The Sports Scoop

My View on the World of Sports

Five little known MLB players that you will be familiar with by season’s end

With the 2007 MLB season just under a month old, we are starting to get a feel for how the season might pan out.  However, the season is long and full of uncertainties.  Injuries to key players, hot or cold streaks, and the potential of the all important mid-season trade are all factors that can make or break a season.

 

One of the biggest question marks is the production a team will get from its young, unproven players.  Every season players emerge seemingly from no where to become stars and household names.  Last year, we saw such players as Francisco Liriano, Prince Fielder, and Robinson Cano have breakout years and play large roles on their respective teams. 

This season will be no different in that a handful of previously unknown players will grab the spotlight as a result of their superb play.  You may not know these players right now, but my guess is that you will become quite familiar with them by the season’s end.

 

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers – Kinsler is off to a hot start after a solid rookie season last year.  Seven home runs in his first fourteen games have him sitting second to A-Rod for the lead in that category.  Kinsler is exceeding all expectations up to this point and is not looking back.  Don’t expect him to keep up the pace, but he should finish the season with some of the best numbers for any second baseman in baseball. 

Josh Hamilton, CF, Cincinnati Reds – This may be a player you’ve heard of before, but you’re bound to hear much more about him as the season goes on.  He’s a center fielder with such talent that the Reds moved Ken Griffey Jr. to right field to make room for Hamilton.  In his first 30 at-bats this season, he belted five home runs and has a slugging percentage near .900.  It seems as though the sky is the limit for this left-handed slugger.

 

Rich Hill, SP, Chicago Cubs – Hill is a southpaw whose strong finish in 2006 has carried over into 2007.  In his three starts this season, Hill has only given up eight hits and one run over 22 innings.  Not really an overpowering pitcher, the lefty changes speeds well and has had pinpoint accuracy to start this season.  His 3-0 start has some wondering if he should be considered higher than the fourth starter in the Cubs’ rotation.

 

Akinori Iwamura, 3B, Tampa Bay Devil Rays – Iwamura is one of many talented young players that make up the Devil Rays’ roster this season.  Thus far in his first Major League season, he has been impressive with his patience at the plate and solid play at the hot-corner.  After receiving little pre-season recognition, Iwamura could be a threat to steal a few AL Rookie of the Year votes at the end of this season.

 

Joel Zumaya, RP, Detroit Tigers – If you love watching 100+ MPH fastballs, then this is the pitcher for you.  Zumaya really brings the heat and has a fastball that has been clocked in at 104 MPH.  With a 1.94 ERA and 97 strikeouts in 83 innings last season, Zumaya is currently playing set up man for veteran closer Todd Jones.  If not this year, look for this guy to have some big years playing closer in the near future.

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April 21, 2007 Posted by | Baseball, MLB, Sports | 1 Comment

The season of meaning is upon us

Around this time of year, there is plenty to be excited about in sports.  March Madness, the start of the baseball season, NBA and NHL playoff races, you know what I am talking about.  There is a distinct connection between all of these events which makes this time so special.  All of these games are played with meaning and purpose.

It could be a single elimination tournament, you might need to win two out of three games to make it to the post season, or you might want to start the season off on the right foot, but the players actually play and the fans actually care during this time of the year.

Compare this to mid-June when (insert your favorite baseball team here) are playing their 50th or so game of the season.  The mentality at that time is completely different.  It is like, “Who cares if we lose this one, we still have over a hundred more games to play.”  Not only for the players, but the fans, too.

This will never happen, but the MLB and NBA ought to make their schedules considerably shorter. 

From a sport standpoint, there is no reason to have such long schedules.  162 MLB games and 82 NBA games?  I say cut those numbers in half.  Players and fans alike start to lose interest.  Individual games start to take on less and less meaning because there are so many more games to get back on track.  There is no sense of urgency.

From a revenue standpoint, I understand why the seasons are drawn out.  Lots of games equals lots of money, I get it.

The NFL is one league that has it right, which is one reason why it’s passing up baseball as America’s favorite sport, if it hasn’t already.  Every game has a large impact on the season as a whole.  Players can’t just take a day off and go at it hard tomorrow.  Fans cannot wait until Sunday rolls around.  The league has the whole package.  It’s exciting and meaningful; I wish other leagues would take note.

I don’t really have a clever way to end this post, I’m drawing a blank.  No big deal though.  After all, the blog season is year round, so who really cares about this meaningless entry.

April 7, 2007 Posted by | Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, Sports | 1 Comment

Do Players of the Past Receive Too Much Credit?

I have a feeling that could potentially catch some heat for this post, but let’s give it a shot anyways.  Please be gentle with your criticism.

It seems to me that retired players sometimes receive too much credit.  When I say that, I mean that I have heard countless times, “If [insert very good retired player’s name here] were playing today, he would hit 80 home runs,”…or average 40 points per game, or whatever it may be.  You get the idea. 

The same thing goes for teams.  Apparently, today’s teams just aren’t that good.  Even if the Dallas Mavericks finish the regular season with 72 wins and take home the title, they won’t be viewed as equivalent to the record setting 95-96 Chicago Bulls team.  Is it just our nature to assume that things in the past were better?

I thought of a couple of reasons why this might be the case.  First of all, maybe it’s true.  Maybe teams and players of the past were simply better.  Maybe Babe Ruth transported into our era would dominate like no other.  I don’t believe it, but I guess it’s possible.

Longevity is a key factor that I think could explain some of the disparity.  Some of the retired greats earned being called that by playing at a high level for 15 years.  With current players, we are always skeptical of whether or not they can keep it up.  Sometimes I think we are too skeptical.  Like with A-Rod right now, I have heard a lot of talk about how he’s slowing down and whatnot.  Slowing down after a .290/35/121 season? 

I can hardly imagine that the competition 30 years ago was as good as it is today.  By that, I mean that the gap has narrowed between the “good” players and the “bad” players.  You are forced to bring your best every game today because there is not one unworthy player in professional sports.  Except for maybe Ron Artest and Pacman Jones, but that’s another story.  Since there are all good players in the league now, it’s going to be harder for today’s players to put up the kind of numbers that were put up back then.  I really have no evidence to back that up, but I just feel that the overall level of play in sports is higher right now.

Another reason might be that when we look back on players, we tend to think of their primes.  We might overlook struggles in player’s careers and make them seem like they are better than they were.

The more I write, the more I feel like there is no logical way to compare players of different generations.  You can only judge a player or a team by what they did against who they played.  However, I still think that those who believe a player from the past could dominate today is crazy.  Could an all-time great be successful today?  Absolutely.  But I know that I wouldn’t pay Mickey Mantle $100 million per season to play for me today (a little play off of joeyballgame’s blog :)).

March 12, 2007 Posted by | Baseball, Basketball, Football, Sports | 4 Comments

McHale is NOT the Best GM in Sports

Forbes.com recently released its list of the top General Managers in all of sports.  The article ESPN.com wrote about this can be found here.

Basically, Forbes looked at the four major sports and tried to pick out the best GM.  Their criteria were two fold.  First, they looked at how each team performed prior to the arrival of their current GM and compared it to how they performed with their previous GM.  Second, they looked at how each team’s payroll compares to the league median.  The first criterion was weighted twice as important since winning is the ultimate measure of success.

After all of the numbers were crunched, Kevin McHale, the GM for the Minnesota mchale1.jpgTimberwolves, emerged as the best there is.  What a joke!  This is why Forbes should never try to report information relating to sports.  Ever.

McHale should not even be in the top 10.  The data is skewed because the Timberwolves were absolutely horrible before he took over.  Now that they are average, it seems like he had something to do with it.  A guy named Kevin did have something to do with it, but that is Kevin Garnett. 

If anything, McHale should be looked at as one of the worst GM’s in sports for not putting the right pieces around KG.  Garnett is an unbelievable talent, and I think it’s McHale’s fault that the Wolves haven’t been able to make a serious title run during the Garnett era.  They had a little something going with Sam Cassell and Latrell Spreewell, but that got broken up.  Now they are sinking back into mediocrity.

Forbes could have randomly selected a GM and been more on target than they were with McHale.  I don’t know who the best GM out there is, although Jerry Angelo, Billy Beane, Joe Dumars, Brian Cashman, and even Jerry Jones come to mind, but I know that it definitely is not Kevin McHale.

March 5, 2007 Posted by | Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey, Kevin McHale, MLB, NBA, News, NFL, NHL, Sports | 3 Comments

2007 Baseball Predictions/MLB Baseball Message Board

With the 2007 Major League Baseball season nearly upon us, I have decidedmlb.jpg to create a message board dedicated to just that.  This will be a place for baseball lovers to go and talk about anything related to the game.  There are already a few posts related to predictions, but I will be adding posts regularly to hopefully spark conversation and debate.  Feel free to check it out and tell your friends about it so we can get some great baseball talk going.  The site is www.activeboard.com/forum.spark?forumID=106169 .

February 27, 2007 Posted by | Baseball, MLB, News, Sports | 12 Comments

I Want Real All Star Games

Does anyone else feel like All Star games have lost their luster?  Watching the NFL All Pro game last Saturday, I couldn’t help but feel that they have.  The concept of an All Star game is a sports fan’s dream, to watch the best players go head to head.  However, it seems to me that both fans and players alike are becoming less enthusiastic about these contests.

One obvious reason is that the players do not take All Star games very seriously.  The NBA All Star game is well known for this.  The first three quarters of the game is basically a plug for the And1 Mix Tape Tour, minus the guy screaming “Oh baby!” in the background. 

The NFL All Pro game flows a little more genuinely, if you can get the real stars to play that is.  Many players choose to sit out of this game because they have “injuries.”  Those that do play, especially on defense, tend to take a little more caution leading to poor tackling and choppy gameplay.  I get a sense that all of the players feel they are winners, regardless of the game’s outcome, if they did not get hurt in the game.

Anyone happen to see the number of open seats at the Pro Bowl?  The seats were only half full!  I’m awed by the extreme lack of support from fans.  They play the game in Hawaii, which could account for some of the lack of attendance, but it was still surprising to me.

The MLB All Star game might be the only one that has it right.  They have the game mean something and do an excellent job of promoting it.  Fans love the mid-season classic and rightfully so.  The players support one another and play the game as hard, if not harder, as they would a regular season game. 

Maybe it’s just me, but I wish that all of the All Star games meant something, to fans and players.  It’s a sad day when we have to listen to Tyrus Thomas say that, “I’m just going to go out there and do whatever…I’m out there to collect my paycheck.”

February 14, 2007 Posted by | All Star Game, Baseball, Basketball, Football, MLB, NBA, NFL, Sports | 1 Comment