Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Knuckle Ball Volume one

This will be  a piece in which I entertain my thoughts on the current events of a game I'm very fond of, that being  Major League Baseball. There won't necessarily be a particular topic driving this entry but it'll just be random thoughts I have on a various amount of interests from across the big leagues. The "knuckle ball" is something I intend to publish about two to three times a baseball season. On tap for this article will be assessing whether the Toronto Blue Jays can contend in an anomic American league east, divulging into whether or not Paul Goldschmidt is truly a superstar for the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks or whether having anemic talent around him in a twisted way is aiding his godly statistics, and the state of the Major League baseball draft, explaining why I believe it's time for the draft to become a global entity.

The Toronto Blue Jays. Canada's team, is off to a peculiar start in a division that went from being on the verge of being historically awful to surprisingly above average. Manager John Gibbons was reportedly on the verge of being axed prior to a series in early June against the Washington Nationals, but two consecutive wins in the series which sky-rocketed a leap in momentum for the team which saw the Jays win eleven straight games. This mammoth run catapulted the Jays to respectability which as of July 1,2015 has the Jays sitting pretty at 42-38 and a game back of the division. So what's changed for the fortunes for the team I used to affectionately consider the "Blow Jays" to revert from going through dismal April and May showers to suddenly turn June into prunes? Well, pitching has been the prudent water cooler conversation for seemingly forever in Toronto, but now elevated performances from Marco Estrada, and Mark Buehrle have alleviated concerns, for now anyways. It's painfully clear that the rotation is missing that one power arm because as a Jays fan, well as of today anyways because if it hasn't already been made abundantly clear, my ankles are in excruciating pain from jumping wagons so much, it pains me to be under the notion that we have to sit through R.A Dickey and is 20 MPH fastball every fifth day and watch any capable hitter eat it up and throw it up into pieces.  Frankly, as a baseball historian I'd feel more comfortable witnessing the former Montreal Expo, who you could never tell if he was a baseball player or a competitive hot dog eater, Hideki Irabu work his magic on the hill. Recently, General Manager Anthopoulous has went on the Blue Jays flagship program, Sportsnet Fan 590 and has it made it abundantly clear that the time is now and he will do everything in his power to make an acquisition and bolster the rotation. Two names that jump out at me would love to see don a Jays uniform are Cincinnati Reds Johnny Cueto and fire-baller closer Aroldis Chapman. The Blue Jays have shown the penchant for being able to swing the bats with the best of them, including Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Don Cherry's favourite ball player, American League M.V.P candidate Josh Donaldson.  The lineup has decent versatility with speedster, although below average defender Jose Reyes.  I recently got chewed up on air for calling into the Jays post game show and proclaiming that with the way Jose Reyes runs the bags lately, I'd compare his speed to that of Mo Vaughn. Naturally in jest, but some commentators, won't name names(Mike Wilner) need to differentiate between a serious inquisite call and a call with the sole purpose of trolling and being a goof ball(me). Aside from my misunderstood humor, Reyes has picked up his play and his ability as the lead-off man has been serviceable. I know Devon Travis, the young second baseman has just come back from injury but I'm hoping that Gibbons can find a way to get Ryan Goins in the lineup more because his defensive skills are Barry Larkin like, and although I would consider batting him higher in the order, some commentators who again will be kept a secret(Wilner) would rather have him bat tenth. This team is set and poised to take a serious stab at  the division, at the very worst a wild card position. We haven't seen playoff baseball since 1993 in Toronto, this blogger is confident that can change in 2015.

Is there a bigger enigma in all of sports then Arizona Diamondback first baseman Paul Goldschmidt? Arguably, he plays on a team that consists of the worst depth pertaining to positional players in all of Major League Baseball, and yet somehow is continuing to put up M.V.P-esque numbers in the National League. Listen, in a fantasy baseball draft I recently participated in, I, as  I usually do say something bold and stupid professing that I wouldn't pick Goldschmidt in the eighth round of the draft. I didn't just say this without backing it up with reasoning, as I feel the reason that Goldschmidt wasn't anticipated to have the highlight reel season that he is actually having is because surrounding the twenty seven year old Delaware product in the lineup are  bunch of players that with other organizations would have trouble cracking AA squads. I say this, and after long and careful re-consideration, it's becoming clear to me that for the very same reasons I criticized Goldschmidt's potential output are the very reasons why he's actually succeeding the way he is. Surmount it this way, the fact that Goldschmidt is the only golfer on the course in Arizona, why not throw to him? The alternative is to put him on via the intentional walk or pitching around him but all you're accomplishing there is taking the oft chance that a Yasmany Tomas, or a Aaron Hill, who I am kidding, Aaron Hill couldn't hit a R.A Dickey fastball, do something extraordinary and knock in two runs. Pitch to Goldschmidt, if he beats ya, he beats ya and the worst damage the opposition will receive is a multitude of solo shots. His .351 average is unfathomable, and I don't do this often, but I incorrectly prognosticated the player and the Diamondbacks General Manager Dave Stewart could certainly provide a favour to Paul by bringing in major league talent.

NHL Draft, decent, NBA draft, boring but decent, the NFL draft, marathon but equitable. The Major League Baseball abomination! The basic facts are the majority of upper echelon talent in baseball are of the Dominican nationality. Dominicans, along with members of the Asian baseball culture do not get their names entered in the draft. Players that want to disperse from the Dominican and Asia are brought over via the free agency route, which as you can probably ascertain provides a huge advantage to the large market clubs. Baseball is already a sport that operates under no salary cap, so the financial parities of the game are already weaving a blurred line, but how can small market teams compete when they know going in to the free agency period, they have no chance of recruiting these budding stars. Before complaints in the readers minds start flowing in, I will preface this saying that their are exceptions to the rule, ie Felix Hernandez going to the Mariners or Aroldis Chapman going to the Reds. The old thought is that, fairly or unfairly, the top Asian ball players favour the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees and the Dominicans favour locations that have won championships in the last three to four year window. Best example of this are the likes of the late Oscar Tavares, or K-Rod when he came into the Angels organization. The draft needs fine tuning, it's not hard to figure out a solution.

Newly minted Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred is aching at the bit to put his own stamp on the league, and what better way then to do this by re-branding the draft. Formulate a system which forces players outside North America to either opt in or out thus making them eligible for the upcoming draft. Just like the National Hockey league, set an entry level contract that all clubs must abide by for the first three years of that players contract, by doing this you are taking all the power away from particular agents who will drive a hard bargain for their clients services.  I certainly envy the day when the Toronto Blue Jays will have just of good as a chance to land the next Albert Pujols as any other team does.

Hope you're enjoying, as always feedback appreciated via e-mail at and/or please reference my twitter handle at @bretzky26.


Brett Murray

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