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Where is the Love?

kendry point

Entering this year, the departure of Mark Teixeira probably had a decent amount of Angel fans worried.

By Teixeira leaving Anaheim to sign a lucrative contract with the New York Yankees, and Casey Kotchman being shipped to Atlanta in exchange for Teixeira at the trade deadline in 2008, it opened the door for a capable, but unproven Kendry Morales to be tabbed as the Angels’ everyday first baseman.

Questions like, “can our offense possibly get any worse?”, “can we ever recover from Tex leaving us?” and maybe even, “who the heck is this Kendry Morales guy?” arose.

Entering the 2009 season, Morales had played in 127 games over the course of 3 seasons, while posting a .249 batting average to go along with 12 home runs.

Angel fans got a glimpse of what the big switch-hitting Cuban talent could do in Game 4 of last year’s ALDS against the Boston Red Sox when he hit a pinch-hit double off the Green Monster to start of the 9th inning in a 2-2 ballgame (which would end in Erick Aybar botching a suicide squeeze… you know what happens from there).

Kendry picked up where he left off with that at-bat, and has been absolutely scorching the ball throughout the entire 2009 campaign, which brings me to ask the following question, “where is the love?”

At this point, all you hear on TV or read about is “Joe Mauer or Mark Teixeira for the AL MVP? Who will it be?” and that’s it. No Morales. Not a hint that he’s even in the running for the MVP award. Nothing at all.

No disrespect to Joe Mauer, who’s put together an absolutely remarkable season (league-best .367 average and 1.044 OPS marks), and Tex who has definitely put up the numbers that Yankee fans have envisioned him doing (32 home runs, 101 RBI after Sunday’s game).

But what more do you want the guy to do? It’s hard to say that he’s been struggling at any point of this season.

He put together a career-best 20-game hit streak earlier this year. He had a 5-for-5 night a couple games back where he blasted 2 homers and drove in 6 runs. You think that would put him on the map? Nope, still no love for KMo.

Entering Sunday, KMo’s numbers look like this: a .309 batting average, 29 home runs, 91 RBI, 70 runs scored, 34 doubles, a .587 slugging percentage, and on defense (the big question mark regarding his game entering this season) he’s only had 6 errors (.994 fielding percentage).

Let’s stack those numbers up against the rest of the American League entering Sunday’s games.

His .309 batting average ties him for the 21st-best mark in the American League.

His 29 home runs ties him with Justin Morneau of the Twins and Jason Bay of the Red Sox for 5th most in the AL.

His 91 RBI is also 5th most in the AL.

His .939 OPS (on-base + slugging percentages) is the 5th highest in the AL.

His .585 slugging percentage is 2nd best.

His 65 extra-base hits gave him the 2nd most as well.

He’s up near the top for most of the power categories and it’s a shame how all of his accomplishments this year are somehow continuing to go under the radar.

Let’s get real here, Joe Mauer may just be the best player in baseball not named Albert Pujols. Not in a long, long time has a catcher come along and been able to hit like Mauer has in his young career (.326 career average, 2-time AL batting champion)… oh, and he’s only 26 years old. The sky’s the limit for this kid, and the MLB would be stupid to not begin to advertise the kid some more. He’s a player who just plays baseball the way it should be played, has no strings attached, and is easily likeable… that is, unless he’s torching your team that day, but that’s another story. He’s had an unreal year (.367 average, .435 OBP, 25 homers, 79 RBI), but his team isn’t even winning the weakest division in baseball. It just leads to the age-old argument: does it go to the best player on the best team or the league’s best player on a team that may not even make the playoffs?

Mark Teixeira has had an outstanding year following an early season slump that left many Yankee fans restless. Tex is too good of a player to stay down for that long, though, and I think all baseball fans know what kind of player he has been over the past 6 years. Tex leads the AL in RBI with 101, and his 32 home runs ranks 2nd behind Carlos Peña of the Tampa Bay Rays (37 homers). The two-time Gold Glove award winner has been exceptional at 1st base game after game for the Bronx Bombers, no surprise there. But it just seems that picking Teixeira would be the “sexy pick.” Pick the guy with the gaudiest numbers, yeah he deserves it. Not to take away from the season that Tex has been having, but if you were batting behind Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, with Alex Rodriguez and Hideki Matsui among others hitting behind you, I’d sure hope you’re putting up numbers like that.

It’s almost as if it’s a David vs. Goliath type of situation. The Goliaths in Teixeira and Mauer are dwarfing Morales to the point where he may not even get MVP recognition by the media.

As much as I’m lobbying for Kendry to get his fair share of recognition, I truly don’t believe he’ll win the MVP award. I think Joe Mauer’s 100% got it in the bag. With the type of year he’s been having, I say how can you not vote for him? All I’m asking is that the baseball world gives KMo the respect he deserves for the season he’s been having, it is undoubtedly a season worth recognizing… especially for a guy in his first full year as an everyday player. Even 2006 MVP award-winner Justin Morneau of the Twins deserves some MVP race consideration with the year he’s been having as well.

But, hey baseball writers, all I’m asking is that you throw him a few votes, just a few! Don’t overlook our KMo!

To add to it, while writing this article, Morales hit a 3-run bomb with 2 strikes and 2 outs to put the Angels comfortably ahead 8-1 against the visiting Oakland Athletics. The Halos would go on to win today 9-1. Is that something that we haven’t seen from him this year? Nope, that’s what we’ve seen him do time and time again.

Maybe a little love shown now that he got that 30th home run? Maybe… just maybe.

As I had written back in the beginning of May in “(So Far) the Angels Look Like They Made the Right Moves“, “The future has a lot in store for KMo, and I truly believe that he could become one of the most productive offensive first baseman in the game in only a matter of years…. This kid’s gonna be something special, make no mistake about it.”

I can firmly say that I continue to stand behind those statements nearly 4 months later.

My final question that I’m asking to baseball writers is this: where would the team be if you removed that player from the lineup?

The Yankees would still be winning thanks to having 6 or more All-Stars in their lineup everyday.

The Twins would still not be leading their division.

The Angels would be nowhere near where they are today with the 2nd-best record in baseball.

That’s all I have to say.

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Vlad Joins 400 Home Run Club… Hall of Fame Awaits?

vlad 400th

On Monday, August 10th of 2009, Vladimir Guerrero blasted his 400th home run of his illustrious 13+ year career.

Not only would his blast eventually lock up a win for the Angels against the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, it also virtually locks him into being a future Hall of Famer after the “Big Daddy” decides to hang ’em up.

Vladdy became the 45th player in Major League Baseball history to reach the 400 home run plateau. Of the other 44:

23 are in the Hall of Fame

8 are still playing

Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Delgado, Chipper Jones, Jason Giambi

1 will be eligible for being elected this year

Fred McGriff

7 aren’t yet Hall of Fame eligible as of 2010

Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Juan Gonzalez, Mike Piazza

That just leaves out Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Dave Kingman, Andre Dawson, and Darrell Evans as the only members of the 400 home run club who have not yet been enshrined in Cooperstown.

Let’s take a quick look at some of Vlad’s career numbers:

– 2004 American League MVP

– 8-time All-Star

– 7-time Silver Slugger Award Winner

– 2007 Home Run Derby Champion

His best year can be debated between 2000 with the then-Montreal Expos:

.345 avg./.410 OBP/.664 SLG/101 R/197 H/28 2B/11 3B/44 HR/123 RBI

or in 2004, his first year with the Angels, in which he won the AL MVP award:

.337 avg./.391 OBP/.598 SLG/124 R/206 H/39 2B/2 3B/39 HR/126 RBI

My vote would have to go to the year where he put a team on his back and single-handedly willed himself and his team into the postseason, with that year being 2004 in Angel red.

Vladdy has posted years of a .300 batting average, 30+ home runs, and 100+ RBI in 10 of 11 seasons where he appeared in over 112 games.

Despite being arguably the biggest free-swinger the game has ever seen, Vlad has hit over .300 in every full season’s he’s played in (.302, .324, .316, .345, .307, .336, .330, .337, .317, .329, .324, .303).

To go along with his “hack away” mentality, Vlad has never struck out 100 times or more in any season, a rarity that possibly may never be seen again.

To-date, the injury-plagued 2009 season could mark the first year where Vladdy’s batting average falls below the .300 line… and he’s batting .299.

He posted 2 years of 30+ home runs and 30 + stolen bases back in 2001 and 2002 with Montreal.

Entering the 2009 season, Guerrero’s career numbers ranked pretty high up on the all-time lists:

– #13 all-time – slugging percentage  (.575)

– #43 all-time – batting average (.323)

– #99 all-time – on-base percentage (.389)

Although his current career statistics are so staggering, the thing that makes Vlad so special is that he is more than a rare breed of a hitter.

Sure, there have been hitters before Vladdy who could turn their wooden bat into a 9-iron and literally golf a pitch that bounces in the dirt, 430 feet away to straightaway center. Sure, there have been hitters before Vladdy that make you feel the breeze from every swing he takes… even if you’re sitting in the cheap outfield seats. Sure, there have been hitters before Vladdy that make you marvel at the raw strength that they possess to muscle a ball in off their hands, to the deep power alleys of a ballpark.

Sure, that puts Vlad in rare and special company, but the thing that makes Vlad so unique, is that he has the uncanny ability of turning a pitcher’s best pitch into a ball that lands deep into the left field stands.

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Guerrero would play stickball with his friends, a game where a thin stick would be used as a bat, and a rock as a ball. The object, like baseball, was to hit the rock into play, but there was a catch… you had to hit the ball, regardless of where it was thrown. Vladdy’s roots haven’t left him.

A sharp-breaking 12-6 curveball could start right in the middle of the plate and drop down to his shoetops, but Vlad, the great “bad ball” hitter that he is, uncoils that powerful swing of his, and makes his way around the bases, giving the fans in the cheap seats a souvenir.

A 100 mile per hour fastball could run inside on him, but he’d get the bat out in front and send a 450+ foot mammoth blast sailing into the night.

And he’s been having fun all the way through. His big smile could light up a dark room with ease.

Here’s to the guy who truly deserves it.

A once-in-a-generation type of hitter who swings at everything, and hardly misses anything (as Rex Hudler says, “from his nose, to his toes, that’s how Vladdy goes!”).

(Here’s a funny video of a guy spot-on imitating (duplicating sounds about right) Vlad’s quirky stance/swing… in front of the man himself!)

A player who was both a contact and a power hitter.

A player with one of the best cannon arms to ever play right field (as ESPN anchor Stuart Scott said following Vlad gunning a guy out at third, “he’s a mutant!”).

A player who could do it all.

Here’s to you, Vladdy. And as much as it’s hard to believe after your remarkable 13-year career (and still going), you will continue to be on your way to bigger and better things.

The baseball world congratulates you on reaching another incredible milestone.

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Who’s on First?

Indians Angels Baseball

APTOPIX Tigers Yankees Baseball

Giants Braves baseball

We had a post way back towards the beginning of the season (about 20 games in or so) comparing the three 1st baseman who the Angels had playing regularly last year (and now, this year).

At the trade deadline, regular 1st baseman Casey Kotchman was packaged with a minor league pitcher to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira.

All the while, a talented yet patient Kendry Morales was waiting in the wings, knowing his chance was soon to come.

Kotchman continues to be an everyday player for the Braves.

Tex would go on to be the starting 1st baseman for the American League All-Star team, representing the New York Yankees.

And Kendry has been everything that the Angels could have asked for and more.

Kendry may have not made the All-Star team, but he’s put up numbers that I’m certain not many people envisioned he’d put up.

Let’s get a quick refresher on the statistics from our last installment:

Casey Kotchman (25 games)-

.289 avg./.366 OBP/.398 SLG/0 HR/4 RBI/9 2B/0 3B/9 XBH/8 runs/9 BB/9 K

Mark Teixeira (22 games)

.182 avg./.354 OBP/.338 SLG/3 HR/10 RBI/3 2B/0 3B/6 XBH/12 runs/19 BB/13 K

Kendry Morales (22 games)

.280 avg./.330 OBP/.537 SLG/4 HR16 RBI/7 2B/1 3B/12 XBH/13 runs/6 BB/18 K

Early on, it was Kendry who had been the most productive hitter of the 3, but with a very small sample size.

Now the sample size is a little more accurate. Each player has 85 or more games played, and with more than 320 plate appearances per player, it’s now a more accurate time to judge the former and current Angel 1st basemen.

Casey Kotchman (85 games)

.275 avg./.346 OBP/.392 SLG/.737 OPS/80 H/26 R/19 2B/0 3B/5 HR/38 RBI/24 XBH/30 BB/28 K

Since last update:

Batting average (down 14 points), on-base percentage (down 20 points), slugging percentage (down 6 points)

Kotch is stuck with an anemic offense in Atlanta, so the run-scoring and run-producing numbers are understandably down. He’s hitting at a respectable .275 mark, but can be a .300-.310 hitter when he’s at his best. Kotch has always had a fantastic eye at the plate and is a great contact hitter, and he’s continued to strike out very infrequently (about 1 strikeout every 3 games). He’s proving to be a consistent hitter (although he may not be hitting at the average that he knows he’s capable of hitting at), but Atlanta will need to make some moves to help Casey out in the lineup, otherwise he’ll just be a capable hitter in an incapable lineup.

Mark Teixeira (96 games)

.282 avg./.378 OBP/.550 SLG/.928 OPS/107 H/62 R/27 2B/0 3B/25 HR/72 RBI/52 XBH/53 BB/67 K

Since last update:

Batting average (up 100 points), on-base percentage (up 24 points), slugging percentage (up 212 points)

Big Tex really started to get into his groove when Alex Rodriguez returned to the lineup for the Yankees, because let’s face it, a guy who’s posted 5 straight seasons of 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI, with 3 of those featuring a .300+ batting average, isn’t going to hit .182 over the long span of a 162 game season. I’m convinced it was all mental for him, because in New York, of course the spotlight is going to be all on the new slugging 1st baseman who signed a lucrative long-term deal in the off-season. Having A-Rod come back, while bringing his steroid controversy issue, helped take much of that spotlight off Teixeira, and put it back on Rodriguez. After that point, the Tex that baseball fans have come to know began to show up game in and game out. Slugging home runs, driving in plenty of runs, all while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. And as much as I’m still slightly bitter that Tex spurned the Angels for the Yankees… who wouldn’t love hitting in front of Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon, while having Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada and Robinson Cano clean up behind you?

Kendry Morales (92 games)

.292 avg./.345 OBP/.560 OBP/.905 OPS/99 H/49 R/27 2B/2 3B/20 HR/58 RBI/49 XBH/30 BB/64 K

Since last update

Batting average (up 12 points), on-base percentage (up 15 points), slugging percentage (up 23 points)

Kendry started the season hot, and he’s continued to be hot with the bat in his hands. Most importantly, he’s been hitting for extra bases with great regularity. He’s been productive as a the #6 hitter, the #5 hitter, and even more recently due to multiple injuries, as the clean-up hitter. His 20 home runs leads the team, and he currently has the most home runs by an Angel 1st baseman since Mo Vaughn’s 36 back in 2000. He’s been clutch when they need him to be (walk-off single on May 31st vs. Seattle), and his 49 extra-base hits ties him for 4th in the American League, and ties him for 8th league-wide. These are pretty impressive numbers to begin with, let alone for a guy who’s stepping into his first season as an everyday player. His defense was the big question mark entering this season, but so far, he’s played more than adequate defense over at 1st (.993 fielding percentage, 6 errors), that is, more than adequate for what I had expected of him entering this season. Overall, “KMo” has gone above and beyond the call of duty with the bat and with the glove, and I can say he has far and away exceeded any expectations I had of him for this season.

Although Teixeira has clearly put up the better numbers to this point in the season (thanks to having a previously selected All-Star batting 1st, 2nd, 3rd (him), 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th in the lineup), as an Angel fan, we can’t focus on Teixeira. We have to focus on our guy, and our guy’s holding his own for being labeled as the guy who had to fill Mark Teixeira’s king-sized shoes.

To this point, Kendry’s got Mark beat in the batting average, slugging percentage, doubles (tied) and triples categories, and only trails Tex by 3 extra-base hits and 5 homers. Kendry has also struck out at a lesser mark than Teixeira as well.

Let’s not forget to throw in the almighty dollar figure as well.

Tex is making just about $21,000,000 this year.

Kendry’s making $1,100,000 for his services this year.

So while the Yankees are (debatably) getting what they paid for in Mark Teixeira, the Angels, you could say, are getting close to 20 times more production than what they paid for in Kendry Morales.

My vote goes to KMo fo sho!

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Hall of Fame* and a Tarnished Game

mannyWell, it’s official, another high-profile superstar is “linked” to steroids. This time, it’s just Manny being Manny.

Manny Ramirez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, tested positive today, not for a Performance Enhancing Drug like HGH, but for hCG, a women’s fertility drug….

WHAT?

Yes, Manny Ramirez tested positive for a women’s fertility drug.

There’s more to it, though. The drug he tested positive for is used by steroid users who are coming off of a steroid cycle to restart their body’s natural testosterone production. It is a very similar drug to Clomid, a drug that Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi (both linked to steroid use) used as BALCO clients.

Hmmm, is that Manny being Manny, or is that Manny trying to mask being a cheat?

That’s up in the air, but Manny has never had his name come up in steroid investigations, I’ll give him that. But to use a drug that is used by steroid users, and to not take a look to see if it’s on the MLB’s banned substances list, is it just Manny being a blind idiot?

Could be, but Jose Canseco got busted for the same thing that Manny tested positive for. I just don’t even know what to think about these positive tests regarding high-profile big leaguers. Some players and coaches are thinking the same way.

Astros manager Cecil Cooper said, “Today, you’re not really surprised by anything.”

Lance Berkman of the Astros said, “When people make the game look as easy as some do, I’m not surprised.”

David Eckstein of the Padres said, “Nothing shocks me anymore.”

But Atlanta Braves 3rd baseman Chipper Jones brings up a great point, a point that is more than just Manny.

“You can’t have arguably the greatest pitcher of our era, arguably the two greatest players of our era and now another very, very good player be under this cloud of suspicion and not feel like it’s ruined it for everybody.”

The pitcher he’s referring to is Roger Clemens.

The “arguably” two greatest players of our era are Barry Bonds and Alex Rodgriguez.

And the “very, very good” player he refers to is now Manny Ramirez.

Roger Clemens was an 11-time all-star, 7-time Cy Young award winner and a 1-time MVP. Let’s not forget to mention his career record of 354-184, good enough for the 9th most wins in a pitching career in MLB history (2nd in the modern era behind Greg Maddux), and his 4,672 career strikeouts is 3rd all-time. Clemens was one of the most dominant pitchers to ever take the mound, and was a force year after year throughout his illustrious 24-year career*.

Barry Bonds was a 14-time all-star, 7-time MVP, 8-time Gold Glover, and oh yeah, he’s the all-time leader in home runs with 762. His 7 MVPs are the most by any player in baseball history, the next closest total is an 8-way tie with 3 career MVP awards. All-time, Bonds is #1 of all players who have ever played the game in home runs and walks, 2nd in extra-base hits and times on base, 3rd in runs scored and 4th in RBI and total bases. No doubt one of the best to ever play the game*.

Alex Rodriguez, considered one of the best players ever and still only 33 years of age, is a 12-time all-star, 3-time MVP award winner and 10-time Silver Slugger award winner. “A-Rod” has 553 home runs, and became the youngest player ever to hit 500 home runs, a mere 8 days after his 32nd birthday. He debuted as a major leaguer with Seattle before he even turned 19! He has 11 straight seasons of 35+ home runs and 100+ RBI and is still one of the most feared hitters baseball has ever seen*.

Manny Ramirez has been an offensive force ever since 1995 in Cleveland, and is still slugging at an incredible rate, even though he is due to turn 37 at the end of May. Manny is a 12-time all-star, 9-time Silver Slugger, and was the MVP of the 2004 World Series when the Red Sox broke their 86-year World Series drought. He has 533 career home runs, and has one of the most pure, compact strokes I have ever witnessed. It’s like art in motion every time he swings the bat. He’s always been one of the goofier guys in the MLB, but there’s no questioning that Manny Ramirez is one of the best hitters of his generation, and of all-time*.

The * denotes the question: can you take their career numbers seriously?

Did they earn those statistics and accomplishments or did they have to cheat the system and cheat themselves to go from great to incredible?

The question remains to be answered for Manny. A-Rod admitted to steroid usage between the years of 2001-2003. Clemens and Bonds… not so much.

When you describe Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, a few words for me that come to mind are incredible and unbelievably good.

Incredible is defined as, “not credible; astonishing; hard to believe; so extraordinary as to seem impossible.”

Unbelievable is defined as, “having a probability too low to inspire belief; too dubious to be believed.”

Since these 4 have been linked to cheating, it’s kind of ironic to think of how we’ve described them the whole time, don’t you think?

Here’s what I say: strip them of their careers. Everything. Home runs, MVPs, Cy Youngs, every statistic, everything.

Let’s take a tally of what’s lost between these 4 players:

– 11 MVP Awards

– 49 All-Star selections

– 7 Cy Young Awards (just Clemens)

– 10 Gold Gloves Awards

– 31 Silver Slugger Awards

– 1,848 Home Runs

That’s a lot to lose, but their actions deserve consequences. Let’s not fail to mention other steroid users like Jason Giambi, Rafael “I have never used steroids… period” Palmeiro, Mark “I’m not here to talk about the past” McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Jose Canseco. Between the 5 of them, you’re taking away another 3 MVP awards, 34 All-Star selections, 15 Silver Slugger Awards, and a whopping 2,620 home runs.

These 9 players take away a total of 14 MVPs, 7 Cy Youngs, 83 All-Star selections, 46 Silver Sluggers, 14 Gold Gloves, 354 wins and 4,672 strikeouts (from 1 player), and 4,468 home runs, and more importantly 9 potential Hall of Fame ballot positions.

Since 1990, 18 of the 38 players who won MVP awards have been linked to steroids.

The entire league hit 4,458 home runs in the 1987 season, 10 fewer than those 8 hitters did in their careers.

After the league had its highest total of home runs ever back in the 2000 season with 5,693 total home runs league-wide, the home run total has dropped in each of the past 3 years, hitting a 15-year low in ’08, most likely due to the recent spike in harsher drug testing and consequential suspensions from positive tests.

As much as I am disheartened by what has arisen regarding Manny Ramirez, I’m with Eckstein on his response, “nothing shocks me anymore.”

What I fear what is yet to be said. Although Manny did not test positive for steroids, he tested positive for something that is used to mask the effects of steroids. You could put 2 and 2 together, and let’s face it, what in God’s green earth is a man doing taking a woman’s fertility drug? Yeah, exactly. You can’t be that stupid to take a drug that’s prescribed for one sex (which is not the one that Manny falls under), let alone to have a doctor prescribe it to you, could you? Yeah, yeah apparently you can be.

The game of baseball has lost so much credibility in the past decade, and I’m not quite sure if the game can ever get it back.

And so help me God if a player like Albert Pujols gets linked to steroids… that’ll be the end of the game of baseball altogether.

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