Mascots? Who Needs Em?

The Chicago Cubs recently unveiled their first “official” mascot, Clark the Bear. This rather boring bear has absolutely nothing special about him… Oh now I see why the Cubs came up with him. May I note the 4 straight losing seasons and the fact that they haven’t won the World Series since 1908. Why didn’t they come out with a Billy Goat mascot? I don’t know either.

The Chicago Cubs organization says that this mascot will not be jumping on the dugouts, waving towels or interfering during the game. That leaves plenty of time before and after the game to annoy fans.

I have never been a fan of mascots for sports teams or schools. I’m guessing they were created to attract a younger audience to the sport or the team, but how many kids go to sporting events for the mascots? Sure they may crack a smile when they get a hug from a  random half-naked animal, but most likely the human being underneath the costume wants nothing to do with a smelly toddler.

The backwards baseball cap on Clark may spark some debate amongst the older Cubs fans. The folks who have been supporting “the Lovable Losers” for generations don’t like the gangster style that comes along with the backwards hat. But they do have a point. If Clark the bear did have pants, I would assume they would be down around his knees showing three-quarters of his paw print underwear.

No word yet on if Clark the bear is making more this year than a ball player on the Cubs, but I will keep you posted.

I sometimes wonder who is brave enough to wear the suit. Is there a rotation of guys? Is there one person? Does his girlfriend know about this job? Let’s hope she never finds out if something like this ever happens to Clark.

Despite my dislike for mascots, I do have a soft spot in my heart for Milwaukee’s sausage race and Washington’s presidential race. You gotta love these guys.

Feel free to share your opinion on Clark the Bear and mascots from around the world of sports.


The Chicago Cubs Have The Best Catching Duo

Yes, you read correctly. I am actually awarding the Chicago Cubs with an award. I’ve got to give credit to the Cubs catchers. What seemed like two misfits at the beginning of 2013, has turned out to be the best 1-2 catching combo in the Majors. (Stats current as of Sept. 9, 2013)

Welington Castillo and Dioner Navarro have put together great offensive numbers and defensive stats. Welington spelt with one “L”, is known more for his defensive style of play. Castillo has thrown out 26 base stealers which is good for 2nd in the MLB behind Russell Martin. Welington is currently the starting catcher and is only 26-years-old. He may not have as much power as Navarro but I’ll take any catcher hitting above .260. This is the first year Castillo has played more than 60 games and has played for the Cubs in parts of 4 seasons.

I don’t have enough good things to say about Dioner Navarro. He is the definition of a clutch hitter. The way he has been playing this year, with limited opportunities, I would easily let him or Castillo be the starting catcher. Navarro and Castillo are both under 6’0″ and over 200 lbs. Dioner has been tossed around to five teams including the Yankees, Dodgers, Rays and Reds. He was an All-Star in 2008 and his numbers are much better this year. The Venezuelan is now 29-years-old with 9 years of experience under his belt. Navarro is currently batting above .300 which is good for 4th in the MLB for catchers with more than 200 at bats.

Of course, these are not the first catchers I would pick in fantasy pool and probably not even in my top 10, but Castillo and Navarro are, in my eyes, the best catching combo of the 2013 season. Looking around the league, other teams have better starting catchers, but no team has a better 1-2 knockout like the Cubs. The only team I considered was the Atlanta Braves, but the inconsistency from Evan Gattis, put Chicago over the top. The Cubs have very few bright spots this year and I guess you could say this is the only positive offensively for Chicago.

Here are the side-by-side stats for the two catchers.

Catcher Games Played Hits Home Runs RBI Batting AVG. Height Weight (lbs.) Caught Stealing
Welington Castillo 105 94 4 25 .268 5’10” 210 26
Dioner Navarro 45 61 12 31 .305 5’9″ 205 11


Welington Castillo                                                                   Dioner Navarro

MLB Facts You Didn’t Know

These are not so much facts on Major League Baseball as it is on the athletes participating in it. I love learning about a player or a team. You know, that piece of info you can “WOW” your friends with. I find myself learning lots of new stuff from watching a baseball game. Major League commentators are overflowing with information they want to fit into conversation. I have lots of info that you didn’t know or didn’t think of about baseball and ballplayers.

Did you know that the average MLB, nine inning game is less than 10 minutes. Think about it.

Evan Gattis: The 27-year-old Braves rookie has many jobs before he returned to baseball in 2010. He was a night janitor, ski-resort worker, pizza man and worked at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Ben Zobrist: Tampa Bay’s infielder and former teammate Gabe Gross used to organize Bible studies with teammates. Zobrist also chooses not to drink, smoke or do drugs.

Brandon Moss: The A’s first baseman is distant cousins with country musician Alan Jackson.

J.J. Hardy: The O’s all-star shortstop’s father was a professional tennis player and his mother was a professional golfer. I guess pro sports runs in the family.

Alex Gordon: In 2006, before Alex had ever played a major league game, he had a Topps rookie baseball card. This card was released too early and is now considered and “error” card.

                                                                                        Alex Gordon

Brandon Morrow: The 6’3″ Blue Jays pitcher is a Type 1 diabetic. He wears an insulin pump to regulate his blood sugar.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Josh Beckett: Jacoby, alongside former teammate Josh Beckett, released a wine called ZinfandEllsbury through Charity Wines with all proceeds going towards several charities. Beckett’s wine was called Chardon-K.


A.J. Pierzynski: The aggressive Rangers catcher has made several appearances on wrestling shows including TNA Impact, WWE Raw. I have no interest in this sport, if you want to call it a sport.


MLB Overrated Players #1

Usually we hear more of underrated players who don’t receive enough or any credit. But this is not about giving praise, this is pointing out the facts that prove the player is not what they are hyped-up to be. Stats current as of August 22, 2013

Pedro Alvarez- Alvarez was supposed to be the next big thing in Pittsburgh a couple years ago. He was, until everyone saw his batting average. He is currently batting .233 for the season and despite his 31 home runs, he has failed to deliver in my eyes. Pedro has a career average below .240 and has struggled to make contact for 4 years. The 26-year-old needs to maintain his hot streak for the rest of the year as he heads into arbitration in 2014. I would want him hitting at least .250 I he was going to be the starting third baseman on my team. Everything seems to be going Pittsburgh’s way so I would assume no changes will be made at third.

Andre Ethier- The Dodgers have a tricky situation in Right Field. The young Yasiel Puig is ready to take over in right and the obvious solution would be to trade Andre for a prospect or two. I don’t think anyone would want the 31-year-old. Ever since Andre’s monster 2009 season, his stats have dropped rapidly. He is stuck with 9 home runs and is well below his career average in homers (17.3). Ethier is aging fast and his play does not seem to be improving. His massive contract doesn’t help. The Dodgers owe him $13.5 million in 2013 and that number will increase to $18 million by 2018. Time is running out for Andre and he better smarten up if he wants a shot at Right Field in 2014.

Josh Beckett- I’m sorry for hating on the Dodgers but Beckett and Ethier combine for a $30.5 million dollar salary and together they have brought a below average contribution to Los Angeles. Beckett currently sits on the DL and with his 0-5 record and 5.19 ERA I would prefer him there than pitching for my team. With the acquisition of Ricky Nolasco (10-9 3.42 ERA) the future doesn’t look bright for Beckett. Ever since the blockbuster deal between Boston and Los Angeles, everyone has not lived up to expectations with the exception of Adrian Gonzalez. Josh has not been the leader of the staff and at the moment would not even be on the pitching staff if I was managing. A nice trip to AAA would do the trick.


Pedro Alvarez                                                                   Andre Ethier



Run To First!

I apologize once again for my relatively long absence. I have been caught up in summer and have not had enough time to sit down and talk baseball.

I always knew that when a player hits a ball in fair territory, their job is to run to first base. Not to walk to first, not to jog to first, but to run to first. I have noticed an overwhelming amount of morning jogs to first base on a ground ball that could very easily be turned into a hit. I know some of you may be thinking I’m crazy and that these professional ballplayers put everything they have into helping their team. Then why do you see this happening from so many of your favourite stars today?

Wow what amazing hustle, what incredible speed. I notice at least one or two groundouts every game that could have been stretched into a hit or at least a much closer play at first. I understand on some groundballs to first there is no point running when it’s an obvious out. But when you hit a sharp grounder or slow roller to the left side of the diamond, hustle it out. They should run like its for an award.  I realize that this speed may cause injury, but the chances of it happening when your running to first is very slim… unless your Ryan Howard.

Whenever I hit a grounder in my games, I’m always running it out like there is no tomorrow. I can walk to first when draw four balls not when its the difference between one out or two thanks to an inning ending double play. Ever heard of a two-out rally? It is a simple change that many big leaguers today should consider. Why do we only see a hustle when someone lays down a bunt? Even that there only objective was probably to advance the runner. How about advancing the runner with a home run eh? That’ll really advance the runner as well as the pitcher’s ERA. All I’m saying is maybe we should see a little more of this.

Even though he was bunting a speedy guy like Jemile should never ground into a double play all year. For example, take totals from Jemile’s career and he has grounded into 8 double plays from 2011-2012 . Look at another similar sized player, like Zack Cozart and his total comes to 25 from the end of 2011-2013.

When a picture a hard runner, I think of Ichiro Suzuki. For years this guy has been bolting down the first base line. I’m not just saying this because he is a slap hitter, but he is practically half way to first before the fielder can even glove it. If hitters would just run like their contract is depending on it, I’m sure we would see a whole lot less double plays and some higher averages from the players we love.

A-M All-Star Team (MLB)

I apologize for my absence from my blog. I have been sidetracked with school, sports and teenage laziness. It’s time for the A-Z all-star team. This list highlights the first half of the alphabet with the best player representing each letter. For the 26 letters I will pick: 6 pitchers, 10 infielders and 10 outfielders. (All players are active).

(A) Elvis Andrus, TEX. He may not be the most powerful shortstop but Andrus provides that burst of energy that a recently offensively struggling Texas needs. He is still young at 24-years of age and has been to two all-star games. Elvis is a career .272 hitter and usually leads off in the batting order. Andrus has over 130 stolen bases and over 215 RBI in his career. Be sure to get to your seat early when your team is playing Texas, he leads off with a bang. (Honorable mentions: Jose Altuve, Alex Avila, Bronson Arroyo)

(B) Ryan Braun, MIL. The face of the franchise now in Milwaukee. Ever since Prince Fielder left Wisconsin, Braun has taken over as the leader but may be lacking some support on the lineup. The 29-year-old left fielder has over 200 homers and 675 RBI in his career. The career .304 batter has nothing salivating about his numbers in 2013. Braun maintains his headlining plays but Carlos Gomez is not a suitable man to protect Braun in the order. (Honorable mentions: Jose Bautista, Madison Bumgarner, Mark Buehrle)

(C) Miguel Cabrera, DET. Everyone’s pick would be Miggy for this category. He is just unbelievable. Cabrera is top 5 in the MLB in HR, AVG, RBI, Hits, Runs and Doubles. He had an all-star spot locked up before the season began and this years numbers are just the cherry on top. A whopping .320 hitter with over 340 HR and over 1190 RBI. Cabrera and Fielder are still the #1 three, four duo in baseball. The 10 year veteran is playing his best baseball ever. (Honorable mentions: Robinson Cano, Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Cain)

(D) Yu Darvish, TEX. There’s no sophomore slump in this guys repertoire. Darvish has been striking guys out like there’s no tomorrow. Yu is averaging 11.99 K/9 and leads the second place leader in strikeouts by 21! Darvish has more than double wins then losses in his career. Darvish’s lowest amount of K’s this year was 5 and he has 5 double-digit strikeout games. I know a strikeout is not the only way to get a batter out but those numbers are spectacular and I wish Yu the best on his 300 K’s quest. (Honorable mentions: Chris Davis, R.A. Dickey, Adam Dunn)

(E) Edwin Encarnacion, TOR. Edwin may not be the first player that comes to mind when you say “home run”, but he has 60 homers over the past 2 seasons and there is still lots to come. Encarnacion broke out last year when he exploded for 42 bombs. That was 16 more than his previous high. Edwin can play 1st, 3rd, LF or DH. Him and Bautista keep the home runs coming north of the border. (Honorable mentions: Jacoby Ellsbury, Andre Ethier)

(F) Prince Fielder, DET. I can’t pick Miguel and then not pick Prince. But lucky for me I had the stats to prove it. Fielder has shown the high average side to his game since signing with Detroit. His average rose 14 points in 2012 from his 2011 AVG. When he gets on base, Cabrera can drive him in. Prince has had 6 straight 30+ HR seasons to go along with 7 straight 80+ RBI seasons. Fielder has over 270 career homers and over 815 RBI. Prince should continue to hit sky-high home runs and make sky-high amounts. (Honorable mentions: Freddie Freeman, Dexter Fowler)

(G) Paul Goldschmidt, ARZ. This is the perfect example of a well-developed prospect I would want in my lineup everyday. Drafted 246th in 2009, according to ESPN, Goldschmidt weighs just 30 lbs. less than Prince Fielder. Mmmhmm. He hasn’t gotten the attention he deserves due to the low media franchise but Goldy is 4th in homers among all first baseman (15). He also has hit .286 for his career and those numbers are on the rise thanks to the hot start to this season. The Delaware native sounds more like a tractor salesman than a baseball player, but I would take any tractor seller who can hit over .300. (Honorable mentions: Curtis Granderson, Adrian Gonzalez, Carlos Gonzalez)

(H) Bryce Harper, WSH. When he first entered the league I wasn’t drooling over is play or his attitude but as all players  do, they grow on you. Why would I put Harper on this list? Well, that’s a clown question bro. Harper, still only 20-years-old, has the right amount of swagger that all young players need. His hot start has recently been slowed down due to some nagging injuries but still has put together 12 home runs in just 44 games played. When he hits a homer, he really hits one. Harper is known for his powerful swings and his quick trots around the bases after it. Washington doesn’t care how long he takes around the base path as long as that ball leaves the park. (Honorable mentions: Matt Harvey, Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay)

(I) Omar Infante, DET. These older infielders have never received the credit they deserve due to them being overshadowed by Fielder and Cabrera at 1st and 3rd. But Infante and double play partner Jhonny Peralta have been great so far in 2013. Infante is always a good bet to deliver that clutch hit or be the person to breakup the no-hitter. Omar hasn’t hit below .250 since 2005 and is usually good for around 8 homers a year. The second baseman is smooth on his fielding and throwing as only 1 out of the 6 positions he has played does he have a fielding% below .950. Infante is a good leader and hitter and should set a good example for younger players making their ways to the bigs. (Honorable mentions: Chris Iannetta, Raul Ibanez)

(J) Jim Johnson, BAL. Jim Johnson, certainly not the most notable closer, nor will he ever be. But in Baltimore he is doing the job better than anyone could ask for. 51 saves for the relatively new closer in 2012 and 24/26 so far this season. Jim had a brutal major league debut in 2006 as a starter. He lasted just 3.0 innings and gave up 8 ER. He got a regular job in the bullpen in 2008 and never had more than 10 saves until last year. Baltimore is lucky to have this 5th round pick closing for them. Johnson led the league in saves and played in his first all-star game. If Johnson can hold down the fort in the 9th than the young squad could be looking to a possible playoff spot. (Honorable mentions: Derek Jeter, Adam Jones, Josh Johnson)

(K) Clayton Kershaw, LAD. It seems that this kid and Adrian Gonzalez are the only bright spots on the Dodgers at the moment. Nothing seems to be going the LA’s way. I guess those hundreds of millions of dollars that the team spent hasn’t paid off just yet. Clayton has a miniscule 1.84 ERA which leads the NL. Compare that to his 5-4 record and you can see how the Dodgers have struggled. They can’t get this guy more wins when he is giving up just 1, 2, 3 runs a game. Kershaw is only 25-years old and looks like he’s been playing in the bigs since he was five. Clayton needs run support from the offensively lacking squad. Although his Cy Young, Gold Glove, 2 All-Star appearances and 2x ERA champ look good, these achievements can’t win your team baseball games. (Honorable mentions: Ian Kinsler, Matt Kemp, Paul Konerko)

(L) Evan Longoria, TB. Evan Longoria has the potential to be one of the best players in all of baseball. He has been stopped by long injuries preventing from showing his talent. Tampa Bay is not known for their power or extreme offense but with Longoria in the lineup, there is always a home run threat. Longo is in his 5th season but has never hit more than 33 dingers. He easily has the capability for 40+ with a healthy year. He has won several awards in Tampa and with his ability, he should win several more. A handsome guy who has helped his ball club to 3 postseason appearances. (Tim Lincecum, Jon Lester, Cliff Lee)

(M) Andrew McCutchen, PIT. Here is the true poster boy for 5 tool player. Cutch is batting .296 with 7 HR. This is considered struggling to cutch. Most guys would be delighted with these numbers but Cutch has so much more to show. He broke out in 2012 with 31 long flies and 96 homers. McCutchen would make any fantasy lineup look perfect. He provides that boost to the team that Pittsburgh would be seriously lacking without. Andrew sports those long dreadlocks and looks good doing it. He is dedicated to his a team and has won a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and the NL Most Outstanding Player in 2012. Andrew is a career .291 hitter and only 26-years-old. There’s plenty down the road for this youngster.

The Undervalued Job of a Relief Pitcher

It might be the last position you think of drafting first in your fantasy baseball league, but these guys work some of the most important innings of the ballgame. Relief pitchers are separated into five categories:

Closers- Usually working the 9th inning, secures the win by getting the final out of the game.

Setup- Normally pitches the 8th inning, he pitches before the closers. Does not get much attention thanks to the closer. Setup pitchers are usually paid less than the closer and less than the MLB average salary.

Middle Relief- Pitching the 5th, 6th, 7th innings are common for these guys. May pitch longer in a blowout game.

Left/Right Handed Specialists Pitchers who are inserted into a game during a later inning to get a key batter or batters out.

Long Reliever A pitcher who comes into a game when a starter leaves early due to injury, poor start, etc.

With the exception of a few closers, most relief pitchers go fairly unnoticed. They do not commonly win awards and no one is a shoe-in when it comes to the All-Star Game. You can’t even imagine what goes conversations take place in the bullpen. Out of the many baseball books I have read, there are some autobiographies that give details to the outrageous actions that go on before, during and after the game.

You know you’re a true baseball fan if you can name every member of your favorite team’s bullpen. Pitching staffs may include 10-13 pitchers. About 6-8 are relief pitchers. Multiply about 7 x 30 (teams) and you’re looking at about 210 pitchers around the league, who are all battling for spotlight. It is pretty hard to stand out from the pack, when you only get around one inning of work.

Next time a relief pitcher is struggling in the 6th or 7th inning, give him a break. He just wants a little attention. It gets pretty crowded in the bullpen.


Craig Kimbrel                                                                              Mariano Rivera