Brian, Debate, Feature, Outfield, Player Profile, Prospects, reality blog

The Tragedy of Potential


Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!

-Anne Frank

Mike Darr was an above average fielder.

Mike Darr was an above average fielder.

The Phoenix night grew older as Mike Darr, Duane Johnson, and Ben Howard sped down Interstate-10. The friends had been out drinking, celebrating Darr and Howard’s final night of the off-season before spring training started later that morning. Darr was slated to be the San Diego Padres’ Opening Day center fielder. It was February 16, 2002.

When Oscar Taveras got in his red Chevy Camaro in Sosua, Dominican Republic, on October 25, 2014, he’d had over 15 alcoholic drinks in about two hours. His girlfriend was in the passenger seat. Taveras started the car and began driving to Puerto Plata, his birthplace. Taveras was one of the top prospects in baseball and was all but guaranteed to be the starting right fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2015.

At the time of their deaths, Darr was 25 and Taveras was 22.

When I was 22 years old, I had just graduated college and set out to live in Los Angeles to be the “next great writer.” I had it all planned out, too. Step 1: Find an apartment. Step 2: Attend UCLA. Step 3: Flat out strike it rich. It was as stupid as it was simple.

But I was young and brash and really had no fear of anything. It’s truly a beautiful age to be. The world has no expectations of you. Even though the deck is stacked against you (because, really, chances are you’re going to be a nobody-can’t-hack-it…chances are), you have no inkling of that being true. How naïve and brazen you are when you’re young. There you go, hightailing it, living your life to the fullest, flipping the bird to everyone, even Death, because there’s nothing in the world that can stop you.

I made it to L.A., the City of Angels; found myself a dingy apartment in the neighborhood of Palms; even got accepted into the UCLA Screenwriting Program. I used to get martinis after class with a friend of mine, who later went on to write for People and Spin and AP, and we would talk about screenplays, movies and the craft of writing. We were the best writers at UCLA, soon to be the best writers in the industry.

Unfortunately, when you’re young, you can’t tell if you’re talented at something or not. It’s true, either you are or you aren’t, but it’s tough to tell. I lasted a year in L.A. Clearly, I was not.

Whenever a talented person passes away young (a la James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Cliff Burton, etc.), my brain always takes me back to the time when I was hightailing it. When I was grooving through life without any breaks.

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Player Profile, Shortstop, Wooden

Player Profile: Ian Desmond


Washington Nationals at Baltimore Orioles May 20,  2011

Ian Desmond is waiting to be noticed.

When Christopher Nolan dropped Inception on us few years back, my mind was blown. It wasn’t blown in a stoner-esque “Wow that was deep…” kind of way (how most people reacted to the film). It wasn’t in a film-nerd “Christopher Nolan is the best director ever…” kind of way. It wasn’t even in an “Ellen Page is pretty hot…” kind of way.

It was in an “I can’t believe the kid from Angels in the Outfield somehow became an A-list actor” kind of way.

Yes, Joseph Gordon-Levitt had already been making an adult name for himself, putting his child-actor-best-known-for-his-role-on-3rd-Rock-From-The-Sun days in the very distant rearview with roles in several critically acclaimed and big-budget movies, but it’s almost like we collectively weren’t paying attention- until BAM! There he was in one of the biggest movies of the year, alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and he was still doing his thing and making you notice! He was announcing himself to the world while also telling us that he’d been here forever.

Enter Ian Desmond, starting shortstop for the now trendy Washington Nationals. The Nats (#natitude) are more loaded than Lindsay Lohan. We all know the names: Stephen Strasburg, Ryan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, and, of course, Bryce Harper. These are all guys who played a big part in bringing playoff baseball to the capital city for the first time since FDR was in office.

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Butler, Outfield, Player Profile

Player Profile: Mike Trout


lomaprieta

Earthquakes are no joke.

I started watching baseball in 1989. I still distinctly remember the Giants beating the Cubs in the NLCS before being swept by a far superior Bash Brother-powered Oakland A’s team in a World Series made memorable more by the earthquake than for anything else that happened on the field. The respective NL and AL Rookies of the Year that season were Chicago’s Jerome Walton and Baltimore’s Gregg Olson, who is not to be confused with 1920s Negro League star Greggg Olson. Walton would go on to have an exceptionally mediocre 10-year career (25 home runs, 132 RBI in 598 games), while Olson saved 217 games with a respectable 3.46 ERA. Winning the ROY does not always portend a stellar career; for every Mike Piazza there is a Ben Grieve, and for every Justin Verlander there is a Jason Jennings. In my lifetime, players like Nomar Garciaparra, Ichiro Suzuki, Ryan Braun, and Albert Pujols have produced incredible rookie seasons and gone on to become superstars.

Piazza’s rookie season remains, to me, the most impressive. Not because he was selected in the 62nd round by Tommy Lasorda as a Mafia-style favor to Mike’s father, but because he did it from the catcher position. Great hitter, but mobile as a microphone stand (17 career SB). In 2001 Ichiro became only the second rookie to win league MVP. He’s one of the great jackrabbits (452 career SB), but has averaged 55 RBI and 8.6 HR per season. Ryan Braun, who bravely succeeded where all others failed in resisting the nefarious overtures of deposed U of Miami strength coach, scumbag, and roid pusher Jimmy Goins, discovered each of the past two seasons that stealing 30 bags isn’t that hard. Garciaparra had little interest in running. Pujols has sneaky, opportunistic retard speed.

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When asked if he had any clue how he would play in 2013, even Mike Trout said, “Go fish.”

And then there’s Mike Trout, who as a rookie displayed a power/speed/average combination the likes of which had not been approached since before Barry Bonds became a hydrocephalic, baseball-murdering gargoyle. He steals bases (49 thefts in 54 attempts) at will and tracks pitches like a cyborg.  Continue reading

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Brian, First Base, Player Profile, Thaller

Player Profile: Prince Fielder


It's all smiles 'round here.

It’s all smiles ’round here.

The story behind Prince Fielder isn’t unlike that of a tall tale. A larger than life kid, son of a larger than life baseball player, toting around a gargantuan piece of lumber, launching home runs into different Detroit zip codes. It’s the sort of thing that, after Prince (he even has a majestic name) is dead and gone, people will still talk about, embellishing it even more. He’s two shakes away from owning an ox the size of Mount Rushmore.

Now that Fielder isn’t a prepubescent phenom, and his fable has transformed into non-fiction, Tiger fans have that glossed over “I just had Thanksgiving dinner” smile on their faces; perfectly content. Fielder isn’t complaining, either, as he always looks like he’s just had a turkey (or two)…oh, and he’s got $214 mil. stuffed under his kids’ race car beds.

Every folk tale also needs a villain, or a trickster, and in this case it’s Prince’s father, Cecil. Reportedly it’s a broken, if not completely nonexistent relationship between the two. Cecil, as told by Prince, was a terrible father. I’m sure if you ask Cecil, he will tell a different story (“Hey, what other kid got to take batting practice with Sweet Lou?”). Either way, Prince seems on a mission to stick it to his old man, with his words and his play on the field.

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Player Profile, Projections, Starting Pitchers, Wooden

Player Profile: Tim Lincecum


Tim hasn't been killing them all lately.

Tim hasn’t been killing them all lately.

Remember when Metallica decided to collectively get sober and cut their hair? It signified a new era for the band. They began going to group therapy and getting all lovey-dovey while learning how to deal with their pent-up frustrations. They were committing themselves to something new, hoping they could recharge their careers, grasping at their legacy and all of its glorious hair-metal past to ensure it would be more than a footnote in the annals of rock music. Remember?

Metallica, meet Tim Lincecum. He too enjoyed nearly unprecedented success in the not-too-distant past. I mean this is the guy who won Cy Young Awards in each of his first two (full) seasons. This is the guy who struck out batters with authority with his long-hair-don’t-care approach on the mound. This is the guy who developed the nickname The Freak for his off-field persona as much as his unorthodox pitching mechanics on the mound. This is the guy who smoked pot and ate In-N-Out burgers and still went out and breezed through opposing lineups the way Liz Taylor breezed through spouses in her prime. This is the guy who probably knew how to ride the lightning.

Let’s also not forget that this is the same guy who had an ERA that was unsightly enough to relegate him to the bullpen for the 2012 playoffs in favor of Barry effing Zito! This is the same guy who gave up career highs in home runs and who saw his walk total rise for the 3rd straight season, even as he pitched fewer innings than the previous seasons. This is the guy who looked more like Tim Tebow on the mound than Tim Lincecum.

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Brian, Debate, Outfield, Player Profile, Projections, Questions

Jason Heyward: Better than Justin Upton?


This was just four years ago!

This was just four years ago!

If you visit Baseball-Reference.com, they have a section of their website dedicated to comparing a player’s stats with historically similar stats (whole career, current MLB years of service, and by ages). Jason Heyward is currently, at the age of 22, compared with Ruben Sierra, Andruw Jones, Jose Conseco, Juan Gonzalez, and Jack Clark. Not bad company.

Who is the only active player to make this comparison list? Justin Upton.

After the 2011 season, when Heyward struggled mightily (sophomore slump) and Upton had his best statistical season to date (fourth in NL MVP voting), if you had told me these two would be at or near the same level, this soon, I would’ve called you a crazy person and Gangnam styled off stage left. In ’11, Heyward had as much chance at being a top 50 fantasy player as Joe Paterno had at living to see his name removed from every nook and cranny of Penn State. It just wasn’t going to happen.

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First Base, Jared, Player Profile, Third Base

Player Profile: Miguel Cabrera


Miguel could be on the field a lot this year due to Detroit's terrible infield defense. Finding a snack wherever he can will be crucial.

Benjamin Franklin once observed that the only guarantees in life are death and taxes. For reasons unknown, Franklin forgot to mention Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera is one of the most consistent sluggers in the game today and Franklin would surely take him #1 overall in his fantasy draft. [Editor’s Note: What would Ben Franklin name his team? The Franklin Hot Stoves? Been-Jammin’ Deborah Read? If you have any better ideas use the comments section].

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