Is there any better ballpark promotion than the bobblehead? The answer is no. This is part one of a six-part series, giving you the breakdown of what bobbling wonders will be at the stadium this spring and summer. Each bobblehead will be rated 1-5 stars based on quality of subject, originality, number available, and overall awesomeness. Teams will be ranked by total stars, so the more giveaways (especially quality ones) the better. Let’s start it off with the AL West!
Seattle Mariners (Each giveaway is 20,000 fans)
Saturday, May 31st, Robinson Cano: You knew the Mariners had to give a bobblehead to their new superstar player. This is (surprisingly) the first bobblehead giveaway for Cano in MLB. ***
Thursday, June 12th, Macklemore: I’m not a huge Macklemore fan, but I love the Mariners creativity for the local musical star. I’m not sure what it looks like yet, but at least they have Macklemore in a M’s jersey to go off of. **** 1/2
Saturday, July 12th, Hisashi Iwakuma: I’m a sucker for Iwakuma and would rate this higher for my collection. In the overall scheme, nothing too spectacular. **
Saturday, August 9th, Lou Pinella Mariners Hall of Fame: Lou Pinella is one of my favorite managers of all-time and I’m glad they’re comboing up a bobblehead with his induction day. Should be a fun day in Seattle. I truly hope it involves him kicking his cap. *** 1/2
Saturday, August 30th, Felix Hernandez: Another year, another Felix Hernandez bobblehead from the Mariners. Wish they had made a Jesus Montero bobble belly instead. **1/2
Total: 15 1/2 stars
Texas Rangers (Each giveaway is for 15,000 fans)
Saturday, April 19th, Yu Darvish Strikeout King: Standard fare, the teams best player in a standard pitching bobblehead. Would’ve been fun if they had the “strikeout king” have a crown with a K on it. **1/2
Sunday, May 18th, Prince Fielder: Another pretty standard bobblehead, but with the team’s best and newest hitter. **1/2
Saturday, July 12th, Eric Nadel: Now we’re having some fun! Nadel has been with the Rangers since 1979 as their broadcaster and is the winner of the 2014 Ford C. Frick Award. And now, his own bobblehead too. Love it! ****
Tuesday, August 12th, Pudge Rodriguez Gold Glove: I’ve got nothing against this one honoring one of the best players in Rangers history. I also like that they’re honoring his defense. There isn’t a picture of it yet, but it get a bonus 1/2 star if his glove is actually gold. ***
Thursday, September 4th, Shin Soo-Choo: Choo is also a new Rangers acquisition, but he’s not quite on Darvish or Fielder’s level. It’s going to be tough for the Rangers to top the greatest Shin Soo-Choo bobblehead of all-time. **
Total: 14 stars
Houston Astros (10,000 fans each giveaway)
Saturday, April 26th, Jason Castro All-Star: A nice honor to add on to Jason Castro’s all-star to give him his own bobblehead. He’s not a major star though, yet. **
Friday, August 1st, Lance Berkman: A great player in Astros history gets honored, because there aren’t many players on this current roster to give a bobblehead to. ** 1/2
Sunday, August 3rd, Roy Oswalt: See, Lance Berkman. I do like that they made these the same weekend for fans. ** 1/2
Saturday, August 30th, Nolan and Reid Ryan: Not many executives get bobbleheads and I would go out on a limb to say that this is the first double executive bobblehead in MLB history. I want to rate it higher, but only 10,000? Then again, the Astros attendance isn’t the strongest. ****
Total: 11 stars
Oakland Athletics (various amounts of fans)
Saturday, April 19th, Josh Donaldson Diorama: First off, kudos to the Athletics for increasing their giveaways from 10,000 to 20,000 for Donaldson and 15,000 for the Catfish Hunter one. Donaldson was the breakout star for the A’s in 2013 and the diorama is a nice little bonus. ***
Saturday, May 31st-Catfish Hunter: Athletics have had a Hunter bobblehead before, but that was in 2002. Here’s to hoping that they’ll add an Eric Sogard bobblehead giveaway if he wins the #FaceOfMLB contest. A’s fans love that guy. ** 1/2
Total: 5 1/2 stars
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (amount of giveaway, not available)
Tuesday, April 1st, Mike Trout: One of the games brightest stars gets his second bobblehead in two years. This one doesn’t top last year’s edition, though. Why is he not wearing a cap? *** 1/2
Friday, May 2nd, Josh Hamilton: If I’m an Angels fan and Hamilton’s 2014 starts off like his 2013, am I really going to want this bobblehead? **
Total: 5 1/2 stars
What’s your favorite bobblehead set in the AL West? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
In case you missed it, Brandon Moss just hit his second home run of the game for the A’s tonight and walked off with a 10-8 victory. In the 19th inning. I’m not kidding. Here is the game-winner (embedded video coming soon):
The two teams combined for 18 runs, 31 hits, 597 pitches, and three starting pitchers.
That’s not a typo.
Among the crazier aspects to this game was the A’s original starter Brett Anderson throwing nearly six innings beginning around the 12th. He was scratched with a bum ankle, but ended up pitching almost enough for a quality start by the end.
The A’s lost Coco Crisp, Chris Young and Anderson to injuries before the game ended, and Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, incredibly enough, was behind the dish for every single one of the Angels’ 297 pitches tonight. There has to be some kind of rule that allows a catcher in a game like this to get a stool to squat on. My goodness.
Well, it’s 1:46 a.m. and yours truly needs to get to bed. But here’s a video of Mark Trumbo’s monster home run that traveled an estimated 475 feet…in the second inning. Over six hours ago.
Also, Josh Hamilton was given a sarcastic “Josh Hamilton Appreciation Night” by A’s fans, who did everything in their power to remind him of his error last season that helped Oakland clinch the AL West. He responded by going 0-for-8 in the game.
But the night belonged to Moss, who continues to prove everyone who passed on him wrong as he carries the A’s and shreds Angel pitching (now has four homers in four games vs. Anaheim). He topped everything off with a very short, out of breath, postgame interview in which he pied himself in the face for winning it.
And before I pass out on the keyboard, a special shout out to friend of the podcast @vdemske and her small crew of fans who stuck out the entire damn game tonight. That is true dedication.
Ok, goodnight now.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
The Angels placed star pitcher Jered Weaver on the 15-day disabled list with a fractured elbow of his non-throwing arm. He suffered the injury during his last start against the Rangers.
The Angels ace will be out 4-6 weeks and depletes an already weak Angels starting rotation. Dane De La Rosa was called up from AAA Salt Lake to take Weaver’s roster spot.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
I won’t lie – I have a soft spot for the Mariners. That seems a bit strange because I live near Oakland and root for the A’s in my free time. Let me explain: I went to Washington State University and spent four years surrounded by sad, wandering M’s fans.
There’s that, and the fact that they have an awesome stadium, badass jerseys, and a slew of fan-favorite heroes (A-Rod, Randy Johnson, Ken Griffey, Jr., Edgar Martinez, Felix Hernandez, Ichiro, etc.). Anyway, it’s been disappointing to see GM Jack Zduriencik not really pull the trigger on any big moves in which Seattle was set up perfectly to do so.
The Mariners have a decently sized payroll, plenty of minor league depth, and a desperate need for hitters. Despite a lack of offensive punch, the Mariners managed to finish just a handful of games short of .500 in 2012, albeit still in fourth place.
With Hernandez leading the rotation, and a plethora of young pitching talent in Triple-A, the Mariners have the pieces to move to acquire a big bat. Today, this theory finally came to fruition. They went out and traded 14-game winner Jason Vargas to Anaheim for Kendrys Morales.
Let’s break this thing down:
SP Jason Vargas
1B/DH Kendrys Morales
It’s hard to decide who wins this trade, but my gut tells me both teams come out pretty hot. The Angels, with the losses of Zack Greinke, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren this winter were in dire need of a pitching upgrade (and no, Joe Blanton doesn’t count). They made a nifty move in acquiring Tommy Hanson from Atlanta, but it wasn’t enough.
I’m not sure if you can say Vargas is the final piece they need, but it surely won’t hurt. This gives the Angels a pair of very good lefty starters in Vargas and C.J. Wilson to pair with Cy Young candidate Jered Weaver. We know Los Angeles added Josh Hamilton to the lineup, making Morales expendable.
But is it enough? Can the Angels improve on a 90-win ball club and return to A.L. West supremacy? Having Vargas in the third spot in that rotation will help them inch closer. And you have to expect a full season of Mike Trout, plus Hamilton, Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo, that they will be a better team.
For the Mariners, who are chasing the Angels (and everyone else for that matter) in the division, this should spell the end of the long-drawn out Justin Smoak experiment. Morales is an instant upgrade in all departments over Smoak, and will provide a good source of punch to the lineup.
With the emergence of Kyle Seager and a likely improvement next season from Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero, the Mariners could be a sneaky dangerous team in 2013. As long as the rotation can pick up the slack left by Vargas, I expect an improvement for Seattle, though I don’t think they are quite ready to be a contender yet.
That being said, Zduriencik knows he needs another bat or two, and may be chasing an Andre Ethier or Michael Bourn-type player as the winter evolves. If they can pair one more veteran power bat like Ethier’s, or a good top-of-the-order guy like Bourn, without giving up too much pitching, I see no reason why the Mariners can’t make like the 2012 A’s and take the league by surprise.
As for grading this trade, I’m giving a slightly higher mark to the Mariners, simply for going out and being aggressive in adding a bat to a flat lineup. They have pitching depth and are on the right track with getting some power in there with Morales and Jason Bay (well…you know…maybe). Mariners Grade: B+
The Angels got an underrated starting pitcher, but still haven’t made up for lost talent in the rotation. Not to mention, Morales was as good a hitter as they could ask for in that DH/1B slot. The offense did downgrade with the loss of Morales and Torii Hunter, even after the Hamilton signing. Overall, it’s a good move, but they better make a World Series run before 2014 when Vargas is a free agent or be prepared to shell out a pretty hefty extension. Angels Grade: B
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
Chicks may dig the long ball, but it’s fielding that makes for the most exciting highlights in the game of baseball. What have been the best displays of defensive excellence this season? Let’s see if I can only limit Mike Trout to one play.
Let’s start it off with Mike Trout with what I believe is the best play of the year. Look at the leap. Look at the extension. I don’t think there is anyone else that makes this play in the Majors. Trout has taken away five home runs this season, but this one was the best.
Trout’s catch was given a run for it’s money though by Blue Jays Rajai Davis. He uses the wall to catapult himself up over a 10-foot wall to rob Casey McGahee. This one is a thing of beauty.
This is one of the top infield plays of the season by Diamondbacks do-it-all man Willie Bloomquist. He ranges to the other side of 2nd base and flips the ball backward almost in a somersault position to Aaron Hill for the force out. Bonus points for getting out Emilio Bonifacio, one of the fastest players in MLB.
Speaking of somersaults, here’s Twins Ben Revere making a great catch in the 9th inning and rolling into a somersault. Revere is one of the best in the league at spectacular plays.
I’m impartial to this play because I was at the MLB Fan Cave when it happened. Tigers Quintin Berry gets turned around, goes back and make a leaping catch over his head. I’m still not sure how he got to it. It was a huge save for the Tigers as they kept the lead at one and took the lead in the 9th inning. Without this catch, they lose.
Who has the best right field arm? My answer has been Jeff Francouer since he was an Atlanta Brave. Look at that laser rocket arm throwing out Alexei Ramirez.
Why has Brandon Phillips won two straight Gold Gloves at second base? Plays like this are part of the reason. He makes a behind-the-back flip look easy.
I promised my fellow podcast host Jeremy Dorn that I would get a Dodgers play into this. Check out Justin Sellers going full sprint over the shoulder and going head first into the stands. If you can get Vin Scully to go “Whoa!” and “Gee whiz!” that works for me.
A late addition to this blog. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a pitcher almost end up on the dirt to make a play in no-man’s land going the wrong way like J.P. Howell.
The hands-down Minor League play of the year. Jason Repko robs a grand slam from Kosuke Fukudome for the Pawtucket Red Sox. He even tumbles OVER the wall to complete the play.
Bottom of the 12th, up by one with runners on 1st and 2nd, Roger Bernadina saves the day as he becomes one with Minute Maid Park to win the game for the Nationals.
I’ll close with a double-dip of amazing Giants plays. The first was an amazing, diving catch for Gregor Blanco. This catch was the most important on this list as it preserved Matt Cain’s perfect game. The second is the kookiest play of this list as Pablo Sandoval bobbles a catch in foul territory, dives, tips it up and is caught by a diving Brandon Crawford.
Everyone goes with a top ten list, but I love defense so much that I went with a top thirteen! I can’t resist the urge though, here’s another Mike Trout home run robbery! This one to end the game off the bat of Prince Fielder.
Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite play of the year? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Earlier edition of Weekend Watch this week. Only three games on a Thursday night? Something seems off with that, I’m currently filling my time with the Women’s College World Series and Scripps National Spelling Bee. Would it kill them to make sure there is a day game every day? Here’s what I’m excited for this weekend.
5) Braves at Nationals
I’ve decided to stop putting the Braves near the top spot in these rankings every week, but this match-up is still too juicy to not include at all. Nationals befuddled the Braves at Turner Field this weekend while Atlanta was in the midst of a 8-game losing streak. Taking two of three from the Cardinals put some spring in their step heading on the road. Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman’s returns were sorely needed for the Braves offense. Almost the same pitching duels as last weekend as we’ll see Mike Minor/Stephen Strasburg and Brandon Beachy/Gio Gonzalez part deux, along with Tommy Hanson/Jordan Zimmermann on Sunday. Gonzalez was the most impressive last Sunday shutting down the Braves to one hit over seven innings with 10 strikeouts. He now leads the NL in strikeouts and K/9. Was that start enough to take my NL Cy Young in the “Too Early MLB Awards”? Answer coming this weekend. Weird but true stat: Michael Bourn already has five home runs this season, he had four in 2010 and 2011 combined.
4) Yankees at Tigers
The Tigers have been the biggest team disappointment in the Majors this season sitting at just 23-27 so far in a weak AL Central. Doug Fister is heading back to the DL to join teammate Austin Jackson. Tigers might be in some trouble with the Yankees coming to town. CC Sabathia is heading to the hill for the opener against Casey Crosby, who has a 4.26 ERA in AAA this season. What does bode well for Tigers fans is the Yankee lineup typically has trouble with pitchers they have never seen before. I’m excited to watch Justin Verlander on Sunday take on the Yankee lineup in a rematch from the 2011 ALDS. Not weird but true stat: CC Sabathia has more losses against the Tigers (12) than any other team.
3) Marlins at Phillies
There is no team hotter in the Majors than the Miami Marlins. Their 21 wins in May set the franchise record for wins in a month. The Phillies were dealt a tough blow with the loss of ace Roy Halladay for 6-8 weeks, but still have enough rotation goodness to survive. Kyle Kendrick has filled in admirably thus far and Vance Worley should be due back shortly. Cole Hamels with his 8-1 record and 2.43 ERA is also in the running for the “Too Early MLB Awards” NL Cy Young. Two plugs for a future blog in this blog? Oops. Weird but true stat: Giancarlo Stanton is 3 for 4 this season with two outs and the bases loaded with two grand slams. He loves the pressure. Please vote for him to go to Kansas City for the All-Star Game.
2) Orioles at Rays
Typically, I would put the battle of teams tied for the division lead in the AL East in the top spot, but A) I don’t want to hear about any East Coast bias and B) there’s a match-up that intrigues me slightly more. Orioles are hitting a rough patch right now, just 2-8 in their last 10 games, but did take two of three from the Rays, three weeks ago. Wei-Yin Chen has been a find for Baltimore and will take on David Price in the Friday opener. I’m also intrigued to see if shutting down a then-hot White Sox offense on Memorial Day is enough for Matt Moore to turn the corner. Would make me feel a lot better about picking him to win AL Rookie of the Year and AL Cy Young in the preseason. Signing a new extension hasn’t slowed down Adam Jones as he’s hitting .385 with two home runs since the press conference before last Sunday’s game. Not weird but true stat: Rays pitcher Jeremy Hellickson has beaten the Orioles more times (4) than any other team in his young career.
1) Rangers at Angels
So why this series over Orioles/Rays? I want to watch how the Rangers respond to getting 20+ runs put up on them by the Mariners. I want to see if Albert Pujols hot streak continues. I want to watch Mark Trumbo demolish pitches. I want to see Mike Trout do everything. (Told you I’d rather have him than Bryce Harper this season.) I want to see Yu Darvish pitch against C.J. Wilson. I want to see if Mike Trout can chase down Yu Darvish for AL Rookie of the Year. I want to see if Dan Haren has really turned things around. I want to see if the Angels can get over the .500 hump and make the AL West interesting. Last but definitely not least, I want to watch Josh Hamilton. Weird but true stat: Yu Darvish has given up 9 ER in 9.2 IP against the Mariners and 13 ER in 50.1 IP against every other team he’s faced. I asked for votes for Giancarlo Stanton before for the All-Star game, now it’s Mark Trumbo’s turn. He’s hitting .348 this season with 10 home runs this season while bouncing around from 3B to 1B to RF, to LF, to DH. If that doesn’t convince you, let my friends at the MLB Fan Cave try and do it.
Mapes Fantasy Special
A great 3-0 week last week as Ivan Nova, Mark Buehrle, and especially R.A. Dickey came through with starts that helped your fantasy team. These are now 15-5 on positive starts on the season. Sadly, Dickey and Buehrle have moved over the 50% owned threshold for Mapes Fantasy Special, so let’s see what I can find for this weekend.
6/1 Wade Miley at Padres (45% owned), Might as well go with our Three Up player on the podcast this week. Miley has been great and you have to like facing the Padres at Petco even with the return of Carlos Quentin.
6/2 Brandon McCarthy at Royals (45% owned), I’m not feeling too strong about this one with McCarthy just coming off the DL. It is a nice spot though against a KC team that is just 5-17 at home this year. McCarthy gave up 2 ER in 6 IP earlier this year against the Royals.
6/3 Barry Zito vs. Cubs (22% owned) I really like Zito here at home coming off a good start against the Diamondbacks. Cubs are 27th in the league in runs scored and are pitching Travis Wood, who hasn’t been great.
Coming soon is my “Too Early MLB Awards” now that June is upon us. Who do you think should be taking the hardware at this point in the season?
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
There undoubtedly other fun sporting events to watch this weekend like the NHL and NBA playoffs, plus the Kentucky Derby. However, here’s what I’m watching on the diamond this weekend.
5) Orioles at Red Sox
The battle between the team in 2nd place in the AL East and the team in the basement. Only it’s the reverse of what everyone thought it would be at the start of this season. Can the Orioles keep up the momentum? For Baltimore, is Jason Hammel for real? That trade with the Rockies for him is looking pretty shrewd right now as Hammel is 3-1 with a 1.97 ERA and passed his first difficult test of the season against the Yankees. The Red Sox schedule is easing up, but after losing two straight against the Athletics, all hands need to be on deck in Beantown.
4) Blue Jays at Angels
I’ll really just be keeping an eye on this one to see if Albert Pujols is going to decide to hit a home run this season. The Jered Weaver no-hitter bump already seems to be gone as the Halos dropped the first game of this series on Thursday night.
3) Phillies at Nationals
I want to see if Bryce Harper can bring people to Nationals Park on the weekend. The Nats haven’t seen a bump in attendance in the first series with “The Chosen One” in the lineup. My leader in the NL Cy Young after April will be taking the hill on Friday night in Stephen Strasburg. If Washington can’t get 30,000 in the seats for that, I give up. Hamels vs. Zimmermann on Sunday Night Baseball will be a great duel.
2) Braves at Rockies
A little bit of a homer pick by me, but I always enjoy watching games in Colorado. I’m excited to watch Tim Hudson’s continued return, hopefully a 49 year-old Jamie Moyer vs. 40 year-old Chipper Jones matchup on Saturday, Carlos Gonzalez has been on fire lately.
1) Rangers at Indians
The only weekend matchup pitting two 1st place teams. There hasn’t been a lot the Rangers have done wrong so far this season with Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler mashing in the lineup and Yu Darvish and Colby Lewis cruising along in the rotation. The Indians have been a little bit of a surprise in the AL Central that was supposed to be controlled by the Tigers. The Indians started off hot last season before fading, did they learn from it in order to make a run in 2012? Winning this series against the two-time defending AL Champion Rangers would be a nice boost.
What are you looking forward this weekend in Major League Baseball?