pirates. They have a good enough lineup to accomplish the goal, but pitching will determine their outcome.

St. Louis Cardinals

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1. Can the Cardinals reach the World Series? St. Louis is the only NL Central team with championship aspirations at this point in the season and rightfully so. They have Albert Pujols, the best player in baseball, Matt Holliday inked a 7 year deal in the off-season to stay, the Cards boast two aces in Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter, and, finally, they have one of the best managers ever. The Cardinals know the season is long, but they’re on the short list of pennant contenders.

2. Will McGwire fanfare distract the team? Former slugger Mark McGwire was hired to be the Cardinal’s hitting coach in the off-season. In accepting the job, McGwire also had to come clean about his steroid use. So far, the McGwire fanfare has been quiet. But will that continue throughout the season? He’s sure to face questions outside of St. Louis (most notably in New York). Will it be a distraction?