February 26, 2016

Playing Pepper 2016

Playing pepper at Fenway Park (courtesy pepperbaseball.com)
As mentioned previously, the Cardinals blog C70 at the bat at Cards Conclave hosts an annual series where bloggers from each team answer some specific questions in previewing their team's seasons.

As in previous years, other bloggers also particiapted including fellow Baseball Bloggers Alliance members Christine from Boston Red Thoughts, John at The Mighty Quinn Media Machine, Tyler from Monstah Mash as well as Michael from The Big Mike Blog and  Mike from Seamheads.

To see how these Red Sox bloggers answered these questions, take a look at the Red Sox "Playing Pepper" page at C70 at the bat.

Below are the questions with the answers that I provided. As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts:

1 - What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason?  Did they do what they needed to do?
The Red Sox’ main needs heading into the offseason were to improve the pitching staff and figure out what to do about 1st and 3rd base.  They signed David Price and Chris Young as free agents and traded for Craig Kimbrel, Carson Smith and Roenis Elias. Other than a few of Mr. Henry’s greenbacks, the acquisition price of all these was just prospects Manuel Margo and Javier Guerra and starter Wade Miley. Someone was going to be bumped out of the rotation to make room for Price, so Miley was a small piece to give up, and more importantly Boston still has a lot of top prospects in their system.  Price will certainly improve the rotation and Elias will give them some extra depth.  Kimbrel was brought in to close which will lessen the load on Koji, who together with Carson Smith and the retuning Junichi Tazawa will give the bullpen a formidable set up crew. Chris Young will be a 4th/platoon outfielder and insurance against Jackie Bradley Jr or Rusney Castillo extended slumps or injuries.  Since the “Hanley Ramirez as a left-fielder” plan did not work out last year, they are hoping he can play a passable first base.  Third base will be manned by Pablo Sandoval again. He had a subpar season last year on both sides of the ball, and his age and physique make a lot of people worry that his skills will continue to diminish. But realistically, he’ll be given a chance to show he can perform before the Red Sox see him as a sunk cost. If his struggles continue, or Hanley can’t handle first base, then they’ll need to use some of their aforementioned prospects to upgrade those areas.  Overall, very happy with the offseason, but not convinced they did everything they needed to do.

February 13, 2016

Alberta ballplayers playing College ball

As usual, there are way more Canadians playing baseball in College than there are hockey players, with over 700 players playing in the NCAA, NJCAA and NAIA. The Canadian Baseball Network has an exhaustive list here. Among those, over 50 of them are Albertans. Every year players listed on this page end up being drafted in the MLB June draft, so remember these names, some of whom may become professional players soon:

NCAA Division I:
3B Nolan Bumstead, Calgary, California State University, Northridge
LHP Jared Kennedy, Calgary, Canisius College (New York)
INF-RHP Tanner Kirwer, Sherwood Park, Niagara University (New York)
OF Zack Kunkel, Medicine Hat, Cal-State Northridge University (California)
INF Mitch McGeein, Calgary, Eastern Michigan University
RHP Jordan Parranto, Sherwood Park, Niagara University (New York)
C Matt Quartel, Sturgeon County, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
LHP Nat Seltsam, Calgary, Mount St. Mary’s University (Maryland)
C Ryan Thrasher, Sherwood Park, Alabama A&M University
INF Dane Tofteland, Okotoks, Indiana State University
RHP Jackson Wark, St. Albert, St. Louis University (Missouri)
Division II:
C Mike Belliveau, Calgary, Alta. Bellarmine University (Kentucky)
OF Doug Clapperton, Calgary, University of Texas-Permian Basin
2B Braden Goldade, Medicine Hat, Northern State University (South Dakota)
OF Jake Lanferman, Sherwood Park, Fort Hays State University (Kansas)
OF Joel Mazurkewich, Red Deer, Montana State University Billings
INF Derek Shedden, Edmonton, Northeastern State University (Oklahoma)
C Travis Steinke, Red Deer, University of Arkansas at Monticello
C Ramon Valdez, Chestermere, Barry University (Florida)
RHP Jamie Whitehead, Calgary, Southwest Baptist University (Missouri)
Division III 
INF Alex Bishop, Calgary, University of Texas at Tyler
RHP Forrest Hisey, Ardrossan, Augustana College (Illinois)
INF Blake Patterson, Calgary, Spalding University (Kentucky)
RHP Cole Slamko, Okotoks, Spalding University (Kentucky)
RHP Chris Stodolka, Lethbridge, University of Texas at Tyler
INF Austin Warkentin, Calgary, Mississippi College

INF Brendan Baker, Red Deer, Siena Heights University (Michigan)
LHP Graeme Cherry, Millarville, Northeastern Junior College (Colorado)
C Jacob Cuch, Aridrie, Dickinson State University (North Dakota)
RHP-3B Tyler Czech, Stirling, Dickinson State University (North Dakota)
LHP Dave Erickson, Sherwood Park, Waldorf College (Iowa)
RHP Brendan Ethier, Calgary, Jamestown College (North Dakota)
RHP Dallas Forno, Calgary, Our Lady of the Lake University (Texas)
C Riley Guntrip, Camrose, Siena Heights Univesity (Michigan)
INF-OF Jaxson Hodge, Calgary, Tabor College (Kansas)
LHP Jeremy McPhee, Calgary, Jamestown College (North Dakota)
RHP Kurt Meeberg, Edmonton, Bryan College (Tennessee)
OF Ryley Overacker, Calgary, Siena Heights University (Michigan)
INF J.T. Patterson, Calgary, Northeastern Junior College (Colorado)
RHP Russell Rockwell, Fort Saskatchewan, Northeastern Jr. College (Colorado)
RHP Ryley Ross, Edmonton, Bethany College (Kansas)
LHP Nick Vickers, Calgary, Northeastern Jr. College (Colorado)
OF-INF Brenden Watamaniuk, Westlock, Benedictine College (Kansas)
OF Carson Wlad, Calgary, Siena Heights University (Michigan)

Junior Colleges and Community Collegees
OF Owen Bessette, Sherwood Park, Western Texas College
3B-RHP Connor Burns, St. Albert, Garden City Community College (Kansas)
RHP Nikolas Cardinal, Bonnyville, Mesa Community College (Arizona)
INF Brian Granton, Calgary, Colby Community College (Kansas)
OF Drake Kirkwood, Calgary, Colby Community College (Kansas)
OF Garrett Kirkwood, Calgary, Colby Community College (Kansas)
SS-RHP Matt Lloyd, Calgary, Iowa Western Community College (Iowa)
LHP Taran Oulton, Rocky Mountain House, Hutchinson College (Kansas)
INF Nolan Rattai, Medicine Hat, Midland College (Texas)
C Shawn Robbins, Edmonton, Hill College (Texas)
RHP Riley Rowland, Okotoks, Williston State College (North Dakota)
INF Cole Schneider, Ft. Saskatchewan, Colby Community College (Kansas)
2B Tim Waite, Calgary, Williston State College (North Dakota)
OF Josh Williams, Sherwood Park, Hutchison Community College (Kansas)

February 08, 2016

Playing Pepper Preview

I like making predictions on these pages, although I think I have yet to make one forecast that's even close to being correct. But that hasn't stopped C70 at the Bat from asking me to participate in their annual Playing Pepper project for the 5th season in a row.

You can look here at what I said going into the 2012, 20132014  and 2015 seasons.

This year I have been asked to answer the following questions.

1) What are your thoughts on the team’s offseason?  Did they do what they needed to do?
2) There are a good number of new faces on this squad.  Which one are you most excited about?
3) Will the David Ortiz farewell tour threaten to overshadow what happens on the field?
4) What player do you expect to make the greatest strides this year?
5) What’s your projection of the team’s record and where will they finish in the division?
6) Which team in the division do you most enjoy beating and how do you think you’ll fare against them in 2016?

My answers and those of several other Red Sox bloggers will be published on or around February 25h at the C70 site.  Check there daily for previews of all other teams as well.

I will post my answers here at about the same time, and will be interested in my reader's comments on my thoughts.

February 06, 2016

Did you hear the one about NFL parity?

Best part of Super Bowl? Truck Day is around the corner!
(courtesy of Boston Globe / David L. Ryan)
So, this year the Super Bowl pits the #1 seed from the NFC vs the #1 seed from the AFC.  And they both got there by virtue of beating the #2 seeds in their respective conference championship games.  Yet, the NFL media machine keeps spewing the “on any given Sunday, any team can win” bullshit.  I guess if you didn’t believe that, you’d have a hard time selling out games in Cleveland, Tampa, Jacksonville, Nashville and other places that haven’t seen a winner in a long time.  And I’m not just talking about this year but throughout the league’s history it’s been dominated by a handful of franchises.  Anyhow, Jayson Stark has once again articulated this very well here.  Proving once again how MLB baseball has the most parity of any professional sports league.  Before you say “But the Yankees win every year!!!” make sure you first (a) read the article in the link and (b) check that you didn’t just wake up from a coma you were in since the end of last century.