Posts Tagged “MLB”

ACDC may be back in black, but the Los Angeles Dodgers are back in blue!

The Dodgers have been on fire since the beginning of the season. Their record currently stands at 13-4 and they are tied with the Texas Rangers for the best record in the Majors. But of course, the number one question on everyone’s mind is how the Dodgers will finish the end of the 2012 season. Will they make it to the playoffs this year for the first time since 2009? Can Matt Kemp grab his first NL MVP trophy this season, after narrowly losing out to Ryan Braun last year?

One thing is apparent though; the Dodgers are starting off the year with a vibrant energy that can be felt echoing through the rafters of Chavez Ravine by not only the fans…but EVEN the opponents as well. New owners mean a fresh start with young athletes that are trying to take the Dodgers back to Red October, but can they actually get there?

Last year Dodgers CF Matt Kemp almost made it into the 40/40 club as only the 5th player to ever reach this prestigious mark, falling just 1 home run short. This hasn’t deterred Kemp in the slightest. During the offseason he has been working 10x harder and has come back in full “beastmode” to start the year. Heck, forget the 40/40 club, Kemp says he’s shooting for the 50/50 club (which to date has exactly ZERO members).

But one man doesn’t make a team and Kemp wouldn’t be doing so well if we failed to mention Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon. With his help he’s making it easier not only for Kemp to drive in runs but also batting partner Andre Ethier as well. Dee Gordon should also be praised for his speed on the base paths, which has allowed Kemp and Ethier to drive in runs at an exceptionally rapid rate (both have 22 RBI’s so far on the season).

With reigning Cy Young award winner, Clayton Kershaw leading a dominant pitching staff, The Dodgers expect the rest of the team to join Kemp and Ethier in going full “beastmode” and reaching the playoffs for the first time in 3 years. How far they’ll go in the playoffs is yet to be determined, but one thing is certain, Dodger Blue is back!

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The weather is getting warmer, and the smells of summer are lingering in the air…that can only mean one thing: the 2012 MLB season is almost here! This season is sure to bring tons of excitement, especially with some new elements that will re-shape the landscape of MLB. Here are some of the new and refreshing factors roaring to a baseball diamond near you:

New faces in new places: Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder have definitely changed the way we look at a baseball franchise. It’s all about money, money, money! With both players signing contracts worth over $200 million each, the question is, who will have the bigger impact on their new team? I think Pujols is expected to make a bigger impact with the Angels, and you know what? That’s exactly what we’ll see. I think Pujols is going to give the Angels a serious lift; he has a presence about him and he’s ready to play his best baseball we’ve seen yet. Also, with Fielder’s arrival in Detroit, one thing is certain: both the Cardinals and the Brewers are going to be worse off without their two sluggers anchoring their respective teams this season.

October – The wildest month of the season: Now with FOUR wild-card teams in the mix, predicting what’s to come in September/October will never be the same. For one, teams won’t be able to just cruise through September, content to be a wild card.  This new rule makes finishing first seem oh-so refreshing. Also, this won’t help teams who are trying to fix what may be afflicting them at the trade deadline. The most vital part of this new wild-card rule: it is more imperative than ever to win your division this season; simply winning the Wild Card just isn’t good enough anymore.

It’s a “Magical” time in L.A.: Can Magic Johnson run a baseball team? For a cool $2 billion, a group led by Magic Johnson and former Braves/Nationals president Stan Kasten is about to become the proud owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. I think most people in Southern California will be happy that Frank McCourt is gone. So what does this mean in the short run? Not much, but this will probably mean more in the long run, and we can expect to see money in the baseball budget again. Watch out for the Dodgers to have their eye back in Latin America and scouting for international talent. The Dodgers ranked last in international signings last year, at only $177,000. Expect that to change in the coming years. Also, expect Dodger Stadium to get a huge makeover, since it plummeted to shameful depths under McCourt.

Finally! Expect more than 300 people to attend a Marlins game! No more nightly rain delays, folks. Get ready for Marlins Park; this is a modern, trendy, and tropical ballpark unlike any other; it will even feature a retractable roof — every Floridian’s dream! So what will the new ballpark bring to the Marlins and their fan base? For one, the Marlins think they can average 30,000 fans per game — this would be 11,000 more than it averaged officially last year. The Marlins believe they won’t just sell out on Opening Night, but sell all 36,000 seats multiple times before the end of April. Last year, they sold out ZERO games after the opener. However, whether the roof is open or closed, the success of the Marlins will not be judged on the quality of their brand new stadium, but on the quality of the 2012 team.

So with all these changes. It’s tough to predict exactly what’s going to happen on the baseball diamond this season. But one thing is certain, the 2012 MLB season is going to be a season like no other, and I can’t wait for it to get started!

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Although the Red Sox missed the playoffs in 2011, there are plenty of reasons for Sox fans to remain positive for 2012. One reason is the production they got out of their young centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury had a 2011 campaign worthy of an MVP Award. Although de didn’t win the award, he instead was rewarded the AL Comeback Player of the Year. So looking forward to 2012 we ask ourselves, “Who’s next on deck?”

Unlike our NL Comeback Player of the Year candidates for 2012, there are not many big name AL players coming back from injuries. Three players to keep an eye on this season are Justin Morneau of the Minnesota Twins, Colby Rasmus of the Toronto Blue Jays, and Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. While Morneau is a player coming back from an inury, Rasmus and Rodriguez both had down years in 2011 but will come back big in 2012.

Justin Morneau

After winning the 2006 AL MVP Award, the city of Minnesota had high hopes for rising star Justin Morneau. He had very productive seasons after winning the MVP and nearly won the award again in 2008. In 2010 and 2011 Morneau suffered a some big injuries and had concussion problems as well as surgery in both his neck and left wrist. In 2010 he was putting up first-half numbers that could have made him MVP again. He hit .345 with 18 HRs and 56 RBIs, but he was stopped short by injury. He came back in 2011 but failed to recover completely as his numbers weren’t up to his standards.

Now in 2012, Morneau claims that he is feeling much better and isn’t having any problems with his wrist or neck. He has participated in all practices during Spring Training and is preparing to return to MVP form once the season starts. While concussions always put an asterisk on a player’s health, Morneau could be a high-risk player to bet on. But I say put your money on him to come back strong with a full season for the Twins. If he starts hitting the lights out again, it could help ignite teammate Joe Mauer to also have a strong season and bring the Twins back to the playoffs.

Colby Rasmus

Power hitting centerfielders are not easy to come by in the Majors. Colby Rasmus is a player with a ton of potential to be one of the better centerfielders in the Majors. As a member of the Cardinals in 2010, Rasmus hit .276 with 23 homeruns. However, problems with manager Tony LaRussa forced the Cardinals to trade the unhappy centerfielder to Toronto in 2011. Toronto was a step back in Rasmus’ career as he hit .225 and struck out 116 times. He hit a measly .117 as a member of the Jays in 35 games before he suffered a wrist injury. Some claim that he needs to improve his hitting when thrown breaking pitches as he has hit only .211 in his career against breaking balls.

However, there are plenty of things in Rasmus’ favor as he goes forward into the 2012 season. First, he is only 25 years old and could make major adjustments heading into his fourth season in the Majors. The Blue Jays hitting coach is happy with the adjustments that Colby made over the offseason. Second, he will be playing a full season hitting behind players like Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie. Also, he will be playing a full, and healthy season at the Rogers Centre, a place known as a hitter-friendly park, and should see his homerun numbers increase and hover around 20-30 this season. Rasmus does not have the speed like Jacoby Ellsbury but has a very good bat that could help him win the 2012 AL Comeback Player of the Year.

Alex Rodriguez

There are few players in the Majors right now that have a shot at breaking Barry Bonds’ all-time homerun record. Alex Rodriguez, along with Albert Pujols, are probably the only two who have a legitimate chance at breaking it. Only twice in the past 16 years has A-Rod ever hit fewer than 30 homeruns and 100 RBIs in a season. Both times he failed to play more than 100 games. Last year he struggled with leg injuries, and he was only healthy enough to play 99 games hitting .276 with 16 homeruns and 62 RBIs. As he gets older, Rodriguez’s batting average has been going down recently as he no longer posseses the speed to beat out the short-grounders that he once did.

To help get healthier, A-Rod took a page out of Kobe Bryant’s book. How? Well, Kobe recommended that the 26 year-old Rodriguez have the same treatment that Bryant got in Germany. So, A-Rod went to Germany to get a blood spinning treatment, called Orthokine, and said he could see his game improve as a result of his legs being much healthier. The procedure worked for Kobe, who is averaging over 28 points per game. (A stat he hasn’t achieved since his ’07-’08 campaign). Other than signing Raul Ibañez, the Yankees didn’t do much to improve their offense this offseason, but a healthy A-Rod coming back to MVP form could be more valuable to New York than any free agent in the market this offseason.


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Stephen Strasburg

Lance Berkman of the St. Louis Cardinals was the NL Comeback Player of the Year for 2011 as he had a near-MVP type of season for his new team. The Cards took an $8 million chance on a player who had a down year in 2010 and he proved worth the investment as he helped carry them to the World Series Title. So who’s up next?

This year is interesting because there are some players that are coming back from season-ending injuries in the National League. Players to watch for this year are Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals, Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants, and Berkman’s teammate Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals. All three of these players suffered devastating injuries that kept them from playing for most of the 2011 season. However, each of these three will bounce back big in 2012.

Stephen Strasburg

Few pitchers taken in the MLB Draft have had as much hype as Stephen Strasburg, a San Diego State phenom, but this kid had huge expectations and lived up to them. In 2010, he got his first win in his MLB debut against the Pittsburgh Pirates throwing 7 innings, allowing 2 runs, and striking out 14 batters. Talk about baffling! He continued his success in the rest of his 11 starts as he finished his rookie season with 92 K’s and a 2.91 ERA. Unfortunately, in his last start of that season he tore a ligament in his throwing arm and needed Tommy John Surgery that shut him down for over a year. People were afraid he might lose his blazing fastball that he was known to hurl over 98mph. In 2011, he came back to prove them wrong with five strong starts to give fans a preview for what is to come in 2012. In his final start, he left all baseball fans hungry as he threw 6 innings, got greedy and gave up one hit, no runs, and racking up 10 K’s against the Florida Marlins.

He will be a player to watch closely and a player that can bring 40,000 fans to their feet, and he can dominate a lineup on any given day. With an overpowering fastball, nasty curve, and his injury a thing of the past, look for Strasburg to once again regain the magic that he had in his rookie season.

Buster Posey

It’s hard to believe that a team can rely so much on a rookie as the Nationals did with Strasburg. If you think they relied on a rookie so heavily, then Buster Posey was the MVP of the Giants last year. The Giants won the World Series in 2010 and were thought to be a strong playoff contender with the pitching staff they brought back for the 2011 season. In his rookie year, Posey took over as the Giants starting catcher as well as cleanup hitter in the batting order. He helped them win their 2010 WS Championship and they relied on his ability to handle the bat and more importantly handle their talented pitching staff. However, on May 25th of last year, the Giants suffered a knock-out blow. If you don’t believe me, ask Giants fans about Scott Cousins. Posey broke his ankle trying to block Cousins from scoring and ended up sitting out the entire season.  Without Posey, and a plethora of other injured players, the Giants offense was abysmal and their pitching staff was unable to carry the load as they missed the playoffs entirely.

The Giants are excited to have Posey back and I’m sure they would be happy if he does even half as well as when he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award in 2010.  Watch out for the Giants to bounce back this season, with Posey leading the charge.

Adam Wainwright

After winning the World Series last season, The Cards suffered a huge blow this off-season.  Albert Pujols couldn’t play the “first-team” loyalty card as he left the Cardinals after getting his second World Series ring. He signed with the Angels and the Cardinals went out to sign Carlos Beltran to try and replace the huge hole that Pujols left in their offense. Their pitching staff is going to have a heavier load to handle if they want to have a chance at even making the playoffs again without Pujols in the lineup. Yes, they do have good players in their lineup with Berkman and Beltran back together; as well as Matt Holliday and rising star David Freese, but Adam Wainwright’s return is the most crucial in their quest to return to October baseball. Wainwright missed all of the 2011 season, as he needed reconstructive surgery for an elbow injury that he suffered while throwing batting practice in the 2011 off-season. Before that he was considered a Cy Young Award candidate, going 20-11 with 213 K’s and a 2.42 ERA in 2010.

If he returns to 2010 form, the Cardinals may have back-to-back NL Comeback Players of the Year in their roster as he can reinvigorate fans in St. Louis and help propel them into the playoffs again. Will Cards fans be asking ‘who needs Pujols anyway?’ Maybe, but one thing is certain, they will not miss him if they win another World Series soon and Wainwright could be a huge X Factor as he’s a lights out type of pitcher when he’s on his game.

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Over the past few months, SportsForce has been conducting free seminars to help educate athletes and their families on the road ahead and what to expect. SportsForce team members cover a variety of subjects at every seminar , but also share one constant message: it is never too late to work towards that roster spot. Team members highlight an entire time line of preparing for college sports, but are sure to remind young athletes never to get discouraged. Never give up at the high school level, the college level and beyond. Persistence pays, and there has been no greater recent example than Daniel Nava. As a Boston-girl myself, I was instantly aware of Nava’s great start for the Red Sox. If you didn’t get a chance to read the headlines, Nava became the fourth player in history to hit a grand slam in his first at bat in the majors, and just the second player to do so on the first pitch he saw.

At first wind of this story, you may think that Nava is a golden child of baseball who has been barreling towards the majors since high school. Not so. Nava is a great example of pursuing your dreams until you get there, and never letting “no’s” get the best of you. Fox Sports shared some of Nava’s story:

Nava, 27, was 4 feet 8 and 70 pounds when he entered high school, took growth hormone — prescribed by a doctor, not some major-league enabler — but didn’t have a growth spurt until his sophomore year in college.

He was cut by Santa Clara his freshman year and ended up team manager, washing uniforms. He then left the school because his family couldn’t afford the tuition, played two years at junior college, only to return to Santa Clara — on scholarship — for his senior year.

No major-league team drafted him. The Chico Outlaws of the Independent Golden League cut him. Nava took a year off, thinking — again — that his career might be over. But the Outlaws gave him another shot.

Then, in fall 2007, the Red Sox signed Nava, paying the Outlaws the princely sum of $1 — yes, $1 — for his rights, with an additional $1,499 to follow if he made a minor-league team out of spring training.

Now here was Nava less than three years later, replacing Josh Reddick on the major-league roster and filling in for the injured Jacoby Ellsbury and Jeremy Hermida, playing left field at Fenway on the same ground once treaded by Red Sox greats Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice and Manny Ramirez.

Good thing they got there when they did — Daniel hit his grand slam off Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton with none out in the bottom of the second inning, and later added a lead-off double off reliever Chad Durbin in the fifth.

At 27, Nava’s debut is no miracle, but the result of hard work and persistence; the kind of hard work that can earn a college roster spot and beyond. To read the full Fox Sports article visit:

For video of the grand slam visit:

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SportsForce co-founder Tony Garcia a former Park View Little Leaguer helps the Parkview team by getting support from the San Diego Padres and ESPN Radio 710 AM in Los Angeles.

San Diego Padres Players Send Best Wishes to Parkview Little All Stars

ESPN Radio 710 Interview

Park View Little League Coach Ricky Ramirez the father of Little League all-star player Luke Ramirez gets interviewed by ESPN Radio 710 AM.

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By Alex Lontayo – SportsForce co-founder

Baseball is an amazing game. For as long as I can remember, it has been an integral part of my life. I’m reminded of all that is has done for me everyday. I have pics of myself holding a ball before I was able to sit up unassisted or pics of myself dragging a bat before I was able to walk. The game was taught to me at an early age and helped me grow as a person. With the buzz about Parkview Little League’s run at the World Series (, I’ve found myself really looking back at my days back in little league and all the game offered me throughout my life. All of the opportunities I have been blessed with were through baseball. I see the passion that they play with and the camaraderie they have and it really hits home. That’s what you’d expect when they’ve been a TEAM for over 7 years. For most of those kids that’s half of their life. That’s when I really reflect on my life and what baseball brought me.

You see back in the day (no I won’t mention the long walks to school 10 miles away in the snow as most stories seem to go when sentences start that way), we were that team. Our team had been together for years and we were finally coming into our own. The problem with us was we didn’t complete the journey as they did. What we did do, was STAY friends from that time forward. Our group of guys went onto to play Pony, High School, College, Professional, even had a guy reach the big leagues. Those times directed us along the paths that we took. Each of us still live in the same area and, of course, still remain close friends. In fact, most of us would take a friend label as a slap in the face, since we’re all more like brothers.  Having brothers like that because of a game we loved is special. I’m sure there are stories all over the world about the friendships that were created from amateur sports. You never seem to let those times go. With all of the great people that I have been blessed with in my life because of baseball, there’s a deep reflection of what these kids will face in the coming years.

Teammates possibly going to different schools, guys not making the jump to the next level, whatever the circumstances, there will come a time when the next level will not be realistic. That is something that no player who loves the game ever wants to hear. The reality of the game is a tough pill to swallow. I truly believe that is a driving factor in the minds of all the SportsForce team. We’ve all been faced with that reality whether it was the high school to college process or the AA to AAA jump in professional baseball. There are times in your life that having the insight and experience there to help you, can drive your decision making in a manner that will better suit your long term goals. I know looking back; I wish I had more information about the process by friends who had been there. I’m not saying that my career would have turned out any differently, but I know the journey could have.

I can only hope that these young ballplayers will be guided the right way. I am a firm believer that you “always have a chance, when you put the uniform on.” You just never know. I’ve played against the David Eckstein’s of the world who wouldn’t let their size be a roadblock to their long term goals. I see a lot of that in these kids. I’m actually motivated more in my life because of what they’re doing. I look back at all my brothers, even sisters that I’ve played against and truly thank them for all of the memories. I hope every player in every sport that aspires for something greater gets that opportunity. Watching these kids play the game with passion and without a care in the world is special. I know there’s a great community rallying behind their every pitch and every swing. I know I am. Win or lose, these kids have succeeded. I hope they go on with their lives and keep these friendships to reflect upon when they’re my age, but give back to the game in any way they can. That way someday, the next group will experience it all again, with all of it made possible because baseball is an amazing game…

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Sportsforce was at the Aflac All-American Game at Petco Park this last weekend, where the country’s best baseball players showcased there skills before a busy crowd of parents, fans, and professional and college scouts. Broken into two teams, the East team and the West team, the roster was composed of the Top 40 high school baseball players in the country. The competition was fierce and the incredible talent at the event performed impressively.

Some of the event’s top talent included Jameson Taillon, the 6′ 7″ fireballer from Woodlands, Texas, Yordy Cabrera, the powerful slugger from Lakeland, Florida, and Bryce Harper of Las Vegas, Nevada, the most acclaimed prep-level athlete in the country and the player who has been called the future “Lebron James of baseball.” Taillon was dominant, throwing 2 shutout innings with 4 strikeouts, Cabrera won the Aflac Homerun Derby, hitting 8 bombs in the first round, and Harper displayed an impressive all-around skill set and made an amazing defensive play throwing out Chevez Clarke at second base for an inning ending double play.

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San Diego State's Strasburg

Not many people were surprised when Stephen Strasburg was selected as this year’s number one MLB Draft pick. Strasburg went to the Nationals and so ended the discussion and hearsay of where he might end up. Strasburg, the 22-year-old pitcher from San Diego State University, has already become somewhat of a legend with stories of a 100 mph+  fastball, 90 mph slider, and Major League ready composure. But, like most legends there is much about the Stephen Strasburg story that isn’t covered by most media outlets. It is important for fans, scouts and reporters alike to go beyond the legend and learn more about Strasburg. Luckily enough, SportsForce has been able to document some of his season and has a straight forward and simple scouting report to share on the soon to be first round selection.

Being headquartered in San Diego, we have seen Strasburg a number of times and agree he is a truly dominating pitcher. Strasburg’s stuff is very impressive and would fool even some of the Major League’s most seasoned hitters, but contrary to what others have reported, Strasburg is not a four-pitch pitcher. Nor does he feature a 90-mile per hour slider. Rather, Strasburg is a developing pitcher who has two dominant pitches with room for improvement. This is partially what excites Major League teams since today’s game is being built more and more around developing pitching at the minor league level. Strasburg has the potential to be a #1 starter that can carry a team similar to a Roy Halladay, Brandon Webb, Jake Peavy or Johan Santana. However, he must first overcome a few obstacles.

Stephen Strasburg Scouting Video vs. UC Davis April 4th, 2009 from Sports Force on Vimeo.

Strasburg relies primarily on two pitches: his explosive 95+ mile per hour fastball, which has been clocked as high as 103, and his sharp downward biting curveball. The fastball overpowers hitters and can be located to both sides of the plate. At this point, Strasburg is not a pitcher who locates his fastball consistently every time, but what he lacks in precision he makes up for in conviction and confidence. His curve ranges from the low to mid 80’s (mph) and can be thrown for strikes in almost any count ,which is rare for a young pitcher. When his curve is used in conjunction with the fastball, he often makes hitters uncomfortable and leaves them guessing what’s next.

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