Tagged: Cubs

The Biggest Surprises of 2009

As presented to you by me, EJ the Kid From New York. Sorry that I couldn’t make a blog entry yesterday, I was babysitting kittens with wings.

Today, I’m doing a blog that I’ve planned on doing for a long, long time. You read the title. You know what this is about. As we head towards the All-Star Game(props to Prince Fielder for juicing those balls last night), it’s time to review the disappointing players and the players who have come out of the blue and delivered more than their ballclubs could’ve imagined.

I will separate all of the surprises in this ’09 MLB season by category. and give one to three things by category. So let’s get it started, as the Black Eyed Peas say.

We begin with one of the more obvious categories when you’re discussing baseball surprises.

The Breakout Stars

Aaron Hill, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays

There’s a second baseman in the American League who isn’t as tall and as strong-looking as a lot of his fellow baseball players, but he’s already hit 20 homers prior to the ’09 All Star break and has made the All-Star Game. To go along with that, he’s been great defensively, has 114 base hits, and steals a base every now and then. He’s been one of the main reasons his ballclub has been in contention in one of the toughest divisions in the game. He is not Dustin Pedroia, he is not Ian Kinsler, or Robinson Cano. His name is Aaron Walter Hill. He is 27 years of age. He plays for the Toronto Blue Jays. His 20 big flies already give him a career high, his previous mark being 17 home runs. This year, he is better than Dustin Pedroia, better than Ian Kinsler, better than Robinson Cano,, than Brian Roberts, than almost any second baseman in this game that you can give me(Chase Utley is a rare exception). Go ahead. I dare you.

Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles

Adam Jones was one of the players that the Orioles recieved in the Erik Bedard deal with the Seattle Mariners. and oh boy, is he showing it now. When you talk about athletes… when you talk about five tool players… when you talk about talent… this has to be one of the names you bring up, and if you don’t bring him up, shame on you. 12 longballs, 6 stolen bases, a .303 batting average, and not to mention Gold Glove defense. If he and Hill don’t win those Gold Gloves, it’ll be just another year in which the defensive award isn’t given to the best defensive player.

Honorable Mentions: Russell Branyan, Juan Pierre, Adam Lind

Comeback Kids

Andruw Jones, OF, Texas Rangers

You know the story.

Disappointments

New York Mets, 42-45, 6.5 Games Out of NL East

This is a ballclub that even I predicted would make the World Series– boy, how naive I was. These Mets have David Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado on offense, Johan Santana leading a rotation with talented on-the-rise sinkerballer Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez, a guy who can be so nasty at times and is inconsistent but he could work that out, and they had a bullpen that after blowing so many games last year was revamped and supercharged with Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez, and JJ Putz and they were going to be so good! What possibly could have happened? Well, almost all of the players I just named have been sidelined for a long while now with injuries, and after trading away so many minor leaguers for Johan Santana and Putz and not focusing on building that farm system, they have absolutely no depth. Depth is what separates the contenders(Red Sox, Angels, Dodgers) and the pretenders, namely the Mets.

Milton Bradley #21 of the Chicago Cubs walks back to the dugout after making the final out of the game as Brian McCann #16 of the Atlanta Braves walks to the mound on July 8, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Braves defeated the Cubs 4-1.

Chicago Cubs, 43-43, 3.5 Games Out of NL Central

The Chicago Cubs were supposed to, for the second consecutive year, be the powerhouse of the National League(mainly in the regular season). They had signed Milton Bradley, a guy who put up great offensive numbers in the 2008 season and who was a switch hitter, able to mix things up in that right handed heavy lineup. They had the returns of All Star starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano, and they had Gold Glover Derrek Lee at first who can also swing it with the best of ’em, and Hank Aaron Award winner and good fielding 3rd baseman Aramis Ramirez, and Rookie of the Year backstop and All-Star Geovany Soto. So what happened here? Basically, Milton Bradley, defensively and offensively, stunk. Really bad. Aramis Ramirez got injured. Alfonso Soriano, after a good start, couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat. And even though they haven’t been that bad this year, they certainly have disappointed their fans and a ton of people who predicted they’d win it.

Honorable Mentions: Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics

That’s it for today.

Stay positive, Yankee fans.

If there is anyone I missed, please say so in the comments below.

-EJ the Kid From New York 

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Yanks Sweep Cubs: Pena Wins Backup Infield Spot

The New York Yankees defeated the Chicago Cubs last night by the score of 7-4, and the Yanks won again today 10-1, sweeping the Cubs in the two game exhibition set at New Yankee Stadium. The two games were highlighted by the amount of home runs hit by the Yankees.

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In the first game, Robinson Cano put the trailing New York Yankees on the board with a 2 run blast to right field, which was not only the first home run at Yankee Stadium II(I guess, though it doesn’t matter yet), it was the first ever run scored by the Yankees at their brand new ballpark.

Later in the ballgame, Hideki Matsui hit a 2 run bomb right off the foul pole down the line in right field, giving the Bombers a 4-3 lead. Although a 4th run would be scored by the Chicago Cubs to tie it up, Cody Ransom would follow with a 3 run jack for New York, giving the Yankees a 7-4 lead they would never relinquish.

Derek Jeter hit a blast and Mark Teixeira slammed two home runs today, and a strong combined pitching performance by veteran southpaw Andy Pettitte and hard throwing new acquisition AJ Burnett held a strong Cubs lineup to only 1 run. That run was scored off the bat of Alfonso Soriano, who jacked a homer to left field.

So that series went spectacularly. I absolutely love the new ballpark, I think it’s going to be really fun to watch the season unfold down there in the Bronx, and I’m really hoping that no. 27 comes this season. Of course, my mind says otherwise, but that’s a completely different matter.

I found out something really awesome and strange today. Of course, y’all know how Cody Ransom, who was supposed to be the backup infielder, is going to be the starting third baseman for the Yanks until Alex Rodriguez can come back from his injury. That leaves an empty slot in the backup infield position. Well, we found out who would be taking Ransom’s place on the bench, and that is oddly not Angel Berroa, the favorite for the job who had a great spring offensively and beat out Hideki Matsui for the ROTY in 2003. Nope.

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It’s Ramiro Pena! How neat is that?

I mean, I have nothing against Berroa. I like the guy, I really hope he can make a comeback with the Yanks and that he’s able to redeem himself for the awful past few years. On the other hand, you’ve gotta admit, it’s always sweet when you see a young guy like Pena, who had never played past AA prior to this season.

So now it’s time for me to answer a few questions about this guy, as we wait for Opening Day in Baltimore on Monday.

Who Is Ramiro Pena?

 

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Ramiro Gauna Pena, born in Monterrey, Mexico, on 7/18/1985, is a Yankee prospect(I guess Yankee ex-prospect with this news) who is known for his glove work more than his bat. He has decent speed and below average power, but he is solid defensively. He has very good range, and although he has commited a large amount of errors in his minor league career, that’s something that can get better as he gains more expereince. As for his offensive production, I’d predict his stats would be something like this in 09:

185 at bats

.253 AVG, 1 HR, 5 SB, 20 RBI

The switch hitting young Pena made it to the All Star Futures Game in 2008, so that should give you an idea of how talented he is.

So how did he win this job? I’ll quote the MLB.com article:

Despite having not played above Double-A Trenton, Pena opened eyes in camp when Derek Jeter left the club for the World Baseball Classic, showcasing a slick glove and a developing bat. Pena batted .277 (18-for-65) with two doubles, a triple and seven RBIs in 30 Spring Training games for New York.”

Ramiro Pena Picture

I hope he’ll reach his potential and becomes a mainstay for the Yankees. He has the ability to replace Derek Jeter at shortstop, and while he certainly will not be the second coming of DJ, he could be a fairly productive player for the Yanks. Okay, maybe I’m overhyping on Pena. But I just love prospects, mmkay?

Ramiro Pena Picture

You know you like the pictures.

Dustin Pedroia Picture

Is that enough pics for y’all? Haha.

And that’ll be all. Stay positive, Yankee fans!

-EJ the Kid From New York  

This is Fantastic.

Yanks are playing the Cubs tonight at New Yankee Stadium. And I couldn’t be more excited. The stadium looks absolutely amazing (gotta thank Vanessa for those pics) the new players, the talent, it’s just… the regular season is back. I can just taste those hot summer days in June where I can wake up at 11 and watch the Yankees play at 1. It’s going to be so great. I can just feeeel it.

But that’s not here yet, so I should just calm down… I just, I can’t wait for the regular season. It’s going to be a really exciting season, I can feel it. For now, however, I’m just going to focus on what’s near. And what is near? The Cubs-Yankees game tonight. I’m ecstatic, for a number of reasons.

Reason no. 1: The Cubs! Playing the Yankees!

This has to be one of the biggest matchups that we never see happen. I mean, these two teams have had almost entirely different histories. The Yankees have their 26 world championships, their premier players. They are the winners of the league, where as the Cubs are the Lovable Losers. They haven’t won a WS in a century, and it’s got to kill them. Not only that, both of these teams are stacked. They’ve made solid offseason acquisitions, and they are both commonly predicted to reach the playoffs, and perhaps even the World Series. They’re that good.

Reason no. 2: The Return Of Alfonso Soriano

The ex-toolsy defensive troubled second baseman for the New York Yankees is currently the toolsy defensive troubled left fielder for the Chicago Cubs. It’ll be interesting to see what Soriano can do against his former ballclub. He is a key factor offensively for the Cubs.

Reason no. 3: THE FRIGGIN BALLPARK

This is probably the most obvious reason. Of cooourse I’m excited to see the New Yankee Stadium in action. A whole bunch of people are.

So let’s see, America. Let’s see what will happen in this exciting, surely can’t-miss ballgame. I’ll be watching in content, you can count on that.

Stay positive, Yankee fans!

-EJ the Kid From New York

Heilman to the Cubs and Garland to the D-Backs

Well Aaron Heilman’s tenure as a Mariner sure didn’t last too long.

After spending the first five years of his career as a New York Met, the right-hander Heilman was traded to the Mariners as part of the JJ Putz deal. Today, we have found out that Heilman is once again moving to a new ballclub, as he has been dealt to the Chicago Cubs for young infielder Ronny Cedeno and another guy who is being traded for the second time this offseason, Garrett Olson.

Man, I don’t know about you, but I’d hate it to be traded multiple times in an offseason. I’d feel somewhat betrayed. I’d be all “Oh man, this is going to be awesome. I’m a Mariner now. I get a fresh start. We’re gonna be better than last year. We have Beltre. This is the best team!” and then a few weeks later, be traded to the Cubs. I’d feel like they never wanted me there, like I was just there to be traded, and that’d get me riled up.

Now back to analysis.

First of all, Aaron Heilman is most likely going to be much better than he was in 2008. He’s been a good reliever throughout his entire career, he has good stuff, it was simply a bad year for him in 08. Now that he has a fresh start with the Cubs, he’s going to go back to his previous form, and he won’t have to deal with all that New York spotlight pressure.

It’s not like the spotlight is completely not there with the Cubs. After all, they haven’t won now for 100, 101 years and they have a huge fanbase that is craving for a championship. There’s a lot of pressure out there to win, win and win some more. However, no city could be more cruel, unforgiving and pressuring than the city of New York. If you have a couple of bad days, the fans will show no mercy and instantly plot on pushing you off a cliff where you will plunge to your death. Or at least trade you to the Padres.

As much as I love New York, the majority of our baseball fans are at least fairly stupid when it comes to the sport.

Not me though, obviously.

Jon Garland is a D-Back

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Jon Garland has agreed to terms with a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

If you’re a Diamondbacks fan and you’re excited because of this signing(I’m looking at you, xcicix), well, you shouldn’t be. I know it’s hard not to be excited when you acquire a new player, and if you know what you’re going to get out of Garland and you’re excited about it, then I’m fine with that. However, don’t think you’re going to get 210 innings and 15 wins.

First of all, the Angels’ 2008 lineup is significantly better than the Diamondbacks’ current lineup, and it’s the same with the bullpen. There’s more to getting wins than being a good pitcher. You have to have offensive support and your bullpen has to hold leads for you, Otherwise, you won’t have a win on your record. So don’t judge pitchers by wins.

Second of all, Garland was quite mediocre last year. He had a 91 ERA+ and a 1.505 WHIP. The fact that he had 196.2 innings doesn’t make him much more valuable. All he is is a below average innings eater, and he’s a good pitcher to plug in the 5 or maybe 4 hole. You guys are putting him into your 3 hole.

Unless he goes back to the pitcher he was with the White Sox, which was typically 200 innings and a 108 ERA+, he’s not going to be a good 3 starter. He’s simply not a good pitcher. You don’t make your rotation a whole lot better with this acquisition of Garland; sure he’ll give you innings, but if he’s ineffective in those innings, then he has almost no value at all. I’m aware I’m being harsh, but I’m speaking the truth. Garland was bad in 2008.

Well that’s about it for now, I might blog again later to break down the Andy Pettitte signing and discuss the Yankee bullpen.

Stay positive, Yankee fans!

-EJ the Kid From New York

 

 

 

Yankees: Back in Action

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Yankees: Back in Action

Indeed, the Yankees are back in action tonight. They’re playing at Yankee Stadium today against the Rays, who are in first place in the AL East. My father doesn’t think the Rays are legitimate… I don’t think they’re THIS good, but I think they’re a decent team with legit talent, and right now they’re really playing to their fullest potential. Evan Longoria is a great hitter as you all are aware of; they also have Dioner Navarro, their All-Star catcher who’s hitting .317. B.J. Upton is a great talent who has that rare combination of power and speed, and his average usually tops out at .290. Carlos Pena had kind of a fluke year last year, but he does have great power and plays good defense at first base. Carl Crawford has incredible speed, can hit .300 and can top out at about 20-home-runs… basically, he’s one-up of Jose Reyes.

Jose Reyes

Jose Reyes… I’m not sure, but I think I’m missing something here. How does a player who has 100-steal speed, but only a little bit of anything else; he usually has a .280 average, he hits up to 15 homers, and tops out at about 70 RBIs. Once you add declining defense that wasn’t all too good in the first place, and a total lack of focus at times… why is he considered such a superstar? His career OBP is .330, which is decent but not outstanding. He’s a good player, he’ll steal at least 70 bases, he’ll hit .280, he’ll reside at around 13, 14 homers, topping out at around 18, but let’s face it; the guy acts like a real baby at times, he plays bad defense, 20 homers looks like a stretch, and he looks like he’ll always fall just short of the .300 mark. I don’t think he’s one of the best shortstops in baseball, because really, to me, Reyes is like Juan Pierre with more power.

Rich Harden: The New Cub

Rich Harden was traded to the Chicago Cubs earlier today, along with Chad Gaudin, a starter/reliever. I didn’t think the A’s would trade Harden at first, because I thought that, with his age and his promise and all, Harden would be considered one of the future pitchers in the organization. But as time went on, I realized that was not the case and that Harden was off for sale. Honestly, I thought if Harden were to be traded, the Cubs would be getting him. It wasn’t like Sabathia where a bunch of guys have a good chance; it just looked like it would be Cubs or nothing for Harden.

Anyway, it’s clear that this trade was finalized because of Sabathia going to the Cubs. I know they were wanting to get Harden even before Sabathia was traded over to Milwaukee, but they really must have been fully encouraged after CC was traded to the Brew Crew. I guess they wanted to say, “Hey, you wanna trade for an ace? We can do that too. I am sure that I’m not the only guy who thinks this NL Central’s gonna be a whole lot of fun!

I haven’t even mentioned Chad Gaudin and the other players in this trade. Sean Gallagher had some spot starts while Carlos Zambrano was on the DL for the Cubs. Matt Murton is a pretty good hitting outfielder who really didn’t have enough playing time in Oakland. Eric Patterson is an infielder/outfielder with decent speed who plays decent defense and is an overall decent hitter. Josh Donaldson is a minor league catcher I know nothing about. If you want to know who Donaldson is, look him up on milb.com. All in all, these 4 players have pretty good upsides. They look like players who really fit the A’s mold well; they’re not flashy, they don’t have incredible talent, but they’ll get the job done. A lot of Oakland players are young guys who would be in the minors on other teams, not because they’re bad or not ready, but because they don’t have the spot in the majors. The Oakland Athletics are the soup kitchen for decent young players, and they’re really drinking up their soup right now.

Final Thoughts

We’re winning 2-0 right now, and it looks like we’ll keep the lead because even though Kazmir’s pitching well, Andy Pettitte is down right masterful today. Try and keep hope alive, Yankee fans… if not, then just be glad you’re not the Mets, who almost blew a nine-run lead last night. Hah-hah-hah! Those Mets…

-EJ/Kid From New York