2014 WORLD SERIES CHAMPION: DODGERS, TIGERS OR A’S?
Baseball’s deadline for trades-without-waivers was Thursday. For a change, there were plenty of significant deals.
After the trade dust settled, my big winners were Oakland and Detroit.
The A’s and Tigers added star lefty pitchers – Jon Lester and David Price, respectively.
Savvy A’s GM Billy Beane figured he needed one more top-shelf starter to beat Detroit in a playoff series. He thought his team had enough offense to swap slugger Yoenis Cespedes to Boston to obtain Lester.
Detroit countered by giving up Austin Jackson in a three-way trade to obtain Price from Tampa Bay. The Tigers will miss Jackson’s defense in center field, but now they have the starting pitching to tackle Oakland:
Detroit’s starting rotation for the playoffs: Max Scherzer, Price, Justin Verlander (the last three AL Cy Young Award winners) and – if needed -- Rick Porcello, if needed.
Oakland’s starting rotation for the playoffs: Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Sonny Gray, Sonny Gray and – if needed – Jesse Chavez.
The moves to add Price and Lester give the Tigers and A’s a significant edge over the Los Angeles Angels among the AL’s Big Three teams. The Angels have the offense to compete head-to-head in a playoff series against Detroit or Oakland, but their starting rotation simply doesn’t measure up: Garrett Richards, Jered Weaver, Tyler Skaggs (left Thursday night’s start with a tight forearm) or Matt Shoemaker and – if needed – Hector Santiago.
The Lester and Price moves are reflected in the new odds to win the AL pennant (from Westgate Las Vegas Race and Sports SuperBook): Athletics 17-to-10, Tigers 17-to-10, Angels 9-to-2, Orioles 8-to-1, Blue Jays 9-to-1, Seattle 20-to-1, Yankees 25-to-1, Royals 30-to-1, Indians 40-to-1, Rays 40-to-1.
The Dodgers didn’t make any moves at the trade deadline, wisely deciding to keep hot-hitting Matt Kemp. The Dodgers are baseball’s best team – in my opinion – and they’re finally playing like it.
Dodgers vs. Tigers or A’s would be a terrific World Series. It might even get surprisingly good TV ratings.
2015 BASEBALL HALL OF FAME BALLOT IS LOADED
The revised format for balloting for baseball’s Hall of Fame will further decrease the chances of known or suspected PED users from ever being elected.
Under the new rules, candidates for election to Cooperstown will be eligible for 10 years instead of for 15 years. A voter will be allowed to include a maximum of 10 names on his ballot. That number hasn’t changed.
At the very least, I believe voters should be required to include at least seven players on their ballots. Currently, too many voters vote for too few players.
Here will be more than two-dozen first-time eligible players on the ballot for the Hall of Fame Class of 2015. Here’s how I rank them:
Cinch to be selected on the first ballot – Randy Johnson.
Likely to be elected on the first ballot -- Pedro Martinez.
Possible first-ballot selection – John Smoltz.
Likely to be elected eventually – None.
Top first-timers who won’t ever be elected (in my order of achievement) -- Gary Sheffield…Nomar Garciaparra…Carlos Delgado…Brian Giles.
Decent careers but no chance to be elected – Darin Erstad…Jermaine Dye...Cliff Floyd…Jason Kendall…Mike Lowell…Troy Pericival
Taking up space on the eligible list (one and done) – Rich Aurilia…Tony Clark…Joe Crede…Alan Embree…Kelvim Escobar…Tom Gordon…Eddie Guardado…Braden Looper…Mark Loretta…B.J. Ryan…Jason Schmidt…Julian Tavarez…Ron Villone…David Weathers.
There will be 17 holdovers on the ballot. They appeared on at least percent of the ballots last season to remain eligible. Here’s how I rank them:
Absolutely deserve to be elected, the sooner the better – hopefully on this year’s ballot (in order of preference) -- Craig Biggio…Mike Piazza…Jeff Bagwell.
Decent chance to be elected before eligibility runs out (in order of preference) – Curt Schilling… Lee Smith…Mike Mussina…Edgar Martinez (much of career as a DH – it is an official position but some voters hold it against him)…Tim Raines.
Very good careers but probably not quite Hall-of-Famer worthy (in order of preference) – Alan Trammell…Don Mattingly…Jeff Kent…Fred McGriff…Larry Walker.
Should be elected but probably never will be because of suspected use of performance-enhancing drugs – Barry Bonds (record 7 MVP awards)…Roger Clemens (record 7 Cy Young awards)…Sammy Sosa…Mark McGwire.
Which maximum of 10 names above would you vote for?
My ballot for the Class of 2015 would be: Barry Bonds…Roger Clemens…Jeff Bagwell…Mike Piazza…Randy Johnson…Pedro Martinez…Craig Biggio…Edgar Martinez (a great hitter)…Lee Smith…Sammy Sosa (with some reluctance; Bonds and Clemens probably would’ve been Hall of Famers without PEDs…but probably not Sammy).
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED FANTASY RATINGS SHORTCHANGE BILLS
The fresh issue of Sports Illustrated feature NFL Fantasy Ratings of the top 32 players position-by-position. Not surprisingly, the trend continues of national publications underrating the Buffalo Bills:
Quarterbacks – EJ Manuel No. 24: “In Year 2, Manuel is well-cast as a fantasy backup or as a cheap wild-card starter in two-QB leagues.”
Running backs – C.J. Spiller No. 16: “While he may never completely shake off Fred Jackson, Spiller must get more touches if the Bills are to compete”…EDITOR’S NOTE: Amen!
Wide receivers – None…EDITOR’S NOTE NO. 2: Wait until next year.
Tight ends – None.
Kickers (15 listed) – None…EDITOR’S NOTE NO. 3: This is a joke, Dan Carpenter is an excellent kicker (33-for-33 field goals; 32-for-32 extra points last season; tied for 9th in NFL scoring…and he could score even more than 131 points this season. The Bills figure to move the ball and recent history suggests they’ll be kicking plenty of FGs in the red zone).
Defense/special teams (15 teams listed) – Buffalo No. 15: “A squad that had 57 sacks last year got even more formidable after the theft of LB Brandon Spikes from the Patriots.”…EDITOR’S NOTE NO. 4: I didn’t know Spikes is that good.
THE ANSWER MAN FIELDS A FEW QUESTIONS
Can the two trade-deadline additions to the New York Yankees – Stephen Drew and Martin Prado – help the team win the American League East?
Answer: Nope. Maybe Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in their primes could.
Pat Riley says his Miami Heat will be as good as any team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference this season. Is he serious?
Answer: Yes, assuming he was ignoring Cleveland, Chicago and maybe Indiana.
What do you think about Vin Scully returning next season for his 66th year as primary TV play-by-play TV man for the Los Angeles Dodgers?
Answer: Absolutely amazing. At age 86, he’s still the best in the business – and works all nine innings.
KERSHAW OR WAINWRIGHT FOR NL CY YOUNG?
Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) won again Thursday night, 2-1 over visiting Atlanta. And he wasn’t particularly sharp: 9 innings, 9 hits, 1 run, 0 walks, 9 strikeouts. Kershaw was the National League Cy Young Award winner in 2011 and 2013. At this point, it looks like a two-man battle for 2014 NL Cy Young:
Kershaw – 13-2 record; 1.71 ERA; 0.82 WHIP; 121 1/3 innings; 85 hits allowed; 15 walks; 150 strikeouts
Adam Wainwright (St. Louis) – 13-5 record; 1.92 ERA; 0.96 WHIP; 149 2/3 innings; 110 hits allowed; 34 walks; 122 strikeouts.
Wainwright has been great. Kershaw has been phenomenal.
SOME OTHER JUICY BASEBALL NOTES
+162…Oakland’s MLB-best run differential…Angels 2nd-best at +90.
.269, 1 HR, 14 RBI…Ichiro Suzuki’s batting line as the most-used right fielder for the Yankees (74 games)…Very un-Yankee-like to say the least.
Detroit has the last three AL Cy Young Award winners: 2011 Justin Verlander, 2012 Davide Price, 2013 Max Scherzer. 2010 AL Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez still is with Seattle.
San Diego has been shut out 16 times but the team batting average is up to .220.
The Miami Marlins have played in a MLB-most 42 one-run games (25-17 record).
Former Red Wing favorite Pat Neshek’s amazing pitching line for St. Louis: 48 games; 4-0 record; 0.83 ERA; 2 saves; 15 holds; 43 1/3 innings; 21 hits allowed; 6 walks; 43 strikeouts; 0.62 WHIP (walks + hits per inning).
Pittsburgh’s Pedro Alvarez leads MLB with 23 errors – and he’s a third baseman, not a shortstop.
The American League leads the National League (like always) 112-95 in inter-league play…Yankees 13-7, A’s 10-2, Miami 11-4…Phillies 1-8, Houston 4-10.
The Oakland Raiders ranked 32nd in average home attendance last NFL season (50,444) and 1st in average road attendance (75,135).
I completely missed this social note – maybe you did, too: Good guy Tom Golisano has been engaged to tennis great Monica Seles since June.
This week’s Major League Lacrosse Power Rakings: 1-Rochester Rattlers…2-Ohio Machine…3-Denver Outlaws…4-New York Lizards…5-Florida Launch…6-Boston Cannons…7-Chesapeake Bayhawks…8-Charlotte Hounds…The Rattlers (MLL’s top-rated defense) host the Machine (MLL’s top-rated offense) Saturday, 7 p.m., at Sahlen’s Stadium.
Lost in baseball’s trade news was the retirement of 36-year-old Eric Chavez. The former Oakland, Yankees, etc., third baseman wasn’t a Hall of Famer, but he was a solid player for a long time: .268; 1,477 hits; 260 HRs; 902 RBI; 6 Gold Gloves; best season probably 2001 with the A’s: .288, 32 HRs, 114 RBI.