Monday, May 14, 2012

Josh Hamilton: Will It Last?

     Entering the 2012 MLB season, all eyes were on power hitters Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols, both signed to new teams over the winter months. While these big signings took place, many experts and fans forgot all about Josh Hamilton. Now that the Texas Rangers have played 34 games, Hamilton has one of the best starts in the history of baseball. Though the pitching staff is missing starter C.J Wilson, Texas continues to dominate. If all goes well, Hamilton is on track to break Barry Bonds' single season home run record by 12. However, there is no guarantee this all-star can stay hot, or more importantly, stay healthy. So what is Josh Hamilton's fate this season? Will he break the unbreakable home run record, or will a hitting slump keep Hamilton from his goal?
Josh Hamilton
     Josh Hamilton has one of the most heart worming stories in all of baseball. After being selected first overall in the 1999 MLB draft by Tampa Bay, Hamilton's career went downhill due to an addiction to drugs and alcohol. His substance abuse began to affect his play, and by 2003 the future star was in and out of rehab. From 2004 to 2006, he stopped playing baseball entirely, concentrating more on his terrible addiction. In 2006, Hamilton began easing back into baseball and was selected in that year’s draft by the Chicago Cubs, who quickly traded him to Cincinnati. Hamilton's rookie season started off well, but was later damaged due to several injuries. By the end of 2007, Hamilton was traded once again, this time to the Texas Rangers. In just his second year as a starter, Hamilton exploded into one of the league's biggest stars, and was selected to play in the All Star Game. After yet another injury in 2009, Hamilton's 32 home runs with 100 RBIs and a .359 batting average won him the 2010 MVP Award. In present day 2012, Hamilton is off to the best start of his career, as his Texas Rangers rank first in the AL West.
     On May 12th, Josh Hamilton became the second player in MLB history to have 18 home runs within the first 34 games of a season. Out of the 18 home runs he has hit, 4 of them came on May 8th against the Baltimore Orioles. The swing shown by Josh Hamilton looks better than ever, and confidence is an apparent attribute as he steps up to the plate. Not only does he lead the league in home runs, but as of Mother’s Day, he dominates in RBIs (41) as well as batting average (.402). Though it appeared as if Matt Kemp would be the Triple Crown winner, Hamilton has surpassed the Dodger for the number one hitter in all of baseball. But will it continue? For one thing, Hamilton's best hitting performances take place in-between June and July, so it is possible the Texas Ranger can stay hot up until mid-to-late August. However, even after the All Star break, Hamilton tends to stay pretty consistent. If there is anyone who can stay hot throughout the duration of a season, it would be Josh Hamilton.
     Not only is Hamilton eyeing a Triple Crown, where he would become the first player to achieve this accomplishment since 1967, but he is also capable of breaking Barry Bonds' single season home run record, which stands at 73. Though I would be absolutely astounded if he can play so consistently, Hamilton is on track to hit 86 home runs, 195 RBIs and a batting average of .402. Though 73 home runs is slightly out of reach, I think 60 will be Hamilton’s magic number, and as of now, he is the clear number one for Most Valuable Player. Hamilton is a unique hitter, who possesses power, poise, and consistency. Though an injury could ruin this incredible streak, Hamilton is practically unstoppable, and a third shot at the World Series trophy is a definite possibility for this superstar.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Boston Collapse: Part 2

     In 2011, no team was more disappointed by end of the regular season then the Boston Red Sox. At one point in September, the Red Sox had a 9 game lead in the race for a playoff spot. Then, things took a turn for the worst. The Red Sox lost 20 games in September alone, none of them worse than the last match of the season against Baltimore. Boston was on the road and, at the moment, tied with Tampa Bay for the wild card. However, things were looking up for Boston; they had a 3-2 lead over the Orioles, and the Yankees were beating Tampa Bay by 7 runs. After allowing a double in the bottom of the 9th, the Red Sox were just one strike away from the win. Unfortunately for Boston, Nolan Reimold had different plans; he bombed a ball to deep center field for the ground rule double, scoring Kyle Hudson from second. Tie game. Next up to the plate was Robert Andino. With a 1-1 count, Andino makes contact, sending the ball to shallow left where bust-left-fielder Carl Crawford missed the sliding catch. He tries to throw out Reimold at the plate, but it was too late. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay had a late inning surge, scoring 6 quick runs in the 8th, and 1 run in the 9th. In the bottom of the 12th, star 3rd basemen Evan Longoria hit his second home run of the game, robbing Boston of a playoff spot. Boston fans were dumbfounded....

David Ortiz
     The main reason for this historic collapse was due to chaos in the clubhouse. It was later released that players including John Lackey, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester were supposedly bringing beer and video games into the clubhouse on their off nights. There was absolutely no order in Boston, which is why Terry Francona's contract was not renewed. Soon, the Red Sox were without their head coach, their general manager Theo Epstein and the respect of Red Sox nation. With fans fuming, the Red Sox organization knew they needed to find several replacements, and FAST. On December 1st, Bobby Valentine was introduced to the public as the new manager, a gutsy choice on Boston's part. Now that the 2012 season is underway, things aren't getting any better. They started off the season with an 0-3 record, all of their losses coming against Detroit. Now, two weeks have gone by since the season opener, and the Red Sox remain in last place at 4-10 (the last time Boston has started with a worse winning percentage as of April 21st was back in 1996). Talk shows, television stations and magazines everywhere are tearing apart the new manager, blaming him for such an atrocious start. It almost appears as if he has yet to gain the respect of the players. In fact, Valentine created several problems in the organization after criticizing Kevin Youkilis for his efforts. It was unprofessional for Valentine to mention that publicly. If he felt the need to bring it up, the best solution would have been confronting Youk privately, not releasing it to the public. The Sox made a big mistake in letting Terry Francona leave, and I would not be surprised if they decided to fire Valentine within the next few months.

     Pitching is a huge problem for the Red Sox, who are ranked dead last in the league when it comes to ERA (6.68 as of April 22). In just the third game of the season, Boston scored 12 runs, and STILL lost the game to Detroit. However, the game that highlighted Boston's weakness the most was against New York on April 21st. Going into the 6th inning, Boston had a 9-0 lead over New York. However, within the next 3 innings, the Red Sox's bullpen allowed 15 runs, and ended up losing the game 15-9. Their key-three starters (Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Bucholtz) are all pitching terribly, and will need to improve in order to lower the team's ERA. Batting has become a problem as well, especially after the loss of both Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford. Adrian Gonzalez has yet to hit like he did in 2011, and the same goes for Dustin Pedroia. In fact, the best hitter on the team so far has been 36 year old David Ortiz. If the red Sox want to make the playoffs, they can't rely on one player to lead a struggling offense.

       The Red Sox rank third in total payroll, and a lot of that money has been wasted these past few months. For example, the Red Sox spent 3.9 million dollars on closer Andrew Bailey, who was placed on the DL during spring training because of a thumb injury. The organization is a mess, and this year appears to be spent towards rebuilding next year’s team. To all those Red Sox fans, I would not be surprised if your team missed the playoffs for a second consecutive season.