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MLB Offseason

The Winter Meetings have now come to an end and were just about half way through the MLB Offseason. With that in mind, I feel now’s a good opportunity for me to examine what has occurred the past few weeks and see who has/has not improved their roster this offseason.

Winners:

Boston Red Sox: The previous two seasons has seen the Red Sox lose a 9 Game September lead, change General Managershire a Manager that had  numerous problems with his players, trade 3 of the teams highest paid players, and then fire Bobby Valentine. With all those problems the past 2 seasons, the Red Sox decided to start over and go back to the old Red Sox formula which helped them win 2 World Series Titles in a 4 years span. The start of the offseason saw the Red Sox bring a familiar face back in former Red Sox pitching coach (and 2009-2011 Manager of the Toronto Blue Jays) John Farrell. With Farrell on board, the Red Sox decided to sign a number of quality “Clubhouse Players” and instead of spending 20 million per year on one player they signed 3 quality players for the same price in David Ross, Mike Napoli, and Shane Victorino. A number of people might criticize the Red Sox for some of the contracts they handed out but they needed to change their Locker Room and one of these players in particular (Mike Napoli) will put up great stats next season. Napoli has fantastic career stats at Fenway Park (.306 Average, 7 HR, and 17 RBI in 19 games) and with him not being an everyday catcher anyone (Boston already features David Ross, Ryan Lavarnway, and Jarred Saltalamacchia), I feel Napoli will get back to his 2011 Season.

The Red Sox still have two questions they have to address this offseason:

1.  With three catchers already under contract, when will Boston trade Jarred Saltalamacchia?

2. Will the Red Sox trade Jacoby Ellsbury?

Texas Rangers: The Rangers haven’t made any significant moves during the 2012 offseason, so why are they listed under the winners for the offseason? I decided to list Texas under the winners category because they’ve been mentioned in all the key players (Trade and Free Agency) this offseason. The biggest question surrounding the Rangers this offseason has been with 2010 MVP Josh Hamilton whose a Free Agent for the first time in his career. At 31, Hamilton is still an elite hitter but has had to deal with a number of injuries which have forced him to miss a number of game in his career (Hamilton has only played in 135 games only twice in his MLB career). So why have they done such a good job with handling the Hamilton situation? Because Texas allowed for other teams to set the market for him and see what his value was in Free Agency. As that was going on, the Rangers decided to look at Free Agents Zack Greinke and Michael Bourn along with DBacks Outfielder Justin Upton and Rays Pitcher James Shields. With Greinke signing with the Dodgers (and hurting their biggest rival) and Shields being traded to Kansas City, look for the Rangers to now turn their attention to Upton, Anibal Sanchez, R.A. Dickey, and of course Josh Hamilton.

With the Rangers linked to all these teams, this shows that the team that holds all the cards are the Texas Rangers. The Rangers can resign Hamilton or trade one of their young prospects for a veteran hitter/pitcher. With the money the Rangers will save from the Michael Young trade, look for them to make a significant signing or trade this offseason.

San Francisco Giants: Following San Francisco’s first World Series since the Franchise moved to the Bay Area, the Giants decided to bring back a number of players from their former roster that won the World Series. Unfortunately for the Giants, 2010 Rookie of the Year Buster Posey went down with a season ending injury but had Posey not gone down with the injury in April 2011, the Giants might have found themselves back in the playoffs the next season. With that said, the Giants didn’t make the 2011 Playoffs, brought in a number of new faces via trades and free agency (Angel Pagan, Melky Cabrera Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro) which helped the Giants return to the top of the baseball world in 2012. Following their Championship Parade, the Giants decided to resign all of their key free agents (Jeremy Affeldt, Pagan, and  Scutaro) and go with almost the exact same roster that helped them win the 2012 World Series. With that said, a number of people have been surprised the Giants decided to go in another direction with Brian Wilson as they decided to Non-Tender his contract making him a Free Agent.

I feel this was the correct decision for two reasons:

1. With the Money they saved from not having Wilson on their roster anymore, there now able to sign their key Free Agents this offseason.

2. Romo has the potential of becoming one of the best closers in baseball.

Clark Street Sports: Where Real Fans Shop

Clark Street Sports: Where Real Fans Shop

Losers:

Los Angeles Angels: The winners of last years offseason might be the losers to this years offseason. The Angels decided to revamp their team by letting Torii Hunter, Dan Haren, and Zack Greinke leave via free agency in addition to trading Ervin Santana away to the Royals.

So what have the Angels done so far to account for all these departures:

1. The Angels traded 2010 All-Star Jordan Walden to the Atlanta Braves for Tommy Hanson who had an up and down career in Atlanta that ended with him going 12-5 with a 4.29 ERA during the 2012 season.

2. Following that, the Angels signed Joe Blanton (for the backend of their rotation) and Sean Burnett (to add the lefty reliever they needed) each to a 2 year deal.

These three moves showed that the Angels were preparing to move on from Greinke and go in another direction. With Greinke, Haren, and Santana out of their rotation, I feel the Angels took a step back this offseason and still need another quality pitcher if they want to compete with the A’s and Rangers in the American League West. If this is the Angels 2012 pitching staff (both starting and relief), then I feel the Rangers are the clear cut favorites in the AL West.

Seattle Mariners: The Mariners have a solid pitching rotation highlighted by Felix Hernandez and also includes Jason Vargas, Hisashi Iwakuma, Erasmo Ramirez, in addition to top pitching prospects Taijuan Walker and Danny Hultzen. This shows that the Mariners have a number of quality pitchers, however, if they want to be a contender they need to address their lineup. Currently, the best players in the Mariners lineup are Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley, and Kyle Seager which shows that their’s not much power in their lineup. With that in mind, I feel the Mariners should look to add two names: Josh Hamilton and Billy Butler. If the Mariners are able to add these two bats to their lineup, then the Mariners would become a legitimate contender in the American League West.

New York Mets:Mets fans were dreaming of a Wil Myers for R.A. Dickey trade but instead the Royals decided to trade their top prospect to Tampa for James Shields. With Greinke and Shields off the board, the Mets now need to look to trade with the Angels, Rangers, or Tigers and see what they would give up for 2012 CY-Young Award Winner. The Mets already have a solid rotation filled with a combination of veterans (Johan Santana and Jon Niese) and youngsters (Dillion Gee, Matt Harvey, and Zack Wheeler) and because of that the Mets are fortunate enough to have the space to trade Dickey so they can add power bat to their lineup. A few of the prospects the Mets should look to trade for include Mike Olt, Elvis Andrus, C.J. Cron, or another power hitting/middle of the infield player to their roster. If the Mets are able to do this, then the Mets would show a solid core of talent in both their lineup and rotation.

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San Francisco Giants: Bruce Bochy Hello Hall-of-Fame

Following a Kick return for a Touchdown by Desmond Howard in a game between Michigan and Ohio State during the 1991 season, notable commentator Keith Jackson uttered the words “Hello Heisman” as Howard did the Heisman pose in the Michigan Stadium end zone. With that in mind, I wanted to use a similar variation of that line for current San Francisco Giants Manager Bruce Bochy “Hello Hall-of-Fame. With the Giants winning their second championship in the past 3 years, manager Bruce Bochy has proven to be one of the best postseason in-game managers in baseball since he started managing during the 1995.

Bochy, a former catcher, started his managerial career during the 1995 season with the San Diego Padres where he spent the last 4 seasons of his playing career. During his tenure as manager of the Padres, Bochy finished in first place 4 times and in 1998 he led the Padres to the World Series for the first time since 1984 when Bochy was a player on that team. However, following the 2006 season, with new management taking over their front office, San Diego decided they wanted to go in another direction so Bochy decided to move up the California coast to another member of the NL West; the San Francisco Giants. In San Francisco, Bochy’s first season was surrounded by a number of significant events in the 2007 All-Star Game being played in San Francisco along with Barry Bonds quest for Hank Aaron’s Home Run record of 755. Following the 2007 season, the Giants decided to go in a different direction as they allowed Bonds to move on and instead decided to build their roster around pitching and defense. The new direction seemed to fit more of Bochy’s style that he managed with in San Diego.

So with that, the Giants decided to build through the draft, (Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey were all former 1st Round Picks) add a few under the radar free agents, (Aubry Huff, Gregor Blanco, and Ryan Vogelsong), along with making a couple of quiet, but effective trades (Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Marco Scutaro, ) to help add to the depth on their roster.

So what make’s Bruce Bochy such a great manager? Two Reasons:

1. Unlike other teams, the Giants don’t have a great deal of offensive star-power: The Giants have won 2 of the last 3 World Series, and during both Championship runs had to go through 6 different teams that featured a number of elite offensive players in their lineups. Going back to the 2010 Playoffs, the Giants faced the Braves (Chipper Jones (1999 MVP), Brian McCann (2010 All-Star Game MVP), Martin Prado) Phillies (Ryan Howard (2006 MVP), Jimmy Rollins (2007 MVP), Chase Utley, Shane Victoriano, Jayson Werth), and Rangers (Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton (2010 MVP), Michael Young, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler) and during the 2012 Playoffs they faced the Reds (Joey Votto (2010 MVP), Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Scott Rolen, Drew Stubbs), Cardinals (Carlos Beltran (9th Most Postseason Home Runs), David Freese (2011 NLCS and World Series MVP), Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday), and the Tigers (Miguel Cabrera (2012 Triple Crown Winner), Prince Fielder (2011 All-Star Game MVP), Austin Jackson, Jhonny Peralta). Not that the Giants didn’t trot out a number of solid hitters (Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Scutaro, Pence) but the Giants hitters don’t have the star power that the other teams they faced feature.

2. Bochy and the Giants aren’t afraid to make bold moves in the Playoffs: The majority of managers wouldn’t ever think of ever making some of the moves that the Bochy and the Giants front office made over the past 3 seasons. Once again, I want to go back and look at the Giants 2010 Season and then move forward to some of the decisions they made during the 2012 season. During their 2010 Playoff Run, the Giants decided to trade starting catcher (and former World Series Champion (2002)) Bengie Molina to the Rangers for a minor prospects. This move was made so the Giants could have top prospect (at that time) Buster Posey start at catcher and Aubry Huff move to first base. Posey went onto win the 2010 Rookie of the Year Award and became the face of the Giants offense. An additional key move the Giants decided to make during their first World Series run was putting Pablo Sandoval and Aaron Rowand on the bench during the Playoffs along with having former Cy-Young Award winner Barry Zito (the highest paid player on their roster) not apart Playoff roster. Finally, following a game 3 loss to the Rangers, Manager Bruce Bochy decided to change-up his lineup by moving Aubry Huff to DH and added Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz to their lineup. It seemed that at every significant time during the 2010 Playoffs, Bruce Bochy was making all the correct calls throughout these crucial moments.

As for the 2012 Playoffs, Bruce Bochy and the Giants once again showed why they are on top of and prepared for any situation that comes their way. Bochy’s problems started at the beginning of the season when on April 15th, 3-Time All-Star Closer Brian Wilson was forced to miss the remainder of the season with Tommy John Surgery. With Wilson on the shelf for the remainder of the season, the Giants were forced to go with a closer by committee situation which included Santiago Casilla (25), Sergio Romo (14) , and Javier Lopez (7). In addition to that, San Francisco also saw the division rival Dodgers acquiring a number of significant players throughout June, July and August to help bolster their lineup and rotation. To the Giants credit, they didn’t panic and instead made a few key under the radar trades in acquiring Colorado Rockies infielder Marco Scutaro and Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence. Just 15 days after the MLB Trade Deadline, All-Star Game MVP (and at the time NL Batting Leader) Melky Cabrera was suspended 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance. The Giants already featured a lack of depth in their outfield and with this occurring. it made it that much more important that the Giants traded for Pence at the deadline.

Once the Playoffs started, even with all his struggles throughout the 2012 season, most people felt that 2-Time Cy-Young Award Winner Tim Lincecum (2008 and 2009) would stay in the rotation for the entirety of the MLB Playoffs. That wasn’t the case as Lincecum only started 1 game during the 2012 MLB Playoffs (NLCS Game 4) and instead the Giants decided to use him out of the bullpen where he worked 13 innings while only giving up 1 run. With Lincecum out of the rotation, and 2010 Postseason hero Cody Ross in Boston, the Giants needed for two people to step up and fill their spots. Ironically it was the 2 players that were little used during the Giants 2010 Championship run: Pablo Sandoval and Barry Zito. During the 2012 NLCS, the Giants need Zito to step up and win a crucial game 5 so the series would be sent back to San Francisco. Fortunately for the Giants, Zito delivered as he threw 7 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball sending the series back to the Bay Area. So what about the hitter that stepped up, it was Pablo “the Panda” Sandoval who had the second most hits in a single Post Season (24) and joined Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, and Albert Pujols in hitting 3 Home Runs in a World Series Game. With Zito’s dominant pitching, Sandoval’s hot bat, and a team that refused to give up (down 2-0 to the Reds; won 3 straight in Cincinnati and down 3-1 to the Cardinals; won 3 straight games vs he defending World Champs), the Giants used these three aspects to bring another Championship to the City by the Bay. In my opinion, both the 2010 and 2012 MLB Playoffs showed why Bruce Bochy is one of the best in-game managers of all time and why he’s deserves to be considered a future Hall-of-Fame Manager.

Please share your responses and follow us on Twitter (https://twitter.com/ClarkStSports), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/clarkstreetsports), Pinterest(http://pinterest.com/clarkstsports/), Google Plus (Clark Street Sports), and now Flickr(http://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkstreetsports). Remember to also check out our merchandise at http://www.clarkstreetsports.com/

 

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2012 World Series Merchandise at Clark Street Sports

Buster Posey Jersey with World Series Patch

After an exciting regular season and first two rounds of the MLB Playoffs that saw all 4 League Division Series go to a 5th and decisive game, the MLB Season has reached the finale and best part of the MLB Season…the World Series. This years Fall Classic features two of baseball’s oldest and most storied franchises in the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants. These two historic franchises have combined to win 10 World Series Championships (Giants 6 Tigers 4) along with having a number of historic moments and players over time. As the 2012 World Series is set to get underway, one of these franchises has the opportunity to add their name to their previous grates from their respected franchise and forever be remembered as an MLB Champion. Could it be Prince Fielder, American League Triple Crown Winner Miguel Cabrera, or Justin Verlander bring a title back to Detroit for the first time since Kurt Gibson hit his memorable Home Run at Tiger Stadium off Hall-of-Famer Goose Gossage during the 1984 World Series or will Buster Posey, Matt Cain, and Tim Lincecum bring San Francisco their second title in a three-year span.

Detroit Tigers Miguel Cabrera Road Authentic Cool Base Jersey w/2012 World Series Patch

To help commemorate the 2012 World Series, Clark Street Sports is proud to announce that our online store will be selling World Series Merchandise for both the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers. We feature a number of different World Series Jerseys (home, away, and alternate) and styles (Cool Base,  Authentic, and Replica) to choose from. The online World Series store will include Blank, Current Players (Avila, Cabrera, Fielder, Fister, Jackson, Peralta, Porcello Scherzer, Valverde, Verlander, Cain, Lincecum Pence, Posey, and Sandoval) and customizable jerseys for both Fall Classic Participants. Remember to pickup all your favorite World Series Merchandise on Clark Street Sports website (http://www.clarkstreetsports.com/World-Series.html) before the end of the 2012 Fall Classic. 

Please share your responses and follow us on Twitter(https://twitter.com/ClarkStSports), Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/clarkstreetsports), Pinterest(http://pinterest.com/clarkstsports/), Google Plus (Clark Street Sports), and now Flickr(http://www.flickr.com/photos/clarkstreetsports). Remember to also check out our merchandise at http://www.clarkstreetsports.com/

 

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