The Battle for the NL West is Hot!

Here we are in the first week of September. It’s been a hot summer here in the northeast, but cooler temps are on the horizon as Fall gets closer and closer. Most everyone associates Fall with raking leaves, drinking warm cocoa and watching football.

But let’s not forget the hot battles for divisions and wild-cards in MLB. All three divisions in the National League are still up for grabs, and none is hotter than the NL West. As of this writing (9/6), the Colorado Rockies lead the division, 1.5 games ahead of the LA Dodgers and 2 games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

 

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The Rockies, Dodgers and Dbacks each have roughly two dozen games left, so lets take a look at the remaining schedule for each team.

Rockies:

Starting Friday night, Colorado begins a seven game home-stand against the Dodgers for three games, followed by Arizona for four games. After that, the Rockies take to the road for ten games against the San Francisco Giants, Dodgers and Dbacks. After the road trip concludes, Colorado returns home for their final seven games beginning with a four game set against the Philadelphia Phillies and ending with three games against the Washington Nationals.

With the Rockies playing 14 of their last 23 games at home, coupled with them riding a five game winning streak, I think they have the best chance at winning the division.

 

Dodgers:

The Dodgers begin a ten game road trip on Friday in Colorado for three games, followed by another three game set in Cincinnati against the Reds, and concluding with a four game series in St. Louis against the Cardinals. The Dodgers return to Los Angeles the next day (9/17) to begin a three game set against the Rockies, followed by their final series at home against the San Diego Padres. LA finishes the season on the road with three games in Phoenix against the Dbacks, followed by another three against the Giants in San Francisco.

The odds are going to be much longer against the Dodgers, as they play 16 of their last 22 games on the road. They play ten games in ten days, and return home from St. Louis the next day to play the Rockies at home. With the travel and stiff competition, they are going to be weary and I’m not sure the Dodgers have enough to overcome. We’ll see.

 

Dbacks:

Arizona has 22 games remaining, and 12 of them are at home. Starting Friday night, the Dbacks have a three game series at home against the Atlanta Braves, then hit the road for a four game series against the Rockies, followed by three games in Houston against the Astros. Upon the conclusion of that series, they return back home for a nine game home-stand against the Chicago Cubs, Rockies and Dodgers — all of them three game series. After an off-day, the Dbacks conclude the regular season with three games in San Diego against the Padres.

I think Arizona’s remaining schedule is the most friendly of these three teams. When they are on the road, they only have to travel to Denver, Houston and San Diego — which are relatively short distances from home. Also, they have two off days built in (Sept. 20 and 27) to rest up tired bodies. The Dbacks have lost seven of their last 10 games, but they could have a golden opportunity to gain momentum by taking advantage of the easy schedule going forward.

 

 

 

 

 

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All-Star Snubs – American League

The 2018 baseball season is more than half over. Major League Baseball’s All Star Game is next Tuesday in Washington, D.C. (on FOX) and the rosters for the All Star Game were announced Sunday evening. Yesterday, we took a look at some National League players who were snubbed for the mid-summer contest. Today we’ll get a glimpse at a handful of guys who should have initially made the squad in the American League, but were overlooked.

Blake Snell – (Rays) Since Snell is our featured image above, we’ll start with him. He’s sporting a 12-4 record with a miserly 2.09 ERA and somehow he didn’t make the cut. I am sure Snell will end up an alternate since Justin Verlander is scheduled to start for Houston on Sunday, thereby eliminating him from pitching the the all star game. But how he didn’t make it on his own is just ridiculous.

**UPDATE** 7/13 – Added to AL All Star team, replacing Corey Kluber.

Andrelton Simmons – (LA Angels) The Angels shortstop is having an excellent season (.213/.372/.442), hitting 40 points higher in batting average and OBP than his numbers in 2017, but Manny Machado and Francisco Lindor got the All Star nods. Simba is also providing his typically excellent defense with only five errors this season as of this writing.

Nick Castellanos – (Tigers) With young 3rd baseman Jeimer Candelario joining the team out of spring training, the Tigers switched Castellanos to right-field this season. So far it’s worked out well for Nick. His slash-line (.306/.359/.523) are at all time highs for him, and he is roughly on pace to match his career highs of 26 home runs and 101 RBI, set last season.

Whit Merrifield – (Royals) Not much has gone right in Kansas City this season, but young Merrifield has been a diamond in the rough. He can play most positions in the field except catcher. he’s hitting .306 and boasts an OPS of .810. He has only five home-runs, which says he’s adept at driving balls into the gap. I’ve heard his name mentioned in trade-talks, so it remains to be seen if he will be dealt. Any team who deals for him will be getting a spark-plug kind of guy who hustles and is fun to watch. Also, Whit just has a cool baseball name — don’t ask me why, but he does.

 

Eddie Rosario – (Twins) – He doesn’t get all the press that guys like Aaron Judge, Bryce Harper and many others get, but Rosario is quietly putting together a good season up in Minnesota. Currently he has 18 HR’s to go along with a slash-line of .300/.341/.530. His defense has slipped a bit from 2017, as he currently has six errors in left field, compared to four all of last year. Nonetheless, the 26 year old Rosario is an exciting young player who’s been flying under the radar up north.

Charlie Morton – (Astros) How Morton was left off the All Star Team is beyond my comprehension. After his career high 14 wins last season for the World Champion Astros, “Ground Chuck” is on pace to obliterate his numbers from last season. Morton is boasting a record of 11-2, with an ERA of 2.83. He is striking out just a shade under 12 per nine innings. Morton has indicated that he may retire after this season to spend more time with his wife and kids. Hopefully he will make the squad as an alternate in what could be his last chance to play in an All Star Game.

UPDATE: 7/13 – Charlie Morton added to All Star team, replacing Aroldis Chapman.

**Late Addition**

Andrew Benintendi – (Red Sox) Somehow I overlooked one of the more obvious guys who should have been on the AL team to begin with. The young Benintendi has been somewhat streaky in 2018, hitting .242 in April. However, he ramped things up in May batting 100 points higher (.349), and has hovered around .300 since. Benintendi has 14 HR’s on the season and 17 steals to go along with 57 RBI. In the field, he runs down everything hit at him and also has six assists on the season. The 24 year old outfielder lost out on the “Final Vote” to Seattle’s Jean Segura, and has since been put on the Bereavement List due to a death in his family.

The Beanball Epidemic

Yesterday, the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals were involved in a bench-clearing brawl when Hunter Strickland deposited a 98 mph fastball into Bryce Harper‘s right hip in the top half of the 8th inning at AT&T Park.

After the dust settled and the players went back to their respective dugouts, most fans and media likely wondered, how many games will Harper be suspended? To a lesser degree, how many games will Strickland be banned? No disrespect to Strickland, but the game of baseball suffers as a whole when Harper isn’t playing. While Strickland denies hitting Harper on purpose, the whole thing was unnecessary, especially if it truly was about the two home runs Bryce hit off him in the 2014 postseason.

There have been no less than four bench-clearing incidents within the month of May in 2017, making beanbrawls and resulting fights an epidemic. The Rangers and Astros kicked things off when Lance McCullers threw a pitch behind Mike Napoli’s head on the 1st of May. A little more than two weeks later, Yasmani Grandal took exception to a fastball thrown by Johnny Cueto, and the benches emptied. The same day, the benches cleared on a couple different occasions when Jose Bautista flipped his bat after a home run and Jose Motte quick pitched to strike-out Kevin Pillar. The above mentioned Giants/Nationals brawl makes four , and there are two more days worth of games left to play as of this writing.

In the postgame interview, Harper stated, “A baseball’s a weapon“. When it is thrown at speeds professional baseball players throw, it’s potentially lethal. When most fights happen in baseball, it is usually because a pitcher threw at another team’s hitter. In this month’s dust-ups, that was the case in each game with the exception of the Braves/Blue Jays game.

Personally, I think it’s right that teams protect their players when needed, but it’s getting to the point of getting ridiculous. If Hunter Strickland really was exacting revenge against Harper hitting 2 home runs off him two and a half years ago, Joe Torre and Major League Baseball needs to raise the bar higher in terms of punishment. To some degree, they did when commissioner Rob Manfred and Joe Torre told the Red Sox and Orioles to cut out the feuding, after both teams traded high and inside (and at time, behind) pitches resulting from the late slide by Manny Machado.

I certainly don’t have all the answers, but from a fan’s standpoint, I don’t want to see someone seriously injured (or worse) because some pitcher decides to use a 90 mph as a weapon because he’s mad.

Before I go, I want to share a video of the very first bean-brawl I ever saw. On August 12, 1984, the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres had a brawl for the ages. I was 13 years old and was watching the game on TBS, back when Ted Turner owned both the TV station AND the Braves, and most of their games were televised. I’ll let the Sporting News article I linked and the video below to give the specifics, but it was very surreal and unforgettable.

 

The above video is only part of the craziness. There were other times over the course of that crazy game where the benches cleared, both before and after. There are videos on Youtube that show the others.

The Braves manager on that fateful 1984 day? None other than Joe Torre!

 

 

See you next time!

Charlie