Minnesota’s Molitor Not Among Managers Who Are On The Hot Seat

Minnesota manager Paul Molitor had birthday number sixty on August 22, the day after his players were swept in a four game series against the Kansas City Royals. With his club burdened with the worst record in the American League, Molitor probably felt little like celebrating this year.

Still in all, Molitor should take some comfort in the probability that he will keep his job, unlike almost a half a dozen other managers of Major League clubs. The fact that the Twins were in contention until the final day of the season last year allows Molitor some wiggle room, as does his young, inexpensive roster.

Also in his favor is the history of the Minnesota organization, which has traditionally been very patient with their skippers. Molitor is only the third manager the Twins have employed in more than thirty years, following the long tenures of Tom Kelly and then Ron Gardenhire.

Nor does it hurt Molitor that he grew up in Minnesota, making it even more unlikely that the team would give him a short leash. Usually, managers in charge of their home town team have much more leeway than other skippers.

Unfortunately, not one of the previously mentioned advantages for Molitor can be applied to some of the other managers who might be on the hot seat at the end of this season. At least half of them will have to serve as scapegoats and be let go because of his team’s disappointing season.

It is difficult to fathom why Angels manager Mike Scioscia has remained at the helm as long as he has. The World Series championship he won is now more than a decade in the past, and Los Angeles has not come close to winning a pennant since then in spite of boasting one of baseball’s largest payrolls and some of its biggest stars.

Certain Hall of Famers to be like Albert Pujols and Mike Trout should make a winner out of any manager, symbols of an owner with deep pockets. However, this season has been the worst for Los Angeles under Scioscia, whose club is tied with the Twins for the fewest wins in the league.

The White Sox and General Manage Ken Williams went out and got third baseman Todd Frazier over the winter to solidify the middle of their batting order, a year after they had already signed slugger Melkey Cabrera to a lucrative free agent contract and Cuban defector Jose Abreu to a multi-year deal. Despite these supposed upgrades, the White Sox find themselves one spot from the cellar in the AL. Central.

The failure to live up to expectations will likely fall on manager Robin Ventura, whose popularity as a past White Sox All-Star will be unable to save his job. Adding to his troubles were several clubhouse issues that happened under Ventura, starting with the controversial retirement of Adam LaRoche and the recent uniform incident of All-Star pitcher Chris Sale.

In spite of reaching the postseason for each of his years as St. Louis manager, Mike Matheny could be facing the axe this season. The Cardinals are leading the Wild Card race, but this is an organization that expects to finish second to no one. So the fact that they are thirteen games behind the rival Chicago Cubs might not sit well with St. Louis fans nor the front office, which could spell doom for long time Cardinals catcher Matheney.

Arizona fully expected to contend going in to the 2016 season, which would be the first for manager Chip Hale. The Diamondbacks gave a huge contract to free agent pitcher Zach Grieneke in an effort to bolster a pitching staff to complement a potent offense anchored by All-Star slugger Paul Goldschmidt, but all they have to show for it is the second worst record in the National League.

Clint Hurdle has been a candidate for manager of the year for each of the last few seasons, as he has led the Pirates to the postseason three straight years after a span of missing the playoffs for over two decades. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh never won a division championship, settling for a Wild Card bid each time.

This season even the Wild Card appears out of reach for the Pirates, who are struggling to just stay above .500. Andrew McCutcheon, who is just a few years removed from a season as the league’s Most Valuable Player, is experiencing the worst year of his career. McCutcheon, though, will be in Pittsburgh in 2017, but Hurdle very well may not.

Detroit Could Use Gomez For Pennant Race To Fill Out Injured Roster

The Tigers have been the most active contender since last month’s trade deadline, trying to fill in for the numerous injuries that have sidelined key players. They have lost half of their opening day infield and one third of their regular outfielders, amassing a crowded disabled list.

Just two days ago, Detroit engineered a trade with the Braves. The Tigers received veteran Erick Aybar from Atlanta to help replace injured shortstop Jose Iglesias, who is on the 15 day D.L.

Even more recently, Detroit called up utility man Alex Presley from their Triple A affiliate in Toldeo. Presley was immediately inserted into left field against the Boston Red Sox, hoping that the former Mudhen can help fill the void left by the injured Curtis Granderson.

The team could see a more immediate impact if they looked in the direction of a former All-Star who was just last week released by the Houston Astros, a player that Detroit should be very familiar with.

After all, that player, Carlos Gomez, was involved in one of the most memorable plays that most Tigers fans would like to forget. While playing for American League central rival Minnesota, Gomez scored the run that prevented Detroit from reaching the postseason.

After the last game of the season back in 2009, Detroit and Minnesota were dead even atop the division. The two clubs had to meet in game 163, which would decide who would be going to the playoffs.

Not only did the clubs need that extra game to determine the champion, but they ended up needing twelve innings before it was finally decided. The result thrilled the fans at the Metrodome that night, but the sight of Carlos Gomez rounding third and crossing home has been forever painfully etched into the memories of Detroit fans as well.

Gomez had led off the bottom of the twelfth with a single off of Fernando Rodney and advanced to second on Michael Cuddyer’s groundout. After an intentional walk to Dmitri Young, Minnesota second baseman Alexi Casilla singled to bring home Gomez with the winning run.

Now that Gomez is available to sign as a free agent, the Tigers should give him a chance to help Detroit make the postseason. Although he has struggled this season, his career numbers are much better than those two players the Tigers have recently acquired.

Perhaps he could make the fans in Detroit forget about that winning run that crushed the Tigers almost ten years ago.

Cubs Have Two Worthy Candidates But the MVP Is In Washington

When considering candidates to win the Most Valuable Player award for the National League with a month left in the 2016 season, one would certainly have to start with members of the best team. The Chicago Cubs have more wins than any other team in baseball, and with a twelve game lead they are shoe ins to get home field advantage in the playoffs.

Two players from the Cubs deserve plenty of consideration for MVP, the team’s two corner infielders. First baseman Anthony Rizzo is definitely in the running, as is third baseman Kris Bryant.

Rizzo, who has unquestionably been the Cubs MVP for the past three seasons, is among the league leaders in each of the triple crown categories. He has 24 home runs, 82 runs batted in, and a .287 batting average.

Bryant, who last year won the Rookie of the Year award, has been just as good as Rizzo. He has 28 home runs, 72 runs batted in, and a .288 batting average.

Rizzo has slightly higher on base and slugging percentages, but his defensive position is not as demanding as that of Bryant. Rizzo has certainly had more RBI opportunities, given that Bryant hits in front of him. On the other hand Bryant likely sees better pitches to hit, having Rizzo waiting on deck behind him.

That they would have a most difficult task deciding which of the two Cubs is more deserving of the M.V.P. should not really concern the voters who ultimately select the winner of the award. All they have to do is look away from Chicago to the N.L. East.

Washington second baseman Daniel Murphy should warrant the most attention for MVP. He went on a tear last year as he led the Mets to the World Series, and he has continued his streak this season after signing a free agent contract with the Nationals.

Murphy’s .348 batting average is best in the league by far, and he has 24 home runs to go along with it. He also tops in the league in hits, doubles, on base percentage, and slugging percentage.

More importantly, Murphy has been the offensive anchor for the Nationals, who have been in first in the N.L. East nearly all season. His performance has helped compensate for the solid but somewhat disappointing season of teammate Bryce Harper, who was the N.L. MVP last year.

While the Cubs have the best record and two worthy candidates for MVP, the Nats look as if they will have a player win the award for the second straight year.

Machado’s Three Home Runs In Three Innings Recalls A 1930 Game In Yankee Stadium

Baltimore’s Manny Machado joined an extremely short list in the game on Sunday, August 6, when he hit home runs in each if the first three innings. Before the All-Star infielder performed that rare hat trick against the Chicago White Sox, you have to look back eighty six years to find the only other player to ever accomplish that feat.

Perhaps it is appropriate that Machado achieved the feat while playing the White Sox, for it was a member of that very team who first hit three home runs in the first three innings. Carl Reynolds was an outfielder for Chicago back on July 2, 1930, the day he went deep in the first, second, and third innings.

Unlike Machado, who hit 35 home runs in 2015 and is on pace to reach forty this season, Reynolds was never really considered a power hitter. Even with the three he hit on July 2, Reynolds finished the 1930 season with 22 home runs. Only one other season in his twenty year career did he even reach double figures, and that was when he hit eleven the previous season.

Of his three home runs that day eighty seven years ago, two were of the inside the park variety. In addition to those Reynolds had two more hits, finishing the game five for six with eight runs batted in.

Just as impressive as the three homers in three innings is the fact that he did it against New York at Yankee Stadium, where the home team boasted three future Hall of Famers who had just two years before won the World Series. A player named Babe Ruth was in the outfield, and his teammate at first base was someone named Lou Gehrig. The other future Cooperstown inductee was pitcher Red Faber, the only New York hurler to get Reynolds out that day.

In spite of having three of the most famous players in baseball history on the field, the Yankees fell to Reynolds and the White Sox 15-4. Both Ruth and Gehrig went hitless, which could serve as a symbol for the Yankees in a season when they finished third in the American League.

The White Sox, other than the dominance in that game, fared even worse overall in 1930. Chicago finished second to last in the league, losing thirty more games than they won.

The club did have a bright future, however, since future a Hall of Famer Luke Appling was in his rookie season of what would be an illustrious career. They also had backup catcher Moe Berg, who after his baseball career would go on to be hired as a spy for the CIA.

Reynolds’s feat did not do much for the team’s hope of winning the championship, but Machado’s accomplishment nearly nine decades later came in the heat of a pennant race. The Orioles are battling Toronto for first place in the A.L. East, and Machado’s hat trick helped win a contest that put them a half game in front of the Blue Jays.

That game on July 2, 1930 was certainly one of the highlights of the otherwise nondescript career of Reynolds. He retired with an impressive .309 batting average, but he managed a total of just eighty home runs. More than a quarter of them came in that one season, and nearly a seventh of those came in that one game against the Yankees.

Reynolds went on to play for four more teams before retiring in 1939, and he passed away on May 29, 1978 at age 75.

The World Series Is Baseball’s Only Post Season Games

When Baseball started the World Series (WS) in 1903, (prior to that year the games were considered exhibitions) the NFL (1920) and NBA (1946) didn’t even exist. Since their inception, all of these Professional Leagues kept separate statistics for their regular season, inter-league playoff games and Championships. That is, until the granddaddy of them all, decided to lump Playoff stats and WS stats together and call them Postseason stats. Like adding a WS home field advantage to the All-Star Game, baseball has chosen to upgrade Playoff games to the equal of the WS in order to increase their value to TV broadcast networks, to the detriment of the sport.

By MLB actions, many of those members of the Hall of Fame (HOF) that did not have the opportunity to participate in Playoff games will eventually have their WS records relegated to the ash heap of history. During the Playoffs, and WS, TV broadcasters are evidently instructed to refer to all individual stats as Postseason.

For example, during the 2011 Playoffs, TV announcers told us that Jorge Posada of the Yankees had eclipsed a Postseason Yankee team record for Runs Batted In (RBI) previously held by HOF Mickey Mantle. The rub is that Mantle only has WS stats, because Playoff games didn’t exist when he played. This is not in any way to denigrate Posada, who had an excellent career, but the bulk of his stats came from American League Division Series (ALDS) and American League Championship Series (ALCS). “So,” you might ask, “what’s the big deal?” The big deal is that all those Playoff games were played against other AL teams that they play all year, every year, in cities and ballparks that were familiar. All WS games are played against teams from the other league at unfamiliar cities and ballparks, that except for, maybe, a few inter-league games each, they never see during the regular season. Since there were no inter-league games when Mantle played, he was always facing a National League (NL) team in the World Series that the Yankees never played during the regular season and that had earned their League’s Championship based on their regular season record, not winning Playoff games. Let me say that again – the teams with the best regular season record played each other in the World Series. It was the best against the best.

The result is that the way the Playoffs are presently constituted two teams could now conceivably play 13 games and three teams 12 games prior to playing seven WS games.

Mantle played in 65 WS games (40 RBI) and Posada in 29 (11 RBI) against the NL. However, Posada also played in 96 Playoff games (31 RBI) against AL teams, a total of 125 games; almost twice as many. It’s the basic apples to oranges comparison which skews all lifetime stats in his favor, both in number and familiarity with opponents. Please, Posada was not Mantle.

During the TV broadcast of a 2013 NLCS game the Postseason, On Base Percentage plus Slugging Percentage (OPS) of the St. Louis Cardinal’s, Carlos Beltran, was compared to the Postseason OPS of the Yankee’s HOF, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, evidently to hype the importance of Playoff Games. This comparison is way beyond the pale. Beltran, a very good player, had the excellent OPS in Playoff Games at that point, (1.160) but he had never participated in a WS game when the comparison was made. Ruth and Gehrig, two of the best hitters in Baseball history, only appeared in WS games.

In the 2014 American League Divisional Series (NLDS), during the second game between the Tigers and Orioles the broadcasters were comparing the Postseason Slugging Percentage (SLG) of the Oriole’s, Nelson Cruz and Beltran against Ruth and Gehrig. For the record these are the SLG and OPS WS stats for all four players: Ruth 10 WS, 41 Games (G) -.744/1.211; Gehrig 7 WS, 34 G -.731/1.208; Cruz 2 WS, 12 G -.444/.724; Beltran 1 WS, 6 G -.294/.694. Compare those!

At the beginning of the 2015 WS the announcers added pitching to the Postseason mirage. They were comparing the Postseason strikeout (SO) totals of the New York Mets starting pitchers to St. Louis HOF, Bob Gibson, who also only pitched in WS games. During the WS, Mets’ starters had a grand total of 25 SO over five games. Hardly dominating. In addition, Gibson had 8 Complete Games out of 9 WS starts with an ERA of 1.89 and 92 SO. The kicker is that the Mets had one (1) CG, by their oldest pitcher, Bartolo Colon (42) during the regular season, Playoffs and WS – none by the WS starters. Comparing Mets pitchers with Gibson? Really!

I don’t even have the words to describe how ridiculous it is to total the Playoff Game/World Series stats of today’s players and compare them to the WS stats of Mantle, Ruth, Gehrig, and Gibson, but disgusting is one that immediately comes to mind. When will Baseball stop diminishing the records of previous generations to promote the current game for the almighty dollar? Somewhere down the road, a price will be paid for their ham-handed promotion of the Game. A player’s WS stats should not be combined with Playoff stats, and should only be compared to another’s WS stats, PERIOD!

10 Incredibly Easy Mental Hacks for Baseball

Learn to master the head game of baseball using these 10 incredibly simply mental hacks to help you be mentally tough in the field, at the plate or on the mound. Good ballplayers prepare and they build strong routines around those preparations. Whether in conditioning, stretching, practicing, warming up or playing, most successful players will tell you they have a routine they follow. Start to develop your own routine that allows you feel comfortable and at the top of your game. Consider adding these visualization techniques to build even more control into your game.

1.See it: Spend time before each game visualizing yourself making clutch plays. Whether hitting the ball, throwing, pitching or catching. See every aspect of that play, from start to finish, as if watching a movie in slow motion. Involve all of your senses. How will it look?

2.Smell it: Smell the fresh cut grass, the popcorn from the concession stand, and the leather of your glove. Involve any detail that will make the memory come alive as you recall it.

3.Taste it: Taste the sunflower seeds, gum or Gatorade you will have during the game.

4.Hear it: Hear the sounds of the crowd, the crack of the bat, and the pop of the ball as it hits your glove.

5.Notice it: Notice every little detail. How will it feel? Kick the dirt, feel the drop of sweat, the grip of the bat and the pounding of your heart before the three, two count pitch is thrown. Note your perfect body mechanics, knees bent, pushing off from the back leg, balanced extension, and two-handed perfect execution.

6.Feel it: Experience the intensity of the emotion that comes from making the big play. The feeling of adrenaline as you make an essential out or game winning run. How your heart beats faster and you jump in the air, ready to start celebrating with your friends. Each detail will further cement this memory in your brain.

7.Review it: Each time you see yourself successfully making that play, you will exponentially increase your chances of actually doing that when you are in that situation on the field. Because of the Reticular Activating System the brain, you are strengthening this important synaptic connection. Your brain only knows what you repeated tell it. If you tell the brain something often enough, it will work to make that happen. So keep playing that perfect movie in your mind (little details are important) and you are very likely to execute them the next time you are on the field!

8.Detach from it: When the movie doesn’t play out like you have envisioned it, you have to practice detaching yourself from it and moving on. Like being able to watch it on a video, seeing that it happened but not internalizing that it happened to you. Once you start internalizing that it happened to you, then it starts affecting your game. Then it affects your team, and not in a good way. You owe it to yourself and your team to detach from the error, own it, but move on from it. The next play must start fresh. You have to keep your mind from attaching itself to that error. Detach and let it go! Keep your head in the “here and now” game only. Detachment lets the past keep on going like water down the river… you can’t get it back again. Your focus must always be on what is coming downstream now.

9.Expect it: See yourself making the play. Always mentally talk yourself up. Have positive phrases to say yourself to stay mentally up if you start feeling bad about how things are going. If you go into an inning already worried or fearful of not being able to execute a play, then the brain will set you up for that outcome. It is essential that you see yourself as capable of getting the job done. That is why when teams start to lose focus they can let a game slip away. It is also why momentum can help a team rally, as this type of mental conditioning can work in the opposite manner to help a team.

10.Build it: Good ballplayers prepare and they build strong routines around those preparations. Whether in conditioning, stretching, practicing, warming up or playing, most successful players will tell you they have a routine they follow. Start to develop your own routine that allows you feel comfortable and at the top of your game. Consider adding these visualization techniques to build even more control into your game. When starting to create these visualizations start with small sessions, maybe one specific play. Find a quiet spot where you can be relaxed but alert. You may want to put on head phones and play a certain upbeat song (if that doesn’t distract you) and then begin creating the movie in your mind of the play going perfectly. Keep replaying it in your mind, adding more and more sensory details until it is so realistic you can’t imagine that play going any other way other than how you just imagined it. Then another time you can imagine another play or hit or pitch. Before a game, take time to sit quietly and mentally replay that movie that you created earlier. This is where that visualization becomes powerful. In a game situation, you can flex that memory like a flexing a muscle and it becomes easier to execute that play just as you imagined. If it works for top athletes, there is no reason, it could not work for all athletes. It just requires desire to succeed and commitment to try.