I’m looking at the National League leaders from last season where names like Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols pop up in the top five nearly every offensive statistic. Fielder and Pujols are about to find themselves in a different column all together after a wild off-season sent the heavy hitters to the American League, changing the MLB landscape.
Aside from the money (both Fielder and Pujols signed multi-year contracts worth over $200 million… yes, 200 MILLION DOLLARS), it shouldn’t come as a shock that guys hitting 37 and 38 home runs (Pujols and Fielder, respectively) are leaving the NL for the AL, home of the designated hitter. Between Fielder’s weight (275 lbs. on a 5’11 frame) and Pujols’ age (32), it would make sense for both guys to make the switch to full-time batter within the next few years.
I don’t understand why baseball has allowed each league to have different rules, especially considering it was not always that way. I love to see pitchers at the plate. Even though most pitchers stink at hitting, I think there is something to be said for every single man on the roster being responsible for throwing and hitting the ball at some point in every game. I find it fascinating watching a pitcher pitch to his fellow hurler, and when a pitcher does get a hit (or a home run, which I watched my hometown Dodgers fall victim to four times last season), the reaction of his teammates and fans is usually priceless.
On the other hand, I get that a guy hitting 30-something home runs in a season is much more exciting. Despite his struggles in the first few months of the last few seasons, the roar of the Fenway Park crowd each time David Ortiz takes the plate is something special. Sure, Big Papi was instrumental in Boston’s World Series titles, but there’s just something about a big guy like that at bat. No need to worry about him trying to catch a runner in the outfield, or make a big play at third, just enjoy him doing what he does best.
The designated hitter position has required the AL to stack the deck with the best pitchers in the game, although the top five guys in each league were all spectacular last season.
If Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia , Jered Weaver and James Shields thought they had their work cut out for them last season staring down the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez, Curtis Granderson and a slew of others, now they get to add Fielder and Pujols to that list. YIKES.
The AL West alone looks ridiculous! The two-time World Series runner-up Texas Rangers added Yu Darvish to the lineup and the the new-look Pujols-infused Anaheim Angeles should improve mightily on top of already owning a fantastic pitching staff.
In the AL Central, the division-winning Detroit Tigers will only get better, now with Fielder, Cabrera and Peralta in the same lineup.
As further evidence of a power swing, I just typed an entire blog about the AL without mentioning the Yankees or Red Sox. Saying nothing about New York or Boston says a lot about the direction in which the American League is heading.
Game On In Texas: Rangers Purposely Built Visitors Bullpen To Be A Pain In The…?
The World Series has played out like a soap opera thus far, with Monday’s game five win by the Texas Rangers serving up the strangest script yet. A series of blunders by the St. Louis Cardinals certainly helped lead the home team to a 4-2 victory and a 3-2 series lead, leaving many wondering how such an experienced skipper like Tony La Russa could allow so many miscues when the stakes were so high.
A bit of inside information from one of TV’s more notable sports writers might help explain part of the snafu, as well as lend some credibility to La Russa’s seemingly silly explanation.
La Russa explained his mismatches on the mound as bullpen bloopers of sorts, citing poor communication between the dugout and the bullpen. The Cards manager said that the bullpen coach misheard his instructions over the phone, probably due to the high volume of the crowd noise.
Shout out to Tony Reali, host of ESPN’s Around The Horn for posting an outtake from Tuesday’s show (posted above) where guest Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News said that the visitors bullpen’s sketchy placement and set-up was purposely built that way, putting the away team at a disadvantage. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was built in 1994 and has often been criticized for not having been built with a retractable roof, considering the sweltering Texas summers.
From multiple camera angles on the TV broadcast, it looks like you can’t see inside the bullpen from the dugout, which, I’d bet, the visiting team finds slightly annoying. In an ABC News article, La Russa addressed previous bullpen incidences at other ball parks, saying, “Yeah, smoke signals from the dugout. There are times, like what happened in Philadelphia (during the first round of the playoffs). The phone went out, and so we used cell phones. And then the Phillies brought down walkie talkies, and they fixed the phone.”
I’ve heard of stadiums and arenas undergoing renovations and purposely leaving the visitors locker room untouched for that same reason; to keep a bunch of big, strong, tough athletes in a small, confined and uncomfortable space before games. Within reason, I say it’s a pretty solid display of gamesmanship on the part of home team management and ownership. This kind of stuff shouldn’t affect great teams anyway. Rangers Ballpark in Arlington did undergo renovations heading into the 2011 baseball season, clearly, none of which included the visitors bullpen. I fully expect the Busch Squirrel to exact revenge on the Rangers in St. Louis, completely chewing through the Texas dugout-to-bullpen phone line all together!
Click here for ABC News’ story on Bullpen-gate. http://abcnews.go.com/Sports/wireStory/cardinals-bullpen-relief-game-14807061