Monday, February 24, 2014

Daytona 500: The Return of the King!


AP Photo

On Sunday Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the prestigious Daytona 500 in stellar fashion and perhaps, at long last, began living up to his legendary name. As Jay Busbee of Yahoo! Sports put it, "He's got "Junior" in his name, yes, but with this, the best race he's ever run, he's his own man."

This was Dale Jr's second win at Daytona (2004, 2014)-- a long and stressful decade apart. I'm sure Dale Sr. is somewhere very proud right now.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Captain's Last Hoorah!

AP Photo
This past Thursday was the official start of spring training for New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter who, earlier this month, announced he will retire after the 2014 season. Of course there are mixed opinions about Jeter's surprising announcement but I'm on the side of those who think it's a good decision. Some quick thoughts:
  • Jeter no longer has anything to prove and, at 39, he no longer can compete at the level he's accustomed to competing. If he were 100% healthy there's no doubt he'd still be a Top 10 player (even at 39) but, as his struggles from last season showed, the rigors of a 162-game season are just too demanding on his aging body.
  • With 5 World Series rings, 5 Gold Gloves, 13 All-Star appearances and 3000+ hits the captain is an unquestionable first-ballot Hall of Famer. For a guy who has played his entire career in the tainted Steroid Era, Jeter is the epitome of a clean and honest player. He is the example for all up-and-coming young players to emulate.
  • He's playing in the final year of his contract and by retiring he avoids the long and dragged out process of negotiating a new deal. Even he had a rough time with the take-no-prisoners Yankee brass the last time he was negotiating a new contract.There's no need for him to tarnish his stellar image with the circus-like atmosphere that comes with negotiating with the hard-nosed Yankees. I think it's safe to say he doesn't need the money.
  • Baseball is a passion for Jeter, not a job. He, himself, has said that once it starts to feel like a job, it's time for him to go.
  • Last but not least, he avoids all the annoying questions that all Yankee players will face when the A-Rod circus returns in 2015. It couldn't have been written any better as the 2014 spotlight will solely be focused on Jeter without the distraction of all the A-Rod drama. Let the Yankees deal with their nuisance in 2015. By then the captain will have long ridden off into the sunset.
Farewell Captain!

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Evolution Of Mike Trout

Getty Images
There have been very few players in the history of major league baseball who outplayed as well at such a young age like Mike Trout. The outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels is coming off back-to-back seasons in which he finished runner-up in the American League MVP race. As if that was not impressive enough, many people believe that he could have easily won both of those awards in most other years. As we get ready for the 3rd full season of Trout, people who play in FanDuel leagues are still trying to find a hole in his game.

Miguel Cabrera has been considered the best position player in major league baseball for the last few seasons, but he does not bring speed and defense to the table. Trout is close to Cabrera as a hitter, but he is able to also steal bases with the best of them and play Gold Glove caliber defense. Many people have been pretty bold when they compare him to Willie Mays, but the fact the matter is there may not be a better comparison as far as production goes.

Trout will enter the 2014 regular-season with a .314/.404/.544 slash not to mention 62 home runs, 196 RBI and 86 stolen bases in just a total of 336 games. If you are into advanced statistics, his wins above replacement (WAR) have been off the charts as well. Not only is he able to hit for both power and average, but his speed and defense allows him to bring more value to the table.

As good as he has been so far, there are some people who believed that he could even get better as he matures and hits his prime. There is really no hole in his swing, and he is becoming a more disciplined hitter overall. He was able to cut down on his strikeouts a little bit this past season, and he was also able to walk a lot more. In fact, he led the American League in walks with 110 in 2013, and that certainly helped him with his on-base percentage.

Defense will be the 1st thing that peaks for him, but he still has a few seasons left to win a few Gold Gloves. That award is certainly not the only way to be recognized for defense, but it is something that he should be able to earn once he gets more of a reputation out there in centerfield.

There have been a lot of promising young players to come up in recent memory. Few players have been able to make the type of impact that Mike Trout has so early in his career. As long as he is able to stay healthy, there is no doubt that he will be a perennial MVP candidate for the next decade.

This article was written and provided courtesy of Jason Berhens