Category Archives: baseball

Cuban Immigration Policy Continues to Affect MLB Player Eligibility

As the hot stove continues during the MLB offseason, it is important to consider an increasingly popular means of signing players: international free agency. This isn’t about the “Japanese Babe Ruth,” Shohei Otani, who will begin his MLB career with Mike Trout and the Los Angeles Angels. I’m instead talking about the dangerous side of international free agency.

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Shohei Otani (pictured) continues a successful tradition of baseball players coming to the US to play in the MLB.

The issue stems from a loophole in Major League Baseball and the United States Treasury Department rules surrounding the signing of Cuban baseball players. Since the beginning of the Cold War, direct trade talks between the United States and Cuba have been practically non-existent. On November 8, President Donald Trump announced that he would roll back achievements from the Obama administration in regards trade with Cuba. Despite icy relations between the two countries, Cuban defectors are able to come to the States and immediately set themselves on the pathway to becoming a legal resident. As legal residents, these players can declare for the MLB draft, where they can be chosen by any team setting themselves up to be paid around the league minimum salary, about $500,000. However, if defectors are smuggled into a second country before signing with an MLB club, they can be signed as an international agent and forgo low rookie contracts.

According to Baseball Reference, 76 Cuban defectors have played in the MLB since Fidel Castro’s communist revolution in 1959. MLB teams have identified Cuba as a hotbed for young talent. According to American sports agent Joe Kehoskie, “Cuba is a very close second in terms of overall talent…If you are comparing Cuba and the major leagues, if the major leagues are the American League East, Cuba is the American League West.”

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Jose Abreu (pictured) is one of many MLB players who had to defect from their country in order to play in the MLB.

Much of this talent is untapped as a result of the travel restrictions to Cuba. Despite difficulties in scouting players in Cuba, many defectors have been able to make it to the forefront of the MLB – this includes Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman and 2014 Rookie of the Year Jose Abreu. There has been no shortage of success for Cuban defectors in Major League Baseball, but getting them into the country and into the league has proven to be a far more difficult task.

Yasiel Puig took the MLB by storm in 2013. That year, the 22-year-old Cuban defector hit for a batting average of .391 and an OPS of .925 with 19 home runs and 42 RBI in 104 games with the Dodgers. Throughout his career, he has been known for his eccentric behavior and questionable off-field antics. In 2013, he was arrested on a reckless driving charge for going 110 mph in a 70 mph zone. On a separate occasion, when asked why he licks his bat during the 2017 World Series, Puig replied, “I make love to the bat and he pays me back with hits.”

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Yasiel Puig (pictured) has had one of the more well-documented journeys to the MLB of any Cuban defector.

Puig’s journey to American baseball was similar to many other Cuban defectors. He was approached by a Miami air conditioner repairman, Raul Pacheco, who told Puig that he would be able to smuggle him into Mexico where he could take up residence before being signed as an international free agent. In return, Pacheco would get 20% of Puig’s MLB earnings. Puig was smuggled into Mexico by a drug cartel and held captive during negotiations between Pacheco and the cartel. Once negotiations were settled and Puig was able to escape, he was scouted by MLB clubs and signed to a seven year, $42 million deal with the LA Dodgers. Puig’s saga, however, was not over. On December 16, 2014, a Miami man named Gilberto Suarez was convicted of smuggling the Dodgers’ star outfielder to Mexico and was forced to forfeit the $2.5 million that Puig owed him after signing his contract. According to the Miami Herald, Raul Pacheco organized Puig and others’ escape from Cuba to Mexico, while Suarez smuggled the group into the United States. Suarez spent a month in federal prison for his crimes.

Gilberto Suarez was not the only smuggler to be arrested for trafficking Cuban baseball players. Sports agent Bartolo Hernandez was sentenced to nearly four years in prison and a forfeiture of $15.5 million on smuggling charges. Many Cuban MLB players, including Jose Abreu, testified to being smuggled into Mexico or Haiti using forged documents. In order for Cuban players to be signed as free agents, the Treasury Department needed to amend its stance on normalizing relations with Cuba. On March 21, 2016, United States President Barack Obama made significant strides towards implementing these policies by becoming the first president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. The trip was a highlight of Obama’s efforts to lift the Cuban embargo imposed by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958. Featured on the trip was an exhibition baseball game played between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team. The game was symbolic of progress made by the Obama administration. Just before his trip on March 15, 2016, the President announced that his administration would allow Cuban citizens to work in the United States. As a result, Cuban players would be able to be signed as international free agents right out of Cuba.

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Sports agent Bartolo Hernandez (pictured) faces four years in prison along with a forfeiture of significant funds due to his player-smuggling activity.

The change in policy never got a chance to influence Major League Baseball. On November 8, 2017, President Donald Trump’s administration announced its decision to overturn the decision made by the Obama administration to loosen restrictions on visitation and trade with Cuba. As a result, Cuban players are, once again, unable to be signed as free agents without having to take up residence in a third country. In light of this issue, there are a number of different policies that both Major League Baseball and the United States Federal Government should enact to lessen the threat to Cuban defectors playing in the MLB. Unfortunately, the MLB owners and the Players Union have already agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement through 2021. Hopefully, at that time, changes would be able to be made in regards to the integration of Cuban defectors into the MLB. One potential solution to the issue is to end the financial incentives that persuade defectors to take residence in a third country. The MLB would be able to force all international players to enter into the draft, meaning that whether a defector is signed from Mexico or from the United States, he would make the same salary. However, the MLB Players Association is one of the strongest unions in sports, and this legislation may seem like an effort to decrease player salaries, and likely would not be agreed upon. Another potential option would be to allow Cuban players to sign as international free agents from Cuba. According to the New York Times, the MLB is currently on board with this plan, but needs permission from the Treasury Department in order to engage in trade with Cuban players. Such consent from the Treasury Department seems increasingly unlikely given the Trump administration’s current policies towards trade with Cuba. There is still potential for a resolution to come from outside of the MLB, if the current administration changes its attitudes towards Cuban relations.

Unless MLB fans want to see the next Yasiel Puig or Jose Abreu subjected to drug cartels and kidnapping, they must call their representative in Congress and make several other initiatives to vocalize their support of normalized relations with Cuba.

MLB 2017 Postseason Wildcard Round Predictions

It’s that time of the year again. Leaves changing colors, exchanging your t-shirt for cozy sweaters, but more importantly, the MLB playoffs are here. As the season comes to an end and the playoff pictures becomes clearer, let’s take a look at how each team matches up with each other.

American League

New York Yankees/Minnesota Twins vs Cleveland Indians

The Cleveland Indians are undoubtedly the hottest team in baseball right now, coming off of a historic 22-game win streak and winning 27 out of their last 29 games. In all facets, the Indians look unstoppable. With Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Ramirez leading their high-powered offense, and potential Cy Young winner Corey Kluber spearheading the league’s lowest ERA pitching rotation, the Indians are currently favorites to win the World Series.

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The Yankees recently completed a three-game dismantling of the Twins, and all signs point to an Indians vs. Yankees wildcard matchup. No matter the winner of that game, neither team has the ability to matchup with the Indians in a five-game series. The Yankees, despite averaging a league second 5.31 runs per game, have some uncertainties regarding their starting rotation due to injuries and the shakiness of fallen ace Masahiro Tanaka. The Twins have a similar problem with a mediocre starting rotation but also a weak relief team.

Winner: Cleveland Indians

Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros:

The Astros offense ranks first in the league in batting average, number of runs scored, slugging percentage and on base percentage. The talented offense, led by likely AL MVP Jose Altuve, is now coupled by a strong rotation of Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers Jr. and new acquisition Justin Verlander. Despite the Indians being the favorite to come out of the American League, Houston is an extremely balanced team that can make a lot of noise this postseason.

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One big question for the Red Sox will be whether or not they will be healthy enough to compete this postseason. Already losing Tyler Thornburg, Josh Rutledge and Marco Hernandez to season-ending injuries, the Red Sox also have third baseman Eduardo Nunez and second baseman Dustin Pedroia dealing with knee injuries as well as David Price still building up arm strength from his long stint on the DL. Additionally, the Red Sox lack power as they rank 27th in number of homeruns hit, which can prove to be a huge issue, especially in the playoffs.

Winner: Houston Astros

 

National League

Colorado/Arizona vs. LA Dodgers

Colorado’s offense has been struggling as of late, scoring less than two runs per game in the past six games and batting a measly .233 during this stretch. However, the Rockies rank second in the league in batting average overall this season and their biggest weakness lies in their pitching, as they have very little clue as to what their playoff rotation will be. The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, are a team that nobody wants to face. Overshadowed by the division-leading Dodgers, the Diamondbacks are an extremely well rounded team led by a loaded lineup of Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, David Peralta and J.D. Martinez and a pitching trio of Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin and Robbie Ray.

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While the Dodgers still hold the best record in baseball, they have gone a poor 9-21 in the past 30 games, including three losses to the lowly Philadelphia Phillies and three losses to the San Diego Padres. At one point this season, the Dodgers were 91-36 and will have to find that groove again against their potential matchup with Arizona, who they have lost their last six matchups to.

Winner: Arizona Diamondbacks

Chicago Cubs vs. Washington Nationals

After an abysmal start to the season, the defending champion Chicago Cubs have really turned it around in the second half. With Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant leading the offense and star closer Wade Davis having an almost perfect regular season in terms of saves, the Cubs currently look poised to make another run at the title.

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Cruising to first place in the weak NL East Division, the Washington Nationals’ biggest issues include their bullpen and Bryce Harper getting warmed up after his 40-game stint on the disabled list. Other than that, the Nationals have enough hitting power and starting pitching to make a run in the playoffs.

Winner: Washington Nationals

 

 

 

Umpires Need To Be Held Accountable Too

Just last month, Adrian Beltre became the 31st player in MLB history to join the 3,000 hit club, which basically punches his ticket into Cooperstown. He’s a guy who has always been one of the very best in the business for as long as he’s been in the MLB. This is exactly what makes what happened to him earlier that same week such a slap in the face. Take a look:

I go to A LOT of Major League Baseball games, and NO ONE stands in the damn on deck circle! It’s a “rule” that has no bearing on the ballgame. Additionally, this game was totally out of hand; the score was 17-5 at the time. So, in a 12 run game, Gerry Davis decides to make an example out of a future Hall of Famer? That’s a joke.

It even extends into the Independent League circuit. Check out this video (WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE):

Wally Backman goes bananas because his guy gets thrown out without saying a single word. I don’t blame Wally. I would’ve had a very similar reaction. These guys make a bad call, and then compound that mistake by throwing guys out. We can’t have that.

I coach high school basketball as well as baseball, and I can tell you that there is NOTHING worse than when an official gets too big for his britches and tries to become the star of the show. It’s even worse when they walk around on their high horse and won’t even have a discussion with you about what’s going on. That’s what guys like Gerry Davis and Joe West do. They think they run the show and they make sure that everyone who’s watching knows it. It’s brutal.

In a Cubs vs. Diamondbacks game at Chase Field in Arizona this past Saturday, the Cubs fell 6-2. While this scoreline initially makes it look like there was little competition between these two teams, the score was knotted at 0-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. The D-backs eventually jumped ahead to a 6-0 lead, but the Cubs weren’t ready to give up. They fought back to score two runs in the top of the ninth inning. They brought the momentum back on their side, only for it to get curtailed by a call from the umpire. The final out of the game was called a strikeout to 2B Ben Zobrist, who took a ball out of the strike-zone in a 1-2 count. Zobrist was furious and adamantly told reporters that this call shows the necessity for the league to enact an automated strike zone, citing the technological advancement and progress of all sports as reasoning. While the Umpire may have been adamant that he was making the right call, his decision overshadowed the game and put a terse end to a game that could have turned into a mini-Cinderella story. Oh well.

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My point is, coaches are held accountable; players are held accountable. Why can’t umpires be held accountable? I don’t have a problem with bad calls. I really don’t. They are part of the game. But when you have guys going rogue and baiting players/coaches into ejections, there’s a huge problem. No one has ever gone to a game to watch someone officiate. Ever.

Analyzing the Postseason Chances of the Boston Red Sox in 2017

The trade deadline came and went, and it is time to make a mid-season assessment of the 2017 Boston Red Sox. Boston entered this season with high expectations, especially given their offseason acquisition of ace Chris Sale from the White Sox. Ideally, they believed that an improved rotation would make up for the loss of David Ortiz’s power bat, if not his identity in the club house. Going into the season, the team was built to improve upon their pathetic performance in last year’s ALDS where they got swept by the Cleveland Indians. However, with the trade deadline deals made by the Yankees, the AL East is far from locked up. I have to put stock in the fact that the team is in first place, one game ahead of a New York team that is surprisingly contending far earlier than people expected. That being said, I am not ready to buy into this team. This year’s Red Sox have failed to show any improvement from last year, which is not entirely surprising given the loss of Big Papi. With one of the best starting rotations (on paper) in baseball and only one major loss from last year, it is not crazy to expect Boston to be in the ALCS. However, given their play thus far, it seems more likely that we will see a repeat of last year down the stretch as opposed to a World Series run.

The Strengths

The Starting Rotation

Going into the season, the Red Sox had one of the best rotations in baseball. The acquisition of Chris Sale added dominance to last year’s group, headlined by 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello and an above average David Price. Despite high exceptions in spring training, the Sox are lucky to be seeing continued strong pitching performances from their rotation. After going on the disabled list in the spring, it seemed as if it was only a matter of time until David Price was shut down for the season to get Tommy John surgery. Instead, Price returned to the mound in May, and since then has pitched better than last year, with a 3.39 ERA and increased velocity on his fastball. In his first year in Boston, Chris Sale has been dominant, with a 2.70 ERA and 216 strikeouts (12.7 strikeouts per nine innings). His success, furthermore, has overshadowed Porcello’s horrible season. Last year’s Cy Young winner has had few bright moments all season, with a 5-14 record and a 4.70 ERA. Up to this point in the year, Porcello has been the only negative in the rotation for the Red Sox. Drew Pomeranz has had a surprisingly successful 2017 season with a 10-4 record and a 3.46 ERA. Despite the struggles of Porcello, the starting pitching remains the best part of this Red Sox team. However, come playoff time, more questions will arise about the rotation. Currently, the only Red Sox starting pitcher to win a postseason start is Doug Fister, who is soon to be released or designated for assignment. While I have confidence in Sale on the mound in the regular season and playoffs, this team will need more than just Chris Sale to propel them to the ALCS.

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Closer – Craig Kimbrel

This year, the Red Sox have not only the best starting pitcher in the game, but also the best closer. After facing issues with control and pitching in non-save situations in 2016, Kimbrel has silenced critics with a phenomenal year. He is currently boasting a 1.61 ERA with 25 saves and a 0.672 WHIP. Even more impressive has been his improved control. He is issuing just 1.6 walks per nine innings, compared to 5.1 last season and 10.13 strikeouts per walk, compared to 2.77 from last year. Furthermore, he has developed an ability to pitch in the eighth inning. His presence at the end of games has helped shore up an otherwise mediocre bullpen.

Question Marks

The Rest of the Bullpen

The Red Sox bullpen has put up great numbers this season. They currently rank third in the majors in ERA, fourth in losses and sixth in batting average against. While these numbers indicate a bullpen which is dominant beyond just one closer, it is not really the case. Aside from Kimbrel, the Red Sox’ pen is mostly mediocre. As long as Kimbrel remains lights-out, the bullpen should continue to perform decently. However, the bullpen is currently devoid of an eighth inning reliever, which may hinder potential success in October. This is an issue created by the fact that the bullpen help acquired by team president Dave Dombrowski is injured. Tyler Thornburg needed season-ending surgery and Carson Smith has yet to step on the mound. In order to create buzz in the postseason, Boston must find an effective eighth inning reliever to take some pressure off of Kimbrel. The Sox made a move to help fill that eighth inning hole at the deadline, acquiring Addison Reed from the Mets. Reed could be a legitimate eighth inning reliever, boasting a 2.65 ERA and 1.10 WHIP this season. However, there should be questions concerning how his move from the National League to the more offensively prolific American League will impact his performance. In his first game in a Boston uniform, Reed was handed the ball in the eighth, only to give up a solo home run to Carlos Santana.

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Designated Hitter – Hanley Ramirez

This season, Hanley Ramirez was given the impossible task of replacing David Ortiz’s presence in the Sox lineup. Thus far, his season has been a failure. His performance is closer to that of his abysmal 2015 season than that of last year, when he helped lead the Red Sox into the postseason with his hot second half. He is currently batting .253 (he batted .249 in 2015 and .286 in 2016) with 17 home runs and 42 RBI. However, it’s not just Hanley. The entire Red Sox team has failed to replicate their offensive production from last year. Currently, there is only one player hitting above .300 (Dustin Pedroia). The team ranks 28th in the majors in home runs, 24th in slugging, 19th in OPS, 16th in RBI, and 12th in runs. The team has an issue with offensive production, and it starts at designated hitter. I do not rule out Hanley turning things around in the second half of the season — Last year, it was his production in the second half that helped carry the Red Sox into the postseason. However, at the DH position, Hanley seems less invested in the team’s performance than he did while playing first base. If the current offensive woes are to turn around, Hanley Ramirez will have to increase his production at DH.

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Overall Assessment

Without a doubt, the Red Sox have enough talent in their roster to make a run at a title this season. First of all, they certainly have the pitching to get them there. Additionally, it seems that all of their problems can be solved internally, meaning that their deadline performance won’t be a massive factor. Carson Smith’s potential return would help solidify the bullpen in the eighth inning, although I do not trust that he can be effective this season. In October, the Red Sox may look for Kimbrel to take the eighth inning in closeout games, a move which has worked so far this season. As far as the offense goes, this team has enough talent between Betts, Bogaerts, Ramirez, Bradley, Pedroia and Benintendi to make some noise. There is a good chance that Betts, Bogaerts or Ramirez finds their power in the second half. Even more favorably, this team does not need to score 6+ runs every night like they did last season in order to win. Behind an extremely talented pitching staff, they should be able to contend as long as the team is able to manufacture runs and hit for power in key situations.

MLB Trade Deadline Moves that Won’t Happen but Should Happen

With the trade deadline right around the corner, we are going to be seeing a lot of faces in new places (as ESPN likes to say). Even though many players are going to have new homes come August 1st, there will still be players who won’t move but definitely should go to new teams; but they won’t, due to their superstar status, their astronomical salary, or due to the price that must be given up to get them. Here is a list of players (and one team) that I would like to see traded but most likely won’t move a muscle:

Manny Machado (BAL)

The young superstar is having a lackluster season for the O’s, hitting only .238 with 18 HR and 47 RBI. His homerun and RBI numbers aren’t really that far off from his normal self, but his average is what’s killing him. Machado has become a star in this league due to his ability to not only hit 35 HR and 90 RBI, but to do so while also being a career .284 hitter. To have both that power and consistency at the plate is something that very few in this league can accomplish. But the Orioles are currently in selling mode, showing that they are most likely trying to rebuild the franchise with youth. The problem with this is that Machado only has one year left on his current contract before he hits free agency, and chances are, he isn’t going to be resigning with Baltimore. If the Orioles were smart, they would trade him and get something in return while they still can. They can do this next Summer too, but his value would amount to less because he would only be a rental. Comparable to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ predicament with Kyrie Irving.

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Marcus Stroman (TOR)

The Blue Jays have been to the ALCS in each of the past two seasons, carried by extremely offensive-minded teams. Marcus Stroman, though, has been a very good pitcher for this team since coming up in 2014. His career ERA might not be easy on the eyes (3.91), but it’s only due to a down season in 2016. He has come back this season strong with a 3.10 ERA and shown the league that he is a top-of-the-rotation starter in the majors. He is under team control until 2020, which enhances his value even more. The Blue Jays are getting old and are showing that age this season. Toronto had its chances at the championship for two seasons and failed to capitalize. Now, they need to sell off their pieces and rebuild this team – starting with Stroman. His performance, along with the fact that he is under team control for another three seasons makes his value extremely high and would get the Blue Jays a haul of talented, young prospects who they can use to start rejuvenating this franchise.

Roberto Osuna (TOR)

Another young pitcher for Toronto, this closer has been absolutely dominating since coming into this league in 2015 as a 20-year-old. To say the youngster is a stud is an understatement. He has a career 2.51 ERA and .885 WHIP. Like Stroman, Osuna is under team control until 2021 but is eligible for arbitration this season, where he is likely to command a huge salary. It doesn’t make sense for the Blue Jays to pay him this large salary when they are a last place team. They need to trade Osuna when his value is astronomically high (like it is now) and get a plethora of prospects to help replace the aging players on this team in return.

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Jose Abreu (CHW)

The White Sox have made it clear that they are sellers by trading away Jose Quintana, Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. Abreu should be next on their roster to move. He is their third-oldest position player in a franchise that wants to get younger. Moving the 30 year-old who is having a stellar hitting year with .294 with 16 HR and 59 RBI, would get Chicago more prospects to go alongside Yoan Moncada and the prospects they received from the Yankees. To make him even more valuable, he is under team control for another two seasons, which is a big bonus for a player of his caliber. His name isn’t being thrown around very much right now, but he would certainly help most contenders this year.

Giancarlo Stanton (MIA)

I know. His name is all over the papers as the Marlins are trying to get rid of his exorbitant contract. The issue is that no other team in the majors wants it either. Stanton is making at least $25 million between now and 2028 (when he is 38 years old). To put that into perspective, that’s the same deal A-Rod took with the Yankees, and by the end of it, every Yankee fan was cursing his name. It makes no sense for any team to want to take on that deal and pay Stanton that much money for the next decade. Yes, right now, he is worth it. Stanton is an incredible player and a physical specimen. But think about this deal in five years. Stanton will be 33 and making $32 million. I can guarantee that he will not be putting up the numbers he is now when he is 33. Nobody does. He is in the prime of his career right now and he was smart. He saw a chance to make an obscene amount of money and he took it. But no team will take on this contract unless they get a lot of help from the Marlins, and I don’t see that happening. At least not this year.

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Miami Marlins

I wanted to put Stanton in his own category because he is a vey special case compared to the rest of this team. The Marlins have made it known that much of their team is up for sale – and I would love to see them go. Miami has a lot of young talent that can go to other teams and make a big difference. Marcel Ozuna (26) is having an amazing year, hitting .315 with 23 HR and 70 RBI. His teammate Christian Yellich (25) is a great young hitter and can develop power if he were to bulk up at bit. Dee Gordon (29) could also have a huge impact with his speed and defensive range for a contender. Finally, Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto has already established himself in the majors despite his age. He is a career .285 hitter; you don’t see that every day from a catcher. I don’t think many of these guys are going to move, but look out for Yellich as he has had his name thrown around quite a bit the past few days.

Matt Harvey (NYM)

As a Mets fan, I have to put this in here. I know he is not going to be traded due to his terrible trade value right now, but it needs to be said that he needs to get out of the Mets organization. Harvey had two very good seasons for the Mets where he helped lead them to the World Series in 2015 as an ace of the staff (alongside Jacob DeGrom). Since then, he has been nothing but trouble for the Mets including the time where he lied about not coming to the ballpark because of “migraines”.

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Joey Votto (CIN)

I feel bad for Joey Votto, I really do. The guy has been an amazing baseball player since he came up with the Reds in 2007. But since that year, the Reds have only had a winning record three times, with only have two division titles in the last ten years. I understand that he is the face of their franchise and the guy who nobody in Cincinnati wants to see go, but you can’t help but feel bad for such a talented player being wasted on such a poor team.

Mike Trout (LAA)

Speaking of wasting a player’s talent, that is exactly what’s going on in Los Angeles. If only one of the players on this list could be traded, I would want it to be Mike Trout. Trout has been the best player in the MLB since his rookie year in 2012 – plain and simple. The outfielder has finished in the top two for MVP every single year he has been in the majors (winning the award twice), been an All-Star every season and has won a Silver Slugger every year. Add to that very good defense and you have the best player we have seen in a long time in the majors. The only issue with Mike Trout is that he is on the Angels. The Angels have been very inconsistent since Trout has entered the league, only making the playoffs once (2014). I understand that it would take a mountain of talented prospects in order to get Trout from the Angels, but this is a player who has put up stats similar to Mickey Mantle, Mel Ott and Willie Mays through this point in his career. To have that great of a player on a team as inconsistent as the Angels is a crime. He has carried this team, and even Trout can’t take them to the playoffs. It’s time for the Angels to understand that they are wasting the career of a player who will become one of the all-time greats if he keeps up this pace (and at 25 he shows no signs of slowing down). They need to let Trout join a team where he has the chance to lead a team to a championship.

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Blame John Farrell for David Price’s Outburst

The Red Sox are in first place in the AL East despite a whole lot of flaws with the club. Their offense is on and off, the bullpen seems as though it will implode at any moment (especially on the road and Craig Kimbrel not withstanding) and their manager is the WORST in-game manager in baseball. But John Farrell’s most egregious sin is how he has let the culture in the clubhouse deteriorate without the presence of Big Papi; and there is no better indicator of that than the actions of David Price.

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Price has had two fairly high profile run-ins with the media this season. The first was back in early June after an 8-0 loss at Yankee Stadium, when he went on an expletive-filled tirade where he proclaimed that he will only speak to the media on days that he pitches.

After Price’s first outburst, John Farrell had a choice. He could either back David Price, or set the tone and let Price and the rest of the clubhouse know that they need to be professionals and handle their responsibilities with the media without acting like entitled, spoiled brats.

Which one do you think he chose? Of course Farrell decided to back David Price. Of course he backed the guy who sarcastically refers to Farrell as “Manager John” and is about as thin skinned as a 4th grader. Of course he decided to tell the assembled media that, “accountability is a two-way street”, rather than holding Price accountable.

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The second incident was when he and Dennis Eckersley had a confrontation on a team flight from Boston to Toronto on June 29. According to the report, Price’s issue stemmed from Dennis Eckersley saying “yuck” when the telecast flashed the absolutely horrendous stat line of Eduardo Rodriguez’s rehab start in Pawtucket. That is what Price was so upset about. Seriously.

According to reports, when Eckersley got on the plane, Price sarcastically said “Here he is! The greatest pitcher to ever live! This game comes easy to him!”. When Eck tried to respond, Price told him to “get the f— out of here!” and was actually APPLAUDED by some of his Red Sox teammates.

When Price was asked about it, he said that, “some people just don’t understand how hard this game is.” Fair enough, except that fact that Dennis Eckersley is in the HALL OF FAME! I think he kind of understands what it takes to be successful in Major League Baseball. And not for nothing, but Eckersley was wildly successful as both a starter and a reliever during the course of his career. Did you forget who you were talking about, David?

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Eckersley was no stranger to accolades in his playing days, winning an AL MVP, an ALCS MVP, a Cy Young, a World Series, & six All-Star berths. 

The day after the confrontation, Farrell said that he, Price, and President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski had a meeting and that the situation was being handled internally. This could be true, but I highly doubt it, considering the fact that no one from the organization has issued an apology to Eckersley.

Here’s what should have happened: After Price’s first outburst, he should have received a modest fine, and Farrell should’ve publicly reprimanded Price to make it clear to Price and the rest of the Red Sox that they are professionals and they will be expected to act like it. That’s it. That’s all that Farrell had to do to avoid the second outburst. And if for some reason the Eckersley incident happens anyway, you fine him even more and suspend him.

Now, Farrell has opened up a whole can of worms. He has now set a precedent that his guys can say whatever they want, whenever they want, and treat people however they want. Wrong message to Johnny boy. This is a young team and they need to be led by someone who has a spine and unfortunately, that is NOT John Farrell.

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Would this have happened if Terry Francona was managing this team? The answer to that is an emphatic no. These two situations prove that John Farrell is soft, which is pretty much what most of Red Sox Nation already knew. He doesn’t know how to hold people accountable, which is what the Red Sox pay him very handsomely to do.

Rafael Devers: The Solution

On paper, the Boston Red Sox might just have the most talented roster in all of Major League baseball. With a golden glover (Betts) and two potential golden glove winners (Bradley Jr. and Benintendi) patrolling the outfield, two former all-stars holding down the middle infield and a pitching staff that features the likes of Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello and Craig Kimbrel in the closer role, it’s hard not to picture this team competing for a world championship.  After a slow start to the season, highlighted by an initial record of 21-21, the Red Sox began to heat up going into the All-Star break.  From top to bottom, the bats really started to produce, and guys like Drew Pomerantz and Rick Porcello turned in some excellent outings. However, this momentum has not carried into the second half of the season as the Red Sox have found themselves 4-7 in their past 11 games, which included a split with the last place Blue Jays and an underwhelming series loss to the Los Angeles Angels. With all of this being said, the Red Sox still find themselves in first place of the AL East with a 2.5-game lead over their arch-rival Yankees. This is promising, considering the Sox have underperformed to this point and will hopefully start to play some better baseball heading down the stretch.

One big shake up that occurred shortly after the all-star break was the release of third baseman Pablo Sandoval. The Red Sox signed Sandoval prior to the 2015 season to a five year, $95 million contract as he was highly regarded as one of the best third basemen in the game. A proven winner with three World Series victories under his belt with San Francisco, coupled with a career slash line of .294/.346/.465, the Sox faithful believed that “The Panda” would hold down the hot corner and help bring a ninth world series championship to Boston. However, this never came to fruition as Sandoval battled injuries and the media buzzed with rumors that Pablo was dealing with an eating disorder that caused him to become very overweight. Prior to his release, Sandoval was batting just .212 in 108 PA and was playing less than stellar defense.  Pablo Sandoval is still owed $49.8 million by the Red Sox through the 2019 season and his contract will surely go down as one of the worst in franchise history.

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Pablo Sandoval (pictured) was a failure for the Red Sox.

Up to this point, the Red Sox have gone with a platoon at third base which included the likes of Deven Marrero and Tzu-Wei Lin. Both have been serviceable when in the lineup, but the instability at third base is a glaring weakness for this otherwise very strong Red Sox team. Also, former all-star utility man Brock Holt has recently returned from the 60-day DL following his battle with vertigo, but there’s no telling how productive the scrappy left-hander will be the rest of the season.

With all of these circumstances taken into account, the Red Sox made the executive decision to call up their top prospect, Rafael Devers, to the big league club following their 3-2 loss to the Angels on Sunday.  People knew that Devers was going to get his shot in the future, but not many were expecting it after only playing nine games in AAA Pawtucket. This automatically makes Devers the youngest player in the MLB, at 20 years and 274 days old at the time of his call-up.

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The Red Sox signed Devers as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic shortly after he turned 16 years old.  Scouts have raved about Devers’ big league body to go along with his plus-plus raw power for years. It was only a matter of time for Devers to thrive against professional pitching. Rafael Devers has skyrocketed to the top of the Red Sox organization and has continued to produce at every stop he’s made in the minor leagues. He’s consistently been an all-star at various levels and has participated in the Futures Game twice now. Between AA/AAA this season, Devers has slashed an impressive .311/.377/.578, which includes 20 home runs and 20 doubles.  Not to mention that Devers is consistently facing guys who are three to five years older than him night in and night out.  He’s been an average defender, but his bat will have to carry him if he wants to stay with the big league club for the rest of the season.

Personally, I love this move, given the fact that Red Sox third basemen have hit an embarrassing .224/.284/.307 this year to go along with below average defense.  Something clearly needed to be done and the Red Sox decided to address the need internally, rather than pursuing a trade to acquire the likes of Ian Kinsler or Todd Frazier (recently traded to the Yankees).  I predict that Rafael Devers will plug somewhere into the six-eight spot in the lineup and will be the everyday third baseman moving forward.  Don’t be surprised if you see Devers struggle at first like Yoan Moncada did last season, as it’s a tough transition for power guys to adjust to major league pitching.  Expect to see a bunch of strikeouts and maybe some mental errors here and there, but when you see this 20-year-old square up a baseball and hit it 450ft, you’re going to want to see him in a Red Sox uniform for a long time.  Red Sox nation is going to be totally captivated by the talent that is just surfacing from this kid, and he isn’t even old enough to go out for a beer on Yawkey Way following a big win! So pick up your Rafael Devers jersey now, because we’re all about to witness something special at Fenway Park these next couple months.

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Just think about a line-up like the one below.  Opposing pitchers are going to have their work cut out for them, as there’s not one easy out in the entire order.  That’s a scary thought for the rest of the league. Throw Sale on the bump and they’re practically unbeatable.

  1. Betts 9
  2. Benintendi 7
  3. Pedroia 4
  4. Ramirez DH
  5. Bogaerts 6
  6. Moreland 3
  7. Bradley Jr. 8
  8. Devers 5
  9. Vasquez/Leon 2