Sunday, April 17, 2016

Baseball Cards: Hello?

When your mom decides to call you just as they're taking your picture for your rookie card...

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Cubs Dominate Angels to Begin the Season

Yes, it's only been one game so far, but on Opening Night, the Chicago Cubs illustrated exactly why fans are so excited for this season, firing on all cylinders and defeating the Angels 9-0.

First, consider the fact that Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Addison Russell combined to go 0-for-10 with five stikeouts, and the offense still posted NINE runs. In fact, even without a hit, Bryant walked twice, scored twice, and drove in a run.

More importantly, this lineup is so strong, particularly when using the DH in an American League park, that Miguel Montero hits EIGHTH. It's not a surprise that he was the offensive hero in the opener, hitting a home run and driving in three runs. Montero is more of a cleanup hitter than anything else, with more than 1,000 career at-bats hitting fourth in the lineup, more than any other lineup position. Having him at the bottom of the order is just another strength of this Cubs team.

And just yesterday I mentioned that I hoped Matt Szczur would get a chance to contribute before Javier Baez returns from the DL, and of course Szczur knocked in three runs on his only at-bat in the opener.

The Cubs scored nine runs against a good team on a night when one run would've been enough, thanks to Jake Arrieta's dominance. This lineup is intimidating, to say the least. Obviously, teams will beat the Cubs this year. But it won't be easy.

Monday, April 4, 2016

A Look at the 2016 Chicago Cubs Opening Day Roster

There are no real surprises on the 2016 Chicago Cubs Opening Day roster. The team breaks camp with one of the best 25-man rosters in the league, if not the best. After a surprising 2015 season that saw many of the organization's top prospects called up and placed into significant roles, and ended with an NLCS appearance, the Cubs front office made it clear this offseason that the team is being built to win now.

Adding star players Jason Heyward and John Lackey not only improves the Cubs, but it immediately weakens  division rivals (and 2015 NL Central champs), the St. Louis Cardinals. Throw in newcomers Ben Zobrist and Adam Warren, and we can see clear upgrades to a roster that won 97 games last year. That's kind of amazing.

Manager Joe Maddon now has all kinds of flexibility, just as he likes it. Zobrist can play anywhere, and although Javy Baez will be on the DL for the first week or so, he is being groomed to be another Zobrist. Heyward and Dexter Fowler can play anywhere in the outfield, while Kyle Schwarber is actually going to do some catching in addition to playing left field. And of course, Kris Bryant has proven he can do pretty much anything better than pretty much anyone.

On the pitching side, having Lackey jump into the rotation's number three slot behind Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester suddenly has people saying this might be the league's best staff. Jason Hammel struggled a little in the second half last year, but his 3.74 ERA looks terrific for a 4th starter. Furthermore, with 15 wins and a 3.49 ERA over his first 1.5 seasons, Kyle Hendricks could be the best 5th starter out there.

And then there's the flexibility in the bullpen, where the Cubs have somehow piled up effective starters who are now serving as relievers. Warren, Trevor Cahill, Clayton Richard, and Travis Wood could all stretch out as starters if needed, and the Cubs have the kind of offense that could keep the team in contention even if some of these bullpen arms had to become starters.

I should definitely mention Matt Szczur, who I had fun with in a recent post, following all of the outfield moves the Cubs made. In the end, with Baez on the DL, it's Szczur who grabbed the last roster spot for now. What makes it more impressive is that Baez could've easily been replaced by infielder Munenori Kawasaki, who hit an impressive .367 this spring, with an OBP of .446 through 49 at bats. But Szczur, who is out of options, hit .375 to secure the spot and stick with the team, at least for a little while. I'm hoping he gets the chance to make the most of it.

The flexibility doesn't stop with the major league roster, as the Cubs have talented players like Kawasaki and Shane Victorino signed to minor league deals. In addition, the next group of prosepcts could be ready soon as well, and players like Jeimer Candelario, Wilson Contreras, Albert Almora, and others could make things very interesting at some point soon (or could be used as trade chips to upgrade the major league team if/when needed).

As a Cubs fan, this is probably the best team I've ever been able to watch. I'm ready for the season to kick off tonight, and I'm hoping it ends with a World Series win in the fall.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

MLB 2016 Predictions

Here are my predictions for the 2016 MLB season. Yes, I am predicting that the Cubs will win the World Series. Although it's one of those things I just can't believe will ever actually happen, I'd feel pretty dumb if this ended up being the year and I had some other team listed here. There are so many good teams this year, and this was difficult. You can hear some of my thoughts about this on our latest episode of Beers and Baseball Cards. Feel free to tell me why/how I'm wrong in the comments!

NL East
NL Central
NL West
NL Wild Card
NL Wild Card

AL East
AL Central
AL West
AL Wild Card
AL Wild Card
White Sox

World Series
Cubs over Yankees

Monday, March 28, 2016

Beers and Baseball Cards 06

Mike and Brett preview the 2016 MLB season as they open packs of 1992 Fleer and random grab bags of cards. Music by The Ueckers. Thanks for listening!

Jerry Browne's reaction when he learned he was being traded to Oakland...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Baseball Cards: Dad Goes to Fantasy Camp

When your dad went to fantasy camp that time and thought he was a real player....

Jerry Reuss, Geoff Zahn, Tom Hume, Joe Cowley, Bill Scherrer, Ron Kittle, Donnie Hill

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Beers and Baseball Cards 05

Mike and Brett welcome the 2016 MLB Spring Training season with a new episode, experimenting with football cards this time. They also discussed LSU basketball, Ben Simmons, fantasy baseball, Cubs/White Sox, Saints, and other random sports topics. Music by The Ueckers. Thanks for listening!

Just some social media posts about Adam LaRoche

Wedge and I already chimed in on this subject. But I thought that might be a little unfair and maybe we should give the other side a voice as well.

Here are just a few of the first random public posts that popped up in a Facebook search for LaRoche.







Thursday, March 17, 2016

More Data Points of the LaRoche Story

Don't miss Mike's good op-ed below on Adam LaRoche's retirement. Mike gets right to the point that many people don't even understand A) what its like to have kids, but also B) what its like to have options in life. Many people are stuck in job or feel lacking of freedom but lets put a few facts out there to put more of LaRoche's decision into perspective.

#1 - He's been bringing his son to team functions for some time and people haven't noticed because he's been playing great. Being a DC resident I witnessed his 2011-2014 seasons. .341 OBP in those 4 years, 6th in MVP voting and Golden Glove winner in 2012, a core piece of the lineup. So that's why this has never even come up before.

Look at any major sport, when a guy is producing for a team they let them do whatever, like guys getting arrested, or in this case, bringing their kid to the day job.

#2 - Ken Williams is allowed to ban any kids from team events. People forget that baseball is a job for MLB players. Williams said "name one job in the country were you can bring your child to work everyday." and he's right. If ownership or management thinks you are doing anything that might be hurting your performance they can request you change it so long as its nothing illegal.

I happen to be allowed to work remotely for my job, but that's with the expectation that I perform my job. IF I under-perform my employer has every right to tell my I can't telework anymore and have to come into the office.

#3 - bosses can suffer consequences, I've had former bosses force entire staffs out with dumb decision making; its quite possible LaRoche is "taking one for the team" cause other players are mad about the "no kids" decision.

#4 - He's NOT foregoing $13,000,000
One of the worst thing that happens in sports is the advertisement of player contracts because its so disorting of facts. People, and by that I mean everyday fans, seem to think that being a professional athlete is the same as being a waiter, mechanic, accountant, chef etc. Its not for many reasons

A) bonuses, performance targets and incentives vs. guaranteed money. Often when sports contracts are announced for some idiotic reason media always announce a contracts potential maximum, a figure athletes rarely reach because many of the targets are impossible or not entirely within their control like "make the playoffs" etc.

B) TAXES!!! People seem to forget that athletes pay taxes too, and in fact they pay more because the salary is higher. general consensus is that you take 20% off your salary to estimate your take home, for athletes its a hell of a lot more than that.

C) FEES / AGENTS / ETC.   LaRoche has an agent, he has trainers, he has supplements/vitamins and more that come out of his own pocket.

If you put all that together his $13 million might be more like $6-7 million. Not saying thats something to sneeze at, but also saying don't kid yourself on the $13 million part.

#5 - He likely doesn't need the money. LaRoche, if he has been smart with money should have plenty of it, turning down $"$13 million" might be something he's willing to forego because he frankly doesn't need it. He plays in America's most absurdly salaried sport and has had a good career. Baseball pays its players more than any other sport, and the players can play for longer than most any other sport aside from maybe golf. Laroche has been playing since 2004, here's his salary according to contracts thus far.

Year Age Team Salary Sources
2004 24 Atlanta Braves $300,000 4/7/04 AP
2005 25 Atlanta Braves $337,500
2006 26 Atlanta Braves $420,000
2007 27 Pittsburgh Pirates $3,200,000
2008 28 Pittsburgh Pirates $5,000,000
2009 29 Pittsburgh Pirates $7,050,000
2010 30 Arizona Diamondbacks $4,500,000
2011 31 Washington Nationals $7,000,000
2012 32 Washington Nationals $8,000,000
2013 33 Washington Nationals $10,000,000
2014 34 Washington Nationals $12,000,000
2015 35 Chicago White Sox $12,000,000
2015 35 Washington Nationals $2,000,000 Buyout of contract option

So, taking into account points 4A, 4B, and 4C above to be conservative lets say he only gets 50% of whats advertised, he'd still have amassed $36+ million so far by the age of 35. Most of us won't amass $36 million in our lifetime. This ignores any money he has made from investments, endorsements, if his wife has a job etc.:

"LaRoche is one of the co-owners of Outdoor Networks hunting show Buck Commander with friends and pro athletes Chipper JonesRyan LangerhansTom MartinLuke BryanJason Aldean, and Willie Robertson who is from the Duck Commander series."

So is a $13 million contract something to sneeze at... well no. But is it going to put Adam LaRoche's family in dire straights... not likely so long as he has been smart with what he's made so far. Once you are paid enough money to own a house and car outright and pay utilities, the honest truth is that more money is just to spend on more things you want to try, but not things you need.

#6 - He can just as easily unretire and play for another team that allows him to bring his kid. 

Adam LaRoche puts family first, and people lose their minds.

When Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche retired unexpectedly yesterday, everyone assumed there was something behind it. Well, it didn't take long to find out that LaRoche retired because team president Ken Williams asked him to stop bringing his son to the clubhouse so often. Of course, LaRoche gave up his salary of $13 million in the process.

Apparently LaRoche was bringing his 14-year-old on most days (I assume when he wasn't in school?), which might seem like a bit much. However, it seems his son has been a fixture in the clubhouse in past years, particularly when LaRoche played for the Washington Nationals from 2011-14. So if this is the first time we're hearing about it, there are a lot of other people out there who have not had a problem with it until now.

So first, there are the fans, many of whom are idiots, calling out LaRoche for retiring. The fact that people are posting comments on these articles calling LaRoche "selfish" and "entitled" is just amazing to me. I also wonder if these people have children of their own.

Personally, I believe it would be "selfish" to say that, no matter what you truly believe is right, you are going to do whatever you need to do to get that $13 million that you have coming to you. It's yours. You earned it, dammit, and no one is going to take that from you. Forget that LaRoche hit only .207 last year, with a miserable OBP of .293. That's his money, right?

No, guys. What LaRoche has done is the complete opposite of "selfish." It's something that many parents would never do. He decided that spending time with his son each and every day was more important than his "legacy," his statistics, his career, and of course, (literally) stacks and stacks of money.

Now, right when the story came out, I had nothing but admiration for LaRoche. I imagined that Williams was voicing concerns that he had received from the players, and with a newseason, the players wanted things to be more serious in the clubhouse. And I was totally OK with that. I could see players asking for something like that and could easily see LaRoche quietly retiring as a way of respecting his teammates' wishes while ultimately choosing his family over the money.

But that isn't even the case! This afternoon we learned the White Sox players were extremely close to boycotting today's spring training game to SUPPORT LaRoche. So it isn't even the players who are requesting this change. It's simply Ken Williams.

It's worth noting, of course, that the White Sox have drafted two of Williams's sons in recent years, in addition to sons of Harold Baines and others. But still, the players don't get to make all of the rules; Williams is the president, and he has the right to make the changes that he thinks need to be made.

But all of that aside, as a dad, I have nothing but respect for LaRoche and now for the players who are supporting him.