Tuesday, March 29, 2016

MLB 2016 Predictions

Here are my predictions for the 2016 MLB season. Yes, I am predicting that the Cubs will win the World Series. Although it's one of those things I just can't believe will ever actually happen, I'd feel pretty dumb if this ended up being the year and I had some other team listed here. There are so many good teams this year, and this was difficult. You can hear some of my thoughts about this on our latest episode of Beers and Baseball Cards. Feel free to tell me why/how I'm wrong in the comments!

NL East
NL Central
NL West
NL Wild Card
NL Wild Card

AL East
AL Central
AL West
AL Wild Card
AL Wild Card
White Sox

World Series
Cubs over Yankees

Monday, March 28, 2016

Beers and Baseball Cards 06

Mike and Brett preview the 2016 MLB season as they open packs of 1992 Fleer and random grab bags of cards. Music by The Ueckers. Thanks for listening!

Jerry Browne's reaction when he learned he was being traded to Oakland...

Monday, March 21, 2016

Baseball Cards: Dad Goes to Fantasy Camp

When your dad went to fantasy camp that time and thought he was a real player....

Jerry Reuss, Geoff Zahn, Tom Hume, Joe Cowley, Bill Scherrer, Ron Kittle, Donnie Hill

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Beers and Baseball Cards 05

Mike and Brett welcome the 2016 MLB Spring Training season with a new episode, experimenting with football cards this time. They also discussed LSU basketball, Ben Simmons, fantasy baseball, Cubs/White Sox, Saints, and other random sports topics. Music by The Ueckers. Thanks for listening!

Just some social media posts about Adam LaRoche

Wedge and I already chimed in on this subject. But I thought that might be a little unfair and maybe we should give the other side a voice as well.

Here are just a few of the first random public posts that popped up in a Facebook search for LaRoche.







Thursday, March 17, 2016

More Data Points of the LaRoche Story

Don't miss Mike's good op-ed below on Adam LaRoche's retirement. Mike gets right to the point that many people don't even understand A) what its like to have kids, but also B) what its like to have options in life. Many people are stuck in job or feel lacking of freedom but lets put a few facts out there to put more of LaRoche's decision into perspective.

#1 - He's been bringing his son to team functions for some time and people haven't noticed because he's been playing great. Being a DC resident I witnessed his 2011-2014 seasons. .341 OBP in those 4 years, 6th in MVP voting and Golden Glove winner in 2012, a core piece of the lineup. So that's why this has never even come up before.

Look at any major sport, when a guy is producing for a team they let them do whatever, like guys getting arrested, or in this case, bringing their kid to the day job.

#2 - Ken Williams is allowed to ban any kids from team events. People forget that baseball is a job for MLB players. Williams said "name one job in the country were you can bring your child to work everyday." and he's right. If ownership or management thinks you are doing anything that might be hurting your performance they can request you change it so long as its nothing illegal.

I happen to be allowed to work remotely for my job, but that's with the expectation that I perform my job. IF I under-perform my employer has every right to tell my I can't telework anymore and have to come into the office.

#3 - bosses can suffer consequences, I've had former bosses force entire staffs out with dumb decision making; its quite possible LaRoche is "taking one for the team" cause other players are mad about the "no kids" decision.

#4 - He's NOT foregoing $13,000,000
One of the worst thing that happens in sports is the advertisement of player contracts because its so disorting of facts. People, and by that I mean everyday fans, seem to think that being a professional athlete is the same as being a waiter, mechanic, accountant, chef etc. Its not for many reasons

A) bonuses, performance targets and incentives vs. guaranteed money. Often when sports contracts are announced for some idiotic reason media always announce a contracts potential maximum, a figure athletes rarely reach because many of the targets are impossible or not entirely within their control like "make the playoffs" etc.

B) TAXES!!! People seem to forget that athletes pay taxes too, and in fact they pay more because the salary is higher. general consensus is that you take 20% off your salary to estimate your take home, for athletes its a hell of a lot more than that.

C) FEES / AGENTS / ETC.   LaRoche has an agent, he has trainers, he has supplements/vitamins and more that come out of his own pocket.

If you put all that together his $13 million might be more like $6-7 million. Not saying thats something to sneeze at, but also saying don't kid yourself on the $13 million part.

#5 - He likely doesn't need the money. LaRoche, if he has been smart with money should have plenty of it, turning down $"$13 million" might be something he's willing to forego because he frankly doesn't need it. He plays in America's most absurdly salaried sport and has had a good career. Baseball pays its players more than any other sport, and the players can play for longer than most any other sport aside from maybe golf. Laroche has been playing since 2004, here's his salary according to contracts thus far.

Year Age Team Salary Sources
2004 24 Atlanta Braves $300,000 4/7/04 AP
2005 25 Atlanta Braves $337,500
2006 26 Atlanta Braves $420,000
2007 27 Pittsburgh Pirates $3,200,000
2008 28 Pittsburgh Pirates $5,000,000
2009 29 Pittsburgh Pirates $7,050,000
2010 30 Arizona Diamondbacks $4,500,000
2011 31 Washington Nationals $7,000,000
2012 32 Washington Nationals $8,000,000
2013 33 Washington Nationals $10,000,000
2014 34 Washington Nationals $12,000,000
2015 35 Chicago White Sox $12,000,000
2015 35 Washington Nationals $2,000,000 Buyout of contract option

So, taking into account points 4A, 4B, and 4C above to be conservative lets say he only gets 50% of whats advertised, he'd still have amassed $36+ million so far by the age of 35. Most of us won't amass $36 million in our lifetime. This ignores any money he has made from investments, endorsements, if his wife has a job etc.:

"LaRoche is one of the co-owners of Outdoor Networks hunting show Buck Commander with friends and pro athletes Chipper JonesRyan LangerhansTom MartinLuke BryanJason Aldean, and Willie Robertson who is from the Duck Commander series."

So is a $13 million contract something to sneeze at... well no. But is it going to put Adam LaRoche's family in dire straights... not likely so long as he has been smart with what he's made so far. Once you are paid enough money to own a house and car outright and pay utilities, the honest truth is that more money is just to spend on more things you want to try, but not things you need.

#6 - He can just as easily unretire and play for another team that allows him to bring his kid. 

Adam LaRoche puts family first, and people lose their minds.

When Chicago White Sox first baseman Adam LaRoche retired unexpectedly yesterday, everyone assumed there was something behind it. Well, it didn't take long to find out that LaRoche retired because team president Ken Williams asked him to stop bringing his son to the clubhouse so often. Of course, LaRoche gave up his salary of $13 million in the process.

Apparently LaRoche was bringing his 14-year-old on most days (I assume when he wasn't in school?), which might seem like a bit much. However, it seems his son has been a fixture in the clubhouse in past years, particularly when LaRoche played for the Washington Nationals from 2011-14. So if this is the first time we're hearing about it, there are a lot of other people out there who have not had a problem with it until now.

So first, there are the fans, many of whom are idiots, calling out LaRoche for retiring. The fact that people are posting comments on these articles calling LaRoche "selfish" and "entitled" is just amazing to me. I also wonder if these people have children of their own.

Personally, I believe it would be "selfish" to say that, no matter what you truly believe is right, you are going to do whatever you need to do to get that $13 million that you have coming to you. It's yours. You earned it, dammit, and no one is going to take that from you. Forget that LaRoche hit only .207 last year, with a miserable OBP of .293. That's his money, right?

No, guys. What LaRoche has done is the complete opposite of "selfish." It's something that many parents would never do. He decided that spending time with his son each and every day was more important than his "legacy," his statistics, his career, and of course, (literally) stacks and stacks of money.

Now, right when the story came out, I had nothing but admiration for LaRoche. I imagined that Williams was voicing concerns that he had received from the players, and with a newseason, the players wanted things to be more serious in the clubhouse. And I was totally OK with that. I could see players asking for something like that and could easily see LaRoche quietly retiring as a way of respecting his teammates' wishes while ultimately choosing his family over the money.

But that isn't even the case! This afternoon we learned the White Sox players were extremely close to boycotting today's spring training game to SUPPORT LaRoche. So it isn't even the players who are requesting this change. It's simply Ken Williams.

It's worth noting, of course, that the White Sox have drafted two of Williams's sons in recent years, in addition to sons of Harold Baines and others. But still, the players don't get to make all of the rules; Williams is the president, and he has the right to make the changes that he thinks need to be made.

But all of that aside, as a dad, I have nothing but respect for LaRoche and now for the players who are supporting him.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Could the Cubs really lose Kris Bryant after 2020?

So it seems that the players' union is seriously going to pursue getting service time credited to Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant (along with Maikel Franco of the Phillies), essentially advancing free agency by a full year in the process. The Cubs placed Bryant at AAA-Iowa for 12 days to start the 2015 season before calling him up and watching him earn the Rookie of the Year title over the rest of the year.

The total of 12 days was not a random number but was in fact the exact amount of days the Cubs needed to keep Bryant off of the roster in order to retain him through the 2021 season. If the players' union is successful and is able to get any service time credited for the 12 days, Chicago would have to bid for Bryant's services as a free agent a year sooner, following the 2020 season.

This is absurd, right?

First of all, the players' union bargained for this. It was an agreement. You can't get everything you want, give some to the other side, and then come back later and say, "Never mind, we want to change one of those things we agreed to."

Honestly, the Cubs may have kept Bryant in the minors as long as they needed to, even if the magic date had been in June or July. There is no current formula in place yet to establish when a player is 100 percent Major League ready. So regardless of what player agents want to tell us, the team still has the right to bring a player up when it wants to. There are rules in place (Rule 5, arbitration periods, etc.) to protect the player and to prevent a team from doing it beyond a few years. But the Cubs had every right last season to do what it did. The established period was 12 days. They followed the rules.

If it ever did come down to proving Bryant was kept down and brought up due to anything other than a matter of service time (and the 2021 season), Chicago could easily point to injuries to Tommy La Stella and Mike Olt, who were both placed on the disbaled list in April 2015. But it shouldn't have to.

On the other hand, I feel like Chicago could also argue that it would've played Bryant beginning on Opening Day if the team had known that the CBA deal would be changed later. Of course, the team lost the division by a few games, and even though the Cubs beat both the Pirates and the Cardinals in the playoffs, a division title would've been even better. Winning just an extra game or two in April could've led to hosting a home game for the one-game playoff with Pittsburgh, along with the extra gate revenue that game provides.

If anything is changed, it should be from this point moving forward. I don't see legally how or why they should be able to go back and change an agreement. That sounds like a terrible precedent to set. And yes, as a Cubs fan, I selfishly want Bryant around for at least one extra season.

Of course, it'll be interesting to see how this all turns out in five years or so. There are so many possibilities at this point, including a contract extension, a trade, or even some type of injury, among other things that could happen. But if the Cubs win the 2021 World Series, led by Kris Bryant in the final year of his original contract, we know people will look back at those 12 days in April 2015 and say that ultimately the team did the right thing and followed the rules to which everyone had agreed.

Monday, March 7, 2016

New senior John Valek III is a great addition to LSU pitching rotation

After watching the LSU basketball team get completely crushed by Kentucky on Saturday, it was great to see the  baseball team sweep a double-header (and the series) against Fordham later that day and move to 9-2 on the season. The highlight of the day was definitely the huge comeback in the night game, as the Tigers trailed 7-3 in the seventh, before putting up seven runs in the inning to win 10-7. But lost in the excitement was another solid start from newcomer John Valek III in the afternoon contest, helping the Tigers cruise to a 15-1 victory.

Valek is now 3-0 and was honored by the Louisiana Sportswriters Association as its February Pitcher of the Month. While his three wins have come against non-conference opponents, and SEC competition will be tougher, fans have to be excited about what Valek brings to the team as the third starter.

Playing his first three seasons at Akron University, Valek was immediately eligible to pitch for LSU in 2016 after Akron's program was shut down. Many teams around the country would've loved to grab another team's ace, especially one with three years, 42 starts, and nearly 300 innings of experience. Yet here he is, pitching for LSU and looking like someone who could make a huge difference each weekend in SEC play.

The most encouraging statistic that Valek has posted so far is his one walk (and 16 strikeouts) through 17+ innings. Friday starter Jared Poche has walked eight but has maintained an excellent ERA of 0.92, while ace Alex Lange has uncharacteristically allowed nine free passes and posted a 4.15 ERA so far. I think we all expect Lange to bounce back very soon, and now having Valek throwing behind him is yet another weapon, particularly if he remains this consistent in the strike zone.

LSU's offense will put up runs, we hope, and the defense is coming together nicely, considering Jake Fraley was the team's only returning starter. A team with a good offense and a solid defense can only benefit from a pitcher who doesn't allow walks.

At GBS, we've always been curious about colleges shutting down their baseball programs, most notably when we semi-adopted the Vermont Catamounts during their final season in 2009. It's a disturbing trend over the last decade, as fans increasingly support football and largely ignore school baseball programs. However, this is the first time that one of the teams we follow has been directly impacted by a program's being discontinued.

I'm looking forward to watching Valek finish out his college career in a Tigers uniform, hopefully contributing to another LSU College World Series run in the process.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Five things that need to happen for LSU to beat Kentucky

The LSU basketball team will travel to Kentucky tomorrow and will likely have to win in order to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament (without winning the SEC Tournament). As ESPN points out every time LSU takes the court now, anything less than an NCAA bid would be disappointing, and it's unfortunate that it has come down to needing to win at Kentucky.

We know it's possible. Two months ago, LSU defeated Kentucky 85-67, although that game was played in Baton Rouge, where the Tigers have definitely played better this year. Winning at Kentucky will be much tougher, and below are the five things that I think will need to happen for LSU to win.

1. Ben Simmons needs to keep hitting free throws.

We know what to expect from Simmons at this point, as he has consistently been a triple-double threat throughout the season. His free throw shooting, however, has been inconsistent. Still, in the last two games, both LSU victories, Simmons hit 20 of his 23 free throw attempts. This made a huge difference when closing out the wins.

2. Craig Victor needs to stay out of foul trouble.

I love Victor's game, and I look forward to watching him become more of a leader. Unfortunately, I think he often ends up having to be physical in the paint, due to LSU's overall lack of inside players and the fact that Simmons appears to avoid contact to stay out of foul trouble himself. Victor's mid-range shooting and his toughness will be crucial to beating Kentucky, and the Tigers can't afford to watch him sit early if he picks up a couple of early fouls.

3. Antonio Blakeney needs to stay hot.

We all know Simmons is the best freshman in the country, if not the best overall player. But Blakeney is special, and it's rare that a player with his talent is not even the best freshman on his own team. But he knew that coming in, started hot, spent the middle of the season coming off of the bench, and has simply become an offensive force. He is averaging 23 points per game over the team's last four contests, shooting 80 percent (24 of 30) from the free throw line during that time. With Keith Hornsby's recent injury, Blakeney absolutely must score for the Tigers to win.

4. Someone else needs to step up.

Whether it's Tim Quarterman, Jalyn Patterson, or even Brandon Sampson, with Hornsby out, this team needs a fourth scorer to step up. Quarterman is the most likely candidate, and he led the Tigers in the January win over the Wildcats with 21 points, along with 10 rebounds and seven assists. Although that type of performance has not been the norm for Quarterman lately, he has averaged 13 points in his last two games. But again, I'd settle for Patterson stepping up and hitting some outside shots if he's left open. He had 11 against Florida just two games ago, while Sampson scored eight against Missouri this week.

5. LSU needs to keep any lead it might get.

When the Tigers upset the Wildcats in January, they led by 10 at halftime. I remember Kentucky coach John Calipari saying the second half would be much different. It wasn't, as the Tigers outscored his team 48-40. Lately, however, LSU has struggled keeping leads. Last weekend, Florida scored 62 points in the second half to cut an 11-point halftime lead to five, while Missouri trailed by 22 at the half earlier this week before losing by only nine. And we all remember Blogathon, when LSU led no. 1 Oklahoma by double digits and then lost the game. Without a strong inside game, this team can only keep a lead if it protects the ball during every possession, and that's what needs to happen tomorrow.