2013 Atlanta Braves Preview

April 1, 2013

The Atlanta Braves open the season tonight at home against the Philadelphia Phillies.  The Braves won one of the National League Wild Card spots, but lost in the Wild Card Game to the St. Louis Cardinals.

This season stands to be not much different, as the Braves will once again be in a close fight with the Washington Nationals in the National League East.

So let’s look at how the Atlanta Braves shape up as they open the 2013 season.

Starting Lineup

This is one of the deepest lineups in Major League Baseball, if everyone plays to their potential.

SS Andrelton Simmons will be asked to hit lead-off, a position he has thrived in so far in Spring Training and for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.

The Braves did acquire both Upton brothers in the offseason.  They signed CF B.J. Upton to a five-year deal, and traded for LF Justin Upton from the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The Uptons, paired with RF Jason Heyward, stands to be one of the best outfields, offensively and defensively, in baseball.

2B Dan Uggla had a tough year in 2012, including briefly losing his starting job near the end of the season.  However, Uggla went to training camp in great shape, and is poised for a comeback season.  Uggla is a streaky hitter, but it would be surprising to see him duplicate 2012.

There are two main questions, catcher and third base.  C Brian McCann will miss the start of the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery.  C Gerald Laird and C/LF Evan Gattis will share time behind the plate until McCann returns.

However, even when McCann returns, which one will?  Will it be the former All-Star who is one of the best hitting catchers in the game?  Or will it be the injury-plagued catcher who has his moments, but it’s an overall struggle?  McCann is in the last year of his contract, so there is some incentive to have a great season.

Chipper Jones retired after the 2012 season, meaning there is a bit of a question as to who will man the hot corner.  The Braves first option, Martin Prado, was traded to get Justin Upton.  Atlanta also acquired veteran 1B/3B Chris Johnson in the Justin Upton deal.  He figures to get a lot of playing time, including starting at third base.

The Braves also have 3B Juan Francisco, who filled in at times for Jones in 2012, but seemed to go in and out of manager Fredi Gonzalez’s doghouse during the year.  At least to start the season, the Braves will likely platoon Chris Johnson and Francisco.

The good news for the Braves:  there is enough offensive potential, that if a spot or two struggles in the lineup, other guys can fill the void.

Bench

Some of the key bench players from the last few years are gone.  1B/OF Eric Hinske is off to Arizona and C David Ross is now playing in Boston.

The 2013 bench will feature either Chris Johnson or Francisco, depending on the starting pitcher, and OF Reed Johnson, acquired from the Cubs in 2012, as the top pinch-hitters.

C Gerald Laird will replace Ross as McCann’s backup, but as previously mentioned, will be starting a lot during the first few weeks.

OF Jordan Schafer returns to the team, and figures to offer speed off the bench in late game situations.  IF Ramiro Pena will serve as a backup for the infield positions.

Starting Rotation

The Braves’ rotation features a mix of young and veteran pitchers.  RHP Tim Hudson is the leader of the staff, and will lean on LHP Paul Maholm to be another veteran innings-eater for the rotation.

RHP Kris Medlen and LHP Mike Minor will look to capitalize on stellar ends to 2012.  Medlen could not be hit as soon as he entered the starting rotation.  Minor stepped up after he was given a vote of confidence by not being sent to AAA mid-season.

Top-prospect RHP Julio Teheran will be the fifth starter, at least until RHP Brandon Beachy returns from Tommy John Surgery around the All-Star Break.

Bullpen

One of the best bullpens in baseball in 2012 actually got stronger, but not without some concerns.

The team maximized it’s trade of RHP Tommy Hanson to the Angels by getting in return RHP Jordan Walden, a hard-throwing right-handed reliever.

Walden’s acquisition will prove to be even bigger if LHP Jonny Venters is out for a long period of time with an elbow injury.  However, with Walden, LHP Eric O’Flaherty, and RHP Craig Kimbrel helps shorten the game for the rotation.

If the rotation does struggle, that is where a weakness may be exposed.  RHP Cristhian Martinez is a proven swing-man, and RHP Cory Gearrin, LHP Luis Avilan, and RHP Anthony Varvaro will need to prove early on to Gonzalez that they can be trusted like the back-end of the bullpen.

Organizational Depth

This is the other concern for the Braves.  If many injuries or needs arise, there is not a whole lot of proven depth in the organization.

IFs Tyler Pastornicky and Paul Janish, and OF Jose Constanza stand to wear out the path between Atlanta and Gwinnett as needs arise in 2013.  Janish will miss the first few weeks as he recovers from shoulder surgery.

1B/OF Joe Terdoslavich, OF Jordan Parraz, IF Blake DeWitt, 1B Ernesto Mejia, and C/LF Evan Gattis (although he is on the Opening Day Roster) will also get looks if any player is out for an extended period of time.

Proven pitching below the major league level is a little more concerning.  RHP David Carpenter is the only one who pitched in the majors in 2012.  However, it would not be surprising if the team found a veteran reliever or two to stash at AAA.

RHPs David Hale and J.R. Graham, and LHPs Sean Gilmartin, Yohan Flande, and Alex Wood will help if some more starters (or relievers) are injured or struggle.  Carpenter, RHP Wirfin Obispo (who impressed in Spring Training), and LHP Dusty Hughes provide depth for the bullpen.

2013 Outcome

The Braves are improved from 2012, but so is the division rival Washington Nationals.  However, there is little doubt that the Braves can return to the playoffs in 2013.  The Braves should make it into the divisional round, but the National League is overall pretty strong.  If the Braves win a Wild Card spot, they would likely have to face the Nationals in the first round.

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2013 MLB Preview

March 31, 2013

Opening Day of the 2013 Major League Baseball season is finally here, as the Texas Rangers welcome the Houston Astros to the American League.  It has been a long spring training, since it was a World Baseball Classic year.

So, here are preview capsules for each team, along with predicted finishes, and then a World Series pick.

American League East

Toronto Blue Jays (Last year:  73-89, 4th AL East) – There is not a team in MLB who make a bigger offseason splash than the Blue Jays (the Braves are a close second).  Here are all the players they brought in figuring to be major contributors in 2013:  SS Jose Reyes, OF Melky Cabrera, 2B Emilio Bonifacio, 3B Maicer Izturis, RHP R.A. Dickey, LHP Mark Beuhrle, RHP Josh Johnson, and LHP J.A. Happ.  Don’t forget this team already has RF Jose Bautista and 1B Edwin Encarnacion.  The only question mark is whether John Gibbons is really the manager for this job.  The Blue Jays have an opportunity to put the ‘world’ back in “World Series,” but John Gibbons has not proven he can lead a team to the playoffs.  Despite that, the talent cannot be ignored, and the Blue Jays will make a deep run in the postseason, which will include winning the division.

Tampa Bay Rays (Last year:  90-72, 3rd AL East) – What could last season have been for the Rays if 3B Evan Longoria was healthy?  The Rays finished with 90 wins without its franchise player in the lineup for a large chunk of the season.  The lineup is solid, with the additions of SS Yunel Escobar, 2B Kelly Johnson, and 1B James Loney.  LHP David Price returns to anchor the rotation, and RHP Fernando Rodney is back to close games out.  The Rays will be a major contender in 2013, and will take one of the wild card berths.

Baltimore Orioles (Last year:  93-69, 2nd AL East, Wild Card winner) – Will this be the team that finally breaks the tendency for manager Buck Showalter?  He always turns a team around, leads them to the playoffs, and follows it up with a mediocre season.  However, the core of this team returns.  In addition, 2B Brian Roberts and OF Nick Markakis enter the season healthy.  3B Manny Machado will man the hot corner all year, and C Matt Wieters is poised for another big year.  The bullpen is solid, but the question will be if the starting pitchers can consistently pitch 6-7 innings every night.  It was a breakthrough year for the Orioles in 2012, but some teams have gotten much better in the division.

Boston Red Sox (Last year:  69-93, 5th AL East) – It could be another long season in Boston, but at least this year, it will be done the Red Sox way.  Bobby Valentine never should have been brought in as the manager, and the record showed that.  John Farrell returns to the team that made him a hot commodity a few years ago.  Offensively, this team has its stars, but it still could be a struggle to score runs.  DH David Ortiz will start the season on the disabled list.  Luckily for Boston, it has a great pitching staff.  RHP John Lackey returns, and the team added RHP Ryan Dempster in the offseason.  This team (keyword) will be improved, but will miss the playoffs again in 2013.

New York Yankees (Last year: 95-67, 1st AL East, best record in AL) – It would take an unbelievable season for the Yankees to repeat what they did last year.  They just aren’t as good.  The Yankees’ pitching staff is decent, it will have to win a lot of games for this team.  The projected Opening Day lineup will be without OF Curtis Granderson, SS Derek Jeter, 3B Alex Rodriguez, and 1B Mark Teixeira, who all are out with injuries and will start the season on the disabled list.  It is very rare when the question for a Yankees’ team is whether they will have enough offense to win, but that is the case in 2013.  It will have to be Joe Girardi’s best season as a manager to get this team back to the playoffs.  But it will be fun watching RHP Mariano Rivera’s retirement tour.  The bigger question is whether he is the only Yankee on that tour.

American League Central

Detroit Tigers (Last year: 88-74, 1st AL Central, AL Champs) – Where will you go to find outs in this lineup?  There is a hole here and there, but the addition of OF Torii Hunter and the return of DH Victor Martinez will make a huge difference.  The rotation is solid, but the only big question mark for the Tigers is the bullpen.  The team let once perfect closer RHP Jose Valverde leave in the offseason, and was hoping rookie RHP Bruce Rondon would step into that role.  That’s not going to happen, as Rondon has been sent back to AAA.  The Tigers will return to the playoffs, winning the division again in 2013.

Kansas City Royals (Last Year:  72-90, 3rd AL Central) – 2013 will be a make-or-break-year for the Royals and its manager, Ned Yost, and general manager, Dayton Moore.  If everyone remains healthy, there is no reason to believe this team cannot contend in 2013.  3B Mike Moustakas and C Salvador Perez are both stars in the making, and along with LF Alex Gordon and DH Billy Butler, should provide plenty of pop for Kansas City.  The major upgrade for the Royals in the offseason was bringing in RHP James Shields and RHP Wade Davis, which will significantly bolster an otherwise weak rotation the last few seasons.  This team probably ends up being on the outside looking in, but will contend in 2013.  However, if this team gets off to a bad start, Yost won’t make it through the season.

Cleveland Indians (Last Year:  68-94, 4th AL Central) – If the season ended in July, the Indians would have been in a good spot last year to make the playoffs.  However, August and September sealed Manny Acta’s fate.  So after a year off, Terry Francona returns to the dugout, hoping that he can resurrect one of the top franchises in the 1990s.  This team, surprisingly, has one of the best lineups in baseball, especially with the acquisitions of OF Michael Bourn, 1B Nick Swisher, DH Mark Reynolds, and OF Drew Stubbs.  The bullpen is one of the better ones, with RHP Chris Perez and RHP Vinnie Pestano closing out games.  The one weakness, is the rotation.  However, if they live up to their potential, the Indians could surprise some people in 2013.

Chicago White Sox (Last Year:  85-77, 2nd AL Central) – At the start of each season, you want to be able to see how a team improved through the offseason.  For the White Sox, there was no major improvements.  The two biggest offseason acquisitions were 3B Jeff Keppinger and RHP Matt Lindstrom.  This is still a solid team, but while others improved, the White Sox did nothing.  It’s not a rebuilding situation for Chicago, but it leaves you scratching your head and wondering where they are going.  One suggestion, not to the playoffs in 2013.

Minnesota Twins (Last Year:  66-96, 5th AL Central) – It is probably not going to be pretty for the Twins again in 2013.  They do have a solid heart of the lineup, when everyone is healthy, with C Joe Mauer, LF Josh Willingham, and 1B Justin Morneau.  But there is really nothing else exciting about this team, other than players building up service time.  For many other teams, a lot of the players that will make the Twins, would probably be competing for jobs.

American League West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (Last Year:  89-73, 3rd AL West) – The Angels are likely on top of the list of teams that have underachieved the last few years.  The pieces are in place again in 2013 to make a run.  OF Mike Trout will try to duplicate his rookie year, and will be joined in the outfield by OF Josh Hamilton.  That’s not even bringing up the name 1B Albert Pujols yet.  This is a deep rotation, especially if everyone pitches as well as they are capable.  The one weakness may be the bullpen, which will start the season without RHP Ryan Madson.  Anything short of a division title will be a disappointment.

Texas Rangers (Last Year:  93-69, 2nd AL West, AL Wild Card winner) – The Athletics’ surprise was the Rangers’ demise in 2012.  One of baseball’s best during the entire season, struggled down the stretch.  This team will have to try and cope without OF Josh Hamilton, who went to a division rival.  However, this team will be right in the thick of it all, with DH Lance Berkman and 3B Adrian Beltre in the heart of the order.  The rotation is still as solid as it gets, with LHP Matt Harrison, LHP Derek Holland, and RHP Yu Darvish.  Though it will be interesting to see how Darvish does in year two.

Oakland Athletics (Last Year:  94-68, 1st AL West) – What a surprise it was to see the Athletics make the playoffs in 2012.  More impressively, they claimed a division that had Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton playing in it (on separate teams, then).  As for 2013, most of the same pieces return, so many players have the experience of last year.  It would be another huge shocker if Oakland can return to the playoffs in 2013, but that is the same thing we said last year.

Seattle Mariners (Last Year:  75-87, 4th AL West) – The Mariners won’t make the playoffs in 2013, but will make a difference in who does.  This is an improved team, with several guys starting to figure things out, especially 1B Justin Smoak.  It will also help having DH Kendrys Morales and OF Michael Morse make up the middle of the lineup.  Pitching, other than RHP Felix Hernandez, will be a bit of a concern.  Thankfully for the Mariners, they won’t be the worst team in the division.

Houston Astros (Last Year:  55-107, 6th NL Central) – Welcome to the American League West, Houston.  That’s about the only exciting statement when talking about the 2013 Astros.  This was the worst team in 2012, and will be competing for that title in 2013.  Bo Porter will be tasked with trying to avoid that as the new manager.  Like with the Twins, there are a lot of players that would not be on an Opening Day roster without being in the Houston organization.  Although some interesting players to watch with Houston include 2B Jose Altuve, DH Carlos Pena, RHP Philip Humber, and LHP Erik Bedard.

AL Wild Card:  Rays over Rangers

ALDS:  Tigers over Rays, Blue Jays over Angels

ALCS:  Blue Jays over Tigers

National League East

Washington Nationals (Last Year:  98-64, 1st NL East, Best Record in NL) – The Nationals were good in 2012, and managed to get better for 2013.  Washington filled two major needs by bringing in OF Denard Span and RHP Rafael Soriano.  These moves put the players who were filling them into roles that better suit this team.  RHP Stephen Strasburg will not be worrying about any innings limits this season.  The Nationals got a taste of being in the postseason last season, and will look to go even deeper in 2013.  This team will make a deep run in the playoffs.

Atlanta Braves (Last Year:  94-68, 2nd NL East, Wild Card Winner) – The Braves made the second biggest offseason splash by bringing in both Upton brothers to play the outfield.  This Braves teams will certainly push some offensive records, specifically runs and strikeouts.  The only weakness in this lineup is at third base, trying to find Chipper Jones’ replacement.  The season will start with a platoon between Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson.  The rotation is solid, and the bullpen is as good as it gets, as long as everyone is healthy.  The Braves should make the playoffs again in 2013.

Philadelphia Phillies (Last Year:  81-81, 3rd NL East) – The Phillies likely will miss the playoffs for the second straight year, but that is not saying they won’t compete.  This is a solid team, but they play in the same division as Atlanta and Washington.  Philadelphia brought in 3B Michael Young and OF Ben Revere to help the lineup, and will both play key parts in the Phillies’ lineup.  The concern remains pitching.  The Phillies spent some money to improve the bullpen, but it might prove not to work.

Miami Marlins (Last Year:  69-93, 5th NL East) – Let’s just pretend last year didn’t happen for the Marlins.  It was a disaster.  Management cleaned house, including replacing manager Ozzie Guillen with Mark Redmond.  Miami is trying to go back to the Florida Marlins’ way of winning baseball, as opposed to the spending spree from last year.  This will actually be a fun team to watch, because they have some good young talent.  With that said, this team is still not very good.

New York Mets (Last Year:  74-88, 4th NL East) – This team is not very good.  The Mets will have to out-score its opponents offensively to win, because the pitching will not hold its opponent off.  That’s also saying that the Mets will get enough offense.  Like the Astros and Twins, there are a lot of guys that might not have major league jobs on Opening Day, if it wasn’t for the Mets.  It’s going to be a long season.

National League Central

Cincinnati Reds (Last Year: 97-65, 1st NL Central) – This is a solid team, and should make the playoffs again in 2013.  This offense will score runs, and it will be helped with OF Shin-Soo Choo coming over from Cleveland.  The decision to put LHP Aroldis Chapman back as the closer is absolutely correct.  It certainly makes the bullpen stronger, and doesn’t really hurt the rotation.  This is a good team, but are they a great team?  Only time will tell.

St. Louis Cardinals (Last Year:  88-74, 2nd NL Central, Wild Card winner) – Much like last year, you look at the make-up of this team and wonder how they will compete in 2013.  However, what St. Louis always does right is they find baseball players, which can’t always be said about other teams.  A healthy 1B Allen Craig will make a huge difference.  Getting a healthy 3B David Freeze will make a bigger one.  Pitching could be a struggle for St. Louis.  Closer RHP Jason Motte will start the season on the disabled list, and RHP Chris Carpenter is likely to miss the entire 2013 season.  But St. Louis always finds a way to win.

Milwaukee Brewers (Last Year:  83-79, 3rd NL Central) – This isn’t a bad team, just really isn’t good enough.  Injuries became a big story last year, and already are this year for the Brewers.  Any offense that has OF Ryan Braun leading it will be a force.  It will be even better once it gets 1B Corey Hart back from the disabled list.  The team signed RHP Kyle Lohse to fill out its rotation right before the regular season, and he will help RHP Yovani Gallardo lead the staff.  The back-end of the bullpen is solid, but getting it to closer RHP John Axford could be an issue.  The Brewers will contend for most of the season, but might come up a little short.

Pittsburgh Pirates (Last Year:  79-83, 4th NL Central) – This team is very similar to the Brewers, not too bad, but just not good enough to realistically contend.  This team will make a difference in who does make the playoffs.  OF Andrew McCutchen is the star of this team, and needs either or both OF Starling Marte and 3B Pedro Alvarez take the next step in their development.  The rotation is solid, but the bullpen has a whole lot of unknowns.  The Pirates keep showing the potential of breaking through, but keep coming up a little short.

Chicago Cubs (Last Year:  61-101, 5th NL Central) – The bad news for the Cubs is that the Astros aren’t in the division anymore to keep them from finishing last.  The good news is that this team won’t be as bad as last year’s team.  1B Anthony Rizzo should take the next step in his development.  This team will need offense, because there is not a lot of pitching to save the Cubs.  The biggest story will be whether OF Alfonso Soriano is traded during the season.

National League West

Los Angeles Dodgers (Last Year:  86-76, 2nd NL West) – It was amazing how well the Dodgers competed with all of the off-the-field issues from last year.  Once that was cleared up, they made some really big deals, and spent a whole lot of money.  Based on those acquisitions, this team should be one of the favorites to win the National League.  Like the Blue Jays, the question will remain whether manager Don Mattingly is the right man for this job.  If this team isn’t on top early, it would not be shocking to see an early move.  One way or another, this team should make the playoffs.

San Francisco Giants (Last Year:  94-68, 1st NL West, World Series Champs) – The Giants are poised to make it back-to-back championships, with just about the same players they won it all with in 2012.  There were no major changes in the offseason, just bringing back some of the key players from 2012, like 2B Marco Scutaro.  The pitching staff is mostly still together, with the exception of former closer RHP Brian Wilson.  RHP Tim Lincecum is penciled in the rotation, but will have a short leash.  The Giants should return to the postseason in 2013, but another championship will be tough.

Arizona Diamondbacks (Last Year:  81-81, 3rd NL West) – The Diamondbacks will compete in 2013, but they probably won’t have enough to make the postseason.  Like the Brewers and Pirates, this is not a bad team.  They acquired 3B Martin Prado in the offseason, which will be a big boost and solidify what has been a revolving door at third base.  Several of the pitchers will have to prove that 2012 was not a fluke.  However, if everything goes right, a playoff run is not out of the question.

Colorado Rockies (Last Year:  64-98, 5th NL West) – The Rockies underachieved in 2012, making new manager Walt Weiss’ job even tougher to get the best out of this team.  This is a solid lineup, especially when OF Carlos Gonzalez and SS Troy Tulowitzki are healthy.  The biggest question, as it usually is with Colorado, is whether there is enough pitching.  The back end of the bullpen, RHP Rafael Betancourt and RHP Matt Belisle are proven pitchers.  However, everyone else, including the entire rotation, will need to prove themselves early in the season.  The other story-line with the Rockies:  perhaps 1B Todd Helton’s final season.

San Diego Padres (Last Year:  76-86, 4th NL West) – The Padres will have some problems if they can’t score, and can’t keep opponents from scoring.  3B Chase Headley is out to start the season, so it makes that lack of offense issue a little more glaring.  Without Headley, it makes it easier to pitch around the other top hitters in the lineup, 1B Yonder Alonso and OF Carlos Quentin.  The top of the rotation and back end of the bullpen are good, everything in between is adequate at best.  This could end up being another long season in San Diego.

NL Wild Card:  Braves over Giants

NLDS:  Nationals over Braves, Reds over Dodgers

NLCS:  Nationals over Reds

World Series Pick:  Nationals over Blue Jays, 6 games.

The team that used to be from Canada, beats the only team in Canada.  The Nationals are poised to bring a championship back to the nation’s capital.  Last year provided a taste of what postseason success can taste like.

Now, obviously, this is a guess.  That’s what makes baseball so great.  On Opening Day, every fan from every team thinks that theirs can win a World Series.

Happy Baseball Season!!


Gamecocks in the Coastal Plain League

May 30, 2012

Summer leagues provide an excellent opportunity for college players to work on their skills, typically using wooden bats.

The Coastal Plain League, a 14-team league covering Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina is one of those leagues.  The CPL has had 51 players go on to play in Major League Baseball, including Justin Verlander and Kevin Youkilis.

One of the CPL’s teams plays right here in Columbia, the Blowfish.  This could potentially be the Blowfish’s final season in Columbia, depending on what the city decides to do with the Capital City Stadium site.

Regardless, for those interested in following current Gamecocks throughout the summer, here is where they might be playing.  You might get a chance to see them in action this summer, right here in Columbia.  Players on the Gamecocks’ active roster will not report until after the team finishes its season.  The list is based on the college listed on the roster according to the CPL.


Asheboro Copperheads
– none

Columbia Blowfish – RHP Joshua Knab (RS-Jr.), SS/2B Graham Saiko (RS-Jr.), RHP Joel Seddon (Fr.), IF/OF Zack Smith (Jr.)

Edenton Steamers – none

Fayetteville SwampDogs – none

Florence RedWolves – UTL Connor Bright (Fr.), 1B/LHP Kyle Martin (Fr.)

Forest City Owls – RHP Hunter Privette (Jr.), RHP Drake Thomason (RS-Fr.), LHP Adam Westmoreland (Jr.)

Gastonia Grizzlies – none

Martinsville Mustangs – none

Morehead City Marlins – none

Peninsula Pilots – none

Petersburg Generals – none

Thomasville Hi-Toms – IF/OF T.J. Costen (Fr.)

Wilmington Sharks – none

Wilson Tobs – none

Last updated:  7-21-2012


How To Handle a Pitching Staff

May 21, 2011

One of my pet-peeves in watching any level of baseball is over-use of the bullpen.  Mis-management of the bullpen sometimes makes games unbearable to watch, especially in the college game.

Here are a couple of rules I wish more coaches would take into account when making decisions about the pitchers.  I reiterate, as I have in past posts, that I don’t have experience managing a pitching staff, just merely someone who has figured out what he likes over-time.

#1 – You don’t replace on pitcher, with a pitcher who throws with the same arm.

This is a tell-tale sign of over-management.  There is never a reason to replace one pitcher, with another pitcher who throws on the same side.  For example, in the middle of an inning, it makes zero sense to waste one right-handed reliever, by bringing in a second right-handed reliever.

This is a sign of wasting pitchers, and it somewhat plays right into rule number two,

#2 – Look further down the lineup than just the next hitter.

Managers and pitching coaches fall in love with the righty-righty, lefty-lefty matchups.  St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is a prime example of this.  He can use four pitchers in an inning just to get the matchups he wants.

Look farther down the lineup than just the next hitter.  Sometimes you will have a situation where if you just let the pitcher stay in the game a little longer, you can work around the righty-lefty situation, and not waste pitchers for just one batter.

I know the percentages say to make those moves, but I don’t want to be going into extra innings, and have to rely on my closer for multiple innings.

Which leads to number three…

#3 – Closers are meant for one inning, to ‘close’ the game.

In covering the South Carolina Gamecocks baseball team for the last year, I believe their bullpen is completely mismanaged.  Gamecocks Head Coach Ray Tanner and Pitching Coach Jerry Meyers should never be bringing in Closer Matt Price, in the seventh inning.

This is a problem that plagues college baseball more than Major League Baseball.  However, it makes no sense to me as to why you bring your closer in the seventh inning?  At the point when you need him to get outs, he is tired.

But there are exceptions to every rule…

#4 – Everyone can pitch in championship deciding/elimination games.

There are exceptions, and in ‘Game 7,’ elimination games, or championship deciding games, any of these rules are disregarded.

The most important thing is to win, and anything necessary to secure that win must be done.  Everyone on the pitching staff must be ready to pitch, even the previous day’s starter.

My philosophy is that when you have to win, I’ll worry about what to do next when it comes.  In championship scenarios, there is no next game, so why are you conserving pitchers?

Of course there are situations that come up all the time that would make me a hypocrite over these rules.  But in my 15 years of watching baseball, it is how I think a pitching staff should be handled.


Posada’s Denial Next of Reasons Baseball’s Greats Retire

May 15, 2011

New York Yankees’ DH Jorge Posada asked out of the lineup in Saturday’s game against the Boston Red Sox after Manager Joe Girardi put him ninth in the batting lineup.

The Yankees are currently exploring their options as to what to do with Posada, after GM Brian Cashman says Posada did not want to bat that low in the lineup.  Posada, 39, is currently hitting .165, and is making over $13 million this season.

For the career-Yankee, this might be the moment people remember as he retires.  Posada has battled injuries the last few seasons and is clearly at the end of the career.  The Yankees are forced to make a decision to a loyal member of the organization.

However, ‘the refusal,’ could be seen as joining a recent list of other baseball stars who have had big off-field events lead to retirement.

I hate to put him in this category, but former Seattle Mariners and Cincinnati Reds OF Ken Griffey Jr.’s abruptly retired in the middle of 2010, after the slugger was no longer producing.

Griffey was on his victory lap, back with the Mariners, after spending several seasons with the Reds.  Griffey had become somewhat of a distraction, no longer producing enough to be in the lineup, and according to some, was found taking a nap during a Mariners’ game.

After the leaking of ‘the nap,’ Griffey soon announced his retirement, and has since accepted a role in the Mariners’ front office.

From earlier this season, Manny Ramirez was hoping to show he had something left with fellow free-agent Johnny Damon when both signed with the Tampa Bay Rays.  Ramirez and Damon were both members of the 2004 World Series Champion Boston Red Sox.

Both were on the back end of their careers.  Ramirez played 5 games for the Rays this year before retiring, starting the season 1-for-17.

Everyone quickly found out why Ramirez retired:  the slugger was facing an one-hundred game suspension for a second violation of MLB’s drug policy.  One of the best hitters in the last 20 years, was busted for using steroids and ultimately retired because of it.

There are more examples.  Unfortunately for Posada, the odds that he’ll rebound from this, don’t look good.  But in a weird twist of fate, is this when I bring up that the Red Sox might be looking for a catcher?


Sports Take a Back Seat: Osama bin Laden Killed

May 2, 2011

Even for pure sports blogs, there are sometimes national news stories trump everything, this is one of those.

President Barack Obama announced just before midnight on May 1, 2011 that U.S. Forces had killed Osama bin Laden, almost ten years since the attacks of September 11th.

This is one of those moments in history you will remember where you were, getting ready for bed, playing video games, or cramming for that Monday exam, you will remember.

We often use that phrase to describe moments in sports, a Super Bowl winning kick or a walk-off hit to win the World Series.  This is one of those times, that sports takes the back seat.

It showed, at Sunday night’s New York Mets-Philadelphia Phillies when the announcement was made that the Citizens Bank Park crowd began chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!”

There are major moments in society that people will remember where they are the moment they heard or saw groundbreaking news.  This is one of them.  And sports take a back seat tonight and tomorrow.


Top 10 Sports Moments in South Carolina for 2010

December 31, 2010

As mentioned on Wednesday, December 29th’s edition of “Section 26 Sports”, here are the Top 10 Moments from sports in South Carolina for 2010.  As with the previous list, these are purely the opinions of the “Section 26 Sports” hosts.  Others might have certain things in different orders, added something, or omitted something.

10.  Denny Hamlin sweeps Mother’s Day Weekend at Darlington.

You knew that Hamlin would be a star when in his first race at Darlington, in a Nationwide Series car, finished in the top-10.  His performances at the track continued when he won the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington on Mother’s Day Weekend.

9.  Kyle Parker gets drafted in MLB, returns to Clemson.

Kyle Parker went to Clemson because they gave him an opportunity to be a two-sport star in baseball and football.  He has succeeded at both.

Parker was drafted in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft’s first round by the Colorado Rockies.  He wanted to play baseball, but wanted to play football, too.

Down to the last second of negotiations, Parker signed his contract with Colorado, but it allowed him to return to Clemson to play football in 2010.

Looking back on it, might not have been the best decision.

8.  South Carolina upsets #1 Kentucky in basketball.

Less than 36 hours from becoming the number-0ne team in the country, and less than 8 hours from speaking with President Barack Obama, Kentucky was beaten by South Carolina 68-62.

A $25,000 celebration later, and the Gamecocks are all over television, for managing to pull the upset.  Click here for the post following the game.

7.  Oliver Purnell leaves Clemson.

This story somewhat flew under the radar, but was very important nevertheless.

Following the Tigers’ season, Purnell left Clemson for DePaul, a program in the cellar of the Big East Conference.

For Purnell, it is a good move.  If he can turn around DePaul, it will put him in the upper echelon of coaches in college basketball, simply for his ability to take a bad program and make them winners.

6.  Marcus Lattimore recruiting-trail.

Where would the Byrnes star running back go was the question much of the first part of the year.  At the end, it came down to Auburn or South Carolina.

In front of his church, in a much lower-scale “The Decision” moment, Lattimore announced that he would attend South Carolina.

I guess you could say the rest is history.

5.  Clemson and South Carolina take the rivalry to Omaha.

In a repeat of an earlier College World Series, the 2010 edition would feature either Clemson or South Carolina in the finale.

South Carolina beat Clemson in back-to-back games to advance to the final, guided by a Michael Roth masterpiece in the first game, where they would eventually be crowned National Champions.

4.  Notable Deaths of South Carolina sport’s leaders.

2010 saw the loss of three noted people in South Carolina sport’s history.  Legendary radio voice of the Gamecocks Bob Fulton, former Gamecocks wide receiver Kenny McKinley, and former Clemson defensive end Gaines Adams all passed away.

McKinley’s and Adams’ death were both very shocking.  Adams, 26, passed away in January due to cardiac arrest.  McKinley, 23, passed away just a few months ago when he committed suicide.

Fulton’s death at age 89 meant the loss of a person whose eyes had seen many Gamecocks feats, and whose voice described the moments that Gamecock fans who could not attend the game, feel like they were in the front row.

3.  South Carolina upsets the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide.

In a year that saw the Gamecocks upset three number-one teams, the upset of Alabama was special.  The game drew ESPN’s College GameDay, a national CBS audience, and a sell-out crowd.

It was a game that proved to the SEC and the country that the Gamecocks would be a force, with their 35-21 victory over Alabama.

2.  South Carolina wins the SEC East.

Although it was very bittersweet, the Gamecocks achieved something it had never done before, making it to the SEC Championship game.  Unfortunately, they had to face an unstoppable Auburn team.

It is easy to go back and forth about how to rank this, considering the Gamecocks were the best in a mediocre division and were not competitive in the game.  Click here for the story on the Gamecocks securing the SEC East title.

1.  South Carolina Gamecocks are National Champions in College Baseball.

In all honesty, this was a no-brainer in determining this list.  The Gamecocks first national championship in a major sport ever, was the team’s back-to-back wins over UCLA in the final College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium.

Click here for the story immediately following the championship, and explaining why the city of Columbia had a right to go crazy over baseball.

There you have, the 10 reasons why 2010 in South Carolina sports will be remembered for a long-time.