Chris Sale changes Sox from White to Red…but not in the Curt Schilling way

For the second offseason in a row the Boston Red Sox have made a major splash by acquiring an elite, left-handed starting pitcher. While it came in the form of David Price and his 7-year/$217 million contract last season (much to the chagrin of Blue Jays fans and anyone that values a dollar), the Red Sox hit the trade market on Tuesday to fill out their starting rotation with Chris Sale.

MLB: Chicago White Sox at St. Louis Cardinals

Sale (left) and his wet noodle of an arm (right)

Over the course of the year we’ve heard many things about Chris Sale – his availability on the open market (trade market, that is – sorry ladies), that the White Sox asking price was for their star pitcher was steep, and of course a harrowing tale of Sale entering the White Sox dressing room with a knife on July 23 and not leaving until all jerseys looked like someone had just gone super saiyan in them.
To Sale’s credit, those throwback jerseys – complete with collars – made Beetlejuice look like a Hugo Boss model. To the White Sox credit, waiting proved to be fruitful as they received a hefty package in exchange for Sale in what is the first brick in their rebuild.

To Red Sox:
LHP Chris Sale


2016 32 226.2 88 84 27 45 233 17 10 1.04 3.34
Career 148 1110.0 398 370 113 260 1244 74 50 1.06 3.00

To White Sox:
2B/3B Yoan Moncada (#1 ranked prospect in baseball according to
RHP Michael Kopech (#30 ranked prospect in baseball according to
OF Luis Alexander Basabe
RHP Victor Diaz

Right off the bat this move gives Boston one of the strongest rotations in the American League, if not in all of baseball with Sale, Price and 2016 Cy Young Winner Rick Porcello as their 1-2-3 punch. The CY Young Award could very well return to Boston next season. Coupled with the likes of Pomeranz, Rodriguez and Buchholz, the Red Sox have great starting pitching depth for the upcoming season…or more trade pieces for the rest of the offseason!

While the package they gave up was anything but a ‘Sale,’ the left-hander brings a very club-friendly contract with him. The 27-year old is due just $38 million over the next 3 years, through his age 30 season. To put that in perspective, LHP Rich Hill – 9 years older and no where near as dominant as Sale – just re-signed with the Dodgers for 3 years and $48 million. Young, controllable, impact arms command a high price on the trade market, and that’s what we saw on Tuesday.


At 6’2 and 205 lbs, Moncada isn’t your friendly, everyday secondbaseman

As for the White Sox, Moncada brings elite power and speed at second base, making him a home run and stolen base threat at the top of their lineup for years to come. Though he struggled in his brief stint with the Red Sox in September, the 21-year old looks poised for a lengthy MLB career and is a big piece that Chicago can build around.

In case you were wondering: Boston is also picking up the remainder of Moncada’s massive $31.5 million signing bonus that he inked back in March 2015. Let’s be honest, it’s not like the Red Sox don’t have some ‘financial flexibility.’

The White Sox are also getting an elite young arm with Michael Kopech. Though he hasn’t yet thrown a pitch in the MLB, he routinely hits triple digits on the radar gun so I’m sure he’ll be right at home when the time comes. Kopech sits at 6’3 and 205 lbs, just what scouts and general managers alike look for in dominant starting pitchers. While he has some seasoning ahead of him, there’s no doubt the 20-year old has huge upside for a Chicago squad looking to build for the future.

Throw in Luis Alexander Basabe and Victor Diaz and the White Sox have themselves a very nice return for Sale. Couple that with young shortstop Tim Anderson, and Chicago has legitimate cause to be optimistic about the future…after they are terrible for the next couple of years.

As is often the case with blockbuster trades we won’t get a sense of who really ‘won’ this deal for several years. The Red Sox are in a win now mentality, and certainly helped their chances to do so by grabbing one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball. The White Sox meanwhile are putting together a nice crop of young, athletic, controllable players that should help them get to the promised land a few years down the road.

For now, Chicagoans can bask in the glory of the Cubs and Blackhawks…but definitely not the Bears.

PShields, out and about.




Get ready for more changes, Blue Jays fans

Like a recent high school graduate clinging to their yearbook and uttering sentiments of ‘we have to hangout this summer,’ you may find yourself  reeling that the 2016 MLB season is over for the Toronto Blue Jays. This is the unfortunate reality of professional sports however, and more importantly, the road ahead is an uncertain one for the Blue Jays with a number of issues to be addressed. Here are a few prospects that loom on the horizon for Mark Shapiro, Ross Atkins and the rest of the Blue Jays brass. Let’s get started then, shall we?

Get Russell Martin some relief


The Blue Jays should also consider making Martin’s mustache a mandatory part of his uniform.

Many argue that success for Toronto’s pitching staff and overall team defence lies in the experienced, *Canadian* and increasingly worn hands of Russell Martin. Those people would be correct. Martin – a fan favourite – has put up 20+ HR and 74+ RBI in each of his first two seasons since joining the Blue Jays. What he lacks, however, is a proficient backup catcher. Names like Dioner Navarro and Josh Thole don’t exactly jump off the page at you, and Martin (who has played in 266 regular season games as a Blue Jay) isn’t getting any younger. The Blue Jays need to add a catcher that can give ‘Rusty’ more relief than Thole simply taking the ball whenever R.A. Dickey is on the hill. This will keep him fresher throughout the season, allowing him to get valuable days off down the stretch and hopefully not go 3/33 at the plate again in the postseason.

Get less right-handed


The aforementioned right-handed rakers (better nickname pending).

Much like a child refusing to eat their vegetables, the Blue Jays need to develop the ability to use both sides of the plate. While Bautista, Encarnacion, Martin, Donaldson and Tulowitzki represent a gauntlet of hitters that have even the most confident of pitchers ‘shaking in their boots‘ (well, maybe not all), they share a few important qualities. They are all right-handed hitters, and they are all primarily pull hitters. This sometimes works in Toronto’s favour when there is a left-handed pitcher on the hill and when rosters haven’t expanded to what seems like 4,324,062 players in September, but it can make them quite predictable and easy to attack. To counteract this, the Blue Jays will need to become more dynamic and thus more difficult to matchup against. Acquiring a few left-handed bats (perhaps one in the form of a ‘prototypical’ leadoff hitter) could help them do just that. There are also rumblings about the Jays acquiring *Canadian* Joey Votto and his massive contract, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Get Encarnacion to stay


Wonder where he learned to flip a bat like that.

If you’ve ever been in a relationship (with a significant other or with the pizza delivery person) you know that it’s hard to convince them to stay when there are better opportunities (or more deliveries) on the horizon. This is the quandary that the Blue Jays find themselves in this winter with Edwin Encarnacion. The muscular, limited English-speaking, parrot-walking cleanup hitter is coming off his best season as a big-leauger, hitting .263 with 42 HR and 127 RBI. Fortunately for him, it came at the best possible time: in his walk year, after which he is free to test the (money-filled) waters of MLB free agency. Perhaps unfortunately for Blue Jays brass and fans alike, it means EE is going to get paid this offseason…like, big time. If the Blue Jays are unable to re-sign Encarnacion, they will have to look long and hard as to how they will replace his offensive production in a relatively weak free-agent class.

No one is disputing the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays have had two remarkable seasons back-to-back, climbing up the MLB power rankings. However, with the Red Sox and Yankees on the prowl with young, dynamic, talented lineups, the Blue Jays should definitely be in a ‘win now’ mentality. One way or another, this offseason proves to be another eventful one for the Toronto Blue Jays and their widespread fanbase.

PShields, out and about.

2016 Will Be 20th and Final Season for David Ortiz


After an illustrious career that has seen him total 503 home runs and over 1600 runs batted in thus far, Boston Red Sox designated hitter (DH) David Ortiz confirmed on Wednesday that he will be retiring after the 2016 MLB season. Interestingly enough, this announcement came on his 40th birthday.

The man affectionately known as ‘Big Papi’ feels that his time has come after (perhaps arguably…if you’re a Yankees fan) being he most successful DH in MLB history.

“I wish I could play another 40 years, so I could have you guys behind me, but it doesn’t work that way. After this year, time is up. So let’s enjoy the season,” David said in his video posted to The Players’ Tribune on Wednesday.

You can check out the video here. As a side note, The Players’ Tribune has become a pretty neat channel through which players can speak their minds, and talk freely about their experiences in the game.

Now, I’ll come out and say it: this topic is damn near impossible for me to broach without some sort of personal bias. David Ortiz has been – and always will be – one of favourite players (and people) to grace the game of baseball.

May 17, 2014, Boston, MA: Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz laughs during a mound visit during the fourth inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts Saturday, May 17, 2014. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox)

May 17, 2014, Boston, MA:
Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz laughs during a mound visit during the fourth inning of a game against the Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts Saturday, May 17, 2014.
(Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox)

He was at the forefront of a movement that saw new life breathed into the Boston Red Sox organization, following one of the most storied championship droughts in professional sporting history.

He was one of the premiere power hitters for a decade – exemplifying consistency, day after day, season after season.

He was one of the faces of the game – both through his play, and his more aptly through his larger than life personality, and smile that could melt through the most frigid of October nights at Fenway Park.

So yes. I, like many others, have a very personal investment in what David Ortiz has done for the Boston Red Sox, and the game of baseball in general.

If you’re looking for high points from his career, look no further than his 3 World Series Championships in 2004, 2007, and 2013 with the Red Sox. If it’s consistency that turns your crank, take a glance at his .284 career batting average. If you’re looking for a laugh, imagine that this refrigerator of a man – listed at 6’3” and 230 pounds – has stolen 15 bases in his career.

Perhaps what will be most remembered about Big Papi though astonishing playoff resume; the intangible ‘clutch’ factor. In 82 career postseason games, David Ortiz has hit 17 home runs and 60 RBI’s to the tune of a .295 batting average. Add into the equation that he was the ALCS MVP in 2004 and the World Series MVP in 2013, and you have before you one of the most consistent, dominant, and prolific postseason resumes in MLB history. While many baseball pundits will tell you (perhaps correctly) that the ‘clutch factor’ doesn’t exist, David Ortiz is sitting there flashing his pearly whites, getting ready to come up with a 2-out hit.

While he's no Jose Bautista, David Ortiz has flipped a bat or two in his time

While he’s no Jose Bautista, David Ortiz has flipped a bat or two in his time.

While getting into whether or not he is worthy of Hall of Fame induction (you know my opinion) is another conversation entirely, there are some important considerations. Traditional baseball thinking tells us that designated hitters may not be worthy of induction, because they only have to hit; they don’t need to get out and play the field and be a ‘complete player.’ This may be true to a certain extent, but if there is an exception, Big Papi is it.

Ortiz has spent over 2000 innings in his career playing first base throughout his 20-year career, so it’s not as though he’s never played the field. While he’s not exactly a defensive specialist, it shouldn’t be held against him that he is a DH either. That position is in the game for a reason and someone has to fulfill that role, which Ortiz has certainly done. I suppose what I’m trying to say with my long-winded, fanboy rhetoric is this: if old-school baseball thinking nearly forbids DH’s from entering the Hall of Fame and David Ortiz isn’t the exception to that ‘rule,’ I don’t know who is.

Whether you love him or are irked by every fiber of his being (for which medical attention may be required), there is no denying that David Ortiz has put together one hell of a career. Although you may not realize it now, following the 2016 season you may find yourself missing his antics in the dugout, spitting on his batting gloves between every pitch of the at bat, and his smile that lights up the ballpark. I know I will.

PShields, out and about.

New Faces, New Format Breathe New Life into Home Run Derby

Amidst playoff races and trade rumours heating up, the baseball world took a mini hiatus last week for the Midsummer Classic – the 86th Annual MLB All-Star Game. For most teams, players and fans, taking a bit of a break came as a welcome site. However, some (mainly Phillies fans) were just hoping for things to wrap up as soon as possible.

The All-Star festivities kicked off on July 13th with the 30th annual Home Run Derby at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. In recent years this has been almost as taxing to watch as Prince Fielder trying to run the bases. However, a new format has given the event a fresh new look that should bring some big buzz back to the b…thing.

New rules for the 2015 Home Run Derby were set in place, and then were altered once again just hours before due to potential inclement weather (‘rain’ in layman’s terms) that could have shortened the event. Some of the changes of consequence included:

  • 4-minute rounds (with each player being allowed one timeout), as opposed to ’10 out’ rounds in previous years that seemed to drag on through the night
  • a bracket format (looking at you, NCAA fans) to determine which players advance, instead of highest home run totals from each round taking precedence
  • bonus time – if a player hits 2 home runs of 420 feet or more (which seemingly every player did) they would be allowed an extra 30 seconds after their previously mandated 4 minutes

2015-Home-Run-Derby-BracketThese new rules combined with beloved Cincinnati Red (and 3rd baseman on my fantasy baseball team) Todd Frazier ultimately taking home the trophy helped propel TV ratings for the event up from a dreadful 2014. Combined with the All-Star Game on Tuesday night, the MLB All-Star Week events were able to capture an average of 9.28 million viewers, which is up approximately 700,000 viewers from last season’s mark. While baseball enthusiasts such as myself (call us ‘ball heads’) were going to watch the events with ear-to-ear grins regardless, this is a ringing endorsement for the MLB’s new format.

While there were some old faces such as Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder competing in the event, the baby-faced likes of Joc Pederson, Kris Bryant, Manny Machado and Anthony Rizzo also combined to bring some new energy to the Derby. Seeing Pederson savagely swing that light-saber of a bat (seriously, this thing is like 8 feet long) seemed to give the event a little more pop than recent years. While some have noted that the new format could still use some tweaking, the MLB is certainly on to something and should attract some new fans to the event in coming years. Now, back to the 2nd half of the MLB regular season!

PShields, out and about.

Blue Birds’ Bats Bring Streak to Eight

Amidst an 8-game win streak that has seen the club score a total of 57 runs, the Toronto Blue Jays seem to be turning a corner in their quest for their first playoff berth in over 20 years.

Now 61 games into the 2015 campaign, with a record of 31-30 the Blue Jays are finding consistency that largely eluded them for the first third of the season.


Toronto Blue Jays Shortstop Jose Reyes – getting down and dirty

This inconsistent play flushed out in a series loss to the Minnesota Twins on May 29th-31st that saw Toronto blow leads and make errors at critical moments. Following the series, long-time Blue Jays radio commentator Jerry Howarth had choice words about shortstop Jose Reyes, calling him “a shortstop that’s not going to get better.” Howarth also went on to question Reyes’ dedication and noted that the $46 million he’s owed in 2016 and 2017 is handcuffing the Blue Jays.

In all fairness, these remarks came on the heels of a Jose Reyes hat-trick – it’s kind of like a Gordie Howe hat-trick, but instead you make a throwing error, get thrown out trying to stretch a double to a triple, and do it all with a smile on your face. Whether or not these statements were warranted is up for debate, however, Jose Reyes and the rest of the Blue Jays roster seem to have bounced back in a big way ever since.

After leaving Minnesota, the Blue Jays took 2 of 3 games against a very strong Washington Nationals team (albeit missing 2 phenomenal starting pitchers in Steven ‘I throw fastballs’ Strasburg and Doug ‘Don’t mess with my sister’ Fister). Note: nicknames are not official and do not reflect the opinions of Major League Baseball.

Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Reyes stands his ground at second base as Houston Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar runs into him and misplays a pop fly during ninth inning MLB action on Sunday, June 7, 2015. Reyes was called safe on the play. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Toronto Blue Jays’ Jose Reyes stands his ground at second base as Houston Astros shortstop Jonathan Villar runs into him and misplays a pop fly during ninth inning MLB action on Sunday, June 7, 2015. Reyes was called safe on the play. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Building off of that strong series win, they swept a 3-game home series against the American League leading Houston Astros, including an exciting 3-run, 9th inning walk off win in the series finale. Following their sweep of the Astros, the Jays made the Miami Marlins look every part of the 24-36 team that they are. Toronto beat the Marlins in 3 straight contests, outscoring them 22-8 in the process and extending their winning streak to a season-high 8 games.
Going into the season, everyone and their grandmother (distant cousin, dog, local MPP, etc.) knew that the Blue Jays would score more than Charlie Sheen during a weekend in Las Vegas. With a menacing lineup of Jose Reyes, Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Russell Martin, opposing pitchers often find themselves shaking in their respective moon boots whilst on the mound.

What has plagued the Blue Jays throughout the early part of the season, but has improved markedly over the past couple weeks is pitching. With a revolving door in their bullpen and a starting rotation that struggled to go deep into games, Toronto’s pitching staff as a whole has been impressive over this 8-game streak.

Interestingly enough, the Blue Jays have gone an amazing 34 straight games without recording a save. However, if the team keeps producing at their current offensive pace and gets solid starting pitching, the overrated save stat may not be required as a precursor to their success.

papelbon-640x360Brace yourselves though, Jonathan Papelbon trade rumours are coming. While there has been a lot of talk about Papelbon coming to Toronto (‘Pap talk, if you will) over the early part of the season, don’t hold your breath on the charismatic closer taking his talents to the Great White North. Papelbon is set to earn $13 million next season (a pro-rated $8 million this year), and the Phillies would likely want a high-caliber prospect in return…unless of course they’re taking after the Toronto Maple Leafs business model, then a couple million dollars and a bag of pucks should suffice.

Next up, Toronto will travel to Boston to take on the Red Sox in a 3-game set over the weekend, before splitting a home-and-home series next week with the New York Mets. In case you were wondering, the longest winning streak in Toronto Blue Jays history is 11 games, which they have accomplished 3 times – 2013 being the most recent.

PShields, out and about.

Carleton’s Dynasty and the State of Affairs in CIS Athletics

There’s a notion in sports that goes something along the lines of ‘you’re never as bad as your worst performances and never as good as your best.’

Following the 2015 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) men’s basketball championship, it can be said almost unequivocally that this sentiment does not apply to the Carleton Ravens: their best is their status quo.

Led – in intensity and success – by legendary head coach Dave Smart, the squad from Canada’s Capital University has now won 5 consecutive national championships and 11 of the past 13, doing so in perhaps the most Canadian way possible.

cis-basketballOften overshadowed by collegiate level sports south of the border and obviously professional ones, CIS competition – in a variety of sports – has struggled to establish a niche in the Canadian market. While CIS men’s basketball is beginning to gain more traction with the addition of 6 new teams in the last 10 years, it is still a whisper in the wind in most major Canadian cities.

As a result, a legitimate dynasty such as the Ravens’ has essentially soared under the radar, and has contributed to the notion of the CIS being ‘Canada’s best kept secret’ in sports.

Dave-SmartRightfully so, Coach Smart has said that CIS basketball struggles in marketing, and in its inability to provide full-ride scholarships to prospective athletes. American schools also offer added incentives such as advanced training facilities and athletic services to sweeten the deal. This has led to a tendency of Canadian players being recruited by schools in the US, when they would be better off playing for Canadian schools, says Smart.

“I coached the national team,” Smart said. “None of those guys, when their four years are done [at US schools], is good enough to play on the national team, whereas there are some CIS guys who are right on the brink of being in that 15.”

While many argue that the level of play is vastly different between the CIS and NCAA, this disparity is sometimes less pronounced than most realize. In the past 5 seasons Carleton is 15-17 against U.S. teams, with some pretty impressive results.

Consider these finishes before casting judgment:

  • August 2013 – Syracuse 69 – 65 Carleton in OT
    current Milwaukee Bucks point guard Tyler Ennis played 44 minutes for the Orange in this game
  • August 2013 – Carleton 95 – 82 Wisconsin
    the Badgers had made 15 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances at the          time
  • August 2014 – Indiana 95 – 85 Carleton
    Indiana was a #10 seed at the 2015 NCAA tournament

This is not to say that CIS basketball is completely forgotten within Canada, or that Carleton will be making the southbound jump to the NCAA anytime soon. However, there is a happy medium somewhere in there.

Mac-Picture-615x410Just this year at Capital Hoops – an annual match-up between cross-town rivals Carleton and uOttawa – there were a CIS record 10,913 fans on hand (including yours truly) to cheer on their respective squads. It is benchmarks such as these that represent the potential for CIS level athletics of all kinds to grow, but a lack of consistency shows that they are still struggling to be established. These glimpses of support are promising, but they are just that: glimpses.

To write a piece such as this without any sort of bias is a difficult task for me; some would say a failed task. But perhaps that is what this topic needs to be broached with: passion, dedication, and a realization that CIS athletics deliver an often-unrecognized high level of competition and level of play.

It is this passion that has allowed me (and many others) to witness the development of two of the best basketball players the CIS has ever produced, and has seen both of them crowned with a record-tying 5 national championships.

Carleton Ravens' Head Coach Dave Smart (centre) congratulates Philip Scrubb (right) as Thomas Scrubb walks past as they celebrate defeating the Ottawa Gee-Gees' to win the CIS basketball final in Toronto on Sunday March 15, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Carleton Ravens’ Head Coach Dave Smart (centre) congratulates Philip Scrubb (right) as Thomas Scrubb walks past as they celebrate defeating the Ottawa Gee-Gees’ to win the CIS basketball final in Toronto on Sunday March 15, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Thomas and Philip Scrubb serve as perfect representation of the potential of CIS athletics. During his time at Carleton, Philip was a 3-time CIS male athlete of the year, while his older brother took home defensive player of the year honours on 2 separate occasions. Add that to 5 championship in as many seasons, and those become elite level resumés.

In many ways, their success is a product of the dynasty that Dave Smart has built at Carleton since arriving there in 1997. By recognizing young talent that is tailored to his high-intensity and highly successful program, Smart has led the Ravens to 5 consecutive national championships – and has seen his team win by 20+ points in each of those games.

Smart’s intensity and attention to detail was perfectly encapsulated in this year’s national championship game versus the uOttawa Gee Gee’s. With 4 minutes left in the game and his team up by 41 points, Smart was still in the face of his star point guard Philip Scrubb, yelling at him to cover his defensive assignments. Carleton went on to win the game by a 93-46 margin.

Maybe that is a way for CIS athletics to gain traction, though. Showcase the work ethic, meticulousness and, of course, talent that has underscored this dynasty for the past 13 years. However, the marginality of Canadian university athletics will need some help from above, in Smart’s opinion.

“The presidents are very much behind basketball being a major part of their university experience for the students and the reputation of the school. I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case everywhere in the country. We need as many presidents of schools on board with that as possible.”

That is to say, perhaps a top-down approach is needed to receive bottom-up recognition. While CIS athletics will always struggle to rival those of the NCAA, I believe there is still a large and energetic market for them to fulfill. What will be interesting to see is how many Smarts and Scrubbs it takes to reach that mark.

PShields, out and about.


Stars’ Ruff on Kulikov hit: ‘I want to see the league deal with it’

After watching the video evidence of Tyler Seguin’s knee injury, it’ll be interesting to see what outcome the NHL enforces on Dmitry Kulikov in terms of punishment – stay tuned!


Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov has a phone hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety on Monday morning and Dallas Stars’ head coach Lindy Ruff hopes the league will send a message.

Kulikov was assessed a major penalty for clipping and a game misconduct for his hit on Stars’ forward Tyler Seguin on Friday night.

Kulikov, who has not been suspended previously, was offered an in-person hearing on Saturday, but declined. Since he was offered an in-person meeting, he is eligible to be suspended for more than five games.

“It’s a play that I don’t like,” said Ruff per The Dallas Morning News. “It’s a dirty, low play that the league doesn’t like, and I want to see the league deal with it. They took out one of the best players in the league, and it’s something that has to be dealt with and I’ll let them…

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Modern MLB – Is Leaving the Drink Unstirred the Straw that Stirs the Drink?

With the 2014 MLB Regular and Postseason in the books, there are a number of intriguing story lines heading into the off-season. Will #ChevyGuy get the pay increase that he clearly deserves? Can Madison Bumgarner now be mentioned in the same breath as Clayton Kershaw? What will the Blue Jays do to compete in what should be a much-improved AL East Division in 2015? And lastly, what if – from the perspective on the Oakland Athletics and Detroit Tigers.

While the MLB Postseason is in many ways a culmination of the grueling 162-game regular season, there is no doubt that certain points throughout that journey have significant, and often unforeseen effects on what follows.

One of the most influential instances this year was without a doubt the trade deadline. Much like most of Brian Burkes’ encounters with the TSN panel, the 2014 MLB Trade Deadline did not go quietly. While there were number of big deals made on the now infamous July 31st, 2014, there were a couple that had especially large impacts on the American League Playoffs.

Jon+Lester+Oakland+Athletics+Introduce+Jon+W5KTBmwXPG3lAs one of the hottest commodities, now former Red Sox starting pitcher Jon Lester commanded what proved to be a big price from the Oakland Athletics. Having a career year and set to become a free agent at the end of the season, Lester was sent from the Red Sox to the A’s alongside the defensively challenged and impressively facial haired outfielder Jonny Gomes. The asking price, however, was outfielder Yoenis Cespedes: the 2-time defending Homerun Derby Champion and one of the few men in the MLB with the capability of throwing a runner out at home from the next area code over. Granted, the move helped to shore up the Athletics starting rotation, which at the time appeared unstoppable with the likes of Lester, Jeff Samardzija, Jason Hammel, Sonny Gray and Scotty Kazmir. But I wouldn’t be writing this if it turned out to be all sunshine and lollipops for the Athletics…well, maybe I would, but their fortune turned out to be anything but fortunate.

The Royals - kicking off the 2014 Postseason in exciting fashion and sending the Athletics packing.

The Royals – kicking off the 2014 Postseason in exciting fashion and sending the Athletics packing.

At the risk of sounding blunt, the conclusion of the Athletics 2014 campaign was more disappointing than U2’s newest album. After going into the deadline with a 66-41 record, the Athletics went 16-30 in their final 46 regular season games and grasped onto the second wild card spot for dear life. Playing in that wild card game against a hard-working little engine that could in the Kansas City Royals, the Athletics held a 7-3 lead into the 8th inning with none other than Jon Lester on the mound. What ensued was nothing short of a tremendous and exciting game, with the Royals ultimately coming out on top 9-8 in 12 innings. With that, the Athletics season came to a screeching halt and immediately spawned questions about General Manager Billy Beane’s decision to send the power-hitting Cespedes out of town for a starting pitcher who is now a free agent. This was but the first instance in the 2014 American League Playoffs where fans, media, and octogenarians that love watching baseball (bless their hearts) couldn’t help but wonder what could have been.

The Three TIgers - Scherzer, Verlander, and Price

The Three Tigers – Scherzer, Verlander, and Price.

One team with sympathy for the Athletics after also being prematurely disposed from the 2014 MLB Postseason was the Detroit Tigers. On the trade deadline, similar to their counterparts in Oakland, the Tigers made a substantial splash to shore up their staring staff. As part of the ever-famous 3-way trade Detroit received David Price, giving them the last 3 American League Cy Young winners in Scherzer, Price, and Verlander. So, you may be asking: what was the price for Price (pun intended)? The Tigers were forced to send left-hander Drew Smyly to the Rays and outfielder Austin Jackson to the Mariners as part of the deal. The Rays also received infielder Nick Franklin and prospect Willy Adames in the deal, but that doesn’t factor into the thesis of this post so please, completely disregard it. Now, while the Rays return on investment for Price was probably worse than Phil Kessel’s ability to cut weight during the off-season, that also does not play into the parameters of this argument.

Although the Tigers locked up the AL Central Title to boost them into the 2014 Postseason, their play after acquiring Price wasn’t exactly stellar. The Tigers went 31-26 down the stretch after acquiring Price, and earned an American League Division Series matchup with the Baltimore Orioles. The Tigers were ultimately swept by the O’s in 3 straight games, with Price actually taking the loss in the 3rd and final game.

See? They ARE both southpaws.

See? They ARE both southpaws.

Without just simply taking my sentiments at face value (as I’d prefer you to), a quick comparison of these deals along with putting them into the larger context of the 2014 Postseason actually yields some interesting results. Both Lester and Price were highly-sought after, left-handed starting pitchers that became part of what appeared to be unstoppable starting rotations at the time. Both the Athletics and Tigers gave up some key offensive talent to acquire Lester and Price respectively, perhaps more so in the case of Oakland though. As we now know, both teams lost in more disappointing fashion than the Leafs in Game 7 against…..okay, maybe not THAT disappointing, but it goes without saying that a lot more was expected from both of these squads.

What can we take from this? Perhaps it was a perfect storm – the Athletics nearly finished off the eventual AL Champion Kansas City Royals TWICE in the Wild Card game, but it really seemed like the Royals were destined for greatness this postseason. The Tigers were unable to sustain any real offensive output against Baltimore, scoring just 10 runs in 3 games with 2-time defending AL MVP Miguel Cabrera mustering just 4 hits.

Perhaps more likely though, it was about stability and reliable bullpens. Looking at the World Series matchup between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals, there is something to be said about keeping a core group of players together, and having lights-out bullpens. I could throw a whole bunch of numbers out to demonstrate this point, but I’ll spare you the sabermetric story and myself the mortifying mathematics. While their starting rotations were definitely strong, with the likes of Bumgarner and Hudson for the Giants and Shields and Ventura for the Royals, the pitching they got out of their bullpens was remarkable.

Apparently this is what 3 Championships in 5 seasons looks like.

Apparently this is what 3 Championships in 5 seasons looks like.

Looking at the Giants specifically, they have 9 players that were part of their World Series victories in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Without a doubt, it will be difficult to keep this exact group intact for the 2015 season (and for their impending 2016 World Series victory). However, looking at teams like the Athletics and Tigers – perhaps mortgaging their futures to get a big starting arm and win now isn’t the correct approach to take anymore. The Giants (and many teams for that matter) would be well advised to exercise stability in their bullpen, and build their team from within, rather than from blockbuster deals and free-agent frenzies. Then again, I’m no #ChevyGuy so maybe I should stray away from methodical, inspirational speeches and stick to blogging…..and stuff.

PShields, out and about.


Chris Archer is unhappy David Ortiz admired his three-run home run

Well here’s a big surprise: a member of the Red Sox and a Tampa Bay Rays pitcher don’t see eye-to-eye


The Rays and Red Sox haven’t exactly been buddy-buddy this season. On May 25, the two teams were combatants in a benches-clearing brawl, as the Red Sox didn’t enjoy Yunel Escobar stealing third base with a five-run lead in the seventh inning. The next weekend, the AL East rivals had a beanball war which forced the Red Sox to go four-deep on their manager depth chart.

Here’s some more fuel to the fire. Red Sox DH David Ortiz belted a three-run home run in the top of the third inning off of Rays starter Chris Archer, giving the Sox a 3-0 lead. Ortiz, as he often does, admired his handiwork before jogging around the bases. Watch the homer:

After the game, Archer expressed displeasure with Ortiz’s self-admiration:

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Toronto Maple Leafs: Life in the Fringe Lane?

Enduring panic attacks caused by blown leads at the worst possible times.
Consuming goaltenders as if they’re a viable source of protein.
Shaking heads profusely after ludicrous contracts are given to average players.

Toronto Maple Leafs fansThe life of a Toronto Maple Leafs fan is not an easy one, on the body or the mind. The past few seasons have been a roller coaster ride to say the least, and combined with the fact that a championship season appears nowhere in sight, there has been cause for some mounting unrest.

The most recent unrest, albeit premature, came following the opening of ‘free agent frenzy’ on July 1st. Aside from being the birthday of the greatest nation in the world, July 1st is also a sacred day for hockey fans as it represents the first day that free agents can be signed. For many fans around the NHL and especially Leaf fans it seems, it represents a day to pine over the teams recent acquisitions, or lack thereof.

This year was no exception as Toronto did make some moves, however, they were minor to say the least. Let’s review, shall we?

2663BD63A09A4CB87284386438791EPrior to free agent frenzy the Leafs made a minor splash by trading defenceman Carl Gunnarsson and the ever-famous 4th-round draft pick to the St. Louis Blues for defenceman Roman Polak. Now if you’re scratching your head saying “gee, that seems like a pretty lateral move,” you’re doing so alongside most of Leaf nation. Not to take anything away from either of these players (especially Polak because he looks like an angry fellow), but this isn’t exactly a superstar swap.

At 28 years old, Polak brings 79 points in 424 career NHL games to the table, along with a $2.75 million cap hit. Conversely, the 27-year-old Gunnarsson has 86 points in 304 career games with an annual cap hit of $3.15 million. Those are about as even of statistics as you’ll ever find in a trade that doesn’t involve 2 cookies for a pudding cup on the playground. From the Leafs perspective, Polak brings a more rugged and physical style of play that the team seemed to lack last season. At the end of the day though, this isn’t a deal that will make huge headlines.

Moving on to the action of July 1st, the Leafs made a few signings and stayed away from others, once again without doing anything major. Toronto opened the day by welcoming back a familiar face in Matt Frattin. The Leafs dealt Jerry D’Amigo to the Columbus Blue Jackets to re-acquire the winger, who has an underwhelming 17 goals in 126 career games. Again, not exactly a head-turning deal.

The Leafs also spent the day signing 37-year-old Stephane Robidas, who is a warrior to say the least. Robidas, who is recovering from a broken leg, inked a 3-year $9 million deal with Toronto on July 1st. Robidas is legs-down, sorry hands-down, a proven professional having played in 885 career regular season games.

komarov_1The Leafs final signing of the day saw them bring back the ever-scrappy Leo Komarov on a 4-year $11.8 million contract. While this may seem like a lot of money to toss at a guy that has 9 points in his NHL career, let’s make no mistakes: it is. Similar to Polak, Komarov brings a rugged style of play to the Leafs and has been labeled as a ‘you know what disturber’ on more than one occasion in his career. However, does that scrappy play and limited offensive ability warrant a $2.95 million per year price tag?

482065223-e1404236921450Although headlines were hard to come by for the Maple Leafs on July 1st, one of their more notable moves came courtesy of a non-move. Now former Maple Leaf centre Dave Bolland took his talents to South Beach (close enough) on the strength of a 5-year, $27.5 million contract. If you’re once again scratching your head at the size of this contract, welcome to the 2014 NHL off-season: $5 million for you, $5 million for you, $5 million for everybody! While Bolland can be a solid 3rd line centre with good shut-down capabilities, I think there are a few people out there saying that the Florida Panthers might regret this one at some point.

With all of these signings amounting to the same level of excitement as My Dinner with Andre (look it up), as expected, it certianly seems that if the Leafs are going to make any noise this off-season it will be via trades.

One imminent trade will be getting goaltender James Reimer out of Toronto on a one-way ticket. Reimer recently announced that he would like to be traded by the Maple Leafs, which is about as shocking as finding a 2-sided coin in your pocket. With Jonathan Bernier taking over the starting duties last season and Reimer assisting in the infamous late season collapse, his days in Toronto have been numbered for quite a while now.

All of this to say, the Leafs seem to be operating under the ‘less is more’ approach to begin the off-season. Not to say that there aren’t big things to come, but in this situation it looks like patience will have to be a virtue for Leafs fans…a credo embodied by the team not winning a Stanley Cup since there were 6 teams in the NHL.

PShields, out and about.