In the National League the New York Mets sweep of the Washington Nationals essentially ended the hunt for playoff positions. Although mathematically still alive, the Nationals and the Giants would require miraculous finishes to earn a spot in the post season. Seemingly, all that’s left is to see if the Pirates can make a run at the Cardinals, and who earns home field advantage.
The margin between contention and elimination is remarkably slim. The Nationals held leads in all three games of their series with the Mets, but managed to lose each one. The most egregious loss being the second game, where they had a 7-1 lead until the seventh inning. How different the race would look if the Nationals had won even two out of three games.
Similarly, a week and a half ago the Giants were very much in contention, entering their series with the Dodgers trailing by 3-1/2 games. But they lost all three of their games to the Dodgers, with each game decided by one run, including extra innings in the first game. In a 162 game season, it’s amazing how the fates of four teams can turn on three games.
The American League East continues to be a hotbed of activity in the off season, as the Toronto Blue Jays made moves to try to keep up with the Red Sox. They signed Russell Martin, the best catcher in this year’s free agent market to a five-year 82 million dollar contract. Then they traded third baseman Brett Lawrie and 3 prospects for Oakland’s All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson. For most teams, it seems strange to trade your top player when you are already a playoff team. But Billy Bean and the Athletics front office are always thinking of maximizing their talent with a tight budget. The key was acquiring Lawrie. Although he was injured last season, he is younger than Donaldson and the A’s expect Lawrie to make a full recovery. They are projecting that when he’s healthy he will have power numbers that make up for much of what they lost by trading Donaldson. Lawrie also has a lower salary and if their scouts did their homework well, the prospects they added will help them to stay competitive in the future. The Blue Jays move indicates they are trying to win now.
The team the Blue Jays and Red Sox are trying to chase down, the Baltimore Orioles, took a hit as Nelson Cruz, who led the Major Leagues with 40 home runs last season, left to sign a four year deal for 57 million dollars to join the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners who came up a game short of making the wild card spot have become big spenders. Last year Robinson Cano signed a huge contract and reports are that Kyle Seager will ink a 7 year 100 million dollar deal soon.
Rumor has it that the Orioles are interested in trading for outfielder, Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, in an effort to make up for the loss of Cruz. Kemp was one of the hottest hitters in the National League during the second half of the season, so
the Dodgers are not about to give him away. The Dodgers are looking for a shortstop to replace Hanley Ramirez, and they’d like to upgrade the catching position and their pitching. If the Orioles can address a couple of those needs, they might have a deal.
Major League Baseball will slowly wind down the 2014 season with various award announcements over a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, most fans are thinking about next year and what can be done to put their favorite team in the position that the San Francisco Giants occupy. The focus will be on free agents like Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields, although the value of the latter two may have gone down with their post season performances.
But first, the management needs to be in place. The Minnesota Twins named Paul Molitor as their new manager and more notably, acclaimed manager Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the Tampa Bay Rays and joined the Chicago Cubs. Maddon probably saw the writing on the wall in Tampa Bay with poor attendance, the trade of David Price, and the departure of General Manager Andrew Friedman. People think so much of Maddon that the odds of the Cubs winning their first championship in over a century has dropped from 50 to 1 down to 20 to 1. Maddon took the young talent in Tampa Bay and molded them into a winning team with multiple playoff appearances. Cubs fans are hoping he can take their young talent and similarly shape them into a winning team. With more resources in Chicago, the dream is to win the last game of the season. If they do, Maddon might be regarded as the greatest manager ever.
Probably more important, but far less attention-grabbing are changes to the front office. After all, the key to a winning team is having people who can evaluate and acquire the best talent. Because of “Moneyball,” Billy Beane might be the most famous of a largely unknown club of General Managers in baseball. Despite low revenues and constant turnover of players, Beane keeps the Athletics competitive, though not quite able to advance through the playoffs. Well, some of that brain power left Oakland as Assistant General Manager Farhad Zaidi joined the Los Angeles Dodgers to become their General Manager. Hired by Friedman who recently became President of Baseball Operations for the Dodgers, you could see the team shifting into phase 2 of rebuilding in the wake of the McCourt ownership. McCourt’s cost-cutting had weakened Dodgers scouting and minor league development. Not willing to go through an extended rebuilding process like the one the Kansas City Royals went through, the Dodgers spent millions acquiring high-priced talent. But, the long-term plan was always to create a pipeline of talent from the farm system and by plucking Friedman from the Rays and Zaidi from the Athletics the Dodgers have added people who know how to do that. The rest of the country may not be paying much attention to these changes now, but don’t be surprised if you see the Dodgers repeating the success that their rival, the Giants, have just achieved.
Usually, when your closer blows a three run lead in the ninth inning, it’s a bad thing. Last night, Yankee fans couldn’t have been happier. David Robertson surrendered home runs to Adam Jones and Steve Pearce of the Orioles in the top of the ninth inning of last night’s game in the Bronx. It blew a 5 to 2 Yankees lead and sent the game to the bottom of the ninth in a 5 to 5 tie. By the way, it happened to be Derek Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium before his retirement. That extra half inning gave Jeter one more at bat and he delivered a signature base hit to right field to drive in pinch-runner Antoan Richardson with the winning run. Jeter walked off the field a hero one more time. It was another magical moment added to the storybook career of Derek Jeter.
Baseball gloves come in a variety of sizes and shapes. To select an appropriate glove there are some basics to consider. First, you need to know which position in the field you are playing. Pitchers and infielders generally have smaller gloves because they need to be able to quickly transfer the ball out of the glove to make a throw, and can’t afford to have the ball stuck in the pocket of a big glove. The outfielder’s glove is bigger because the priority is to catch a ball. First basemen and catchers have unique gloves in order to handle the specific needs of those positions, which includes a high volume of catches. If you play multiple positions, you might consider a utility glove, which is larger than an infielder’s glove.
The size of gloves is not only dependent on the position it is designed for, but the age of the user. “Pattern size” is the measurement from the heel of the glove to the top of the glove on the side of the palm. Youth gloves start at a small size of 8 inches and they go up to 12 inches. Adult sizes are 12 to 13 inches. Professional gloves are restricted to a maximum of 12 inches by rule, however it is rarely enforced.
A glove can cost anywhere from $15 to over $200. A quality glove costs more but tends to be more durable. If you play a lot of baseball, it might be worth it to spend a little more. On the other hand if you are young, it might make more sense to spend less on a glove you will soon outgrow.
Ultimately, your glove has to feel good. It’s hard to play well if your glove is uncomfortable.