When the shit begins to hit the fan , does anyone really care ?
The second half of the baseball season has begun in earnest after the All Star Game and the events encapsulating the mid-season showcase. With the trade deadline due on 31st July and teams thought to be out of the hunt for a wild-card berth or divisional title seem to be abandoning hopes of any kind of competitive chase. The forlorn season of the Philadelphia Phillies has provided the fans within baseball a clear reason why complacency remains prevalent among the front office of an organization with no clear long-term goals. Ryne Sandberg’s departure had more to do with the former player’s disillusion with his players and their lack of a competitive spirit. GM Reuben Amaro for his part, is clearly out of his depth in his current role and now with the sinking fortunes of the ball-club, comes the quest to set about a fire sale of high-priced and under-achieving talent .
Speculation seems to be mounting, former World Series MVP and starting pitcher Cole Hamels will be shopped around , with the likely destination said to be his joining the Los Angeles Dodgers. With their payroll close to $280 million and having to account for the remainder of Hamels’ salary for this season , I am not so sure Farhan Zahidi and Andrew Friedman front office executives within the Dodgers’ organization are totally committed to acquiring the player even in the short-term , much less as a long-term investment for the ball-club.
As good as the Dodgers appear to be , leading the NL West with a great deal of ease. Their real issue lies in the fact during the postseason over the last two years they have been unable to get the job done when it matters the most.
Elsewhere around the game, things are also looking bleak for the Detroit Tigers as their season appears to be imploding right in front of everyone’s eyes. GM Dave Dombrowski now has to make some rather serious decisions concerning several players on the team’s roster. Yoenis Cespedes , is now seen as superfluous to the club’s needs and he is unlikely to be the only player jettisoned by organization, should things continue as they are.
The rapid ascent of the Kansas City Royals along with the improved play of the Minnesota Twins this season, has left the Tigers on the outside looking in , as they find themselves sitting third within the AL Central and apparently out of contention for a wild-card berth within the AL. It should be noted also neither Justin Verlander or Miguel Cabrera are having very productive seasons when measured against their own lofty standards. Brad Ausmus and the managerial staff are not entirely to blame for the Tigers’ woes this season , but clearly an accusing finger has to be pointed at the manager for his lack of commitment sought from his players. If the rumors are to be believed,then David Price could also be on the move , with several teams likely to show interest in the AL Cy Young Award winner of 2012 . A 9-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners might not have been enough to provide the Detroit Tigers with any sort of respite, but for the moment it will do for the players and the managerial staff. Detroit will again play host to the Seattle Mariners on Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park, in Detroit, Michigan. David Price will be on the mound for the Tigers, when he faces Hisashi Iwakuma of the Mariners.
As a fan of the Atlanta Braves , I continue to be disappointed with the play of the team and the lack decisiveness shown by Fredi Gonzalez as the team’s manager. Further exacerbating this all, was the decision made by GM John Hart and team President John Scheurholz to extend Gonzalez’s contract with the offer a three-year extension. A fellow Braves’ fans stated , it was his belief the Braves made this decision solely on the fact the organization has been happy with the manager’s efforts and the fact the ball-club would soon be moving to a new facility. Last I looked , the one thing usually bringing the fans to be the ballpark beyond the novelty of it being new , was one of seeing a winning product on the field of play. It would be true to suggest, a winning product has not been on the field of play with the Braves since Fredi Gonzalez became the team’s manager. The Braves’ sole appearance in the postseason during his tenure ended disastrously with the team being swept out of the postseason , in a wild-card round loss to the St Louis Cardinals during the 2012 MLB Postseason.
Playing sub.500 baseball (45-50 .474) as of 22nd July , it is difficult to understand why anyone would now believe the Braves are still capable of pulling off the surprise of gaining a postseason berth as a wild-card entrant. Currently sitting 6 ½ games out a berth within the NL , Atlanta has literally self imploded its season with an array of results which simply defy all logic. A 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday afternoon has been emblematic of the Braves all season . This team simply cannot win on the road with any degree of regularity , much less win at home .
Atlanta will be on the road to begin a three-game weekend series against the St Louis Cardinals starting on Friday, 24th July with the first of three games to be played at Busch Stadium in St Louis , Missouri . Manny Banuelos of the Braves will face off against Tim Cooney of the Cardinals in this contest of left-handed starting pitchers within the NL.
Perhaps like in no other professional team sport, records within the game of baseball are revered . However, in recent years many of baseball’s most hallowed records have become tarnished . We all know who holds the record for regular season home runs and the all-time career home runs’ record. Seven-time NL MVP and former Major League player Barry Bonds can lay claim to both marks, but in the eyes of the public Bonds and both records held are tainted.
Roger Maris’ single season mark of sixty-one home runs is seen as the single season home run mark by detractors of Barry Bonds and with good reason, when you consider that both Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire prior to Bonds made a mockery of the feat , with their complicit acts and then denials of using steroids. Barry Bonds still holds steadfast with his claims that he never knowingly took a banned substance, but yet, those claims are soundly refuted by Victor Conte , founder of BALCO (Bay Area Lab Co) , the supplier of the banned substances said to have been used by the former San Francisco Giants’ star.
Hank Aaron hit seven hundred and fifty five home runs over the course of his famed career , was denigrated and despised by fans for having surpassed the mark once held by Babe Ruth. When Barry Bonds rounded out his career with seven hundred and sixty-two home runs, exceeding Aaron’s tally by seven home runs , it was greeted with praise in some circles , but clearly neither baseball’s hierarchy or Elias Stats Bureau cared to question the achievement. Baseball’s records are no longer hallowed in the true sense of the word and one could lay claim , the game is simply deserving of its present fate in that regard.
Alex Rodriguez’s quest for redemption continues and with it has come his progression up certain career marks within the game. He is the active home runs, hits and RBI leader , and among the career marks for each of the categories in question , his name is firmly slotted among the top-ten .
From my own perspective Alex Rodriguez remains a self-absorbed individual who was never much of a teammate anywhere he played , let alone a leader or someone whom many of the younger players would aspire to be like. He may be a three-time AL MVP , multi-time All Star , Gold Glove winner and Silver Slugger Award winner , but his career will forever be tainted and question as to its merits . Consider also, at the start of this season the New York Yankees were questioning whether or not the incentives’ options within the player’s contract should be honored. To my mind it not only signals the stupidity within the Yankees’ organization in having taken so long to even question the issue , but it also has and will continue to show how bereft of intelligence the owners within baseball are and will continue to be.
Rob Manfred for his part, continues to steer the course of his predecessor ,while adding to Bud Selig’s decision, by indicating his predecessor just happens as much of an @ss as the incumbent commissioner. While Rob Manfred now seeks not only team expansion , but also an expansion of baseball’s postseason system . The question I would have to ask, what will the commissioner seek to do about the plight of such teams as the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays , franchises seeking a new stadium , while their home game attendances have been in steady decline over the past two years. One should also note, while idiotic claims are being made about the profitability of both teams , they are also recipients of funds which come via baseball’s luxury tax scheme , another nonsensical approach by baseball , which has failed miserably since its existence. It has not leveled the playing field as some have tried to claim, and the so-called small-market teams said to be competing with their large market adversaries , tend to fall back among the dregs once they become starved of cash and talent.
In 2012 the Miami Marlins sought to break the bank in order to chase after success . The fact that they failed so miserably should not have come as a surprise, even if they were playing in a new ballpark , A venue I might add, which seats a mere 35,000 fans and this venue has to yet to host a sell-out game since its inception. Far be it for me to suggest, but the city of Miami was sold a white elephant, when they chose to finance the building of the Marlins’ Ballpark , under pressure from the coercion of the MLB hierarchy and ownership group of the Miami Marlins. As an attraction the venue is nothing special, but somehow the civic dignitaries and local politicians felt there was a need for what they believe to be a world-class venue for sports and the hosting of various other events. I guess $500 million of taxpayers’ monies has to be considered well-spent . when it is of benefit to a billionaire franchise owner and of no real benefit to the community at large. Less we forget at the time of its construction the city of Miami faced a huge fiscal deficit, which almost five years later the municipality is still unable to fix.
The Marlins’ woes this season have been compounded by the fact they have an interim manager and a roster which has simply under-achieved all season long . Having invested a great deal of money in Giancarlo Stanton and signing Ichiro Suzuki to a one-year deal , the common feeling was this team would be good enough to make a strong enough challenge for the NL East crown but also the NL Pennant and World Series. Instead the Marlins have been atrocious with the managerial staff of Dan Jennings simply out of their depth. Team owner Jeffrey Loria , GM Michael Hill and the front office have shown a great deal of incompetence not just during this season but over the course of the last four years, as the team’s record has reflected a truly mediocre run during the time-span mentioned.
Coming off a 4-0 road victory over an equally disheveled San Diego Padres’ team , it is easy to understand why the Miami Marlins have been so good and also mediocre against poor opposition. Friday will see the continuation of the Marlins’ series against the Padres , when Dan Haren takes to the mound for the visitors against Andrew Cashner for the home team. If Miami chooses to be sellers at the trade deadline (31st July) , it will be interesting to see which players on the roster they will seek to jettison and then bring up from their farm system for the rest of the season.
Ichiro Suzuki continues his long and impressive career , nearing 3,000 career hits within MLB but with a combined career record that will soon surpass the mark of Pete Rose’s record of of 4,256 hits . One will understand how much of an accomplishment his getting his three-thousandth hit will mean for the Japanese star . He has been by far the best hitter of his generation within baseball and he is sure to be first ballot Hall of Fame inductee having met all of the requirements for induction. Ichiro is likely pass the 3,000 hits’ plateau at some point during the remainder of the season for the Miami Marlins and it will be one of the highlights of an otherwise mediocre season for the ball-club. From hereon-in, it will be interesting to see what happens for the Miami Marlins as they seek to climb out of the doldrums.
Picture gallery. Click on an individual frame to view that picture in a reformatted size alongside an accompanying narrative.
With second half of the baseball season already in underway , what are you most looking forward to seeing as the schedule comes to its inevitable climax ? Overall, have you been disappointed with the performances of certain players and teams ? If so, then simply leave a comment about your thoughts on the season.
On this day in baseball history