Angels Fan Returned 600th Home Run Ball to Pujos

Albert Pujols, the veteran infielder and DH for the Los Angeles Angels, hit his 600th career home run on June 3rd. An Angels fan named Scotty Steffel caught the ball and held it tight as his father pulled zealous fans off his son. Pujols’ 600th home run marked only the ninth time a played in the MLB has reached that plateau. Pujols also made history as the only player whose 600th home run was a grand slam. So it’s only natural that the fan who caught it would want something major in return for the ball. In some cases, fans demand tens of thousands of dollars for a significant piece of baseball memorabilia. But in a display of class and integrity, the Angels fan returned the ball to who he called its rightful owner.

“It’s not my ball, it’s his,” Steffel told CBS Los Angeles. “He deserves it. He’s one of theAngels Fan returned best baseball players right now. Of all time.” While many were quick to praise Steffel for giving up the ball without asking for anything in return, others were not so kind. “Of course you sell it,” someone wrote on the Facebook wall of the Institute for Baseball Studies. “One life so look out for yourself and your family. Opportunity comes so take it. So if that makes me greedy I’m fine with that.” Others were more blunt. “Oh yea, giving the Baseball back in 2017 for free………DUMBEST F*@&!#G THING I EVER DID IN MY LIFE!”

Angels Fan Returned the Baseball Out of Respect, Not Cash

Steffel allegedly could have gotten $100,00 for the baseball. But it’s not really like he walked away empty handed. He got his fifteen minutes of fame. He got to meet Pujols after the game. The newest member of the 600 home run club hugged Steffel and shook his hand. Steffel also got the chance to sit in the broadcast booth for a while. And not to mention the tremendous amount of press coverage he’ll get for weeks to come.

In a time when players’ inflated egos are causing unwarranted brawls, it’s refreshing to see someone like Steffel be so selfless. Hopefully his actions will serve as a model for others.

Will New Under Armour MLB Jersey Contract Spike Sales?

In December, a deal was finalized with the MLB making Under Armour jerseys the official on-field game wear. Additionally, Fanatics will oversee product licensing rights to manage and manufacture the merchandise. The new MLB Jersey contract is the first change in several years.

MLB Jersey Contract

The deal will begin in the 2020 MLB season and will give Under Armour exclusive rights for a 10-year period. Through the agreement, they will provide all 30 MLB teams with all their on-field uniforms. This includes jerseys that will feature the company’s branding, as well as base layers, game-day outerwear gear, and other apparel.

Although financial details were not disclosed, Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank called the deal a “watershed moment for the brand” during an interview with Fortune Magazine.

Implications of the MLB Jersey Contract

And that’s exactly what Major League Baseball wants. Kids buying UA jerseys.

Despite their falling stock, there’s no doubt that Under Armour is most popular among children and millennials. As a millennial, I love Under Armour’s product, and while it may seem like just another manufacturer, the impact this could have on jersey sales is huge.

Even though Majestic and Russell are good brands, the logo recognition of Under Armour will do wonders for MLB jerseys.

Under Armour’s move an obvious measure to compete with not only the other brands but also to get its stake into the Big Four merchandise platform. Their clients already include the likes of Clayton Kershaw and Bryce Harper.

Because of the brand loyalty that exists for UA, this deal will spike MLB jersey sales and be a positive for the game. As a UA consumer, I am pumped about the new MLB Jersey Contract.

Petty Baseball Rivalries Hurt the Game

Rivalries in baseball have existed as long as the game itself. You don’t need to look too far back to find examples of rivalries between players, teams, and even owners. My favorite involves legendary NY Giants manager John McGraw. Before becoming a manager, petty baseball rivalries McGraw was a hard-running hitter for the Baltimore Orioles. During a game in May 1894, McGraw slid into the Boston Beaneaters’ third baseman. McGraw’s slide touched off a fight between the two. The brawl intensified so much that by the next morning the ballpark, and 114 houses in the surrounding neighborhood had burned to the ground. Long story short, fans became so excited they didn’t pay attention to their dropped lit cigars. These rivalries are what make baseball so great. But today’s petty baseball rivalries are hurting the game because they’re based on personal insults instead of fierce competition.

Where Are the Genuine Rivalries?

Baseball rivalries aren’t what they used to be. The Brooklyn Dodgers had one with the New York Yankees, who beat them all but once in the World Series. Brooklyn had one with another National League team, the New York Giants. Bobby Thomson’s “Shot Heard ‘Round the World” set a standard for game-winning home runs. Johnny Podres’ brilliant performance in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series won Brooklyn its only title. The rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees needs no introduction. These fierce battles made the game fun to watch. But now they’ve turned into anger over flipped bats, unintentional slides, and other ridiculous incidents that exemplify pettiness instead of honest competition.

The rivalry between Carlton Fisk and Thurmond Munson is the stuff of legends. It all started during a 1973 game that would decide who’d move into first place. In the 9th, Munson broke for home on a suicide squeeze and crashed into Fisk. Munson tried to keep Fisk down so Felipe Alou could advance. Fisk overpowered Munson before both teams cleared the benches. When you look at the details of this brawl you don’t see anger over a flipped bat or a slide. You see two teams so destined to win at any cost that they revert to creative methods to overpower one another. It was their skill and strategy that made the rivalry so legendary. They reflect a tremendous amount of skill that goes towards its execution. Like The Roman Empire, greatness wasn’t built in a day. Petty baseball rivalries, however, are created in a short time.

Today’s Petty Baseball Rivalries Are Born Out of Bruised Egos

Last month the Orioles’ Manny Machado slide into second and spiked Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedrioa. Footage of the play clearly shows that it wasn’t intentional, but that didn’t stop the Red Sox from retaliating. The Red Sox Matt Barnes threw at Macho’s head a few days later that led to his ejection. This petty baseball rivalry intensified two weeks later when Baltimore came to Boston. In a series marked by racial taunts, fights over nothing continued that distracted both teams from playing as well as they could have. The players on each team weren’t trying to win the game to secure first place. They were understandably coming to one another’s defense like teammates should, but it was still petty and childish. It wasn’t about winning to them, it was about being macho.

Impulsivity doesn’t involve planning. There’s no real strategy to it. Anyone can throw at a batter’s head and say it’s all about rivalry. But those who think the current rivalry between Boston and Baltimore is a real one should read up on their baseball history.

How Young Is Too Young To Consider a MLB Career?

Sunday morning I read about three high school pitchers in Texas who threw consecutive no-hitters last month. Casey Brownlow threw the first. Zach Hahn threw the second. Judson Hudson threw the third. For a high school team like the Grandview Zebras to record one no-hitter is impressive enough. But for three different pitchers to throw three consecutive no-no’s is unheard of. This kind of an accomplishment is sure to make these boys consider a MLB career. The problem is that while such an ambition is inspiring, its also extraordinary difficult to accomplish.

We’ve all read about teen prodigies who made it to the majors. Al Kaline was just 18 whenMLB Career he broke in with the Detroit Tigers in 1953. Mickey Mantle was 19 when he joined the Yankees. Carl Scheib was only 16 when he got his first strikeout for the Philadelphia A’s in 1943.  Considering these feats, it’s easy to jump to the idea that a MLB career isn’t too far away for these boys. But looking at the following numbers will make anyone think twice.

According to chasingmlbdreams.com, only 1 in every 200 high school baseball players are drafted by a major league team into the minors. According to motherjones.com, only about 10% of those players will actually make it to the majors. So if my math is correct (granted I failed math in high school) only 0.005% of high school baseball players will make it to the majors.

Laying the ground work for a MLB career is no small task. In fact, most players miss that window of opportunity by the time they’re of legal drinking age. This also means that high school players like Brownlow, Hahn, and Hudson may have some hard decisions to make. Thinking about a career in baseball is a lot for a high school senior. As a high school teacher, I can tell you that teens already have it harder than any other generation. They don’t need pressure. They need selfless guidance and support.

There’s a Lot That Goes Into Building a MLB Career

The exposure to social media and advancements in technology is making it harder than ever to be a teen. Social obligations, peer pressure, efforts to fit in, and wondering what to do with his or her life all weigh on a teen’s mind. Not to mention their brains haven’t fully developed yet making it harder to make rational decisions (though you could say the same about members of Congress). It’s a real dilemma of you think about it. Giving up time with your friends and family to focus solely on baseball is hard enough. It’s even harder when you consider there’s still no guarantee of making it to the majors no matter how hard you work. But the idea of looking back one day and wondering what could have been can also be daunting.

Whether Brownlow, Hahn, and Hudson are seriously considering a MLB career is unknown. What I do know is that regardless of their decision, as teens they’ll need a lot of help and support. If they want to pursue a career in baseball they’ll need as much support as they can get. They’ll have to recognize what it’ll take and what sacrifices they’ll have to make. But at the same time, whoever is there for them also needs to remember that they’re young. They’re going to make mistakes. They’ll have regrets from time to time. In those instances they’ll need to know that they’ll always be supported and loved. I’m not their coach, nor am I their dad or brother. But I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who disagrees with my sentiments.

Red Sox Land Chris Sale in Blockbuster Deal

And then the stove got hotter.

The Red Sox pulled off a nice deal Tuesday morning. They shook the baseball world Tuesday afternoon. In the morning, they acquired a hard-throwing set-up man in Tyler Thornburg, parting ways with Travis Shaw. Then, the rumors Red Sox fans have heard forChris Sale over a year now have come to fruition and Chris Sale is a Boston Red Sock. The best part of the deal is: they didn’t break the bank.

Don’t get it twisted: Chris Sale is the best pitcher in the American League. That is an indisputable fact. Since 2012, Sale leads the AL in ERA, WHIP, complete games, shutouts, and OPS against. In his sevens seasons, he has made the All-Star team six times and he led the league in ERA and strikeouts in 2015 and complete games in 2016. He has also never been outside the top six in Cy Young voting the last five seasons. Sale led the league in strikeouts per nine innings twice in his career and is the active leader among all AL pitchers.

Dave Dombrowski has now made his starting rotation nearly obsolete. They now have two of the top pitchers in the American League this decade in Sale and David Price along with the AL Cy Young winner in Rick Porcello. They also have Eduardo Rodriguez, who was lethal after coming off the DL and Drew Pomeranz, their best pitcher in the postseason. That being said, Pomeranz is clearly the weakest link in the rotation and that’s a good position to be in. If Steven Wright is as healthy as the management says he is, he could even return to All-Star form.

Chicago’s Side of the Sale Deal

On the other side of the deal, the Red Sox did also give up two of their top five prospects. They parted ways with the Minor League Player of the Year in Yoan Moncada and their top pitching prospect, Michael Kopech. Moncada has every chance to be an All-Star and Kopech has hit triple digits on the radar gun. Moncada still has some work to do as we saw at the end of the season, but he should be a good player. Kopech didn’t get above Single-A last year and injured himself punching a teammate. The other two prospects were Luis Basabe and Victor Diaz. In the end, you got a perennial Cy Young candidate without touching your Major League roster. That is a deal any GM would be dumb to turn down.

The Red Sox have attacked this season the right way. They have gone for the arms. They added a top-of-the-line starter and a dynamite set-up man in front of Craig Kimbrel. Also, Red Sox fans should know one more Chris Sale stat before they question this trade again. Against the Yankees, Sale has a 1.17 ERA, the lowest in the live ball era (1920) against the Bronx Bombers in a minimum of 50 innings. Finally, it’s very team friendly. Boston will have him under control for three years with an average of just over 12 million a year. In comparison, Rick Porcello gets about 21 million and David Price gets about 34 million. The Red Sox were a contender already. With Sale added to their rotation, they are a favorite…if they have discarded their throwback uniforms of course.

Sox Trade For Tyler Thornburg

The Red Sox, amid plenty of rumors for deals and signings, finally made a move Tuesday. The move was not earth-shattering, but it certainly tells a lot about the 2017 team. The Red Sox acquired Tyler Thornburg, a late-inning reliever from the Milwaukee Brewers. In return, they sent two prospects, IF Mauricio Dubon and P Josh Pennington to Milwaukee. The final piece to the deal was fan-favorite Travis Shaw, whose offensive numbers declined every month of the 2016 season.

Dave Dombrowski added some bullpen depth, but this also raises plenty of questions. ThornburgFirst off, who is Tyler Thornburg and what is his role? Thornburg is fireballer who was both a set-up man and closer for the Brewers last season. In 2016, he earned 13 saves after Jeremy Jeffress was traded and had a 2.15 ERA and a WHIP of 0.94 in 67 innings. With Dombrowski wanting a closer-type to set-up Craig Kimbrel, Thornburg fits the mold. That almost certainly sends free agents Koji Uehara and Brad Ziegler packing.

With the acquisition of Thornburg, Carson Smith may be the odd man out. After undergoing Tommy John surgery last year, the long-awaited return to Boston may never come. Smith has had an injury history in the past and Thornburg seems like a carbon copy. He fills the same role as Smith with the same arsenal. Coincidentally, Thornburg has also had elbow problems like Smith as well.

This trade can also shake up the future of the starting rotation. Not that Josh Pennington was a serious pitching prospect, but he’s gone now. That means they will probably pursue a big-time starter in free agency next year. The 2018 free-agent class is star-studded, with the likes of Kershaw, Bumgarner, Arrieta, Darvish, Tanaka, Sale (tentatively), Tillman and Cueto on the market. The Red Sox will hope to make a big splash there, as their pitching prospects are fading fast.

Thornburg Trade’s Impact on Third Base

Finally, this leave’s Travis Shaw’s position open. The Red Sox are now faced with two options. The first is Yoan Moncada. The Minor League Player of the Year just is not ready for the big leagues as he showed in September, needing to strike out like he needed air to breathe. Moncada may be a nice option at some point, not Opening Day. That leaves Pablo Sandoval. Looking lean and fit in his recent trip to Barcelona, Sandoval looks like a new man. Assuming he didn’t gain a pound a day there, he looks ready to play third base again. Whether he can hit will be a totally different story. Right now, the Red Sox look like they are going to trust Sandoval here. Knowing Brock Holt is not an every day player, it looks like it’s Sandoval’s job once again.

So yes, this trade tells a lot about next year’s Red Sox. Dombrowski has put emphasis on a playoff caliber bullpen this year. He has now acquired a guy who was dominant in 2016 while getting rid of an empty bat in Travis Shaw. They also get him for cheap money at $513,900 and with team control through 2019. Tyler Thornburg may officially usher in the Kung-Fu Panda Era back to Boston, and isn’t that glorious news to wake up to?