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

Orioles Introduce New Rally Mascot for 2012

With the smell of gun powder, stale Budweiser and provel cheese still permeating downtown St. Louis after the Cardinals capped an improbable season by winning Game 7 of the World Series on Saturday, one thing remains crystal clear:  The red birds could not have done it without….the rally squirrel.

Whether or not the wayward squirrel had anything to do with the outcome of this year’s MLB (#)postseason is anyone’s guess, but one can’t deny two facts. 1) the squirrel showed up of its own accord and 2) the Cardinals won the World Series.

I don't always wear an inflatable squirrel costume, but when I do, I smoke Marlboro Lights

This, of course, is not the first time a rally mascot has captured the hearts of a fan base and led to team triumph.  In the fall of 2002, the Anaheim Angels rode the wave of prosperity generated by the two year-old phenomenon known as the “Rally Monkey” to come from behind and beat the San Francisco Giants in dramatic fashion to capture their first World Series title.

Not that they overdid it or anything

Continue reading

Bandwagoning Baseball’s Finality

Has your favorite baseball team been eliminated from post-season play? Do you remain reluctant to dive headfirst into football 24/7? Are you willing to set aside your normal allegiance for the next month and a half and bandwagon a contender for the sake of shit-talking and a possible faux championship?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, or preferably to all three, then it’s time for you to hop on the shoulders of a more successful fanbase a la Carlos Mencia’s “comedy” routine (yes, I just Mencia’d a Mencia joke). EJSIC is here to rank the possible teams on a scale of 1 to 10; 10 being fully bandwagon-worthy, 1 meaning we’d rather root for Hitler.

Let’s start with the American League and work our way through the pennant chasers there before exploring the National League.

Note: the author of this post is anti-DH, but in the interest of fairness will attempt to reasonably grade the AL teams instead of giving all of them the 1 they so deserve.

American League

1. New York Yankees: THE EVIL EMPIRE! That should be enough for you to realize that only intolerable douches and fans of the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Lakers, and Duke Blue Devils (sorry, repetitive) “root” for these guys. Seriously, they’ve won more Fall Classics in baseball history than any other team. They also possess the deepest wallet, the NY superiority belief, and include Cleveland native LeBron James as a fan. Do NOT bandwagon under any circumstance. Score – 1

2. Boston Red Sox: The Sox are 2.5 games behind the Yankees for the East crown, but with a comfy 6.5 games up in the Wild Card they’re virtually in. This is the same franchise that defeated an eight-decade curse with two World Series titles since 2004. And when the core of that team aged too much, they went out and splashed Yankee-esque money this off-season. While I find them more root-worthy than their arch-rivals, there’s no need to really bandwagon them for their fans have been treated to championships in all four major sports this decade. Score – 2

Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em

3. Detroit Tigers: Detroit has slowly put the AL Central away over the second half of the season. Aside from playing in a collapsing shit-hole of a city, what’s not to like? They have a chain-smoking manager who puffs during games, an ace pitcher who could seemingly throw a no-hitter each time out, and an alcoholic first baseman. Sounds like a recipe for bandwagon awesomeness to me. The only downside? They’re in the same league as the Yankees and Red Sox so a championship is unlikely to come this season. Regardless, you’ll have a good time. Score – 8

4. Texas Rangers: The defending AL Champs refueled after losing ace Cliff Lee to free agency, and yet they’re right here again. If you like offensive baseball, the Rangers are your team. They’ve crossed home 737 times this season, third best in baseball behind the Yankees and Sox. They also maintain a relatively unknown squad. Some guys (like Michael Young and Josh Hamilton) are known nationally, but many of their better players have yet to receive a lot of national pub (Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz). So if your choice is the Rangers, it would help to do some research and not unveil yourself as a bandwagoner within the first five minutes. Score – 7

5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Really, these guys should get a one for having the worst name in baseball. Pick a damn city. I could also give them a one for the owner complaining after whiffing on free agent Carl Crawford this season despite the fact that the Angels have plenty of money themselves. You lost out to a better organization, STFU and get over it. However, the Angels assumed an underdog role this season winning ball games with great pitching. Their offensively challenged team has scored 586 runs to date, the worst of any AL challengers. They’re also 2.5 games back of the Rangers so they have some work to do. Score – 4 Continue reading

The No-No Lotto

Since it’s apparent that any pitcher from a middle of the rotation innings eater to ace studs can throw a no-hitter this season, let’s look at who could be next.

1. Adam Wainwright (St. Louis). One of two Cardinal aces, Wainwright has a 1.94 ERA (2nd best in baseball), and he’s lights out at home. Odds of a no-hitter: 35%

2. C.C. Sabathia (New York). Big C.C. has motored along quietly in his second year in the Big Apple. He’s grown stronger with the season. Plus, 9 innings are common outings for Sabathia. Odds: 19%

3. Carl Pavano (Minnesota). Yankee fans cringe at his inclusion, but Pavano has experienced a career resurrection in the Twin Cities. The likelihood of him grabbing a no-no seems considerably greater than other. Odds: 7%

4. Josh Johnson (Florida). The best pitcher in baseball has to be on the list. His 1.61 ERA and 8 games of 1 run or less make him a very likely candidate for a no-no. Odds: 41%

5. Clay Buchholz (Boston). Buchholz has one no-hitter in a previous season, but 2010 is becoming his breakout year (and it also shows why the Red Sox were reluctant to trade him so many times). His only problem? The short porches in Fenway Park. Odds: 23%

6. Tim Hudson (Atlanta). The Braves ace is also having a very solid season. When he keeps his sinker ball down, as he has the majority of the season, then he’s very tough to hit. Odds: 16%

7. Matt Latos (San Diego). The All-Star snub has assumed the role of ace for the first place Padres during life without Jake Peavy. Can he continue the stellar season? Odds: 21%

8. John Danks (Chicago). It’s not easy to have a quiet season in the second biggest media market, but when you pitch behind Jake Peavy and Mark Buehrle, it’s a little easier. Odds: 11%

9. Roy Halladay (Philadelphia). He’s gotten a perfect game once this season against the Marlins, but he also has 3 shutouts and 7 complete games. Doc Halladay has the goods for a second no-no. Odds: 27%

**Disclaimer – The author of this article has very little knowledge of statistics. All odds were made up in his head.**

MLB Round-Up and Look Ahead 4/19 edition

Major League Baseball is entering the third week of the long regular season and we begin this week’s post by looking back over the first two weeks as well as looking forward to the next 7 days.

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Ubaldo Jimenez

Looking back

1. Ubaldo Jimenez threw the first no-hitter in Rockies history Saturday night against the Atlanta Braves (I called Jimenez a Cy Young candidate in the NL West preview, so I now pat myself on the back). The Dominican native is a long, lanky pitcher who throws hard. His fastball can top 100 while he consistently hits above 95. He even throws an off-speed breaking ball at 89. That’s faster than a lot of fastballs. Kudos to Jimenez on his historic night. He should be in line to pitch again Thursday against the Nationals.

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Nelson Cruz

2. Jason Heyward was named the number one prospect in all of baseball by numerous publications this off-season. He has not disappointed after two weeks either. Through twelve games his stat line is as follows: .302 avg, .423 OBP, .581 SLG, 1.004 OPS, 3 HRs, 15 RBIs, and 9 walks. His only bad stat is 16 strike outs, but what else can you expect from a 20 year old in the majors?

3. Nelson Cruz is off to a great start for the Texas Rangers. An All-Star from last season, Cruz is still gaining notoriety around the nation. He leads MLB with 7 homers and is tied for second with 15 RBIs (one behind the leader). Texas will be, once again, relying on the offense to carry the team and Cruz playing this well makes them even more dangerous.

Looking Forward

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Terry Francona needs to turn his team around

1. The NL East leading Phillies travel to Atlanta for a 3 game series beginning on Tuesday. It’s very early to talk about divisional races, but one of the reasons Atlanta’s hot second half in 2009 did not produce a playoff spot was the fact that they found themselves so far back of Philadelphia. The Braves will be pitching three of their best in Tommy Hanson, Tim Hudson, and then Derek Lowe while the Phils counter with Kyle Kendrick, undetermined, and (most likely) Roy Halladay.

2. The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of a horrible start to the season. Boston is 4-9 and all ready find themselves 6 games back of the division leading Rays after 13 games. Jon Lester has yet to pitch effectively. In 16 innings pitched, he has an ERA of 8.44. The Sox host the Rangers beginning on Tuesday.

3. Two series look promising for the weekend games. In the American League, a rematch of last season’s ALCS will take place with the Bronx Bombers visiting the Angels. In the National League, St. Louis travels to the left coast to play the Giants. The four teams have all gotten off to relatively good starts, some better than others.

Baseball quote of the week: “That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.” – Bill Veeck, 1976.

MLB predictions sure to be wrong

Now that I’ve successfully turned EJSIC into a baseball blog, I will take the next step by providing some predictions for each division as well as the major award winners. I preface these prognostications by saying baseball is one of the hardest sports to accurately predict. It’s difficult enough to choose a World Series champion before the playoffs start and that is after the teams have played 162 games. But despite the odds, I’m putting my neck on the chopping block.

American League

East: New York Yankees – The Yanks are the most complete team in baseball. They have four solid starting pitchers, a potent offense, and Mariano Rivera at the end of the game.

Chicago White Sox – The South-siders are a sleeper team for the World Series. Mark Buerhle and Jake Peavy are a solid one-two combo, and Paul Konerko is poised to have a big season.

West: Seattle Mariners – Seattle will finally overtake the Angels this season. They have a good offense, but Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee (with the possibility of Erik Bedard returning by June) puts them over the reigning AL West champions.

Wild Card: Boston Red Sox – The Sox have a deep pitching staff (a theme with these picks), and just enough offense to defeat the rest of the contenders.

MVP: Mark Teixeira (New York) – Once ARod returned to the lineup last season, Teixeira’s production soared. With Rodriguez present all season, I expect “Tex” to have a monster season with the short porch in right

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Seattle ace Felix Hernandez

Cy Young: Felix Hernandez (Seattle) – “King Felix” posted Cy-worthy numbers last season, but Zach Grienke won the award (and deservedly so). Hernandez will turn 24 this season and is coming off the best season of his young career. He is only going to get better.

Rookie of the Year: Brian Matusz (Baltimore) – The South-Paw tasted the big league last season after a late call-up, and showed signs of both good and bad. The good was his strikeout to walk ratio while the bad included his low groundball frequency. However, Matusz still has plenty of time to learn the art of pitching.

National League

East: Philadelphia Phillies – Manager Charlie Manuel boasts the most complete team in the league, and with the addition of Roy Halladay, anything short of a third straight World Series appearance would be considered a failure.

Central: St. Louis Cardinals – Again, this is an easy pick for the division. The Cards have Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter at the top of the of the rotation plus a full season of Matt Holliday protecting Albert Pujols.

West: Colorado Rockies – Get ready for a second straight Rocktober as Colorado will dethrone the Dodgers division crown. They’re going to score a lot of runs with Troy Tulowitzki in the middle of it and Ubaldo Jimenez leading the pitching staff.

Wild Card: Atlanta Braves – General Manager Frank Wren has built a solid pitching staff with youthful talent and veteran experience. The Braves will also be relying on an increase in run production, especially from the oft-injured Troy Glaus. If Glaus recaptures his 2008 numbers, the Braves will be returning to the postseason.

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Rockies Short Stop Troy Tulowitzki

MVP: Troy Tulowitzki (Colorado) – The Rockies are poised to make a World Series run, and it will hinge on their All-Star short stop. He presents a nice balance of power and contact at the plate as well as playing great defense.

Cy Young: Josh Johnson (Florida) – The two easy picks for this award would be Tim Lincecum (since he’s won it two years consecutively) and Roy Halladay (dominant pitcher moving to an easier division). However, I’m going with the young Marlins ace Johnson. He’s a big guy who can take the workload of an entire season and remain consistent. He will keep Florida in the race all season.

Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward (Atlanta) – Heyward was the minor league player of the year last season, and named the number one prospect in all of baseball before Spring Training. He will be the starting right fielder for Atlanta. Heyward is a five star talent who will make jaws drop across the nation.

Playoffs

American League champion: Chicago White Sox over the New York Yankees in 7

National League champion: Colorado Rockies over the Philadelphia Phillies in 6

World Series champion: Colorado Rockies in 6

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?