A-Rod redemption

It’s been a surreal year for Alex Rodriguez. It began with disgrace, as he joined the club of major league players implicated in the never-ending steroids scandal. He was never a fan favorites in New York, and now he had sunk to a new low. His reputation would be forever tarnished.

Yet after watching A-Rod’s postseason performance so far, this may be the best thing that ever happened to him. Last night, A-Rod rose to the occasion again to provide a dramatic home run to save the day for the Yankees in Game 2.

• To be honest, for all his remarkable numbers, A-Rod has never inspired legend quite like a Williams or Ruth, a Bonds or a Mantle. Yet through five postseason games, he now has three home runs that have either tied or put the Yankees ahead. One off Joe Nathan and another off Brian Fuentes, two pretty darn good closers, too. Here’s the reaction from The LoHud Yankees Blog:

• His story of exorcising October demons has almost become old hat. Four times he has been asked the same questions and four times he has continued to repeat what he said in St. Pete. “I know you guys are probably looking for something profound. I’m just in a good place. I’m seeing the ball and I’m hitting it. That’s about it.” Rodriguez now has an RBI in each of the first five postseason games, setting a new Yankee record. Here’s audio from Rodriguez:

• Burnett said he, Phil Hughes, Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain were in the clubhouse watching the 11th inning unfold. People would never believe the scene they made after Rodriguez hit the tying homer. “We were like little kids,” Burnett said, “jumping around and hugging.”

• In the dugout, Mark Teixeira couldn’t fathom that Rodriguez had done it. Again. “I just kept yelling, ‘He did it again! He did it again!” Teixeira said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

It’s amazing what a great athlete can do when he just focuses on the job at hand. A-Rod has admitted to being so self-absorbed that he put tremendous pressure on himself. The scandal seems to have forced A-Rod to grow up and develop a more mature approach to the game. If he keeps this up and the Yankees win the World Series, this will be one of the fastest and most dramatic image turnarounds we’ve ever seen in sports.

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Top 10 active RBI leaders

You want a telling statistic in baseball? How about the good ol’ run batted in (RBI)? This is a stat usually dominated by home run hitters, but it’s also a good indicator of productivity at the plate. The guys on this list have been doing it over time, as well, whether they have been chemically enhanced or not, and to qualify, they must be currently on a major league roster:

1. Ken Griffey, Seattle Mariners (1774)—I can’t think of a classier player in the last 20 years. And how about these numbers….from 1996 to 1999, the last four years of Griffey’s first tenure with Seattle, he had 567 RBI. That’s an AVERAGE of 142 per season. Just sick.

2. Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (1738)—For all the fun we poke at Man Ram for being a goofy, lazy, eccentric superstar, we always temper our joking with “but the guy sure can rake.” You want sick numbers? From 1995 when Manny began playing regularly (okay, it was technically 1994 but that season was cut way short) through 2008, he has averaged 111 RBI per season. Think about that.

3. Gary Sheffield, New York Mets (1634)—It’s hard to believe this guy has been in the big leagues longer than Griffey. And unlike some of the other guys on this list, Sheffield’s 1634 RBI is more about longevity, as his career high is only 132.

4. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (1606)—A-Rod is almost a lock to pass 2000 RBI, and when you hear the other three names that have done that, it will blow your mind….Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, and Cap Anson.

5. Carlos Delgado, New York Mets (1504)—Another guy with a nice, long career, and he’s topped 100 RBI nine times….so far.

6. Jim Thome, Chicago White Sox (1498)—38 years old and he’s still mashing. I know I’ve written this before, but it’s hard to believe the Indians had Thome and Man Ram in the lineup as well as Albert Belle and Eddie Murray, and didn’t win like five titles.

7. Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves (1378)—Come to think of it, it’s hard to believe the Braves didn’t win more than one World Series after winning fourteen straight division crowns. But don’t blame Chipper.

8. Garret Anderson, Atlanta Braves (1292)—He’s lost some pop the last few seasons, but still a solid, productive player.

9. Jason Giambi, Oakland Athletics (1285)—He juiced, he admitted it, and everyone still loves this guy. Maybe that’s because he didn’t lie about it. And Giambi’s 32 homers and 96 RBI last year at the age of 37 proves he didn’t need the juice to begin with.

10. Vladimir Guerrero, Los Angeles Angels (1271)—Another freak of nature type hitter who has averaged 117 RBI per season over the course of his career. And Vlad is still only 34.

P.S. Did anyone else notice there are no Red Sox players on this list?

Source: Baseball Reference

Mikey’s Crystal Ball: preseason MLB award predictions

It’s hard to believe the start of baseball season is next week. It seems like a very short time ago when the Phillies and Rays were playing a Game 5 of the World Series in frigid Philly, having to suspend it and pick up the next night. It seemed like nothing was going to stop that Phillies team, much to the dismay of this Mets’ fan. Anyway, it’s a fresh start and a clean slate and a whole lot of possibilities. Here are a few of those as I see them…

NL MVP: David Wright, New York Mets—Am I playing homer? Yes. But this kid works really hard every off-season and consistently puts up big numbers, and he hasn’t even come close to showing his potential. This year Wright is going to show the world why the Mets have built their franchise around him, and he’s going to (finally) lead them to a World Series.

AL MVP: Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians—Last year, Sizemore had a full season low batting average of .268 but racked up career highs in home runs (33), RBI (90) and stolen bases (38). Last season Sizemore finished 10th in the AL MVP voting but like Wright, he is on the verge of something huge, and he’s going to lead the Indians to the playoffs.

NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants—I love a good short-guy-kicks-ass story, the kind where most scouts write someone off because of their size (5’10, 160 pounds), and then they go and prove everyone wrong except the team who drafted them. That’s Tim Lincecum, who won the NL Cy Young last season for the Giants, winning 18 of his team’s 72 wins, or ONE QUARTER of them. His stuff is absolutely sick, and at times just unhittable and he will coast to his second straight Cy Young.

AL Cy Young: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Boston Red Sox—Last season, Dice-K went 18-3 but was largely overshadowed by Cliff Lee’s 22-3 masterpiece as well as by K-Rod’s record-breaking 62 saves. But this guy has taken over as the dominating shutdown starter in Boston after Josh Beckett battled inconsistency last year, and this year he’s going to roll to the Cy Young.

NL Rookie of the Year: Micah Hoffpauir, Chicago Cubs—Last season, during the second straight historic collapse by the Mets, Hoffpauir was Babe Ruth for one game, going 5 for 5 with two home runs and five RBI. That was his only multi-hit game, but you don’t just have a showing like that by accident.

AL Rookie of the Year: David Price, Tampa Bay Rays—Sure, the Rays optioned their young phenom to the minors recently, but don’t let that fool you. Once Price logs a few innings, he’ll be back in Tampa blowing hitters away the way he did in the ALCS against Boston last season. And he’ll find himself as the #2 or #3 starter before long.

NL Manager of the Year: Jerry Manuel, New York Mets—When Willie Randolph was let go in New York last season, the Mets were 34-35. After Manuel replaced him, the Mets went 55-38 the rest of the way. Okay, they choked again down the stretch, but this year it’s Jerry’s team from the start, and he’s going to show everyone that his no-nonsense and player-friendly approach can win lots of games, as well as championships. It doesn’t hurt that he has two lights-out closers (K-Rod, JJ Putz) anchoring his bullpen now.

AL Manager of the Year: Eric Wedge, Cleveland Indians—The Indians missed the playoffs last season after taking the eventual champion Red Sox to 7 games the year before. The Tribe plays well in odd numbered years as of late—going 93-69 in 2005 and 96-66 in 2007. This season, with the additions of Kerry Wood, Mark DeRosa and Carl Pavano, Cleveland is going to surprise a lot of folks.

NL Comeback Player of the Year: Eric Byrnes, Arizona Diamondbacks—Byrnes was way off his career averages in 2008, hitting a paltry .209 with 6 homers and 23 RBI. He has nowhere to go but up, and this season I have a feeling Byrnes’ numbers are going to match his intensity on the field.

AL Comeback Player of the Year: John Smoltz, Boston Red Sox—After season-ending shoulder surgery in June of 2008, the Braves finally let one of the cornerstones of their franchise go, as the free agent pitcher signed with the Sox. He won’t see the mound until June, but Smoltz threw in the bullpen this week and showed no signs of pain. He’s going to make the Braves sorry—really sorry.

Favorite sports movie fat kids

JoeSportsFan.com paid a hilarious tribute to the top seven sports movie fat kids of all-time.

2. Ham, The Sandlot

He’s one of the greatest trash-talkers in sports movie history, even if he was doing so against fellow ten-year olds. He also became the first person in baseball history to hit a home run, the one against the rich club team, that actually traveled backwards off the bat. If you haven’t seen Sandlot recently or in the neighborhood of 200 times, I apologize for such an obscure reference. But it’s true.

If you don’t like the “Great Hambino,” you don’t like America.

By the way, while searching for Ham Porter YouTube clips, I stumbled upon this video, which is freaking outstanding. Anyone who has seen the movie “300” will appreciate it.

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