Moneyball to Receive the Ultimate Test

Tonight is the night. Billy Beane went all in at the trade deadline, sending away Oakland’s offensive anchor, Yoenis Cespedes, for the final piece he felt he needed to finally win the last game of the season. Tonight, in Kansas City...

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Why Moneyball May Finally Pay Off for Billy Beane in 2014

Photo by Eric Risberg/Associated Press/http://mashable.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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During the fall of 2011, one of my favorite sports movies of all-time hit the theatres. The movie was titled Moneyball and it summarized the baseball method of sabermetrics that Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, embraced for the 2002 season after losing some of his biggest names to heavier contracts elsewhere during the previous off-season. While the strategy of employing players that thrive on getting on base led Oakland to a record setting 20-game win streak, the Athletics did not capture a World Series title that season and Beane is still searching for one to this day. Moneyball sounds great in theory and baseball experts enjoy discounting the method, but with a record of 69-44 and arguably the most promising pitching rotation in all of baseball, the simplicity of scoring runs may finally bring Beane the world championship that he has so desperately desired.

 

With the best record in baseball and currently leading the league in runs scored, you would expect to see high batting averages and costly contracts filling up the stat sheet, but you won’t find that in Oakland. After Beane went all-in on this season and sent Yoenis Cespedes (who was only batting .256) to Boston for John Lester and Johnny Gomes, the highest remaining batting average for an everyday player on the team is owned by Brandon Moss, who is hitting a mediocre .251. On top of that, the A’s rank 15th in the league with a .252 batting average and started the season 25th in the league in player salaries. While I highly recommend that you read the book or watch the movie so you aren’t scratching your head at this confusing logic, the basics of it all is that solid pitching and getting on base is everything, no matter what.

 

The main reason that Oakland is leading the league in runs scored is because they are 6th in the majors with a .328 on-base percentage, 8th in the league with a .401 slugging percentage, and they have been walked 117 more times this season than their opponents. If you get on base, there is always a better chance that you can score, simple as that. Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss, Derek Norris and Coco Crisp may not wow you with their batting average, but they all possess more than 70 hits on the season and a plus .330 OBP. They may not do it the popular way, but whatever it is, Oakland is doing it the right way.

 

The one thing that bothered me about the movie was that it really didn’t show how important and how good the pitching rotation was back in 2002. It may have not received the love that it deserved, but Beane knows what it takes to make his adopted method work. After dealing for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs about a month ago and getting Lester just last week, the rotation of Lester, Samardzija, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Hammel have a combined ERA of 3.13 (3rd in MLB), 68 quality starts (6th in MLB) and the opposition is only batting .232 against them (2nd in MLB). If it weren’t for the Tigers adding David Price and becoming the best pitching rotation in baseball, Oakland would absolutely claim that honor. Regardless, the importance of scoring runs is keeping the lead, and while the A’s offense has done it’s part, this phenomenal pitching staff is the true reason why Oakland is standing on top of baseball’s proverbial mountain.

 

It may not make sense to the average baseball fan, but whatever is going on up in Oakland is absolutely real. Billy Beane and the A’s may not win the World Series this year, but with the way this team has performed all season long and the importance of pitching during the post-season, the method behind this moneyball madness may finally cash in on baseball’s biggest prize in 2014.

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Who’s Got It Worse: Chicago Cubs or Boston Red Sox?

Photo is courtesy of http://xtrabasehit.blogspot.com/ Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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Right now, two of the most historic teams in baseball, the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, are just battling to be the crappiest teams in Major League Baseball (oh yeah, the Phillies are making quite a run for the money as well). While both of these teams are playing horrid baseball, there are differences between the two franchises.

Firstly, the Cubs currently are sporting a record of 25-35 and currently sit at last place in what is at best a middle-of-the-road NL Central division. Meanwhile, the Red Sox sit with a record of 28-34 and are currently next to last in what has always been one of baseball’s more competitive divisions…though maybe not this year.

Secondly, the Cubs have a slightly better run differential than the Red Sox (-.02 vs -.03) while averaging 3.9 runs a game. The Red Sox are scoring an average of 4.1 runs per game.

In short, the previous two paragraphs represent fancy ways of saying that these two teams suck swamp water.

So why am I bothering to ask which fans have it worse? Very simply put, the Red Sox won the freaking World Series last year!

This is precisely my point.

Everyone and their uncle expected the Cubs to suck this season. Shoot, we’ve been awful for the majority of the last century and beyond. But the Red Sox were supposed to be good! They were supposed to be building a baseball dynasty up there in Beantown. What in the world happened up there?

Now before we get all crazy, let’s keep in mind that it’s not even the All Star Break yet. There is still a ton of baseball to be played. But if I’m a Red Sox fan (I wouldn’t be caught dead rooting for those guys by the way…ever) I have to be a bit more nervous.

Let’s face it, my Cubbies were a downright dreadful team last year, so this year they’re playing with house money if they win more than about 60 games or so. Any progress is good progress at this point.

But the Red Sox have a reputation to uphold. They are the defending World Series champions. It just seems much harder on an organization’s reputation to fall from grace than it is to remain in the cellar.

So who’s got it worse right now? I say Red Sox fans…all the way.

Also, a friendly reminder to join us on July 5th for the 2014 ‘Our Sports Report’ Wiffle Ball Summer Classic in lovely Fredericktown, Ohio. For more information on playing in or sponsoring the tournament, PLEASE CLICK HERE! Hope to see you on July 5th!

Co-Champions Cap Off Underrated Scripps National Spelling Bee

Photo is courtesy of The Associated Press/http://nypost.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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Just like most warm-blooded Americans out there, I am a fan of the big event. Whether it is the Super Bowl, World Series or Daytona 500, I am addicted. As much as I enjoy each of those events, one of my favorites is without a doubt the Scripps National Spelling Bee. I know that may shock a few of you, but for a competition that crowned co-champions just two days ago, the anticipation, raw emotion and determination has me locked in every year.

 

For the first time since 1962, the 89th Scripps National Spelling Bee awarded two different spellers the national title. Sriram Hathwar of Painted Post, New York & Ansun Sujoe of Fort Worth, Texas were honored as co-champions when both spellers made their way through all of the words allowed on the list of championship words.

 

A lone winner was almost crowned when Hathwar misspelled “corpsbruder”, but the 14 year-old Spelling Bee veteran found second life when the 13 year-old Sujoe was incorrect in his spelling of “antegropelos”. After their shared hiccup, neither young man missed another word as they both took home their own trophy and a combination of cash and prizes totaling over $33,000. Not bad for a couple of teenagers.

 

Some of you may be thinking that I have completely lost my mind and how could I possibly get excited over a spelling bee? Let me explain. In the world of athletics and competition that we live in today, some of us truly understand that practice makes perfect and hard work and determination will pay off in the end. For each of those boys and girls that compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee every year, there is a trail of hours upon hours of practice every day, real commitment to their sport and a laundry list of local, district and state competitions to help them reach that moment. It may not be considered a sport, but for the long hours and effort that they put into it, each speller sure views it as one.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoEtkkdjIJQ

As I watched the Scripps National Spelling Bee, I couldn’t help but get a kick out of the raw emotion and passion that Jacob Williamson showed after each word…. even after he misspelled “kabaragoya” and how cool as a cucumber Gokul Venkatachalam was as a 12 year-old as he made the final three. I enjoyed each of those moments, but in the world of egos that we get lost in, I think that crowning co-champions couldn’t have went better for these two young men.

 

Hathwar had competed in multiple Spelling Bees and always fell just short of the national prize, while Sujoe had never even reached the semi-finals and looked up to Hathwar as someone to learn from for his past success. The tournament favorite and the underdog went toe-to-toe and when it was all said and done, they celebrated with a handshake and a shared title that they will never forget.

 

Just like the Kentucky Derby and the Indy 500, I will never miss a Scripps National Spelling Bee. From witnessing the enthusiasm and passion to the determination and relief from each of these young people, the Scripps National Spelling Bee will always be that one event every year that perfectly highlights brain over brawn and what intelligence can do for you.

 

Also, a friendly reminder to join us on July 5th for the 2014 ‘Our Sports Report’ Wiffle Ball Summer Classic in lovely Fredericktown, Ohio. For more information on playing in or sponsoring the tournament, PLEASE CLICK HERE! Hope to see you on July 5th!

 

Does Baseball’s Playoff System Need to Go?

Photo is courtesy of http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/ Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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I don’t know about everyone else out there, but to me, it seems like the playoffs are nearly forgotten in baseball. The Fall Classic seems to slowly be transforming into the Fall Afterthought as football continues to command the nation’s collective attention as the weather cools. That said, is it time for a change – and if a change were made, what would the change look like?

Now before we go any further, I want to fully admit that I did not just pull this idea out of thin air. I came across this topic while listening to sports radio on my commute from work. At any rate, the thought that these gentlemen put in my head was this: What if Major League Baseball scrapped the playoffs and started functioning like the English Premier League?

For those of you that don’t know, the EPL’s championship is completely decided by the regular season. The team with the most points wins the championship. The points system is simple, three points for a win, one point for a draw, zero points for a loss. Ties are settled by things like goal difference and so on. So does this type of system translate well to baseball? I think so.

Baseball does not allow ties, therefore, it makes sense to allow one point for a win and zero points for a loss. This results in the team with the best record at the end of the season winning the championship. As in the EPL, ties can be settled by an obscure statistic…enter Baseball Reference’s Simple Rating System (SRS), which is simply based on run differential and strength of schedule.

Okay, so we have eliminated the playoffs and figured out a way to crown a champion. Now all that’s left is to play with the system a little bit. That said, I went back ten years to see how much different Major League Baseball would’ve looked if they would’ve ditched the playoff system. Does the playoff system really crown the best team? Let’s find out.

WorldSeries

Rest assured, had MLB abandoned the playoff system, Cleveland fans would’ve been jumping for joy in 2006 and 2007. It’s also interesting to note that the Curse of the Great Bambino would’ve lasted all the way until 2013 if there were no playoffs, almost an entire decade more of Boston sports suffering. Also, I didn’t go back and look at this through the entire history of baseball, but it appears that the Curse of the Billie Goat would still be alive and well in Chicago…of course it would.

Just looking strictly at numbers (which is what baseball does best), the playoffs don’t really have a very good track record of picking the best team. In the model above, the team with the best record in baseball only won the world series twenty percent of the time.

In the end, it comes down to how you truly define the “best” team. Some would say that the best team is the team that wins when it matters and consequently can survive in a playoff type system. But I argue that for a team to finish with the best record in baseball, they need to win when it counts just as much as a playoff team does. With a week left in the season, a team that’s down two games and overtakes the team in front of them is performing under every bit as much pressure as the team winning game seven of the World Series. Shoot, the pressure to win might even be higher!

But what say you out there? Can this sort of system work in Major League Baseball? Would you be in favor of something like this? Why or why not?

Also, don’t forget to register for the 2014 Our Sports Report Wiffle Ball Summer Classic! It’s only $20 per team (two to three person teams) and there will be cash prizes for the winners, along with a host of other goodies…and food…don’t forget about the food. There will be concessions, and they will be cheap! It all takes place on July 5th in sunny Fredericktown, OH! Don’t miss it!

How Much Is Too Much With Sports Advertising?

Photo is courtesy of http://jerseybasement.com/

 

Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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Yesterday, as I was driving to work, I listened to Mike and Mike (or whatever awful substitute they had filling in that day) yammer on and on about Adam Silver’s statement that advertising on uniforms was inevitable.  Of course, conversations of this nature always lead to discussions of the “good old days” when sports hadn’t bowed to kiss the hind parts of corporate America.  You know, when men were men and stadiums weren’t named after companies…or were they?

This got me thinking about when naming rights really became a thing, and naturally my thinking focused in on baseball.  Now sure, back in the beginnings of the sport, stadiums were named after anything from the neighborhood they were located in to the team that called the venue home.  Some of them just had cool freaking names…like The Polo Grounds…but I digress.  Seriously though, when did this whole thing start?  Call me a skeptic, but I look at one of baseball’s most sacred parks as the birth place of naming rights…that’s right…Wrigley Field.

Wrigley Field started out as Weeghman Park, then Cubs Park, before finally landing at the name we know today.  The name Wrigley Field was given to the park when William Wrigley took complete ownership of the Cubs franchise from Weeghman.  As you well know, Wrigley wasn’t just some guy with a lot of money, he was the brain behind Wrigley Chewing Gum.  Wrigley funded the Cubs with his business, so basically he was doing naming rights before naming rights was the thing to do.

You must understand that this realization completely changed my view of the naming rights situation.  I quickly realized that without the original naming rights given to Wrigley Field by the man himself, the Cubs probably wouldn’t exist as they do today.  Wrigley was ahead of his time.

Anyhow…from that point, my focus returned to the idea of whether or not advertising on the actual uniform is acceptable or not.  It’s done now in almost every sport.  If you don’t believe me, look at college football.  You see the Nike swoosh on every garish uniform out there (outside of Maryland’s Under Armor debacle).  You think that Phil Knight doesn’t consider that to be advertising?  Sure he does.  He’s banking on the fact that someone will think those designs are cool and that in turn, he will sell them to the drunken masses at $200 a pop.

Apparently it’s only the style of advertising that makes us feel uneasy about things.  We have no problem with the manufacturer’s logo showing up on clothing (all for money like I said) but stick a patch of some other company on that uniform…whew…people get ticked!  Now this is much more mainstreamed in sports like soccer and auto racing, it just hasn’t wormed its way into the big four…yet.

The bottom line is this:  teams need revenues to pay players with ever increasing salaries in order to draw you, the fans, to the venue.  You want player salaries to drop?  You want ticket prices to go down?  You want adds to stop showing up on the jerseys?  Then quit going to the games and consuming the product.  That’s the only way any of this will ever change.

I myself don’t particularly like the aesthetic possibilities that jersey advertisements present, but I’m willing to let that slide if it helps my Cubbies last long enough to win the World Series.

The Importance of Keeping Masterson in Cleveland

Photo is courtesy of http://www.sportsoverdose.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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As a Cleveland Indians fan, I have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Throughout my young time on this earth, I have seen the Tribe go from consistent World Series contenders to cellar dwellers in the matter of a few short years. We got used to seeing our star talent get traded away, and when they left, so did our wins. The only good thing about the rough years was the stockpiling of young prospects and Cleveland’s record was so bad that they fired Manny Acta (thank god).

 

With Terry Francona at the helm, the Tribe finished 92-70 in 2013 and even reached the playoffs for the first time since 2007.  Cleveland looks to be back in the driver’s seat for another playoff berth this season, but if they want to stay relevant for years to come, one of those former young prospects I mentioned is due for a major contract extension.

 

That former young prospect happens to be Cleveland’s pitching ace and Beavercreek, Ohio native, Justin Masterson. After agreeing upon a $9.7625-million contract for 2014 with the Tribe, Masterson is very interested in a 3-4 year contract extension with the Wahoo Warriors. Since I have no direct connection to Chris Antonetti (have your people call mine, Chris), I can only imagine that the feeling is mutual in Cleveland’s front office.

 

Last year for the Indians, Masterson went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA and 195 strikeouts. The masterful Masterson also recorded 3 complete game shutouts and even gave the Tribe some well needed postseason run help out of the bullpen after recovering from an oblique injury. It looks as if Masterson has finally come into his own as a top of the rotation guy, but if you look at what he does when not on the hill, this wicked right-hander is much more than a valuable asset for the Indians.

 

When Francona came to town, he implemented this “family first” mentality within the organization.  Kind of like Jackie Moon’s “Everybody Love Everybody” motto with the Flint Tropics…but I digress. That family like atmosphere has allowed the Indians to play loose, have fun and rally around each other like brothers. That team-like atmosphere is perfect for a guy like Justin Masterson who has a very laid back attitude and can pull off some goofy antics.  For a guy who enjoys shaving people’s heads for charity and bringing live chickens to the ballpark, Masterson is just as important to the Tribe’s success as this new atmosphere is to his own.

 

An extension may not get done and the San Diego State Alum may be wearing another jersey next season, but if the Cleveland Indians are truly set on becoming World Series contenders again, then a contract extension for a thriving and up-ticking Masterson is more than necessary.

 

My Prediction: 4-years/$54-Million Contract Extension with the Cleveland Indians

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Francona Returns to Form as Manager of the Year

Photo courtesy of http://webnerhouse.com/ Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

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In October of 2012, the Cleveland Indians just finished their season at 68-94, were without a manager after firing Manny Acta and the future for the Wahoo Warriors was looking bleak at best.  Then something happened that turned the frown upside down for all Tribe fans. It wasn’t the signing of Nick Swisher or Michael Bourn and it wasn’t even the huge television contract that the Indians signed with Fox Sports.  It was the move that started it all and that was the decision to sign Terry Francona as the next manager of the Cleveland Indians.

On Tuesday evening, Major League Baseball announced that Clint Hurdle (Pittsburgh Pirates) was the 2013 National League Manager of the Year and the American League honor went to Cleveland’s own Terry Francona. The Indians may have not made a run through the playoffs or even won the World Series, but after his early success in Cleveland, Francona not only rejuvenated the future for the Tribe, he revived his own career as well.

As much excitement as there was when Francona was hired, there was still a little skepticism.  As successful as Tito had been in Boston with two World Series titles, this was still a man that was fired by the Red Sox for reportedly “losing” his team and allowing the players to drink beer and eat fried chicken in the clubhouse.  Now, to you and me, that sounds freaking awesome, but I can understand how that information wasn’t too appealing to the Boston front office or even the league office. However, Cleveland fans were able to put that doubt aside and welcome Francona with open arms because of his past success, and most importantly, Tito wanted to be there.

The marriage couldn’t have worked out any better. With Francona being a manager that players wanted to play for, it allowed the Indians to sign big name free agents in Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn and even welcomed guys like Scott Kazmir, Ryan Raburn and Jason Giambi who were looking to revive their own careers.  In his first year at the helm, Francona turned out 24 more wins than in 2012 with a record of 92-70, was able to get the most out of trade-bust Ubaldo Jimenez and got the Indians back to the playoffs for the first time since 2007.  Francona not only got wins on the field, but he brought excitement back to the ballpark.  For the last five or six years, Indians fans have not had much to be proud of.  What Francona did with this rag-tag group of ballplayers made fans believe in their city again, and with that support brought excitement, passion and the love for a manager that WANTED to bring his talents back to Cleveland.

With his Manager of the Year award, Tito proved to us all that he still has it. Francona still has what it takes to be the guy that players want to play for and most importantly, turn it into wins.  From all of us at ‘Our Sports Report’, we would like to congratulate Terry Francona on the AL Manager of the Year award. There is nobody that was better deserving of the award and speaking for all Cleveland fans, we wouldn’t have anybody else manning our Kids of the Cuyahoga. Thanks again Tito, we will see you next season!

What Do I Want In The Next Cubs Manager?

Photo is courtesy of http://walkoffwoodward.com/

 

Written by: Matt Shock (@shockwave_music)

Edited by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

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As the Chicago Cubs continuously confirm my lack of faith in their managerial search, it becomes readily apparent to me that the needs of the organization may not match up with the wants of the fans.  Sure, saying that ignores the whole idea that winning cures all, but what if that’s not what the team really needs in their next manager?  Surely the Epstein regime would gain a little more credibility in my eyes if they are indeed searching in the right places for the next man to captain the ship.  But what type of manager does this team really need?

With the World Series going on, the Cubs won’t be announcing the hiring of a new manager even if they’ve hired one (apparently interrupting the World Series is as abhorrent as farting during the preacher’s sermon, but I digress).  So, it is with this arcane rule in mind that I will assume that the Cubs are still searching.

At this moment, the Cubs are perhaps just under halfway through the rebuilding process with this team.  The farm system has been greatly fortified since Epstein took over, much of the expensive talent has been shipped out of town, and now team Epstein is just waiting for all that farm system investing to pay off.  This rebuild has left this team young, without leadership, without veteran presence, and without a lot of direction at the big league level.   This team profile translates to the fact that the Cubs need a manager that is a little older (not Jim Leyland old, as beautiful of a scenario as that might be), a little wiser, possesses experience as a successful player on a successful team, and can be the leader of the clubhouse where one currently does not exist.

Some might say that finding a manager that meets all of the above qualifications will be like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.  Joe Girardi comes to mind as the perfect fit, but that’s too easy considering every sports writer in the country had the same thought.  So if we can, let’s explore a short list of guys that aren’t on old Theo’s list, but could legitimately work in Chicago.  Just for fun, we’re going to pick from active Major League managers instead of attempting to catch lightning in a bottle with the next frustrated bench coach or minor league manager.

First up on the list…Arizona Diamondbacks manager, Kirk Gibson.  Gibson has shown good progress during his tenure in Arizona.  He certainly has done a better job than the guy he took over for, none other than current Cubs’ target A.J. Hinch.  The D-Backs finished this season with a record of 81-81, which Gibson himself stated was, “Not good enough.”  Gibson has stated that his goal is to win a World Series, and I personally think he has the managerial chops to do it in Chicago.  Gibson certainly had success as a player, both with the Dodgers and the Tigers.  One problem, Kirk Gibson wants to stay in Arizona.

Batting in the two-hole is current Tampa Bay Rays manager, and my personal favorite on the list, Joe Maddon.  In my mind, Maddon is tailor made for this job.  After all, he’s been successful in Tampa Bay (704-644 overall) while watching the front office ship away his talent every off season.  Tampa Bay has been a rag tag assembly of young players that Maddon has been able to coax into success every year, so Chicago would fit him perfectly.  One problem, he’s the only talent that the Rays are willing to keep around.

Batting third is Pittsburgh Pirates manager, Clint Hurdle.  Hurdle has figured out a way to bring this once pathetic franchise from the bottom of the division to the playoffs using a mixture of young superstar talent (Andrew McCutchen and company) and old head cases (A.J. Burnett and company).  Seeing as how Starlin Castro seems to be somewhat of a young head case, I see no reason why Hurdle couldn’t have the same sort of success in Chicago that he’s enjoying in Pittsburgh.  Clint Hurdle bounced around the big leagues for a decade as somewhat of a journeyman player.  One problem, he’s at the top of his game right now and possibly climbing with a rising Pirates team…he’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Those are three names that I would love to see suiting up in Cubbie blue pinstripes next season.  Unfortunately, none of them will happen.   However, you get the idea of the type of manager the Cubs need to be locating if they hope to have any sort of success in the near future.  Do their current targets fit the bill?  I don’t really think so.  They just seem to be recycled from Epstein’s list of friends.

Now, since we’re dabbling in the realm of big dreams that will never happen, let’s just take a moment to imagine Jim Leyland sitting in the third base dugout of Wrigley Field, dressed in the glorious Cubbie blue pinstripes that we love so much, chain smoking like it’s his job, yelling at umpires, etc. etc. etc.  Would I love to see him come to Chicago?  Absolutely!  Will it ever happen?  Of course not…welcome to life as a Cubs fan.

Sandman Exits his Final All-Star Game

Photo by  Robert Sabo/New York Daily News/http://www.nydailynews.com Written by: Curt Ashcraft (@cashcraft740)

Edited by: Tommy Parrill (@DearTommy)

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Well ladies and gentlemen, today officially starts the second half of the 2013 Major League Baseball season! As excited as I am to see which teams will flourish and which ones will fall (especially my Cleveland Indians), it only makes sense to acknowledge the end of an era that we all witnessed just a few days ago.

The big headline heading into this year’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York was not Crush Davis or the raging PED scandal, but was the fact that this was Mariano Rivera's final All-Star Game. Before the 2013 season, Rivera announced his retirement from the game of baseball at the end of the season after 19 MLB seasons (all with the Yankees), 13 All-Star Games, 5 World Series rings and the major league record for career saves with 638. The best relief pitcher in baseball history was making his final All-Star appearance in the city that he had called home for 19 seasons, and what a sight it was.

Photo is courtesy of http://www.nydailynews.com

I had kept an eye on the game throughout the night, but as soon as I heard "Enter Sandman" come from the television, it had my complete attention. As Rivera made his way to the mound for the bottom of the 8th inning, it was only Mo. Both the American and National League dugouts didn't make their way to the field, but stood by their dugouts and applauded with more than 45,000 fans as greatness made his way to the hill. You could see the emotion on Rivera’s face as he tipped his hat to the crowd and accepted the praise.  Rivera made the moment that much more sweeter when he took down the NL line-up, 1-2-3.  He was then awarded the All-Star Game MVP not only for his performance that night, but also for what he has done for the game.

Nowadays, you don’t find too many athletes that stay with the same team for their entire career. Like Neil Brown stated in his post last night, it is a rare sight to see one athlete in the same uniform night in and night out. Mariano Rivera has been a New York Yankee since his career started in 1995, and for the best relief pitcher in the game, he has made a career on one pitch.  Many pitchers may have a wicked slider or a mean fastball for a few years, but Rivera has consistently beat the best with his cutter.  The cutter has won the Yankee’s many World Series titles and has sent Rivera to many All-Star Games. It is hard not to respect Rivera for all of his accomplishments in baseball, but with 19 seasons lasting on one incredible pitch, it is pretty easy to see greatness for who he really is.

I have always respected Mariano Rivera, and this is far from the end. We still have a second half of baseball to play and there will be plenty more Sandman love at the end of the season. Until then, the 2013 All-Star Game was one to remember as we all witnessed the Sandman make his exit one final time.