Fallout , what fallout ?

Fallout, what fallout ?

After one of the most eventful postseasons in recent baseball history MLB has anointed their World Series’ champion for the 2014 season , with the San Francisco Giantswinning their third title in the past five seasons,defeating the Kansas City Royals . For manager Bruce Bochy , his third title and a dynasty in the making , or should we subscribe to the fact the Giants have been the best team in baseball since 2010? When it has mattered most the ball club have shown their resiliency on the road and proven themselves to be one of the greatest franchises in recent postseason history. Where the Giants stand alongside such great and dominant teams of the past will likely ignite a debate of conjecture and a great deal of bias. Baseball has changed immensely over the past three decades and undoubtedly the managerial acumen and play must be taken into account when trying to assess the achievements of the San Francisco Giants.

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Brian Sabean has proven himself to be a general manager with a great deal of acumen assembling a roster which has been competitive all season long. While the Giants may well have failed to win the NL West division , you simply cannot deny they were by far a better team than divisional champion the Los Angeles Dodgers , who once again proved that a quarter billion dollar payroll($250,000,000) counts for absolutely nothing, when there happens to be no team leadership or managerial leadership to be found within the organization. ,

The Dodgers’ front office where there has been a recent upheaval with GM Ned Colletti being given a lateral move or deemed in some circles a demotion , with Andrew Friedman being brought in the franchise’s operations where he will in fact become Head of Baseball Operations . It begs the question , what now becomes of the hierarchical order , where there now seems to be more executives than there are actual real decision-makers among the managerial staff of this team ? Also, how much latitude will now be given to Friedman, if one his main duties will be to hire a new general manager , while given the full authority in making the decisions affecting all personnel moves concerning the playing staff?

First order of business for Andrew Friedman beyond the hire of a new general manager if thought to be necessary , will be the projected lineup of the Dodgers for next season . With several players having performed poorly , a number of them highly overpaid , the feeling has to be a number of the players in questionare likely to be traded. Josh Beckett and Hanley Ramirez are two of the players I believe will be placed on the trading block along with Carl Crawford. The trio are not the only team members likely to be jettisoned, but it may well be the place to start, as Andrew Friedman looks to pare down the team’s payroll and then assess the talent within the Dodgers’ farm system for players he believes can contribute to future of the Dodgers as they seek competitiveness and consistency.

This off-season will prove to be one , where a number of general managers around the game of baseball will be seeking to make the type of deals likely to make their teams competitive. While the Kansas City Royals proved themselves competitive during the postseason , my own feeling the reasons why they came up short against the San Francisco Giants , had more to do with their lack of postseason experience among the playing staff . All of the momentum shown during the wildcard game , ALDS , ALCS and the World Series could not hide the fact Ned Yost’s acumen could not make up for the lack of playoff experience and veteran leadership needed.

Lawrence Baer and his fellow partners who make up the ownership group of the San Francisco Giants will have been entirely happy with what they have witnessed this season from their team. A series’ victory , appreciation of the Giants’ value , profits and the likely rise in attendance levels going into next season . Brian Sabean will likely make one or two moves to bolster the team’s roster heading into the upcoming season but if he can keep his core group of players intact , there is no reason to believe why the San Francisco Giants cannot be seen as a presumptive favorite to quite possibly repeat as World Series’ champion. If there are said to be any issues for the Giants in their retention of several players , it may well come down to the fact they will have to deal with the contract negotiations of team members in arbitration seeking a substantial pay raise . World Series’ MVP , Madison Bumgarner , Gregor Blanco , Sergio Romo and Pablo Sandoval , I believe should be offered deals commensurate with their talent, but given the wiles of baseball and the economic imbalances that continue within the game, it is hard to envisage how Sabean is likely to retain all of the players in question .

Larry Baer might well seek to increase the team’s payroll in 2015 , seeking to fall in line with a number of their main competitors ,but I am inclined to believe the team owner and their partners will simply follow the template set by their celebrated general manager Brian Sabean. After-all, the executive’s success can be considered the modern-day blueprint as to how to get the best out of the resources at one’s disposal. The proof has been there for all to see in the last five years .

One of the biggest disappointments of the 2014 season was the failure of the Atlanta Braves to compete within the NL East and not making the postseason . The firing of Frank Wren as the Braves’ general manager was not a great surprise but the retention of Fredi Gonzalez might well have been the biggest surprise of all , as I felt Gonzalez was negligent in his managerial duties along with his managerial staff !Hard to believe , that other than the Washington Nationals whose win of the division was made to look extremely easy , with the Nationals being the only ball-club with a record over .500 within the NL East was simply exacerbated by the mediocrity of the within.

Atlanta and the New York Mets (79-83 [.488]) shared the same final mark with their second placed finish and it begs the question how bad the play within the division much less the rest of baseball over the course of last season ? Fredi Gonzalez was extremely lucky he was retained as the Braves’ manager , but I guess team President John Scheurholz and general manager John Hart believed the manager could not be faulted for the team’s failure and poor play during 2014 . The Braves’ $112.9 million payroll was somewhat middling in comparison to many of their National League rivals and the ongoing economic imbalances which still exist.

Jason Heyward and Justin Upton are said to be two of the players the Braves are seeking to “shop around” during the off-season and the Winter Meetings of the executives , is likely generate a great deal of interest in the duo , players who are seen as being very productive at their very best . Another player likely to be seen superfluous to the Braves’ needs could be BJ Upton whose year with the team was very much understated and less than impressive. Upton the elder sibling of Justin Upton has failed to live up to his five-year $72 million contract , since being acquired by the Atlanta Braves from the Tampa Bay Rays.As an avowed fan of the Atlanta Braves if there is to be a player moved by the ball-club this off-season , I would prefer to see BJ Upton moved , as I believe it would be far more preferential to keep Jason Heyward and Justin Upton , simply because there is more of an upside to their respective careers , than a faltering veteran such as BJ Upton.

If there is one thing to be said about the New York Mets , it is, that their fans continue to make excuses for the team’s failings over the past six seasons . Team owners , Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz , along with COO Jeff Wilpon have continued to show their lack of initiative and for the well-being of the franchise in spite of their financial burden having been lifted . If you consider being bailed out by a number of financial institutions meaningful , because the owners sought to hide behind their willful negligence in their handling of the team’s finances as being prudent. Then I can only imagine , there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of intelligence among the fan-base or within the inner workings of this organization ! Sandy Alderson and JP Ricciardi are still trying to figure out how to fit a square peg into a round hole, in terms of the make up of the team’s roster. Not so long ago praise was being heaped upon the shoulders of pitcher Matt Harvey , but with his falling back to earth, rather than the earlier promise being shown , the fans and media alike within the city are now throwing their weight behind their crop of young and upcoming players within their farm system .

Harvey spent the entire 2014 season on the sidelines , due to an injury and the pitching staff though passable did not do enough to ignite the team or make them competitive enough within the NL or baseball in general. The real issues with the Mets laid in the fact their offense was simply inept and downright pitiful.

Terry Collins as the manager of the New York Mets may well have been given a reprieve because of the team’s second place finish in a rather mediocre NL East division in 2014. With talks of Sandy Alderson , said to be pursuing a list of marquee free agents as well as possibly reacquiring Jose Reyes , it begs the question beyond also assessing the farm system, what else is the front office executive prepared to do to make this ball-club truly competitive? New York kicks off their regular season schedule with a game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Ballpark in Washington , DC in the Nationals’ home opener on the 6th April, 2015,.

Fool me once , shame on you , fool me twice , shame on me . A third time and I think we get the picture ! Alex Rodriguez will be allowed that privilege of doing so once again and likely the MLB hierarchy will only be too delighted in proving to be complete imbeciles, allowing the disgraced third baseman to fool the fans of the game once again . With the retirement of Derek Jeter after his two-decade career as a New York Yankees’ player. The game of baseball , specifically the Yankees’ organization are now looking to Rodriguez to pick up the pieces of a team which last season was flawed and in complete disarray. As a player , Alex Rodriguez has never provided the leadership sought on the field of play, let alone away from the field, carrying himself with any type of decorum. Instead, his persona has been one of a conceited individual , hiding behind deceit , lies and blaming others for his own misdeeds and then using his legal representatives to create the facade of his being racially targeted for his using of banned substances as prohibited by Major League Baseball (MLB). The fact that the press sought to ignore this , while Rodriguez’s own supporters and lawyers sought to use this a pretext in his now well-chronicled complaints , defending himself in his arbitration appeal of his suspension, points to his character or lack thereof and a weakened hierarchy and an all too powerful union (MLBPA) who assisted in providing the player with his legal representation.

Baseball under the leadership of Bud Selig has continued to shoot itself in the foot , in its own ass, as well as making complete fools of the fans, while trying to point what they deem to be improvements in the game. The use of modern technology to right the wrongs of umpires who either have no comprehension of the game or the fact they’re overweight , not athletic and archaic monoliths, only points to the fact baseball remains in a damn time-warp of its own choosing. While Bud Selig may well be stepping down in his role as commissioner. his successor Rob Manfred doesn’t exactly exude confidence or seems to be a prudent choice as successor of the now departed Selig. The team owners wanted an ” insider” and as usual, what they sought , they actually got.

The New York Yankees while not being part of the MLB postseason will seek to make a big splash during the off-season , looking to acquire players , while painstakingly eschewing the idea of an organization wanting to be financially prudent. New York was the first baseball franchise to exceed the $200 million barrier in terms of an annual payroll obligations, when they reached the mark for the very first time in 2008 . In the subsequent years the Yankees’ payroll has continued to increase until 2013 when the Los Angeles Dodgers overwhelmed everyone with their gargantuan and all too bloated salary commitments, far outstripping their closest rivals . Alex Rodriguez’s return to the game in 2015, will once again make him the highest paid player in baseball in terms of contract value and base salary , albeit , his almost year-long suspension , saw the player lose in excess of $23.5 million in salary . What Rodriguez is now able to offer the New York Yankees at this stage of his career will be predicated upon whether or not they and the fans believe, he is still capable of hitting of thirty-plus home runs in a season , while maintaining a batting average close to .300 or above . A tall order for a player who hasn’t reached that plateau in quite a while

This upcoming season, I believe the New York Yankees are likely to struggle , simply because at its core this will still remain an aging team , with several of the players now past their prime, with no upside to be seen. Injuries are likely to plague the roster , much as it had done in 2014 , and with their being very little suggest that any of their players at the AAA Level are yet ready to be productive at the Big League Level. It simply suggests the Yankees will revert to ways of old and simply spend their way to success , with GM Brian Cashman leading the charge .

There seems to be this apathy among fans when they try to suggest there are “classy organizations” in baseball. If that were the case , we would actually have the general managers and owners questioning the direction of the league hierarchy and the constant haranguing of baseball’s image because of the players’ misuse of banned substances. Instead , they have chose to remain all too docile, while the players themselves , specifically those are seen as face of baseball , remain all too silent. MLB now has a pathetic image , in spite of a terrific postseason and one of the best World Series in recent history. Unfortunately, those thrilling moments cannot hide the fact, the game is still plagued by steroid cheats ” , and with a union which would rather defend the rights of the players who have knowingly sought to subvert the image of baseball purely for financial gain and acclaim. The pretext offered by the likes of Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro , Curt Schilling , Ryan Braun , Manny Ramirez and Roger Clemens , Mark McGwire and Alex Rodriguez , has gone a long way in creating a forlorn image and perception for baseball’s fans , while the postseason can be thrilling , one mere suggestion of cheating, simply knocks the game back on its heels , leaving the fans in great dismay. As to what comes next , we will have to wait and see what the 2015 season has to offer.

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Picture gallery .

In the aftermath of a thrilling postseason in baseball, , what do you hope to see this upcoming year from within the game ? Do you also believe MLB can escape any major controversy over the course of the season concerning the conduct of the players ?

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Picture and slideshow gallery details below.

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(1) World Series MVP Madison Bumgerner of the San Francisco Giants celebrates after the team’s thrilling 3-2 victory in game seven of the World Series to clinch the Giants’ third title in the past five seasons under manager Bruce Bochy . AP Photo / Chris Elliot …

(2) Larry Baer , San Francisco Giants’ senior managing partner is seen here holding the World Series’ Trophy alongside Brian Sabean , right , after the team’s triumph in the 2014 World Series over the Kansas City Royals . Getty Images North America / Paul Mayhew …

(3) Andrew Friedman is seen here alongside Los Angeles Dodgers’ team President Stan Kasten . Friedman, left the Tampa Bay Rays to accept the position as the Dodger’ Head of Baseball Operations where he will oversee all player personnel decisions, being directly answerable to Kasten and other senior executives within the Dodgers’ ownership group. AP Photo/ Matt Turner ….

(4) New York Mets’ manager Terry Collins may well have received a lucky reprieve after the team’s surprising second place finish in a very mediocre NL East division this past season . Division champions the Washington Nationals were the only team to finish with an above . 500 record . Yet they fell in the postseason in the NLDS without putting up much of a fight. AP Photo/ Sarah Miles ….

(5) Alex Rodriguez is seen here in the dugout alongside New York Yankees’ manager Joe Girardi ,left , as the two discuss team strategy. Rodriguez missed the entire 2014 season having fought to be reinstated after being given a year-long suspension for a violation of baseball’s substance abuse program , a claim which Rodriguez denied. His return to baseball is seen as a the last chance for the player to resurrect his career and a possible chance of enhancing his prospects of being a future Hall of Fame inductee . .AP Photo/Andrew Matthews …

(6) New York Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman and manager Joe Giardi will be under a great deal of pressure to succeed in 2015. The team has not won a World Series title since 2009 and failed to make the postseason in 2014 , finishing a disappointing and distant second in the AL East , twelve games behind division winners the Baltimore Orioles . This season the manager and front office executive will be looking to Alex Rodriguez to provide some semblance of leadership as well leading the offense which was among the weakest in the AL , as well as MLB overall . UPI / Mark Taylor … ….
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tophatal …. 2014/11/01

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If we build it they will come …………

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The MLB season , has started with some gusto and Opening Day , saw some record crowds for a number of the day’s schedule contests. Defending World Series champions the Boston Red Sox started the defense of their title with a 2-1 loss to divisional rivals the Baltimore Orioles in a contest played at Camden Yards in Baltimore , Maryland . From my own standpoint , seeking to speculate on who might end up winning this season’s title , this early in the season , is akin to counting grains of sand on the beach, while the tide comes in . It is of benefit to no one, at the time of the exercise!

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This season should be one of growth among many of the young stars who blossomed in terms of their play last season and it will be interesting to see how the AL and NL Rookies of the Year from 2013 acquit themselves for their respective teams as they seek to make themselves Big League stars , while looking to be well-compensated for their play. Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays , will certainly be looking to add to a robust season for the team from 2013, while his NL counterpart Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins will certainly look beyond being the only bright spot on what was a lackluster team last season, summed up by the Marlins’ last place finish in the NL East and being completely out of contention for a wildcard berth for the majority of last season.

In many respects I believe that this season, will be one of even more struggles for the Miami Marlins , as Mike Redmond and his managerial staff try to steer this team into contention within the division , which is likely to be more competitive, after the issues now encompassing the Atlanta Braves , with the team having lost two of their prominent starting players due preseason injuries . In all likelihood we could very well see something of shift in the favoring of the Braves to repeat as divisional champions , to perhaps the Washington Nationals being seen as the new prohibitive favorites within the NL East for the title this season.

Braves’ pitcher Brandon Beachy is out for the season , but the loss of Kris Medlen and Mike Minor might be the toughest losses to take, as both played prominent roles in the team’s success during 2013 . Yet, with not even the first ten games of their schedule having been contested , Atlanta’s disabled list , reads like the bulletin board from a hospital triage unit. Atlanta began its season with a well-deserved victory over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park in Milwaukee , Wisconsin , with the home team ….. succumbing to their opponents in defeat 5-2. The two teams will meet again on Wednesday afternoon in game two of their two-game series , before Atlanta departs to take on the Washington Nationals in the nation’s capital for a trio of games starting on Friday , 4th April and culminating with the final game of that trilogy on Sunday, 6th April .

For the Tampa Bay Rays, I expect this to be a make or break season and therein once again lies the dilemma as it relates to the organization. Cost-cutting by way of team payroll , has very much played a part in the Rays’ subsistence living and success in recent years . GM Andrew Friedman continues to seek out bargain basement free agents to place around a core group of players and Joe Maddon and his staff . continue to work miracles. My question is, beyond that success, how is it that in the eight years that Maddon has managed the team , he has only one the AL Manager of the Year Award twice, in 2008 and 2011 ? There are few managers in either league with Maddon’s managerial acumen, that would have been able to achieve the extraordinary success that he has attained, with the menial resources afforded him by the franchise. Yet, around the game the short-sightedness and stupidity being shown by alleged observers and fans alike have shown that their knowledge and a complete lack of understanding as to the economics of the game of baseball .

The Rays began their season with a 9-2 home victory over the Toronto Blue Jays on the 31st March , only to then follow-up that win with a loss the Blue Jays , with a . lackluster performance in losing 4-2 on Tuesday afternoon. The final leg of their opening trilogy, will take place on Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field , when Matt Moore takes the mound to face Mark Buehrle in their contest. A robust start to the season, I believe is needed for the Tampa Bay Rays, if they are to gain any semblance of success , as they can ill-afford to continue to show the type inconsistency exhibited last season , that eventually led to their demise , where they were summarily dispatched by the Boston Red Sox with consummate ease in the ALDS , in four games , 3-1.

Just when you thought that the idiocy of last season might well have been abated , baseball still proves again, that they have learned absolutely nothing from their mistakes . Having topped $ 3 billion last season for the Opening Day payroll, Team payroll, in 2014, MLB has once again trumped itself, teams’ financial commitment to their players, will exceed that figure, with the Los Angeles Dodgers trumping the other twenty-nine teams in the league , with a payroll of just over $235 million, with pitcher, Zach Greinke being the highest-salaried player on the roster , but by no means having the most lucrative contract , either in its length or value . Greinke’s six-year, $144 million deal , was surpassed during the preseason, when team President Stan Kasten and GM Ned Colletti negotiated the deal that allowed Clayton Kershaw the reigning Cy Young Award winner, a deal that makes him the highest paid pitcher in the game of baseball, as well as being one the highest paid players in the game. Somewhat surprisingly, this has been the first time, in several years, that the New York Yankees have not held the honor of being the team with the highest payroll in baseball.

Don Mattingly, his staff and the Dodgers’ team, got off to a great start, with their opening series, in defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks in their two game series played in Brisbane , Australia, . As to the relevance of those two games being played in the Antipodes region , I can only surmise, that it comes about, with the commissioner wishing to see the growth of the game “Down Under” . With just over a year to go, before he steps down from his position , Bud Selig will be looking to and hoping that the game of baseball, is still not mired, deep in controversy . Let’s just say , his handling of the litany of player suspensions, due to the prolific use of PED’s was poorly executed , with the MLBPA at times , being able to subvert the league’s form of justice. Tony Clark , has succeeded the late Michael Weiner, as the union’s Executive Director and the relationship between the league hierarchy and the union, remains strained and often contentious. What next, using a Band Aid to cover a gunshot wound to the abdomen, while the victim is still bleeding profusely ?

Dan Haren of the Los Angeles Dodgers, will take to the mound , on Wednesday night , when he faces Tyson Ross of the San Diego Padres at Petco Park , in San Diego, California, In what should be a very good contest , we can assume that the Padres will seek to it something of a competitive affair , unlike their season-long series of last year, when the Dodgers were simply dominant throughout the season within the NL West. Anything short of a deep playoff run and a World Series’ berth at the end of it all, will have to be viewed as a major disappointment for the Dodgers’ organization and their fans in particular . High hopes of last season, simply evaporated , when they wilted, showing little effort against the St Louis Cardinals in the NLCS . There is an abundance of pitching </a and offense to the makeup of this Dodgers’ team, but the issue to my mind , must be , who is seen as the actual leader of this lineup and can be looked upon to be not only vocal, but also show it , with regard to their play? Is it Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp , Carl Crawford , or anyone of their litany of pitchers ? That has to be the defining element and question that still remains unanswered by Don Mattingly and by the likes of joint-owners , Magic Johnson , Peter Guber , Mark Walter and Todd Boehly , who paid the record sum of $2.156 billion , for the apparent privilege of owning this proud franchise .

Young stars, such as, Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig , Jose Fernandez and Wil Myers were certainly making impacts for their teams, as I alluded to earlier. I expect this season to be no different , but will it be to the point, where their ball-clubs will become greatly reliant on the prowess of their young rookies ? For the likes of Jose Abreu, Aaron Barrett , Tyler Collins , Alex Guerrero , Mario Hollands, Seth Rosin, Bo Schultz , Gus Schlosser and Ian Thomas . Whether or not they make it , will be totally dependent upon the determination that they each show , while still being coached in the intricacies and rudiments of the game of baseball . An AL and NL Rookie of the Year is likely to come out of the field mentioned or it could come from a player, who is called up at some point later in the season. Either way, it will be interesting to see what these young players are able to offer, once they have had their ” first taste” of the Majors.

As always, the biggest draw in the game, remain the big market teams and amongst those others who have loyal fans. Without a doubt, last season, it should not come as any surprise that in total home attendance , it was left to the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers , St Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants , New York Yankees and Texas Rangers to lead the field . The aforementioned teams were amongst a list of eight ball-clubs that drew more than 3 million fans to their respective ballparks . The lowest figure in terms of overall attendance were those of the Tampa Bay Rays , with just over 1,500,000 attendees , at an average of just over 18,600 per home game schedule, in attendance at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida in 2013. Simply put, the front office cannot try to justify why a new ballpark is needed, when they are still drawing such low crowds, for each of their home games. Inasmuch, as their fans continue to decry the fact that, their present venue is archaic.

There remains no real reason to suggest that a new ballpark is likely to attract an even larger crowd , where in truth, the real hardcore fan-base of the franchise is at best , no more than 15,000 to 18,000 devoutly loyal fans . I have yet to hear, a Tampa Bay Rays’ fan explain succinctly , an argument as to why a new ballpark can and should be built, at the local taxpayers’ expense. Amongst the local media market , where intelligence is not of the highest order, the only reason for their proposing a new ballpark, is simply not to run afoul of the ownership group , led by Stuart Sternberg and Matthew Silverman , whose interviews within the local media market are rare and more inconsequential than anything else . More often than not, it is either Silverman or Sternberg , pleading for the local municipality to make the financial outlay for a new stadium , without the owners themselves, offering something in good faith , never mind the fact , that their lease on Tropicana Field is not due to expire until 2027 . One would have thought that whoever provided the legal counsel to both Stuart Sternberg and Matthew Silverman, as the lead managing partners, would have advised them to seek their renegotiating the lease on the ballpark at the time of their purchasing the team, from then owner , Vince Naimoli . I guess in large part, Sternberg sought to own a Major League Baseball, team, showing his naiveté as an alleged businessman, when buying that franchise. Monkey see, monkey do , there is no other way to explain that sort of utter stupidity !

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Picture gallery .

With Bud Selig due to step down at the end of this baseball season , do you believe that he will leave the game in a better position than he found it in , having succeeded Francis ‘Faye’ Vincent ? Also, with the escalating salaries of the players , do you believe that is now time for baseball to adopt a hard salary cap at the top-end and lower-end of the teams’ payroll scale ? Chime in with your thoughts on this and anything else you believe to be of relevance to the subject matter , as you see fit .

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Picture and slideshow gallery details below .
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(1) Boston Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester throws to the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning of an opening day baseball game, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Baltimore. Baltimore would defeat the Red Sox 2-1 . AP Photo/Patrick Semansky …

(2) Baltimore Orioles’ Adam Jones , bottom, collides with Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia after being forced out on a ground ball by Chris Davis in the fourth inning of an opening day baseball game, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Baltimore. Davis was safe at first. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky …..

(3) Wil Myers ,left, of the Tampa Bay Rays and the Miami Marlins’ Jose Fernandez were last season’s AL and NL Rookies of the Year , with both players having made impactful efforts for their respective teams during 2013. Myers and Fernandez will be looking build on the foundations laid , by improving this year , in terms of their play. Getty Images / Sean Leahy …..

(4) Atlanta Braves’ Freddie Freeman is greeted by teammates after hitting a solo home run off of Milwaukee Brewers’ Zach Duke during the eighth inning of a baseball game Tuesday, April 1, 2014, in Milwaukee. Both pitchers in this contest were on course for a no-hitter before being broken up by the opposing offenses . AP Photo/Tom Lynn …

(5) Los Angeles GM Ned Colletti ,left , is seen here alongside team President and minority owner Stan Kasten . The two front office executives this off-season offered a lucrative contract to pitcher Clayton Kershaw , the 2013 NL Cy Young Award winner , making him the highest paid player on the Dodgers’ roster and amongst the highest paid players in the game. Having lost the 2013 NLCS in a lopsided series’ defeat , the franchise bolstered their team with several off-season moves , meanwhile looking for improved seasons in 2014 from Yasiel Puig , Adrian Gonzalez , Carl Crawford , Zach Greinke , Hanley Ramirez , Andre Ethier and Chone Figgins . The ball-club will also be looking to make a successful defense of their 2013 NL West divisional title , won with a great deal of ease in a dominant fashion last season. AP Photo / Matthew Morris …..

(6) Zack Greinke and teammate , Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers in whom the ball-club have guaranteed and committed over $ 365 million . The two pitchers are amongst the highest paid players on the team’s roster and two of the highest paid starting pitchers in baseball, as well as having to of themost lucrative contracts amongst starting pitchers and players overall . The team’s success this season will be greatly dependent on both having career years if the Los Angeles Dodgers are to have any chance of winning their first World Series’ title in over twenty-five years. Getty Images / Greg Holt …..

(7) Rookie , Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox is seen here with the team’s general manager , Rick Hahn. The player made his debut with the team in their game against the Minnesota Twins on the 31st March , 2014 at US Cellular Field in Chicago , Illinois,. AP Photo / Anthony Smith …..

(8) Tampa Bay Rays’ managing partner , Stuart Sternberg, left is seen here alongside Matthew Silverman , GM Andrew Friedman and the team’s manager Joe Maddon , far right. The franchise’s home field Tropicana Field in St Petersburg , Florida is deemed archaic by current standards . With the ownership group pleading with the city of Petersburg for a new venue , albeit that the lease to their current venue does not expire until 2027, neither side is somehow prepared to accede to the other by seeking out an agreement where a compromise can be reached . Sternberg and his partners would like to see the city build a multifaceted 40,000 seat venue at their municipality’s expense , with their being no proposal from the ball-club to fund any part of the venture. Commissioner Bud Selig , whom , having assisted the Miami Marlins , New York Mets and New York Yankees to each obtain a new ballpark in the past six years, has been of no assistance to the AL East based franchise , also having been critical of team and stating that they will be never be allowed to stage an All Star Game until a new stadium is built . Selig has not only been critical of the Tampa Bay Rays over the issue of a new venue , but he has been extremely critical of the city of St Petersburg , the former mayor , Bill Foster , recently his successor Rick Kriserman and the Pinellas County government and their reluctance to build a venue for the MLB franchise . It might not have occurred to the commissioner that the state of Florida is still in the midst of an economic crisis , where state , county and municipalities are facing severe budget deficits , as well as high unemployment rates that are above the national average . Tampa Bay Times/ Keith Marsh ….

(9) Bud Selig , MLB Commissioner, who is due step down from his position as the league’s highest ranking executive in February 2015 , after almost twenty-five years in the current position , having first been the acting commissioner in 1992 , then accepting the position full-time in 1998. Often criticized for his managerial style and lack of communicative skills, his biggest blight, was in curtailing the 1994 MLB season , which brought about a league wide stoppage and strike . The MLBPA (Players’ Union) , then led by Donald Fehr , who now holds a similar position within the Players’ Union (NHLPA) of the NHL and the commissioner were often at loggerheads on a wide variety of issues and the distrust between the league hierarchy and the union, still remains to this day , in spite of the often asinine comments forthcoming from both sides. Getty Images/ Mark Snow …..

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A hard rain is going to fall ….

A hard rain is going to fall ….

Sunday 1st September and baseball will enter the final month of the regular season with two divisional races set , in terms a winner . It would be pretty safe to say, that barring a major catastrophe both the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers look to be certain winners of their respective divisions . For the reigning World Series champions the San Francisco Giants , this has been a lamentable season , where nothing seems to have gone right for Bruce Bochy , his staff and the team . Injuries , inconsistent play from many of team`s top players took its toll on so many of the stars , that it could very well lead to some tough decisions being made in the off-season by GM Brian Sabean .

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For Don Mattingly`s Dodgers , this was a team that I felt would be left for dead a little over six weeks ago . Yet quite the opposite happened , with the Los Angeles putting together an astonishing run , where Los Angeles rolled off forty-two wins out of a possible fifty game stretch , to put themselves back in the hunt for the NL West title . Mattingly could very well come away with this season`s NL Manager of the Year award , if the adjudicators have any common sense . At the same time, the inspiration for this remarkable stretch run , all came down to the call up of Dodgers` outfield sensation Yasiel Puig .

At present the team with the best record in baseball, is by no means a clear indication that they are the best team currently playing . Yet a case, can be made that the two best ball-clubs now reside in the National League .. And beyond all of the ongoing controversy surrounding both Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez , baseball has repeatedly shot itself in the foot, and still carries on , as if nothing had ever happened . Never-mind the utter conceit shown for the fans by the game`s hierarchy and team owners . With Bud Selig continuing to remain the very public face of the game , with a number of rather inane and idiotic edicts , it should come as no wonder why many still remain distrustful of the league hierarchy and its overall leadership.

The AL East, long believed to be the standard-bearer for some of the best baseball to be played, has this season become a complete paradigm , with the painstaking mediocrity shown by John Gibbons` Toronto Blue Jays and the continued perils of Perils of Pauline as portrayed by the New York Yankees , with the continued excuses being made for that team`s woeful ineptitude, alongside Alex Rodriguez`s effusiveness and his wish to be seen as a victim, even in light of the continued evidence showing him to be an habitual liar and a cheat. Within this particular division, for much of this season it has been left to the Baltimore Orioles , Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays to provide the fans with a great deal of the entertainment to found . Yet, bearing in mind, as to what I believe to be a tarnished season within baseball, where there have been very few positives either on or off the field. The fans can only take what is now said to be on offer by the teams within the game, and as things now stand, it is not that great a deal .

The New York Yankees will host the Baltimore Orioles for a weekend series , in which Joe Girardi`s players will be looking to make up ground on the third placed Orioles , who themselves are vying for one of the two AL wildcard berths available for postseason play. Buck Showalter , is sure to have his players prepared for what is likely to be a highly contested series over the next three days. The first of the triumvirate of games will begin on Friday , with the Orioles` Miguel Gonzalez taking the mound against Yankees` starting ace CC Sabathia . AL East division leaders the Boston Red Sox will host the laboring Chicago White Sox at Fenway Park , with Robin Ventura`s players somehow looking to derail the Red Sox`s divisional hopes and what in essence has been a memorable inaugural season for the team’s manager John Farrell. His managerial acumen, has somehow managed to steady the ship with the team`s veterans and younger players buying into Farrell’s managerial style after the disaster witnessed last year under Bobby Valentine. The second-placed Tampa Bay Rays within the AL East , has for much of the season remained in close proximity of the division’s leaders , themselves having held the lead before a momentary lapse, led to their falling from the top of the division. Rays’ manager Joe Maddon would like nothing better than to lead the ball-club to their second divisional title in the franchise’s history , with GM Andrew Friedman having to operate on a somewhat meager budget , as he seeks to make the team competitive .

Tampa currently sits, 2 ½ games adrift of the Boston Red Sox (79-56) and only a half game ahead of their weekend opponents the Oakland Athletics in the wildcard standings. These two teams will meet , knowing that there is a great deal on the line for both ball-clubs , as each vies for a playoff berth. David Price will meet Jarrod Parker at the O Coliseum , in the first of three games to be played at the venerable venue in this series .

With a 6 ½ game lead over their nearest rivals in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers are hoping to make up for a very poor 2012 foray in the postseason . Jim Leyland will once again seek redemption , by taking the division and then look to meet, whomever their first round opponents may well be . GM Dave Dombrowski has gathered together a team that should be good enough to win the AL pennant , but herein lies the caveat , the Tigers in their present guise know how to win in the regular season but the postseason in recent years has been their Achilles’ heal . The Tigers will play host to the Cleveland Indians in and what should prove to be a very interesting series , with Zach McAllister on the mound for the Indians against Rick Porcello of the Tigers.

Last season’s AL MVP Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and baseball’s most recent Triple Crown winner looks on course to repeat as MVP. Granted , the seasonal home run crown is beyond his reach , with the Orioles’ Chris Davis leading the MLB (league) and AL with forty-seven home runs to his name. If Detroit is to have any real success this postseason , then it will certainly not just come down to the competency of the offense , but also the tenacity shown by the pitching staff led by Justin Verlander , Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello .

I will give credit , where it is due ! And granted, there have been very few positives to come out of this season , beyond the play of a number of very good rookies . Yet in the midst of this baseball season , how can we continue to overlook the poor play and bad teams that still exist within the game ? New York Mets’ fans are probably now hoping that 2014 will be a great deal brighter than a lamentable 2013 season , where the ball-club’s brightest hope rests squarely on the shoulders of their pitcher Matt Harvey . Shuttered for the remainder of the season , because of an arm injury , there was not much that one can really say, was inspiring about the team’s play , beyond Harvey , himself. As to the idiocy of their fans that the team will be competitive next season . That would be like suggesting that after Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMA’s , we can now seriously take her as a talented individual . Anyone who witnessed Cyrus’ somewhat titillating act , will know that beneath the surface, there lies a very untalented individual and yes , the same can be said of the New York Mets.

Given the recent lack of progression of this Mets’ organization on the field of play , even with the alleged front office talents of Sandy Alderson and JP Ricciardi . The real issue with this ball-club , has been the very fact that they hog-tied themselves with some burdensome contracts that are tied to several players who are close to or essentially past their prime or in some cases are no longer with the organization.

As baseball seeks to find its champion for this year , I must admit that overall, this has to be looked upon as a season of disappointment and one wherein, once again, all of the main parties concerned have let another golden opportunity slip from within its grasp to clean up its image . Instead, fans are looking at an issue of instant replay being adopted for 2014 as a positive for the game , without ever acknowledging baseball still remains in a quagmire of deceit , , lies and delusions of self-importance. There seems to be no indignation from the union (MLBPA) as to the dishonor brought to the game by the continued cheating by the players , and not one prominent team owner has stepped into the fray to question how Bud Selig and the league hierarchy have dealt with the issue. Needless to say, things are likely to remain the same, because baseball`s commissioner, is simply averse to any real change , unless it is a change that would begin to show him in some form of a positive light . As commissioner , he chooses not to tackle the issue of the financial imbalances within his sport, while denigrating certain owners as being unimaginative and lackluster. Unfortunately, Bud Selig has never really taken the time to question his own actions in all of this and his own failings as being someone, who has not led with authority .

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The future of baseball on the face of it, does not appear bleak , but if the truth be told, its future is not as bright as some might believe it to be , even with the ascent of a number of young players coming to the fore. Leave a comment on this and anything else you believe to be pertinent to the subject matter and thanks as always for the continued support of this site.

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tophatal ……………………………… 08/30/2013

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(1) Miami Marlins third baseman Placido Polanco (30) leaps above third base to catch a throw from catcher Jeff Mathis as Atlanta Braves Freddie Freeman (5) slides safely beneath him after a wild pitch during the fourth inning of a baseball game at Turner Field in Atlanta on Aug. 30, 2013. John Amis / AP Photo ….

(2) Adrian Gonzalez (23) of the Los Angeles Dodgers is congratulated by Yasiel Puig (66 )after hitting a two-run home run against the San Diego Padres in the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on August 30, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. Jeff Gross /Getty Images North America ….

(3) San Francisco Giants` GM Brian Sabean , who this off-season will have a number of issues to deal with , concerning this Giants` team , their lack of consistency and productivity in 2012 , as well the impending free agency status of a number of players on the roster . AP Photo / Mark Perry ….

(4) Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, center talks with Jose Molina (28) and James Loney (21) in a baseball game against the Houston Astros Tuesday, July 2, 2013, in Houston. AP Photo/Pat Sullivan …

(5) The Detroit Tigers` Torii Hunter (48) is seen here alongside teammate Miguel Cabrera in a game played at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan, against the Oakland A`s on Wednesday , 28th August 2013 . AP Photo /Paul Sancya ………..

(6) MLB executive vice president Rob Manfred , left, is Bud Selig’s right-hand man, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll become baseball’s next commissioner. Selig continues to try and put out fires or the continued embers from past flare ups that he thought resolved . Due to step down in 2014 , there is no clear linear successor to the present MLB Commissioner and with their being calls for an outsider to succeed Selig , it seems unlikely that the hierarchy and team owners are willing to heed those calls at all . Getty Images / Rich Carmichael …….

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Jeny Romero . Comes courtesy of King Magazine

Feds watching ……………

Feds watching ……….

Well baseball`s season having been encompassed by an ongoing steroids` scandal that now even Bud Selig actually wants no part of , along with the executives who oversee the game, is now looking to wind down its regular season. After a schedule that began on the 31st March 2013 , we are now one hundred and twenty-nine games into the season , with a mere 33 games left before the schedule reaches its finality. Not all of the divisional races are completely known in terms of an outright winner , but it would appear that barring a major catastrophe the Atlanta Braves are likely to be the runaway winners of the NL East . Now not wanting to disparage the other contestants within the division but their challenge to the Braves this season , has bordered on being downright abysmal, if not insulting to the fans of the game.

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At 77-49 , the Atlanta Braves currently possess a fifteen game lead over their closest rival within the division , the Washington Nationals (62-62). With the Philadelphia Phillies having fired manager Charlie Manuel , who has subsequently been replaced by Ryne Sandberg as the ball-club`s interim manager until the end of the season. It remains to be seen, how the team will fare over the remainder of their schedule. Sandberg knows , that this well be the best chance to prove himself to GM Reuben Amaro and the ownership group , that he is a worthy successor to the deposed Manuel . As to the fact, that the team has performed so poorly, with a high-priced roster of overpaid stars , this off-season is likely to be a tumultuous one for this franchise and how they will seek to remedy the issues that have befallen the team. Certainly, Amaro will be looking to off-load a number of the free agents , who the staff will have deemed to be unproductive. In all likelihood , the front office will assess their farm system , promoting from within and pursue not so expensive free agent assignees.

The Phillies will face the Colorado Rockies at Citizens Bank Ballpark, in Philadelphia on Thursday . That game itself, will pit Chad Bettis of the Rockies against the Phillies` Kyle Kendrick . For the Rockies this has been something of an unproductive season , where they are now languishing in third place within the NL West , behind the high-flying Los Angeles Dodgers , leaders of the division followed by the Arizona Diamondbacks .

Fredi Gonzalez and the Braves will take their talents on the road to face the St Louis Cardinals , who are in something of a dog-fight , as they seek to chase down the Pittsburgh Pirates within the NL Central , one of the surprise stories of this MLB season . . Taking the mound for the Braves will be Paul Maholm facing off against Joe Kelly of the Cardinals. This will be one of the more interesting pitching duels of the day within baseball . Atlanta faces something of a minor dilemma with the recent injury to Jason Heyward , with the player being struck on and suffering a broken jaw during a game against the New York Mets at Citi-Field in Flushing , New York. The cause for concern, beyond the player`s return to the team`s DL , was the very fact that in the lead-off spot for the Braves` offense. Heyward had been hitting .364 over his last eleven games for the team along with an on base percentage of .404 and a slugging percentage of .659 , with three home runs and five runs batted in. Yet, the player`s defensive ability was also one of the things that Fredi Gonzalez and his staff had come to rely on during that time-span. The Braves` manager is likely to platoon his playing staff to make up for the loss of Jason Heyward.

Beyond the itinerant stupidity, that we have already seen displayed by baseball`s hierarchy . Is it not enough that we now have to deal with the hypocrisy of the players themselves as it relates to issue steroid abuse within the game ? So much has been made of the recent incident during the game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees , where the Red Sox pitcher Ryan Dempster struck Yankees` third baseman Alex Rodriguez with a pitch. Yankees` manager Joe Girardi vented his anger, and was removed from the game by the officials . Dempster, was subsequently punished by the league drawing a fine and handed a five-game suspension . Call me naïve , but given the controversy surrounding Alex Rodriguez at present , baseball has just taken a step backwards in terms of its action against the pitcher . Albeit , that is being stated that Ryan Dempster has been at the forefront of players speaking out against the use of steroids within the game . To my mind, that has got to be the biggest crock of fecal matter within the game of baseball altogether , much like the idiocy of Matt Kemp`s rather childlike uttering , as it related to the now suspended Ryan Braun . The entire baseball fraternity of players, have remained silent for all too long , and only now are they voicing their displeasure , solely because of the fans` and public`s anger over the issue . As to Red Sox slugger, David Ortiz coming out in support of Rodriguez after Dempster`s actions during the game. Need we be reminded that Ortiz`s name was amongst the one-hundred and four players named in the now infamous `Mitchell Report` of players , who reportedly tested positive for a banned substance ? How soon we all forget , most notably David Ortiz, himself .

As the fourth placed New York Yankees of the AL East seeks to make inroads into the leads held by the Boston Red Sox , Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles ahead of them within the division. It is interesting to note, that beyond the off-field drama that concerns the team , and what is now said to be a lukewarm relationship between GM Brian Cashman and the team`s now unpopular third baseman , Alex Rodriguez . There have been few bright spots to the team`s season, and one of those occasions, came last night . Ichiro Suzuki would add to his already impressive resume` by record by claiming his 4,000 hit in baseball, and granted 1,278 of those hits were recorded playing in the Japanese League (JBL). Yet whichever way you look at it, it is still an astonishing feat by this MLB All Star . Twelve years into what has been one of the great careers in baseball by a Japanese born player , and for any player over the past decade. Ichiro has notched up some incredible feats. His 2722 hits, during his now storied MLB career, places him third amongst active players , only behind Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez , respectively. That figure also places him in fifty-ninth place among the career hits` leaders . Combined however, his 4,000 hits, would only be supplanted by Hall of Fame enshrined Ty Cobb and the . all-time career leader in that specific category , Pete Rose .

The game in which Ichiro Suzuki notched that historic 4,000 hit came against the struggling Toronto Blue Jays , with pitcher R A Dickey , being the player unlucky enough to be part of history . Alfonso Soriano broke open this showdown , but the night obviously belonged to Ichiro , as the team romped to a 4-2 victory over their slumping AL East rivals and further sending the Blue Jays` season into an abyss of sheer mediocrity , from which there now seems absolutely no escape .

New York, is now a mere ½ game behind the third placed Baltimore Orioles within the AL East, but their thoughts must now be firmly placed on the second placed Tampa Bay Rays , who hold a five game lead over the Bronx Bombers . A three game series between these two teams to be played at Tropicana Field in St Petersburg, Florida, with the opening salvo taking place on Friday , is sure to be a raucous affair. This might be one of the few times this season where the Rays will actually have a sellout for all three days. And with all three scheduled games due to be televised nationally, this series does promise to be filled with fireworks, as well as undoubtedly , the Rays` fans looking to give Alex Rodriguez a less than salutary welcome at their venue. Taking the mound for the Rays on Friday will be their young pitcher Chris Archer who will face Yankees` starter Hiroki Kuroda . Pitching will be the key to this series , as well dependability from both offenses .

The season series between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays have been fairly close affairs this year, with Joe Maddon`s team holding a slight 7-6 edge in their meetings so far in 2013. There are three more scheduled contests between the two dueling divisional rivals that will take place take place during the final month of the regular season , from the 24th to 26th September at Yankee Stadium , in New York City , New York . There is no denying that Joe Girardi and his players know how important this series just happens to be , in spite of all of the off the field issues . Likewise , Joe Maddon , must feel that any kind of misstep that allows the New York Yankees to inch closer to the Rays in the divisional standings as well as the wildcard picture , places and even greater burden upon his team , whose recent record of late, has been a model of inconsistency .

For much of the Rays` season it has been James Loney leading the way , yet there have been some valued contributions from other players on the team . This off-season there is no doubt in my mind that once again for this troubled franchise , it will be a matter of cutting their expenditure to meet their needs . A patron of my site, who is an avid supporter of the Rays` organization points to the fact that the ball-club is a profitable entity. Yet what he continues to overlook is the very fact that the Tampa Bay Rays would not be a profitable concern, were it not for the fact the organization is continually reliant upon baseball`s hierarchy to provide them with an assist by way of the luxury tax. For GM Andrew Friedman , who as been able to work wonders on almost a shoestring budget in terms of the team payroll and being able to acquire players who have proven to be productive, gives credence to his acumen as one of the better general managers within Major League Baseball. I truly believe that both Friedman and manager Joe Maddon are the most valuable assets within the Rays` organization , bar none ! .

The recalcitrant shown by senior managing partner , Stuart Sternberg is now beginning to grow thin along with his continued whining and the most ridiculous of statements that can be attributed to him directly , Beyond knowing that he will never have the full support of Bud Selig, in aiding the franchise to obtaining a new ballpark . Fans in recent weeks have listened to Sternberg readily admit, that teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees having large payrolls , is actually good for the business of baseball . Now unless Stuart Sternberg has not been taking note as of late, at least one-quarter of the teams within the game continue to struggle from a financial standpoint , with many in a similar position if having to rely on the good graces of league to provide them with an assist to actually stay afloat . All this, from an individual, who is said to have made is fortune in the field of the commodities` market as a managing partner of a brokerage firm ?

I firmly believe that the vast majority of the owners within baseball are not completely in touch with reality, very much in a similar vein as Bud Selig remains in the dark , as to real issues that have brought down the game of baseball, where it has now become a complete laughing-stock for all of the wrong reasons ! If the commissioner now believes that his latest edict of instant replay to be initiated in 2014, is the best that he can now offer, while the issue of steroids within baseball runs amok at not only the Major League Level, but also remains a troubling issue in the Minors , then clearly , it is now time baseball`s Board of Governors to start considering their options for a noteworthy successor to the incumbent commissioner . It would be in their best interest to look completely outside of the game for someone with fresh and progressive ideas, rather than someone who is simply willing to tow the line of a group of owners, whose only concerns seems to be greed and offering the fans a somewhat mediocre on-field product .

While Bud Selig continues at large to run around like a headless chicken , it also troubling to note that once again , it has been left to the US Justice Department to try and rid the game of individuals such as Doctor Anthony Galea , Victor Conte and Anthony Bosch. Unfortunately, even after their eventual demise, be it through their imprisonment or simply being exposed as a fraud. There is likely to be someone else to take their place, with the MLB hierarchy simply sowing no vigilance as to the impending and growing dangers within their midst . Baseball has now become so damn incompetent , mirroring what we continue to witness each day with the federal government and their own incompetency, there. Feds watching and not much is really being done at the end of the day !

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By all means leave a comment as to your thoughts on this article and anything else you believe pertinent to the subject matter as you see fit and thanks as always for the continued support of this site, as it greatly appreciated !

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(1) Atlanta Braves’ Justin Upton , second from right, is congratulated by pitching coach Roger McDowell , left, and manager Fredi Gonzalez , second from left, as he is followed into the dugout by Paul Maholm , right, after hitting a two-run home run during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, in St. Louis. The Cardinals would defeat the Braves 6-2 . AP Photo/Jeff Roberson ….

(2) St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Joe Kelly throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, in St. Louis. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson ….

(3) Philadelphia Phillies’ Michael Young , left, is cheered by teammate Carlos Ruiz after making the game-winning run on a hit by Domonic Brown during the ninth inning of a baseball game to defeat the Colorado Rockies 5-4 , Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, in Philadelphia. AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson ….

(4) The Philadelphia Phillies’ new manager, Ryne Sandberg, is greeted by Chase Utley, right, before the start of action against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Friday, August 16, 2013. RON CORTES, MCT ….

(5) New York Yankees’ Ichiro Suzuki, of Japan, follows through on a single for his 4,000th career hit in Japan and the major leagues, during the first inning of a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, in New York. AP Photo/Frank Franklin II …

(6) New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez tosses his helmet after he was called out at first for the third out in the bottom of the fourth inning with two runners on-base in a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, in New York. AP Photo/Kathy Willens …

(7) FILE – In this Feb. 24, 2012 file photo, Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun speaks during a news conference at spring training baseball in Phoenix. Braun stood on a spring training field and proclaimed he was innocent of using banned testosterone. Braun has finally admitted taking performance-enhancing drugs during his NL MVP season of 2011 . The suspended Milwaukee slugger said in a statement released Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, by the Brewers that he took a cream and a lozenge containing banned substances while rehabilitating an injury. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong …

(8) BALTIMORE, MD – AUGUST 21: Adam Jones (10) of the Baltimore Orioles is greeted in the dugout after hitting a solo home run against the Tampa Bay Rays in the third inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 21, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Baltimore Orioles won, 4-2 . Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images …

(9) BALTIMORE, MD – AUGUST 21: Pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (58) of the Tampa Bay Rays is relieved in the fifth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on August 21, 2013 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images …

(10) ST. PETERSBURG – AUGUST 13: Infielders (L – R) Yunel Escobar (11) and James Loney (21) of the Tampa Bay Rays relax during a pitching change against the Seattle Mariners during the game at Tropicana Field on August 13, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ….

(11) From left to right, Tampa Bay Rays` managing partner Stuart Sternberg , Matthew Silverman , GM Andrew Friedman and the team`s manager Joe Maddon. The executives and manager were pictured at Tropicana Field in 2008, when the team won the AL pennant and were the league`s representatives in the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies . They would subsequently lose the series in a lopsided fashion 4-1 . This off-season the managing partners will face some tough questions by way of the team`s payroll and whether or not to reduce or increase it, dependent upon the resources available . The organization still seeks help from Bud Selig`s office in seeking a new venue , and the commissioner has been reluctant to help the franchise. Further exacerbating the situation , has been Bud Selig`s repudiating remarks, calling the team`s owners unambitious and the local municipalities uncompromising . Courtesy of Tampa Bay Times/ Keith Connolly …..

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tophatal ………….. 08/22/2013

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2 Chainz … feat`g Pharrell ………. `Feds watching`

Engine, engine , number nine ….

Engine, engine , number nine ….

The little engine that could and did . Now while all of the rage this season in baseball has been to simply lay siege to the ongoing stories concerning the Biogenesis fallout . Baseball has seen one or two positives by way of the play of the teams . Fans have been fortunate , well at least those in attendance to have witnessed two no-hitters and a near perfect game earlier in the season with the Texas Rangers` ….Yu Darvish . A mere four weeks ago , it was the ascent of the Los Angeles Dodgers as they recovered from an indifferent start , to having risen up the NL West standings, to become the dominant team within the division, with all of the talk being about their rookie sensation Yasiel Puig .

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Well , on the senior circuit of the National League the Dodgers are not the only story to be relished, as the most dominant team in baseball right now, are the Atlanta Braves in the NL East . Some fans have been rather idiotic enough to be talking about the all too momentary ascent of the Pittsburgh Pirates within the NL Central . The team has been far too inconsistent , and wherein at a moment`s notice they are beating teams that they should be defeating, but yet, when challenged by a divisional rival , they seemingly crumble than for no apparent reason, other than being mediocre .

Chasing, a season high fifteenth consecutive win of the season. Atlanta Braves` manager Fredi Gonzalez , has his players playing with a high level of intensity and as a team , nonetheless. Justin Upton seems to be fitting into his role , having been acquired by the franchise in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks . Elder sibling and teammate, BJ Upton , though off to an indifferent start , now seems to be settling in and contributing on the field , while proving to be something of an inspirational leader to the younger players on the roster.

Looking to further extend their lead within the NL East over their closest rivals the Washington Nationals. Atlanta will now look to inflict even further pain upon the beleaguered Miami Marlins, for whom this season has been a total catastrophe and a nightmare for rookie manager Mike Redmond . As to whether or not he remains in his current position along with his managerial staff , will be left to the decision-making team of David Samson, Larry Beinfest and GM Michael Hill. The two teams will meet on Saturday afternoon, at Turner Field (Fulton County Stadium) in Atlanta, and then again on Sunday afternoon, as a finale to their current series.

Undoubtedly, the biggest success this season for the Braves has been their pitching , with their front-line starters leading the way . Mike Minor the team`s leader in wins has been one of the primary reasons behind Atlanta`s efforts along with a supporting cast of Julio Teheran , Tim Hudson , Paul Maholm , Kris Medlen and the mesmerizing NL saves` leader Craig Kimbrel. It would be remiss to merely to suggest that the Braves are simply proficient by way of their pitching alone . The team`s offense have had their moments to shine with Justin Upton spearheading that lineup of power and run productivity .

If the Atlanta Braves are able to withstand the remaining challenges within the their division and the rest of this season . Then it is my opinion that they will have to be seen as one of the clear favorites for the NLCS pennant. They are certainly good enough to win it, but a great deal will be predicated upon team health and whether or not they can keep this current momentum going . Fredi Gonzalez has proven to be a very good manager, although he has been often criticized , as not being tough enough on his players . Yet I believe, that his managerial style is conducive to the current environment and the very fact that he has been able to get a great deal out of this team, seasoned veterans as well as many of the younger players on the roster. Gonzalez I also believe will be amongst the leading candidates for the NL`s Manager of the Year. Others who ought to be considered , Don Mattingly , Clint Hurdle , Mike Matheny, Dusty Baker and Kirk Gibson. These are the only serious candidates worth considering for the award. It may well come down to which of these managers does the best possible job of leading their team into the post-season . And record-wise or not, at present, to determine a winner might just be too close to call.

I will not delve deeper into the issues of Ryan Braun`s suspension and that of eleven of the thirteen possible players named by Bud Selig in the fallout from the latest drug smeared scandal to have hit baseball . Other than to suggest, that if Tony Bosch of Biogenesis and his statements given to the US Justice Department under a subpoena, are to be believed . Then the commissioner and baseball`s hierarchy are indeed hiding something from the fans and the public in general . Bosch, now under indictment for his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, stated that as many as sixty players were implicated in a web of deceit , lies and cheating . Yet somehow, MLB can now only come up with only thirteen names. Either my math seems to be off,but there remains forty-seven names still unaccounted for and something that the league hierarchy may not wish to tell us . Your thoughts on that all ?

Baseball this season, has been clouded in scandal , and no matter how one now wishes to address the matter , there are not that many positives that can be taken out of 2013 , even with the stellar play of the game`s up and coming young stars . With a league hierarchy that seems to be non-combative and passive in dealing with scandal . Team owners , who are simply driven by greed and a union that seemingly would rather see the status quo remain , as is . Less we forget also, many of the players who have been non participants in the steroid abuse , yet they have continually remained silent, unless offering up some witticism ,and even when pressed to give a statement . Far too many of them, have simply come up with something that is either hypocritical or simply too banal or idiotic to be deserving of a response . Matt Kemp needs to keep his damn mouth shut and remember that in 2010, he was playing alongside an avowed steroid cheat named Manny Ramirez . Being critical of a former friend , just because you now have displeasure of his cheating and the fact that you finished second to Ryan Braun in the 2011 NL MVP vote , now makes you look as an individual, jealous of that loss. If you can be openly critical of Braun, then why no criticism, of your former teammate , Manny Ramirez ?

As baseball enters the final quarter of its season , what if anything has been the biggest disappointment for you as a fan and what do you feel as brought you the most pleasure overall in terms of the teams` play or that of individual players ? By all means do leave a comment on this article and anything else you believe pertinent to the subject matter. Do feel free to peruse other baseball pieces and sports` related content within this site by clicking on the links provided below .

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Slideshow details below .

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(1) Texas Rangers` starting pitcher Martin Perez , right, is congratulated by catcher Geovany Soto (8) after defeating the Houston Astros 6-1 during a baseball game , Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, in Houston. AP Photo/Patric Schneider …

(2) HOUSTON, TX – AUGUST 09: Yu Darvish (11) of the Texas Rangers talks with pitching coach Mike Maddux during a baseball game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on August 9, 2013 in Houston, Texas. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images …
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(3) Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Mike Minor (36) works in the second inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Atlanta, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. Atlanta won 9-4 . AP Photo/John Bazemore …

(4) Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman , center, celebrates with his teammates after hitting a three-run home run in the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Atlanta, Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013. Atlanta won 9-4 . AP Photo/John Bazemore ….

(5) Atlanta Braves’ Justin Upton and Dan Uggla (26) hug after winning 5-0 against the Miami Marlins to keep a 14-game winning streak alive during a baseball game at Turner Field, Friday, Aug. 9, 2013, in Atlanta. AP Photo/David Tulis ….

(6) Atlanta Braves` GM Frank Wren is seen here with the team`s newly appointed manager Fredi Gonzalez . The incumbent succeeded Bobby Cox whose legend looms large over the Braves` organization . Gonzalez took control as the Braves` manager in 2010 and in subsequent seasons there has been a gradual improvement in the team`s play, along with newly acquired players becoming a part of the success . AP Photo /Matt Gray ….
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MLB results 9th August 2013

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Chic pic of the day , actress Eva Mendes .

It was a year that we were told, was meant to be special ….

It was a year that we were told, was meant to be special

The MLB season has begun in earnest with several teams showing their mettle , while others are already beginning to show signs of wear and tear . If that isn’t enough the game of baseball , still has to deal with the fact that with several players sidelined with injuries , the fans still have to view the prospect of seeing their teams under-achieve or in some cases over-achieve .

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Right out of the gate the Atlanta Braves started out fast , albeit that as of late things have cooled down somewhat for Fredi Gonzalez and the team , who were on a three game win streak as of 21st April , 2013 . Seizing the day, for the franchise has been the play of the Braves’ newest player , Justin Upton , who along with elder sibling, BJ Upton , were brought in to bolster the offense of the ball-club . Justin Upton leads the Majors and NL in home runs .

As the Atlanta Braves remain atop of the heap within the NL East standings , it should come as no surprise that the Miami Marlins remain a club that is seemingly spiraling out of control , heading nowhere fast , without their being any signs of leadership on or off the field of play. Rookie manager, Mike Redmond and his staff have been entrusted to manage the team . From within the front office , executives, Larry Beinfest , David Sansom , GM Michael Hill , and team owner , Jeffrey Loria have taken it upon themselves to take a back seat having gutted the roster , and having plead economic woes as to the reasons why and the team’s misfires of 2012 , as the ultimate excuse . All somewhat asinine , when at the start of last season , the Marlins moved into their $575 million new Marlins Ballpark , situated in downtown Miami, with those very same executives informing the public and fans that this would all be the dawn of a new era . Alas , it has been more of the same , with the same ongoing mediocrity , which is currently on display with this team , firmly exhibited by their anemic 4-15 record within the NL East , which is by far the worst in the Majors this season.

Next up for the Marlins will be an away game against the Minnesota Twins (8-7) which will be played at Target Field in Minneapolis , Minnesota , which will be part of a double-header to make up for a postponed game from Monday afternoon . On the mound in game one for the Twins will be Kevin Correia facing Ricky Nolasco . Game two , will pit Jose Fernandez of the Marlins against Mike Pelfrey . A series that in many ways reflects two franchises that are so alike , while in many respects , are also somewhat different, as how they each seek to battle their own adversities .

While the season remains in its infancy , what cannot be denied, are the litany of injuries that seem to be hampering the teams , their aspirations and no doubt , progress over the course of the season . It is hoped that those players will be able to contribute to their respective ball clubs upon their return .

From my own perspective , at this point of the season and the teams as such not yet hitting a real rhythm of consistency , it will be somewhat difficult to gauge how good or bad the ball clubs are actually doing . One could surmise that by looking back at this point last season < and the events that unfolded at the same point , could prove to be fruitful. Yet that in of itself, is by no means a clear indicator of what we should expect by season’s end or at any point during 2012 . One of the things I do believe that will be prevalent , will be that the fans will remain ever vigilant as to the exploits of the players , particularly when it comes to any single season mark that may well be under threat !

The single season home run mark which currently stands at 73 , a figure held by Barry Bonds does seem to be out of reach of today’s Major League sluggers and rightly or wrongly , the record will always be looked as being somewhat “ tainted “ , in spite of continued innocence being plead by Bonds, as to his unknowingly ingesting a banned substance . And the same can and should be said of the career home run record , also held by Bonds . A player who now seems intent on gaining his acquittal of perjury , and who no doubt , looks to be enshrined in Cooperstown , New York , as an honored member of baseball’s Hall of Fame . While Bonds does have his detractors , there are many fans out there who continue to support the player , in spite of the allegations and charges that were leveled against him . And to my mind , Barry Bonds in some respects remains one of the most admired , as well as one of the most despised players in the game’s history

In 2001 , when Bonds set the mark for the single season home run mark . Many felt that having obliterated the previous mark set by Mark McGwire , this would in fact put an end to the scurrilous and some might say unwarranted rumors concerning McGwire’s own accomplishments in that endeavor. However , what we do now know , was in fact that Mark McGwire was not without his own demons as well lacking as lacking in candor as to his honesty . The former St Louis Cardinals and Oakland A’s slugger , is now a hitting instructor on the staff of the Los Angeles Dodgers . As to how one might view this latest turn of events in the former slugger’s career , can either be looked upon with a great deal of disdain or ridicule , dependent upon whether or not you are an admirer of the player. Your thoughts if any , on this all ?

Baseball’s hierarchy led by Commissioner Bud Selig , have never spoken openly public on the fact that both the career and single season home runs’ record remains intact and validated on their books . A fact that is further acknowledged and emphasized by the Elias Stats Bureau , a bastion allegedly for what is said “ to be pure “ as it relates to the game’s most heralded statistics .

I have always maintained that while Bonds , McGwire and Sammy Sosa were laying waste to the single season home run mark , it simply diminished the feat of Roger Maris when he broke the sixty home runs’ plateau for a season , when in 1961 , he surpassed the record (59) held by Babe Ruth . Somehow baseball’s sordid and dirty little secret was allowed to simply ran the gamut of highs and lows , with the print and television media simply looking to absolve themselves from reporting anything suspicious as it related to the era that would become known as the “ steroid era” . In truth , not much has changed from the mid-nineties when the feats of the aforementioned players were being lauded as being superhuman and , a marvel for the baseball fans to watch in astonishment.

Consider the fact that even today , with what Bud Selig claims to be the toughest drug testing protocols in all of professional sports , we still have players running afoul of the league’s testing policy , having tested positive for a wide array of banned substances . It is even more prevalent at the Minor League Level , where in the last two and a half years , over one hundred and thirty players have been suspended in accordance with the league’s mandated edicts . A stunning figure , no matter how one chooses to make an argument favoring or opposing the league’s policy on performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) and other illicit substances .

Bonds’ record breaking single season home run feat would come off a hit , from opposing pitcher Dennis Springer of the Los Angeles Dodgers in a game played at Candlestick Park in San Francisco , California on the 7th October , 2001, between the San Francisco Giants and their famed NL counterparts .

The 2001 season itself, filled with its infamy cannot be overlooked in terms of the accomplishments within the AL and NL that year . Bonds would come away with the NL League MVP for the season with his AL counterpart , Ichiro Suzuki winning the AL crown as well as the Rookie of Year honors . Ichiro , would have a spectacular rookie season with the Seattle Mariners , while going on to simply fulfill the promise first shown as a player within Japanese Leagues . Now with the New York Yankees and looking to aid that franchise in whatever way he can . It has to be said , that perhaps at long last , the fans of the game can see the player perform at the highest levels possible as well as quite possibly being a regular postseason contributor to the Yankees’ current and future aspirations .

The teams making up the 2001 postseason gave us an array of teams with varying degrees of success throughout the regular season . . Aspirants seeking to make their presence felt were the New York Yankees , perennial contender , along with the , Cleveland Indians , Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s . From the senior circuit (NL) , we had the Arizona Diamondbacks , Atlanta Braves , Houston Astros , and St Louis Cardinals . And the postseason foray would in part, play out like a fictionalized Hollywood thriller , with the Arizona Diamondbacks having an improbable run through the postseason , where they would meet the high-flying New York Yankees in the World Series .

A triumphant Diamondbacks’ team managed by Bob Brenly having won the franchise’s only World Series’ title . They would subsequently fall from grace , with their being a some major upheavals amongst the managerial and playing staff in the subsequent years .

A triumphant Diamondbacks’ team managed by Bob Brenly having won the franchise’s only World Series’ title . They would subsequently fall from grace , with their being a some major upheavals amongst the managerial and playing staff in the subsequent years . Sharing the World Series MVP honors were pitchers , Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling , two of the game’s most renowned pitchers in recent history . Both players having retired , they now await their eligibility for enshrinement into the Hall of Fame . In or out , for both , Johnson and Schilling as for enshrinement in Cooperstown ?

From my own perspective I do feel that the 2001 baseball season was unique in its very own way , but the tragedy of 9/11 struck home , to cast an irreversible shadow over the entire postseason , albeit , that the nation was unified in a common cause for the greater good . Yet , were it not for the atrocities committed on that fateful day in September , one seriously doubts also that it was in that very same year that Barry Bonds cast his own dubious shadow over the game , leaving his legacy I believe completely in question !

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Picture gallery .

How do you view the 2001 season , during which Barry Bonds’ feat that in many respects cannot be completely overlooked , in spite of the triumph of the Arizona Diamondbacks ? Less we forget also , that September , baseball came to a complete halt , after the tragedies that took place on September 11th , 2001 . Chime in with your thoughts on the season , as you deem fit , and thanks as always , for the continued support of this site !

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Picture and slideshow details below .
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(1) DENVER, CO – APRIL 23: Evan Gratis (24) of the Atlanta Braves celebrates his solo home run with third base coach Brian Snitker (51) during the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on April 23, 2013 in Denver, Colorado. Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

(2) Atlanta Braves’ Justin Upton swings to hit a single in the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Kansas City Royals, Wednesday, April 17, 2013, in Atlanta. AP Photo/David Goldman …

(3) Miami Marlins catcher Miguel Olivo , right, visits pitcher Jose Fernandez after he walked Minnesota Twins’ Joe Mauer in the first inning in the first game of a day/night double-header , Tuesday, April 23, 2013 in Minneapolis, Minn. AP Photo/Jim Mone …

(4) From left to right , Miami Marlins’ front office executives , Larry Beinfest , Jeffrey Loria and David Sansom , seen here at the franchise’s ballpark discussing team issue’s . This season looks as if tit will be another lamentable year of indifference and mediocrity for the Marlins , with the team now firmly rooted at the bottom of the NL East after a disastrous start under rookie manager Mike Redmond . AP Photo / Arthur Moore …

(5) Barry Bonds blasts home run number 73 on his way to the single season home run record in 2001 . The former San Francisco Giants’ player also holds the career home runs’ mark (763) having broken Hank Aaron’s feat of 755 . Courtesy of San Francisco Chronicle @ copyrighted material all rights reserved ……

(6) Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling , right , are seen here with the Word Series trophy , after the Arizona Diamondbacks’ expected 4-3 series’ triumph over the New York Yankees in 2001. Johnson and Schilling were voted joint World Series’ MVP for their efforts in the postseason , with Bob Brenly guiding the franchise in his rookie season to the Diamondbacks’ first , and only World Series . Courtesy of MLB.com ….

(7) The Diamondbacks’ Luiz Gonzalez and his late game heroics is seen here hitting the winning RBI off Yankees’ reliever Mariano Rivera , that would give the franchise their first World Series , in 2001 . AFP/Photo/ Barry Young …

(8) A draped banner during game seven of the 2001 World Series , bringing the nation together in its national pastime , uniting us all after the horrors and the grief of 9/11/2001 . Getty Images / Ron Carter …..

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By Tophatal 04/23/2013

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This day in MLB history chronologically

They haven’t got a pot to piss in , much less a window to throw it out of ….. ideas of grandeur , baseball style .

They haven’t got a pot to piss in , much less a window to throw it out of ….. ideas of grandeur , baseball style .

By Tophatal

Well the MLB off-season is proving to be just as thrilling as teams seek to shed payroll , while others seek to increase payroll , with the ultimate goal of glory , success , and all that it may entail . No need to guess , who the big winners are at this juncture before the season has even started . Both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels have sought to make their “big splash” , while north of the border , the Toronto Blue Jays have sought to revamp their roster and increase their payroll .

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The biggest acquisition made by the Blue Jays has been that of Cy Young Award winner R A Dickey, from the New York Mets , and given the franchise’s ongoing precarious financial position , of which their idiotic fans seem to fail to comprehend , it is my firm belief that the front office will continue on , with its own self-styled fire sale . Granted , the Toronto Blue Jays were made privy to the Miami Marlins’ fire sale , where the South Florida franchise has once again embarked upon divesting of the big-money contracts they were handing out out to those free agents like “ cotton candy”. A hellacious season of inept performances , the firing of a manager and the Marlins’ foray in 2012 can be best described as an almighty cluster fuck of “gargantuan proportions” .

In the midst of this mess , the “so-called in-depth investigation “ that Bud Selig has stated would take place , has actually failed to materialize , with no one having been empaneled by the commissioner to even remotely ascertain how and why team owner, Jeffrey Loria , and other Marlins’ front office executives, team President, Larry Beinfest , GM, Michael Hill and EVP ,Dave Sansom , have been allowed to simply wreak havoc upon this franchise, while at the same time giving the team’s fans false hope. It has been this sort of mismanagement that continues to take place around the game , under premise harsh economic times . Personally , I believe it to be “ one great big fucking lie” being suborned by the team owners and countenanced by the MLB hierarchy !

And lo and behold , it is this sort of apathy by the fans who buy into a franchise’s premise that because they have failed to meet certain goals , then they have to divest themselves the “ burdensome salaries” on their books. Unless I am mistaken, these self-styled executives and owners went into these negotiations with the players and their agents with their eyes wide open , did they not ? Furthermore , a close acquaintance patron of this site suggested to me that the Tampa Bay Rays , a franchise , who only in recent years has found a modicum of success has been profitable , due to the erstwhile financial expediency shown by GM Andrew Friedman . That might be the “biggest crock of shit “ within the Tampa Bay area , other than the continued stupidity being showed by the local politicians within the locale. The only reason the Tampa Bay Rays have been financially sound , has nothing at all to do with the accounting acumen of Friedman , because it has more to do with the fact that the franchise like several others , are the recipients of monies , made available to them by way of the league’s tax sharing revenue scheme . In the last seven years alone , the Rays as a ball-club has benefited to the tune of some $146 million . Given the menial profits attained by the franchise , a $20 million off-balance sheet boost can make that final earnings’ mark quite alluring to any fan merely glancing over a pro-forma spread-sheet detailing the Rays’ finances .

Yesterday, another stalwart of the Rays’ franchise in recent years allowed to leave with first baseman , and former Gold Glove winner , Carlos Pena , who signed a one year deal to become the newly designated hitter (DH) for the Houston Astros in 2013 . Pena and his new team will be part of the new league realignment, that sees the Astros making the move from the NL Central to the AL West . Pardon me for saying this , but given Astros’ woes in 2012, I am not so sure that their league mandated move will truly be of benefit for the franchise . Once there , they will have to face off against Los Angeles Angels , Oakland A’s , Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers . And given the resurgence of the A’s and the likelihood that we will continue to see improvement in the play of the Angels and Rangers , there has to be a team within the division, that will end up being the “ whipping post” and “ bitch “ that everyone else gets to “ ravage” . So why not the moribund Astros ?

Astros’ owner , Jim Crane , with the then record amount of $775 million paid to purchase the franchise . He has to know, that he faces an uphill battle in getting this team in a competitive state to take on the likes of the aforementioned teams within the AL West , Manager , Bo Porter and his managerial staff will most certainly make the most of the off-season preparation schedule of Spring Training to get players ready as they embark upon their first season in the AL , in 2013. The Astros first regular season series of will begin a three-game set against the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park , in Houston , Texas , starting on 2nd April, 2013.

With a ready-made instate rivalry right off the bat against the Rangers , this should bode well for the Houston Astros , if they feel that they are up to the task. Add in the fact, that Nolan Ryan , current team President and part-owner of the Texas Rangers , was himself , once a player with the Astros , this certainly adds a great deal of intrigue to the panacea of the events that are likely to unfold between these two franchises.

One of the more asinine insinuations being made and which I read in an article written within this forum , given the complete lack of knowledge of the individual , who seemingly only chose put the words on paper , rather than conducting any research whatsoever, This individual , along with the more anally retentive supporters of the Mets’ franchise , tried to suggest that the financially cash-strapped franchise remains a viable and financially solvent concern. Fuck it , when you lose in excess of $40 million , and are projected to lose another $60 million in the subsequent year , you are in no way on a sound financial footing , especially when one of your primary creditors no longer wishes to extend you any further credit facilities . This has been the idiocy , that is being countenanced by so many of the team owners , for which Bud Selig is not prepared to offer the public or the fans an answer. Instead, he chooses to blow smoke up everyone’s ass, as to his own importance , and the fact that baseball has sound business practices .

Funny , I don’t ever once recall , Selig ever delving into the reasons why the Los Angeles Dodgers were taken into bankruptcy proceedings (Chapter 11) when there was clear evidence that the former owner , Frank McCourt had been recklessly running the franchise into the ground , while repeatedly using the team and other assets as collateral for several of his own personal business deals . In the aftermath of the franchise’s multibillion dollar sale , McCourt was able to walk away with an estimated $435 million free and clear , as he was also said to be a creditor of the ball club he took into bankruptcy reorganization. How the fuck can that be allowed to happen ? Wherein an owner, knowingly flout one of the most sanctified rules of the game from an executive standpoint , but yet he escapes unpunished . Meanwhile, a player who violates the league’s substance abuse policy for a second time , faces a 100 game suspension and becomes a “pariah” within the game . Yes, this is the mendacity and goddamn stupidity that Bud Selig lovingly presides over, but yet no one within the game much less the media questions his authority or decision-making .

Having recently signed David Wright to a eight-year $147 million deal , the New York Mets were was unable to retain the services of R A Dickey. To my mind that one move, has pretty much epitomized why the New York Mets remains a fucking mess ! Sandy Alderson, J P Ricciardi and Paul DiPodesta may well have at one time graced the game with their alleged acumen , but they were brought in to right the wrongs wrought under Omar Minaya , while he was the general manager of the New York Mets . Instead , the same old fucking idiocy appears to be continuing within the ball-club, as they capriciously spend money on a player , who does not possess any leadership ability, and is simply looked upon as the “ poor man’s “ Derek Jeter . If ever there was more apt description, to describe David Wright , then those words, best sum up, how he is genuinely viewed within the game . Fans can now prognosticate and pontificate as to what awaits the team for this upcoming season as they begin their Spring Training schedule under Terry Collins and his coaching staff . While that takes place , you can be sure that the team’s primary owners, Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon will continue to wreak havoc within this ball-club , without their being any oversight whatsoever coming from baseball’s hierarchy.

It was the end of an era , as one the best switch hitters ever to play the game simply stepped down , from being a player with the Atlanta Braves . Chipper Jones leaves the game as one of the most celebrated and beloved in Braves’ history , and most definitely a player who was respected by his peers past and present. With his departure, GM , Frank Wren sought to bring in a productive center-fielder , and thought to be someone capable of filling that void was former Rays’ outfielder B J Upton . With Upton’s introduction as the newest member of what is considered to be an already productive lineup within the NL , and it is hoped that the player can simply increase his career numbers while providing the solid defensive prowess he has come to be known for . Upton, will be richly rewarded witha 5 year $75 million contract , making him one of the highest paid players on the Braves’ roster.

One of the deficiencies that blighted the Fredi Gonzalez’s players last season , was the inconsistency of the pitching , and the lack of timely hitting at crucial points during a game. The team will begin their Spring Training Schedule in the month of March with a slew of games that should in fact get these players ready for the upcoming regular season schedule which begins on the 3rd April , with a three game set at home against the Philadelphia Phillies at Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta , Georgia,. A long and arduous 162 game schedule now awaits the teams as they each to succeed the San Francisco Giants as the World Series champions in 2013.

During the course of this off-season , more than $1.4 billion in contract negotiations will have been dealt with by the general managers and with agents such as Scott Boras , Arn Tellem , Casey Close , Dan Lozano , Larry Reynolds and John Courtright . There’s a reason why these individuals have now become the bane of the general managers around the game . To my mind , however, the owners are equally as responsible because they also have a responsibility , as they have a right not to acquiesce to the demands the players seeking these exorbitant salaries . But you would be hard pressed to convince a number of fans and purists alike who is actually in right or wrong as it relates to the “ escalating salaries “ within the game of baseball.. I am sure that Michael Weiner , Executive Director of the MLBPA (Players’ Union) would like to see the status quo remain as it is , with his members , as they see their salaries rise consistently in line with the demands they make of league’s owners and the respective teams . .

Courtesy of the New York Times

Baseball Ties Olympic Reinstatement Bid to Women’s Game

By Jere`Longman of the NY Times

Having whiffed on an attempt to link its Olympic future with women’s softball, baseball is now following another gender-equity route in an attempt to gain reinstatement to the Summer Games of 2016.

Baseball officials have aligned with the relatively seldom-played game of women’s baseball to burnish its chances of gaining re-entry into the Olympics after being dropped from the 2012 Summer Games in London.

It is too early to know whether such a move will prove shrewd or merely desperate by baseball, which was evicted from the Olympics for several reasons, including concerns over the lack of participation by major leaguers and widespread doping.

In October, the International Olympic Committee will award the 2016 Games to Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid or Rio de Janeiro. Two additional sports will be proposed for those Games, to be chosen among baseball, softball, golf, karate, roller sports, rugby and squash.

In February, baseball was given the cold shoulder when it attempted to persuade softball to make a joint bid to regain their Olympic status. At the time, Don Porter, president of the International Softball Federation, said in a statement that softball would keep its bid separate, adding, “We have offered the I.O.C. a doping-free, universal team sport that reflects the values of Olympism all over the world.”

Translated, softball did not want to be aligned with a sport that is awash in drug scandals and offers competitions, like the World Series and the World Baseball Classic, that may be considered more prestigious than the Olympics.

By contrast, the Olympics represented the height of international softball competition for the 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 Summer Games before the sport was eliminated, many believe, because of American dominance.

All of the world’s top softball players would be expected to participate in the 2016 Summer Games. Or as Porter said in another recent statement, in a thinly veiled reference to baseball, “The Olympic Games would not be just another competition in an overcrowded schedule for softball.”

Rebuffed by softball, baseball chose to pair its Olympic proposal with women’s baseball, which is rarely played in the United States but, officials say, is played in more than 30 countries by more than 100,000 participants. Still, it is much less visible than softball, which officials said is played in 127 nations by 8.5 million participants.

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Baseball has been caught between a “rock and a hard place “ by way of its endless greed , while not caring to truly look after its on-field product , and how it markets itself not just on the domestic front , but also as a global brand . The game’s situation has further hampered by the intransigence shown by the league hierarchy under Bud Selig . Were it not for his sheer and utter stupidity in caving in to the union , the sport itself would still be part of the Summer Olympics . Selig at the time while trying to portray the image that MLB wanted to remove the illicit use of PED’s within the game , simply acquiesced to the wishes of the MLBPA , in not wanting to fully adhere to the testing protocols of WADA , as followed by the IOC . Now , with their being a joint effort with the International Softball Federation (ISF) to get both sports reinstated by back into the fold, as part of the Summer Games , it will be interesting how both parties will represent their joint case to the International Olympic Committee(IOC). The ISF along with baseball’s international governing body , International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and Bud Selig will seek to present their case at the headquarters of the IOC , in Lausanne , Switzerland . It is not so much that baseball is unpopular as a global sport , which it is not , the real issue has always been Bud Selig’s lack of real authority of the sport he presides over in North America , as the highest ranking executive within the league’s hierarchy . It has been Selig’s penchant for saying great deal while in actuality not doing anything that has in essence made him look a blithering idiot in the eyes of the fans.

What is a precedent here, is the very fact the men’s game of baseball is in fact seeking to ride in on if not piggy-back in, on the coat-tails in the growing popularity of the women’s game of softball , as it seeks reentry back into the Summer Olympics . If that isn’t a first , then what is ? And even though the World Baseball Classic (WBC) has yet to truly take hold internationally , there is a growing belief , if Selig , simply lets the IBAF take the reins , rather than trying to be the dominant partner in the staging of the event , there would indeed be a greater interest in the quadrennial event , which is next due up in 2013 , with the qualifying rounds set to start in December , 2012, but the main tournament not due to begin until March , 2nd ,2013 with the group phase of the tournament . It now makes you wonder what the fuss has been about concerning the WBC , especially light of the fact that the television coverage and viewership of the event in North America , has been sparse indeed. Yet , on the international front , specifically in the Far East Asia , Latin America and the Caribbean , the fans cannot seem to get enough of the event . Which begs the question , is it not time for Bud Selig to immediately step down , rather than retiring in 2014, as he claims , will be his intent ? A fresh influx of new and progressive ideas are needed within the game , rather than , this ” doing it by the numbers approach” of “hits and misses” , by Selig and baseball’s hierarchy. The irony here will be , if Selig does step down , then joining him also , will be , NBA Commissioner , David Stern , who formally announced , that he will step down in his role , a position that he has held within the NBA hierarchy for almost twenty-five years . A term , slightly out doing his MLB counterpart , as the duo have battled all concerns , friends , foes , and their respective unions , repeatedly over the lengths of their service. Selig has not named or intimated, who his successor might be , but we have been made aware that Adam Silver , NBA Deputy Commissioner, will succeed , David Stern. I do believe that Bud Selig , will countenance the promotion from someone already within the hierarchy , with the support of the team owners . If anything , Selig , will simply seek out a like-minded individual to carry on his policies , while his persona will continue to leave an indelible and some might say a “stain ridden mark” upon the ” game “ .

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Picture gallery .

What, if anything , do you hope to see being achieved during the upcoming season within the game of baseball ? Also , are you of the opinion that the sport needs to adopt a “ hard salary cap” that would see the teams getting an equitable share of television and other ancillary revenues ? Do take time to leave a comment as you see fit on this , and anything else you believe relevant to the subject matter.

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Picture and slideshow details below.
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(1) New Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, Zack Greinke adjusts his cap during a baseball news conference announcing his $147 million, six-year contract, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, in Los Angeles. The Dodgers have seen fit to make several deals this off-season , as GM , Ned Colletti has been given the go-ahead by the front office executives to pursue these transactions . At the commencement of the 2013 regular season , the Dodgers will by far have the biggest payroll in Major League Baseball , far exceeding $200 million. AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes ….

(2) Free-agent outfielder Josh Hamilton, right, and his wife, Katie , talk to the media during a news conference in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012. Hamilton, formerly of the Texas Rangers, joins the Los Angeles Angels MLB baseball team after signing a $125 million, five-year contract. The acquisition of Hamilton was prompted by Angles’ owner Arte Moreno not wanting to see the franchise left lagging behind the Dodgers in the free agents’ sweepstakes . Moreno instructed GM Jerry DiPoto do whatever it takes to land the “big league slugger” . AP Photo/Chris Carlson …

(3) FILE – This Sept. 27, 2012 file photo shows New York Mets starting pitcher R.A. Dickey reacting to fans as he celebrates his 20th victory of the season after the Mets 6-5 win against the Pittsburgh Pirates in a baseball game at Citi Field in New York. A person familiar with the deal tells The Associated Press that Dickey and the Blue Jays have agreed on a new contract , clearing the way for the New York Mets to trade the Cy Young winner to Toronto. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Monday, Dec. 17, 2012, because the trade was not yet complete. The 38-year-old knuckle-baller must pass a physical before he joins the Blue Jays. The Mets would get prized catching prospect Travis d’Arnaud as the centerpiece of the multi-player swap . AP Photo/Kathy Willens …

(4) New York Mets third baseman David Wright, center, walks from one interview to the next at baseball’s winter meetings on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. Wright and the Mets finalized a $138 million, eight-year contract on Tuesday, the largest deal in the team’s history . AP Photo/Mark Humphrey …

(5) FILE – This Sept. 26, 2012 file photo shows Tampa Bay Rays’ Carlos Pena following through on a two-run home run as Boston Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia watches in the fifth inning of a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston. The Houston Astros have signed veteran Carlos Pena to be their designated hitter , addressing a key need as they prepare for their first season in the American League. AP Photo/Elise Amendola …

(6) Atlanta Braves newly signed center fielder B.J. Upton , right, and general manager Frank Wren pose with Upton’s jersey during a news conference introducing Upton, Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, in Atlanta. Upton replaces free agent Michael Bourn in center field and should provide needed power from the right side. AP Photo/John Bazemore ….

(7) National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern (L) greets Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig before testifying with the heads of the NFL and the NHL to the US House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection about the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports on Capitol Hill February 27, 2008 in Washington, DC. The subcommittee also heard testimony from officials from the US Olympic Committee , National Thoroughbred Racing and the US Anti-Doping Agency . Getty Images / Chip Somodovilla …

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MLB news & press releases

MLB transactions (December-2012) , November

MLB calendar important dates

This week in MLB history overview

This week in MLB history

December 19th

MLB Spring Training schedule

MLB regular season begins

MLB team owners

MLB general managers

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Highest paid players in baseball

MLB team values & profitability

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MLB final divisional standings & wildcard standings

2012 MLB postseason

Sports can be such a barbaric business ….. In baseball there are still lessons to be learned …

Sports can be such a barbaric business ….. In baseball there are still lessons are to be learned

by Tophatal

I’m not so appreciative of this nonsensical notion that we can continue to abide by the idiocy that the government knows best . I mean by 11.00PM EST , Tuesday night , we should know whether or not the incumbent , Barack Obama will have done enough to retain his position as the President of the United States. His erstwhile opponent , self- styled businessman Mitt Romney , whose claims as to his financial acumen are almost as robust as his apparent knowledge of the country’s foreign policy , which in truth has been non-existent for over four decades . I’m no great admirer of Barack Obama or Mitt Romney , and be truth be known I find that both main political parties to be just as disingenuous as the other ! The Democratic and Republican Party would rather “ browbeat” the electorate into believing their opponent just happens to be a monstrous demagogue . Make of it, what you will.

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Slideshow.

OK, so the MLB season has ended , we have a new World Series champion , as the San Francisco Giants have won their second world title within the past five years. Heroics asides, the effort put forth by the Giants’ opponents , the Detroit Tigers , can be best described as being anemic . It is one thing to be swept, as the Tigers were , but for this team not to show up for any of the four games in question , simply adds insult to injury . Bud Selig , may well have felt happy with his new revised playoff format. In essence, by comparison the divisional and championship series were far more entertaining than baseball’s postseason finale, itself. Bruce Bochy , comes away with title number two, legacies were further added for the Giants’ franchise and now the Bay area of California becomes the epicenter of the baseball world. Sorry New York (Mets & Yankees), and that is even light of Superstorm Sandy , my condolences , all the same . Now the bloodletting begins as teams seek to offload many of those ridiculous contracts and unproductive players that slighted their ambitions. And for the general managers within the game , the question could be asked , have the majority of them truly earned their money ? Brian Sabean has excelled over the past few seasons , while acknowledging the franchise’s success would not have come about , without the largess of team owner , Bill Neukom , and his syndication of partners. Baseball franchises when ran , as a business enterprise, can indeed have an incredible amount of success , commercially , as well as competitively. More often than not, the team owners are simply running these franchise purely as a form of opulent pleasure , fully aware of the fact that their losses can be written off legally as a tax based incident against another business enterprise .

As an avid Atlanta Braves’ supporter, this was something of an emotional season for the team and franchise as a whole. Having made the postseason, their foray was short-lived as they were summarily dumped from the extravaganza. Chipper Jones bade farewell , with his usual aplomb , while being acknowledged by the fans of the game. Next stop, Cooperstown, New York, one would hope, at least . As much of a disappointment as it was to see the Braves bow out in the wildcard divisional round of the postseason, it was an even bigger disappointment to know that Jones’ postseason would come to such an abrupt end . I am sure that Chipper Jones will take his place alongside many of the Braves’ all-time greats , as it is an honor that is so “ richly “ deserved .

Frank Wren , general manager of the Atlanta Braves , along with team manager , Fredi Gonzalez and his coaching staff , must now spending this off-season assessing the needs of the team , as they seek to become a real competitive force in 2013. With the abundance of free agents having declared their status , it remains to be seen whether or not the Braves will seek to delve into that particular market , beyond re-signing the club’s own free agents they deem to be a necessity to the franchise’s ambitions and long-term future. And though this organization does not have to operate on a shoestring budget by way of the team’s payroll , the troubling issue facing the Braves, is that as salaries escalate to ridiculous highs , they are either forced to overpay for talent that isn’t significantly better than what they already have at their disposal.

Pitching is at a premium , and there are several marquee free agent pitchers that are there to be picked up for a nominal fee. With sports agents such as Scott Boras , hovering like vultures flying over the entrails of the dead carcass of an animal, this will be one of the many scenarios that will be played out during this baseball off-season. Amongst the Atlanta Braves’ free agents , upon which decisions will have to made , are the following players, Michael Bourn, Jeff Baker, Miguel Batista , JC Boscan , D J Carrasco , Chard Durban , Eric Hinske , Reed Johnson , Peter Moylan, Lyle Overbay, David Ross and Ben Sheets.

While I have felt that pitching was prevalent for the Braves to succeed , but the offense and specifically the hitting was something that I felt could be more beneficial for the team and organization as a whole . At times, the team struggled in close games and it factored into a number of the Braves’ losses during 2012. Freddie Freeman , Dan Uggla , Jason Heyward , Martin Prado , Michael Bourn and David Ross , were major contributors the franchise during the season.

The Braves’ salary commitments in 2012 , came to $97.5 million , but with their being a march to what Frank Wren states will be prudent financial responsibility on the part of the organization, that figure is liable to be pared down in the coming season, unless there is a necessity to go after a major free agent , without being forced to break “the bank”. Turner Field /Fulton County Stadium , in Atlanta , Georgia, remains one the bastions in terms of heralded ballparks in the game of baseball. It should come as no surprise the MLB hierarchy of baseball , is seemingly at a loss as why there is seems to be no restraint concerning the gratuitous spending by the teams. Bud Selig is clearly at a loss , but considering the fact as the game’s highest ranking executive, you would have to be angered by the fact that the commissioner earns in excess of $25 million a year , which would rank Selig’s salary amongst the ten highest paid players in the game of baseball. Personally , I would like pose the question to the commissioner and ask him “ when, and how will he seek to have baseball’s teams become financially responsible rather than capricious in their spending” ? what now, becomes of the game as we know it?

After a tumultuous season, during which the Tampa Bay Rays fell out of contention , for an AL wildcard berth . The real issue beyond failing to make baseball’s postseason fare was not only a big surprise, but once again, it heralded in the continued questions as what direction this franchise now happens to be heading in ? Care to proffer up your thoughts on the matter? Rays’ manager Joe Maddon, the consummate master of the understated, was able to do a miraculous job , as he has always done, since he succeeded Lou Piniella as the team’s manager.

Stuart Sternberg , team owner and GM, Andrew Friedman now have the unenviable task of making the decisions , as to which players they feel will be superfluous to their needs . Amongst the players currently on the Rays’ roster now declaring free agency are BJ Upton, Jeff Keppinger, Carlos Pena , Kyle Farnsworth , Joel Peralta , J P Howell , and Luke Scott.

We are constantly reminded that the Tampa Bay Rays are a small-market team, with limited resources, and a payroll , that is amongst the lowest in all of baseball. These are one of the many constant reminders that so many of the impoverished teams within the game, for which there does not appear to a clear answer. The fans may well feel slighted by what has taken place during this season, but what is becoming transparently clear, while the Rays struggle to be competitive. There is a great deal of false bravado amongst the approximately 15,000 hardcore fans of the franchise, and not the figures claimed by baseball’s hierarchy in terms of the team’s home games’ attendance in 2010 , 2011 and 2012 . In this past season the Tampa Bay Rays ranked fourteenth out fourteen of the AL teams within the game of baseball . Yet this constant idiocy remains , concerning the franchise “if we build it, they will come” . Well, how the hell can that be, when for the team’s home games there is barely anyone in attendance at Tropicana Field , in St Petersburg, Florida,. ? Never-mind the fact that , it will the resources of a municipality’s resources that will be used to build the venue that the ownership desires without any financial commitment being forthcoming from Stuart Sternberg or his partners. But somehow the anally retentive fans within the community as well as the blithering idiots of the local sport’s media market will continue with their asinine suggestion that this is the best step forward for the franchise , with the building of a multimillion dollar state of the art venue for the Tampa Bay Rays. Somehow the issues that have befallen both the Miami Marlins and New York Mets are not lessons that the anyone seems to have learned from , as how not to conduct your business operations . The Marlins’ unquestionably, one of the biggest failures of 2012, now finds the city of Miami under investigation by the US Justice Department for how the financing was raised , and whether or not there was undue coercion by the franchise and MLB hierarchy , forcing the city council in passing their finance bill , that brought about the final seal of approval for the now, $575 million 34 ,000 seat venue , known as Marlins’ Ballpark , in downtown, Miami. As we know the Mets were another of baseball’s teams that failed to live up to expectations , with a high-priced payroll at the start of the season , and little to show for it all , by way of the team’s performances over the course of the season. Citfi-Field became an elephants’ graveyard, and the Mets’ home performances left a somewhat bitter taste in the mouth, if you just happened to be a fan of this ball-club . Bud Selig and Jeff Loria, owner, of the Miami Marlins have refrained from answering questions when approached concerning this matter , leaving it up to the public to speculate on what may well have taken place , as this whole episode was enacted .

New York Mets’ team President , Sandy Alderson, J P Riccardi , SVP, co-owners, Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon , seem to be at a loss for words , as to how best to rectify the numerous problems the Mets now face from a competitive and financial standpoint. The franchise barely escaped by the skin of their teeth in a legal suit wherein , claimants who lost billions of dollars in the “ Bernie Madoff” scandal , sought to recoup $1.6 billion from co-defendants Saul Katz, Fred Wilpon and the New York Mets’ franchise, who profited and received an estimated $1 billion , as part of that now infamous scheme. The defendants claimed that there was never any wrongdoing on their part, albeit, that there was enough evidence to suggest that there were certain executives within Katz and Wilpon’s investment vehicle , Sterling Equities , who knew otherwise and chose to hide those facts from the public as well as the claimants’ legal representatives. The matter was settled out of court with the defendants paying a reputed $ 175 million to fulfill the claims. That figure seems somewhat ludicrous as a final settlement , but it somehow has brought this baseball franchise even closer to a financial precipice , which the front office has now began to acknowledge. What this now tells us , as to how baseball from an economic standpoint conducts its business , can be seen as another lesson as to why this game fails so miserably as an entrepreneurial enterprise , when you simply peruse the financial statements of baseball’s thirty teams. Do bear in mind also, that for many of the teams in question, profitability comes by way of an assist from baseball’s hierarchy , by way of its asinine tax sharing revenue scheme, which is meant to aid the game’s small market teams.

As a keen observer of the Tampa Bay Rays, how the front office now deals with the off-season by way of the decisions to be made , will actually go a long way in not only determining this team’s future but also indicating whether or not they remain a viable competitive force within the game. From my own perspective, as long as Joe Maddon remains a part of this organization , it is an added advantage they have over their opponents . Yet , there is now some indication to suggest that not only is Maddon feeling somewhat frustrated , but so too are a number of the franchise’s so called diehard fans , because of the lack of real commitment that has been forthcoming from the ownership. A patron once suggested , that the Rays cannot simply go out and spend money , but more to the point the question I feel that ought to be asked , when have the Tampa Bay Rays truly made a big splash in acquiring a player , let alone paying the “big bucks” for one to begin with ? So that point, now becomes, mute in terms of that patron’s assertion.

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Picture gallery .

What if anything do you hope to see come out of the baseball off-season by way of undoubted trades that will take place ? And do you believe that baseball has done enough to get its financial house in order? Simply state your reasons as what you see as being currently beneficial within the sport economically and what you think has been a great error in judgment by the league hierarchy .

Picture and slideshow details below.
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(1) San Francisco Giants pitcher Sergio Romo holds up a flag during the baseball team’s World Series victory parade, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, in San Francisco. AP Photo/Jeff Chiu …

(2) San Francisco Giants players pose for photographs after a ceremony celebrating the baseball team’s World Series victory at City Hall in San Francisco, Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012. AP Photo/JeffChiu …

(3) SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCTOBER 31: San Francisco Giants Sergio Romo holds the World Series Trophy as singer Tony Bennett sings “I left my heart in San Francisco” during the Giants’ victory parade and celebration on October 31, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The Giants celebrated their 2012 World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images …

(4) SAN FRANCISCO, CA – OCTOBER 31: The Mayor of San Francisco Edwin Lee (R) presents the key to the City to San Francisco Giants President and CEO Larry Baer (L) during the Giants’ victory parade and celebration on October 31, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The Giants celebrated their 2012 World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers. Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images …..

(5) A triumph for the ages, as teammates , Sergio Romo (left), and Buster Posey , realize that the San Francisco Giants have just won game four , and with it, the ball-club’s second World Series’ title in four years. San Francisco Giants celebrate after the Giants defeated the Detroit Tigers, 4-3 , in Game 4 of baseball’s World Series Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, in Detroit. The Giants won the World Series 4-0 . AP Photo/Patrick Semansky …

(6) Officials stand in the center of the field as fans throw trash during the eighth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game between the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012, in Atlanta. The Cardinals won baseball’s first wild-card playoff, taking advantage of a disputed infield fly call that led to a protest and fans littering the field with debris to defeat the Braves 6-3 . AP Photo/Todd Kirkland …

(7) (C) Chipper Jones (10) of the Atlanta Braves walks to the dugout before taking on the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Wild Card playoff game at Turner Field on October 5, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. ….

(8) Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon gestures as he answers a question during a season wrap-up news conference , Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Rays’ season ended Wednesday with a 4-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara ….

(9) Andrew Friedman , right, Tampa Bay Rays executive vice president of baseball operations, gestures as manager Joe Maddon looks on during a season wrap up news conference, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Rays’ season ended Wednesday with a 4-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara ….

(10) Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Wade Davis leaves the clubhouse after packing his belongings, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Rays’ season ended Wednesday night with a 4-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles. AP Photo/Chris O’Meara …

(11) Sept 28, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Florida Marlins new manager Ozzie Guillen (left) and owner Jeffrey Loria (right) during a press conference before the game against the Washington Nationals at Sun Life Stadium. Guillen was fired after the Marlins’ disastrous season that saw the franchise miss the postseason , having finished with a sub.500 record and at the bottom of the NL East standings for 2012. Behind the scenes , Loria has come under increasing suspicion, as to his actions , intertwined with those of Commissioner Bud Selig into coercing the city of Miami , concerning how the votes were secured with regard to the bond issue which facilitated the building of the Miami Marlins Ballpark , in downtown Miami. The cost of the 34,000 seat facility , is a reputed $575 million , for which the residents of Miami are entirely on the hook for , should the city not be able to pay off the debt financing instrument , inclusive of principal and interest. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE ……

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NB: Baseball related links .

Deal done : Big Papi in Boston for next two years

Trout, Bourn, Braves top Wilson defensive awards

Can a rough October hinder payday for free agents?

Giants don’t plan on relaxing, eye repeat in 2013

😉

Baseball posts within this site : Tophatal’s baseball pieces

A tale of one city but two teams that now seem to be at a loss

Giving it one last try

Atlanta Braves’ related pieces

Tampa Bay Rays’ related pieces

Desperate measures call for desperate remedies , in desperate times

😉

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MLB news

MLB transactions

MLB free agents

MLB team payrolls (2012)

MLB important dates

This week in baseball history

2012 MLB postseason schedule

2012 World Series

AL & NL pennant series

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Atlanta Braves news ….. & …. Braves’ press releases

Atlanta Braves head-to-head results (2012)

Atlanta Braves’ 2012 results overview

NL East final standings (2012)

Atlanta Braves revenues & profitability
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Tampa Bay Rays’ news

Tampa Bay Rays head-to-head results (2012)

Tampa Bay Rays’ 2012 results overview

AL East final standings

Tampa Bay Rays’ revenues & profitability

MLB team values

MLB team payrolls

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Hot chic pic of the day , actress, Jennifer Lawrence

Giving it one last try ……

Giving it one last try ……

By Tophatal

The divisional races in some cases are heating up , whereas in others, they are pretty much settled , as baseball enters final stretch of the regular season before it all culminates on the 3rd October . In what has been an eventful year that was filled with the usual plethora of drama , it should be noted that not much has changed in terms of the players’ continued fascination with the use of prohibitive substances (PED’s and anabolic steroids). The league hierarchy would have us believe that they have everything under control , but at the minor league level, the illicit use by the players is far more widespread than the league would care to acknowledge . In the past 18 months in the Minor Leagues , over seventy players have been caught , penalized with the mandatory suspensions , yet the feeling is that the concern amongst the fans is what actually happens at the MLB level , where many of the game’s high-priced stars exhibit their talents . This season we have had our answer with the summary mandatory suspensions of Melky Cabrera , a one-time leading candidate for the NL MVP , and also with the Oakland A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon . The latter, whose suspension may or may not have severely hampered the A’s hopes of making the postseason. As things now stand, it is looking like a four-horse race for the two AL wildcard berths.

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Slide show .

In what he says, will be his twentieth and final season in the Majors , the Atlanta Braves (90-65) utility player and outfielder, Chipper Jones will be looking to lead the team into the postseason for the first time since 2010, where they lost (3-1) in the NLDS to the San Francisco Giants . This season the Braves have been lucky enough to play themselves into contention for a postseason berth within the NL. As the leading contender for one of the two berths under the new playoff format instigated by Bud Selig , the ball-club seemingly has a comfortable 6 ½ game lead over their closest rivals the St Louis Cardinals , with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers closely following in hot pursuit.

The Braves, now have 7 games remaining on their schedule , starting with the final game of a three-game series against the Miami Marlins. Fredi Gonzalez’s players, then close out the month of September with two games against the New York Mets , and with their final three games, in a series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Ballpark , in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania .

The NL East division appears to be of reach , albeit , that were the Washington Nationals (94-61) to lose five of their seven remaining games , then just about anything would be possible . For the moment however, I am just happy to witness a season, where the Braves had more than their fair share of success ! ! GM Frank Wren and team President John Scheurholz have emphasized a commitment to success, which has been passed on by Gonzalez’s coaching staff to the players on the entire roster. And it has been that renewed commitment that has brought about the change in fortune for the team over the course of the season. Michael Bourn , Chipper Jones , Jayson Heyward , Freddie Freeman , Dan Uggla and Martin Prado , have all contributed greatly to the team’s efforts in 2012 , in providing the offensive productivity needed to be viewed as a contender within the NL. While the pitching at times, has been exacerbating and inconsistent , here too, players such as Tim Hudson, Mike Minor , Brandon Beachy , Tommy Hanson , Paul Malholm and Craig Kimbrel , have more than justified their worth to the team.

One of the more positive things to come out of the season for the Atlanta Braves , has been to see that renewed interest in the team by the fans. Far too fickle , at times it was somewhat depressing to see Fulton County Stadium (Turner Field) in Atlanta , Georgia , barely filled to capacity for the Braves’ home games . This season having drawn over 2,242,046 in —- attendance for their scheduled games at Fulton County Stadium , the franchise ranks eighth of the National League’s sixteen teams averaging 29,117 per home game. Team payroll asides, Chairman & CEO Terry McGuirk along with the managing partners who make up the ownership group of the organization , would have to be happy with the 2012 season. . The ball-club has been fiscally prudent with team salaries , which this season is pegged at $83,309,942 , a far cry from the almost $200,000,000 that the New York Yankees have budgeted for their roster.

The playoff picture is still somewhat muddied , as the vagaries that make up this point of the season will be filled anomalies .In 2011, who would have thought that both the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox would have surrendered their wildcard berth leads to the St Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays , in what has been described as one of the best finishes to a season , in recent baseball history . As we all know, the Cardinals would go on to prevail in a thrilling triumph in the World Series over the Texas Rangers . The Atlanta Braves would like nothing more to be a participant in baseball’s showcase postseason event , but that would now all be predicated upon how the ensuing scenarios now in motion , would play out . There is no denying that the most significant moment in the Braves’ postseason history came in 1995 , when they prevailed in defeating the Cleveland Indians (4-2). Two other appearances in the “ Fall Classic” resulted in losses, in 1996 and 1999 , each time to the New York Yankees .

With the inauguration of a one game playoff format , the Braves would have to face the St Louis Cardinals for the privilege of appearing in the NLDS . In between 2008 and 2012 , the two teams have met thirty-three times , with the St Louis Cardinals holding a significant 19-14 lead. In 2012 , their meetings show a significant turnaround , with Atlanta having defeated the Cardinals five out of the six times ( 5-1) that they have met . It would be easy to surmise that this bodes well for the postseason, should such a scenario materialize! The last meeting between the two teams in 2012 , was a hard-fought competitive game , which resulted in a 10-7 victory for the NL East —- team. The advantage would appear to favor the Atlanta Braves , but in a one game playoff format , just about anything can happen .So we might as well let the chips fall where they may , in such an instance and just hope for the best .

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Picture gallery .

In light of the new playoff format for the postseason , which in all likelihood will be tinkered with by baseball’s hierarchy. Do you ultimately believe that this change will of benefit to the game? Or do you simply see it all as just another make-shift idea of Bud Selig to simply create the perception that everyone is in with a chance ? And of the NL teams that will be vying for the NL pennant as the NL’s representative in the World Series , which of the ball-clubs do you believe to be the best and will be triumphant ? By all means do leave a comment as you see fit .

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(1) In this photo taken Sept. 25, 2012, Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones , right, celebrates after the Braves beat the Miami Marlins 4-3 in a baseball game in Atlanta, to clinch a playoff spot. With one last trip to the postseason assured, Jones is relishing the final days of his last season. Jones, who will be honored by the Braves before Friday night’s game against the Mets, says he is savoring the final days of his last regular season as he and his teammates look forward to the playoffs. AP Photo/David Goldman …..

(2) In this photo taken Sept. 25, 2012, Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones , right, celebrates with teammate Freddie Freeman after the Braves beat the Miami Marlins 4-3 in a baseball game in Atlanta, to clinch a playoff spot . With one last trip to the postseason assured, Jones is relishing the final days of his last season. Jones, who will be honored by the Braves before Friday night’s game against the Mets, says he is savoring the final days of his last regular season as he and his teammates look forward to the playoffs. AP Photo/David Goldman ……

(3) Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Paul Maholm (17) works against the Miami Marlins in the first inning of a baseball game in Atlanta, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012. AP Photo/John Bazemore … (4) Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Craig Kimbrel (46) works in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Miami Marlins in Atlanta, Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012. Kimbrel earned the save as Atlanta won 3-0. AP Photo/John Bazemore …….

(5) ATLANTA, GA – SEPTEMBER 26: A young fan shows off a sign in support of Chipper Jones (10) of the Atlanta Braves against the Miami Marlins at Turner Field on September 26, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images ….

(6) Fredi Gonzalez tries on his Braves jersey as the team’s new manager. At the Wednesday press conference announcement, Gonzalez is flanked by (from L-R) team president John Schuerholz, general manager Frank Wren, and former manager Bobby Cox . Photo-Edgar Treiguts ….

(7) (L-R) Atlanta Braves President John Schuerholz , Atlanta Braves Chairman Emeritus Bill Bartholomay , Atlanta Braves Chairman & CEO Terry McGuirk , and Major League Baseball Living Legend, Hammerin’ Hank Aaron . Philip Moss / Atlanta Journal Constitution ….

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Strike one for the good guys

Strike one for the good guys

by tophatal

It is hard to understand the frustration of the Tampa Bay Rays and their problems over the course of this season. Beyond the endearing smile of this athlete lays a cunning and experienced player. Team captain Evan Longoria, has tried his very best to keep this roster of players relevant as their season has progressed . Unfortunately , his health has betrayed his lack of productivity and contributions for the team this season .

Wei Yin Chen
Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (16), of Taiwan, comes into the dugout following the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in St. Petersburg, Fla. ( AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen (16), of Taiwan, comes into the dugout following the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012, in St. Petersburg, Fla. AP Photo/Brian Blanco ….

Joe Maddon and his managerial staff have tried to keep the players within striking distance of AL East divisional leader the New York Yankees , and that is no mean feat , given the effectiveness of the “ Bronx Bombers “ over the course of their season . So much so, that the season series match-up between the Rays and Yankees has remained close between the two teams, with Maddon’s players now holding a 7-5 game lead. If nothing else , in knowing the duo will meet each other nineteen times over the course of their respective schedules . We can certainly expect see great deal more fireworks as the season unfolds.

Keppinger Jeff

ST. PETERSBURG – AUGUST 04: Designated hitter Jeff Keppinger (7) of the Tampa Bay Rays fouls off a pitch against the Baltimore Orioles during the game at Tropicana Field on August 4, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …..

The Tampa Bay Rays can ill-afford any slip-ups at this point of the season but somehow while hosting the Baltimore Orioles they would inexplicably find a way to lose the game . It has been this type of inconsistency that has me wondering whether or not the Rays will simply be good enough to perform at the highest caliber, were they to make the postseason ! The team’s pitching as well as hitting remains an ongoing problem that clearly needs to be addressed quickly by Joe Maddon and his staff.

Sunday, and once again the Tampa Bay Rays will host the fast slumping Orioles, with Miguel Gonzalez (3-2, 4.46 ERA) facing David Price (14-4, 2.64 ERA) . The Rays’ starting pitcher is having an exceptional season . In what many believe will be a close run race for the AL Cy Young Award race , Price just might have a slight edge over his closest rivals , pitchers , Jered Weaver (14-1, 2.29 ERA), Chris Sale (12-3, 2.61 ERA) and Justin Verlander (11-7 , 2.63 ERA). However, I would hazard a guess , that David Price would prefer a World Series title , rather than the hardware of a Cy Young Award. In light Price’s lone appearance in baseball’s postseason finale in 2008 , during which the player and his teammates came up on the wrong side of a lopsided 4-1 series’ loss to the Philadelphia Phillies . . And this season , if the Tampa Bay Rays are to be viewed as a viable contender for the postseason and the AL pennant , then a number players on this team will have to raise the level of their play.

Sam  Fuld

Outfielder Sam Fuld (5) of the Tampa Bay Rays is out at third on a steal attempt as infielder Wilson Betemit (24) of the Baltimore Orioles applies the tag during the game at Tropicana Field on August 4, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

Players such as B J Upton , Carlos Pena , Jeremy Hellickson , Ben Zobrist , James Shields , Sean Rodriguez and Desmond Jennings will have to play their part in guiding the Rays to their desired destination point , and that point is a World Series . Granted the franchise’s postseason experiences have not been as desired but at some point, they will ultimately achieve that ultimate goal .

Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria watches a ball hit by Texas Rangers’ Michael Young bounce over the bag and stay fair in the first inning of a baseball game , Friday, April 27, 2012, in Arlington, Texas. Young was safe at first on the hit. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

As an avowed fan of the Atlanta Braves , nothing has given me greater pleasure this season than seeing this team mount a serious challenge within the NL East ! While much of the praise has gone to the to surprising play of the division leading Washington Nationals . The consensus seemed to be that the Miami Marlins and Phillies would be vying for divisional supremacy . Well, based on the current standings, the likelihood of that now happening are remote , and it would be pretty much safe to say that the Marlins and Phillies are now being torn apart not just physically but also by dissention within their very ranks . And given the off-loading of players by both teams within the past ten days , can we take the opportunity safe to say, they have now given up on the rest of their season !

Atlanta Braves shortstop Paul Janish (4) prepares to tag out Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve (27) on a steal-attempt in the third inning of a baseball game in Atlanta, Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012. AP Photo/John Bazemore ….

Much of the talk with regard to the Nationals , would appear to be the insistence of GM Mike Rizzo , is that he will shut-down starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg. It is the general manager’s wish to safeguard franchise’s investment in the player , who in 2009 was the top player taken in the 2009 MLB Draft. Rizzo feel that once Strasburg has reached the threshold of having pitched 160 innings for the season , the player would be rested for the rest of the year , and not be an active participant in the postseason. To my mind, the general manager is sending the wrong message to the long-suffering Nationals’ fans and their long wait for a World Series title ! This season might be the team’s best chance of making it there, just as long as Strasburg remains a part of this active roster . Stephen Strasburg (11-5, 3.12 ERA, 121.1 IP, 154 K’s, at present with the innings pitched , will probably reach that mark in his projected twenty-sixth start of the season . Beyond that I believe, there is not much left that can be said !

Chipper Jones

Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones (10) reacts after scoring on a Dan Uggla two-run base hit in the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros in Atlanta, Saturday , Aug. 4, 2012. AP Photo/John Bazemore ….

Braves’ manager, Fredi Gonzalez , a manager , who seems to be at consummate ease when he is in the dugout , has the Braves playing with a great deal of confidence , and much of this comes from the leadership shown by veteran , Chipper Jones . In his final season with the only organization he ever played for professionally , this player has to be viewed as shoo-in for Baseball’s Hall of Fame , in Cooperstown , New York . In being enshrined, it would certainly not only add legitimacy Jones’ career that would see him join a select group Braves’ players, who were not only All Star caliber but who are now enshrined in that famed institution in Cooperstown. Such luminaries as Hank Aaron , George Sisler, Warren Spahn , and Eddie Matthew gives you an idea as to how venerable the Braves’ franchise just happens to be.

The Atlanta Braves are currently 3-00 games behind the Washington Nationals (64-43) but lead the wildcard aspirants for the two berths available for the divisional round of the postseason under the new revised format , an inaugurated system devised by Bud Selig and the MLB hierarchy. Fredi Gonzalez’ players were hosts to the lowly Houston Astros at Turner Field, in Atlanta , Georgia , on Saturday evening . The team would suffer a 3-2 loss to the Astros in a game that was wildly erratic . The two teams will meet again today in a game that will be the second game of a three-set series that culminates on Monday, with the final game of that series. However, on Sunday this will be a game in which the Braves are in need of a win, if they are to close the lead that the Nationals currently maintain. On the mound as the opposing pitchers will be Bud Norris (5-8, 5.02 ERA) of the Astros against Kris Medlen (2-1, 2.43 ERA) of the Braves .

Gonzalez & Jones

Chipper Jones (10) and Manager Fredi Gonzalez (33) of the Atlanta Braves greet before the game against the Miami Marlins at Turner Field on July 30, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. Getty Images North America / Scott Cunningham …

Inasmuch, as I can view the Washington Nationals as contenders , for the World Series , I cannot see this team in its present guise challenging the might of the Los Angeles Dodgers , San Francisco Giants , Cincinnati Reds in a seven-game playoff format ! This team or should I say organization, does not have the pedigree of a credible contender, and with the idiocy of Mike Rizzo’s stance. Does anyone truly believe that without Stephen Strasburg, the Washington Nationals are still good enough to go deep into the MLB postseason ? In the season series’ match-ups between the Braves and Nationals, these games (Nationals lead the season’s series 8-4) have proven to be very entertaining. The two teams are due to meet again in a three-game series commencing August 21st at Nationals Ballpark , in Washington , DC , in what is expected to be in-front of a sold-out crowd for all three games.

There is still a great deal more to play for over the remainder of the season and a number teams will be positioning themselves during the months of August and September for the regular season schedule closes out on the 3rd October, 2012 . I would hazard a guess, that the teams now seeking to make their presence felt, will do so with a great deal of vigor . Of the teams now vying for their divisions and that of the wildcard berths , which do you believe will be the ones likely to make the postseason ? Simply chime in with a comment as you see fit with regard to the subject matter and anything else you believe to be pertinent to this topic .

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The Trouble With My Team Last Season …. Name An Issue ….. And They Had Many ….. The Atlanta Braves !

The Trouble With My Team Last Season …. Name An Issue ….. And They Had Many ….. The Atlanta Braves !

By tophatal ………..

The biggest disappointment for myself as an Atlanta Braves’ fan last season was to see the rapid decline of the team during the final month of the season . Seemingly with the wildcard berth well within their grasp at the beginning of the month of September only to finally it all slip away on the final day of the season with the St Louis Cardinals snatching the last remnants of hope that Braves’ manager Fredi Gonzalez in seeing his players hopelessly to play themselves completely out of contention .

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Slide show for your perusal .

If that wasn’t enough beyond the injury issues that the team faced with long spells on the DL list spent by Jair Jurrjens , Chipper Jones and Jason Heyward to name but a few , it really had me wondering had the Atlanta Braves made the postseason would they have proven to be a resounding success againts either the Philadelphia Phillies , Milwaukee Brewers or Arizona Diamondbacks !

Disheartening as all of this may well have been , with the mere fact that the difference between the margin of success and failure in terms of the final divisional standings and a playoff berth was one of a few games . But at the same time I hope that the experiences of this past season will be used and seen as a learning tool for Fredi Gonzalez , his coaching staff but specifically for the young players as they about to embark upon their 2012 schedule .

Frank Wren in succeeding John Schuerholz as the team’s general manager knows that the success attained by his predecessor in conjunction with former manager Bobby Cox has cemented the legacy of the Atlanta Braves’ organization . With Schuerholz now in the front office as a senior consultant guiding his protege` in all things related to the personnel …….. decisions for the organization. I would certainly like to think that the team has depth in all of the positions necessary to succeed this upcoming season within the NL Central to compete against the likes of the Miami Marlins , New York Mets , Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals .

With Chipper Jones , Jayson Heyward and Dan Uggla seen as the brunt of offensive production sought in order to compete against their divisional rivals as well as the rest of the National League (NL) as a whole. And though this season , there once again will be inter-league play between the AL and NL teams . If there was one thing I knew would be a harbinger of things to come , it was the mere fact that with Jair Jurrjens having started off the season with a bang , it simply would implode with the player faltering when the Braves needed him most . The team’s pitching became erratic as the season progressed with there being no real end in sight for the fans in attendance at Turner Field , Atlanta , Fulton County , Georgia . Hopefully , Jurrjens in conjunction with a seasoned veteran such as Tim Hudson can lead the rotation to where they need to be .

If there is one thing that I am now sure of , it is that the Braves’ pitching and offense will certainly have to show a marked improvement if they are to be truly seen as a viable contender not just within the NL East but most certainly to counter the likes of the Cincinnati Reds , St Louis Cardinals , Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants but the likely perceived contenders within the AL such as the Los Angeles Angels , Texas Rangers , Boston Red Sox , New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays .

One thing is very clear with the Braves’ organization and that is over the years they have been able to produce some highly productive players either through their farm system or by way of trades . And though I long for the days when the organization could rely on the wiles of pitching aces Steve Avery , Greg Maddux , John Smoltz and Tom Glavine . I now know that era is now long gone though the unprecedented years of success under then manager Bobby Cox brought about only one World Series title the precedence was set with that decade long reign . Multiple divisional titles and a number of NL pennants with an unprecedented eleven straight seasons in the playoffs was enough to suggest that while the Atlanta Braves could hold its own during the regular season it was more often than not the postseason that would be prove to the ball-club’s own undoing and their Achilles’ Heel .

The Atlanta Braves’ pitching rotation this season led by Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson will have to raise the level of their play this upcoming season . The frustration was there for all to witness during 2011 that the real inherent issues for the Braves simply wasn’t just the pitching but also the lack of overall productivity . And most definitely what I would like to see from the current roster , is that the > offense has to be more forceful with their intent .

Granted , within the NL East the Atlanta Braves will have to deal with Ozzie Guillen’s now formidable Miami Marlins , given the financial outlay made by GM Michael Hill now in acquiring the likes of Jose Reyes , Mark Buerhle , Carlos Zambrano and Aaron Rowand to complement Hanley Ramirez , Emilio Bonifacio , Mike Stanton and Josh Johnson on that Marlins’ roster . And while there’s no denying that the Miami Marlins did not make the biggest splash this off-season in terms of the moves made by the teams around the league , most definitely there were amongst the biggest movers and shakers in that environment .

Given the pitching strength of the Phillies’ roster led by Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee the perception would be that the team has everything going for it but given their failure to acquit themselves in the 2011 postseason there are still flaws that Charlie Manuel and GM Reuben Amaro have yet to address fully . And the loss of first baseman Ryan Howard for Spring Training and the first few months of the regular season will do doubt affect the Philadelphia Phillies adversely given the player’s productivity .

I certainly believe the NL East is up for grabs given what I perceive to be now growing uncertainty of the Philadelphia Phillies and what I now feel they personify as a team ! The are certainly very good during the regular season but in recent years apart from their triumph in 2009 there has been little to suggest that this roster in its current guise can repeat their most recent success in the World Series. It was abundantly there for all to see as they simply fell apart during the MLB playoffs of 2011 without showing any real determination .

To my mind the New York Mets and Washington Nationals will simply viewed as the ” also-rans” within the NL East ! Neither team has made the sort of moves that certainly would give me the impression that they are able to contend within the division . The Mets remain but one step away from being deemed a financial failure when one bears in mind the mess created by the two most senior executives Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon . And the idiocy of it all have been the maneuvers of Sandy Alderson and J P Riccardi as they try to resurrect the fortunes of this organization. Alderson , given his experience as a front office executive has shown all the astuteness one would deem befitting a clueless Congressman . As Head of Baseball Operations Sandy Alderson chose to berate Jose Reyes for his lack of candor and honesty knowing full well that the organization would not be able to afford the player in terms of the Mets’ contractual obligations and specifically matching the 6 year offer made to Reyes by the Florida Marlins.

This season it remains to be seen as to whether or not the New York Mets will once again be an also ran within the NL and more noticeably the poor crosstown rival to the New York Yankkees . Something that no doubt pains the Mets’ fans almost as much it must now pains New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who was seemingly duped by the NL organization as well the MLB hierarchy led by Bud Selig in financing what now appears to be that grossly ostentatious ” white elephant” …… known as ” Citi Field” , in Flushing , New York built at the cost of some $775 million of public financing . I mean what better way to show how out of touch the vast majority of politicians now happen to be as it concerns the economic and political environment . Only Bud Selig ., the Mets’ organization and the New York City Mayor could still in fact be dumb enough to believe that the building of such a monstrosity would be a guarantee of success when the on-field product was so grossly inept ! Is there anyone of the belief that the New York Mets’ fortunes can now be resurrected given their recent history ? Your thoughts ?

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Picture gallery for your perusal .

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Can the Atlanta Braves be a factor this season within the NL East and specifically mount a serious enough challenge to be a legitimate contender for the World Series ? I certainly believe that they can be given the right set of circumstances with the team raising the level of their overall play and team manager Fredi Gonzalez and his coaching staff leading by example by getting the players to buy into their brevitas ! What thoughts if any do you have with regard to the points raised within piece ? Simply chime in with a comment as you see fit and thanks as always for the continued support as it is greatly appreciated !

Picture and slide show details below .
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(1) Atlanta Braves’ Brandon Beachy pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game, in Atlanta. Beachy is the most established of four 2011 rookies who saw time in the Braves’ rotation. AP Photo/John Amis …

(2) Atlanta Braves’ Hank Aaron acknowledges the media while Braves’ Chipper Jones looks on when introduced during a news conference to unveil the club’s new alternative home uniform, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, in Atlanta. The uniform pays homage to the team’s past, reflecting more of the look of the 1966 team when Aaron played. AP Photo/John Amis ….

(3) Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones, center, Brian McCann , right, and Dan Uggla model the club’s new alternative home uniform during a news conference to introduce the new threads, Monday, Feb. 6, 2012, in Atlanta. The uniform pays homage to the team’s past, reflecting more of the look of the 1966 team. AP Photo/John Amis …

(4) Jair Jurrjens of the Atlanta Braves seen here pitching in a game for the team during the 2011. The player’s injury woes beset the organization as well as his inconsistency towards the end of the year. AP Photo/ Mark Hughes …..

(5) Jason Heyward (22) of the Atlanta Braves gets set to take batting practice for the game against the Chicago Cubs during Opening Day at Turner Field on April 5, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. Getty Images/ Scott Cunningham …

(6) Jason Heyward (22) of the Atlanta Braves hits a 3 run home run against the Chicago Cubs during Opening Day at Turner Field on April 5, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. ….. Scott Cunningham/Getty Images …..

(7) Atlanta Braves general manger Frank Wren , left, shakes hands with new manager Fredi Gonzalez during a news conference where Gonzalez was introduced as the baseball team’s news manager, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2010, in Atlanta. AP Photo/John Bazemore ………

(8) John Schuerholz, left, addresses reporters about the announcement he will become president of the Atlanta Braves baseball team and be replaced as general manager by Frank Wren, right, during a news conference Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007, in Atlanta. AP photo/John Amis ….. AJC/ Mark Harris ……
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Who’s To Blame And Who Not To Blame …. Better Yet What Do You Do After That ?

Who’s To Blame And Who Not To Blame …. Better Yet What Do You Do After That ?


I am delirious at present , having watched the excitement and suspense unfold last night in a number of games that closed out the baseball season. And as we are now all aware the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox …. folded like tents being blown away in a sandstorm . God knows , there are about to be some serious repercussions within the city of Boston . And I do believe that the fans will be lambasting not just the players on that Red Sox team but also the coaching staff and front office . There’s every reason to believe that quite possibly because of this Terry Francona could very well end up losing his job in the same manner as his predecessor Grady Little . The city’s flagship radio sport’s talk station WEEI’s switchboard has to be now lighting up with the fans now looking to apportion blame while some may well be seeking some sort of consolation and solace out of this all.

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With the season having ended and the standings reflecting what one might suggest was an unbelievable year . I am not so sure that this postseason can live up to the drama that we may have all witnessed in the last forty eight hours much less over the last month of arduous season. The biggest disappointment for myself was to see the Braves simply wilt under the pressure but at the same time with this young team having endured this sort of pain I can only hope it makes them stronger and more attentive as to what it takes to become champions. Certainly manager Fredi Gonzalez , his coaching staff and the entire front office can feel proud of their accomplishments this year but at the same you can only wonder as to what might have been had they managed to eke out one or two more wins over the course of their season.

Opportunities when they’re thrown your way cannot be wasted and I think that this happened to be the case here with both the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox ! In the case of the Braves it came down to their inexperience and that of the manager’s own intuitive experience and what to expect when placed under pressure and real adversity . The seasoned veterans on the team such as Chipper Jones , Derek Lowe , Tim Hudson and Alex Gonzalez were meant to the leaders for the young members of this team but it simply would not be enough with the advent of the pressure placed upon them . In losing out on the NL wildcard berth with that privilege going to the St Louis Cardinals the Atlanta Braves missed out on making another postseason appearance . Last season their divisional series loss to the eventual World Series champions the San Francisco Giants was enough to suggest that the organization was heading in the right direction under the tenure of Fredi Gonzalez and GM Frank Wren . Now it’s back to the drawing board and the travails of the offseason making deals , acquiring players and winter ball .

Congratulations to Joe Maddon and the Tampa Bay Rays for an improbable season and pulling off what has to be said must be one of the truly great finishes to a schedule for any franchise under astonishing circumstances . I certainly hadn’t envisioned this team coming from 7 plus games behind with less then a month to go in the season. But as they say ….” you never what to expect “ and certainly the players began to believe in themselves and what was possible. This was certainly epitomized in the play of the team and in particular by the young players who were thrown into the lion’s den by Maddon and his coaching staff . Clearly the likes of Jeremy Hellickson , Desmond Jennings , Sam Fuld , James Shields , Evan Longoria , B.J Upton and Ben Zobrist never felt under any undue pressure as they simply did all that was asked of them and a great deal more .

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Fans of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ….

Now comes the hard part of the Tampa Bay Rays in their divisional series against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington , Texas . And though things might favor the Rangers , given what we have seen from the Tampa Rays during the month of September I firmly believe that nothing is off the table by way of the unforeseen or the unexpected !

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Manager Joe Maddon (70) of the Tampa Bay Rays hugs Sean Rodriguez (1) after the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……

There is no denying that this last month of the season gave the fans more than they could ever have expected . As the scenarios began to unfold , who could have known that the final day of the season would have meant so much to the teams vying for those two final playoff berths . Now comes all of the hard questions …… with the fans and analysts within the genres of sports journalism looking for the answers . It simply won’t just be about the teams who missed out on those playoff berths but also about the ball clubs who simply failed to live up to expectations and to my mind there are many who can be categorized within that area. Big money teams asides and the salaries afforded for those organizations at the end of the day it all comes down to the competitiveness of the teams and their play on the field . But it would be remiss not to suggest the part played by the general managers and team owner who are simply chasing after the glory for their teams by simply looking to spend big with the chance of reaping the rewards that await .

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Picture and slide show for your perusal .

As the postseason awaits I am not so sure that the thrilling suspense afforded the fans can actually be lived up to ! I mean that’s unless the teams involved give it their all with some thrilling displays of baseball that we could never have thought possible . What thoughts if any do you have about the regular season finales and of the postseason itself ? Chime in with your thoughts and expectations .

Alan aka tophatal …………… https://tophatal.wordpress.com

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ATLANTA – SEPTEMBER 28: Jack Wilson (1) of the Atlanta Braves turns a double play against John Mayberry, Jr. (15) of the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on September 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Braves would go on to lose the game in extra innings 4-3 to the Phillies . Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images …..

(2) ATLANTA – SEPTEMBER 28: Chipper Jones (10) of the Atlanta Braves paces the dugout after striking out in the 13th inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Turner Field on September 28, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images ………

(3) HOUSTON – SEPTEMBER 28: Nick Punto (C) of the St. Louis Cardinals is showered with champagne by Chris Carpenter, right, as they celebrate winning the National League wildcard at Minute Maid Park on September 28, 2011 in Houston, Texas. The Cardinals would defeat the Astros 8-0 to clinch the NL wildcard and deprive the Atlanta Braves of the spot that they held for the last six weeks . Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images …….

(4) Carl Crawford (13) of the Boston Red Sox walks in the dugout with first base coach Ron Johnson (50) after a 4-3 loss against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images …………

(5) Manager Terry Francona (47) of the Boston Red Sox argues a call with first base umpire Scott Barry in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 28, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images …….

(6) The Tampa Bay Rays celebrate their victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays came back from a 7-0 deficit to defeat the New York Yankees 8-7 . Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …..

(7) Infielder Evan Longoria (3) of the Tampa Bay Rays rounds the bases after his bottom of the twelfth inning walk off home run against the New York Yankees during the game at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images …..

(8) Fans of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ………….

(9) Manager Joe Maddon (70) of the Tampa Bay Rays hugs Sean Rodriguez (1) after the Rays victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 28, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……
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Divisional series games scheduled 30th September 2011

Probable starters 30th September 2011

Divisional series games schedule 1st October 2011

Probable starters 1st October 2011

Pick ’em At Your Peril ……………..

Pick ’em At Your Peril ………

Well with the baseball season now climaxing in a schedule of games that may well impact the playoff scenario it is extremely hard to believe that after a 162 game schedule it all now comes down to this . The divisional winners are set but we have a quartet of teams now vying for the wildcard berths within both leagues . Those teams are the Atlanta Braves , St Louis Cardinals within the National League with the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays within the American League . This all bodes well for the league hierarchy of baseball and in particular for both TBS and TNT who will broadcast the divisional and league championship series before Fox Sports takes over the tenure to televise the World Series , itself.

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At this point the questions now being asked and the reverberations caused , have to be about the meltdowns of both the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox who less than three weeks ago held sizeable leads over their respective wildcard rivals coming into the last day of the season . The troubling fact is that for the managers in question they now have to their teams playing with added vigor because of what’s said to be on the line for both of these ball clubs . For Fredi Gonzalez he knows it is imperative tonight that the team is victorious against the Phillies Phillies in a game to be played at Turner Field , Atlanta , Georgia. For Cardinals’ manager Tony La Russa he knows that this is the last chance for his team to make something of what many believed to have been something of a disappointing season as they were favored to win the NL Central . That privilege went to Ron Roenicke and the Milwaukee Brewers and in doing so that could conclude with the manager being named NL Manager of the Year . But I do believe that he could well be challenged for that honor by Kirk Gibson of the Arizona Diamondbacks !

The St Louis Cardinals in their pivotal game face the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park , in Houston , Texas . And there is no one on this Cardinals’ team who does not know the importance of this game and what it means to their season . Certainly for the St Louis Cardinals’ fans they are cheering on the players in the fervent hope that they can make the postseason . Add into this all the intrigue surrounding whether or not this could well be Albert Pujols’ last season with the organization and you can begin to feel the fervor and excitment arising out of this scenario as it plays itself out .

I have said repeatedly when teams such as the Boston Red Sox with their financial wherewithal simply act as if money is of no object as they chase down talent in the search of glory , sooner or later you’re bound be undone by your own avarice . The organization led by GM Theo Epstein and team President Larry Lucchino have the league’s second highest payroll behind the venerable New York Yankees . And inasmuch as that might sour the taste for some fans one cannot be denied is the very fact that when spent wisely no one can argue with the success attained by that organization. For the Boston Red Sox front office the question now being asked is…. how could this all have spiraled out of control so quickly ?

With there now being rumors of discord between Francona and Theo Epstein there is a thought that the same fate that befell his predecessor Grady Little could now await Terry Francona should he and the team fail to deliver . From my own standpoint it has been the inconsistent pitching from the front end of the rotation led by Josh Beckett that has been the primary cause of the Red Sox’s woes . It will be left to Jon Lester pitching for the ball club tonight against the Baltimore Orioles ____ to acquit himself well and the team still into contention for that AL wildcard berth.

If there is one thing that Joe Maddon has going for himself and the Tampa Bay Rays at present then it would have to be the momentum and the hunger of this young team . And granted , there are some seasoned veterans at the heart of this roster but it has been the welcome play of the youngsters on this squad that has brought about this surprising turn of events . The likes of Desmond Jennings , Sam Fulds , Alex Cobb , Sean Rodriguez and Jeremy Hellickson have all contributed to the success of the organization this season . And for Joe Maddon and his managerial staff this has to be one of the most pleasing moments of his distinguished career .

As to what may transpire tonight no one can really say but I am sure that the events as they unfold will have all of us riveted to our screens and for those of us able to witness the events live at the venues in question . I can only surmise that you too will be enthralled by the games as they take place . Trying to determine a winner however might not be as easy as it looks and I for one can only hope that the intrigue will only add to the competitiveness of the games !

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Which teams do you favor or actually envisage attaining the resepective wildcard berths ? Simply chime in with a comment as you deem fit .

Alan aka tophatal …………….. https://tophatal.wordpress.com

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(1) Atlanta Braves’ pitcher Derek Lowe walks off the field after giving up two runs to the Philadelphia Phillies during the third inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Atlanta. The Phillies would go on to defeat the Braves 7-1 . AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Curtis Compton …..

(2) ATLANTA – SEPTEMBER 27: Chase Utley (26) of the Philadelphia Phillies is congratulated by Ryan Howard (6) after hitting a home run against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 27, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images ……

(3) Allen Craig (21) of the St. Louis Cardinals receives congratulations from Yadier Molina (4) after hitting a three run home run in the eighth inning scoring Albert Pujols (5) and Lance Berkman (12) at Minute Maid Park on September 27, 2011 in Houston, Texas. The St Louis Cardinals would defeat the Astros 13-6 . Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images ….

(4) St. Louis Cardinals’ Yadier Molina, left, slides safely into home plate to score as Houston Astros catcher Humberto Quintero (55) handles the throw during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Houston. Molina and Allen Craig scored on a triple by Ryan Theriot. AP Photo/David J. Phillip ……

(5) Manager Terry Francona (47) of the Boston Red Sox walks back to the dugout during the eighth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 27, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Red Sox defeated the Orioles 8-7 . Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images ……..

(6) Boston Red Sox shortstop Marco Scutaro, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and second baseman Dustin Pedroia, from left, high-five teammates after a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, in Baltimore. Boston won 8-7. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky …..

(7) ST. PETERSBURG, FL – SEPTEMBER 27: Catcher Kelly Shoppach (10) and pitcher Kyle Farnsworth (43) of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate their team’s victory over the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field on September 27, 2011 in St.Petersburg, Florida. Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……

(8) First baseman Mark Teixeira (25) of the New York Yankees takes the throw at first as Johnny Damon (22) of the Tampa Bay Rays gets back safely during the game at Tropicana Field on September 27, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Rays would defeat the New York Yankees 5-3 and now tie the Red Sox atop of the AL wildcard berth standings (90-71) Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ……
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MLB news

MLB standings

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MLB probable starters 28th September 2011

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MLB Standings final day of 2010

MLB widcard standings final day of 2010

MLB results final regular season games of 2010

Never Too Late To Apologize It’s All In How You Say It ………..

Never Too Late To Apologize It’s All In How You Say It ………..

You can either choose to be part of the news or simply read about but in no way do you want to be seen to be creating worthless tidbits , simply to have to recant a statement . We tend to see it all the time when it comes to celebrities further looking to parlay their fifteen minutes of fame . Albeit , that now with Indianapolis Colts’ owner Jim Irsay I am not so sure that he knew by tweeting that Peyton Manning is out for the season be it inadvertently or not this seems to have created a furor that neither Irsay , Bill Polian or Jim Caldwell would really care to address publicly and with any degree of certainty.

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The Indianapolis Colts’ season has now taken on turn for the worse as this team seems to have lost all confidence when it comes to its play on the field . One patron had suggested to me that I was being completely overzealous in my statement when made the claim that the Colts’ season was over before it had began but I think that this patron was simply too naive to think that Peyton Manning would be back and playing under any circumstance for the Indianapolis Colts. The four time league MVP is the heart and soul of this team and has been so since he was drafted by the organization in 1998 as the number 2 overall pick behind Ryan Leaf .

The Indianapolis Colts for their part having brought in Kerry Collins have suffered three successive defeats to their start of the season which now has them firmly rooted at the bottom of the AFC South . Inasmuch as I would like to think that there is hope for the Colts for this season with the play that the team has offered simply isn’t enough to convince me that they are able of containing and steering their own destiny. Now it would remiss to suggest that Peyton Manning’s career with this organization is over but sooner or later the fans and the front office may well have to realize that this era could very well be coming to a close .

All of this talk about a resurgent Chicago Bears’ team came to a quick and abrupt close when they were ceremoniously dragged across the turf by the Green Bay Packers in a decisive 27-17 victory for the defending Superbowl champions. It is pretty safe to say that this Bears’ team still has flashbacks nightmares from their NFC championship game loss (21-14) to the Packers . This time around the Bears’ defense simply couldn’t cope with the passing game of Aaron Rodgers and the play of tight end Jermichael Finley who accounted for the first three touchdown game of his career in the team’s 27-17 win .

Jay Cutler as the quarterback of the Chicago Bears has a lot to be answerable for , especially when one bears in mind his performance during that NFC championship game . There are those who genuinely believe that the player was hurt and that was the reason for his leaving the game. But I would suggest to the contrary because when your team needs you the most that is when as a presumed leader you have to step up to the plate and lead by example.

And as good as we’re led to believe this Bears’ defense is said to be they were clearly exposed by a Packers’ offense simply chomping at the bit. Aaron Rodgers simply carried on from where he left from last season . And it is easy to understand the reason why the team made the player their first round draft choice in 2005 (24th pick first round) by the Packers’ front office and coach Mike McCarthy . With the way that the Green Bay Packers now seem to be performing amongst their divisional and conference rivals . All the talk may well be about the surprising start of the Detroit Lions but until this team led by Matthew Stafford has played full season unscathed and have a winning season then perhaps we may well get to learn something about this organization as a whole . In spite of the added history of the franchise and the apparent direction that they now seem to be taking with Jim Schwartz as the coach working in conjunction with the front office led by GM Martin Mayhew .

The turnaround in the fortunes of the Detroit Lions has coincided with the recent draft choices made by the organization . And clearly with the additions of Nick Fairley , Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson this is a team capable of contending but as I have repeatedly stated until Matthew Stafford is able to play an entire season and at the same be protected by his offensive line then I will continue hold my reservations about the competitiveness of the team .

It is hard to believe that a month ago the Boston Red Sox led the AL East and held a seven and a half game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays within the division . Now as of the 27th September that divisional lead is no longer there with the New York Yankees having won the division and secured a berth in the postseason , we now have an almighty dog fight brewing as the Tampa Bay Rays look to chase down the Red Sox to gain the wildcard berth as the AL entrant into the playoffs. Boston Red Sox manager Terry Francona and his coaching staff have to be perturbed by what they are now seeing from his team that has lost eighteen of their last 22 games .

What might be even more distressing for the Boston Red Sox front office has been the very fact they have an outlay of an extortionate amount in salaries to pay for free agent acquisitions that in part have been productive but the overall expectations just wasn’t there . Clearly Theo Epstein , Larry Lucchino and the entire front office cannot be entirely happy with the thought that the team could once again miss the postseason . If ever there was a certainty as to why things started to spiral out of control for the Boston Red Sox then one would have place the blame squarely on the shoulders of the players and their lack of consistency .

As rabid as the Red Sox fans are said to be , I am not so sure that they are willing to tolerate the meltdown of their team especially when one bears in mind that their perpetual nemesis the New York Yankees has won the AL East and now await postseason play. It would certainly burn the fans even more also to know that the Tampa Bay Rays would once again be part of the playoffs.

The fans of the Tampa Bay Rays are all giddy with the very thought that they could be making a quick return to the playoffs when one considers their swift exit from the postseason last year . This time around I am sure that Joe Maddon would like to see his team perform to the best of their abilities with the advent of making the playoffs. The players have hit a rich vein of form that has seen them win five of their last 10 games but also on a two game win streak .

For the younger players on this roster such as Desmond Jennings , Sam Fulds , Alex Cobb , Matt Joyce and David Price this offers these teammates a further chance to show that this simply is not another aberration for the Tampa Bay Rays and their fans. Most certainly this may well have been the season that GM Andrew Friedman had envisaged alongside senior partners Stuart Sternberg and Matt Silverman .

It has been well chronicled as to the financial constraints that the Tampa Bay Rays now finds itself under and this is solely being done at the discretion of the front office as it is the only way for this organization to simply remain viable as a baseball franchise . And when adjudged against the rest of baseball one can see why it is that the ball club chooses take this route . Perhaps in light of the movie ” Moneyball” and the fact that the movie while now receiving critical acclaim it has to be said the box office (grossed slightly under $20 million opening weekend ) expectation doesn’t seem to have met with the expectations of the studio and one bears in mind that it placed second behind a fifteen year old animated classic “The Lion King” .

I am not so sure what to make of the Atlanta Braves’ meltdown within the NL East and the mere fact that they have allowed the St Louis Cardinals to simply erase their lead in the NL wildcard standings . Both Tony La Russa and Fredi Gonzalez are now vying to have their respective teams playing hard down the stretch as the waning days of the schedule winds down . With the St Louis Cardinals losing to the lowly Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves falling to the Philadelphia Phillies the margin between the two teams is now a mere half game as of Monday night. With two regular season games now left on the schedule it certainly will interesting and suspenseful to see how things play themselves out over the ensuing days .

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Given what we are now witnessing within the NFL and MLB are there further surprises that you feel could very well occur ? And what thoughts if any do you have concerning the statements made by Colts’ owner Jim Irsay concerning Peyton Manning ? Simply leave a comment on the points raised within this piece and any other points you believe to be pertinent .

Alan aka tophatal ……… https://tophatal.wordpress.com

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(1) Indianapolis Colts football head coach Jim Caldwell talks about the quarterback situation and the 0-3 start in Indianapolis, Monday, Sept. 26, 2011. AP Photo/Michael Conroy ….

(2) FILE – This Sept. 1, 2011 file photo shows Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on the sidelines in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, in Cincinnati. At rear right is quarterback Kerry Collins. Colts owner Jim Irsay says there is an “outside chance” Manning might return in December. Irsay used Twitter on Monday, Sept. 26, 2011, to update Colts fans on Manning’s status after remarks he made during a private breakfast with Super Bowl donors. AP Photo/Tony Tribble ….

(3) CHICAGO, IL – SEPTEMBER 25: Jermichael Finley (88) of the Green Bay Packers catches a touchdown pass in front of Craig Steltz (20) of the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on September 25, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 27-17 . Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images ……

(4) Aaron Rodgers (12) of the Green Bay Packers talks with Jay Cutler (6) of the Chicago Bears after a game at Soldier Field on September 25, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Packers defeated the Bears 27-17. Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images ……

(5) MINNEAPOLIS, MN – SEPTEMBER 25: Donovan McNabb (5) of the Minnesota Vikings and Keiland Williams (34) of the Detroit Lions talk after the overtime win by the Lions at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on September 25, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Adam Bettcher /Getty Images ……..

(6) Matthew Stafford (9) of the Detroit Lions is chased by Chad Greenway (52) of the Minnesota Vikings in the third quarter at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on September 25, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo by Adam Bettcher /Getty Images …….

(7) Carl Crawford (13) of the Boston Red Sox (L) and teammates Jacoby Ellsbury (2) (C) and Josh Reddick (16) [(R)] leave the dugout after losing to the Baltimore Orioles 6-3 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 26, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images ……

(8) Infielder Ben Zobrist (18) of the Tampa Bay Rays congratulates Reid Brignac (15) after he scores against the New York Yankees during the game at Tropicana Field on September 26, 2011 in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Tampa Bay Rays would defeat the Yankees 5-2 . Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images ….

(9) Matt Diaz (23) of the Atlanta Braves slides into second base safely under the tag of Jimmy Rollins (11) of the Philadelphia Phillies after hitting a double in the second inning at Turner Field on September 26, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Phillies would defeat the Braves 4-2 . Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images …….

(10) Chris Carpenter , right, of the St. Louis Cardinals high fives Matt Holliday (7) and Albert Pujols (5) after they scored in the eighth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 26, 2011 in Houston, Texas. The Cardinals would go on to lose the game 5-4 to the Astros . Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images …….
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MLB Standings 26th October 2010

MLB wildcard standings 26th October 2010

MLB results 26th October 2010

Tick Tock , Tick Tock , Time Is Now Moving Fast In Baseball ……..

Tick Tock , Tick Tock , Time Is Now Moving Fast In Baseball ……..

Well it’s that time of the year when the eyes of the sports’ world is now peering on baseball’s showcase event. The 2011 All Star Game is set for tonight with the AL taking on the NL with with it comes to the privilige of having homefield advantage throughout the World Series . And given the idiocy of the events that took place in 2002 with the game ending in a tie and Commissioner Bud Selig looking to explain that this was the best possible outcome from an extremely exhilarating game. Somehow I simply hope that that the commissioner has the temerity to show some common sense in determining a fair result . Perhaps the commissioner may well have the players from both rosters spoon each other until they reach that height of ecstasy . Given the stupidity of the many judgments rendered by him over the years I really do believe that it is now for him to hang it up and ride off into the sunset !

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I’ve read a number of pieces questioning whether or not realignment of the divisions would be of benefit to the game , bringing in a much more competitive nature and rivalries within baseball. To me that’s simply dressing up a pig and then asserting that it now looks like a sow ! It’s simply a damn stupid idea that makes no sense at all. The problems within the game have more to do with the financial imbalances and the mere fact that the owners , league hierarchy and general managers haven’t got a God damn clue ! Rather than looking to solve the problem they are ignoring it , and carrying on as usual. And we are now seeing how that is working out for the likes of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets ?

Seemingly it had to take Frank McCourt to create his own web of deceit , lies that would all but bring the Dodgers to the brink of financial disaster (in filing Chapter 11 [ financial reorganization]) before the league hierarchy under Bud Selig sought to act with any real action. It’s a pity that the team hasn’t gone under then perhaps the other idiot owners around the league would perhaps pull their heads out of their ass and begin to address the inherent problems that are now encircling the game beyond the financial strains that no doubt many of them are now facing ! And if anyone is under the impression that the dye has been cast concerning this episode then they are mistaken . One now simply has to preamble over to the mess that’s now unraveling within the New York Mets’ organization . And that is even with the advent of the $200 million cash infusion made by hedge fund manager David Einhorn into the ball-club in taking a minority stake in the team. I can only surmise that principal partners and co-owners Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon have assured the young Wall St phenom wunderkind that his money is indeed safe . At present the organization and both principal partners are the defendants in a civil suit that seeks to recoup in excess of $750 million as part of the monies received by the New York Mets and the owners’ associate company Sterling Equities Inc which we are told is from the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme. Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon have plead their innocence stating that they ……… “are victims themselves having lost countless millions”. Though not inconceivable I find it somewhat ironic that two men who co-founded an investment company some three decades ago could have been so easily duped given their alleged financial experience and those the of the executives of Sterling Equities Inc ! But these are merely my own suspicions and thoughts on the matter ! Afterall we can only take them at their word can’t we ? But then again did you know that the Golden Gate Bridge is up for sale at a reasonable price ?

With several marquee players now taking their leave in not playing in the game due to injury we will still see the event with many of its stars on parade. The New York Yankees’ Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez won’t be participating in the All Star Game with Jeter recusing himself and Rodriguez bowing out due to surgery to repair a torn meniscus cartilage in his right knee. With that said it now remains to be seen how this will be viewed by the fans in general with two of the game’s biggest stars not appearing.

Jeter having come off attaining his 3,000th hit as a player and along with the New York Yankees’ alltime hits’ lead . But for Jeter this simply isn’t about attaining feats but more to do with leading this team to another World Series title . The division within which the New York Yankees reside is now turning into a real barn burner and I’ve no doubt it will be long drawn out dog fight between all of the participants there ! The AL East has always been viewed as perhaps the most competitive of all divisions within baseball. This year I’ve no doubt that the race for the wildcard berth and division will all hinge on the play of the Boston Red Sox , New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays down the final stretch run of the season . It’s pretty much safe to say that both the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles won’t be in the thick of things as far as this divisional race is concerned.

Now it goes without saying that we have seen considerable amount to be pleased about concerning the play of the teams during the season. Earlier on this year I had a rather contentious and often ridiculous interface with a patron who would suggest that the Kansas City Royals are in the midst of a turnaround in terms of their play . Suffice to say that turnaround has yet to come into being and when you consider that the team now resides at the foot of the AL Central with a sub .500 record (37-54) can someone explain to me what signs there are that would suggest that this team much less the organization is really in the midst of a resurgence ?

While I’m sincere in seeing all of the league’s teams do well in the game I have never been one to sugar coat what I see as something delusional when I’m being told that a team is on the rise . The game of baseball has become about the immediacy of here and now ………..“what have you done for me lately ” ? And it is certainly not what you’re about to do quite possibly do in thee , four or five years from now ! If that were the case then the game itself simply wouldn’t be a worthwhile endeavor for the fans to be a willing participant as an observer . The fans want to see their teams do well each season not simply struggle then to fall by the wayside . And then it all comes down to excuses as to what might have been or even perhaps injuries played a part in their demise . Does anyone remember where the team finished at season’s end in 2010 ?

There have been strong suggestions this season we are in the midst of seeing the rise of the pitcher and it has to be said the season being had by Jered Weaver , Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia would has me believing that the AL Cy Young Award won’t be that easy to pick an outright winner . All three are worthy candidates and one would simply be naive at this juncture to suggest that we know who the winner ought to be at this juncture .

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PHOENIX, AZ – JULY 12: National League All-Star Brian Wilson(38) of the San Francisco Giants reacts with teammates catcher National League All-Star Miguel Montero (26) of the Arizona Diamondbacks and National League All-Star Joey Votto (19) of the Cincinnati Reds after making the save to win the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The National League defeated the American League 5-1. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images ….

Speaking as a fan of the teams within the NL I am hoping that Jair Jurrjens with the season he’s having can rise above the fray and succeed and show that the fans it’s not simply about the Philadelphia Phillies’ pitching rotation this season . The Phillies’ trio of Roy Halladay , Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee have lit up the league with their stellar displays and perhaps unequivocally justifying why they’re viewed as the prohibitive favorites for the NLCS .

As I alluded to earlier if Jair Jurrjens can usurp the Phillies’ trio of aces then perhaps Atlanta Braves can make a go of it this season and make light of the thought that many do not believe that they are good enough to win the NL East . They are now proving that and a great deal more by being competitive not just within the division but across the entire league . Manager Fredi Gonzalez and his coaching staff now have this team playing with a great deal of passion and I’d like to think that he’s in with a chance of winning the NL Manager of The Year Award but it would appear with the current play of the Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle would appear to be if not the consensus winner then the clear cut favorite for the award.

We are often told that stars are created because we need them to be there to bring about a sense of security and our passion for the game . And I guess that this indeed true of any individual or team sport ! This year however we have seen the ascent of Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Bautista as their stars have risen into the stratosphere . The two players within the AL have all but a strangle-hold on the offensive categories within the AL . Suffice to say that without the duo in question their respective teams might not even be playing with any sort of the competitive juices to be had . And OK , each year for some reason the Blue Jays start fast right out of the gate only to stumble and fall before the halfway point in the season. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays , their fans and their front office they seem to have forgotten that the season is one of 162 arduous games and that you have to be in it for the long haul .

Both Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Bautista could very well be battling it out at the end of the season for the AL MVP Award if there’s to be any justice within the game , as the duo have stood head and shoulders above their rivals within the American League .

National League’s Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers holds his MVP award following the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. The National League won 5-1 . AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill …….

With the second half of the season resuming as of tomorrow it certainly will be interesting to see what transpires for the teams said to be in contention for their respective divisions as well as the wildcard berths within both leagues. And as a fan of the Atlanta Braves my greatest wish is to see the team make the postseason and simply acquit themselves as against any prospective opponent that they are likely to face . What happens thereafter all comes down to the breaks that they make for themselves rather than the opportunities offered them by an opponent .

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This season within baseball what thoughts if any do you have on the events that have taken place ? And how best do you feel that the league hierarchy can deal with some of the problems that they now face ? And what team or teams , player or players have actually surprised you with their performances so far ? Simply chime in with a comment as you deem fit .

Alan aka tophatal …….. https://tophatal.wordpress.com

Contact tophatal @ …….. rapptu@gmail.com

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(1) FILE – In this April 26, 2011, file photo former New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez throws a pitch during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. The Milwaukee Brewers acquired former All-Star reliever Francisco Rodriguez and cash from the New York Mets on Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in exchange for two players to be named. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta ….

(2) American League’s Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays is tagged out at home plate by National League’s Brian McCann of the Atlanta Braves after trying to score on a hit by American League’s Adrian Beltre of the Texas Rangers during the fourth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. The NL would go on to defeat the AL 5-1 . AP Photo/David J. Phillip ….

(3) PHOENIX, AZ – JULY 12: A general view of the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images ….

(4) (L-R) National League All-Star Jair Jurrjens (49) of the Atlanta Braves, National League All-Star Starlin Castro (13) of the Chicago Cubs, National League All-Star Brandon Phillips (4) of the Cincinnati Reds, National League All-Star Joey Votto (19) of the Cincinnati Reds and National League All-Star Jay Bruce (32) of the Cincinnati Reds stand before the start of the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images ……

(5) (L-R) American League All-Star Josh Hamilton (32) of the Texas Rangers stands with American League All-Star Adrian Beltre (29) of the Texas Rangers and American League All-Star David Ortiz (34) of the Boston Red Sox before the start of the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images …..

(6) (L-R) Daniel Hernandez Jr. and Joe Garagiola Sr. throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. Hernandez is credited with helping to save U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in January and Garagiola was a former MLB player and long time announcer. Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images ….

(7) American League All-Star Carlos Quentin (20) of the Chicago White Sox swings during an at bat in the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images ….

(8) PHOENIX, AZ – JULY 12: National League All-Star Brian Wilson(38) of the San Francisco Giants reacts with teammates catcher National League All-Star Miguel Montero (26) of the Arizona Diamondbacks and National League All-Star Joey Votto (19) of the Cincinnati Reds after making the save to win the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field on July 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The National League defeated the American League 5-1. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images ….

(9) American League’s Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox hits a solo home run during the fourth inning of the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin ….

(10) National League’s Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers holds his MVP award following the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. The National League won 5-1 . AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill …….
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MLB News

MLB Standings

MLB Wildcard standings

MLB Schedule 14th July 2011

MLB Probable starters 14th July 2011

MLB Stats

American League Category leaders alongside

Batting Avg —- Adrian Gonzalez

Hits —- Adrian Gonzalez

Home runs —-Jose Bautista

RBI’s —- Adrian Gonzalez

Pitching

Wins —- C C Sabathia

ERA —- Jered Weaver


National League
Category leaders alongside

Batting Avg.Jose Reyes

Hits —- Jose Reyes

Home runs —- Lance Berkman

RBI’s —- Prince Fielder

Pitching

Wins —- Jair Jurrjens

ERA —-
Jair Jurrjens

2010 MLB Awards