I was planning to write an entry about Max Scherzer and his first start of the 2013 season, but after reading THIS STORY at ESPN, I decided to take a slightly different route.
Entering the 2013 season, Scherzer has a chance to be one of the most dominant pitchers in all of Major League Baseball. Coming off a tremendous second half (8-2, 2.69 post All-Star Game), Scherzer will look to carry that kind of success into the season. A lot of people don’t know Scherzer’s story, but he’s pitching with not only a lot of determination, but a heavy heart, too.
It’s a story like this one that makes you realize the human side of the players we cheer for. We often think of athletes and celebrities as people on a different level than us, but at the end of the day, we’re not really that much different.
Baseball is more than a game for some people, it’s a way to help move on.
Yesterday afternoon the Tigers announced they reached a deal with Jose Valverde, signing their former closer to a minor-league deal. A lot of people made a lot of assumptions about why the Tigers would even think about bringing him back, and others felt this was a sign of Detroit panicking about their current bullpen. Personally, I think it’s a great signing.
For a guy who was listed as one of the top-50 free agents entering the 2012 offseason, Valverde found himself without a team during spring training. He was originally supposed to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, but decided against it due to personal reasons. If Valverde did pitch in the WBC, I feel pretty confident he would have found a contract offer somewhere. Instead, he ended up pitching a showcase for several teams in the Dominican Republic.
The Tigers liked the progress Valverde displayed in those sessions (velocity appeared to be back, plus was throwing several splitters), and decided it was worth giving him a chance to prove he can once again be the type of closer he was from 2010 through the first half of 2012. The best part of this contract is the fact that Valverde is guaranteed absolutely nothing besides a spot in Toledo’s bullpen. Worst case scenario, he opts out of his contract on May 5th (which he is allowed to do if he’s not on the Major League roster by then) and it didn’t cost the Tigers a thing. I’d imagine Detroit won’t even be able to sign Brian Wilson (who is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery) for such a low-risk deal.
My only concern with this deal, is how it will end up hurting the development of Bruce Rondon, who I do believe is the future closer for Detroit. Hopefully the Tigers will be smart enough to give both Rondon and Valverde a chance to develop, that way they’ll be able to figure out which (could also be neither or both) of them will be able to make the Tigers a better team. If that means we get a second helping of the Big Potato, I’m not opposed to it.
Back in October, I had a customer tell me that the Tigers should release Prince Fielder because if we’re paying him that much money, he needs to hit at least one home run every game. When baseball players are making over 20 million dollars a year, a lot of people are convinced that they don’t perform well enough for them to deserve making that kind of money. It got me thinking, what is a baseball player actually worth?
Whenever someone tells me that a baseball player makes too much money (usually the case with top-tier players, not so much rookies), I bring up the argument that actors and celebrities often make a lot more money while doing a lot less work. A top-paid baseball player is likely away from his family for half of the year and is constantly flying from city to city. Am I saying that it’s hard work? No, what I’m saying is that they’re making a much bigger sacrifice than most people realize.
Of course there’s also the aches and pains that come from playing baseball. Players are often rehabbing from surgery or other various operations. It’s almost unfair, but professional baseball players are not only expected to return to 100 percent quickly, but to do so in a very timely fashion. When a player has a surgery (for instance Tommy John), fans are constantly wondering how quickly they’re going to come back. They don’t realize the grueling rehabilitation process that comes with it.
Another thing you should realize is the shelf life for a Major League Baseball player is not very long. In fact, a 2007 study at the University of Colorado showed that on average, a baseball player’s career (position players, not pitchers) only lasts 5.6 years. Based on current minimum salaries, you’re looking at approximately five-million dollars in career earnings. Most people would love to make that much money in their lifetime, let alone over the course of five years. However, you have to realize how incredibly difficult it is to make it the MLB. You’re competing against tens of thousands of the best athletes in the entire world. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.
So when you look at the contracts for a guy like Justin Verlander and don’t understand why he’s going to be making 180-million dollars over the next seven years, you need to realize that his case is definitely the exception to the rule. When you’re arguably the best in the world at something, you deserve to be make more than anyone else who does your job. No, it doesn’t always work that way, but it’s hard to argue he’s not deserving or worthy of it. You’re welcome to blame the economics of baseball, but if you want players like Justin Verlander on your team, contracts like the one he just signed are the price you have to pay.
Today is a good day for Tigers’ fans, and an even better day for Justin Verlander, as Verlander has agreed to a five-year extension worth 140-million dollars. It may sound completely absurd, but for signing the best pitcher in baseball (who one could argue is just entering his prime) it’s actually a very fair deal.
After Zach Greinke (6 years, 158 million) and Felix Hernandez (7 years, 175 million) signed huge deals in the offseason, Verlander was very open about his desire to be the first pitcher to sign a contract worth 200-million dollars. I thought he would sign for 8 years and 200 million and it appears I wasn’t too far off.
The extension will reportedly pay Verlander 20 million in ’13 and ’14, plus 28 million for each year from ’15-’19. That puts Verlander at seven years and 180 million, but there’s still a vesting option for the 8th year (have yet to see what it will take to vest) which would be worth 22 million more. All together, the Tigers have locked up their ace for potentially 8 years and 202 million.
Overall, I think Detroit fans should be excited about the news. I know there’s going to be a lot of people complaining that Verlander is going to make way too much money, but when you’re the best in the world at something, you deserve to make the most money. If there’s a downside to the signing, it’s that Tigers’ fans are likely to be paying for this contract for quite a few years.
After signing Prince Fielder last year, ticket prices rose a bit for the 2013 season. To be fair, prices didn’t increase much from the previous year, but seeing my season tickets go up (from paying $17 per ticket to $23) seemed a bit excessive. Will that trend continue for the 2014 season? It’s hard to know for sure, but it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if it does.
At the end of the day, as long as the Tigers are able to continue to compete for a World Series, I don’t think you’ll hear too many people complaining.
A few days ago, the Detroit Tigers decided to cut their ties to outfielder Brennan Boesch, giving him his outright release. Fortunately for Boesch, it didn’t take long before the New York Yankees signed him to a one-year deal which could be worth just over two-million dollars.
Now it’s not too often where I feel the need to compliment the Yankees about signing a free agent, but this really does seem like a pretty perfect fit. There’s not too many Yankees that haven’t been bit by the injury bug, and they certainly needed to sign an outfielder before the season begins. Although I’d imagine Curtis Granderson will be back with the team by the middle of May, the Yankees lack any sort of outfield depth.
Although I’m not quite sold on Boesch, his left-handed power swing plays perfectly at Yankee Stadium with their short porch in right field. It was originally reported that the contract was 1.5 million dollars guaranteed with the potential for an additional 600 thousand dollars in incentives, but it turns out that was incorrectly report. In fact, Boesch signed what is referred to as a split contract. If Boesch plays for the New York Yankees, he’ll make the 1.5 million, but if he’s sent to the minor leagues, he’ll only make half of a million dollars (not including the money he received from the Tigers when they released him).
I’d find it hard to believe that Boesch won’t make the opening day roster, because if he struggles, they can always option him back to triple-A once Granderson returns to the team. A change of scenery should do Boesch well, as his struggles in Detroit were doing nothing more than preventing top prospects Nick Castellanos and Avisail Garcia playing time.
Also, you can find out more about my thoughts on Brennan Boesch and his fantasy baseball value by clicking HERE.
It’s been an amazing run. For the last 15 years, I’ve gotten a chance to play baseball, the greatest game on Earth. Unfortunately, all good things must eventually come to an end, and 2013 will likely be the first year I haven’t played competitive baseball since I was just a kid.
No, this isn’t me retiring from baseball. Just an unfortunate result of circumstances that were out of my control. I’ve spent the last four years playing in the St. Clair Shores MABL, but due to a lack of a commitment (financial and seemingly otherwise), my team ended up folding. I’ve always wondered what it feels like to retire from baseball. I’m not ready to hang up my cleats for good just yet, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s going to be the next chapter.
While there’s no doubt I’m going to miss being on the field, it will allow me to have a lot more free time than I am accustomed to. I already dedicate a lot of my time to baseball (I make that sound like it’s a bad thing, but it’s really not), so perhaps it’s nice to give myself a little break for now. I still have softball coming up in the middle of April, so I’ll still be able to get my swings in. Sure, it’s not the same, but it’ll do for now.
In the meantime, I guess I’ll give Scott Boras a call. I’m not used to being a free agent, so I can use some advice.
Today marked the beginning of the the second round of the World Baseball Classic for Team USA, and they left their mark, defeating Puerto Rico by a final score of 7-1. Although I’m happy to see the U.S. win, this blog isn’t meant to be a recap of the game. It’s about being proud of your country.
I wrote a blog along similar lines a few days ago, but I’m going to do my best to explain why I personally love getting an opportunity to root for the United States. Although I loved watching Italy advancing to the second round, it doesn’t come close to matching my excitement of watching the United States team advance. Why is that? Well I’m happy to explain.
Although I’m 50 percent Italian (give or take a few percent), the fact of the matter is that I am more American than I will ever be Italian. When it comes to rooting for national teams, I can’t help but think back to a conversation I had with my grandfather before he passed away.
I don’t remember the specifics of how the conversation came up, but one day when I was visiting my grandparents, the conversation of Italian soccer came up. The parents of both of my grandparents (my mother’s side) were born in Italy, so I have always taken a lot of pride in my Italian heritage. Although I’m not a soccer fan (the thought of running back and forth on a field to kick a ball doesn’t get me too excited), I have a lot of cousins who are quite enthusiastic about it. My Papa explained to me that he didn’t understand it.
To him, the United States of America is the greatest country in the world. He mentioned how his father came here because it was a land of opportunity. As my grandfather told me, he was proud to be an American, and didn’t see the point in rooting for any other country.
Although I don’t think exactly the same, I can certainly understand his point. His perspective definitely made me realize that I would always root for the United States over Italy. This isn’t to say I don’t like being Italian, far from it! If it wasn’t for my Italian heritage, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It’s like rooting for Michigan State or the University of Michigan. I don’t despise U of M, but when the two play, I’m always going to be rooting for the Spartans.
Thankfully, the United States and Italy have advanced to the second round of the World Baseball Classic. Although it’s unlikely that both Italy and the United States will advance to the semifinals, that’s what I’m rooting for. But if it comes down to one or the other, I’ll always be cheering for the red, white and blue.
Last week marked the launch of MLB 2K13, 2K Sports most recent installment of the MLB video game series. Although their contract had expired last year, MLB and 2K Sports were able to reach a deal in December that allowed them to put out at least one more game.
Seeing as the MLB 2K series has left a lot to be desired in recent years, I had a lot of legitimate concerns about whether or not 2K Sports would be able to put together a good enough product to make up for their past efforts. Knowing that they only had three months (December 2012-March 2013) to create the product, I wasn’t exactly full of confidence. Knowing that MLB 2K13 would be the only baseball game released for the Xbox 360 this year, I pretty much committed to buying it.
I’m nothing more than a recreational video game player, so I don’t normally buy games on the day they come out, but I decided to pick up MLB2K13 when it was released last week Tuesday. I’ve gotten a chance to test it out for a week, so I’ve decided to finally write a review.
My initial fear was that 2K Sports was going to do little to nothing to fix the bugs they had from last year’s game, and much to my displeasure, that’s pretty much true. Although the game is fine visually for the most part, I’ve already had a few instances where base runners go from halfway between second and third base, immediately back to first base while tagging up on a fly ball. Playing online, there is still the repeat animation of a batter swinging and missing. Little things like this are just simply inexcusable.
I don’t recall seeing any such glitches in Madden or a NHL game (this does not mean they don’t exist, and I’ll admit I have not spent a significant amount of time playing games in either of those series), and knowing this has been a problem for over a year makes it that much more unsettling. There’s also a lot of things that seem odd to me, such as why have Prince Fielder’s tattoos non-existent? I understand that people might not be a fan of tattoos, but if you want something to look realistic, you have to pay attention to every detail. I also find it amusing that they took the time to put camera wells on the field, but they’re always empty. Either put a fake cameraman there or get rid of it.
The game play itself is fine, with the same pitching and hitting controls as featured in MLB 2K12, but I still think they should have a more controlled hitting system. I’ve always been a fan of baseball games that reward hitters for correctly predicting not only the type of pitch, but where it’s being thrown.
So is it worth buying? If you’re okay with having outdated rosters, then don’t bother buying this game. Besides updating the rosters, I’m yet to find any of the improvements that I felt this game really needed. Of course there’s still a chance some patches (updates for you non-gaming folks) will be released during the next few months, but unless you’re desperate for a new baseball game, you’re probably better off waiting until they get it right.
If you’re not a baseball fan, odds are that you have no idea that there’s an international baseball tournament going on right now that features not only the best players in Major League Baseball, but from around the world. Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite garnered the attention in the United States that it has hoped to, but hopefully that will change soon.
Once baseball was taken out of the Olympics after the 2008 Summer Games, the World Baseball Classic was created. It was a chance to not only showcase baseball on an international level, but perhaps prove that it belongs back in the Olympics.
As a baseball fanatic, I’m obviously doing my best to keep up with all of the action from the tournament. It’s not exactly an easy task, especially since a lot of the games have taken place at not exactly the most convenient of times (this is due to games being played around the world, not just the United States).
So to the uninterested fan, I really think you should really consider caring about the WBC. Aside from events like the World Cup and Olympics, there aren’t necessarily a lot of international showcases. The WBC is just another great opportunity for you to root for the country of your choice. I’m not saying that you have to cheer for Team U.S., but there’s probably at least one country you can find yourself rooting for.
If nothing else, my hope is that the international attention of the WBC will prove to the International Olympic Committee that baseball deserves to be back on the world stage. Although it’s not expected, baseball could return to the 2020 Olympics.
When it comes to reports out of Spring Training, I normally don’t invest a whole lot of time or energy into them. As far as I’m concerned, the numbers are often easily skewed based on things like sample size and players working on something specific (like a pitcher trying a new curveball, or a batter working on hitting to the opposite field). However, there is an interesting development in Lakeland this year. Is Bruce Rondon ready to be the closer for the Detroit Tigers?
For those who don’t follow baseball as passionately or religiously as I do, let me preface by saying this. Rondon is one of baseball’s best prospects. As if his 6’3″ 255 pound frame wasn’t intimidating enough, he features a fastball that is regularly clocked near 100 MPH, and has reportedly hit 103 on the radar gun.
When the Tigers decided to not resign Jose Valverde after a shaky postseason performance (not that a good one would have necessarily gotten him a contract with Detroit), fans immediately began to speculate what the Tigers should do. Rafael Soriano was a free agent, but signing him would cost us not only a first-round draft pick, but also a lot of money.
Early in the offseason, the Tigers seemed confident in their internal options, especially with having a pitcher like Rondon waiting in the wings. Across three different levels of the minor leagues, Rondon went 2-1 with an ERA 1.53. Although he did walk 28 batters (two being intentional) in just 53 innings, he still managed to have an impressive WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) of just 1.094. So what does that mean? Basically that when the ball is over the plate, he’s not giving up a lot of hits.
Although walks are a big concern for closers, I don’t think that’s the biggest concern the Tigers will have with a guy like Rondon. He might have an electric fastball, but he will need to compliment that with a secondary pitch that he can throw for a strike (or at least good enough to entice hitters). Reports are that Rondon does have a changeup and slider, but has struggled with his command of both during Spring Training.
It’s important to remember that it’s early for players, so it’s pretty uncommon for players to not have a great feel for their pitches at this point. If it’s something we’re still talking about in May or June, then it would be something that should be addressed accordingly. In the meantime, I’m confident that Rondon will not only be fine during his rookie year, but I think he’s going to quickly become one of the most talked about players in baseball.