Let The Marathon Begin


A Look At 2018

Here is the annual prognostication for Major League Baseball In 2018

After seeing a number of Spring Training games, it appears as though
the New York Yankees will win in the AL East. The loss of Bird @ 1st hurts. Out 6-8 weeks. Rookie manager is a question. Red Sox threat.
Cleveland Indians will win the AL Central. One of the best managers in baseball will keep team together for another division championship.
Houston Astros will win the AL West. Good hitting, good pitching will win but pushed by surprising Oakland.

The Washington Nationals will win the NL East, in one of the weakest divisions in baseball.
Milwaukee Brewers will win the NL Central. The loss of Nelson hurts. Out 6-8 weeks.
Colorado Rockies will win the NL West. Impressive batting lineup and half of their games in thin air.

Let the marathon begin.

Play Ball!
#watchingattanasio⚾️

Advertisements

Oh-tani Surprise


There was a big crowd around the batting cages at Maryvale this week. Travis Shaw was smacking the ball as many of the invitees were watch with intentness as the veteran third baseman blistered each machine thrown pitch. Rarely do you see the big boys in The Show in the outside batting cages. Something was up. As we entered, we saw a Brewers team on the field and a team in red jersey’s coming to bat.

As some of the first through the gates, we took our seats and there were just a few in the ballpark. Love this time of the year and the early time at the ballpark. It is all yours. Usually there is just a few players warming up in the outfield. But today, we were given a sheet with all of the players numbers, many in the 90s on the back of their uniform.

There was no announcement of the game. Like an old time ‘Hollywood Sneak Preview’, before the scheduled game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Seattle Mariners, the Angels and Brewers, represented by lineups otherwise consisting mostly of minor leaguers, played inside Maryvale Baseball Park, in front of a few fans, including me, a bunch of scouts and a ton of media.

Then the red jersey’s took to the field. And out of the third base dugout came large man wearing #17 who walked to the mound, quite confident. With his warm ups, he was a pitcher with great confidence.

The sudden realization of what was happening hit me like a smack of thunder. This was to showcase a starting pitcher. Shohei Ohtani, was right in front of me. ‘Smack’, the sound of the fastball hitting the back of the catcher’s glove ricocheted throughout the stands. Although the stands were quite empty, the anticipated attention back in Japan, we were told, was such that the practice game was shown on live television, despite the first pitch coming at 2A, Saturday, Tokyo time.

For the next 2 2/3rds innings, eight (8) strikeouts, two (2) runs and four (4) hits, one realized that Ohtani, who had been the highest priced import from Japan, looked good, with a massive slider that was awesome as he had batters leaning back thinking they were about to get hit. Bigger than one expected, Ohtani was the real deal and it was thrilling to see this reward before the regularly scheduled game.

Someone once said, you nearly always see something in baseball that you have never seen before.

Sure, it was a ‘B’ game featuring the Salt Lake City Bees and the Sky Sox, but this morning…this very special morning, one glimpsed a bit into the future which few were fortunate enough to witness in person.

The magic of spring.

Play Ball!
#watchingattanasio

Video Review Frustrating Fans


First, when a review is made, it is supposed to take just a few seconds. With the help of New York, this shouldn’t be a problem. We live in an instant gratification age. So what do we have?

Crap!

We can no longer yell and scream at the ump for making a horrible decision because the ump isn’t the final arbitrator of any calls except balls and strikes, and that discussion is for a later ‘hot stove league’ masterpiece.

Yelling and screaming had health benefits. It allows one to get rid of their frustrations and if at home in the stands, it gives you unification amongst the mad backers of the home team.

But now, what we have is a failure to communicate.

The umps don’t explain to the crowd in the stands what has gone on. They do not inform anyone of what is being discussed. They are the deaf dwarfs of the diamond when sitting in the second deck. (Note: in keeping with the tradition of nearly every owner, player in any sport that has made a mis-statement or said something which they regret for public pressure, I apologize for using the word deaf and/or dwarf. It was intended to play upon the plugged ears of the men in blue, not the Dodgers, but those associated with calling the game as in referee, umpire, doofus behind the plate et al). (Further Note: I apologize for using the word doofus. It was intended to play upon the inexplicable actions of the man behind the catcher who believes he calls balls and strikes and an occasional calls at the plate who uses a small brush to clean off the plate when the catcher is accidentally hit in an area of his body that results in a massive display of pain. However, this discussion is for a later ‘hot stove league’ masterpiece.)

Getting back to the video review, here is the official rules in major league baseball covering this very issue:http://m.mlb.com/official_rules/replay_review.

Now, what happens when someone at the plate says he was hit and his manager calls for a video review? In yesterday’s World Series game, it appeared the ball DID NOT hit the Astro’s batter. But, the umpires called for a video review which after a lengthy look and discussion with those in New York, ruled the batter was not hit. For many who were running out of their seats to grab a hot dog, they didn’t have a clue to what was going on.

‘What happened?’, the hot dog getter asked to anyone within earshot.
‘The umpires had to gather to discuss where they were going to eat after the game.’, answered a spectator.
‘No.’, said another. ‘The batter said he was hit but the ump said no. So, AJ called for a challenge review.’
‘That true?’, asked the guy to got the hot dog.
‘I don’t know’, said others in unison.

The problem is, there is a ‘failure to communicate’ in baseball.

The only one who tries to communicate is the commissioner who is the guy who said that the guy who made racial looks after he hit a home run off of Darvish the night before, would be … punished by sitting out five of the games NEXT YEAR because he didn’t want to hurt the other 24 players on his squad during this most important series.

What?

We’re talking ‘failure to communicate’ not failing in communication.

Point at hand…the next half inning, Puig was at the plate and was hit as the ball bounced off the plate and after running to first, as would be a normal reaction not knowing what any umpire would call, that challenge was not honored.

Is ‘video review’ a home team privilege?

And, when is baseball going to wake up and actually get an ump a microphone to explain to the tens of thousands who are gathered in the stadium and tens of millions who are watching on TV what is going on during these multi-minute delays in the game?

Play ball!

The Strange Case Of Pauly


The Twin Cites is an unusual place. It is surrounded by water, so much so, roads have to go around rivers, lakes, streams and ponds in order for people to get to where they are going. It is so cold in the winter, you have to plug in your car to keep the engine warm enough to turn over the next morning. It is so Norwegian in one part that you have to love the smell of lutefisk cooking at the next door neighbor’s house and learn how to smile when waving to them, acknowledge friendliness and not the aroma. On the other it is so Catholic, hunting season is reason for a Mass to bless the international day-glo orange vested parishioners on opening day.

Then there is the ‘Purple’ thing.

In baseball, the tradition of the sport goes back a long way. It had the legendary Minneapolis Millers where the wonderful Willy Mays played. There was the St. Paul Saints, where they played at Lexington Park and won the American Association pennant 9 times. Today, the Saints are the legendary independent team that is not part of the new American Association, playing just 10 miles from the Major League Twins. What other town has a big time minor league franchise next door to a Major League team?

Baseball is part of the fabric of this unique community. Some of the biggest stars in the game have come from here. David Winfield, from St. Paul and a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, was so good, he was drafted professionally in baseball, basketball and football. He also played hockey. Paul Molitor, another native of St. Paul and a member of Baseball’s Hall of Fame, was a 7 time All-Star, 4 time Silver Slugger, 3 time batting champion and a member of MLB All-Time Team. Jack Morris, a native of Highland Park, was a 5 time All Star, 4 time World Series champion and the 1991 World Series MVP and threw a no hitter. Joe Mauer, an a native of St. Paul, still playing for the Twins, has a .328 lifetime batting average as a caters is it is the all-time mark. Kent Hrbek, a Bloomington native, All-Star and 2 time World Series champion, played for 14 years in the Show. But that isn’t all: Johnny Blanchard, Dan Johnson, Josh Johnson, Tom Johnson, Mike Mason, Walt Moryn, Robb Quinlan, Larry Rosenthal, Dick Siebert, Terry Steinbach, Brand Hand, Jack Hannahan, Pat Neshek, Glen Perkins among others.

This is a baseball community.

That is why it is so disconcerting about how they handled one of their very best. Paul Molitor, not only played for them, but has been their Manager for the past three seasons. In his first year, he took the Twins and won 83 games, a 13 game improvement over the preceding season and was in contention for an AL Wild Card until the last weekend of the 2015 season. Then in 2016, the team collapsed, with a horrible April and eventually lost 103 games. But this past season, the roared back with a 26 game improvement, the best in the Majors and won 85 games and the second AL Wild Card spot. In his three years, he has a 227-259 record. And now, after the season has ended, he did not have a contract to manage the team going forward.

He is ‘new school’ baseball. Upon his arrival in Minnesota, the team played a much more aggressive placement in defensive shifting. And this season, in Fort Myers spring training camp, he made sure his team would be at the top of their tame defensively. And he told them so. In other words, if you can play defense, you can’t play baseball. Defense makes every pitcher better. And that means, games are won, not lost. What Minnesota has now is a leader who not only understands the game more than most, he leads. And that is the main difference between his teams and the Twins of the past.

Former General Manager, Terry Ryan, hired Molitor but was fired last season after the disaster. Now Thad Levine, the present General Manager and the Chief Baseball Officer of the Twins, Derek Falvey, are thought to want to bring in someone they want. So their mediocre solution is to offer Molitor a one year contract. For Molitor, it put him in a no-win situation. If he accepted, he had to prove to the new controllers of the team he can do the job, year after year, and go on one year contracts forever. He is loyal to the Twin Cities. He is a native legend in the Twin Cities. Should he have said no and demand a multi-year contract, it would look as though he was not in step with the way Minnesotan’s do things. If he simply said ‘No’, then he would remain with all of the respect everyone in the Twin Cities believes he has.

The Twins front office should not have made this an issue at all. They should have re-signed him by extending his contract before the season ended. This was an exciting team which was a true reflection of ‘The Ignitor’ throughout his career. He is the Hall of Famer…Falvey and Levine are not.

The deal finally got done last Monday and the frightful Twins management signed Pauly for three years at $4 million per.

What we need in this world is less tension, not more. And we need to honor those who do a great job. Paul Molitor did a great job.

Play Ball!

Choke City!


It is something to see those players who can perform under pressure and those who cannot. When it comes to post-season play, in the time when everything speeds up and the fastball explodes, it is amazing to see, time and time again, the failure of those who are not real honest-to-goodness stars of the game.

First, this who did. After all, baseball is all about handling pressure when the chips are on the line. Hats off to Clayton Kershaw, Turner. They won. Hats off to Altuva. He hit the cover off the ball and they won…twice. Hats off to Bauer, Bruce and Lindor. They won twice. Bryant, Lester & Rizzo. They won once. Adam Lind, Harper & Zimmerman. They won once. Goldschmidt, with no help from anyone, they lost…twice.

Who didn’t? Grey, Girardi, Judge & Sanchez. They lost twice. Bogaerts, Sale & Pomeranz. They lost twice. Madden, Edwards and Montgomery. They blew one. All of the D’Backs except Goldie.

For those who did not, most of them were young to the game. They weren’t the veterans. So, there is an excuse. Nerves have to be tested. Thinking ahead has to be in peak form. Pressure has to be held under control.

For some, the strike zone became larger and for others, it was smaller. It depended on the umpire behind the plate, always an issue. But for the veterans, not so much. Sure, they didn’t like some of the calls. But they understood the flow of the game. You have to perform under pressure regardless who is calling the balls and strikes.

For the pitchers, there were some stunning performances. Strasberg’s first 12 batters, seven were K’d. Kershaw’s fastball was just electric. And VerLander was no slouch, nor was Hendricks.

But what happened to Greinke? What happened to the poise of this veteran?

There is a school of thought that outside of his early success in Kanas City and Milwaukee, something happened being #2 in Los Angeles. Fact of the matter is that he was #2 in Milwaukee. So, maybe it is a problem with the pressure being the #1 on the staff to perform in post season.

Whatever, there was ‘Choke City’ everywhere except in Houston and Cleveland so far in the playoffs.

Play Ball!

7 To Go ‘And Milwaukee Has Walked It Off. Santa Maria!’


http://atmlb.com/2xwjggH
An old voice came back with those words to change an entire season of hope…hope that was lost going into the 9th and hope that was ever more after the 10th. Matt Vasgersian was the Voice of Brewers Past.

In their fourth straight extra inning game, of which they had lost all of the previous three, Ryan Braun smacked a double and Travis Shaw hit the game winning, walk-off home run, creating a world of Brewer fans shocked with delight, bringing back dreams of ’82. Always dreams of ’82.

So, with 7 games to go in the regular Major League Baseball season, here are the odds of the teams making it into the playoffs:

American League

Boston Red Sox 100%
New York Yankees 100%
Cleveland Indians 100%
Houston Astros 100%
Minnesota Twins 90%
Los Angeles Angels 4.2%
Texas Ranger 3.8%
Kansas City Royals 1.1%
Tampa Bay Rays 0.5%
Seattle Mariners 0.3%

National League

Los Angeles Dodgers 100%
Washington Nationals 100%
Arizona Diamondbacks 100%
Chicago Cubs 99.2%
Colorado Rockies 61.7%
St. Louis Cardinals 27.9%
Milwaukee Brewers 11.2%

Of the National League teams that are not in guaranteed to be in the playoffs, only the Milwaukee Brewers have a winning record on the road. The Card nor the Rockies do. And that is important because the Brewers finish a three game series with St. Louis on the road next weekend. The Cardinals still have to play the Pirates on the road today in Pittsburgh. The Rockies have only one game on the road and that is also today in San Diego.

The Cardinals close their final seven games at home beginning on Monday with the Cubs and Brewers. The Rockies have at home, six more games against the Marlins and Dodgers.

The next eight days of baseball are going to be full of ups and downs. And as Craig Counsell stated, ‘There are always ups and downs and they will continue to happen this next week.’ The key is to win the game today.

#watchingattanasio⚾️

Play Ball!

14 To Go


There are two weeks to go from today. And there are 14 games to be played. Between now and then, we will find out who can pitch in the clutch; who can hit in the clutch; who can throw in the clutch and who can pop a clutch to get their car started when the battery is dead.

Right now we know that in the American League, the Boston Red Sox, the Cleveland Indians and the Houston Astros will be in the big dance with a 100% guarantee. In the National League, the Washington Nationals, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks will join them, also with a 100% guarantee.

To join them, here are the odds:

    AL

New York Yankees 99.9%
Minnesota Twins 68.9%
Los Angeles Angels 20.6%
Seattle Mariners 4.9%
Kansas City Royals 2.6%
Texas Rangers 1.7%

    NL

Colorado Rockies 83.8%
Chicago Cubs 82.5%
Milwaukee Brewers 20.1%
St. Louis Cardinals 13.6%

What is remarkable about this season, and for that matter, the real essence of baseball is how ‘hope’ becomes realized. For instance look at the Minnesota Twins. Last season they were blown out of any chance of having a good season due to an unbelievably bad April. This season, they are going to make it into the playoffs unless they have a total collapse.

Then look at the Milwaukee Brewers. They have come out of a lifelong coma, a hiatus from obscurity if you will, waking up only a few times in their history. And this season with a skinny kid who looks like a college freshman leading the league in wins; a catcher who is on his third chance in his career to hit it big and is; a first baseman from Korea; a second baseman from the Mets; a 2nd year shortstop who is brilliant; a third baseman from Boston; a right fielder from Santana Domingo; a center fielder…who is the center fielder? And the pro’s pro in left, along with arguably one of the strongest and strangest bullpens in baseball, led by a kid who throws the ball through a door and made the All Star team in his second year. Oh, then there is the home town kid who is managing all of this, along with his college coach and a GM who is younger then the young coach. Got that. This is the miracle of a season. This is why baseball is the game of games. This is why you fall in love with it as a kid and become more attached to it as life goes on.

Can they make it into the playoffs?

That brings us back to that magic word…hope.

The Pigsville Nine is making us all proud this season. Oh, an alum is managing the Twinkies, and another is managing the Royals. Their old shortstop is up in Seattle. Their HR leader in the NL last season is with the Yankees, we think. Their former second string catcher is the backstop for the Angels, and there have been a rafter full of the Crew passing through the Rangers clubhouse. There’s one in Denver and hopefully none with the Northsiders nor the Redbirds.

OK #watchingattansio⚾️

Thanks for bringing hope back to us for so long this season.

Play ball!