Time to finish up the American League with the American League East where the Red Sox finally bring back bobblehead giveaways in 2014. While you’re here check out the AL Central and AL West bobblehead battles. As a reminder, 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.
Boston Red Sox (all fans in attendance)
Monday, April 7th, David Ortiz: You couldn’t ask for a better Red Sox player to start the bobblehead giveaways with. This would’ve been a perfect ***** if it had been of Ortiz raising his fist telling Boston to stay strong. Red Sox are going to rate highly giving these away to every fan. ****
Wednesday, April 30th, Dustin Pedroia: And if you were going to pick a 2nd player on the current Red Sox to immortalize on a bobblehead, it would be former AL MVP Dustin Pedroia. Better have real dirt stains! ***1/2
Tuesday, September 9th, Pedro Martinez: Come on Red Sox! No bobbling goodness in May, June, July, or August? For shame! You get some redemption with the best pitcher in Red Sox history and the man who asks “Who is Karim Garcia?” ***1/2
Total: 11 stars
New York Yankees (18,000 fans)
Thursday, June 19th, Mark Teixeira: Yankees bobbleheads in 2013 were a murderer’s row (unfortunately not the actual Murderer’s Row) with Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, Yogi Berra, and Mariano Rivera. This years crop? Not so much, starting off with the oft-injured Yankees first baseman. **
Wednesday, July 2nd, Lou Gehrig: I love this bobblehead and is by far the best one in the Yankees crop. It celebrates the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man” speech, it’s a must have, especially if you can get the Twins one to pair with it. ****1/2
Sunday, July 27th, Paul O’Neill: A solid Yankees player that has found a home in the YES broadcasts with the team, so he’ll be in attendance for this one. Don’t think there will be as much excitement for this one than Matsui last year. ** 1/2
Wednesday, August 20th, Joe Girardi: Has Yankees World Series rings as a player and as a manager and is worthy of a bobblehead, but I can’t get too excited for it. **
Total: 11 stars
Tampa Bay Rays (20,000 fans)
Saturday, April 5th, Wil Myers Rookie of the Year: I just like the way that this bobblehead looks. Props to the AL East for having larger giveaway numbers. ***
Friday, May 23rd, Alex Cobb Military Themed: I’m interested to see how this one ends up looking, but it sounds pretty solid. For now, though. ** 1/2
Saturday, September 6th, Evan Longoria 80’s Hair Band: Another Rays bobblehead that I need to see to believe. I want to have faith that this is going to be spectacular though. *** 1/2
Total: 9 stars
Toronto Blue Jays (20,000 fans)
Sunday, April 27th, R.A. Dickey: This Dickey bobblehead would’ve meant more if he had repeated his 2012 performance north of the border, but it’s a good effort and he deserves it. ** 1/2
Sunday, June 8th, Jose Reyes: I can basically say the same thing for Reyes that I said for Dickey, right? ** 1/2
Sunday, August 24th, Mark Buerhle: Let the 2013 Blue Jays disappointment bobblehead train continue! **
Total: 8 stars
Baltimore Orioles (Promotion schedule not posted as of 3/7)
What do you think is the best bobblehead collection in the AL East? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
In the wake of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon on Monday, MLB teams showed their support for the city of Boston by playing “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. The song is a staple at Fenway Park and is sung by Red Sox fans before the bottom of the 8th inning. The song was played at home games by the Braves, Marlins, Reds, Cubs, Twins, Dodgers, Indians (who were playing the Red Sox), and even their biggest rival, the Yankees. Here is the video of “Sweet Caroline” being played at the end of the 3rd inning at Yankee Stadium.
Here’s the Target Field version:
Down in Miami at Marlins Park:
All the way on the other coast at Dodger Stadium:
And at O.co Coliseum in Oakland:
Turner Field in Atlanta where the Braves went on to hit three homers in the bottom of the 8th:
The Brewers showed their support by playing another famous Boston song, the theme from “Cheers”. That can be heard at the 1:40 mark of this video.
You have to love the support that Boston is getting from across the country. It’s the little things like this that add up to big things. It really is “so good, so good, so good.”
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
A ton happened in the American League East this offseason, the Blue Jays traded for and signed everybody under the sun, the Yankees can’t stay healthy, the Red Sox have a new manager, the Rays said goodbye to James Shields and hello to Wil Myers, and well the Orioles, they didn’t do much. Who will win possibly the most unpredictable division in the Majors? Let’s take a look!
Projected Order of Finish: Tampa Bay Rays, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles
Why the Rays could win the A.L. East: Let’s start off with defending Cy Young winner David Price anchoring a young and talented starting rotation. James Shields may be gone, but there is still plenty of firepower with maturing Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Cobb, and Jeff Niemann. Not to mention Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi waiting in the wings. The bullpen is the best in the division with Fernando Rodney coming off the lowest ERA in the history of the league, plus excellent setup men in Joel Peralta and Jake McGee. We’re still waiting on the superstar break out season from Evan Longoria. If it happens in 2013, the Rays are in great shape. I’ve also now gone this entire paragraph without mentioning Joe Maddon, who is the best manager in the game today.
Why the Rays wouldn’t win the the A.L. East: The young rotation guys aren’t quite ready. Evan Longoria spends more than half the season on the disabled list like in 2012. Fernando Rodney reverts back to the Fernando Rodney before 2012 and doesn’t carry over the “magic plantain” powers from the World Baseball Classic. Desmond Jennings still isn’t ready to take the next step. Yunel Escobar gets himself in trouble. The Blue Jays really are that good.
Why the Blue Jays could win the A.L. East: The talent the Jays assembled is the best that they’ve had since their 1993 World Series championship team. The starting rotation is talented and experienced with Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey, the spectacular, but oft-injured Josh Johnson, the bulldog Mark Buerhle, and “awesome when his stuff is on” Brandon Morrow. It’s not just the rotation that’s revamped though. Jose Reyes now sits atop an explosive lineup with two-time home run champion Jose Bautista and WBC teammate Edwin Encarnacion, who hit 42 home runs last season. The Jays also added Melky Cabrera, who was leading the National League in batting average, before he was suspended for fifty games.
Why the Blue Jays wouldn’t win the A.L. East: It’s not very often the team built to succeed immediately actually succeeds. Just ask the Angels and the Marlins last year. The bullpen still has a ton of question marks. Is Casey Janssen ready to be a big-time closer on a winning team? Is Sergio Santos completely healthy? Can Darren Oliver keep it up at 42 years-old? The Blue Jays better hope the answer is yes to two of three of those. Edwin Encarnacion could have had a fluke season instead of a breakout one. Plus, can Colby Rasmus and Adam Lind keep their heads on straight and hit the way they were supposed to as highly touted prospects?
Why the Red Sox could win the A.L. East: First off, maybe they really just disliked Bobby Valentine so much that they went into tanking mode to ensure he was gone. John Farrell will provide an upgrade in the dugout and in the clubhouse. Jon Lester looks ready to return to form after a terrible 2012. The lineup is solid enough, especially when David Ortiz is healthy. Shane Victorino provides enough of a clubhouse presence and more importantly, enough of a bat, to keep Boston in contention. Jackie Bradley is everything Red Sox fans think he really is.
Why the Red Sox wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The heels of David Ortiz and Jacoby Ellsbury get the Sox off on the “wrong foot”. Jonny Gomes is primarily involved defensively. The starters after Jon Lester (and even Jon Lester if he’s in 2012 form) aren’t top-notch. Ryan Dempster needs to be the first half of 2012, not the second half. Clay Buchholz has fallen apart after showing so much promise in 2010. John Lackey is John Lackey. The bullpen is revamped with closer-quality pitchers in Joel Hanrahan, Andrew Bailey, and Koji Uehara, but they all need to stay healthy.
Why the Yankees could win the A.L. East: They’re the Yankees and you can never count them out. They rally around Mariano Rivera, who’s retiring at the end of the season, to get him one more chance in the playoffs. The injuries that they’ve experienced in Spring Training aren’t as bad as originally thought for Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Phil Hughes, and Alex Rodriguez and they can provide enough, especially in the 2nd half. The pitching keeps it together (minus Hughes) with experience at the top (CC Sabathia, Huroki Kuroda, and Andy Pettitte) and youth at the bottom (Ivan Nova and David Phelps). The bullpen with a returning Rivera, David Robertson, and a fully-healthy Joba Chamberlain could be the best in the division. Robinson Cano plays completely out of his mind for a contract and is the clear-cut AL MVP.
Why the Yankees wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The injury bug is just too much. The names “Vernon Wells”, “Juan Rivera”, “Lyle Overbay” and “Travis Hafner” are predominantly involved in the lineup after the All-Star break. They stick to their payroll to stay under the luxury tax and it prevents them from going after what they need at the trade deadline.
Why the Orioles could win the A.L. East: Winning one-run games (MLB best 29-9 in 2012) was actually skill and not luck. The bullpen of Darren O’ Day, Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson doesn’t wear down in a bullpen than threw the 4th most innings in MLB last season. Buck Showalter continues to work his magic in Charm City and wins A.L. Manager of the Year. Baltimore calls up Dylan Bundy and he immediately becomes a lights-out staff ace. Manny Machado excels in his first full year in the Majors, while Adam Jones continues his path to super-stardom evolving into a near 30-30 player.
Why the Orioles wouldn’t win the A.L. East: The statistics guys are right and the Orioles regress to the mean in one-run games. The starting pitching doesn’t hold up like it did last year. Seriously though, this is the worst rotation on paper in the division. With the lineups in the A.L. East it might be tough for them to keep afloat.
Evan Longoria and David Price-Rays
Jose Reyes and Jose Bautista-Blue Jays
Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia-Red Sox
David Price and Fernando Rodney-Rays
CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera-Yankees
Jon Lester-Red Sox
R.A. Dickey and Brandon Morrow-Blue Jays
Rookie of the Year
Wil Myers and Chris Archer-Rays
Jackie Bradley and Jose Iglesias-Red Sox
Who do you think takes the crown in the A.L. East? Let us know in the comments!
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
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)
Last time I went to Fenway Park, I was almost late to the game because of crazy thunderstorms and ran right into the stadium and ended up getting a pulled pork sandwich inside the stadium, which we went over in a previous “Chowin’ Down”. I wasn’t going to miss a second chance at the steak tips just outside Fenway Park sold by the street vendors. I solicited help from steak tips connoisseur and ESPN “Baseball Tonight” host Steve Berthiaume on Twitter.
With that information I set off to the corner of Landsdowne St. passing by “Sausage Connection” and “All-American Sausage”. I needed to meet the “Sausage King”, but it wasn’t sausage I was looking for (though those looked amazing too) I wanted steak tips. $8.00 got me a sandwich topped with onions and peppers. The sandwich was cheaper than similar food inside Fenway. Steve, if you read this, the Sausage King says hi and can’t wait to see you again.
The steak tips were absolutely, mouth-wateringly, delicious. They are proof that the best ballpark food isn’t always IN the ballpark. I’m heading out to California next month to go to Oakland, Anaheim, San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in that order. Any ballpark food recommendations?
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
Myself and fellow 3U3D host Kurt Peter made the trek to Fenway Park for the “Battle of the Sox” between Chicago and Boston. It was Kurt’s first trip to “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark” and it certainly was memorable. 3UP player on our podcast from a few episodes ago, Jose Quintana, was masterful on the hill with 8 scoreless innings. Quintana was in line for the win up 1-0 heading to the final inning. Matt Thornton started the 9th and got himself into trouble. Manager Robin Ventura turned to closer Addison Reed with Cody Ross coming up with two on and one out. Our friend and Giants fan Ally Williams had told us to cheer hard for her former Giant World Series hero. Ross must have heard our cheers as he delivered this blast in the bottom of the 9th.
We celebrated with some steak tips on Landsdowne St. (more on that coming in a future “Chowin’ Down”) Just another great night in my favorite ballpark in the Majors.
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)
It’s time for another round of interleague play! These match-ups aren’t as exotic as the last “Weekend Watch” with interleague play involved, but it doesn’t mean that cross-divisional series aren’t as fun. Here’s what I’m looking forward to watching this weekend as I sneak the MLB At-Bat app on while tailgating at the Belmont Stakes.
6) Indians at Cardinals
Battle of the two 2nd place teams in the Central where both are trying to get back to the 1st place perch they had just recently. The injury bug continues to hit St. Louis as Jaime Garcia finds himself joining teammates Jon Jay, Skip Schumaker, and Lance Berkman on the disabled list. The Indians, on the other hand, seem to be the least talked about “good” team in the Majors. They keep plugging away without doing anything too special, they sit 8th in the AL in batting average and a dismal 2nd to last in ERA, but there they are at 30-26, just a game out of 1st place. Jason Kipnis has been great for Cleveland in his sophomore season leading the team in home runs (9) and stolen bases (14).
2D) Blue Jays and Braves
This is a series as a Braves fan that I wish I could go down to Turner Field and attend in person. Friday night, the Braves are retiring the great John Smoltz’s number (more on that in a blog tomorrow) and on Saturday is the greatest promotion the team has ever done, Sid Bream Slide Bobblehead Day! Seriously, this thing is awesome and are already being offered on eBay from $55-75. Both the Jays and Braves are playing in tightly contested races in their East divisions. As I type this the AL East is separated by just four games. The NL East is only a game and a half difference between 1st place and 4th place. Every team in those two divsions is .500 or better except for the Phillies, who saw that coming? No wonder why FOUR East interleague series make the “Weekend Watch” this week.
2C) Nationals at Red Sox
1st place vs. last place gets 3rd place here, that’s the average. Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez have been wunderkinds in the National League, but how will they do on the road against a quality offense in Boston. Gonzalez’s track record against the Sox while he was in Oakland was not very good as he has a 5.79 ERA over 28 innings in his career. Red Sox Kevin Youkilis also feasts on Gonzalez pitching going 6 for 11 in his career. I’m also intrigued to see Daisuke Matsuzaka’s return on Saturday to the Red Sox after recovering from Tommy John surgery. If he can give Boston anything after they had to send down Daniel Bard to AAA it’d be a great plus.
2B) Mets at Yankees
The Subway Series means something! The Yankees have been on fire winning 10 of their last 13 games going into Thursday night’s game with the Rays. The Mets are still reveling in the teams first no-hitter by Johan Santana last Friday night and he’ll start the opener against Huroki Kuroda. The no-hitter has been an extra spring in the step of Mets fans. I live in Connecticut, where you get a mixture of Yankees, Mets, and Red Sox fans. I’ve seen more Mets hats and jerseys in the past week than I had the entire season before Santana’s no-no. Wonder if some will actually try to infiltrate the Bronx this weekend. Derek Jeter thrives against his cross-town rivals hitting .385, the best batting average he has against any team he has 40 at-bats against.
2A) Rays at Marlins
The Battle for Florida means something! I don’t expect a lot of runs this weekend between these two as the pitching matchups are pretty solid and Marlins Park has played towards the pitcher so far. I really want to see if Matt Moore can continue his recent success as he has a 2.55 ERA over his last three starts compared to a 7.20 ERA his three starts before that. Maybe he can still salvage my AL Rookie of the Year pick. Mike Trout you say? Yeah, I’m doomed. James Shields vs. Anibal Sanchez on Sunday is an underrated pitchers special.
1) Rangers at Giants
Can’t be yelled at for East Coast bias if I put the Rangers and Giants in the top spot! Despite Tim Lincecum’s worst efforts the Giants are the hottest team in the National League winning 8 of their last 10 games. The Rangers have only won one game in each series against the Mariners, Angels, and Athletics coming into this series. Roy Oswalt can’t get up to the Majors fast enough it seems as Derek Holland now joins Neftali Feliz on the DL from the rotation. Alexi Ogando will come out of the bullpen to make the start in place of Holland. Even better is that this could be a potential World Series match-up down the road.
Mapes Fantasy Special
Another great week for the Mapes Fantasy Special. I’m now 10-2 since moving the Mapes Fantasy Special over to the Weekend Watch. I’ll slow clap for myself. Here are this weeks picks, remember these pitchers must be available in 50% or more of Yahoo! fantasy baseball leagues.
6/8 Gavin Floyd (32% owned) vs. Astros, Floyd has been absolutely terrible lately, but if he can’t do it at home against the Astros I have no hope for him. I wish I could just quit you Gavin.
6/9 Scott Diamond (22% owned) vs. Cubs, Diamond has been a find in the rough for the Twins, sorry I couldn’t resist, he’s been stellar going 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Even better are his 4 walks in 38.2 innings this season. Diamond faces the Cubs who have drawn the 4th least walks in the Majors this season, bodes well for him if they put in in play at Target Field.
6/10 Andy Pettitte (49% owned) vs. Mets, I have no explanation for what Pettitte is doing right now, so I’m just gonna enjoy the ride before he gets over 50% owned.
What are you looking forward to this weekend? Who do you like in fantasy? Tweet me using #MapesFantasySpecial
-Bryan Mapes (@IAmMapes)