Freddie Freeman shocked the world by beating out Yasiel Puig in the NL Final Vote, but then proved that perhaps it wasn’t a shock at all, going 3-4 with 4 RBIs and some nice defensive plays in Atlanta’s 6-5 win over the Reds. And that means that Freeman is the MVP of Yesterday!
Baseball is a game built around tradition and a set of constants derived from a far removed era. As silly as it sounds, we enjoy these little eccentricities – the gospel of an ump’s strike zone, or the pitcher determined pace of a ball game. We honor these in an effort to show baseball our appreciation – our respect. For all the summers we’ve enjoyed, the sport deserves this one, small consideration. Those are the excuses we spew every time a player of Ryan Braun’s caliber is caught holding the needle.
This is no longer the WWII generation’s pastime. Baseball now belongs to twenty-something hipsters, statisticians and no small contingency of international fans. We can’t continue to hack off our nose to spite our face.
I’d like to draw a comparison between performance enhancing drugs in baseball and the drug war as a whole. In the drug war, we consistently establish rules contradictory to a person’s natural inclination towards self-preservation. It’s the idea that you can create a moral, ethical or financial consequence strong enough to override a man’s will to succeed – to prosper. It’s why arresting a drug dealer results in two more taking his place. The urge and opportunity to thrive are simply too strong. Braun, A-Rod and a slew of others will be suspended, but 20 more will take their place in the doping line because the upside is too great.
Baseball is business and Braun represents a man employed. He has no idea whether he’ll play tomorrow or next year. Maybe he’ll wreck his knee sliding into home during a silly spring training warm up. Success in baseball is the man’s entire world, the only measure by which he’ll be judged. That’s harsh, I know, but painfully true. With so much at stake, why do we expect a different outcome? Does it truly surprise anyone that these players are grabbing an edge wherever they can find one? Have you seen the AAU circuit in Florida? Kids are stronger, faster and younger than ever before, leaving no room for error and added room for “supplemental training”.
I know it hurts. Ruth, Gehrig and Aaron didn’t have PEDs and it pisses us off. We want to know what Mantle or Mays could have done with 25 year old legs at 30, or what Koufax would look like pitching in his 40’s. We have to get over this obsession with forcing relevance onto different eras of baseball.
In the end we know that steroids improve already existing skill, they don’t create it. We can’t take from Ryan Braun what he’s worked a lifetime to achieve simply because natural competitiveness drove him to find an edge other players already possess. Roids don’t get you in the cage at 5AM before class starts – that’s where passion jumps in.
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When it comes to breaking down tape, NOBODY does a better job than NFL Films’ Greg Cosell. This guy literally watched every throw that Josh Freeman made last year and talked about it with Justin Pawlowski and Jim Lighthall Tuesday morning.
Greg’s buddy Ron Jaworski ranked Freeman as his 21st best quarterback coming into the 2013 NFL season. Cosell supported his colleague’s evaluation and felt that Josh still had some weaknesses to overcome.
“Only Mark Sanchez (of the Jets) had a worse quarterback rating than Freeman versus the blitz in 2012,” Cosell said. “The teams that are good versus blitz are good because of precision execution, not because the quarterback ‘makes a play,’ but because the ball is out at the right time to the right receiver with accuracy.”
With the best teams in the NFL notorious for putting the…
Big League ballplayers are good – I mean crazy good. I’m often reminded of this fact when I see some young-gun pitcher elevated from triple-A to his Major League affiliate.
For fifteen or more years this kid’s entire life has been enviable success. Little League, AAU and Highschool statistics served as memoirs of a laughably one-sided career. Maybe those triple-A guys gave him some headaches, but it was short lived and domination soon followed. The minors, like every other level, was his. All of the above holds true until the day our prodigious youth watches Miguel Cabrera step into the box. After being touched up deep, he realizes a tough reality – guys are different in the bigs.
That leads me to my larger point – I love watching great hitters look bad and breaking pitches are usually the culprit. It’s why we all love watching Adam Wainwright try to buckle Joey Votto with that villainous curve. I’ve compiled a list of pitchers whose breaking pitches are especially heinous.
A Bleacher Report article, as well as Buster Olney, recently touted some interesting Kershaw statistics. Hitters are batting .120 lifetime against his curveball. Did I mention he’s never had a regular season hook taken deep? Pair that with an equally irritating slider and we have arguably the best overall pitcher in either league.
Wainwright’s curve is one of the few with amazing break in both directions. To right handed hitters, it looks as if it’s falling straight north to south. As bad as that 12 to 6 action can be, Adam’s falls AWAY at the same time. It’s straight nasty and an almost guaranteed strikeout 0-2.
Harvey is special. All eyes have been on the power righty and mostly because his velocity is paired with improved command. His slider comes across in the low 90’s with late break and pin point accuracy. It’s painful watching hitters try so hard to catch up with a pitch that eventually winds up a foot off the plate.
I watched the majority of Sunday night’s contest between Sale and Matt Moore, intrigued by a match up of young, often under appreciated hurlers. Both looked good and Sale was the victim of another outing without run support, but what caught my eye was his sweeping slider. I can only imagine how tough it must be for a left handed batter to see this pitch. The ball comes out of Sale hand around first base and winds up in the cellar of the right hand batters box. Sale is going to be an elite, top 10 overall pitcher over the next couple of years. Did I mention he’s a Florida Gulf Coast kid?
Everyone is in love with Yu’s slider. He apparently tosses the pitch at a 30% clip (per Buster Olney) and by the looks of it should consider upping that number to 50%. The downward break is so sharp and hard it looks impossible to pass on when anywhere near the strike zone. We’ll have the privilege of watching Yu Darvish fan guys for another 15 years and the AL West should be terrified that he’ll adjust to another level with more experience.
Buchholz just has sick, late movement on everything he throws. His slider is particularly bad down and in on lefties and he’s used it to really break out as a top strikeout guy in the AL. Clay, bro, lose the spit – your stuff is barely legal as it is.
If I left your favorite guy off the list it’s because my picks were better but, please, by all means correct me!
I’ll start off by declaring my completely unabashed impartiality relative to Dodger baseball. I’m a southern boy, love the Braves and don’t have any love or hate for the west coast.
With that being said, I can’t get Yasiel out of the box in my living room and I’m loving every second of it. Drawing physical similarities to a young Bo Jackson, Puig doesn’t look like a ballplayer – more like a linebacker. Consider that, in 27 games or less than 1/6th of a major league season, Puig has a slash line of .443/.473/.745 to go along with 8 homers, 6 doubles and 17 RBI. Small sample sizes make his batting average a bit tough to buy, but that power is beyond legit.
It wouldn’t be the first time a seasoned major league player took exception to an upstart. Every year we seem to be forced into this discussion of valid versus hype induced All-Star nods. Whether it’s Harper, Trout or Strasburg, young guys seem to fall victim to this onslaught of fraternity style initiation. It’s the old “You have to pay your dues” mentality – you’re ready when you’ve earned our respect.
As a fan, Papelbon’s opinion on this topic is mute. The All-Star game isn’t the exhibition game of old. It counts – a lot. With home field advantage on the line, guys like Puig have to be evaluated based on their contributory capacity in the moment – not retrospectively. If the All-Star game had been played in April, John Buck would have been a rational All-Star choice at Catcher. We know now he was streaking, but would that have been relevant at the time? Any clear assessment shows that Puig is crushing NOW, and whether he still holds that stat line in September means nothing on July,16th at Citi Field.