American League

  • Sometimes things just donʼt go as planned. No one knows this better than the Texas Rangers, who currently own the worst record in all of Major League Baseball. 

    The season started off with promise. The team was slated to continue the tradition established over the last four years of being a successful contender in the American League; they had back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011. They racked up 90 wins last season for the fourth consecutive time before missing the playoffs, thanks in part to the Oakland Athletics, who won the American League West for the second season in a row. This past off-season, the team acquired Prince Fielder in a deal with the Detroit Tigers to add some explosiveness to their lineup.

    In spite of all that, the Rangers have come out of the All-Star break with the worst record in the entire league.

    The teamʼs abysmal play is becoming a financial problem; before the season started, tickets for Rangers home games were priced as high as $100.99, one of the most expensive in the league and in the company of teams like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants. Since the first game, ticket prices have dropped 41% on the secondary market, the largest decrease in baseball by a considerable margin. The current top price, $59.78, is one of the cheapest in the league.

    A large part of the problem is the difficulty of the division in which the Rangers find themselves. Theyʼre being asked to compete in the AL West with three of the best teams in the league: the Athletics, Los Angeles Angels and Seattle Mariners, who have all passed the 50-win mark this season. The Rangers have yet to reach 40. Interestingly enough, the Rangers boast a record that is worse than the Houston Astros', but even with the major price reduction, Rangers tickets are somehow still more expensive than both the Angels and the Mariners.

    Injuries are likely playing an even bigger role in the teamʼs problems. Second baseman Jurickson Profar played just nine games before tearing a muscle in his right shoulder. Fielder will miss the remainder of the season with a neck injury and 11 pitchers had made at least three starts for the team before the All-Star break.

    The Rangers are projected to finish the season with 64 wins, which, if the rest of the teams in the league finish even roughly near their win projections, would be the fewest in baseball. In the last month, the team has suffered two brutal eight-game losing streaks, and is currently amidst the worst 25-game stretch since the franchise moved to Arlington. Texas still somehow has the highest total attendance in the American League but, over the course of the season, fans have received a significant discount as an incentive to continue attending games.

Monday, the Red Sox pushed the Cardinals to the brink of elimination in the 2013 World Series with a 3-1 victory. Or maybe that should read: David Ortiz and the Red Sox pitching staff pushed the Cardinals to the brink. 

While the rest of the Red Sox's lineup continues the funk it started in the American League, batting a measly .144 through the first five games of the series, Ortiz is being clutch in the postseason. After his 3-4 night Monday, Ortiz is hitting a staggering .733 through five games with an OPS of 2.017. To put that into context, the average major leaguer’s OPS is .730. He’s 11-for-15, with four extra base hits and six RBI. If you replace the Game 1 sacrifice fly he had, which was a grand slam before Carlos Beltran reached into the Red Sox bull pen and robbed it, his numbers are even more absurd. 

While Ortiz continues to add to his October legacy, we’ll run down a list of the top five greatest postseason performances ever. If Ortiz can finish what he has started, where do you rank him on this list?

5. George Brett

Brett led the Royals to three-straight American League meetings in the 1970s, finally getting to the World Series in 1980. Brett hit .370 in the World Series in 1985 and had four hits in Game 7, helping to produce the Royals’ only World Series championship.

4. Paul Molitor

All Molitor did in the 1993 World Series was club .500 for the six-game series, hit two home runs and take home MVP honors.

3. Lou Gehrig

In 1928, in the midst of six consecutive World Series championships for the Yankees, Gehrig hit a whopping .545 with four home runs and had an OPS of 2.433.

2. Reggie Jackson

In the 1977 World Series, the aptly named “Mr. October” hit .450, bashing five home runs and finishing with an OPS of 1.792. 

1. Babe Ruth

It’s not a real baseball list if the Sultan of Swat isn’t at the top. Ruth hit .625 in the 1928 World Series and banged three home runs in Game 4, clinching a third-straight title for the Bronx Bombers.

Useless division projections: American League Central

The weather is getting warmer. The days are getting longer. Spring training is in full swing, and you can almost smell the freshly cut grass, hot dogs and peanuts of your local ballpark. The Rangers and Astros will kick off the season in just a few short weeks, and it is now time for a round of useless division predictions so we can all start getting our mind out of basketball mode and into its baseball preset.  If you saw the Orioles finishing in second place in the notorious American League East or the Oakland A’s winning the AL west, then these projections aren’t useless. As it stands, we never know what twists and turns will take place over the course of 162, but we’re going to try to look into the future and see where things will stand come October.

American League Central:

Minnesota Twins, 5th place

This rebuild job is still a ways away from nearing completion. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are still a couple of the most feared hitters in the game when they are healthy, but the key phrase in that is “when they are healthy”. The starting rotation, led by new addition Vance Worley, is shaky at best, and the bullpen isn’t much better. But, like the Padres, they play in a gorgeous ball park.

Cleveland Indians, 4th place

The Indians could be the American League’s 2013 version of the 2012 Orioles or A’s. Terry Francona was hired over the winter to head the ship, and the additions of Nick Swisher, Michael Bourne, Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds will make them formidable. The hole with the tribe is the starting pitching, led by Justin Masterson. If some miracle is performed where Ubaldo Jimenez can regain the form he had in Colorado, the Indians could be in a position to make some noise. If a few breaks are caught, they could hang around till August, but the curse of Cleveland looks too big to overcome.

Chicago White Sox, 3rd place

They lost their motor of the last eight seasons when A.J. Peirzynski took his catching talents to Texas, and they failed to add anything over the winter that would make you think they can win the division. Paul Konerko is another year older, Alex Rios could be an all-star or he could be a glorified AA centerfielder, and Adam Dunn will reach 200 strikeouts yet again. All the hopes and aspirations on the South Side reside with Chris Sale at the top of the rotation, and they should be about a .500 team, but I don’t expect much else.

Kansas City Royals, 2nd place

It’s that crazy itch again, the same one that made me choose the Pirates to win the NL Central. Maybe it is something about the central divisions. The Royals are finally primed to get close to 90 wins, and if the Tigers falter, could potentially win the division. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are going to have to breakout, and James Shields is going to have to be the ace they traded for when they gave up super prospect Wil Myers. This is the year the Royals put the finishing touches on their rebuilding project and push it into “win now” mode. Of course, they could always go back to their Royal ways and find a way to win 72 games and finish 12 games back.

Detroit Tigers, 1st place

The defending American League champs are just as dangerous a year later. Justin Verlander is still awesome, as is Miguel Cabrera. Prince Fielder has a year under his belt in Motown, and they get Victor Martinez back from an injury that kept him out for all of 2012. They signed Torii Hunter in the offseason, coming off one of the best seasons of his career in Los Angeles. This is the best team in the division, and they should win it going away. If Cabrera can keep up his consistent greatness, followed by Fielder, Martinez and Hunter, the Tigers should be poised to defend their American League championship crown. 

The decision to call up Trout may have saved Las Angelas' season. He has been playing at an MVP level while guiding the Anels back into playoff contention after a poor start.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The date was Apr. 27, a day that could very possibly go down in baseball infamy. The Angels had just been walked off by the Cleveland Indians, bringing their record to a blasphemous 6-14, dropping them nine games back of the Texas Rangers. Then general manager Jerry Dipoto made a move that the rest of the baseball world had been clamoring for in weeks prior as the Angels dug themselves a deeper and deeper hole in the division race only three weeks into the season. He called up the dynamic Mike Trout. It remains to be seen if the Angels can slide their way into the last wild card spot before the postseason begins, but if they don’t, Trout will carry none of the blame.

While Trout is out on the West Coast bringing back old memories of Mickey Mantle, Miguel Cabrera is possibly in the midst of the quietest Triple Crown hunt since Carl Yastrzemski did it back in 1967. He leads the American League in RBIs with 133 and boasts the league’s best average at .329. He has 42 home runs, trailing the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton by only one. One would have to assume that even in the midst of Trout’s transcendent rookie campaign, if Miguel Cabrera ends up pulling off the Triple Crown, the award is all but his.

And while sabermetricians and baseball purists rage war over who should win between Cabrera and Trout, there are three other names in the American League, among others, that should at least be given consideration. If Cabrera and Trout weren’t in the midst of historical seasons, these three would be given much more notice than what they’ve received.

Adrian Beltre: While Beltre isn’t having nearly the year the other two front-runners are having, his season is nothing to sneeze at, not by a long shot. He’s eighth in the league in RBIs with 98, sixth in the league with 35 homers and fifth in average, sporting .315. While none of the numbers are earth-shattering, he is arguably the most valuable player on the best team in the American League. He’s been on a torrid pace since August, hitting .323 and belting 11 home runs and has by far been the most clutch contributor in the lineup. He is the best defensive third basemen in the game, consistently taking base hits away from the opposition, and defense is often an underrated aspect of the voting.

Josh Hamilton: Continuing with the Rangers theme, Hamilton has turned in quite the season himself. First in the league with 43 home runs, second in RBIs with 124, but the case gets a bit fuzzier when you analyze the average. While his .285 average isn’t bad by any stretch, he falls short compared to the elite he’s being compared with in 2012. He hit an eye-popping .359 in his 2010 MVP campaign, so he will fall well below what everyone knows he is capable of. Through the first quarter of the season, it looked like Hamilton was well on his way to his second MVP, belting 21 home runs by the end of May and hitting .368. Then the bottom fell out for about a six-week stretch, and Hamilton has yet to make up the ground that Cabrera and Trout did since then.

Adam Jones: With the “Angels in the Outfield”-type story going on up in Baltimore, you have to include one on the list. Step on up, Adam Jones. Leading the charge for the magical Orioles, Jones has career highs in home runs with 32, a batting average of .292 and will likely break his career record for RBIs. He has 81 thus far and only needs two more over the last eight days of the season to surpass his high water mark. Jones has been the heart and soul for a team looking to make the playoffs since 1997. He has an offensive Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 5.5, second to only Cabrera and Trout. While the pitching has held among other factors, Jones’ stellar season has largely contributed to the Orioles rise from the dead.

While there are other candidates that deserve to get some notice for the campaigns they have put up, such as Derek Jeter’s amazing comeback from a subpar 2011, Joe Mauer’s consistently great numbers up in the lowly Twin Cities or Edwin Encarnacion’s power surge in Toronto, there are really only two horses in this race. If Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, you can probably raise the white flag on the whole contest. If Hamilton can fend him off and if Trout leads the Angels to the postseason after their embarrassing start, things will get awfully hairy for the voters. It’s been a wild ride thus far, and the final week of the season might upstage the whole thing.

Let’s take a quick preview of the American League’s upper echelon this season (as of Sept. 18):

1. East- NY Yankees (83-63)
Baltimore Orioles (84-64)
Tampa Bay Rays (78-70)

2. Central- Chicago
White Sox (81-66)
Detroit Tigers (78-69)

3. West- Texas Rangers (87-60)
Oakland Athletics (84-63)
LA Angels (81-67)

Although it’s no match to the historically close finish to the AL Wild Card race last season, this year’s race is proving to be a nail-biter of its own kind. The Rangers taking the West and the White Sox claiming the Central seem to be the most obvious take-home conclusions. However, with approximately 16 games to go (nearly 10 percent of the season), the East is still up for grabs between the Yankees and the Orioles. Of those two teams, the one that doesn’t take the East will vie for the fourth seed (first wild card spot) with the Oakland Athletics. The one that doesn’t take the fourth seed will likely end up as the fifth seed (second wild card spot). In a nutshell, the epicenter of this competition lies between the Yankees, Orioles and the Athletics.

Three other teams that are currently stretching for the wild card but definitely within striking range are: Los Angeles Angels, Tampa Bay Rays and the Detroit Tigers. As they creep upon the finish line, these three teams could definitely have a say in who plays in that wild card game. The Angels selected an unpropitious time to completely lose their momentum against the Athletics and lost three straight games. The Rays and Tigers need to start doing something different, considering they are quickly exiting the wild card picture. A few miracles definitely wouldn’t hurt them.

Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish pitches to a Kansas City Royals batter during the first inning of a baseball game at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Monday, Sept. 3, 2012.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

The Texas Rangers have a chance to win their third straight American League pennant and possibly their first World Series championship in franchise history.

The Rangers (80-54) are four games ahead of the Oakland Athletics in the American League West and boast the best record of .597 in the AL with 25 games remaining in the regular season.

For a deep postseason run, the team must continue to produce its unprecedented offensive efficiency. Through 134 games, the Rangers have the highest batting average (.278), the most RBIs (671), most runs scored (694), most hits (1295) and highest on-base percentage (.340) in the Majors.

The Texas pitching staff is third in the league with wins (80), second with the least amount of games lost (54) but 13th in ERA (3.87) and 17th in runs allowed (573).

The staff’s effectiveness is a major component of another pennant chase. Statistically, this season pitchers Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison are at the top of the starting rotation in wins and ERA. The team received additional help with the acquisition of Ryan Dempster, 4-1 since joining the club.

Pitchers Scott Feldman and Derek Holland must find stability on the mound before October, as they possess the highest ERA in the rotation. Roy Oswalt, who signed a one-year deal with the Rangers in May, is currently in the bullpen but could be a factor as a starter in the playoffs.

The Rangers bullpen is among the best in baseball. Closer Joe Nathan was shaky earlier this year but has since converted a team-record 26 consecutive saves. The Rangers will need to rely on him heavily in close-ball games throughout the postseason, especially with former closer Neftali Feliz, who began this year as a starter, undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Once off the disabled list, relief pitcher Robbie Ross will look to continue his dominance on the bump along with setup man Mike Adams and Alexi Ogando.

The Rangers seem destined to lock up another playoff spot this season but the A’s have surged since July, winning 39 of their last 55 games. Oakland is still in contention for the AL West title and poses a threat against any team in the majors, especially if they are able to make the postseason. Nonetheless, barring further injuries to other players, the Rangers’ chances of making the playoffs and obtaining a third straight pennant are very good.

Fans unimpressed by watered-down All-Star game.

American League's Alexi Ogando of the Texas Rangers pitches at the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
American League's Alexi Ogando of the Texas Rangers pitches at the MLB All-Star baseball game Tuesday, July 12, 2011, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The National League beat the American League 5-1 in the 2011 MLB All-Star game, and that is about as much as some are willing to remember.

“What a waste of two hours and some odd minutes of my life,” said broadcast journalism senior Derek Lewis.

Like many sports fanatics, Lewis decided to watch the All-Star game on Tuesday, but was disappointed by the lack pomp and circumstance. Some of these fans said that this year’s watered-down cast of All-Stars and boring broadcast was not appealing.

“It had three big plays,” Lewis said. “The rest was all fairly boring, undominating pitching that was just good enough to get outs for the National League and some poor defensive efforts that made the game into Keystone Cops at certain points. Plus, several big American League pitchers were out. Several big name players overall were out. Not a good showing from baseball.”

In the American League two players chosen to by the fans — Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez — and four pitchers selected by the players (including three more Yankees), skipped for medical reasons. Jeter, who recently recorded his 3,000th career hit, cited mental and physical exhaustion as the reason for his absence. Rodriguez is currently in on the DL.

In the National League, only one voted starter — Jose Reyes — didn’t suit up Tuesday in Phoenix, but Shane Victorino, who won the final vote over Washington Nationals first baseman Michael Morse, was also out injured.

Though this year’s numbers have not been released, the MLB All-Star game’s ratings have declined consistently over the past decade, with last year’s mid-summer classic boasting the worst ratings ever. Fans who watched but didn’t enjoy this year’s game said the MLB isn’t doing enough to keep the very people that drive the game interested — the fans.

“It was like any other baseball game, which is sad because it’s the All-star game,” said baseball fan Sarang Patel. “A lot of it may be Fox's fault. There was no "fun" appeal. The highlight was Justin Timberlake with his beer near a pool with girls. The NBA All-Star game has all these in-game microphones, celebrity interviews, jokesters, etc. The MLB and Fox couldn't even utilize Brian Wilson correctly.”

Other fans echoed Patel’s sentiment that the MLB has gotten lazy in keeping fans interested, and say other sports offer more exciting draws in the summer sports lull.

“They [MLB] really aren't trying to fight Soccer for this summer market while the NBA and NFL take vacations,” Lewis said.

Brian Wilson is the San Francisco Giants reliever known for his post-game celebrations and hilarious antics.

It may not be fair to compare the two sports’ All-star games, but in terms of ratings, the NBA knows what it’s doing. It puts the game on a weekend and spends an entire week building the event up with funny promotions; Usher crooning about it, and with players who actually want to play in the game. The 2011 NBA All-Star game boasted its highest ratings since 2003, bringing in over 12 million viewers.

Some regular sports fans didn’t even realize the All-Star game was even scheduled for Tuesday night.

“I didn’t even know it happened,” said business senior Saagar Grover, adding that he didn’t mind missing it.

Obviously these dissenting voices don’t represent the voice of every sport and baseball fan. The fact of the matter is that baseball is slowly losing younger viewers to the glitz and glamour of the NBA and NFL. Both those leagues are able to draw viewers to games in which a fan may not even have a vested interested beyond the desire to be entertained. One would have thought that with the other leagues wrapped up in lockouts, baseball would do everything it could to retain and even gain viewers who have nothing else to follow right now. If I were Bud Selig, I would have put in a call into Usher, or maybe Ke$ha.

Not every baseball fan had a bad time. History junior Eli Perez said he preferred the low-key nature of the game, as well as getting the opportunity to see some fresh talent.

“It was exciting to see the next crop of super stars like Starlin Castro and Rickie Weeks come up and playing in the game, but it was really disappointing to not see Derek Jeter out there," Perez said. “Overall it was a fun game to just sit back and relax to. Not every game is going to have hundreds of runs scored. Sometimes they are just a grind which can be equally as enjoyable to watch.”

He may be right. That type of game does appeal to some people, and I certainly tuned in for 90 percent of it. But it wasn’t exciting enough to keep me from flipping back and forth between Fuse’s 100 Sexiest Videos of All-time, and ESPN U’s rerun of last year’s Texas vs. Nebraska football game.

Pittsburgh Pirate Andrew McCutchen follows through on a double to right field against the Washington Nationals. McCutchen has 12 home runs and 46 RBIs on .294 hitting this season.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Being an All-Star is one of the highest honors a baseball player can receive. It may only account for one’s first-half performance, but at the end of a career, the number of All-Star squads a player makes is used as a barometer to help measure their greatness. After all, baseball is a numbers game, which is what makes it so bewildering that these players didn’t make the cut for this year’s All-Star game.

1. Tommy Hanson – This is the player whose absence in the list of All-Star Game rosters is most baffling. Hanson has the MLB’s ninth-best ERA (2.52), third-best batting average against and third-best hits allowed per nine innings (6.17). His 1.04 WHIP is good for 12th and only five pitchers have more wins than Hanson, who has 10.

2. Paul Konerko – Usually 21 home runs, 62 RBIs and a .319 batting average would get you into the All-Star Game. But it wasn't enough for Konerko who was left off the American League roster due to heavy competition from Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Cabrera. Konerko may still get in as he gained an early lead in the AL’s Final Vote.

3. Andrew McCutchen – This Pirates outfielder is an incredible blend of power and speed as McCutchen has knocked over 12 home runs and stolen 15 bases so far. Pittsburgh’s closer, Joel Hanrahan, definitely deserves to be an All-Star as he’s converted each of his 25 save opportunities, but there’s no rule that says Pittsburgh can’t have multiple All-Stars.

4. C.C. Sabathia – Nobody has more wins than this Yankees ace, and even though almost all of his infield will make the trip to Phoenix, he deserves to be joining them. Sabathia has long been considered to be one of the best hurlers in the game, even before he began enjoying the benefits of playing for the most storied franchise in baseball.

5. Jhonny Peralta – It’s bad enough Derek Jeter is slated to be the American League’s starting shortstop in this year’s Midsummer Classic, but the fact that Peralta isn’t backing him up there is a mistake. Peralta is the only American League shortstop hitting over .300 and has just as many home runs and RBIs as the guy actually backing Jeter up at the All-Star game; Cleveland’s Asdrubal Cabrera.

6. Mark Teixeira – Teixeira’s .244 batting average is subpar, but only Jose Bautista has more home runs (Teixeira has 25) and there are only three players who have more RBIs than Teixeira’s 65. Six of his teammates made the All-Star team and four of them are starting, but Teixeira is just as deserving as any of them.

7. Francisco Cordero – Cordero’s 17 saves won’t blow anyone away, but his microscopic 1.49 ERA, .085 WHIP and the .160 batting average opposing hitters have against Cordero should. Cincinnati’s closer is a big reason they’re in contention for the NL Central crown and should have a chance to suit up in the All-Star game for the NL.

8. Huston Street – Only three pitchers have more saves than this former Longhorn, who has converted 24 of his 26 save opportunities. Unfortunately for Street, each of those three closers (Heath Bell, Joel Hanrahan, Craig Kimbrel) pitch for NL teams. Regardless, someone as reliable as Street deserves a spot on the All-Star team.

9. Jon Lester – Boston’s ace is one of five AL pitchers to win at least 10 games in the first half of the season. Despite playing in a big media market, playing for a team on pace to reach the postseason and putting up solid numbers, Lester finds himself without an invitation to the Midsummer Classic.

10. Chase Headley – The San Diego third baseman has flown under the radar this season, with not many people paying attention to the Padres. Headley’s .306 batting average and .394 on-base percentage don’t seem too impressive, but both of those numbers lead all third baseman. Maybe if he played for the two-time defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies like Placido Polanco, the NL’s starting third baseman, he would have made it.

When the Texas Rangers reached their first-ever World Series appearance last season, not having the home-field advantage took a toll on them. They dropped both games in San Francisco before losing the series in five games.

Rangers manager Ron Washington will lead the American League at this year’s All-Star game, where the American League will try to redeem themselves after having their 14-game winning streak snapped by the National League in last season’s Midsummer Classic.

2010 AL MVP Josh Hamilton secured a spot in the starting lineup of the 2011 All-Star Game, which will take place in Phoenix, Ariz., on July 12. Each team’s rosters were announced Sunday, and three of Hamilton’s Texas teammates will join him in Phoenix — pitcher C.J. Wilson, third baseman Adrian Beltre and designated hitter
Michael Young. Hamilton edged out Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury for the starting spot by just 36,727 votes.

Hard-hitting right fielder Hunter Pence was the only member of the Houston Astros chosen to be on the NL’s All-Star squad.

Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista. Bautista was the leading vote-getter. Bautista, who led the majors with 54 home runs last year and leads the majors this year with 26, blasted Ken Griffey Jr.’s 1994 vote record of 6,069,688 with 7,454,753 votes.

The New York Yankees led all squads with six All-Star selections, including four starters — second baseman Robinson Cano, third baseman Alex Rodriguez, shortstop Derek Jeter and center fielder Curtis Granderson. However, the Yankees ace and 11-game winner, CC Sabathia, did not make the cut. Last year’s AL- and NL-leading vote-getters, Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer and St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols were also left out.

This year’s All-Star game will feature plenty of fresh faces as well, as 24 players are participating for the first time.

The Rangers are well-represented at this year’s All-Star game. If they make a return trip to the Fall Classic, home-field advantage would help. But to earn that, they’ll need a good showing at the Midsummer Classic.