Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 American of the Year: Kellyanne Conway

For a decade straight, from 2004-13, this website named an American of the Year.

With my writing emphasis switching to baseball over the last two years or so, that tradition was tabled.

Baseball is still my primary writing subject. But here at my home website, I'll be getting back to covering political, social, spiritual and other issues once again in the coming weeks and months.

Over the course of those first ten years honoring an American of the Year, nine different men were honored, as well as one heroic group of them. The complete list is available at the end of this piece.

Now, for the first time, a woman is receiving the honor. And this particular woman is a genuine surprise, because when this year began, frankly, I had never heard of her.

In 2016, Kellyanne Conway became the first woman in the history of American politics to run a winning U.S. Presidential campaign. 

She did it in basically two and a half months, not taking over as the head of Donald Trump's campaign until August 17, at which point the possibility of his election was very much in doubt.

My 2017 IBWAA Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

The Internet Baseball Writer’s Association of America (IBWAA) conducts voting in December of each year for its Baseball Hall of Fame.
This process is conducted in much the same manner as the formal BBWAA voting, which results in players being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown.
The IBWAA was born on the Fourth of July in 2009. As described at the association website, the organization was formed “to organize and promote the growing online baseball media, and to serve as a digital alternative to the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA).” 
The BBWAA is made up of writers who have covered the game for “traditional” media. This usually means of the print variety, such as newspapers. 
Meanwhile, coverage of the game has exploded beyond such traditional means over the last two decades.
Baseball coverage has now expanded to purely digital websites and blogs. Due to this expansion, a vibrant and vital new resource is available to all fans of the sport. 
Hence, the IBWAA organizes internet writers, columnists, and bloggers who might otherwise be shut out of the aging print media structure.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Just One Sure-Fire First Ballot Hall of Famer Each of Next Three Years

There is a great deal of discussion taking place right now in regards to voting on Baseball Hall of Fame ballots.
A number of truly worthy candidates are on this year’s ballot, players who should absolutely find themselves enshrined one day. 
These include the greatest player who I ever saw in person, Barry Bonds. He still may fall just short this year as voters continue to evaluate his PED usage.
There would appear to be four men at the current time who stand a reasonable chance of gaining enshrinement in the summer of 2017.
When results of the BBWAA voting are released in three weeks we could very well find as many as four players elected. 
Jeff BagwellTim RainesTrevor Hoffman, and Ivan Rodriguez each could gain that measure of baseball immortality.
Of those players, only Rodriguez is a first ballot nominee, and the result for ‘Pudge’ is likely to be a close one.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rotation Rebound is Key to Dbacks Bounce-Back

After winning the National League West Division crown in the 2011 season, the Arizona Diamondbacks fell to a .500 finish in each of the next two seasons.
Arizona further collapsed to a 64-98 finish in 2014. However, the club bounced back in 2015, picking up 15 wins to finish within four games of the .500 mark at 79-83.
Diamondbacks management felt that the club was coming on, and so a couple of key moves were made with an eye towards contending for at least a 2016 NL Wildcard berth.
At the Winter Meetings in December of 2015, the team signed free agent ace right-hander Zack Greinke. A day later they dealt an extremely valuable package of prospects led by shortstop Dansby Swanson to the Atlanta Braves in order to land pitcher Shelby Miller. Then in January they traded with the Milwaukee Brewers for shortstop Jean Segura.
Adding these players to a lineup that was led by the 2015 NL MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt and rotation with emerging young talents such as Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray, Arizona believed they would indeed contend for a postseason berth.
Instead, the Diamondbacks collapsed back to a 69-93 record, 18 games off that NL Wildcard pace and 22 games behind the division-winning Los Angeles Dodgers.
Key injuries decimated the lineup, as a pair of starting outfielders, A.J. Pollock and David Peralta, missed most of the season.


However, it was the collapse of the starting rotation, in particular the failures of the two big acquisitions in Greinke and Miller, that led to the team collapse.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Philography: Bob Boone

Embed from Getty Images
Bob Boone caught for 19 big-league seasons, winning seven Gold Gloves

The Philadelphia Phillies franchise was founded in 1883. Since 1978, the club has honored the greatest individual contributors to its success with a place on the Phillies Wall of Fame.
There are club executives and beloved broadcasters on the Wall. And of course, there are dozens of players.
The players on the Wall range from 19th century trailblazers to 20th century Hall of Famers to 21st century superstars.
But of those players, only two played the position of catcher. One of those was Bob Boone, selected to the Wall in 2005.
Boone was the seventh player from the 1980 World Series champions to be so honored. He thus joined Steve CarltonMike SchmidtLarry BowaTug McGrawGreg Luzinski, and Garry Maddox on the Wall of Fame.
A native of San Diego, Boone played there at Crawford High School. He would then become the Phillies sixth round selection in the 1969 MLB Amateur Draft as a third baseman out of Stanford University.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Cardinals Don't Have to Catch the Cubs to Contend

Over the two full decades from 1996 through 2015, the St. Louis Cardinals dominated the National League Central Division. 
The Cards captured the division crown in half of those seasons. They experienced just three losing seasons in that stretch, none since 2007.
That domination was even more profound in recent years. St. Louis won the division in three straight seasons from 2013-15.
It hasn’t only been regular season success for the Cardinals. They reached the NLCS 10 times over those 20 years, and the World Series four times. 
Their victories in the 2011 and 2013 Fall Classics raised the organization total to a National League-record 11 World Series championships.

Free Agent Arms Still Available to Help 2017 Contenders

We are nearly two months into the Major League Baseball off-season, and a number of interesting free agent players remain unsigned.
Much of the focus for commentators has been on power hitters who remain available. That is entirely understandable, as they are a few big name bats still out there on the market.
Sluggers such as Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo could bring needed power to the middle of a contending batting order.
But if you are like me, you believe that most big winners do so with strong pitching and stellar defense.
Having quality, reliable, experienced pitchers on the back-end of a starting rotation can often be the difference between a .500 club and one that contends for a postseason berth.
Most contending teams are uncomfortable giving a spot in their starting pitching rotation to a prospect, no matter how talented.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Phillies Acquire Clay Buchholz in Trade With Red Sox

According to general manager Matt Klentak, it is the mission of the Philadephia Phillies to have as much starting pitching as possible, and so the club swung a deal today with the Boston Red Sox with that end in mind.
The trade brings in 32-year-old right-hander Clay Buchholz. He was the Red Sox first round pick at 42nd overall in the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft out of McNeese State University. In exchange, the Phillies sent minor league second baseman Josh Tobias to Boston.
Buchholz throws a four-seam fastball that sits in the low 90s, but has reached the upper 90s in the past, and also has a cutter, curve, and changeup in his arsenal.
Over parts of 10 seasons with the Red Sox, Buchholz has gone 76-57 with a 3.97 ERA. He has allowed 1,039 hits over 1,094.1 innings in 184 games, 177 of those as starts. He has a career 850/392 K:BB ratio.

JRoll Will Try a Comeback With the Giants

As if to show that you can indeed go home again, shortstop Jimmy Rollins has signed a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants. The contract for Rollins is reportedly for one year and $1 million. That deal assumes he stays on the big league roster all season long.
Rollins is a native of the Bay Area. He was born in Oakland, and played his high school ball with Encinal High School in Alameda.
He became the Philadelphia Phillies’ pick in the second round of the 1996 MLB Amateur Draft. Rollins then made his big league debut in the 2000 season. Rollins took over as the starting shortstop in Philly at the tail end of that 2000 campaign. It was a job that he would hold for 15 more seasons.
He became one of the greatest players in the history of the Phillies franchise, and its all-time hits leader. Rollins was a four-time NL Gold Glove Award winner with the Phils. He was also a three-time NL All-Star during that run.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Philadelphia Phillies All-Time 25-Man Roster

The Philadelphia Phillies  owe their birth in 1883 to the death of the old Worcester club. Worcester in Massachusetts had been deemed too small to support a major league team. 
After three seasons in the National League, the club was disbanded and the franchise rights sold.
Needing a team to balance out their schedule, the NL awarded an expansion team to Philadelphia to begin play in the 1883 season.
Originally nicknamed the “Quakers”, the team was frequently referred to that season as the “Philadelphias”, which was shortened to “Phillies” on a regular basis.
Known as the “Phillies” and the “Quakers” through 1889, the former was embraced much more by fans and sportswriters, and so “Phillies” became the official nickname in the 1890 season. It is the oldest continuous same city, same name professional sports team in American history.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Anniversary of a Controversial Phillies Deal

The Philadelphia Phillies had just lost the World Series to the New York Yankees six weeks earlier. That six-game defeat came after the club had won the Fall Classic the previous season.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was presented with an interesting and exciting opportunity. Longtime ace pitcher Roy Halladay was being made available in trade by the Toronto Blue Jays.
Adding ‘Doc’ to the two-time NL pennant winners could be just what was needed to keep the championship ball rolling.
Amaro was able to negotiate and finalize the deal: Halladay to the Phillies for a trio of highly regarded prospects in Kyle DrabekTravis d’Arnaud, and Michael Taylor.
Halladay was 32 years old at the time. The winner of the 2003 AL Cy Young Award was a six-time American League all-star. He had finished fifth in AL Cy Young race that fall, the fourth consecutive season in the top five of the voting.
Just a year earlier, following that 2008 World Series victory by the Phillies, Halladay had been the runner-up for that AL Cy Young Award. The winner? Cliff Lee of the Cleveland Indians.
Lee was now Phillies property, having been acquired from the Tribe in a trade deadline deal. The lefty was a key addition in helping the Phils nail down a third straight NL East crown, and second consecutive NL pennant.
As word of the Halladay trade broke, there was a brief moment of almost indescribable joy that swept across Phillies Nation. A pitching rotation fronted by Halladay, Lee, and Cole Hamels?
Added to the still dynamic offense that the Phillies had at the time, that trio would certainly elevate the Phillies back to World Series favorites.
And then the other shoe dropped.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Phillies Ink Odubel Herrera to Five Year Contract

The Philadelphia Phillies made a major statement today regarding their long-term lineup. And in the same move, the team was making a commitment to one of their key players.
The club announced the signing of outfielder Odubel Herrera to a five-year contract with a pair of team options.
Sources say that the deal, which runs through 2021 with options for 2022 and 2023, will guarantee him $30.5 million.
The contract buys Herrera out of his arbitration years. He would have been first eligible prior to the 2018 season.
Herrera turns 25 years old at the end of this month, so this takes him through his age 29 season, and possibly into his early 30’s.
Nicknamed ‘El Torito’, Herrera was the Phillies lone representative this season on the National League All-Star team.
He finished the year with a .286/.361/.420 slash line. Herrera slashed 21 doubles and six triples, banged out 15 homers, and swiped 25 bases. He scored 87 runs and knocked in 49 over 656 plate appearances.
After the season concluded, Herrera was nominated for the first time for an NL Gold Glove Award for his play in center field.

Can Phillies Improve by Eight Games Again in 2017?

The Philadelphia Phillies finished with a 71-91 record in 2016, good for fourth place in the NL East standings. 
That victory total was an eight-game improvement over their last place, worst in baseball finish of 63-99 during the 2015 season.
As the Phillies’ rebuilding program continues, no one in the game expects them to be contenders in the 2017 season. It’s simply too early in the process yet for that to happen.
The 2017 season will be about bringing up more of the highly rated young prospects from a greatly improved minor league system. It will be about giving those players, and youngsters already on board, a chance to show they belong in the big leagues.
The day-to-day cast of characters is not likely to be changed very much from what we saw this past season, but there is an important question to ask. Can the Phillies hope to again show at least an eight-game improvement?
Another eight games up in the win column would mean that the Fightin’ Phils finish with at least a 79-83 record in the 2017 season. Such a record would likely mean that the club was never very far off the .500 break-even mark for much of the year.
Unless a big bat is brought in via trade or free agency, something that does not appear likely at this point, the lineup is not going to change very much.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Phillies Appear Committed to Andrew Knapp as Backup Catcher

Coming into the 2016 season, the Philadelphia Phillies appeared to be gearing up for a battle. The particular battle that I’m referring to here was for their catcher of the future.
The position was being manned at the big league level at the time by Cameron Rupp, who had never distinguished himself. 
The backup was going to be veteran Carlos Ruiz, who was surely going to be dealt before the season was over.
Either a poor performance by Rupp, or a trade of Ruiz, or some combination of the two was going to open up an opportunity in Philadelphia. One of two prospect catchers would be racing for the chance to step in if that happened.
Unfortunately for those two backstop prospects, Rupp performed well in the 2016 season. That performance solidified his hold on the catcher position in the short term.
As for the beloved “Chooch”, he was indeed traded away – but in return for another veteran catcher, A.J. Ellis.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Odubel Herrera is Just What the Rangers Are Looking For

I’m not usually one for creating random trade speculation out of thin air, but the Philadelphia Phillies and Texas Rangers are making it difficult on me.
The Rangers reportedly are in the market for a center fielder. Yet those same reports are that the club does not want to spend big in free agency.
What the Rangers would like to obtain is a talented, controllable center fielder. Enter the Phillies into this conversation – they have one.

Nationals Deal Top Prospects to White Sox for Adam Eaton

Numerous reliable sources were reporting late this afternoon that the Washington Nationals had finally struck at baseball’s Winter Meetings. The deal has since been confirmed by the two teams.
All the previous rumors here had the Nats going after a starting pitcher. It turns out that they instead have apparently dealt away the future of their rotation for a hitter.
The Nationals have obtained outfielder Adam Eaton from the Chicago White Sox. In exchange, Washington is sending three of their top prospects to the Chisox.
Heading to the South Side of Chicago are Lucas GiolitoReynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning. Giolito is listed by most prospect evaluation resources as the Nationals top prospect.
An important part of the process we are pursuing is acquiring quality pitching talent. We feel like we’ve done that today—and yesterday—en masse,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement per Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser“Giolito and Lopez rank among the top prospects in baseball, while Dunning is another young prospect who possesses front-of-the-rotation potential.”

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Phillies Sign Joaquin Benoit to Bolster Bullpen

Baseball’s 2016 Winter Meetings are underway, and the Philadelphia Phillies have signed a veteran reliever on the first full day to help bolster their bullpen.
According to ESPN, 39-year-old Joaquin Benoit has reportedly agreed to terms with the club on a one-year, $7.5 million deal.
Benoit split last season between the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. His 26-game stint in the Pacific Northwest was mediocre, but he turned it on after being shipped north of the border.
His final overall numbers were solid last season. Benoit pitched in 51 games, allowing 37 hits over 48 innings with a 52/24 K:BB ratio.

White Sox Deal Chris Sale to Red Sox

It wasn’t the Boston Red Sox, but instead the Washington Nationals who were supposedly ready to strike at National Harbor, Maryland.
Over the first couple of days of baseball’s 2016 Winter Meetings, the Nats were heavily rumored to be nearing a deal for the top available pitcher on the trade market.
However, rumors began to leak out late this morning that the BoSox had entered the Chris Sale sweepstakes. As the afternoon moved along, the Red Sox apparently had pushed ahead of the Nationals in the race for the big lefty.
Now comes word that Boston has won that race. The Red Sox have acquired Sale from the Chicago White Sox. 
In exchange, Boston is sending a substantive package of prospects to the South Side of the Windy City.
Headed to the White Sox are Boston’s top overall prospect, Yoan Moncada, as well as their top right-handed pitching prospect, Michael Kopech.
According to CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes, the other minor leaguers going to the White Sox are outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and right-hander Victor Diaz.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Japanese Star Ohtani Wants to Play in MLB by 2018

The top star player in Japanese baseball, Shohei Otani, has announced publicly that he wishes to perform for one more season in his homeland before making the move to Major League Baseball.
Otani will turn 23 years old in July of 2017. He would likely be directly affected by terms of the new Collective Bargaining Unit between MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Under the newly negotiated terms, MLB teams may not sign a player for more than $5 million until they reach age 25. It has been estimated that a player of Otani’s talents would fetch upwards of $250-300 million if he were an unfettered free agent.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Phillies Nearly Ready to Spend Big Again

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Ryan Howard contract paid $25 million in 2016 and $10 million buyout for 2017

The Philadelphia Phillies have gone from being one of the biggest spenders in Major League Baseball to one of its most frugal teams.
This normally wouldn’t sit well with a fan base that became used to winning big with exciting talent. 
It is especially true considering that the team plays in the sixth largest market in the sport.
The Phillies broke the $100 million mark in salaries for the first time ever in 2007. This was while building toward the second World Series victory in franchise history the following year.
For six years from 2010-15, the Phillies were above the $145 million mark each season in salaries spent on their final 40-man roster. 
However, the Phillies situation is well-known to even the most casual fan. The core of the team that did all the winning during the prior decade had aged, pretty much all at once.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

MLB Has New Collective Bargaining Agreement

Just hours before the old agreement was to expire, MLB announced that it had reached terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) with the Major League Baseball Players Association.
Months of negotiations had intensified in recent days as the expiration of the old agreement approached at midnight today. Enough progress had been made that notification of a deal was made public.
The next formal step in the process is that a “memorandum of understanding” will be drafted. This document will need to then be ratified by membership on both sides.
While full details of the new CBA will likely not be released to the public for weeks or months, some of the highlights have already leaked out.