Monday, July 4, 2016

The Knuckle Ball:Volume seven

Welcome to this segment that I call the "Knuckle Ball" where basically I spew off my thoughts on a few items in the world of baseball. In this entry, as per usual I will look into three matters in the world of baseball that have peaked my interest and first I will examine the plight of the youthful Texas Rangers and whether it's likely they can sustain their current torrid pace. Secondly, has coddling of pitchers actually had the reverse effect when accounting for the amount of injuries we have bore witness early in 2016 and to complete the trifecta today I ponder if the time has unfortunately come for the St.Louis Cardinals to move on from Matt Holliday as declining numbers are beginning to create a negative permutation for the Cards as they look to survive in this playoff race.

Any true Canadian baseball fan that doesn't hold even the slightest grudge against the Texas Rangers is in all likelihood displaying pathological tendencies as the American League Division Series from a year ago pitted the State of Texas against all of Canada. It was a series that the Blue Jays luckily squeaked by on but not without an irreversible amount of bad blood that judging from this years encounters with the Rangers hasn't gone away any time soon. This blogger however can see past that and recognize we're quite possibly viewing the major's next powerhouse as the amount of promising young talent on display is astonishing. Aside from veterans Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre patrolling the middle of the order, which in all actuality sandwiches the rest of the youngens in this lineup. Rougned Odor, say what you choose pertaining to his on and off the field demeanour is the best up and coming second baseman in the game today if he hasn't already reached the plateau today and he leads the rest of the kids out on the Arlington pitch. Jurickson Profar who first rose to prominence in the 2004 Little League World Series has transitioned himself into a useful utility piece for manager Jeff Banister as he's proven satisfactory all across the infield. Nomar Mazara has essentially asserted himself into the everyday lineup as has taken away valuable at bats from Ryan Rua and Ian Desmond which no doubt is a beautiful problem for a manager to have. These three are the stalwarts who I consider the core for the Rangers moving forward and with those three going nowhere anytime soon translates to the Rangers holding to top spot in the AL West for the forseeable future. Starting pitching isn't exactly a weakness for the Rags as well as Martin Perez and Cole Hamels are two power lefties that strike fear into opposing lineups. A formidable top two, a young emerging core, what could possibly hold them back. That my friends could be the bullpen. I'm reading a lot of banter that the Rangers are in the market for bullpen help which is of no surprise as any division leading team is always looking at ways to shore up deficiencies but it's only an internal problem due to the way Banister is utilizing this perceived weakness. As evidenced in last year's ALDS v Toronto, and for the purpose of clarification I've held this opinion long before this particular gentlemen.arrived in Texas and that is Jake Diekman is being criminally mis-used. Diekman is the most feared piece in the pen and for some unbeknownst reason Banister seems to favor Sam Dyson and Shawn Tollesen in more pressing scenarios. Sure, like mentioned earlier could Texas conceivably grab an Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller....absolutely but when your own Chapman or Miller currently resides on your own team, it's time to let Diekman loose and instill him as the closer. Such a move, and even though I originally prognosticated the Boston Red Sox as World Series bound, I could be swayed to classify the Texas Rangers as American League favourites.

It's interesting that Kevin Durant signed today with the Golden State Warriors as I believe there's a comparison to be made with the kind of upbringing he received in the NBA with how young pitchers are brought up in baseball. When Durant entered the NBA, he came in with a glowing reputation, and he's done nothing but live up to the billing but there's a primary reason for that. Durant wasn't pigeon holed as an "offensive specialist" if there's such a term as when he came into the association his defensive skills were putrid. His coaches were able to work through the shortcoming as the only way to strengthen a weakness is through reputation. Is Durant now mistaken as a defensive wiz, no but he can how hold his own because he wasn't coddled at a young age and was encouraged to make a mistake at the expense of personal growth. To wrap this around to baseball, it's my opinion that in recent seasons the baseball community has become far too protective with it's pitchers. In a business that is solely judged on wins and losses, it amazes that so many general managers bow down to pressure from ownership by resting and preserving pitchers when in all reality what ends up happening is their the ones that are handed pink slips. Look what happened in the overly publicized  2012 stretch run where manager Davey Johnson under a mandate from ownership, shut down Stephen Strasburg when the Nationals had locked down their playoff position. The Nationals ended up losing a deciding fifth game in the National League Divisional Series to the St.Louis Cardinals. Had they been given the luxury of Strasburg in the series, it's a no brainer who starts the all important deciding game but their hands were tied. It's a hard lesson learned in doing everything you can to seize your opportunities. A lesson learned there hasn't seemed to hinder organizational philosophies going forward. This came to mind as living in Canada I'm privy to a lot of reports pertaining to the Toronto Blue Jays and the talk of the town right now is what to do with Aaron Sanchez once he reaches his pitch limit. To me, as always I have concocted the only indisputable logic and that is let it ride with Aaron Sanchez, I cosign that Aaron Sanchez is a long term valuable commodity but here's the 101 on protecting assets, nothing in life is guaranteed and like I mentioned earlier not  to sound all philosophical but live for the now, worry about tomorrow later. Sanchez is unquestionably the Jays best pitcher and while they envision him being one of their better pitchers in 2018, 2019 etc etc the fact is we're not there yet, so trot your best pitcher to the hill once every fifth day. We see this far too often, nothing says we won't limit Sanchez this season and he'll fall victim to a freak injury in 2017. The Blue Jays have a chance to win right now and shutting down Aaron Sanchez partially diminishes this potential.

One of my favourite moments in my baseball watching lifetime was the epic 2007 tiebreaker between the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres with catapulted the sporting universe into what we know as "Rocktober" where the Rockies won twenty two out of twenty three to reach the tiebreaker only to sweep their way to the World Series. In the Padres/Rockies game that I'm referencing, slugger Matt Holliday was involved in the games most memorable play where he slid into home base for the winning run but as replay later showed, he missed the plate and what the Padres would've done to have the type of instant replay we're privy  to now. Some, perhaps most view this run as Holliday's coming out party. He spent one  more year with the Rockies before joining the St.Louis Cardinals organization and the change of scenery didn't slow Matt down one bit as from 2007 to 2013 his batting average hovered around .300 with consistent power numbers to back up the statistics. From 2013 on unfortunately we've begun to notice dwindling production and 2016 has been a fall off Mt.Kilimanjaro figuratively speaking.  Holliday's OPS is alarmingly below .800 and it begs the following question, at what point do the Cardinals who by a general rule are masters of identifying talent cut ties with the Stillwater,Oklahoma product. The Cardinals have enough good  young pitching, similiarly to the Texas Rangers that they can get by on mediocre offensive seasons by most but when weighing his atrocity of a contract, surely their's got to be a team out there that would be willing to take a risk on this declining veteran, the San Francisco Giants come to mind to allow the Cardinals to do something they should've accomplished before this year, give the unequivocal reigns to phenom Stephen Piscotty.

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