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The 2015 Major League Baseball season is underway and the baseball talk is at a critical mass, as fans and pundits alike cannot stop talking about the “National Pastime” after a seemingly eternal winter. We still have roughly 25 more weeks of this season to go, but we’re seeing an overreaction of sorts from all fan bases, despite the fact that we only have a small sample size to work with (Rockies and Tigers’ World Series, anyone?). So lets relax, breathe, grab a beer, glass of wine, or lemonade (or other beverage of choice. Personally, I like to mix all three into one, giant cup) and enjoy this baseball conversation as the season slowly rolls along.
Who is the best set-up man in baseball?
For those that have been paying attention to my work, I have been singing the praises of Ken Giles of the Philadelphia Phillies. But it appears that his struggles during spring training have followed him up north to Philly and though it’s too early to panic, we’re definitely on standby. If Giles can’t do the job, there’s plenty of set-up men that can certainly take over for Giles. In no particular order, here’s a few pitchers worth noting:
And there are others that can be listed, but these guys were the ones that stood out in my eyes before the season started. This list should look different by the time September rolls around, but it’s a nice base to start with for now.
Who is your favorite two-sport athlete of all time?
Trying to limit to players I’ve watched play during my 30 years on this earth, but after trying to think of a loophole to give a different answer than expected (maybe Russell Wilson? Jeff Samardzija?), I will have to say it’s Deion Sanders.
“Prime Time” was “must-see-TV” during the 1990s. The way we talk about Richard Sherman at cornerback and how he takes away a part of the field from opposing offenses, is the same way we used to talk about Sanders along with his ability to turn quarterback mistakes into defensive scores. Sanders’ athletic ability combined with his skill-set puts him in the pantheon of the greatest, most exciting football players of all time.
And he was pretty decent as a baseball player too as his football speed streamlined rather well on the diamond, both as a base runner and outfielder. All the while, Sanders made it look easy to play in one sport on the west coast and quickly hop on a plane to the east coast in time for an MLB playoff game.
We thought we were going to see more of these guys in the future (athletes are getting better, better nutrition, better technology, better travel accommodations). Turns out, Sanders was the last of his breed and we have not had a Bo Jackson or Sanders since “Neon” decided to concentrate solely on football.
Outside of Washington, who has the best starting rotation?
I would have to say the Los Angeles Angels, when Garrett Richards comes back, boast a pretty good four-man rotation. I also like what the Oakland Athletics did in retooling their rotation for this season. And the Seattle Mariners’ rotation, mixing veterans with young phenoms like Taijuan Walker and James Paxton with ace pitcher, “King” Felix Hernandez and it’s no wonder why they are a darkhorse candidate to represent the American League in the World Series this year.
Over in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals have an underrated starting five, led by ace pitcher, Adam Wainwright. Out east, the New York Mets have shown they can go toe-to-toe with the Nationals. Just imagine if Zack Wheeler did not succumb to Tommy John surgery. But the rotation that has me most excited since the offseason (outside of Washington, of course) is the San Diego Padres:
That’s a pretty formidable group right there. Might even be good enough to give the Padres some hope of winning the West Division this year.
Should baseball speed up the game to bring in more fans?
This is a topic that has been discussed all offseason long, especially by our own Tomas Laverty. It’s not so much the “speed” of the game that is making the game sometimes unbearable to watch. It’s the “pacing” of the game that has really been hurting the sport. Most baseball fans don’t mind a 0-0 tie in the seventh or eighth inning of ball games. But scoreless ties, late in the games, after watching four or five hours of nothing? That is extremely frustrating to all baseball fans, young and old.
MLB is doing things to make the game TV-friendly and more economical in terms of time, but it goes beyond the speed and pace of the game. Ask a young sports’ fan on the street if they watch baseball and more often than not, they will respond by saying, “that game is boring.”
Let’s face it: the demographic of baseball are old men. A loyal demographic, indeed, but baseball wants young fans to embrace the sport the same way they embrace football–or the same way the current, old demographic embraced the sport back when they were known as the young demographic (that makes sense, right?).
The divide between old and young is not limited to speed and pace of the game. There’s still recurring arguments between how much technology should be used during TV broadcasts of ball games (i.e. constant strike zone graphic, giving broadcasts a “video game” feel to it), the role that sabermetrics have in baseball, and the generational gap can’t even agree on finally bringing in the designated hitter to the National League (the answer is still yes, by the way).
Of course, the “old vs new school” of thinking also goes beyond age. There’s plenty of 20-somethings that believe the game should be presented the way they used to in the 1960s and there’s plenty of 50-somethings that get excited about the new stats they could only dream about back when they were looking at the back of their Mickey Mantle baseball cards.
It’s hard to please everybody, but the easiest way to fix the game is to not only fix the speed of the game, but also continue to enforce rules that will help the pace of the game as well. Because life is too short to be waiting for that payoff pitch to finally come after the fourth mound conference by the catcher and pitcher.
Who is the Walter White of baseball?
The Breaking Saul or Better Call Bad universe is quickly becoming one of television’s best of all time as Vince Gilligan has created one of the most memorable set of characters in American pop culture history. As far as Mr. White goes, the baseball equivalent, no doubt, has to be Alex Rodriguez, for obvious reasons. That got me thinking about other characters:
- Skyler White–Brian McCann, because he ruins all the fun in baseball
- Marie Schrader–Billy Hamilton, because both are infamous for theft
- Hank Schrader–Bud Selig, because even though he knew there were problems in baseball, he was always a step or two behind in terms of taking action towards certain issues.
- Mike Ehrmantraut–Theo Epstein, because just like Mike, you can count on Epstein to fix everything (that’s wrong with the Cubs. THEOlogy!).
- Jesse Pinkman–Let’s give this one to Ian Desmond because both characters sometimes speak out of turn.
- Saul Goodman–Did not want to go this route, but after having to listen to the Kris Bryant controversy throughout the spring, I would have to go with Scott Boras. If I’m in deep trouble with the law, I’d probably want Goodman representing me. If I’m looking to make lots of money as a ball player, I’d want Boras going to battle for me with the front office.
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