On to the Pennant

1383642_616596775058148_1814435643_nTuesday was a historic day in Chicago and at Wrigley Field on the city’s north side. For the first time in the history of the Friendly Confines, a postseason series was clinched on its turf. And given how the Cubs won their National League Division Series, you may say it was worth the wait.

This series also marked the first time ever that the Cubs and Cardinals squared off against each other in the playoffs. Each franchise has been around for over a century, but never had they met in the postseason until this year. The fact that the Cubs were able to win their first ever playoff series at Wrigley Field and that it came at the expense of the Cardinals made this victory that much sweeter.

Cubs fans have been told all about these promising young prospects down on the farm for the past three years or so, and how they would one day be the faces of the franchise. Well, we weren’t lied to. It was those once “promising prospects” that won this series over St. Louis in four games.

10-171460575-smallBaez, Bryant, Castro, Rizzo, Schwarber, and Soler all went deep at least once in the NLDS and accounted for 9 of the team’s 10 home runs hit in the series. It was a power-barrage unlike anything that we’ve ever seen before. If teams around the MLB weren’t already aware of who the Cubs are and just how good they can be, they sure are now.

By defeating the Cardinals, the Cubs won just their second postseason series since 1908 and are now returning to the NLCS for the first time since 2003. Let those stats sink in for second.

These last two games played at Wrigley Field were unlike anything any of these Cubs players have ever witnessed before. The stadium was deafening for each home run, big hit, two-strike count on an opposing hitter, and basically for every out made by the Cardinals. Word on the street is that the Wrigley Field press box even shook a few times due to the bedlam taking place in the stands, and that was just for the NLDS. The atmosphere at Wrigley from here on out might be something that none of us, not just the players, have ever seen before.

And rightfully so.

The Cubs haven’t played in a World Series since 1945, and they haven’t won one since 1908. Over the course of the last century, the Cubs and their fans have been tortured time and time again by bad breaks and bad luck. It’s been a tradition of heartbreak and losing for the Cubs, thus their old nickname of the “Lovable Losers.”

I say “old” because this is a new team with a new attitude and a new identity. Just a year ago, they won only 73 games while finishing in last place in the NL Central Division. Jump ahead to this season, and they’re a 97-win ball club with unparalleled confidence and swagger. They are too young and too dumb to realize the amount of pressure that they’re actually under to finally win a championship. They also couldn’t care less about any goat, black cat, fan interference play, or anything else that people like to stack on to that list. It is because of that mindset, due in large part to their manager Joe Maddon, that this team may just be the perfect combination of players to finally win a World Series for the Cubs.

The Cardinals were without a doubt a stiff challenge, but with the stakes raised even higher now in the NLCS, the Cubs can expect their toughest opponent yet in either the Mets or Dodgers. People want to say “I’d rather play the Dodgers!” or “I want to play the Mets!” To me, that’s the worst thing you can do. The second you wish for a certain opponent, they beat you. Just let that other series play out and take whoever you get. Have confidence in the Cubs for once, and quit worrying about their opponent.

The Cubs are on to the the National League Pennant, and now is when things start to get real. This should be a fun couple of weeks.

Advertisements

The Problem With MLB’s Current Playoff Format

635651689308727878-GTY-470483912-72482586Now that the 2015 Major League Baseball regular season has come and gone, we can shift our focus to the playoffs, which begin Tuesday night in New York when the Yankees host the Astros for the AL Wild Card game. While this is always one of the best times of the year in sports, there is a glaring problem with the current MLB playoff format; one that hasn’t been quite as noticeable as it is now.

This year the Cardinals finished with the best record in baseball at 100-62. The Pirates came in at second with a record of 98-64, and the Cubs third at 97-65. All three teams come from the National League Central Division. Because the Pirates and Cubs finished with the second and third best records in the National League, they are this year’s two NL Wild Card teams, and they’ll square off in their one-game playoff on Wednesday night. The winner of that game will face the Cardinals in the NLDS.

Here’s the problem.

Of the three best teams in baseball this year (St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago), only one will make it to the NLCS, and one won’t even make it past the Wild Card game. If either Pittsburgh or Chicago happen to eliminate St. Louis in the NLDS, they won’t have home field advantage against the winner of the Los Angeles Dodgers-New York Mets series. Why? Because they will be the Wild Card team.

Essentially, finishing as the second and third best teams in all of baseball this year will yield the Pirates and Cubs zero advantages in the postseason. Despite both of their records being better than those of the Dodgers and Mets, both Pittsburgh and/or Chicago will have to begin the NLCS on the road, if either team makes it that far. And if either team happens to win the NLCS, guess what? They won’t have home field advantage in the World Series either thanks to the ridiculous All Star Game rule (winning team/league gets home field for the World Series).

So here’s my proposal to Major League Baseball:

Do it like the NBA is now doing it. The team with the best regular season record gets home field advantage in each series. Period. Plain and simple. This would mean eliminating the All Star Game shenanigans that no one seems to like anyways. As it is right now, a team like Pittsburgh or Chicago gets no reward for their incredible season other than a berth into an instant elimination game.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who sees this as a problem, and hopefully the MLB will catch on soon as well.

MLB jersey rankings

 

My MLB jersey power rankings:

1. St. Louis Cardinals

Cincinnati Reds vs St. Louis Cardinals 130707211205-yadier-molina-single-image-cut

Best logo, and maybe the best color scheme in baseball. True classic jerseys.

2. Detroit Tigers

892858_10152734691820521_1540786336_o_jpg_475x310_q85 13046575-standard

Their logo is as original as you’ll find. Their home whites are simple, but great. The away jersey may be the best in the MLB.

3. Atlanta Braves

mlb_u_chipper-jones_mb_600 jason-heyward-usp2

I love their logo and colors. Their alternate white jerseys are one of the best alternates in the game, not to mention their reds ones as well.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates

andrew-mccutchen-ap2 piratesjpg-3860a86f285ea698

Great colors, classic jerseys. That’s all that needs to be said about the Pirates’ uniforms. Their alternate black jerseys might be my favorite in baseball.

5. Oakland A’s

img22750315 Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners

I’ve always liked the green and yellow/gold. Especially on their home jerseys. Great hats as well.

6. New York Yankees

Derek+Jeter+Mariano+Rivera+Enn-V_PFyZem yankees

They probably have the most recognizable logo in sports, and rightfully so. It’s a great logo. I really like their home, pinstriped jerseys, as they are as classic as you can get, but the away jerseys don’t do much for me.

7. Chicago Cubs

b25bb2a41f715d12330f6a7067001a71 71633065

The home whites with the pinstripes are great. It’s the away jerseys that I’m not a huge fan of. Their alternate blues somewhat help make up for the grey jerseys.

8. Baltimore Orioles

460x 0de8eb844db24d09adac55126307b174-4fc1627d463744aa9d09ba7036e90493-9ddcebf128c3521b3a0f6a706700dd61

Good colors and pretty original jerseys. I’m a fan of their throwback hats.

9. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

mlb_g_trout1_sy_400 asa130528128_angels_at_dodgers

They use a good font on their jerseys, and I like how the “A” in Angels features the halo.

10. San Francisco Giants

Pablo Sandoval tumblr_m8ga49OaiF1qh7tk8o1_500

These jerseys have never changed, and that says a lot. True originals.

11. Boston Red Sox

David+Ortiz+Jacoby+Ellsbury+Baltimore+Orioles+Ah8iG78ztcpl Dustin Pedroia

The whites are good, clean, classics. I’m not a huge fan of their away jerseys. I understand that they are throwback jerseys from the 1920’s, which is a cool idea, but they don’t look very good. Still, they’re better than most grey jerseys. They need to ditch their red and navy blue jerseys.

12. Texas Rangers

Adrian+Beltre+Seattle+Mariners+v+Texas+Rangers+W5kxjbS7iEol cos-mlb-02-Ian-Kinsler-mdn

Good colors and solid jerseys. The only problem with Texas is the fact that they have so many jerseys. I can’t keep track sometimes.

13. Cincinnati Reds

Joey+Votto+Chicago+Cubs+v+Cincinnati+Reds+98i_rgh5TW7l joey-votto

Another old, classic logo here. Their home jerseys are much better than their greys and reds.

14. Chicago White Sox

Alejandro+De+Aza+Chicago+White+Sox+Photo+Day+cherIztKtHdl konerko-278x300

There isn’t much to complain about with these. I like the cursive font on their away jerseys. Their black ones are pretty solid as well.

15. Los Angeles Dodgers

Andre+Ethier+Arizona+Diamondbacks+v+Los+Angeles+1ZGTaFtAGujl USATSI_7387728_154224518_lowres

I love their home jerseys. They haven’t changed in a very long time. I really dislike their away ones. That’s why the Dodgers are this low.

16. Toronto Blue Jays

image 628x471 (2)

I thought about ranking the Jays higher, but I couldn’t put them ahead of classic jerseys like the Dodgers, Reds, etc. Their new jerseys, as of 2012, are a big improvement from their previous uniform set.

17. New York Mets

2013 New York Mets Photo Day 628x471

I don’t dislike the royal blue and orange, but I’m not a huge fan of it. I get the fact that it’s a combination of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ and New York Giants’ colors, which is creative, but it doesn’t do a whole lot for me.

18. Seattle Mariners

628x471 (1) michaelmorseseattlemarinersvoaklandathletics3_zh4v6myuwx

 

A decent color scheme and font. Good, but not great uniforms.

 

19. Arizona Diamondbacks

Aaron Hill, Gerardo Parra paul-goldschmidt-arizona-diamondbacks-new-bh-fizvjx-496327070

These look too much like they belong in an independent league or something along those lines. It’s tough to read “Arizona” on the front of their away jerseys.

20. San Diego Padres

db_padres_329169_013_r620x349 during the MLB game at Chase Field on September 20, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Very generic, somewhat boring jerseys.

21. Minnesota Twins

Texas Rangers v Minnesota Twins Minnesota Twins v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Good home jerseys, but terrible away jerseys.

22. Tampa Bay Rays

USATSI_7308529_149008644_lowres Desmond+Jennings+qwqVukMyDqgm

Again, these are kind of boring. Not much going on here.

23. Kansas City Royals

Billy+Butler+Boston+Red+Sox+v+Kansas+City+6_gFNVZIthgl Ervin_Santana_on_May_7,_2013_(1)

I feel like the Royals could improve these jerseys, but I’m not sure how. I liked their jerseys from 3-4 years ago better than these.

24. Milwaukee Brewers

Miami Marlins v Milwaukee Brewers aramistd

The more I see these jerseys, the more I begin to dislike them. Part of me feels like they’re too bland, but part of me disagrees. These could be higher on my list, but for now they’ll stay right here.

25. Cleveland Indians

Athletics_Indians_Baseball__ctnews@chroniclet.com_1-M Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall

When they had the navy blue trim on their white jerseys, those were possibly my favorite jerseys in baseball. I loved those. Now without the trimming, I’m not a fan. Their greys just look plain bad.

26. Washington Nationals

harper502jpg-9d37b4ae2ef8ccdb 201306182023734082984-p5

I can’t help but think of Walgreens every time I see their logo. Their away jerseys are very similar to Minnesota’s, which is not a good thing.

27. Colorado Rockies

Josh+Rutledge+St+Louis+Cardinals+v+Colorado+yobzJOIi5jRl troy-tulowitzki

I have to give them credit for their pinstripes. But the rest of their home and away jerseys are bad. They have bad alternates too.

28. Philadelphia Phillies

bilde 1373320911000-howard-1307081802_4_3

I’ve never been a fan of their logo. I also don’t really like red pinstripes. The red and grey on their away uniforms look pretty bad.

29. Miami Marlins

img22711599 gs23

Well, what else would you expect from Miami? Just like their new stadium, the colors chosen for their new jersey color scheme are terrible. Horrible logo(s) as well.

30. Houston Astros

Astros-Uniforms

I don’t like their new jerseys. The font is bad, that shade of orange is bad…….they’re just bad.

Top 10 MLB Jerseys

10. Minnesota Twins

I like the pin stripes on their home jerseys, and the navy blue and red go together very well on both tops.

9. Milwaukee Brewers

The colors are what make these jerseys as good as they are. The font that is used on the front of their jerseys is nothing unique, but it looks good.

8. Baltimore Orioles

A lot of teams have tried to pull off the orange and black look in sports (professional and collegiate), but the O’s own that look.

7. Cincinnati Reds

The thing with the Reds is that their logo has never really changed, and I like it a lot. I also like red and black together even though those are two prominent jersey colors throughout sports.

6. Detroit Tigers

The Tigers’ “D” logo is one of, if not the best, in baseball. It is a true classic logo. Their home jerseys have that old time, classic look to them that I love. The away jerseys aren’t bad either.

5. Chicago Cubs

The Cubs are one of the oldest teams in baseball to wear pin stripes. It is a very original, neat, classic look. Their alternate blue jerseys are great as well. The logo on the alternates is one of the better secondary logos in baseball.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

I really like the font that they used on their jerseys. The colors are very attention-grabbing. The collars on their jerseys are different than just about every other team in baseball in that they have a trim color.

3. Pittsburgh Pirates

I love yellow and black together. The Pirates have been using those colors ever since day one, and for good reason. Their white home jerseys definitely have a throwback look to them, while their black ones also have a throwback look as well but with a modern logo.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

This is my favorite logo in the MLB. It hasn’t changed since they started using it decades and decades ago. Their color scheme is great as well.

1. New York Yankees

This is possibly the most recognizable logo in sports. Their home whites with the navy blue pin stripes are as classic that a jersey can get. Many players consider it the biggest honor in baseball to put on that jersey.

Without Pujols, Beltran and the Cardinals Keep Winning

Possibly the biggest free agent signing in baseball history came this past off-season when the Angels signed Albert Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million deal. When I say that this was maybe the “biggest free agent signing ever,” I am not talking about money, although this contract ranks second all-time behind A-Rod’s $275 million deal with Texas. By “biggest free agent,” I am talking about the caliber of player that Albert Pujols is.

Pujols will no doubt go down in baseball history as one of the best players of all-time. He is the only player ever to:

  • Hit 30 home runs in each of his first 10 seasons in the MLB.
  • Hit 400 home runs in his first 10 seasons in the MLB.
  • Drive in over 100 RBI’s in each of his first 10 seasons in the MLB.
  • Hit over .300 in each of his first 9 seasons in the MLB.

In addition to those records, Pujols also has 2 Gold Glove awards under his belt. That, and all of those records, came while wearing a St. Louis Cardinals uniform. Along with setting those records, he also led St. Louis to two World Series titles. I think it is fair to say that he is one of the most beloved players in Cardinals history, if not the most beloved. Now, he is wearing an Angels uniform. Most people thought that this would be a HUGE blow to the Cardinals, and for good reason! How are they supposed to recover after losing one of the greatest players in MLB history? Who takes his place?

Well, to try and somewhat replace the offense that they lost in Pujols, the Cardinals went out and signed outfielder Carlos Beltran, who will turn 35 later this month. Heading into this season, Beltran had a lifetime batting average of .283 with 304 home runs, 1149 RBI’s, and 294 stolen bases. It would be safe to say that he is nearing the end of his career and that his numbers should steadily start to decrease. Contrary to that common belief, Beltran, along with the Cardinals, have gotten off to a red-hot start this season.

After winning the World Series last year (with Pujols), the Cardinals have started this season 4-1. Beltran has started his season hitting .333, with 3 home runs and 4 RBI’s (Beltran’s numbers include today’s game, which is still in progress). Needless to say, those are better numbers than Pujols has been able to put up so far this year. I’m not saying that Beltran has “replaced” Pujols or that he will have a better season than Pujols, but he has done just what the Cardinals have wanted him to do so far.

The Cardinals signed Beltran with the hopes that he might hit 25-30 home runs, and drive in around 90 runs. If he is able to put up those types of numbers, then I’d say St. Louis has a very good chance at winning the Central Division.

It seems to me like the Cardinals always sign a player who appears to be “washed up,” and then he goes out and has one last big year in St. Louis. Larry Walker and Lance Berkman are the two most notable players who signed with St. Louis towards the end of their  careers and went on to have big seasons, with Berkman hitting .301 with 31 home runs, and 94 RBI’s last season. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least bit if Beltran had his last big season this year. The coaching staff in St. Louis has been one of the best in baseball over the last 10 years or so, in large part due to Tony La Russa, and they are always able to get their players to perform at high levels, regardless of the players’ ages.

I guess the main point that I am trying to make is that the Cardinals seemingly always make the right moves when it comes to free agent signings and trades. Their front office and coaching staff deserve a ton of credit for what that franchise has been able to do over the last decade.

So with that said, do not be surprised one bit if the Cardinals go out and have a great season this year, despite the fact that they are now without Pujols. They are a team full of winners who know how to do just that; win.