Nationals Arm Race

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Chase Utley gets away with yet another dirty play; time to change the rules

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A dirty play from a dirty player. Photo via sbnation

A dirty play from a dirty player. Photo via sbnation

[Editor’s note: after writing this but before posting, Utley was suspended by the league for 2 games…. but is appealing, enabling him to keep on playing.  Very effective deterrent.  I guess he’ll get his hearing after the playoffs are over.  Don’t dig in tonight Chase.]

The Chase Utley play in NLDS Game 2 was dirty.  I don’t care if you can claim it was “within the rules.”  He *broke a guy’s leg* who was BEHIND THE BAG.  He basically jumped past the bag and hit Ruben Tejada on the fly, fracturing his leg in the process.  It was a ridiculously awful slide from a guy who has done it many times before (ask Jesus Flores what he thinks of Utley’s sliding techniques).  Think Utley has never done this before?  Here’s a couple of his greatest hits:

This slide on Jedd Gyorko earlier this year didn’t result in injury but was just as egregiously bad.  Video link hereUtleyGyorko awfulslide usa-today-8781648.0

In fact, it isn’t even the first time Utley has gone hard in on Tejada!

Its not the 2nd or 3rd such situation we’ve faced this year where a guy was injured on an awful looking slide.  The Pirates were significantly weakened late in the season when a Chicago player (Chris Coghlan slides into ) did the same thing, snapping 2nd baseman Jung Ho Kang‘s leg.  See that image here:

Another awful slide. Via wtvm13.com

Another awful slide. Via wtvm13.com

You can’t tell the angle Coughlan is taking, but its very far off the bag.  The “rule” says that as long as you can ostensibly touch the bag, a runner can slide wherever he wants.  I think the rule is wrong and has empowered some players to take advantage of the situation and basically try to go straight after players.  Kind of like how in soccer you can jump slide tackle into someone’s knees, but as long as you hit the ball first your slide is “legal.”

This Matt Holliday slide from a couple years ago was just as ridiculous; somehow Marco Scutaro avoided serious injury (video here):

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 15: Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals slides into second knocking over Marco Scutaro #19 of the San Francisco Giants in the first inning of Game Two of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on October 15, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Much like we’ve now eliminated purposeful catcher collisions after a series of high profile (Buster Posey) injuries occurred, I think its high time to do the same on these middle infield plays.  And clearly the sentiment is the same in the industry.  Even C.J. Nitkowski’s notoriously “gorilla-man” anonymous surveying of his current and past connections in the industry on Jabo.com showed that a plurality of players think the slide was dirty and needs to change.

That Utley was eventually suspended admittedly seems hypocritical; change the rule THEN suspend the player; you can’t suspend the player for doing what he’s been doing for the last 20 years.  Put a new rule in place in the offseason that eliminates this situation much like we’ve eliminated needless defenseless catcher injuries.

(side note: the fact that the play was even reviewable, and that Utley was awarded the base after this vicious slide and having never touched the base is even more ridiculous.  Explain this one to me; when a batter swings at a pitch in the dirt for strike 3 but walks off the field … eventually the ump calls him out.  Why?

Written by Todd Boss

October 12th, 2015 at 4:08 pm

2013 Fantasy Baseball post-mortem

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Verlander just killed me this year.  Photo unk via rumorsandrants.com

Verlander just killed me this year. Photo unk via rumorsandrants.com

My standard disclaimer; this is a whole huge post kvetching about my 2013 Fantasy Baseball team.  If you don’t play fantasy, feel free to skip this 3,000 word missive.  I’ll insert a “jump” line here so that RSS readers don’t have to see this whole massive post :-)

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MLB 2013 Predictions

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Opening day has past and I forgot to post the obligatory “predictions” piece for 2013.  Here’s some far-too-early predictions on who makes the playoffs this year.  For comparison purposes. here’s the Si.com Writer’s slate of predictions, with lots of success predicted for our Nats.  My predictions below look awfully similar to Si.com’s Baseball Preview standings too.

(For a trip down memory lane, here’s a link to my 2012 seasonal predictions, and as you may have guessed, I was way off).

  • AL East: Tampa Bay
  • AL Central: Detroit
  • AL West: Los Angeles Angels
  • AL Wild Cards: Toronto, Oakland

AL East Narrative: The year the Yankees died; they’re too old, too dependent on aging arms and aging bats, and did next to nothing to improve in the off-season (though they did just pick up Vernon Wells, the Angels’ 4th outfielder.  Great!)  For a team that makes hundreds of millions of dollars of profits a year from the stadium and their TV station, they seem awfully worried about a few million dollars of luxury tax.  (see *ahem* Los Angeles Dodgers *cough*).  I think Baltimore regresses back to the .500 team they should have been in 2012 (they too failed to appreciably improve their playoff team), and Boston seems stuck in some weird middle-ground for the time being.  Toronto seems greatly improved but falls slightly short of the champ.  Tampa is left standing in the AL East; they won’t miss James Shields that much with their amazing pitching depth and can call up the next version of Trout/Harper in Wil Myers in mid June.

In the AL Central, Kansas City’s short sighted trade will net them a .500 record, but isn’t nearly enough to catch the Tigers, who return their whole rotation, get back Victor Martinez and add a possibly underrated Torii Hunter to add to their formidable lineup.  How they only won 88 games last year still amazes me.  The White Sox could challenge, but what have they really done this off-season either?   On the bright side, all these teams get to feast on Cleveland and Minnesota, both of whom look to lose 90+ games.

In the AL West, the Angels (who had the best record in baseball post Trout-callup) continue where they left off and bash their way to a 90 win divisional title despite serious questions in the rotation.  Texas hasn’t replaced what they lost in the last two off-seasons in terms of either hitting (Josh Hamilton) or pitching (C.J. Wilson, Ryan Dempster, or Colby Lewis)  but should still compete for the 2nd wild card.  But, absent signing Kyle Lohse (too late; he went to Milwaukee) or doing something to augment their starting pitching, I see trouble in the back of their rotation.  Meanwhile, Seattle made one curious move after another this off-season, all to finish in 4th place.  And Houston will challenge the 1962 Mets for futility, to the benefit of the entire division.

Wild Cards: Toronto has bought themselves a playoff team with their wholesale purchase of half the Marlins team.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see both WCs come out of the AL west, who get to feast on two pretty bad teams.  For the time being i’ll predict that Oakland and Texas duke it out to the wire, with Oakland pipping them for yet another surprise playoff appearance.  Oakland won the division last year; who would doubt them again this year with a very young pitching staff having one additional year of experience?  I think it comes at the expense of Texas this year instead of the Angels.

How about the NL?

  • NL East: Washington
  • NL Central: Cincinnati
  • NL West: San Francisco
  • NL Wild Cards: Atlanta, St. Louis

NL East Narrative: Despite some people thinking that Atlanta has done enough to get by the Nats, I don’t quite see it.  The Upton brothers are high on potential but so far relatively low in actual production except in fits and spurts.   Philadelphia can make a decent run up to perhaps 88 wins … but it won’t be enough, and reports of Roy Halladay‘s declining velocity are more than troubling.  Meanwhile the Marlins are going to be historically bad; in the past when they’ve done sell-offs they had marquee crops of rookies to rise up.  Not this time; their farm system is decimated and they didn’t really get back the A-1 prospects of all their salary dumps that they should have.  The only way the Nats don’t cruise to a title would be significant injuries in the rotation, for which they have little insurance.

In the NL Central, St. Louis’ loss of Chris Carpenter may be just enough to knock them out of the divisional race, where Cincinnati looks like the most complete team outside of the Nats in all of baseball.   Pittsburgh is a couple years (and a couple of pitching aces in Jamison Taillon and Gerrit Cole) away from really competing, the Cubs are content losing 95 games, and Milwaukee still looks like the same team that barely was .500 last year (even given the Kyle Lohse signing).

In the NL West; who would bet against the Giants at this point?   Despite the ridiculous payroll, I don’t think the Dodgers are really that good and they’re hoarding starting pitchers for too few spots (though, looking at the Spring Training performance of some of these guys … they’ll likely not fetch what the Dodgers need).  Arizona keeps trading away its best players to get marginal prospects who happen to fit Kirk Gibson‘s mold of a “gritty player” … and they seem to be set to be a 3rd place team again.  Colorado and San Diego seem to be in various states of disarray, again.

Wild Cards: Atlanta may be a 96 win wild card.  Meanwhile, despite losing Carpenter the Cardinals can slot in any one of a number of high-powered arms to replace him in the rotation and continue to draw from what is now the consensus best farm system in the majors.  They’ll sneak into the wild card much as they did last year and commence bashing their way through the playoffs.

AL Playoff predictions:

  • WC play-in: Toronto beats out Oakland, whose youngsters will be completely baffled in a one-game playoff versus R.A. Dickey.
  • Divisionals: Toronto beats intra-divisional rival Tampa Bay, while Detroit takes advantage of a weakened Los Angeles rotation and takes a close series.
  • ALCS: Detroit outlasts Toronto in the ALCS on the strenght of its starting pitching.

NL Playoff predictions

  • WC play-in: Atlanta beats St. Louis in the play-in by NOT allowing an infield-fly pop up to fall in this year.
  • Divisionals: Washington outlasts Atlanta in one brutal divisional series, Cincinnati gets revenge on San Francisco in the other.
  • NLCS: Washington over Cincinnati; they’re just slightly better on both sides of the ball.

World Series: Washington’s proclivities to strike out come back to haunt them as the Tigers excellent starting pitchers dominate.   Can’t be too confident in our Nats; i’d love to be wrong and send out Davey Johnson a winner.

Awards: this is just folly to do pre-season awards picks but here’s a quick run through without much commentary:

  • AL MVP: Mike Trout gets the award he should have won last year
  • AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander as he wins 24 games in the weak AL Central
  • AL Rookie; Wil Myers, who rakes once he gets called up in June
  • AL Manager: Joe Madden, who guides Tampa to the best record in the AL.
  • NL MVP: Joey Votto, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bryce Harper in the mix either as the default “best player on a playoff team” voting scheme takes over.
  • NL Cy Young: Stephen Strasburg, who won’t have as good of numbers as Clayton Kershaw but gets the nod because of east coast bias.
  • NL Rookie: Jedd Gyorko, though Julio Teheran could finally have it figured out.
  • NL Manager; I have no idea; this usually just goes to the most “surprising” team and I don’t see many surprises in the NL this year.  Bruce Bochy.