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)
I’m sure some or maybe all of you have heard that Jeremy and I made the top 52 for the MLB Fan Cave in 2013. We’ve been blown away by your support so far and we want to start by saying thank you.
Now for the main event! The 2nd annual jersey draft battle! I may have had the worst pick in the draft last year (Adrian Gonzalez, who’s no longer on the Red Sox), but I did score the NL MVP’s jersey (Buster Posey) with the 2nd to last pick. Plus, I got to give grief all season for Jeremy picking Matt Cain 4th overall.
The rules are simple: I will pick 1st because Jeremy had the first choice last year. Jeremy will get 2nd and 3rd picks and then alternate from there. What we’re looking for in our jersey investments are quality of player, potential time in uniform, and overall awesomeness. You can only have one player, per team on your own draft. Both of us can pick a player from the same team, for example Matt Cain/Buster Posey and Miguel Cabrera/Prince Fielder were all picked last year. It does play into strategy, because it let me wait on Posey, knowing Jeremy couldn’t take another Giants player. Without further adieu!
Team Mapes Pick #1, #1 Overall: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Last year, I picked Albert Pujols at #3 overall based on the long length of his contract ensuring great use from his Angels jersey. This year, Trout is the most exciting player in the game and is under team control through 2017. Trout’s jersey’s the hands down top pick to me. You’re getting five seasons of sweet-jersey wearing time. Bonus points for completing the Trout ensemble with a foam Trout hat. I might have just let Jeremy get a steal of Pujols or Josh Hamilton later in the draft though, time will tell. You’re up Mr. Dorn. I have a sneaking suspicion you’ll be repeating your top pick from 2012.
Team Jeremy Pick #1, #2 Overall: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles
Two things: First, Mapes is absolutely correct. No way I’m not going to take my first overall pick in last year’s draft, Matt Kemp. Not only is he under contract in Los Angeles through the decade, but when healthy he is the best all-around player in the game. Teammates like him, fans like him, and even opponents like the laid-back, uber-talented center fielder of the Dodgers. He came freakishly close to a Triple Crown and 40/40 season in 2011, and will look to return to that form after injuries derailed him last year. Oh, and secondly — give me crap all you want for the Cain pick, but the dude threw a perfect game last season and I hypothetically had that jersey!
Team Jeremy Pick #2, #3 Overall: Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
I snatched this pick off Mapes’ team from last year, and I’m glad I did. Votto has been one of the most consistent, destructive hitters (when healthy) since he entered the league, and will be mashing in Cincy through 2024 under his current contract. Votto should always be a favorite in the National League for the MVP award, given his batting average, on-base percentage, power numbers and defense in a given year. Plus, the jersey just looks GOOD!
Team Mapes Pick #2, #4 Overall: Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
There are so many options at this pick it’s ridiculous. I don’t want to talk (or type) out loud and give you any ideas though! I think that Cutch was going to be your next pick so I’m grabbing him now. He’s under team control through 2018, a great player, and completely entertaining as evidenced by his MLB Fan Cave videos. He’s a player you WANT to root for and a baseball fan that has a Pirates jersey when they finally end their sub-.500 season streak will be looking good. That being said, I really hope you don’t take the player I strongly considered here. McCutchen moves up from the #8 jersey overall selected in 2012.
Team Jeremy Pick #3, #5 Overall: Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
Oh, yes I did just pick the J-Hey kid from your own squad! No way I’m letting you stack your lineup with one of the best and most popular players in the game today. After a dismal sophomore season in 2011, Heyward bounced back to prominence and beyond in 2012, and will be a power-hitting, web gem-making, on-base getting (huh?) beast for at least the next four years in Atlanta. Snag his jersey now, before it’s too late. Mapes, when you’re done crying that I’ve drafted your boy, feel free to make your next pick!
Team Mapes Pick #3, #6 Overall: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU JEREMY?!?! I’ll have to console myself with the TWO Jason Heyward shirseys that I have hanging in my closet. Don’t worry, I have a plan for my Atlanta Braves pick later. There’s only one real way to get back to you and that’s with a picture of the Giants having a champagne celebration. When was the last time the Dodgers did that? Posey is a great jersey pickup, solid name, defending NL MVP, and safety of knowing he’ll be in the orange and black for a long, long time. Plus, Posey and I are birthday buddies on March 27th!
Team Jeremy Pick #4, #7 Overall: Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles
That is a low blow, my friend. I’ll pretend there is just a bubbly leak from the sprinklers in that clubhouse picture. Jones is quickly climbing the chart of all-around athletes in MLB and fans are really starting to take notice. Not only is Jones a graceful defender, but he’s only just starting to fully develop the offensive side of his game at age 27. He’s signed in Baltimore through the 2018 season and is extremely close to breaking into McCutchen popularity territory in my opinion. This is the only orange and black jersey in my collection this year, Mapes!
Team Mapes Pick #4, #8 Overall: Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
Adam Jones is a solid pick, but I’d rather have a new Orioles hat than a jersey, I think. I’m going back to an MVP I took at #5 last year. Braun is basically going to be a Brewer forever, or at least 2020 seems forever away. He’s been consistently good so far in his career and I don’t think there will be much of a drop off later in his career. It’ll always be cool to wear a Braun jersey, especially in the Badger State. Eight picks in and we have six National League player jerseys…interesting.
Team Jeremy Pick #5, #9 Overall: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
Given recent news, that pick could become problematic for you. I really hope it doesn’t, and I’ll give you mad props for taking the risk. I’ll continue the run on National Leaguers with the first pitcher of the draft. Of all the exciting young pitchers who I was eligible to select here (remember, I already took Kemp, so Clayton Kershaw was out of the question), I wanted to snag one of the most popular pitchers in all of baseball. Strasburg is a freak of nature on the mound and lights up the radar gun and TV ratings every time he pitches. Not to mention, he’s locked up through at least 2017.
Team Mapes Pick #5, #10 Overall: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Thanks so much for letting me wait and just steal Bryce Harper at the end of the draft. This pick was basically made for me with the news of King Felix’s extension. He’s now the highest paid pitcher in the history of the game, that shows to how great he is. He’s a Cy Young award winner, the face of the Mariners franchise, and you’ve gotta love the King’s Court fan base. Seven years in a Seattle uniform and those trade rumors go away? I’m sure there will be a large influx of Hernandez jersey’s flying off shelves. Let’s just hope they don’t change their uniform scheme.
Team Jeremy Pick #6, #11 Overall: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
I have a couple of things to say about that pick: First…SO LUCKY! If only that news had broken after you made your pick. Second, the Mariners should never change those awesome uni’s. Anyway, I’m going old-school with the Jeter pick. One of our criteria is length of contract, which will obviously not last forever for DJ. In fact, in the unlikely event that he declines his option for 2014, this could be his last year in baseball. But some players’ legacies live on forever, and this first-ballot Hall of Famer is one of them. His jersey was still the top-seller in all of baseball in 2012, and will be popular for years to come, and not just in New York.
Team Mapes Pick #6, #12 Overall: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
I can’t hate on the Jeter pick even though his time is almost up. The Yankees #2 will join #3, #4, #5, #7, and #8 as timeless jerseys to wear for Bronx Bombers fans. You know who’s time isn’t almost up? Evan Longoria. The Rays all-star is under team control through 2023. I would type that year in all caps, but the year is numbers. Hmm… he will potentially be a Ray for the next DECADE. There that works. I’ve had a Longoria shirsey for three seasons now, I hope it doesn’t wear out over the next ten.
Team Jeremy Pick #7, #13 Overall: Josh Hamilton, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
You know what is a formula for success? Besides signing Albert Pujols and Hamilton in successive years, I mean? It’s taking the guy who had MLB’s second-highest selling jersey in Texas last year, and moving him to Los Angeles for at least five years, where his jersey sales will go flying off the shelves again. You’re going to see a ton of Hamilton jerseys in Anaheim this year, and if this draft weren’t hypothetical, I’d be sporting one myself.
Team Mapes Pick #7, #14 Overall: Starlin Castro, Chicago Cubs
What’s not the formula for success? You taking your Angel when you could’ve waited until the end to grab him. Plus, I think I take the extra years of jersey wearing from an Albert Pujols Angels jersey over Hamilton, but I digress. Can you believe Starlin Castro is only 23 this season? Seems like he’s already been around forever. He’s under team control until 2020, which also gets you through Castro’s prime. You’ll be singing “Go Cubs Go” in the bleachers for a long time rocking the Castro jersey. Bonus that the Cubs will never really alter their jerseys.
Team Jeremy Pick #8, #15 Overall: Jose Bautista, Toronto Blue Jays
Except that the Cubs might still be irrelevant in 2020. Just kidding. Castro is a cool pick, but I’m going with a different shade of blue on this pick. In his return from injury, Joey Bats will enjoy the comforts of a much-improved team in 2013. If the entirety of Canada didn’t already have his jersey, they will after this season when the Jays are sure to be featured on national TV broadcasts as much as possible. He’s signed through at least 2015, and will probably have his option for 2016 picked up by the team.
Team Mapes Pick #8, #16 Overall: Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
I really want to take Giancarlo Stanton, but his uncertainty in Miami worries me a ton. My final two picks I already have planned out in my head from teams you’ve already taken. That leaves Tulo, who is so talented, but has the injury problems galore. When he’s healthy, he’s an All-star and a potential superstar. He could be in the purple and black for the rest of this decade, so you’ll get plenty use of this jersey.
Team Jeremy Pick #9, #17 Overall: Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
I’ll admit, I was hoping Tulo would slide to me at this pick. But a very nice consolation prize is somehow grabbing the best overall catcher in baseball this late. The Cardinal jerseys are classics, and Molina is the best all-around player wearing one right now. He had one of the top-selling jerseys last year (probably mostly Cardinals fans), and will be wearing the birds on the bat until at least 2017, likely beyond. He may be one of the least appreciated players in baseball, but I’m showing him some love in the jersey draft for the second straight year!
Team Mapes Pick #9, #18 Overall: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
Molina was on my short list, but after what the Cardinals have done to me the last two years I just couldn’t do it. Speaking of team jerseys I don’t want to wear, but I’m going to be objective here. Harper is a future star of the game and will be in the nation’s capitol for three years or more. I’d lean towards the or more part. I don’t like him, but I respect the way he plays the game. It’s a solid jersey for a fan to buy. Plus, I got out of picking David Wright at least?
Team Jeremy Pick #10, #19 Overall: Wil Myers, Tampa Bay Rays
This. Just. Happened. The reason I let you snag Evan Longoria earlier is because I knew I’d have this available to me for the last pick. Myers, the top prospect in baseball, isn’t a sure thing — no prospect ever is. But he’s going to get a chance to play every day for the Rays, who have him under control for at least six years, and will likely lock him up for longer as soon as he puts in a little service time. Judging by the last 15 position players who won Minor League Player of the Year (Derek Jeter, Manny Ramirez, Jason Heyward, Mike Trout to name a few), Myers is going to be a very good player in the Majors, and I’ll be the first to have his pretty-lookin’ Rays on my back. Top that, Mapes!
Team Mapes Pick #10, #20 Overall: The Upton Brothers, Atlanta Braves
How do I top that? By going with the sweetest custom jersey in Braves history. You get not one, but BOTH Uptons. Special thanks to them for deciding to wear single digits to make this work. I went with the 82 because Justin plays in left, therefore his number goes on the left. This jersey will be good to go for 3-5 years and even if one leaves, just pull off one of the numbers and the S and you’re still set. Truly, saved the best for last!
Honorable Mention Team Mapes: Giancarlo Stanton-Marlins, David Wright-Mets, Justin Verlander/Miguel Cabrera/Prince Fielder-Tigers, Joe Mauer-Twins, Martin Prado-Diamondbacks, and Eric Hosmer-Royals
Honorable Mention Team Jeremy: Clayton Kershaw-Dodgers, Carlos Gonzalez-Rockies, Aroldis Chapman-Reds, Mariano Rivera-Yankees, David Price-Rays, Carlos Santana-Indians, Yoenis Cespedes-A’s, and Jose Altuve-Astros
There you have it. The 2nd annual Jeremy vs. Mapes jersey draft is complete. Now it’s up to you, readers! Vote in the poll below to tell us if Mapes will take home his second consecutive jersey draft title, or if Jeremy strengthened his squad enough to earn the victory. Here are the overall teams:
Team Mapes: Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Ryan Braun, Felix Hernandez, Evan Longoria, Starlin Castro, Troy Tulowtizki, Bryce Harper, Justin/BJ Upton
Team Jeremy: Matt Kemp, Joey Votto, Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, Derek Jeter, Adam Jones, Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista, Yadier Molina, Wil Myers
Remember, vote for the 10 jerseys YOU would rather have, not which group makes up the best hypothetical team. Let us know in the comments which jersey you want in your closet! Thanks for reading! You can like Three Up, Three Down on Facebook or follow @3u3d on Twitter!
In about six weeks, the World Baseball Classic will be upon us again and Team USA will look to win its first title in the competition’s history. They’ve got a good shot — manager Joe Torre released his roster on Thursday, and they are absolutely loaded.
Unfortunately for fans of Team USA, one glance at a few competing rosters will stop the celebration in its tracks. Can someone unseat two-time defending champions, Team Japan? Will Team USA improve upon their 4th-place finish in 2009?
We can’t predict the results down to the wire, but we’re here to do what we do best at Three Up, Three Down. We rank the rosters! So strap in, baseball fans, and see if your favorite team stands a chance:
**The “Stick to Soccer” Group**
Notable player(s): Barry Larkin, Manager (and Hall of Fame Reds SS)
International Baseball Federation (IBAF) Ranking: 20
Breakdown: Good thing for their dominance on the international soccer scene, because Brazil isn’t going anywhere in the Classic. Yan Gomes was the first Brazilian player to ever reach the big leagues, and the country itself only has 14 players signed to Major League contracts. How they will win: They won’t. Why they won’t: See “How they will win.”
Notable player(s): Bruce Chen, SP, Royals
IBAF Ranking: 18
Breakdown: The Chinese baseball team is a decade away from being a serious contender, but they are headed in the right direction. They’ve made steady improvements over international tournaments since a decent showing at the 2009 WBC, in which they eliminated Chinese Taipei. How they will win: Hustle, starting pitching. Why they won’t: Not enough of either.
Notable player(s): Paco Rodriguez, RP, Dodgers/Engel Beltre, OF, Rangers
IBAF Ranking: 16
Breakdown: I’m not sure what to think about Spain. They lack star power, but did knock off Israel and South Africa in qualifiers. The roster is dotted with promising Major League prospects, but I don’t foresee Spain winning more than a game, maybe two in the WBC. How they will win: Breakout tourney from Beltre. Why they won’t: Their Pool C competition is stacked (Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Dominican Republic).
Notable player(s): Jason Grilli, RP, Pirates/Francisco Cervelli, C, Yankees/Nick Punto, IF, Dodgers/Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs/Chris Denorfia, OF, Padres
IBAF Ranking: 9
Breakdown: Not only did we miss out on a Hall of Fame induction for Mike Piazza, but he won’t be participating on Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic either. Props to the Italians for back-to-back Euro Championships, but the competition is pretty weak over there right now. I think they will be humbled in the WBC. How they will win: Play with a chip on their shoulder. Why they won’t: Even the MLB-level hitters are thin.
#12: KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
Notable Player(s): Jair Jurrjens, SP, MLB Free Agent/Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox/Jurickson Profar, 2B, Rangers/Jonathan Schoop, 3B, Orioles/Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves/Roger Bernadina, OF, Nationals/Andruw Jones, OF, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 7
Breakdown: The Dutch soccer team is one of my favorites to watch. And for the first time in recent memory, so will their baseball team. They just missed my “dark horse” cut, due to sheer overall talent of the rest of the field. But the Major League potential of some youngsters on this roster is extremely intriguing. They’ve won 20 of 32 Euro Championships ever played. How they will win: Infield of dreams breaks out. Why they won’t: Not all the youngsters will perform.
**The Dark Horses**
#11: SOUTH KOREA
Notable player(s): Jae Seo, SP, former Met, Dodger, Ray in MLB
IBAF Ranking: 4
Breakdown: I feel ridiculous ranking Korea this low, considering their past successes in the WBC. But, it’s the third time this tournament has been played and each team has scouting on the opposition now. I don’t think South Korea will sneak up on anyone this time around. How they will win: High on-base percentage, good defense. Why they won’t: Too much good competition.
Notable player(s): Peter Moylan, RP, Dodgers
IBAF Ranking: 10
Breakdown: There’s a handful of good Major League players (like A’s closer Grant Balfour) who hail from the land down under, but there isn’t a whole lot of MLB experience on this roster. Team Australia still has a shot at advancing, but they may have more trouble than in years past. How they will win: Pure grit. Why they won’t: Not enough runs, upstart opposition in Pool B.
Notable player(s): Jesse Crain, RP, White Sox/John Axford, RP, Brewers/Jameson Taillon, SP, Pirates/Russell Martin, C, Pirates/Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays/Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins
IBAF Ranking: 6
Breakdown: We all know that Canada produces some bona fide stars in MLB (Joey Votto, anyone?), but not all are present and accounted for on this roster, similar to Team Australia. They still have the talent to make a run with Lawrie, Morneau and Martin in the middle of the lineup though. How they will win: Dominant bullpen, good middle of the lineup. Why they won’t: Too much youth in the rotation.
#8: CHINESE TAIPEI
Notable player(s): Chien-Ming Wang, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 5
Breakdown: There’s a reason that Team Chinese Taipei is a top-five ranked country right now. But their proudest current professional representative (Orioles pitcher Wei-Yin Chen) is not on the team yet. This team is still legit, and has a very winnable pool group. How they will win: Small ball. Why they won’t: Overall talent is lacking.
**The “Justtttt A Bit Outside” Group**
#7: PUERTO RICO
Notable player(s): Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals/Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals/Angel Pagan, OF, Giants/Mike Aviles, IF, Indians/Javier Vasquez, SP, MLB Free Agent
IBAF Ranking: 12
Breakdown: There may be no more high-ceiling-yet-average team in the WBC this year. Team Puerto Rico has finished fifth at both tournaments preceding this, and killed Team USA in 2009 before being ousted by them two games later on a walk-off hit. Even with players such as Molina, Beltran and Pagan, they won’t even be favorites in their own pool. How they will win: The Major League talent they have is relentlessly good. Why they won’t: Lack of depth in the rotation.
Notable player(s): Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Dodgers/Luis Cruz, 3B, Dodgers/Yovani Gallardo, SP, Brewers/Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals/Sergio Romo, RP, Giants
IBAF Ranking: 11
Breakdown: In their pool, Team Mexico will have to deal with Team USA, but other than that they should be favored to top Team Canada and Team Italy to move on. They have a decent infield, top-of-the-line ace, and one of the best closers in baseball. How they will win: Adrian Gonzalez goes off, Gallardo is dominant. Why they won’t: Romo is neutralized unless they have a lead late.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 1
Breakdown: Don’t let the lack of notable players deceive you — this team is good. Really good. They have played in the IBAF World Cup 29 times and won 25 gold medals, finishing second the other four times. In the WBC, Team Cuba has finished second and fourth (which, at the time, was their lowest finish ever in international competition). They just can’t legally have players like Aroldis Chapman or Yoenis Cespedes on their squad, otherwise they might be even better. How they will win: Hard-throwing starters, handful of five-tool prospects. Why they won’t: The top four teams are just too stacked.
Notable player(s): None
IBAF Ranking: 3
Breakdown: Again, don’t let the lack of Major League firepower fool you. Much like Cuba, Team Japan has been a hotbed for MLB stars over the years (Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish). Even though none of them joined the fray in 2013, this team is stacked. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a couple of future MLB players come off this roster after good WBC performances. After all, they are two-for-two in WBC titles up to this point. How they will win: Ichiro-style on-base scavengers, deceptive pitching. Why they won’t: Not having Ichiro and Darvish, among others, will end up costing Team Japan.
#3: DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Notable player(s): Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants/Octavio Dotel, RP, Tigers/Alexi Ogando, RP, Rangers/Fernando Rodney, RP, Rays/Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Pirates/Edinson Volquez, SP, Reds/Carlos Santana, C, Indians/Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers/Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees/Edwin Encarnacion, DH/OF, Blue Jays/Hanley Ramirez, IF, Dodgers/Jose Reyes, SS, Blue Jays/Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers/Melky Cabrera, OF, Blue Jays
IBAF Ranking: 13
Breakdown: The only reason Team Dominica is ranked so low by the IBAF is because all those notable players are stars in the big leagues, and don’t regularly compete internationally for their country. But now that the WBC has rolled around again, this is one unbelievably good team. My only concern is their starting pitching depth. How they will win: Scoring 15 runs per game (no…really). Why they won’t: Like I said, starting pitching depth. Will Volquez and Rodriguez be enough?
#2: UNITED STATES
Notable player(s): Jeremy Affeldt, RP, Giants/R.A. Dickey, SP, Blue Jays/Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves/Kris Medlen, SP, Braves/Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants/Chris Perez, RP, Indians/Joe Mauer, C, Twins/Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds/Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies/David Wright, 3B, Mets/Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees/Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers/Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins/Adam Jones, OF, Orioles/Joe Torre, Manager
IBAF Ranking: 2
Breakdown: I didn’t even pick all the “notable players” I could have for this team. It’s Team USA’s equivalent of the MLB Dream Team, and Justin Verlander still is undecided as to whether he’ll join the rotation. This team is already a favorite with a balanced lineup and very strong pitching staff, but adding JV would be a coup. Check out fellow Three Up, Three Down host Bryan Mapes’ grades-by-position for Team USA. How they will win: Veteran experience, explosive pitching. Why they won’t: The bane of their existence, Team Japan, will come along eventually.
Notable player(s): Anibal Sanchez, SP, Tigers/Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners/Francisco Rodriguez, RP, MLB Free Agent/Ronald Belisario, RP, Dodgers/Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks/Salvador Perez, C, Royals/Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers/Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Indians/Miguel Cabrera, 3B/1B, Tigers/Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants/Marco Scutaro, 2B, Giants/Carols Gonzalez, OF, Rockies/Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks
IBAF Ranking: 8
Breakdown: The quantity of star power on Team Venezuela might not match up to Team USA or Team Dominica, but the quality is far and beyond. When you start your rotation with Hernandez and stack the middle of your lineup with the reigning Triple Crown winner between Gonzalez and Sandoval, you are a very, very scary team. Even though their WBC pool is very tough, it would be a momentous upset to not see Team Venezuela make moves in the 2013 tournament. How they will win: A large margin of victory. Against anyone. Why they won’t: Slumping hitters or being outplayed by one of the other favorites.
And that’s a wrap. This writer believes Team Venezuela is the team to beat, with Team USA, Team Dominica and Team Japan not far behind. But in all honesty, there are about 10-11 teams who could potentially take home the title in 2013. Root for your team and country to take home top honors, and stay tuned to Three Up, Three Down because we’ll have all your World Baseball Classic coverage.
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)
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)
Next up in our awards series is the Cy Young. We’ve been saying all season that NL Cy Young was the most wide open awards race in the league, with 7-10 players having a legitimate case at the award. Only eight though, received votes from 3U3D, our apologies to Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, and Madison Bumgarner. Let’s take a look at the Cy Young race!
Our AL Cy Young Thoughts:
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): How do you choose between those top four, honestly? King Felix doesn’t have quite the numbers of the others, but he did pitch an absolutely brilliant perfect game. Then again, Weaver has the numbers and a no-no to go with it. Price has been the quiet stud keeping Tampa Bay in the playoff race, and Verlander is being Verlander in Detroit, dominating all power categories on the stat sheet. I’m going with my gut here and giving Price his first career Cy Young award by a smidgen over the reigning winner in Detroit.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Justin Verlander repeats as AL CY Young because he remains the most dominant pitcher in the game. JV is 2nd in ERA (2.64) to Price (2.56), 2nd in WHIP (1.06) to Weaver’s (1.02). First in IP (238.1) by 6.1 innings and 1st in complete games with 6; the next closest pitcher had 4. Verlander also finished 1st in SO with 239. He was 3 wins off the AL lead with 17 but also didn’t have a favorable amount of run support. Not to mention he was within 1 out of his 3rd No Hitter.
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Justin Verlander was the best pitcher in baseball last season and once again he proved to be the best this season. He led the AL in strikeouts and although Price’s ERA may have been slightly less Verlander had two more starts and pitched in 27.1 more innings. If Hernandez pitched for a better team he would have a better chance of winning this award this season. How can he not be considered though having more complete game shutouts than any other pitcher had complete games.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): You’ll see a theme in my Cy Young picks as I went with the two pitchers that won more games in each league, because winning games is what it’s all about. For Weaver to lead the league in wins, winning percentage, WHIP, and hits/9. This to me proves that he was the best pitcher in the American League in 2012. Verlander we know is great and is a strong #2. In the battle of great Rays pitchers this season, I’m giving the slight edge to Fernando Rodney, who really solidified Tampa’s bullpen when Kyle Farnsworth went down, while I think the Rays rotation would have been strong even without David Price.
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): David Price did everything in his power to knock off the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP, but in the end it just wasn’t enough for me to put him at the top. Would you rather have a 2.64 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP over 238.1 innings or a 2.56 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP over 211 innings? I think it’s the first option clearly and that’s why Verlander is my Cy Young winner. He led the American League in pitcher WAR, strikeouts, complete games, and adjusted pitcher wins, while being 2nd in ERA and WHIP. It’s what we’ve come to expect from the best pitcher in the game. Rodney had one of the best reliever seasons and deserves serious consideration after posting the lowest ERA by a pitcher with 50 innings pitched in league history. At first glance, Sale over Weaver may look wrong, but to me it’s right. Sale was better than Weaver in WAR, adjusted ERA+, runs and wins.
Our NL Cy Young Thoughts:
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): When we look back at the 2012 season, I believe there are going to be four things we truly remember, the World Series champion, Mike Trout’s historical rookie year, Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown, and R.A. Dickey. The 37-year old knuckleballer became the first Mets pitcher since 1990 to win 20 games, which is even more amazing when you factor in that the Mets only won 74 games total. Dickey’s 1.05 WHIP is incredible when you factor in he’s throwing a knuckler (Tim Wakefield’s career WHIP is 1.35). Plus, he led the league in strikeouts. He’s the best story and the best pitcher in the NL in 2012. Johnny Cueto gets my silver spot, as he was incredible when you factor in that he was pitching half the time in one of the biggest hitters havens in the Majors in Cincinnati. Cueto led the NL in adjusted ERA+ and was second in pitcher WAR. Kershaw’s numbers were great as he fell one strikeout short of winning the pitching Triple Crown. Kimbrel was the league’s best closer, striking out more than half the batter he faced and had one of the best slugging percentages against in league history. He’s near unhittable, but gets penalized for not throwing enough innings. Gonzalez and Medlen I couldn’t decide so I put them both. Medlen’s conversion to the Braves rotation may have saved them in the 2nd half. Gonzalez led the league in wins, but you could almost make a case Jordan Zimmermann was the most valuable pitcher on the Nationals this season.
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): I gave the edge to Gonzalez again because he led the NL in wins and K/9. His dominance is what let him stay in games longer and pick up more wins. Gonzalez was the best pitcher on the best team in the National League and deserves the Cy Young. Medlen over Dickey is a controversial pick I’m sure, but Medlen put the Braves on his back in the 2nd half and got them to the playoffs. Dickey got to pitch in a relaxed environment in a pitchers park for a near-last place team. The knuckleball just seems like a fluky gimmick to me. I’m surprised that Matt Cain was only on my ballot, not sure why he remains so underrated. He only threw the 3rd most innings, while posting the 4th best ERA and 2nd best WHIP. He even threw one of the most dominant games in the history of baseball, what else does he need to do?
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): R.A. Dickey won 20 games for the Mets. Let that sink in for a minute, 20 games for the Mets. I know Kershaw’s numbers were better but come on the kuckleballer had it working this season and anybody willing to throw something going that slow at a professional athlete deserves to be rewarded in some way. Kershaw had the best season statistically but he won the award last season and who knows if Dickey will ever get a chance to win it again. Johnny Cueto had a fantastic season for the NL Central Champions. Leading that rotation posting a career high in innings pitched and winning 19 games.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Kimbrel has had a season for the ages as a closer. He became the first pitcher ever to K HALF of the hitters he faced. He only allowed 26
hits all year, making his opponent’s BA a measly .123. Oh not to mention his stellar WHIP of 0.65. Kershaw showed dominance and so did Gio, winning 21 games.
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): This is another close race, pitting a lot of very quality starting pitchers against each other for the league’s greatest honor at the position. This award has so much talent in the running that guys like Stephen Strasburg and Matt Cain and Kyle Lohse are left off my ballot completely. I’ve got to go with the fantastic story that is Dickey for 2012, as his numbers barely edge the others and he’s a KNUCKLEBALLER for heaven’s sake! How can you not love this guy? When I ran the numbers, I see that Kershaw led the Majors in ERA and WHIP this season, and fell one strikeout shy of the K title in the National League (behind Dickey). But the fact that Dickey has similar numbers, but a better record, on a much worse team and he primarily throws a knuckleball is enough for me to crown him. It’s not an award based on a cute story, it’s based on him being the best pitcher in the league for 2012.
Congrats to R.A. Dickey and Justin Verlander on winning the 3U3D Cy Young Awards!
Who makes your Cy Young ballot? Let us know in the comments! Love our personal ballots? Hate our personal ballots? Hit us up on Twitter, we want to hear from you! And tell us here who you think should be the Cy Young winner for each league:
We gave you taste of our MVP ballots on this week’s podcast, with the great debate between Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera for the honors in the American League. Here are our full ballots and winners of our 3U3D MVP awards.
Here are everyone’s thoughts on MVP:
Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman): I am a huge Miguel Cabrera fan, but even though he pulled off the Triple Crown, Mike Trout has to be the MVP. His WAR is off the charts, and a 30/49 season is even more impressive than a Triple Crown. Let’s not forget that Trout is doing all of this as a barely legal rookie. When you add the whole package (average, power, speed, defense), Trout is far and away the best player in the league and the Majors. Cabrera joined the ranks of few by snatching the Triple Crown – Trout joined the ranks of…well, one. He is the only player in Major League history to hit 30 home runs, steal 45 bases and score 125 runs. And don’t forget the .325 average, gold glove defense and that he’s only been caught stealing FIVE times. The future for this kid is terrifying. In the year of the underdog, I tip my cap to guys like Adam Jones and Josh Reddick for bringing their teams to a playoff appearance, but the talent across the league is just too strong this year.
Angelo Fileccia (@GODF_TH_R): Miguel Cabrera wins the first Triple Crown in 45 years. Mike Trout becomes the first player in history to hit 30 HRs, steal 40 bases, and score 120 runs. Both players are completely different from each other. Miguel can’t beat out an infield hit like Trout can, but no-one is as clutch as Miguel is. Trout’s numbers started off hot when he started the year but the last two months have been far from great. Could it have been the fact that pitchers know him better now? Possibly. But Miguel Cabrera got stronger as the season wore on. 25 HRs, .327 BA, .401 OBP, and 65 RBIs since the All-Star break. How about his 17 HRs, .330 BA, .405 OBP, and 45 RBIs in the 7 th inning or later this year? That’s what Miggy did. You can say Trout’s WAR is almost 4 points higher than Cabrera’s and his defense is far superior. Miguel will be playing in the playoffs, Trout will not. Cabrera will win MVP, Trout ROY and quite possibly a gold glove (didn’t have a top 3 AL fielding % at CF).
Brian Boynton (@GingaBeard_Man): Cabrera gets my vote because of what he has been able to do when his team needed it the most. In the month of September he hit a slash line of .308/.378/.654 with 10 home runs, and 27 RBI. Winning the Triple Crown while leading his team to the playoffs puts him just over Trout. While Trout has put together one of the best seasons ever, and not just for a rookie. What he has been able to do this season at such a young age is phenomenal. He is a tremendous outfielder providing a highlight full of home run stealing catches and getting under fly balls most other outfielders wouldn’t dream of getting to. However he was not able to do enough to lead his team to the playoffs. (I swear I’m not biased) While most of the Rangers team was struggling during the months of July and August Beltre was just starting to heat up leading the team in almost every offensive statistic. Also arguably being the best third baseman in the game making tough plays look routine. (Okay maybe I’m a little biased)
Kurt Peter (@FalconKP): Starting with the AL MVP, there’s not a valid reason why Miguel Cabrera shouldn’t win the AL MVP. The man plays in one of the toughest stadiums to hit home runs and won the Triple Crown. Mike Trout has undoubtedly brought a lot of fire power to the Angels, but not leading them to the playoffs hurts his resume. (Don’t worry, he’ll get his shot at MVP, I’m sure of it)
Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes): Everything else is a sideshow in the AL MVP ballot compared to the main event that is Trout vs. Cabrera. Now I love Cabrera, but Trout is the no-doubt MVP to me. The goal is to help your team win games. Trout did that better than any player in the American League. The Angels called up Mike Trout when they were 6-14 and since then he sparked them to the best record in the American League. There have been seven American League Triple Crown’s, but there has never been an American League season in which a player had 30 homers and 49 stolen bases. When you add in leading the league in runs and stolen bases, while hitting a near .325 with amazing defense (he robbed FIVE home runs) Trout wasn’t just the most exciting player, but the most valuable one in the league. Josh Hamilton dropped to 7th in my rankings as the Rangers collapsed like the fly ball he dropped in game 162. Rodney will be behind David Price in my Cy Young rankings, but I believe closers are more everyday players and have him in my MVP ballot. Rodney was even named the Rays MVP by teammates. Josh Willingham gets some love from me for having a great season that went largely unseen in Minnesota. There was no bigger breakout player than Edwin Encarnacion in Toronto. Adam Jones led the surprising Orioles to the playoffs and was the heart of the team. Curtis Granderson, Jim Johnson, Derek Jeter, Josh Reddick, Austin Jackson, and Ben Zobrist just miss my list.
Congrats to Tigers Miguel Cabrera on winning the 3U3D AL MVP!
You’ve seen our ballots! Who would be on yours? Let us know in the comments! Feel free to tweet at any of us individually to debate our points as well. Don’t forget to vote in the poll:
Imagine my poor blood pressure this morning when I woke up to a headline like THIS today.
Something like what Derek Jeter is alluding to would be disastrous if it actually came to fruition. I’m no Yankee fan by any measure, but I truly respect Jeter and have looked up to him since I was a little kid. And I just can’t imagine him wearing anything besides the pinstripes.
None of that Joe Montana-to-the-Chiefs, desperate-to-keep-playing, end of the career crap from Jeter, please.
Sure, the unthinkable has been done before – Ken Griffey, Jr. moved to Cincinnati from Seattle even though he looked like a super hero in the silver and teal. Heck, we had one happen this past off-season when Albert Pujols jumped ship to Anaheim, despite looking so damn good in Cardinal red.
But the super fan in me would like to keep that kind of olé B.S. to a minimum. I don’t know what it is…the players themselves, the jersey/color combo of the teams they represent, or just the nostalgia of a childhood long-gone (okay, I’m not that old), but I identify Jeter and the rest of this list as players who I could never, ever see in a different jersey:
*Disclaimer: Mariano Rivera and Chipper Jones not included because they are guaranteed to stay a Yankee and Brave, respectively, for the remainder of their Hall of Fame careers*
1. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees
Let’s start with the Captain himself. Jeter has played all 18 seasons as the shortstop of the Yankees, number two plastered on his back. Needless to say, Mr. November will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and the next great Yankee to have his number retired. There is no more iconic jersey in sports than those of the Yanks, and even imagining Jeter in an Angels, Cubs, Red Sox (god forbid) or any other jersey is painful.
I know he’s only been around a few years, but damn if Posey hasn’t made himself a celebrity in San Francisco at Usain Bolt-esque speed. There is no way the team will let this guy walk away as long as he’s physically able to play the game. It’s really hard to predict this early, but we could be seeing the next great “one-team” lifer in Posey, who should be representing that awful orange and black for another decade and a half.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – if Mariners GM Jack Zdurineck trades Felix, he should not only be fired, but tarred, feathered and forced to watch Jack and Jill on loop. Hernandez is the King of Seattle and it should stay that way forever. I dig the silver and teal uni’s up there in the Pacific Northwest, and Hernandez wears it best. Plus, he wants to stay a Seattle Mariner. I’m sure Brian Cashman has visions, but I just can’t see this guy in Yankee garb.
When I say Rockies, you say Helton! “ROCKIES!” “HELTON!” Thank you. But seriously, Helton is about as synonymous with Colorado baseball as macaroni is with cheese. He’s played all 16 years of his career manning first base at Coors Field, and will most definitely have his number retired there whenever he hangs up the spikes. Todd Helton in anything but purple would be straight criminal.
I know a few Cardinals fans who would actually sob uncontrollably if Yadi ever slips on another team’s jersey. And they should, because it would arguably be more devastating than the loss of Pujols to that devoted fan base. Whereas Pujols was the power and glam of the team, Molina is the heart, soul, lungs and kidney of the franchise. I know NL catchers have a short shelf life, but just trying to picture him as a Dodger or Phillie makes me want to elbow drop a baby penguin.
Last, but certainly not least, we have arguably the best all-around player in the National League. I don’t know what it is with him and that black and gold, but McCutchen just looks so right in a Pirates uniform. Maybe it’s the dreads, or the blindingly white smile, or the elegant physique over which the Pirates’ jersey falls. No matter, McCutchen can never go play for the Indians or Orioles or anyone else. He needs to be in Pittsburgh for life.
Honorable Mentions: Matt Kemp (Dodgers), Mike Trout (Angels), David Price (Rays)
Comment below if you think someone else should be considered for this list! And don’t forget to VOTE in the poll:
– Jeremy Dorn (@Jamblinman)