Thursday, May 3, 2012

Just another Wednesday in May

There are certain days throughout a baseball season that just need to be bottled up and treasured forever. To some May 2 seems like another meaningless Wednesday early in the baseball season. But what happened on this May 2 in this season will be looked at as one of the greatest of the season, if not the next decade.

This day brought everything you could ever ask for; from late inning come from behind victories, walk off winners and even a no-hitter. I’d like to give my account of the day as I was either watching or listening to all the heroics and grand endings. This is also a day I hope to look at five to 10 years from now and smile remembering how magnificent it was. 

Blue Jays-Rangers
My day started off by listening and watching to what I thought would be a great pitching matchup between Ricky Romero and Matt Harrison. This game ended up being an 11-5 blowout for the Blue Jays, which should have signified something crazy was going to happen today. 

With that game well in hand I flipped over to listen to the end of the Tigers game where Justin Verlander was losing 2-0 to the Royals; another sign of the apocalypse. But a two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th by Brennan Boesch saved the day for the moment and I figured the Tigers would find a way to beat the struggling Royals. 

Instead of sending Verlander back for the ninth, Jim Leyland decided to go with Joaquin Benoit. Although Verlander had thrown 123 pitches, he had struck out four of the last five batters he faced and clearly had more in the tank, but in the era of pitch counts he wasn’t given a chance to continue. 

Well, lo and behold a Mike Moustakas double and a Chris Getz single later and the Royals had taken a 3-2 lead. Jonathan Broxton came on in the bottom of the ninth to finish off the Tigers.
Two games, two unlikely outcomes. 

After I finish off my day of “work” I got home in time to watch the end of the Dodgers-Rockies afternoon contest. Another ace, Clayton Kershaw, was still on the mound for the Dodgers who had just taken a 3-2 lead in the top of the eighth. Kershaw was sent back out in the bottom of the eighth, but unlike Verlander, his day should have been done. 

After a Marco Scutaro single to start the inning manager Don Mattingly should have signaled to the bullpen, but it’s easier to second guess now and I applaud the young manager for sticking with his ace. But after a sacrifice bunt, Dexter Fowler singled to tie the game up at three. Still Kershaw was left in the game and Carlos Gonzalez connected for his second home run of the game and now the Rockies were on top 5-3. 

Then came another managerial blunder, which was also a decision everyone would have agreed with. The hottest hitter in the game, Matt Kemp, stepped up to the plate as the tying run in the top of the ninth and manager Jim Tracy decided to intentionally walk him to pitch to skinny  little Dee Gordon. Gordon made them pay for this by driving one in the gap scoring both runners and tying the game … again!

Things couldn’t get any crazier, right? 

Well in the bottom of the ninth with runners on second and third with only one out the Rockies turned to 41-year-old Jason Giambi. Still a big guy late in his career, probably attributed to steroid use, Giambi cranked one over the center field wall for the first walk off victory of the day and put an end to an incredible back-and-forth game. 

Now that the afternoon games were over I had a little break to relax from all the excitement. I sat down and started to watch the Nationals-Diamondbacks game as well as the Athletics-Red Sox game. 

As I left for church I hadn’t even checked to see what the score was in the Braves-Phillies game. I guess you could say I was a little nervous and frustrated from the game the night before. The Phillies had owned us (the Braves) for nine straight games now and I couldn’t take any more punishment. 

After church I checked my twitter feed, which was going crazy after a grand slam by Brian McCann off Roy Halladay to tie the game at six. My first thought was, “What in the world happened to Tommy Hanson?” But as I got home and put the game on the radio I realized the umpire had a tight strike zone forcing pitchers to throw the ball down the middle. 

By the time I got settled into my recliner the Phillies had already regained the lead 9-8 and I began to get sick. On the TV I turned on the Nats-Dbacks game as things were getting interesting late.
It was 4-3 heading into the ninth with Bryce Harper due to lead off the bottom of the inning for the Nationals. As he swung I thought, “this ball is gone.” The 19-year-old didn’t even start his swing until the ball was at home plate showing off his tremendous bat speed, but the ball fell just short of reaching the seats and he settled for a double. After the next two batters struck out I felt like the magic was gone. 

In steps Ian Desmond. The top prospect who was drafted way back when the team was still the Montreal Expos. He delivered on of the biggest hits of his career and in Nationals history. He got his hands on top of a high fastball and delivered it into the stands for a two-run walk off home run. The second of the day!

With that game over I fully turned my attention back to the Braves-Phillies. After scoring three more in the top of the eighth and taking a four run lead my hopes were dwindling. But after an error by the Phillies great defensive short stop Jimmy Rollins put two on with no outs I thought we had a chance to at least cut their lead in half. A single, walk, walk and another single later and the Braves had tied it up! And they still had a runner on third with only one out. 

Freddie Freeman lifted a ball to center, which easily scored the speedy Michael Bourn from third giving the Braves a 13-12 lead and signaling the call to the bullpen for Craig Kimbrel. The last time Kimbrel came out to save a game against the Phillies it had cost the Braves a shot at the playoffs.
With the nerves getting to him he walked the leadoff hitter, who eventually came around to score tying the game … again. The Braves loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning but failed to push across a run and we headed to extras. 

The next nine batters in the game were retired in order. Then came the bottom of the 11th.
Chipper Jones is no doubt a first ballot Hall of Famer and has nothing left to prove. He’s announced his retirement and anything that happens for him this year is just icing on the cake. 

A Dan Uggla single started off the inning, which is rare because normally Braves hitters look to end the game with one swing in these situations causing them to lose a lot of games like this. But with Uggla on first and Chipper up at the plate I felt like he would do his job to get a base hit and try to move Uggla to third. 

On the sixth pitch of the at bat Brian Sanches hung a slider to the 40-year-old veteran and Chipper crushed it deep down the line and as the announcers voice grew louder and louder I thought this can’t be real … and it wasn’t. The ball went just foul and the great Braves’ announcer Don Sutton mentioned something about his daughters’ softball team making a cheer to keep that ball fair. 

That cheer must have worked because two pitches later the greatest hitter in the history of the Braves organization, a legend in this game, connected for a walk off two-run homer to relinquish all of the pain from last year’s loss in game 162 against the rival Phillies. 

Before the old man had reached home plate I had dialed up a text of my own to his biggest fan, my dad. A night like this is exactly why we watch these games. 

As our hero would go on to say to Atlanta Journal Constitution’s David O’Brian after the game, “It was epic,” Jones said. “It should be on instant classic. That game was phenomenal.”
In deed it was. A night I’ll never forget. 

Weaver’s no-hitter
But this night was not over for a baseball fan. After reading and getting into bed I decided to check my Twitter feed again to read some of the aftermath from the Braves big win. I saw the several people were tweeting that Jered Weaver was working a no hitter through six innings. At this point in the day I knew that things were going to be crazy and a no-hitter would be the ultimate exclamation point to a day like this. 

Being dead tired I dared not get out of bed to watch the ending, but instead I listened to the game on my phone as I acted like I was trying to fall asleep. Luckily the Angels hitters, who were up 9-0, took some quick swings to help get Weaver back out on the mound. He continued mowing Minnesota Twins hitters down. It just sounded so easy as the announcer detailed out after out. 

Weaver is a stand-up guy for the sport of baseball. One of the few players who took a discount to stay at home and pitch for the fans he truly loves, something teammate Albert Pujols could learn from him. With his family and wife in attendance Weaver breezed through the ninth inning to record the no-hitter. 

The radio announcer described the scene as magical. His family embracing him as tears streamed out saying, “Now this is the way a no-hitter should be celebrated.”

This was a classic day indeed and one that should be celebrated for days, months and years to come. This is why we watch every day. Baseball is an amazing sport and if you’re not watching you’re going to miss something spectacular. 

This day will forever serve as a reminder for why we continue to support and be entertained by this historically elegant drama filled sport we call baseball. 

You can follow Jake on Twitter at: @ShortStopBall

Monday, April 9, 2012

NHL playoffs bring great first round matchups, stars

It’s time for some of the most dramatic postseason action you’ll see in all of sports. Like the NBA, there isn’t much reason to pay attention to hockey until it gets close to the end of the season, but there is nothing like watching a tense battle in the playoffs of hockey. 

Like almost every hockey game, it is usually a tight contest coming down to the last couple seconds of the game. That creates great drama, especially in a setting as big as the playoffs.

Hockey is also a sport were any given team can win on a given night. This is where it differs from the NBA as you already know who is going to be in the finals before it even starts (Heat-Thunder). In 2010 the number 8 and 7 seeds met in the conference finals. You just don’t see that in other sports. 

This year the Philadelphia Flyers will face off against the Pittsburgh Penguins in what will undoubtedly be one of the greatest first round playoff pairings in recent history. These two teams left the ice in an all-out brawl just a few weeks ago and tempers will flare during the postseason as these close distance rivals square off. 

Another great rivalry will be going on in the first round between the Nashville Predators and Detroit Red Wings. The Wings bring all the history and past Stanley Cups with them, but The Predators are an up and coming team that is looking to make a statement in the NHL. 

There could be all kinds of squid, catfish and other sea creatures being thrown onto the ice as this series goes on. The two division rivals will be in a heated contest for what I expect to be a seven game series. 

The defending champion Boston Bruins and Tim Thomas will be taking on the Washington Capitals who have struggled this year but as long as Alexander Ovechkin is on the ice they’ll have a shot. The Vancouver Canucks will look to get back to the Stanley Cup finals but first they’ll have to get through the Los Angeles Kings who also have been a bit of a disappointment this year but could be dangerous. 

It would have been great to see Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Lightning get into the playoffs, especially after he recorded his 60th goal of the season, but there will still be plenty of stars on the ice to entertain the crowd. 

Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will more than bring the star power to the playoffs, and Claude Giroux, Scottie Hartnell and Jaromir Jagr will only add interest on the other side of the ice.
The best goalie in the league, Henrik Lundqvist, will lead the attack for a New York Rangers team. Ilya Kovalchuk and Jerome Iginla give the New Jersey Devils some excitement against the unimpressive Florida Panthers. The Sedin brothers begin another quest for a championship. Anze Kopitar will help the Kings pull off a first round upset. Pekka Rinne and the best defensive player in the league, Shea Weber, lead a great group of Predators. 

And then of course the playoff run of the Chicago Blackhawks is still fresh on our minds. That team retains one the most exciting players in the league in Patrick Kane. Marian Hossa has also had a good year for that team, as well as Patrick Sharp. 

Needless to say there are many reasons to be excited about the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The stars will be on display and dramatic finishes are guaranteed when the path towards a championship begins Wednesday (April 11). 

You can follow Jake on Twitter at: @j8a1k0e or on his MLB Braves blog at:
Jake also writes for Gloves Off Sports Business.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Predictions for 2012 MLB season; playoffs and awards

The day has finally come to make the most difficult predictions of the year. With a 162 game schedule, picking a winner in baseball has to be the most difficult task in the world, but it must be done.

I know the Athletics and Mariners already played in Japan, but I don’t consider that Opening Day and neither one of them will play into my predictions. Tonight will start the long journey of the 2012 baseball season, and here is how I see things playing out. 

American League
I’ll start with the easiest league to predict as there are really only six teams involved fighting for five spots. 

AL East:
1. New York Yankees 98-64
2. Tampa Bay Rays* 94-68
3. Boston Red Sox 88-74
4. Toronto Blue Jays 83-79
5. Baltimore Orioles 71-91

The Yankees lineup is just too dynamic. While I think the Rays may actually be a better team, the Yankees just seem to find a way to beat up on all the lower teams in the league and rack up high regular season win totals. I would love to pick the Blue Jays to finish ahead of the Red Sox, but I’m not confident yet in their rotation after Rickey Romero. The Red Sox need a lot to go right in order to fight for the division. 

AL Central:
1. Detroit Tigers 102-60
2. Kansas City Royals 85-77
3. Cleveland Indians 78-84
4. Minnesota Twins 72-90
5. Chicago White Sox 68-94

This might be the easiest prediction in baseball history. I don’t think anyone is picking somebody to dethrone the Tigers, who have looked amazing in spring. I like the Royals and Indians to both continue developing and could make a push if things fall right for them. 

AL West:
1. Anaheim Angels 96-66
2. Texas Rangers* 94-68
3. Seattle Mariners 73-89
4. Oakland Athletics 64-97

I think the Rangers have had too many chances and I feel like this could be a down year for them. The Angels had a better offseason and Mike Scioscia is a great coach that will do wonders with Albert Pujols in his lineup. The Mariners and Athletics might as well get comfortable down there. 

National League
This is where things get fun and interesting. This league is wide open and 10 of the 16 teams have a chance of making the playoffs; however, very few teams have a chance of taking down one of the AL powerhouses. 

NL East:
1. Philadelphia Phillies 97-65
2. Atlanta Braves* 91-71
3. Washington Nationals 87-75
4. Miami Marlins 82-80
5. New York Mets 71-91

Probably shouldn’t predict this division as I’m biased to the Braves, but I think the Phillies will hold strong and defend their crown. This will be the most competitive division in baseball. The Mets won’t be as bad as people think. I’m not as high on the Marlins as everyone else. Things have to go absolutely perfect for them to even make the playoffs. I’ve loved the Nationals for years and think they’ll see a huge improvement this year. 

NL Central:
1. Milwaukee Brewers 92-70
2. Cincinnati Reds 87-75
3. St. Louis Cardinals 85-77
4. Chicago Cubs 74-88
5. Pittsburg Pirates -72-80
6. Houston Astros 54-108

I like the Brewers starting rotation and bullpen better than the Reds and Cardinals and that’s the only reason I’m picking them. This three-team race is going to be close and I believe they’ll have to win the division to make the playoffs. Injuries and letdowns from losing Pujols and LaRussa scare me with the Cardinals. The Reds pitching staff is weak to me, but they do produce the best lineup. The Cubs will improve and the Pirates and Astros will stand pat. 

NL West:
1. San Francisco Giants 94-68
2. Los Angeles Dodgers* 89-73
3. Arizona Diamondbacks 83-79
4. Colorado Rockies 79-83
5. San Diego Padres 65-97

Another wild race in the National League, I think the Giants come out on top because of their dominate top three starting pitchers. I liked the Dodgers going into this year after the way they finished last season and I think they’ll continue to get better with the added fan support. I liked the Diamondbacks last year but I think that gravy train will come to an end. Too many people out produced their normal numbers last year and I’m not confident their starting pitching will hold up. The Rockies might have the best offense in the league, but there are too many questions with the rotation. If Juan Nicasio, Drew Pomeranz and Jhoulys Chacin step up they could surprise some people.   

Playoff Predictions

Wild Card Round:
AL – Rays over the Rangers
NL – Dodgers over the Braves

Rays over the Tigers
Angels over the Yankees
Phillies over the Dodgers
Giants over the Brewers

Angels over the Rays
Phillies over the Giants

World Series:
Angels over the Phillies

I’ve always been a believer in the Angels coaching staff. I think Pujols will help make that team much better like he did in St. Louis and Scoscia is great at finding a way to produce runs, which will support the great pitching staff with Jared Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson and Ervin Santana. 

AL Rookie of the Year: Matt Moore
NL Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper
AL Cy Young award: Dan Haren
NL Cy Young award: Yovani Gallardo
AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
NL MVP: Joey Votto

You can follow Jake on Twitter at: @j8a1k0e or on his MLB Braves blog at:
Jake also writes for Gloves Off Sports Business.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Calipari changing the game of college basketball

The first thought that came to my mind after Kentucky won the national championship Monday was: What is the NCAA going to do to keep Calipari and Kentucky from dominating for years to come? 

The outspoken coach has let it be known that he’s willing to accept any kid that’s just looking for a ‘one-and-done’ situation for his college basketball experience. He has set up a breeding ground for the NBA and he’s drawing top recruits because of it. 

Let’s be honest, most 18-year-olds are looking to make money as soon as they can. They want to get out from under their parent’s roof and live a better life. Calipari sales these kids on the fact that they can come to Kentucky for a year, win a National Championship, get great exposure and be a lottery pick. 

If a coach came to my home when I was a senior in high school and promised me these things I’d ask where the dotted line is and when can I start. The sooner you can get to the NBA, the sooner you can start making big bucks, which is all a young kid sees after having none his entire life. 

That’s not to say that Calipari is the only coach preaching this philosophy. I’m sure other coaches are telling kids that they can come in, play a year and then jet for NBA and money if that’s what they want. But Calipari has that arrogance and cockiness that comes along with a talented teenager whose dream is instant success. He has the same mindset as them and can easily connect with his players. 

I’m also not implying that all players that go to Kentucky are looking for a quick exit to college instead of focusing on their education. But as I watched that team handle a veteran group of Kansas players I witnessed a lineup that is ready for the NBA and who will undoubtedly be selected early in the next draft. 

Kentucky also has a history that goes along with the school that in itself will draw the attention of a young kid looking to be in the spotlight. Other coaches have to be furious with Calipari’s actions as a coach. Their main job should be to further the kid’s education. So what can be done by the NCAA?

I think eventually you’ll see either an age limit or another year of college added. People hate to see the success the SEC is having and they hate even more that a guy with the character and past of a Calipari is finding a way around the system to dominate the sport. 

In college baseball and football a student is required to attend school for at least three years before entering the draft. Basketball players out of high school are more prepared to compete in the NBA than other sports, so making them stay somewhere they don’t belong for an extra two years seems a unfair. 

Ultimately I don’t disagree with the system or the way Calipari is exploiting it. I just know outrage is going to be coming from other conferences and coaches asking for a rule to be put in place that will stop him and others from making a mockery of this sport by bringing in NBA talent for one year just to win national championships. 

You can follow Jake on Twitter at: @j8a1k0e or on his MLB Braves blog at:
Jake also writes for Gloves Off Sports Business.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A brief description of my love for baseball

It’s that time of the year again and a new season is upon us. This is by far the best time of the year for me. The extremely long offseason has finally come to an end. I’ve grown weary of watching meaningless Spring Training games. The fulfillment in watching a college game just isn’t the same. I need to see some major league action to help fill the void in my life and spring up a sense of happiness that’s been missing for the last five months.

On Wednesday (March 28) the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners will begin the 2012 season with two games in Japan. While the real Opening Day in the states doesn’t begin until April 4, this signifies the beginning of a new journey through a Major League Baseball season. And though the times have changed and people’s ‘perception’ of this glorious game has declined, there is no doubting the significance of a new season. 

But these are reason why I love this game. For most people these same reasons might not register because my entire life has been enthralled with the greatness of this game. 

Some of my reasons for loving baseball
I love baseball because for seven months out of this year I have something to do almost every day of the week. Most people complain that the season is too long and they lose interest towards the end of summer when the season is 100 games in, but I’m content watching my team go out night-after-night. It gives you a sense of hope every day that this could be a good day. And for most of us your entire mood revolves around whether or not your team wins or loses. 

For the next seven months the players on my team (and on my fantasy team) will be my best friends. I’ll read their quotes, get insight on their character and even though they don’t know it, they’ll be my new companion (or at least for as long as they’re on my team). But as baseball fans we go through the journey with these players. We get a glimpse of the grind they go through in a 162 game schedule. It’s more than just reading the box scores every morning, it’s about having perspective on what’s going on in the locker room and what the next move might be for the team. Being a fan instantly makes you a part of the franchise. It’s a roller-coaster ride of emotions. You get to feel the great times and the bad times as if you were actually involved in the outcome yourself. 

I love baseball because there is no greater thrill in the world than being at a baseball game. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little league, high school, college or professional game, they all have the same appeal that draws us to the stadium. Whether it’s the food (nachos, hot dogs, peanuts, pretzels, another hot dog), the smell of the grass, the dust flying off the infield, the crowds that share the same passion as you or the time spent with friends and family. These are just reasons outside of the actual game that make me love the sport. 

I love baseball because of its history. For years this game was built on its history and called the “National Pastime.” Many people have tried to take that label away from them and say football is the new national pastime, but how can a sport that’s only been around for half as long be the national pastime? That’s a story for another day. The fact is this country was built on the sport of baseball. There is no denying that baseball was the first actual sport to gain popularity in the U.S. and it still remains a vital part of this country. 

Men once got together on old dusty fields for pickup games. War heroes played it amongst other soldiers to pass the time and get their mind off the terrible tragedy surrounding them. Hopes, dreams, ambitions were all inspired because of this wonderful sport. It is the backbone of this country and will continue to be so as long as it exists. 

Racism was solved through baseball. Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man who did many great things for African Americans, but Jackie Robinson did the unthinkable when he signed up to play Major League Baseball. He brought the country together through his talent on the field during unthinkable circumstances. His play ultimately led to the end of racism (in my opinion) and changed the history of this country. All of this was done through the sport of baseball. 

I love baseball because it is the greatest sport ever invented. You can try to argue the point if you wish, but there is no comparison out there in terms of skill and strategy. Plus if you add all the things above that come along with the game. Baseball is great because an average person like Pete Rose can come along with virtually no skills, but through hard work and determination prove that anything is possible. It’s a game that virtually anyone can play, but only 1 percent of those that do play can do so at a major league level. 

The skill and God-given ability it takes to throw a 96 MPH fastball (with command) just doesn’t happen very often. Then to be able to throw a ball that breaks three quarters of the way to home plate and changes direction is almost unfair. But to be able to swing a wooden bat and connect with one of those pitches and hit it 400-plus feet is the most incredible accomplishment you’ll see in any sport. 

Then there is the defensive side of the game, which is my favorite, that normally is the difference between a normal Joe off the street and a major league player. To be able to field these rocket shots coming off a bat and then in an instant throw the ball to first before the runner gets there is the most underrated talent in sports. These athletes today make it look so easy that it doesn’t get appreciated enough. Go back and watch highlight films of Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel (those are just from my generation) and see for yourself how easy it is to dive to your right, get up and heave a baseball across the diamond in time to get the out. A cleanly turned double-play is the most beautiful thing to watch in this sport. When a runner is on first and the ball is hit on the ground I drop whatever I’m doing so I don’t miss the art form a well turned double-play. 

There are many reasons I love this game and just a few are mentioned above. I try to explain my passion for this game to others in today’s generation and it just seems useless. Baseball is something that’s been ingrained in me since the time I was born and that’s really where it starts. This isn’t a sport you can just pick up like football or basketball, it takes time to develop a feel and sense of pride for the sport. But once you’ve been engulfed by the spirit of the game developed through the years of history, you’ll experience a feeling unlike any other. When the temperature rises and the wind softly blows on a warm sunny day, you’ll feel the goose bumps run up your arm because you know it’s that time of the year and the time for the Boys of Summer is near. 

You can follow Jake on Twitter at: @j8a1k0e or on his MLB Braves blog at:
Jake also writes for Gloves Off Sports Business.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Tebow can’t catch a break

The horrible tragedy of the Tim Tebow experiment in the NFL took another sad turn this week when it was announced that Peyton Manning would be signing with the Denver Broncos. Not only was that a slap in the face to the man that just led them to a playoff appearance and then upset of the Pittsburg Steelers after all hope was lost, but then they shipped him off to New York where he’ll likely sit behind Mark Sanchez for the next three years or, at best, challenge him for playing time. 

Now I’m not one of those people overly in love with the Tim Tebow mania, but this kid has done everything he can to prove that he knows how to win games in the NFL. He’s a natural born leader and a winner. 

I’m also not one of those haters that want to dissect every aspect of his game that is lacking from what a normal quarterback should look and play like. Being a huge Pete Rose fan (the player, not the person) I understand that you don’t have to have tremendous skills to be a good player. 

Rose often played above his talent level because he had a desire and a passion to be better than everyone else. Tebow brings that same kind of effort to the football field. He may not look like Tom Brady when he throws, but all that matters to him is that he outscores the other team. 

After waiting patiently, he finally got a chance to prove he could play quarterback in the NFL while in Denver. This team was horrible and he was able to inspire them into winning some games and ultimately their division. Their defense was good before he became the starter, but because of him they became even better. And because he knew how to make plays happen, he was able to put enough points on the board to get them the win. 

If I’m Tebow right now I’m disgusted at the way things have transpired this week. I understand the Broncos and Manning had to make a business decision, and they made a good one. But to trade him to a team where he won’t have the opportunity to step right in and be starter just makes me sick. 

They could have easily sent some compensation to the Jaguars to make sure that deal got done. And according to a report, the Jaguars made a better offer, or at least one that wasn’t any worse. Tebow helped that Denver franchise make a lot of money even when they were a bad team because fans still poured in to buy his jersey and watch him play. 

Being back in Florida he would have been adored by his fans and immediately had the chance to compete for a starting position. The Jets on the other hand have just signed Mark Sanchez to a nice three year deal solidifying the fact that he’s their quarterback of the future. 

I’m not sure what the Jets plans are with Tebow, but I doubt the two are on the same side. This entire process was just a mess and a real failure to the sport and all parties involved. Sending him to his home state would have created a positive buzz and enthusiasim this league has never seen. Sending him to the circus that is in New York can only cause a negative stir and bad publicity for the sport and Jets’ franchise. 

You can follow Jake on Twitter at: @j8a1k0e or on his MLB Braves blog at:
Jake also writes for Gloves Off Sports Business.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bryce Harper shows how baseball is different from other sports

There are several reasons that baseball is different from football, or football is different from basketball and basketball from hockey. But one of the biggest reasons baseball is so different from all of them, is the fact that it’s not a game that just anyone can come in and dominate. 

Players have to go through a process in baseball before ever given a chance to play at the major league level. Not only do they have to grow in their abilities, but they need to develop the right kind of character that makes you a major league baseball player. 

This example was never more true than the recent news that Bryce Harper has been optioned back to the minor leagues. This kid has been hyped as the best position player prospect of all time. He’s dominated ever level of baseball he’s played. He’s proven that he has what it takes to compete in the majors. The majority of players and even his own coach believe he should be on the major league roster. But for some reason the executives of the ball club don’t feel the same way. And I have to say that I tend to agree with them. 

Now some people will say that they are just keeping him down to gain another year of arbitration from him, and that may be well and true. But the fact remains that this kid is till just 19 years old and he’s not ready to face major league pitching on a daily basis. Even though he’s one of the most gifted prospects of all time, he’s just not ready to dominate the league the way he has at other levels. 

That is not the case in any other sport. When Kobe Bryant or LeBron James leaves high school to go to the NBA, they are ready to instantly become leaders of their team and the league. There is no doubt that they will instantly become the best player on their team. They don’t have to go through some process to become ready for the NBA, they’re ready now. 

Cam Newton and Adrian Peterson don’t need to spend time in the Canadian Football League before they’re ready to compete in the NFL; they’re ready the moment they leave college. At least in football you do have to spend three years in college, but at age 20 most of these kids are prepared to become major factors in their sport. 

You can say the same about hockey with Sidney Crosby or any other teenaged winger that can instantly put up 50 points in a season. And in any other sport there isn’t normally a process that players absolutely have to go through like in baseball. 

But that process is what makes this sport so much more special than any other sport. Stephan Strasburg, Harper, Derek Jeter, they all HAD to go through the minor league ranks and perform before they were ready to join the big leagues. Playing baseball is so different from any other sport. You could be the best player on your high school, college or minor league team but you still might not have what it takes to succeed in Major League Baseball. 

I’m sure a month or two from now Harper will get the call to “The Show” and he’ll do just fine. But the fact that this supposed phenom of the sport has gone through more than one season in the minor leagues and still hasn’t proven he’s ready, just shows how difficult this sport really is, and how demanding it can be on even the greatest of athletes. 

You can follow Jake on Twitter at: @j8a1k0e or on his MLB Braves blog at:

Jake also writes for Gloves Off Sports Business.