Baseball Will Unite America On Opening-Day

The premier players on the diamond were supposed to begin their season on March 26, 2020. All opening days in sports are important, but there is something special about the beginning of a baseball season that isn’t replicated in other sports.

On the purely athletic level it is important because baseball – despite its challenges in a world of instant gratification – is a sport with a rich history that has endured wars and depressions and come out strong. There is a pomp and circumstance to Major League Basketball’s opening day that just doesn’t happen with other sports, from ceremonial first pitches through to the peanuts and Cracker Jack in the stands.

But it’s so much more than all that.

Baseballs opening day has always meant the end of winter and the knowledge that summer is just around the corner. It means we are a step closer to long nights of grilling in the backyard, of vacations to far flung places, and to doing nothing by the pool for hours. These are not thoughts and dreams that are part of the core of what baseball is, but they are much needed releases that opening day always brought as a sort of hopeful look to the future and the next six months of life.

It’s almost certain that in 2020 the boys of summer will be playing a limited schedule do to COVID-19. Exactly what – and when – that will be we have no clue at this point, but when those premier players take to the diamond it is going to be a joyous day all across America. Sports fans are suffering right now, but the surge in interest and pride that will come out on the back end of this will be like nothing we have seen in a couple of decades.

The premier players of baseball will eventually have their opening day and it will be an opening day for the world to prove we have all come together. Also, we are putting it out there right now that the Dodgers will win the 2020 World Series in six games thanks to a shortened season bringing down the workload of veteran starters like David Price and Clayton Kershaw.

Article by Premier Players

Derek Jeter Finishes His Baseball Career In Cooperstown

Reaching the Hall of Fame in your chosen sport means that you were clearly a premier player during your career. To do so while finishing with 99.7% of the voting in your first year of eligibility – falling just one vote shy of being a unanimous player – means that you are officially a legend of your sport.

That makes Derek Jeter a baseball legend.

Jeter is a player who has been Cooperstown bound from the very beginning. His career would have seen him reach the Hall no matter the team he played for, but to do it all as a New York Yankee just makes his achievements mean a little more. That is the power of playing in the history laden stadium in the Bronx.

His career WAR – a metric that baseball writers and voters are in love with today – is an impressive 72.4. He is not the greatest shortstop of all time – that nod goes to either Honus Wagner or Cal Ripen – but he is a player who has raw numbers that compete with the best. His legacy and his stance as a premier player, however, go far beyond the raw numbers of his career. He is a player that people will argue all day about being overrated or underrated to the point that Jeter is rated just about where he should be, and that is as an icon of the game.

Jeter was a 14-time MLB All-Star. He was the 1996 AL Rookie of the Year and he won the World Series with the Yankees five times. He finished his career sixth all-time in hits with 3,465, which makes sense as he was a contact hitter known for his ability to find gaps in the infield with his smooth stroke of the bat.

He played with the Yankees for 20 seasons and seemed to love every single minute of being a professional athlete. His postseason numbers were even better as he put together a .306/.374/.465 slash line.

Jeter was also a player who seemed to make big plays when needed. They are the plays that you remember and that will continue to be a part of telling the story of the Yankees for generations to come. When you add in the principles of the man, his leadership, character, and consistency, you have everything you would want in a premier player and newly minted Hall of Famer.

 

Article by Premier Players

Nakken Becomes First Woman On An MLB Coaching Staff

We call a lot of plays we see on the field, diamond, or court historic or iconic. That is why it’s important we recognize when something happens outside of the playing arena that ticks both those boxes in a way that a single play rarely does.   Such was the case in the first couple of weeks of this decade when the San Francisco Giants and their manager Gabe Kapler hired Alyssa Nakken as the first woman on a major-league coaching staff in MLB history.

Nakken is no stranger to the rigors of big league baseball. Over the last few years she has worked on health and wellness initiatives with the Giants and she has clearly been successful in the role. So successful, in fact, that she will now be forever remembered alongside some of the other trailblazers in the history of the league thanks to her promotion to a coaching role.

Nakken played first base at Sacremento State and was a premier player for the team. What really set Nakken apart though was her mind for the game – and for sports in general – with it being of no surprise to former teammates that she has elevated herself through the Giants organization since first joining as an intern in 2014.

While some people might question the hire, Nakken has been moved into this position on merit alone. There is no “Rooney Rule” style process for a hire like this, it was just Kapler seeing that Nakken had talents that were above her former role, and him moving to hire the right person – male or female – to help make the Giants a better team from 2020 onwards.

“Simply, I think she’s going to be a great coach,” Kapler said. “Merit and the ability to be a great coach trumps all.”

Switching from a premier player to a premier coach isn’t easy for anyone, let alone someone who is a female in a male dominated organizational role when you look league wide. Thankfully for Nakken she won’t have to travel far to find a woman in a similar situation. Katie Sowers is the San Francisco 49ers offensive assistant and has proven to be a stunningly successful hire for the team.  Therefore, Nakken may have a ready-made soundboard for advice should she need it.

It will be fascinating to see if this hire leads to other teams looking in different areas for coaches that can bring something different to the table. If any sport needed a breath of fresh air in the ranks it was baseball, so best of luck to Nakken as she starts her journey to the top of the sport.

Article by Premier Players

It All Worked Out For World Series MVP Strasburg, Nationals

Long term planning in sports isn’t always something that pays off. There have been plenty of stories – plenty of ideas – that looked good at the time for a long-term solution but that never quite went the way fans and analysts expected.

It is much rarer, therefore, to see a long-term plan fall into place. Yet that is exactly what we saw as Steven Strasburg put in a World Series MVP performance as the Washington Nationals won their first ever World Series title in 2019.

Strasburg was a baseball phenom before he even got close to the Major Leagues. This premier player was the first pick overall in the 2009 amateur draft, a position that shows what was expected out of his career. The expectation was basically blown through the roof a year later after Strasburg struck out 14 batters in his big league debut, the most of any player starting his first game since back in 1971.

Twelve starts into his career came the unfortunate news that Strasburg needed Tommy John surgery. It is a surgery that has been perfected over the years, but it is still one that kills more careers than it saves. Strasburg seemed to be stopped on his path to stardom, and that is when things got really interesting.

The Nationals were a good team in 2012 – a team with the potential to win the World Series that the nation’s capital craved. They also had an ace on a strict pitch count that they had to adhere to in order to save his career. That is why the team that won 98 games that season pulled Strasburg out of the firing line on September 8th in a move to protect his future. Without him, the Nats fell to St. Louis in the divisional round.

It all paid off in the end.

Strasburg was immense as the premier player in baseball this October. He went 5-0 in the 2019 postseason, the first player ever to hit that number. He made six total postseason appearances, all of them Nationals wins. He threw 14 1/3 innings in the World Series giving up just four runs while striking out 14 in his starts. At times he looked unhittable, pitching with a 1.98 ERA over a total of 36 1/3 postseason innings. He became an all-time great single postseason player.

The question now becomes “Where now”? The Nats could have won the World Series in 2012, destroying Strasburg along the way. They didn’t do so, they were playing for the long run, but for the long run to really work out there needs to be more World Series Titles in the near future.  Time will tell.

Article by Premier Players

Mike Trout Continues To Build Legendary Career

To reach the mountain top of being a legendary sports figure isn’t easy. It usually happens late in a players career (Tom Brady) or when a player dominates his game with a big play and a loud personality (LeBron).

Even then, these players are legends in leagues and sports that are still relatively young. What, then, would you say to the claim that we have a legendary player who at 28-years-old still has much of his career in front of him? Oh, and he is a premier player statistically destroying a sport that has been played professionally in this country since the year of the first east-west transatlantic radio broadcast.

Welcome to the career of Mike Trout.

Walking through Trout’s career before he hit his 28th birthday is a little ridiculous. He ranks in the top 10 in home runs, walks, and on-base percentage, just three of the many significant categories he is among the best all-time in at that age.

He is already an eight-time all-star and a two-time league MVP, with the odds being good that he will win a third MVP award at the end of the 2019 season. Trout, like most of the premier players we see, is only getting better as he gets older. This season he is going to break his personal career-high marks in RBI, home runs, and on-base plus slugging (OPS) categories. Given how stellar his stats already were, that is some achievement.

If this were four or five decades ago, Trout would be the most talked-about sportsman on the planet. Even in the days of Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez, baseball was a factor in the national conversation. In 2019, however, the sport just hasn’t found a way to grip fans in the way football and basketball seem able to do. That is why Trout could walk through most towns in America as the premier player of the national pastime and most wouldn’t even recognize his face.

While Trout increases his home run numbers and his Wins Above Replacement (WAR) ranking seemingly every time he plays, it is the MVP numbers which might be his most impressive legacy when all is said and done. Trout has finished in the top-two of voting for the award every full season he has played the game. The only exception to this was in 2017 where he played just 114 games due to injury. Even then he finished fourth. Seven seasons in the top five is the longest such streak for any player since 1931. When the voters for the biggest individual prize in your sport are that enamored with your game, then you are the premier player on the planet.

Trout is a Hall of Famer in waiting. That he could potentially have another five to seven seasons in his sport is truly impressive. Watch the numbers grow and watch the legend increase as Trout does what he does day after day in the major league. One day, just maybe, Mike Trout will be more recognizable to the average American sports fan.

By Steve Wright
Independent Writer

 

The All-Time Top 25 Premier Players of MLB Baseball

Everyone has an opinion, and here is ours when it comes to listing the all-time Top 25 players of Major League Baseball:

25 – Mel Ott
Ott was a prodigy of the game, and he was a big leaguer before he had even celebrated his 18th birthday.  In 1926, as a 17-year-old, Ott hit .383 over the course of just 60 at-bats in 1926. This was a precursor of what was to come as Ott became a dual-threat hitter capable of hitting for contact or power. At the end of his 22-year career, Ott had a 304/.414./.533 line and had crushed 511 home runs and tallied 1,860 RBI.

24 – Alex Rodriguez
One of the biggest questions in modern baseball history is if Rodriguez could have gone down as the best shortstop in the history of the game had he not unselfishly shifted to third-base after joining the Yankees in 2004.
The PED drama was there, sure, but A-Rod was a 14-time all-star, a three-time AL MVP, and he is the only player in MLB history to hit for .295, over 600 home runs, over 2,000 RBIs, score over 2,000 runs, record over 3,000 hits, and steal more than 300 bases. He could do it all.

23 – Rickey Henderson
The best leadoff hitter in the history of the game, Henderson is also one of the premier players in baseball history at any spot in the order.  He is the all-time stolen base king with 1,406 steals, something he would never be afraid to let people know, using his unreal speed to advance around the bases with ease. He is also the all-time leader in runs scored with 2,295, and he could hit for power as shown by his 297 home runs and 1,115 RBI.

22 – Christy Mathewson
Mathewson was nicknamed, among other things, “The Gentleman’s Hurler,” which might be the best nickname ever given. The right-hander played for 17 seasons in MLB with the New York Giants from 1900 to 1916. Playing in an era when hits were frequent, Mathewson was one of the dominant pitchers of his time and one of the most dominant ever. He won 373 games with a 2.13 career ERA and struck out of 2,500 batters as he used his 6-foot-1 frame to overpower the smaller hitters of his era.

21 – Randy Johnson
The Big Unit was a terrifying presence on the mound when he was at the peak of his powers.  Johnson had almost a literal cannon for a left arm, and the 22-year starting pitcher dominated games when he was focused and in control of his fastball. His 303 career victories are the fifth-most by a lefty, and his 4,875 strikeouts are the second most all time. The five-time Cy Young winner was one of the tallest MLB players ever at 6-foot-10, and his pitching angle and velocity made him almost impossible to hit.

20 – Jimmie Foxx
“The Beast” played for 20 seasons in MLB with a variety of clubs from 1925 to 1945. He was the second player in MLB history to hit 500 home runs after Babe Ruth, a feat almost as impressive as Ruth’s because some thought that the Babe was the only player capable of ever getting to that mark.  Foxx picked up three MVP awards (1932, 1933, 1938) tied for second place all-time in that award category. A Triple Crown, and the fact that he mainly played just 14 full seasons worth of games, showcase Foxx as one of the best power hitters ever to play the game.

19 – Albert Pujols
The only active player on this list, Pujols continues to add value to his claim as one of the best to ever play the game by the season.  The 39-year-old Dominican Republic star may have slowed down, but the 10-time all-star has had an impressive run since debuting in 2001. Pujols is a three-time NL MVP, and at his pomp, he was considered one of the best hitters to play the game in the last 50 years due to his combination of power, contact hitting ability, and patience to find a pitch to hit. As of writing, he has 644 home runs and over 3,100 hits.

18 – Ken Griffey Jr.
A 22-year player in the bigs, Griffey Jr. was one of the premier players of the 1990s when he excelled with the Seattle Mariners. Amazingly, the Mariners never won a World Series title with three of the top 25 players of all time on the club together.  One of the most prolific home run hitters in baseball history, Griffey finished his career with 630 dingers, the seventh-most ever. He was known for the sweetness of his swing, and the 13-time all-star was also an exception defender where he used his athletic ability to win 10 Gold Gloves as the best center fielder in the game.

17 – Grover Cleveland Alexander
A 19-year player who started with the Philadelphia Phillies, Cleveland Alexander was born in Nebraska during the first term of his namesake’s Presidency.  “Old Pete” was a player who played in an era where pitch counts weren’t a thing, and as a result, he rolled to complete games in 436 of his 600 starts. He missed the entire 1918 season serving in the military but came back to continue a stretch from 1915 to 1920 where he pitched under 2.00 for his ERA each season.

16 – Mickey Mantle
Mantle was the premier player of MLB during the 1950s as a modern, five-tool player who did everything required from a baseball player at an exceptional level.  His .298/.421/.557 line with 536 home runs and 1,509 RBI is impressive, but Mantle could easily have added to this numbers had he not been blighted by injuries that rendered him done as a superstar of the game by the age of 32.

15 – Joe DiMaggio
All you need to know about DiMaggio is 56. For 56 straight games, DiMaggio collected a hit on the scorecard, a number that has rarely been approached since he set the staggering target.  As good as DiMaggio’s numbers are, and they are great as he had 2,214 hits, 361 homers, and 1,537 RBI, it has to be noted that he could easily be ranked in the Top 5 on this list had he not lost his prime years from age 28-30 while serving in WWII. The three-time MVP was an all-star every season he played, racking up those numbers in just 13 MLB seasons.

14 – Rogers Hornsby
A player with an ‘S’ at the end of his first name for no obvious reason, Hornsby was one of the premier players of his era. Hornsby played for 22-years in the bigs after making his debut with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1915, picking up a pair of NL MVP awards in 1925 and 1929.  Hornsby was a World Series winner in 1926, and he finished just 70 hits shy of 3,000 while hitting 301 home runs with a batting average of .358. That batting average is the second best in the history of the game (Ty Cobb), and his .424 average in 1924 hasn’t been bettered since.

13 – Roger Clemons
Clemons is one of those pitchers that you would strongly consider selecting if you were in a must-win situation.  Pitching from 1984-2007, facing plenty of hitters that are seen as tainted by PEDs in hindsight, Clemons tossed 354 wins and racked up a record seven Cy Young awards. The “Rocket” tallied the third most strikeouts all-time with 4.672, he was a two-time World Series champion, and he made the all-star team on 11 occasions.

12 – Honus Wagner
The greatest shortstop to ever play the game, the Flying Dutchman played for 20 years between 1897 and 1917.  A player so good he pushed the Pirates to World Series, Wagner won the batting title eight times and finished with a career hitting mark of .328. Wagner was also a machine as a fielder, using his speed and reflexes to lock down the shortstop position in a way that had never been seen at that point in the game’s history.

11 – Greg Maddux
The king of command was so good at placing the baseball in the mitt of his catcher that you would swear he walked over and put it exactly where he wanted.  In his final 14 seasons in the league, Maddux walked fewer, or as many batters and games, he started eight times.  He averaged 1.80 walks per nine innings for his career, a career in which he tosses over 5,000 innings. He retired with a career ERA of 3.16; a number inflated because he was hit hard during his final five years in the way that most precision tossers do when they lose a touch of velocity. Maddux completed 13 complete-game shutouts in under 100 pitches during his career.

10 – Stan Musial
The longtime Cardinal was one of the best offensive players ever to grace the diamond. This premier player was good at just about everything baseball-related, playing for 22 years and finishing with a .221/.417/.559 line to show his contact numbers.  Musial also crushed 475 home runs and had a stunningly balanced number of RBIs (1,951) and runs scored (1,949). Perhaps Musial’s most notable achievement is that his 6,134 total bases are second on the all-time list behind only Hank Aaron.

9 – Cy Young
The all-time leader in wins is the second best pitcher on this list, and he is a man so revered for his skills that the premier pitching award in the game is named after him.  Young amassed 511 wins during his career, and he is also the all-time leader in losses (316) and complete games (a ridiculous 749). He won more than 20 games during 15 different seasons and for someone with so many pitches thrown his 1,217 walks during his career might be Young’s most impressive stat.

8 – Walter Jonson
Johnson is one of the premier players in the history of baseball that few people ever talk about. Playing before the Cy Young award was even invented, Johnson pitched for a 1.65 ERA between 1907 and 1919, going on to play for a total of 20 seasons and winning 417 games.  Johnson remains the career leader in shutouts with 110, the active leader is Clayton Kershaw with 15, and he ranks second in wins and fourth in complete games. The Washington Senator also struck out over 3,500 batters, with many being so scared of his dominant fastball that they backed up off of the plate when Johnson was on the mound.

7 – Ty Cobb
Cobb was not a player who easily made friends on the bases. That, though, shouldn’t overshadow just how dominant he was as the best hitter of the dead-ball era.  Cobb finished his career with an astonishing 4,189 hits, batting for over .400 three times and compiling a .366 batting average when he retired. The 12-time batting champion also hit 724 doubles and stole 897 bases as he used his natural athleticism to carve out a niche as one of the best offensive players in the history of the game.

6 – Lou Gehrig
The Iron Horse was a dominant player throughout a career that was tragically cut short by the illness that now bears his name. Gehrig may be best known for his emotional retirement speech where he called himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth,” but his career was much more than that one moment.  Gehrig rocked a .340 batting average for his career, even taking into about his disease hampered last season, and crushed 493 home runs and 1,995 RBIs. He was a seven-time all-star and a six-time World Series Champion with the New York Yankees.

5 – Barry Bonds
If you remove a player like Bonds because of his PED scandal, then it feels like you would also have to remove any player from the segregation era because they had their form of political help. Bonds may have had some help getting to the point where he was an enormous slugger capable of crushing 73 home runs as he did in 2001, but he was an elite player even before putting on the bulk. He is the all-time home run leader, and he is the only player in history to have 500 home runs and 500 steals during his career.

4 – Hank Aaron
Aaron was a truly outstanding baseball player, but more than that he was a man who overcame hate mail and death threats to be crowned the home run king.  The player with the most RBIs in history set a new home run mark of 755, passing Babe Ruth and shaking off the ghost of the great Yankee slugger in the process. Aaron is one of the premier players of any era, a player who should be praised for his consistency and longevity as he never actually surpassed 47 home runs in a single season as he chased down the Babe.

3 – Ted Williams
The greatest pure hitter that ever lived, Williams achieved his high school goal of being the very best ever at swinging a bat and putting the ball in play.  Williams was an on-base machine, leading his league in OBP on 12 occasions along with having nine seasons where he was the top slugger. Winning six batting titles, Williams was a career .344 hitter who hit .316 as a 41-year-old when most players have already left the game. His career batting average is the highest of any player in the live-ball era, and he is the last player to have finished a season with a batting average of over .400.

2 – Willie Mays
Mays is a comfortable No. 2 on this list because he is simply the best all-around player the game has ever produced.  A wizard with the bat and the glove, Mays was a five-tool player who would have been off of the charts in terms of today’s scouting metrics. He could hit for power, he ranks fifth all-time with 660 home runs, and for contact where he was a .302 career hitter. Mays was an elite player from 1954-1967, and he finished his career just eight games shy of 3,000 appearances.

1 – Babe Ruth
There is a reason why Ruth is an almost mythical figure in the annals of baseball. Ruth was simply the premier player ever to play the game because he was so dominant at his peak. Ruth hit 29 home runs in 1919 to set a new record for the most dingers in a season. The next year, he belted 54 in a year where no one else passed the mark of 20.  In the time it took Ruth to hit 602 runs for his career, no other player crossed the 300 mark. His power numbers are mindblowing. It is the equivalent of one player hitting over 100 homers a season for 12 years in the current baseball world. Consider that and it is obvious why Ruth is ranked #1.

Article by Steve Wright
Independent writer

Premier Competition Back On The Mound

Baseball’s premier competition returns this week as MLB’s Opening Day sees the boys of summer start the season at a time when it is most

certainly not summer weather in most of the country. While the league actually started last week with the Oakland A’s and the Seattle Mariners playing a series in Japan, there is still something about the romance of Opening Day that endures even as baseball wanes in popularity compared to some of the other big time sports.

This is the earliest opening day in baseball history, so early in fact that it clashes with the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. It will be very interesting to see the TV numbers between the two events to see just where baseball ranks with the average American viewer in 2019.

The premier competition in the game also has the biggest stars in the game and it is the offseason contract battles that have defined the start of this MLB season in a way that has never happened before.

Competition to be the premier player with the highest salary is real. Athletes love to have that kudos of being the best paid on their team, the best paid at their position, and, in rare cases, the highest paid player in their league.

In this MLB offseason we saw a couple of deals pushed over the line with frankly staggering numbers attached to them.

One of the benefits of playing a sport with no salary cap is that the ceiling is only going to rise when it comes to contracts for premier players. That is why in the space of just a few weeks we saw Bryce Harper sign a 13 year $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies and then Mike Trout ink his name on a deal worth a cool $430 million over 12 years with the Los Angeles Angels.

Throwing that kind of money at just one player on your roster is obviously a monumental risk. Baseball is a team sport where one player can have an immense impact on a game, but it is not a premier competition like the NBA where a single player can effectively take over a game (and certainly not a non-pitcher). If the Angels and Phillies fail to put the right pieces around their investments, then these contracts could easily come with no championships attached.

Trout, in particular, is an interesting case. Wins against replacement (WAR) is a new(ish) metric used in baseball to determine a players individual worth. In 2018, Trout played at a level that was worth around $79 million to his club, suggesting that the deal he signed was an absolute bargain for the Angels. No player in history has posted a better WAR than Trout through age 26, but when his deal expires as a 38 year old player it is hard to see Trout still being a viable option.

It would be amazing if either Harper or Trout could beat Father Time. Even if they cannot, both have the opportunity over the next half a decade or so in the premier baseball competition in the world to win championships and make their contracts worthwhile.

Story By Steve Wright