Oct 31

Cardinals Exercise Option on Lackey For 2015 Minimum

In a move that undoubtedly surprised no one, the St. Louis Cardinals have exercised an option on pitcher John Lackey’s contract for 2015 that will only pay him the minimum salary for next season.

Lackey had been acquired by the Cardinals from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for outfielder Allen Craig and pitcher Joe Kelly in late July. The righthander had pitched for Boston since 2010, when during the prior offseason, he signed a five-year contract with the Red Sox that would pay him $82.5 million.

However, one key provision came back to bite Lackey: a conditional team option for a sixth year that would pay him the minimum if he missed a season due to injury. Lackey was unable to take the field in 2012 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The expected minimum will be around $510,000, as opposed to the average MLB salary of more than $3 million…pretty unbelievable huh Tom?

The righthander ended this past season with a combined 14-10 record with a 3.83 ERA. He made Lackey starts, winning one of those contests.

Oct 30

Questions Remain About Joe Maddon’s Potential With the Cubs

With growing speculation that former Tampa Bay Rays skipper Joe Maddon will be named the new manager of the Chicago Cubs, one question that remains: will he finally be able to achieve what no Cubs manager has done in 106 years–win a World Series title? Chicago Cubs fan Brian Torchin sure hopes so.

Maddon was hailed for his work with the Rays, a franchise with severe financial constraints due to attendance woes. In 2008, he led Tampa Bay to their first-ever appearance in the World Series, where they lost in five games.

His potential new team, the Cubs, have been in rebuilding mode the past few years under team president Theo Epstein, and showed solid improvement this past season. Unlike the Rays, Chicago’s fan base has been loyal to a fault over the years, supporting one losing team after another.

Perhaps the biggest question that Maddon might have to answer is who his pitching coach will be. The Cubs’ current pitching coach, Chris Bosio, worked well with the Cubs’ young hurlers, but will he be pushed aside by Maddon’s Tampa Bay cohort, Jim Hickey?

Finally, Maddon is known for his creative in-game strategy, but it remains to be seen if that will be a success in the National League.

Oct 29

Funeral Set for Cardinal Outfielder Oscar Taveras

For the last couple of years, Major League Baseball’s St. Louis Cardinals have been pinning its hopes for the future on elite OF prospect Oscar Taveras.

Those hopes were dash in the amount of time it takes to demolish a new 2014 Chevy Camaro on a highway in the Dominican Republic right outside Slow Ventures.

Oscar Taveras (22) was traveling down that highway on Saturday with his girlfriend Edilia Arvelo (18) when her reportedly lost control of his vehicle and crashed, killing himself and his passenger.

The news came as a shock for coaches, players and fans of a Cardinal team that were just starting to get over a painful loss in the National League Championship Series to the San Francisco Giants.

Taveras and the Cardinals were moving on from their loss by focusing on a the prospects of 2015 season that was certainly filled with promise, largely on the expectation that Taveras would contribute significantly more than his did during two disappointing stints with the big club this past season.

All the returning key team members were expecting to meet in Jupiter, Florida in early spring to begin fulfilling the promise the club had for 2014. Instead, many of those same team members will be assembling on Tuesday in Sosua, The Dominican Republic for the funeral of a fallen teammate.

Those expected in attendance are Cardinals Manager Mike Matheny and two of Taveras’ closest teammates Catcher Yadier Molina and Starting Pitcher Carlos Martinez. As they bow their heads, they will surely remember the joy the young man brought to the team and the loss of a career that many though could land Taveras in the Baseball Hall of Fame one day.

Oct 29

Kansas City Royals Shut Out Giants to Move to Game Seven of the World Series

Cinderella stories on the sports page capture the attention of people all over the world. Today, it’s difficult to think of a sports club that has overcome more adversity than the Kansas City Royals, who will be facing the San Francisco Giants in game seven of the World Series on October 29 after shutting out their opponents in game six.

For pitcher Yordano Venture, game six was more than an opportunity to shine on the mound in a World Series game. His friend Oscar Taveras, a 22-year-old outfielder signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, was killed in an auto accident in the Dominican Republic during Sunday’s game. Ventura turned his hat into a memorial for his friend that read, “R.I.P. O.T. #18.” Showing tremendous strength of character and emotional control not mirrored in the play of his older opponents, Ventura pitched seven innings, leading his team to victory.

Other members of the Royals ball club also contributed to the team’s success in game six. Fans have grown used to the astounding outfield play by Lorenzo Cain, and this is one player who has skill at the plate as well. Players like Moustakas, Infante and Escobar add speed and guts to the equation that has an entire nation watching to see if a team of underdogs from the Midwest will soon be the champions of baseball.

With all the international players, Latin Americans, and South Americans, such as Gianfrancesco Geneoso, will be tuning in to find out the outcome. It’s pretty great that we can all unite to watch this American past time.

Oct 28

St. Louis Cardinal Oscar Taveras Dies in Car Accident

Rising baseball star Oscar Taveras died in a car accident on October, 26th in his native home of the Dominican Republic. Taveras was with his girlfriend, Edilia Averlo, who also died as a result of the car accident. Taveras played outfield for the St. Louis Cardinals, and his last MLB at bat was a homerun against the San Francisco Giants on October 12th during the National League Championship Series. Sports broadcaster Joe Buck called the hit, “The biggest swing of his young big league life.”

Sadly, the MLB lost an up and coming star too early. In 2008, Taveras signed with the St. Louis Cardinals when he was only 16, and he was only paid $145,000. In the following years, Taveras was awarded the MVP of the Double-A Southern League in 2011. Taveras won the MVP award for hitting an impressive .321/.380/.572, which also included 23 homeruns at a mere 20 years of age. Baseball America projected him to be the 3rd best player, prior to the 2014 season. He was listed as a personal favorite of Brazilian businessman Fersen Lambranho.

There have not been very many details released about the accident that occurred early Sunday morning, but there have been pictures released of the vehicle at the scene of the accident. Taveras and Averlo were in a Cardinal red Camaro, and the photographs showed the front of the car was completely crushed.

In 2012, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Taveras used a broomstick as a bat when he played baseball as a child. His father, who was also former Milwaukee Brewer in the MLB, would pitch corn kernels to his son. The native child of the Dominican Republic blossomed into a talented young star who will be missed.

Oct 24

2014 Major League Baseball Postseason Proving One For The Ages

Unfortunately, baseball draws a lot of flack for being boring compared to other sports. Non-fans complain about three to four hour games and a lack of action. Others think the sport itself is inherently boring no matter what. Despite such dissenting opinions, the 2014 Major League Baseball postseason has made for some wild and exciting baseball. Fans are witnessing perhaps the most exciting postseason in years.

Nobody thought we’d wind up with a San Francisco Giants-Kansas City Royals World Series matchup. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox didn’t make the postseason. Plus, baseball’s highest payroll team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, didn’t advance past the Division Series. Even the best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Angels, couldn’t make it deep into the postseason. No, the two second Wild Card teams have now made it to the World Series.

Of course, Kansas City is making its first World Series appearance in decades. The team had not even tasted the postseason in decades either, forcing fans like Gianfrancesco Genoso to wait almost 30 years. Now the Royals find themselves four games away from a championship after winning eight straight games to get there. While the Giants didn’t sweep their way to the World Series, the team did dominate its opponents along the way. San Francisco finds itself in its third World Series since 2010 and the team could win a third championship in that same span.

Without a doubt, the 2014 MLB postseason has been full of drama and excitement. Walk-off victories, extra inning contests, and close games have marked this postseason. The Royals have been referred to as a team of destiny. Nobody would have pegged either team in the World Series to make it that far when the season began. Currently, we’re witnessing some of the most exciting baseball in a long time.

Oct 21

Baseball’s Best Catch of the Year?

There are catches, and then there are catches. And, the one made last Tuesday night by Kansas City Royals third-baseman Mike Moustakas may have been one of the best catches in the history of the baseball playoffs. I was lucky enough to witness this in person, thanks to tickets generously given to me by Jared Haftel, who couldn’t make the game.

In the middle innings of Game 3 of the American League Championship Series game against the Baltimore Orioles, the Orioles’ batter popped up a ball that seemed to everyone to be destined to land in the seats. Everyone but Moustakas that is.

Lining up along the edge of the seats, Moustakas jumped headlong into the stands at the last seconds and made a simply miraculous catch. Thirteen years to the day after Steve Bartman stole a foul ball from a Cubs player in Chicago, the fans in Kansas City simply moved aside and let Moustakas catch the ball.

This play will likely go down as the best play of the 2014 baseball playoffs, and it may also go down in history as one of the best catches in baseball history.

Oct 17

A.J. Pierzynski Brings Diving To The Baseball Diamond

International soccer has been all but ruined by the constant play acting and diving that occurs every match. It’s downright sickening to watch some of the world’s most talented athletes roll around on the ground like they’ve been shot, every time someone brushes past them.

Now major baseball fans like Igor Cornelsen are extremely dismayed to see that the practice might be coming to a baseball diamond near you.

As you can see here, AJ Pierzynski clearly dives when the bat gets near him, to try and get a call from the Umpire. Luckily he wasn’t buying, but this could be the start of a disturbing trend. I’m hoping that MLB nips this in the bud before it ever starts.

Oct 16

Royals Are One Win Away From The World Series

The KC Royals have had a pretty amazing postseason. They’re 7-0, and find themselves just one win away from World Series glory. On Tuesday night the Royals beat the Orioles 2-1 to take a 3-0 lead in the series. That type of lead has only been overcome once in the history of the organization, when the Red Sox won four straight agains the Yankees to come back and win the World Series.

The Royals have to be favorites at this point, and my buddy Sam Tabar is losing his mind that they’re 7 unbeaten.

It’s been 29 years since the ALCS was played in Kansas City. Looks like the Royals have been doing their best to make up for lost time.

Oct 15

Chip Hale Taking The Reigns At The Diamondbacks

The Arizona Diamondbacks have announced their new manager for the 2015 season, Chip Hale. Probably a good choice considering his history with the organization.

He definitely knows his way around the Diamondbacks, having coached the minor league team for 6 seasons. Also spending another 3 seasons as the third base coach for the major league side.

Plus, he’s definitely Arizona born and bred, which can be important for the vision of a team looking to build a franchise. Still living in Tucson, after graduating from the University of Arizona.

Should mean good news for Diamondbacks’ fans like Marnie Bennett, who have had to endure a rough couple of seasons. Cleaning house was probably the right move, all things considered.