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Money Ball–Cubs’ Odds of Winning World Series

By bullpenbrian - March 4, 2013 - 8:00 am Leave a comment.

Money Baseball

One way of judging the offseason of all MLB teams is to look at what the odds makers are saying, such as online sports betting at Top Bet. For World Series odds I’m finding it universal the Astros (200-1) are lest likely to win a ring while Toronto (7-1) is the favorite (Cubs are coming in at 100-1).

Houston is obvious of course, but granted Toronto made hay this winter (namely their blockbuster pillaging of Miami), they’re still in a tough division against New York, Baltimore and Tampa Bay–even the Red Sox should be more competitive than last season.

Meanwhile, the Nationals, Giants, Angels, Tigers and Dodgers are typically rounding out the top picks, while the Marlins, Rockies and Cubs are rounding out the bottom feeders. For wild cards I’d throw in the never-say-die Cardinals and the good but not great Rangers.

I was also looking at the over/under for total regular season wins. The Cubs are listed at 73, which falls in line with my prognostication of a (72-90) win season for Chicago. I say this because my gut feeling is Team Theo will use the July trade deadline much as they they did last year–trading away ageing and more expensive veterans for younger prospects–which ultimately set the Cubs on pace for 101-losses.  

Although this summer appears to be a lesson in enjoying Cubs baseball for what it’s worth–another year closer to completing the rebuild–at least we know the odds of winning should get much, much greater for Chicago in the coming seasons.

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MLB Spring Training Locations On Google Maps

By bullpenbrian - February 28, 2013 - 11:45 am Leave a comment.

Here’s a look at spring training locations for all 30 teams in MLB.
Each Google map is interactive by clicking this link to
MLB.com.

Cactus League 2013

Grapefruit League 2013

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Wrigley Field A Staple of Iconic Sports Stadiums

By bullpenbrian - February 27, 2013 - 10:25 am Leave a comment.

Wrigley Field
Freelance writer Erica Walsh wrote an article featuring three iconic stadiums sports fans should consider visiting.

 

Wrigley Field makes her list as well as Boise State University’s Bronco Field (where my Ohio Bobcats rallied from 13 points down to defeat Utah State 24-23 in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl!) and Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Erica Walsh comes from a family that is dedicated to playing and watching sports. She was a sports reporter for a local paper until she decided to freelance, and she’s so glad that she did.

Wrigley Field, Chicago

One of the most iconic stadiums in the country, the Chicago Cubshome field is not just a ball park but "It’s a Way of Life." Major League Baseball’s website provides details of its rich history. Nicknamed the Friendly Confines, you will recognize the stadium because of its lush ivy-covered brick outfield wall and hand-turned scoreboard. The red marquee over the entrance has been a popular image in the eyes of young and old, women and men.

  • Built in 1914, it’s the second oldest baseball park in the country (first is Fenway Park in Boston)
  • It was named after chewing gum magnate, William Wrigley, Jr., who was the team owner in the 20s
  • From 1921-1970, Wrigley Field was the NFL Chicago Bears’ stadium, as well
  • Famous Cubs players: Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Andre Dawson

Wrigley Field | Cubs Win

Bronco Stadium, Boise State University

In 1986, Boise State covered their regular old field with a very blue artificial surface (Astro Turf), creating a challenge to opposing teams, according to BroncoSports.com. Could the field be the reason the Bronco’s home record is 87-4 since the 1999 season? The team had an unbelievable 65 home game winning streak until beaten one time in 2011 by TCU.  Also, whenever you’re in the home of the Bronco’s, it’s easy to rent one of many Boise apartments for your stay while you enjoy the big game and beauty of the outdoors through hiking, horseback riding and river activities.

  • Notable players currently in the NFL: Doug Martin — RB (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Shea McClellin — DE (Chicago Bears), Chris Carr — CB (San Diego Chargers)
  • "The Blue" added 3,500 seats in the summer of 2012 in a recent expansion raising the capacity to 37,000 total seating capacity and costing over $13.5K, reported by BroncoSports.com
  • Appropriately home to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

Home to the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, "Ray Jay" is large enough to house 75,000 people for special events like NCAA bowl games, grand-scale concerts, USA equestrian show jumping and monster truck jams. Erected in 1996 and opened in 1998, the stadium has already been the site of two Super Bowls due to the city’s fair winter temperatures and overall attraction to visitors. Because Tampa sits near the Gulf of Mexico, there are endless entertainment opportunities. With the bustling downtown area of Ybor City as well as St. Pete and Clearwater beaches just over the bridge, it’s a great city to visit and live. RaymondJamesStadium.com offers some of the stadium’s highlights:

  • Features a 103-foot, 43-ton replica buccaneer pirate ship. It has all the bells and whistles and cannons that fire soft-rubber footballs and confetti, as well as hoisting flags. It has a remote-controlled talking parrot and when fans hear the song, "Yo Ho (A Pirate’s Life for Me)," people onboard the huge steel and concrete ship deck throw beads and t-shirts.
  • Stadium has some of the largest video displays in the league at 92-feet wide.
  • Patrons can find concessions and restrooms in Buccaneer Cove, a weathered fishing village facade that is two-stories high.
  • The stadium was publicly funded and built with $168.5 million.

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Chase Field Resodded In 2:00 Minutes

By bullpenbrian - February 27, 2013 - 9:00 am Leave a comment.

It took 10 days to lay 100,000 square feet of sod at Chase Field in Arizona. The cool part is USA Today Sports posted a time-lapse video of the recent event, and who doesn’t enjoy a little time-lapse baseball video?

From what I gather, the diamond needed a makeover after hosting a Monster Truck Rally in January, and I’m sure MLB wanted the field to present well for the the World Baseball Classic, which gets underway next week.

Group D of the tournament (USA, Canada, Mexico, Italy) begins play at Salt River Fields in Talking Stick on Thursday, but then switches venues to Chase Field Fri, Sat & Sun.

More time-lapse videos below (hooray!).

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Griffey Name Still Highlight Worthy

By bullpenbrian - February 8, 2013 - 9:00 am Leave a comment.

Ken Griffey Jr
When Tyler Griffey made a wide-open layup with 0.9 seconds left to lift Illinois over top ranked Indian 74-72 in men’s college hoops Thursday night,
I thought ‘Wow, what a finish. What a game!

I also couldn’t help but think of one of my all-time favorite baseball players—Ken Griffey Jr.—and how it’s been nearly three years since his abrupt retirement from the Mariners in early June of 2010.

Griffey quietly walked away after 22 major league seasons having collected 2,781 hits, 1,836 RBI and 630 home runs, the fifth-most long balls in baseball history.

Junior was the total package. The sweet swing, the majestic home runs, the highlight reel catches, the swag, the ever present smile and the backwards cap; I loved it all. Who didn’t?

I even had those ugly Griffey Jr. shoes, several pairs to be exact, when teal was cool back in the day.

It’s hard to nail down my favorite Griffey Jr. moment. I could go on and on. But the time he flew around the bases from first to home scoring the decisive run to eliminate the Yankees in the 1995 ALDS I knew who my favorite player was.

Ken Griffey Jr

Of course he’s still one of my favorite players and always will be. And in two years it will be nice to hear his name again upon his induction into the baseball Hall of Fame.

Long live The Kid.

Ken Griffey Jr

Ken Griffey Jr shoes

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Would Baseball Benefit From A Shorter Regular Season?

By bullpenbrian - January 22, 2013 - 2:30 am Leave a comment.


The NHL opened its regular season this weekend with a shortened 48-game schedule due to the league’s lengthy lock-out. That’s 58-percent of its normal 82-game campaign, which had me wondering…how would have a shortened MLB season changed the playoffs last year?

Actually, not too much.

Under such circumstances the regular season would have ended after 94-games (which falls in mid July). At that mark only one American League team that eventually made the postseason would’ve been left out–Oakland. And the same in the National League–St. Louis.
(The Cubs were (38-56) after 94-games).

Oakland of course went on to have an incredible second half to win the AL West (they trailed Texas by 6.5 games in mid July) and the Cardinals overcame a 4.5 games deficit to jump Pittsburgh for the wild card. Otherwise, all else remained in tact in the final standings for division winners and wild cards through 162-games.

IS BASEBALL’S SEASON TOO LONG?

In baseball the Fourth of July is typically a good indicator of which teams will make the postseason. Chances are, if you’re not battling for the division on Independence Day, you won’t be come late September, either.

For this reason I feel baseball could benefit from a shorter regular season, perhaps one consisting of 154-games, as it did until 1961 when the league increased its season due to expansion.

Shortening the season wouldn’t necessarily eliminate the late-season drama we’ve seen the past two years (it would just happen sooner), the postseason wouldn’t be as overshadowed by the start of the NFL season, and the World Series wouldn’t end in November.

Besides, it’s not as if the league hasn’t already cheapened the regular season with the addition of a one-game wild card play-in game (that’s another story), so if the emphasis is on brightening the lights on the postseason, why not make it more appealing to the masses by playing it sooner?

It’s unlikely baseball’s owners are willing to come off the gate money from losing four home games a year, but it seems an awfully small sacrifice to give the game the attention it deserves, but lacks, in October/November.

What do you think?
Is less more?
If so, how many games should baseball play in its regular season?

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My Take On ‘Lance The Liar’ & Time Wasting Interviews

By bullpenbrian - January 18, 2013 - 2:00 am Leave a comment.

Livestrong? More like Liestrong.

What a worthless coward. Lance’s doping isn’t even the worse part. The despicable treatment of his sport and the shameful behavior towards his teammates, specifically those dismissed from the team who failed to adopt the doping program, his fans and his foundation are unforgivable.

Lance tells Oprah “he’s now paying the price.” What ‘price’ I’d like to know? Besides relinquishing his cycling awards and repaying a pittance of money he unfairly earned, nothing has changed. A half-truthful interview does little, if anything, to repair the damage.

It’s not that I’m against second chances, lord knows I’ve needed a few, but I doubt this scumbag could do anything to re-earn the trust of anyone. If Sir Lies-A-Lot wants to do any favors he can crawl into a hole and disappear. What a slime ball disgrace.
***
It was nearly four years ago we watched Alex Rodriguez sit down with Peter Gammons on national television to come clean on his his use of illegal performance enhancers.

The most troubling part of that interview, however, was Gammons resistance to push A-Fraud with follow-up questions. But as Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News points out:

Make no mistake, once Gammons landed the interview with Rodriguez, his job was done. This was a huge coup for the Worldwide Leader. The rating, compared to a normal SportsCenter broadcast, had to be monster. That’s the important thing to remember here. Ratings and buzz rule. So what if you gain access by kicking your own credibility to the curb.”

Thankfully, Oprah pressed harder and dug deeper on Lance than Gammons did on A-Roid, but neither interviewer did justice for demanding a straight answer.

If I could hand pick the interviewer for both these clowns I’d go with Bob Costas, who remains one of the best in the business. His strong opinions have obviously made him a lightning rod for many viewers, but more importantly, there’s no denying Costas shows zero hesitation in relentlessly asking the tough questions, as he did grilling Jerry Sandusky in November of 2011.

As an aspiring broadcaster in college I often respected the bulldog interview approach of Jim Gray, who David Halberstam, an American Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, named as one of the 50 greatest sports broadcasters of all time.

Gray’s interview techniques, at times, became so confrontational it even made the viewers at home squirm. But Gray’s lines of questioning were also fact based and spot on…that is until ‘The Decision’ aired by ESPN on July 8, 2010 when Gray fed LeBron James softball questions about joining the Miami Heat vs. remaining with his home town Cleveland Cavaliers. Much like Gammons, unfortunately, Gray sold out to the ratings.

My hope is the art of skillful and proper interviewing will return now that sports fans have grown more accustom to ‘tell-all’ sit downs with athletes who have disgraced themselves and their sport (Pete Rose, A-Rod, Lance etc.). Perhaps just landing the exclusive interview the next time around (which we shouldn’t have to wait long for) won’t be enough to simple juke the ratings any longer…after all, what haven’t we seen or heard before during these time wasting publicity stunts?

For starters, hearing the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is a refreshing idea.

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Is Dontrelle Willis A Fantasy Sleeper With Cubs?

By bullpenbrian - January 17, 2013 - 12:00 pm Leave a comment.

GUEST POST: FANDUEL.COM

Things have come full circle for Dontrelle Willis, as he has signed a minor league deal with the team that took a chance on him back in 2000 in the 8th round of the MLB draft.

The lefty has experienced plenty of highs and lows since then, and now it’s a question of whether he can find a spot on the Cubs’ 2013 roster, or your fantasy baseball team.

It’s obviously a low risk, high reward deal for the Cubs to give Willis, still just 31-years-old, one last chance to resurrect his career.

In recent seasons Willis has been far from the dominate starter we saw with the Marlins. His deceptive delivery that once worked so well for him as seemingly worked against him since the trade that sent he and Miguel Cabrera from Miami to Detroit during the winter of 2007.

Following the trade Willis’ walk rate, in particular, climbed to unsightly levels as he averaged nearly one walk per inning since his first full season with the Tigers. It’s unquestionably contributed to an ERA hovering right around 5.00 during the same time frame.

This spring he’ll work closely with the Cubs’ coaching staff to fine tune the mechanical flaws that have derailed his once bright future.

It’s worth noting the D-Train hasn’t pitched in the majors since a brief stint with the Reds in 2011, which resulted in a (1-6) record and a 5.00 ERA in 13 starts.

He later signed with the Phillies but was released last March before the start of the season. Willis then caught on with Baltimore, but again struggled allowing eight runs in just 6.1 innings at Triple-A. That led to his voluntary retirement on July 2 last year.

The good fortune of being left-handed, however, has presented Willis with perhaps his final opportunity to pitch in the major leagues.

If he’s able to regain his old form this spring it’s likely Willis could stick with the Cubs, who are in need of another left-handed reliever. And if Willis makes it to Opening Day he could prove a sneaky good fantasy pick.

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Steroids Era and The Hall of Fame

By bullpenbrian - November 29, 2012 - 3:25 am 2 comments.

We knew this day was coming. Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa are eligible to become members of baseball’s Hall of Fame.

The question is whether or not suspected PEDs users, such as the three above, among others, should be elected.

I think they should be enshrined.

Now, before you start throwing stones…I’m not foolish enough to believe none of the eligible candidates cheated the game. In fact, I’d bet money I don’t have they did use performance-enhancers. Who are we kidding?

However, if baseball is ever going to move on from the Steroids Era it can’t allow this debate to fester on year-after-year, which it will, as long as a seven-time MVP is without a plaque in Cooperstown.

There’s no better example than Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader, whose legacy only grows with his exclusion from the hall. Granted, Rose wasn’t banished for steroids use, but cheating is cheating.

What I’m saying is Bonds, Clemens, Sosa etc. shouldn’t be given the privilege of such attention, like what Rose receives during the election announcements each year.

Instead, the writers must remind themselves the Steroids Era cannot be erased. What happened, happened. Yes, it’s a black on the game, but it can be healed.

Just as we learned to separate the Dead Ball Era from the Live Ball Era, fans will learn to do the same with the Steroids Era.

By the numbers we’ll know Bonds is the all-time home runs leaders and Clemens is one of the best hurlers ever. But we’ll also have an understanding they accumulated their numbers artificially, at least partially, and against other steroids users, no less.

Baseball’s most cherished statistics become no less sacred by electing players from the Steroids Era into the HOF. Rather, it will only help make the game’s history more transparent.

On the contrary, if the baseball writers chose to withhold their votes for highly suspected PEDs users the Steroids Era will never come to a close. And what could be worse than future Hall of Famers, even those decades from now, being overshadowed by the eternal debate of Bonds’ exclusion from the hall?

The writers can lop the head off the ugly Steroids Era monster by simply voting the roid players in, even though we know in our hearts, none are truly deserving of the honor.

Strangely, the decision to enshrine Steroids Era players would actually devalue the players’ accomplishments over time, thus bettering the game and the Hall of Fame itself. So put the cheaters in and move on with the understanding a certain period of the game’s history was chemically enhanced.

That doesn’t mean voters from this point forward should issue a free pass to future PEDs users eligible for the hall. We’re in a new era, more aware, more informed and better educated. Baseball’s steroid rules have been revised and most importantly, enforced. For all intents and purposes, it should be a non-issue.

In the meantime, reliving the Steroids Era with each new HOF ballot does the game no good. The writers need to bury baseball’s dead past and close the chapter on the Steroids Era once and for all.

Unfortunately, it takes putting some more scoundrels in Cooperstown. Call it an unpleasant, but necessary evil if you will.

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Mitchell Report Five Years Later

By bullpenbrian - November 24, 2012 - 2:45 am Leave a comment.

We’re coming up on the 5-year anniversary of the Mitchell Report (Dec. 13, 2007).

The investigation most notably uncovered and published the names of 89 MLB players of either highly suspicious or confirmed uses of performance-enhancing drugs (steroids, HGH, amphetamines, etc.).

I was curious to know how many players listed in the Mitchell Report were still playing in the major leagues as of 2012.

By my count there are 5: Rick Ankiel, Jason Giambi, Andy Pettitte, Jerry Hairston and Brian Roberts.

Ankiel, 33, is the youngest of the five and could still play several more seasons. He was, however, cut by the Nationals on July 27 and failed to play another game last season. The remaining four are 35 and older with Giambi and Pettitte both in their 40s.

If Ankile fails to latch on with another club, it’s nearly a certainty 2013 will prove the final season for both Giambi and Pettitte–if either plays at all. But that doesn’t mean the Mitchell Report players vanish from the present game entirely.

The names of Bonds, Palmeiro and Clemens will resurface during Hall of Fame discussions. Mark McGwire is still around as the hitting coach for the Dodgers and Matt Williams (also listed) appears poised to become a big league manager.

To baseball’s credit, in the five seasons since the Mitchell Report the league has taken great strides to clean up the game with improved testing practices and harsher penalties. But, as Melky Cabrera proved this past summer, there’s still work to be done.

I’m not suggesting there’s a policy baseball can put forth to prevent all players from cheating. But I do believe more can be done to discourage players from using PEDs by implementing stauncher penalties.

Further preventative measures are the responsibility of the Players Union, the owners and Bud Selig. It’s up to all three parties to cooperate on hammering out the details of stricter penalties to ensure the integrity of the game will not be compromised any further by steroids offenders. This is the best way for baseball to stay ahead of the players seeking new and improved artificial advantages in the coming years.

An unyielding stance on PEDs users would mean five years from now we’ll be able to look at the game and know, without question, we’re well into the post ‘Steroids Era’ and past the ugly black eye of the Mitchell Report.

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