Month: April 2015

Hits or misses …


Hits and misses ….

MLB (baseball’s) Opening Day of the regular season schedule will begin with the St Louis Cardinals meeting the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago , Illinois on the 5th April , 2015. This will be the opening game of the schedule , unofficially starting the season . For both of these NL Central Division teams, this is a season where a great deal will be riding on the managerial skills of Mike Matheny of the Cardinals and Joe Maddon of the Cubs. St Louis ended the postseason of 2014 on something of a dour note having lost the NL Pennant to eventual World Series champions the San Francisco Giants.

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This was the Giants’ third postseason triumph in the past five years, with all of the victories coming under manager Bruce Bochy. The Giants’ manager in conjunction with GM Brian Sabean have put together championship winning rosters with the guile and zeal not seen in several years within the game of baseball and , undoubtedly enhancing the reputation of this San Francisco Giants’ franchise to be considered a modern-day dynasty. Those words are rarely mentioned nowadays within the game , because it has become so difficult for a team to win multiple titles within a short time-span. Bochy has been able to achieve that feat , three times in the space of six years. With the last such team to win as many being the New York Yankees during their latter decade dominance of the late nineties and into the early 2000’s . Four titles under then manager Joe Torre with a further added in 2009, brought baseball’s most renowned franchiseto their tally of twenty-seven World Series’ titles.

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Mike Matheny , left, manager of the St Louis Cardinals and Joe Maddon , his opposite number with the Chicago Cubs will have their teams open up the regular season schedule for the 2015 Major League Baseball season . Both teams will be looking to play a prominent role within the NL as well as seek to make appearance in the postseason. AP Photo/ David Foster

Joe Maddon takes over a Chicago Cubs’ franchise devoid of success and longing to make their way back to relevance with a divisional title win and with it a postseason appearance. It has been seven years since the Cubs’ last postseason appearance and twelve years since their appearance in the NLCS where they fell to the Florida Marlins(Miami Marlins) in the best of seven-game series. The pennant game in question, was memorable because of the antics of Cubs’ fan Steve Bartman whose stupidity may well have robbed the ball-club of making it to the World Series that year . Bartman became a “pariah” , receiving death threats from rabid and vocal fans , leaving the besieged individual to be led from the ballpark that night , and his being lauded for his sheer stupidity . That event shaped the downward spiral of the organization between 2004 and 2008.

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Steve Bartman , a Chicago Cubs’ fan reaches in , depriving Moises Alou from making a defensive play during the 2003 NCLS game played between the Miami Marlins and Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field ,in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs would go on to lose the series , with many believing Bartman’s actions changed the team’s fate in the game as well as the entire series. The Marlins would go on to win the World Series that year . AP Photo / Michael Walsh

If the Chicago Cubs under the reins of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer cannot get this franchise heading in the right direction , then there is an bigger chance both front office executives will make another upheaval of the playing roster. Cubs’ outfielder Starling Castro is seen as the player who can lead the Chicago Cubs this season with his stealth in the outfield and offense at the the plate. Chicago will enter the season with a $115.5 million payroll , which is not considerably high among the teams entering the Opening Day of the regular season. The highest paid player on the team’s roster will be pitcher Jon Lester alongside Edwin Jackson and catcher Jesus Montero . Lester and Jackson will be asked to spearhead a pitching rotation that will have to prove itself against the rest of their NL and AL opponents over the course of this season.

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San Francisco Giants’ GM Bruce Bochy is seen here with team manager Bruce Bochy as the two survey the ballpark . Sabean and Bochy have guided the franchise to three World Series’ titles in the past six seasons and will be looking to add a fourth in 2015. The Giants are highly favored within NL this season . having kept the core of their championship winning lineup from 2014 where they defeated the Kansas City Royals to win that third title. fourth title. Getty Images North America / Mary Watson

The disappointment of last season was not lost on Don Mattingly , manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the organization having spent in excess of $500 million in the last two seasons to simply have nothing to show for it all , has not lessened the impact and the pressure about to be placed on Mattingly this upcoming season. Andrew Friedman enters the fray having put in charge to head the Baseball Operations for the Dodgers , with senior executives , Stan Kasten , Todd S Boehly, Mark Walter , Magic Johnson and Peter Guber likely to see a vast improvement from a team entering this season again with the highest payroll in Major League Baseball.

If the Dodgers cannot overcome the San Francisco Giants within the NL Central as well as number of their NL opponents while seeking a postseason berth. Mattingly and the team fell apart during the postseason of 2014, with their NL MVP and NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw , proving all of the plaudits with astonishing exploits of his regular season , was all for nothing during his postseason foray. Over the past four years Kershaw has been one of the dynamic pitchers in the game and and by far the best regular season pitcher in the NL during the time-frame in question.

Don Mattingly and his team will begin the regular season with a series of games against the San Diego Padres at Dodgers Ballpark , in Los Angeles, California . In his first game against his old team Matt Kemp will be looking to lead the Padres to opening day win as the Padres look to get off to a positive start in 2015. James Shields will be the starter for the Padres against Clayton Kershaw in this divisional contest , as part of a slew of games on Monday afternoon.

A year removed from his departure , Robinson Cano made an impact providing the Seattle Mariners with the type of offense they were sorely missing as an AL franchise. Cano also provided the ball-club with the veteran leadership traits sought and they are likely to see again this season , as their sojourn begins. With a team which during the off-season saw a number of changes as the front office sought to fortify the Mariners’ lineup.

The Mariners’ gain was the New York Yankees’ loss and it easy to understand why the AL East struggled throughout much of last season in just about every facet of their game. While Robinson Cano has flourished in his new surroundings, while his former team , the Yankees , have struggled mightily . Injuries asides , last season they lacked leadership , even with the now retired Derek Jeter playing his last regular season for the franchise. There did not seem a lot that could be done by the players over the course of the season. Joe Girardi and his coaching staff could never really get things going through the first half of the season.

Alex Rodriguez’s return to the lineup where he is expected to play first-base for the Yankees, will place the player under the microscope after his league mandated suspension for the entire 2014 season. Despite all of the original denials, as to his use of a banned substance , Rodriguez’s continued mes-culpas are now a thing , likely to taint his career and any chance he may believe he has in gaining induction into Baseball’s Hall of Fame. His statistics place him in the upper echelons of the game’s elite .com/ players , but it cannot be denied , it has been his legacy off the field of play , which has become his Achilles’ Heal , leading to his ultimate downfall.

While this whole sordid affair was mishandled by a bumbling league hierarchy where there is still no common sense to be found , even with Rob Manfred having succeeded Bud Selig as the new incoming MLB Commissioner. The New York Yankees’ organization are as much to blame for this faux-pas and absolute incompetent handling , as the league hierarchy itself. Hank Steinbrenner , his sibling , Hal Steinbrenner , GM Brian Cashman and SVP Lonn A Trost bungled and goofed their way through their handling of the Alex Rodriguez “ affair “ , that it has become a template for what a baseball franchise ought not to do, when handling a situation of this magnitude .

The Yankees will begin their schedule with a home opener against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankees Stadium in New York City, New York , with Masahiro Tanaka taking the mound against an opponent yet to be named in this contest on Monday afternoon , with a start time of 1.00 PM for the first pitch.

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Having signed a five-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays ,to become the ball-club’s manager , Kevin Cash , seen here , will have a tough task on his hands as the team seeks to get back into contention among their divisional rivals and the AL while seeking to win the World Series . A single appearance in the Fall Classic ended in defeat against the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 , in a lopsided series’ loss (4-1) . AP Photo / Paul Bell

Nothing suggests that more , than the continued idiocy of the fans and local political dignitaries, with their asinine belief the building of a new ballpark will be the savior and lead to the long-term viability of franchise. The Rays remain among the leastsupported baseball franchises in all of baseball and it has been an ongoing issue for a franchise, where the claims are , they have a fan-base of 20,000 hardcore fans , when the true figure in reality is actually closer to 15,000 at best . The Tampa Bay Rays rarely sellout for a regular season home game and the only time their home venue , anywhere near close to capacity , are their home games and series against divisional rivals the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees.

Kevin Cash assumes the reins as the successor to Joe Maddon and it will be interesting to see what this rookie manager will be able to achieve in first managerial position in Major League Baseball. This a team of limited ability , and that is with due to respect to the pitching staff and what has tended to be a rather inconsistent offense over the past few years. The Rays were simply lackluster in 2014 which was reflected in their poor showing within the AL East at the end of the year and a lackluster in the wild-card standings failing to garner a postseason berth and entry into the end of year showcase finale.

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Tampa Bay Rays’ senior managing partner , Stuart Sternberg ,left , is seen here with GM Matt Silverman as the two have a discussion while attending a meeting with the board members of the Pinellas County Commission . This was a formal meeting with the dignitaries , as they seek to hammer out a proposal for a stadium financing initiative. For the past nine years the franchise has sought a new stadium, but to no avail at the state , municipal or county level , in getting a deal done to replace the now archaic Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida ,. All signs seem to be pointing to the fact Sternberg may well seek to relocate the franchise elsewhere if he is unable to get a governmental agency backed deal for the financing done. At no point has the owner (Sternberg) himself , offered to put up any of his own personal funds as a measure of good faith, while seeking to get any type of proposal set in motion . Baseball’s hierarchy has provided little help to the AL East based franchise , during their endeavors, leading many to believe former MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and his successor Rob Manfred are not overly concerned about the Rays’ fate. AP Photo / Mark Powers

I believe the Tampa Bay Rays will struggle to eke out more than eighty-five wins , with ninety wins likely needed to be in with a chance of winning the division and at a minimum eighty-five wins for a wild-card berth. Chris Archer will be the opening day starter for the Rays when they face the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida. Archer will be going up against Chris Tillman of the Orioles in what is likely to be a very good pitching match-up between these two young MLB staring pitchers . Chris Archer and his teammates will have something to prove this upcoming season when their schedule gets underway. Things will likely become very “testy “ over the first month of the season. This being purely speculative based upon on what we witnessed during April of 2014.

These two AL teams will certainly have something to prove this upcoming season, because their lack of recent postseason success has left a vacuum in their respective legacies. For both the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels should they fail to make a deep run into the postseason beyond winning their divisions . I believe both Dave Dombrowski and Jerry Dipoto as the respective general managers of both organizations will have to make some serious moves during the off-season . With that being said , in all likelihood we are likely see these type of transactions as has often been the case during the regular season , when teams seek to play themselves into contention after the All Star Game .

Brad Ausmus begins his second season in charge of the coaching staff and Tigers’ playing roster , which includes MVP’s and Cy Young Award winners , Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander . The two players will be be pivotal to the team’s success this upcoming season and as they go , the so do the Detroit Tigers. It has been some thirty-years since the Tigers tasted real success by way of a World Series’ victory. Alan Trammell was the hero of the moment , coming away with the World Series’ MVP as the Tigers got by the San Diego Padres in the 1984 World Series . Alan Trammell was the hero of the moment coming away with the World Series’ MVP as the Tigers got by the San Diego Padres in the 1984 World Series .

Appearances in the Fall Classic of 2006 and 2012 left the Detroit Tigers without anything to to show for it all. Being so close and yet so far has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the organization . Michael Ilitch as the Tigers’ owner in spite of his immense wealth would like nothing better than to see the ball-club be triumphant once again. Whether not this will be the season where they prevail , will have a great deal to do with how competitive they are within the AL Central as well as within AL and the rest of baseball in general. Detroit will begin their foray , when David Price takes to the mound for the Tigers as he faces Phil Hughes of the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan on Monday, 6th April, 2015.

Mike Scioscia is likely on the “hot seat” with regard to his job security. He is now one of the longest tenured managers in baseball, but of late , his managerial resume’ has been littered with disaster , managing the Los Angeles Angels. Failure is no longer an option and I believe Jerry Dipoto’s and team owner, Arte Moreno’s faith in the manager has grown extremely thin ! When you have players of the caliber of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols , Josh Hamilton , Jered Weaver and C J Wilson , you cannot continue to make excuses for the team’s woes. Hamilton seems to have returned to ways of old , with his sobriety coming into question as well his lack of candor and productivity for the Angles. With such a great deal of money invested in the outfielder . I simply cannot understand why he is being given a pass by the organization as well Major League Baseball , when he has once again contravened a ” cardinal rule ” of the game ! He may well have placed himself back into rehab . as he fights with alcohol and cocaine addiction , yet, it is not the first time he has fallen off this particular wagon.

Josh Hamilton should be facing a mandatory suspension from baseball’s hierarchy, rather than following their misguided logic of his placing himself in rehab, will be a cure to his ills.

Common sense , intelligence , honesty , purity and integrity has never been apart of this game which lacks authority and accountability at just about every level of its structure. Team owners simply seem to be happy with the billions reaped in revenues annually . The hierarchy repeatedly pats itself on the back , while offering up little of note, on or off the field , by way of its product. The players under the guidance of their union (MLBPA) fights to increase its power , while doing little to address some of the most acute issues to effect the game of baseball over the past two decades. Tony Clark , MLBPA Executive Director seems to be no different from his predecessors Michael Weiner and Donald Fehr .

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What are you hoping to see take place within Major League Baseball this season ? Also which players or teams do you believe will have or make the biggest impact on the game ? Your comments as usual are more than welcome . Simply offer up your thoughts as you see fit and thanks as always for the support of this site and others affiliated with Tophatal’s Blog !.

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