MLB, Top 10 List

Top Ten Starting Pitchers Right Now

Starting pitching is like gold in baseball can’t ever have enough of it. It’s the most important aspect of a team because while the goal is to score more runs than the opponent run prevention is just as key so your offense has a chance to put runs on the board. Today major league baseball has a ton of quality starting pitcher’s littered from coast-to-coast.

Pitchers that hitters may ask out of the lineup because they have a slight soreness or “cold” when in reality they just don’t want to have to face the nasty stuff of that night’s starter. In 2016 baseballs ace pitchers have stepped up to another level. Who knows where some of these teams would be if they didn’t have the ace stopper on the team. There are many great choices, but here are my top 10 starting pitchers right now!

  1. Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw is not only the best pitcher currently in the game, but he has become a once in a generation type player that will be talked about for decades. Kershaw is already in the Hall of Fame discussion just eight years into his illustrious career. He has put unthinkable numbers making baseball look way too easy.

He has a career record of 125-57 with a microscopic 2.37 ERA, numbers that will be hard to duplicate on a videogame. Absolutely incredible he is a magician on the mound continuously making his opponents look silly start after start. It’s hard to believe that Kershaw a five-time All-Star, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, and an NL MVP can improve but that’s the case for Kershaw in 2016.

The season he has taken his game to another level he has had 11-1 record with 1.82 ERA! To put this historic season in perspective here some numbers he has walked just eight batters the entire season. Additionally, he has six starts with 10+ strikeouts and no walks. The Dodgers would be sunk this season and many others without the dominance of Kershaw the team is 14-2 with him on the mound.

Unfortunately, Kershaw has been sidelined with a herniated disc in his back since June 30 and it’s unknown if he will return in 2016. Which is a massive blow to the Dodgers playoff hopes, however the team has stayed afloat with an 18-10 record and currently hold the top wild card spot.

That being said I don’t see the Dodgers going very far in October even if they land a top-flight starter in the next 17 hours because Kershaw is on another planet from every other starter and is irreplaceable. Additionally, their starters just keep dropping like flies and I don’t think they have the depth and trust in their healthy pitchers. We’ll see what happens, I just don’t see the Dodgers making it very far without the best pitcher in baseball.

 

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2.    Madison Bumgarner

The San Francisco Giants are one of the most consistent teams in baseball in World Series contention year after year. A big reason why is the staff ace Madison Bumgarner since making his debut in 2009, he is a three-time World Series champion and has become one of the most reliable starters in the big league right now. In just seven seasons Bumgarner has become one of the best lefties to ever take the mound in the big leagues. He is 95-64 with 2.93 ERA. Those numbers prove he’s an amazing pitcher and is constantly baffling hitters.

However, the moment the baseball world really appreciated and understood how good Bumgarner is was the 2014 World Series when he put his team on his back and single-handedly won the championship. He a rubber armed bulldog on the mound pitching a record 52 2/3 innings posting a ridiculous 0.25 silencing the Kansas City Royals to win the teams third World Series in the last six years. This performance supplanted Bumgarner’s legacy no matter what the rest of his career holds.

He’s continued great success in 2016 with a 10-6 with a microscopic ERA of 2.25 ERA, which he continues to improve year after year. The mark of a legendary hurler is they are never satisfied with themselves and look to improve in every aspect of their game and that is Madison Bumgarner in a nutshell is a big reason I put him at number two on this list.

 

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3. Stephen Strasburg

The perceived Savior of the Washington Nationals has finally become what everyone expected him to be coming out of San Diego State in 2010. It made be a slight shock to people that he ranks this high because of his injury history. However, the reality is he’s having a breakout season and should be recognized for his historic work in 2016 and overall he’s been pretty darn good throughout his career.

A big reason for Strasburg’s success in 2016 I believe is the new leadership in the Nationals dugout. Manager Dusty Baker has brought a calming influence to everybody, including Strasburg telling him to smile more and enjoy going to the mound every fifth day. I think he’s taken that to heart he has a 15-1 record with a 2.63 ERA thus far in 2016.

It’s amazing, especially in baseball considering you might not have your A+ stuff every time you go out on the mound. Despite that Strasburg has given his team a chance to win every time out. Strasburg is proving the Nationals right and giving him the seven-year contract extension as he is finally reaching the potential everybody expected. I think he is finally trusting that he is fully healthy and can just focus on pitching without the fear of something flaring up.

His confidence is at all time high 2016 could be the start of something very special for Strasburg and the Washington Nationals. Strasburg looks to have figured it out and that is not a good thing for the rest of baseball.

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4.   Chris Sale

Chris Sale drafted 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Florida Gulf Coast University. In his six years he has quickly become one of the most dominant left-handed pitchers in baseball. He is an astounding 71-43 with 2.95 ERA. What he has been able to do is absolutely amazing because the majority of his work has been done against the American League with the DH.

Additionally, he pitches in a bandbox of a home ballpark at US cellular Field making these numbers even more remarkable. He has continued his dominance in 2016 posting a 14-5 record with a 3.12 ERA witch makes him the leading candidate for the American League’s sister CY Young award despite the teams’ struggles.

The White Sox might have to sell this deadline, but Sale better stay put because he is a franchise player and they need someone to build around dominant lefties like him don’t grow on trees. As a baseball fan, I hope the White Sox will be able to contend soon so I can watch Sale in a position that he deserves because he is too talented not to experience postseason play.

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5  José Fernandez

Major league baseball has seen an influx of young flamethrowers that have made the game very exciting to watch. The Miami Marlins have one of those in 23-year-old José Fernandez. In his three years he has shown us what an ace looks like, but also how to have fun while doing your job. It’s refreshing to see a young guy have success and tip his cap when he gets beat.

He is getting the last laugh the majority of the time. He is 34-14 with a 2.52 ERA with a remarkable 25-2 record at Marlins Park. It’s crazy that Fernandez has just three years of experience he  looks like a grizzled veteran. If he’s able to stay healthy many records will get broken by Fernandez while on the mound.

The great success has continued in 2016 he is 12-6 with 2.87 ERA making it a very long day for opponents in the batters box. He is a strikeout machine recording over 500 strikeouts in just a little over 400 innings. I know strikeouts are just another out and don’t matter in the game of baseball anymore to hitters, but it’s insane the pace that Fernandez is on. He is also the first pitcher to record multiple 14 strikeout games. Putting that in perspective that is 4 1/2 innings without contact and no contact means no runs, giving Fernandez and the team an amazing chance to win every time he toes the mound.

The Marlins are very lucky to have found him, but they better take advantage of this playoff situation that they currently find themselves in because I honestly doubt Fernandez will be a Marlin for life because he is a client of Scott Boras and that usually means testing the free-agent market.

That being said, the Marlins need to do everything they can to reach the playoffs while they have this horse on their staff because it might not last. Fernandez is an incredible pitcher and starting pitching is like gold and every team would welcome a pitcher of his caliber. I’m saying the marlins better not waste this chance and talent. Fernandez has brought new energy to the pitcher’s mound and he is fun to watch.

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6. Jake Arrieta

The Chicago Cubs are relevant again because of their young studs and their staff ace Jake Arrieta. The journey to the top Arrieta was a roller coaster ride. Prior to finding the magic in the Windy City he pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, whom he struggled to find consistency because they tried to change his mechanics and take away his cutter, which made his performance mediocre.

This resulted in a trade to the Cubs where Arrieta found his footing becoming an NL CY Young award winner and the leader of the staff as they try to break the curse that is Chicago Cubs baseball. Last year’s second half was historic as he posted 0.82 ERA and was compared to greats like Bob Gibson and Greg Maddux. He ended 2015 with 22-6, record with an untouchable 1.77 ERA a feat that is hard to accomplish in video games let alone real life with the best baseball players in the world.

He’s backed it up quite nicely in 2016 with a 12-5 record with a 2.75 and a no hitter thrown in. He is a little farther down than he would’ve been except he’s struggled a little bit in the second half with consistency and sometimes throwing too many strikes and some opponents have taken advantage.

However, I think he and the team have righted the ship and are best equipped for a long postseason run in October so long as they stay healthy. Arrieta is a story of perseverance and a lesson for teams if a guy has talent don’t try to change them, let them show you what got them to that position in the first place. Be patient you might be able to mold Cy Young winner and a perennial All-Star.

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7. Johnny Cueto

Once again the San Francisco Giants struck gold with the off-season signing of Johnny Cueto to a six-year $130 million contract. Which to this point looks like one of the biggest steals because the Giants have formed a deadly one-two punch at the top of the rotation that has them poised to make another World Series run in an even year.

Cueto is just coming off the World Series championship with the Kansas City Royals. He was the brilliant ace they needed to put them over the top as he threw two complete games to help them secure their first World Series title since 1985. He’s carried that momentum out West posting a 13-3 record with a 2.73 ERA. Cueto is one of the most imaginative pitchers in baseball with an array of wind ups constantly keeping opponents off balance.

That is a unique quality in a pitcher because traditionally a pitcher has one set of mechanics and if they get out of wack struggles will likely happen. That is not an issue for Cueto because he changes his approach mid hitter depending on situation giving him an edge against opponents.

I believe the trade to the Royals was a great thing for Cueto to experience postseason pressure and success because I think he got in a bit of a rut with the Reds. Now with renewed confidence he has once again become one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball. Setting up the Giants for a long postseason run as they try to continue the even year magic.

 8. J.A Happ

The Toronto Blue Jays are currently in a dogfight for the AL East crown as they sit ½ a game back of the Baltimore Orioles. The Blue Jays have relied heavily on their offense to get in their current position. However, this year they’ve had a little bit more consistency in their rotation with a breakout year for left-hander J.A Happ.

Happ has finally put it all together in his second tenure with the Blue Jays posting a 14-3 record with a 3.18 ERA putting Happ him right in the middle of CY Young award conversations. An amazing feat considering his home ballpark is a launching pad and normally a pitcher’s nightmare. However, that has not been the case for Happ in 2016, he is 9-1 with 3.02 ERA, proving you can have success in hitter friendly ballparks.

It’s really great to see a journeyman type player have great success after some mediocre seasons recently for Happ. As for the organization this is one of the biggest bargains of the off-season as they signed Happ to a three-year $36 million deal. He’s gone from a great veteran presence to deepen their rotation to a prime CY Young candidate.

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9. Cole Hamels

The Texas Rangers currently sit atop the AL West by 6 games over the Houston Astros led by the forgotten ace Cole Hamels. Hamels was dealt to the Rangers at the deadline last July and hasn’t missed a beat the former world champion has put together a quiet 12-2 record with a 2.84 ERA putting him in Cy Young conversation.

Hamels has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball for 10 years being the ace for two different clubs and helps lead the Phillies to a championship in 2008 as I mentioned. Since putting on the Rangers uniform he is 19-3 and amazingly he hasn’t been talked about as much as he should because he is out West.

I think that’s been a great benefit for Hamels because although he is the ace he is not “the guy” as he was in the latter part of his Phillies career. Therefore he is not putting as much pressure on himself and is just pitching free and easy. Additionally he is closer to his family, which is also a benefit for any athlete.

He looks very comfortable in a Ranger uniform and the production continues to get better just like a fine wine. A great quality Hamels possesses is the fact he is an innings eater averaging 195 innings per season preserving the bullpen a manager’s dream. Showing that he’s a bulldog on the mound and will fight tooth and nail to stay in the game.

Hamels helped lead the Rangers to a playoff berth in 2015 he looks to do the same this season with a ring at the end of this year. Also he still has two years left on his contract with an option in 2019. It’s a dream situation for both the Rangers and Hamels.

 

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10.                          Chris Tillman

The Baltimore Orioles are in a dogfight for the AL East crown they currently sit half a game of the Blue Jays with the Red Sox nipping at their heels as well. They’ve used the long ball and a breakout year from  right- hander Chris Tillman. This is another guy that has come out of nowhere and become the ace of the rotation. He is 14-3 with a 3.46 ERA.

This is an incredibly impressive season, Tillman is putting together considering he is pitching in what I think is the toughest division in baseball and a bandbox of a home ballpark in Camden Yards. I think Tillman has been the MVP of the Orioles this season, I struggle to imagine what their season would look like without him in the rotation because there is been quite a bit of inconsistency and injury that they’ve had to deal with. Tillman has saved the Orioles and the rest of the rotation as collectively the other four starters have amassed just 14 wins combined.

This breakout year from Tillman is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Orioles because without him I don’t think they are anywhere near the top of the division without the breakout year from Tillman. Tillman has spent his entire 9-year career in Baltimore and has had a pretty consistent career with 70-45 record with a respectable 4.06 ERA. He is a guy that you don’t hear much about because he’s not one of the big names in baseball, but in 2016 he is forcing people to notice him.

If the Baltimore Orioles want to have success in October Tillman must continue to pitch well and they must hit home runs if that happens, they will be a contender in the postseason as they have the best setup-closer combination in baseball with Brad Bach and Zach Britton if they are able to get the lead late in the game anything can happen in postseason baseball.

 

These are my top 10 starting pitchers right now! This list is one of the reasons I love baseball you can be an ace from the beginning of your career or you can go from mediocrity to greatness with perseverance and hard work. This list has a great mixture of those stories. Do you agree?

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MLB, Top 5 list

Top 5 Under-Rated moves that have paid big dividends early on 2016

The Major League Baseball season is in full swing and there have been quite a few surprising starts that have led to early success for their respective ball clubs. This off-season was filled with many splash free agent signings and big trades that have everybody talking. However, this off-season has also proved you don’t have to break the bank to improve your team. Here are my top five underrated moves that have paid off big time early on in 2016.

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Matt Latos

Matt Latos signed a one-year $3 million contract with the Chicago White Sox this off-season. Latos came in 2016 looking to prove he could still get major-league hitters out on a consistent basis. So far in 2016 he has rekindled the All-Star form he had while pitching in Cincinnati. He has a 5-0 record with 2.62 ERA in six games to start the season.

This hot start by Latos was very unexpected because last season was very forgettable as he bounced around between the Miami Marlins, Los Angeles Dodgers and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. He struggled at every stop posting a very ugly 4-10 record with a 4.95 ERA Making it very easy to understand why teams were reluctant to take a flyer on Latos. The Chicago White Sox were willing to take a chance and now are reaping the benefits of this move.

The resurgence of Latos has lengthened a starting rotation led by Chris Sale combined Sale and Latos are 12-0 spearheading the teams great 22-10 start to the season. Baseball is very unpredictable and that in the best thing for struggling players because if they are able to get another opportunity they can write another chapter in their career and use the tough times as motivation for the future. That is exactly what Latos has done proving that a new situation and a little bit of confidence goes a long way in this game.

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Mark Trumbo

The Baltimore Orioles had been looking for a consistent outfield bat since they lost Nick Markakis before the start of the 2014 season. I think they finally found the answer in Mark Trumbo whom they acquired from the Seattle Mariners for catcher Steve Clevenger. 

Trumbo bounced around last season between the Arizona Diamondbacks where he became the odd man out in the outfield and the Seattle Mariners, which isn’t the ideal ballpark for a power hitter.

Trumbo has found the magic he had at the start of his career with the Angels. In a span of three years (2011-13) when he hit 95 homers and looked to be a staple in Angels lineup for years to come, but the Angels were looking to go a different direction to acquire pitching help at the time.

As I said, his career had tread water in the last couple years not being in the correct situation. This season in Baltimore he’s found a comfort zone with the team that relies on the home run ball to score, which is right up Trumbo’s alley it’s a match made in heaven for both he and the Orioles. He is hitting .325 with nine home runs and 24 runs batted in! He has lengthened a lineup that was already very scary with Adam Jones, Manny Machado and Chris Davis.

Trumbo has fit in like a glove in this very potent lineup a pitcher’s nightmare. If you are a fantasy owner of Trumbo you’re salivating because you realize he has a lot of games left to play in Camden yards, which the hitters paradise. The Orioles have found the missing piece in the outfield with Trumbo for a very minimal price. These are the type of deals that make front offices smile and get an extra boost of confidence when they are deciding whether to take a flyer on a player that has had a couple of down years.

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Jean Segura

The Arizona Diamondbacks were one of the busiest teams this off-season trying to rebuild into a contender quickly. They bolstered their rotation with Zach Grinke and Shelby Miller those moves haven’t necessarily worked out quite as well as Arizona envisioned to start the season, but both look to have gotten back on track. They also addressed the offensive side of the ball acquiring second baseman Jean Segura from the Milwaukee Brewers.

This move was very savvy by the Diamondbacks because I think Segura’s value significantly dropped with two consecutive down years. Segura has dealt with personal tragedy as well, losing his infant son a year ago I believe that played a significant role in his baseball struggles over the last couple of years. He also has dealt with pressure in his baseball career, he was the key prospect the Los Angeles Angels sent to the Milwaukee Brewers when the Angels acquired Zach Grinke for the playoff run in 2012.

In 2016, Segura has seemingly become at peace with everything professionally and personally finding a comfort zone in Arizona. To start the season he has been one of the most consistent hitters across baseball. Hitting .336 with four runs and 16 runs scored. He has been a great table setter for the Diamondbacks lineup, putting pressure on opposing pitchers from the very beginning.

Segura is a sneaky five-tool player that doesn’t get enough notoriety for his defense and base running ability. At just 26 years of age, I believe Segura is hitting his stride and the Diamondbacks have found their second baseman for the foreseeable future. I don’t know if he will be able to keep this torrid offensive start, but he affects a game in multiple ways he will always have value when he is in the game. He is showing the All-Star ability he had in 2013 in Milwaukee and why he was a coveted prospect early in his career.

I love stories like his dealing with a ton of adversity at such a young age persevering through it all and finding great success. He’s a guy that you pull for no matter who your favorite team is. I hope he continues this success helping the Diamondbacks win in the present and future.

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Starlin Castro

For the New York Yankees not much has gone right to start the 2016 campaign. They have an 11-18 record and are currently in the basement of the American League East. The one thing that has worked out for the Yankees is the acquisition of second baseman Starlin Castro from the Cubs for pitcher Adam Warren.

Castro struggled for the majority of the 2015 season the former shortstop was moved to second base for the better defender in Javier Baez. He bought into Joe Madden vision and picked it up offensively at the end of last season. Castro was made expendable with the signing of Ben Zobrist this off-season. The Yankees needed to make this move to get younger it’s no secret they are handcuffed by injury prone players.

The Yankees acquired a player with a proven track record. At just 26 he is a three-time All-Star and were counting on a rebound type of year from Castro. He has certainly delivered early on in 2016. He’s hitting .296 with 3 home runs and 12 runs batted in, which leads the team. He’s been the only constant in the Yankees lineup that has struggled mightily across the board with the exception of Castro. He quickly endeared himself to the Yankees faithful setting a record with seven RBIs in his first two games in pinstripes.

I think this is the best move for Castro’s career because he was expected to be the Savior for a struggling Cubs franchise and at the very beginning, it was all roses as he made three All-Star appearances as I mentioned. However, when the struggles began it became mental big-time at times he wasn’t set defensively and forgetting how many outs there were in an inning.

It was clear in 2015 Castro had lost his confidence and become stagnant until the latter part of the year when he got comfortable with his role. That being said, it was inevitable that the Cubs wanted to go a different direction than Castro, as they were very active in the free-agent market eventually landing Zobrist.

It seems to me, Castro is rejuvenated and excited to play in the Big Apple and be part of the Yankees history. The Yankees had a relatively quiet off-season for their standards, but the acquisition of Castro certainly looks like a home run right now.

Jon Jaso

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have a knack for signing the forgotten guy and getting the best baseball they’ve played in years. This season they nabbed Jon Jaso on a two-year $8 million contract. Jaso has bounced around between Tampa Bay, Seattle and Oakland unable to find his footing with an MLB team until 2016 with the Pirates.

Jaso has provided stability at first base, a position that has been hard to find consistent play both in the field and at the plate. They’ve found their man; he is currently hitting .291 with 3 home runs and 12 runs batted in out of the lead-off spot in the lineup. His production is making the lineup even scarier with Andrew McCutchen a yearly MVP candidate hitting behind him.

Jaso has also improved their infield defense considerably he is very sure handed over there, something that cannot be said for former pirate Pedro Alvarez, who became a defensive liability and the team couldn’t continue to sacrifice defense for offense. As we all know giving opponents extra outs is a cardinal sin in baseball. It was happening too frequently for the Pirates to stick with Alvarez. Jaso hasn’t made an error in 209.1 innings in 109 chances defense is no longer a problem at first base.

This is another example of the Pirates great ability to get every player to buy into the team’s vision and philosophy. Jaso is one of so many players that have revived their career in Pittsburgh because the coaching staff puts them in the best situation to succeed.

 Conclusion

 In baseball nothing is guaranteed, but these guys prove perseverance pays off!   Every single one of these guys has been through the ringer in baseball and understand what it takes to succeed. All they needed was a fresh start and a new situation. They are  all rekindling their All-Star ability, each playing a pivotal role in their teams solid start to 2016 at a very minimal price.

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MLB

Adam Laroche Saga has gone too far

There are just two weeks before opening day and instead of talking about who’s going to make each team, we are talking about what in my opinion is a very stupid controversy involving former White Sox first baseman Adam Laroche. Laroche retired earlier this week because White Sox GM Kenny Williams asked him to cut back on the time his son Drake spent in the clubhouse.

First of all, I commend Laroche for sticking to his beliefs of family first and that is something I completely agree with, but bringing your kid to work 100% of the time is a bit ridiculous nowhere in the world does that happen so I completely agree with the White Sox organization in that aspect it’s not like he said stop bringing him forever just reduce the amount of time he spent around the clubhouse.

Drake is homeschooled allowing him the opportunity to be around his dad every day. All the reports say that Drake is an amazing kid mature beyond his years, however a 14-year-old around the team constantly is a little much considering the guys in the locker room are adults and sometimes want to use certain language and shoot the breeze with their teammates and coaches that can’t happen with the young man always around.

What I don’t understand is why couldn’t one of Laroche’s teammates come to him and say hey could we have one day a week with just you around? I know it was out of respect for Laroche, but bringing in the front office has created even more controversy because starting pitcher Chris sale believes Kenny Williams lied about the situation, putting an even darker cloud around the organization so close to the start of the regular season.

Ultimately this situation has gotten bigger than ever needed to be I understand where Laroche is coming from because there was a clause in his contract when he signed with the team that his son could be part of the team and last year there was no problem.

One thing you have to think about is the Laroche’s job is to help the White Sox win baseball games and last year he only hit .207 in the DH position, which is a spot in the lineup where you need a lot of production. Somehow I think if he hit 250 with 25 homers this issue wouldn’t even have come about I don’t think.

There are some unwritten rules in baseball and I think one of them includes the clubhouse being a sanctuary, allowing the players to be themselves and create that camaraderie and chemistry needed to help win baseball games. I think having kids in the clubhouse are great because baseball is so demanding and players live seven months out of a suitcase, but I think there has to be some sort of line drawn or rules in place so this situation doesn’t ever become problematic.

The only good thing for the White Sox is it clears 13.1 million financially for the team to spend elsewhere. Image wise it’s terrible because it’s going to be a distraction all year answering questions about a difference in opinion.

The White Sox have been very inconsistent the past few seasons and now they will have this cloud over them, when in reality all they wanted to do is focus on winning baseball games. It’s a shame it came to this and they are talking about this but that’s the reality. I hope it will somehow go away and we can focus on the exciting new season on the horizon.

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