(cchooks.com)

MiLB Interview: The Houston Astros AJ Reed

The Houston Astros 2015 story is a remarkable one. They entered the season having not seen a winning record since 2008, and as it stands right now, they already have more wins than they did in 2011, 2012 and 2013. A lot of that has been due to their youth movement.

Carlos Correa. Lance McCullers. Preston Tucker. Jake Marisnick. Jose Altuve. They are all a part of this current under-25 brigade taking over the Major Leagues, and in turn, have taken the American League by storm. Here’s the scary part, folks, the Astros have even more coming up their Minor League pipeline.

One of those stars is first base prospect A.J. Reed. The second year player is having a remarkable season in the Minor Leagues. .338/.442/.633. 27 home runs. 96 RBI. All of that has been achieved in a mere 97 games with an entire month left. Reed isn’t your average prospect, he is special, and he is a lot closer to his Major League debut than you think.

Reed took the time to talk with me over at Grading on the Curve. So sit back and enjoy a little meet and greet with A.J. Reed as we discussed his college days, his current season and what it’s like being part of the Astros organization during this exciting time. Just click the link below and enjoy:

THE AJ REED INTERVIEW (<— it’s right there!)

 

 

 

Jul 15, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; American League outfielder Mike Trout (27) of the Los Angeles Angels holds up the MVP trophy after the 2014 MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Mike Trout Conundrum

When it comes to Major League baseball my friend Jay is second to none. He isn’t simply one of the more knowledgeable when it comes to baseball, he’s one of the angriest fans you’ll meet. Especially when a sportscaster brings up a highly questionable comparison. That’s why I wasn’t surprised by the texts I received this weekend.

Jay: Dude, I have your next blog for you.

Wayniac: I told you I’m not blogging about my thoughts on the new Braves stadium, it’s too controversial.

Jay: Whatever, I’m not talking about that. Check this out. You know I love Trout, but Greg Amsinger on MLB Network just said if Mike Trout wins the MVP again it is the greatest start ever to a career. 

Wow. That is a pretty bold statement. So bold that it has gotten The Wayniac riled up a bit. Like Jay, I love Mike Trout. He is one of my keepers on my fantasy team (due to a ridiculous steal of trade concocted by my partner in crime JD) and he is one of the most exciting athletes to watch in sports.

But, what is defining Trout’s start as “the greatest ever”? Back-to-back MVP Awards? Certainly not back-to-back All Star Game MVP Awards, is it?

Jay: Those awards are given by voters. I’d rather go with most home runs through first four seasons or steals, or anything measurable. I don’t care about awards.

He’s right. The MVP Award, whether it is in the regular season, post season, or All Star Game is usually skewed. I mean, come on, Mariano Rivera won the All Star Game MVP three games ago for registering a hold.

Plus, there is always a bias when voters are involved. The Kansas City Royals currently have the best record in the American League. They have a very good shot at repeating as the AL pennant winners, and Lorenzo Cain is a large reason for that. Do you think he stands a chance against Trout at the end of the year? Trout puts up sick numbers, makes those big time wow plays in the outfield, and is just so darn likable.

That being said, the second Jay told me about that statement, I was able to think of five guys in the not so distant past that have had — at the very least — equal starts to their career. Should Trout win that second MVP Award, his trophy cabinet will be the fullest over the shortest amount of time, but greatest start to a career? That’s questionable.

Two things I am excluding from the list below are steroid use and pitchers. I don’t care to hear any of these well they played in the Steroid Era debates. Take a look at the Minor Leagues. There are close to 100 suspensions, many from PEDs. The Steroid Era is still alive and well, and that makes Trout a part of it — although I have no question he is clean. It happened, it’s part of the history, so it has to enter discourse.

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Secondly, if hardware is all that matters, Dwight Gooden had one of the sickest starts to any career I have ever seen. Rookie of the Year in 1984, Cy Young in 1985 and a World Series ring in 1986. Let’s not forget that Dr. K’s 1985 season is still one of the sickest pitched seasons I have ever witnessed and he was only 20 years old. A league leading 24 wins to just four losses, a league leading 1.53 ERA, a league leading 16 complete games, eight shutouts, a league leading 268 strikeouts and a 0.96 WHIP. And I reiterate… he was 20 years old. For you SABR junkies, his WAR was nearly 12. It is widely considered one of the single greatest seasons in history. Hardware, history and a World Series ring. Not too shabby.

FIVE STARTS THAT RIVAL MIKE TROUT’S

(USA Today archives)

(USA Today archives)

Ryan Howard

Howard won Rookie of the Year in 2005 while only playing in 88 games. He blasted 22 home runs in just 312 at bats. That’s a home run every 14.2 at bats compared to Trout’s 18.6 rookie year average.

Howard would never stop hitting home runs, as he would take home the NL MVP Award in 2006 with a league leading 58 home runs and 149 RBI. He wouldn’t win an All Star Game MVP Award, but he would win the Home Run Derby that year, which has to count for something. At the end of Howard’s fourth season — in which Trout is amid right now — he would lead the NL in home runs and RBI again and win a World Series ring.

By the time Howard finished his fifth season, he would be back in the World Series and become the quickest player in history to reach 200 home runs. That’s a pretty good start to a career.

Jose Canseco

Did he cheat? Yup. Is he a bit of a nut job? You tell me.

But there was no denying that Canseco was one of the most fun players to watch in the late 80s on one of the most dominant teams of that era. Canseco would win Rookie of the Year in 1986 and two years later would become baseball’s first 40/40 guy en route to the 1988 AL MVP Award. He would get injured (out of juice?) in his fourth season, but returned right in time to slash .357/.500/.571 with a home run in the World Series. Not a bad first four years either, ay?

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - JULY 15:  American League All-Star Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees speaks with American League All-Star Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels during batting practice prior to the 85th MLB All-Star Game at Target Field on July 15, 2014 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Derek Jeter

Am I a homer? So what? Derek Jeter lived every little kid’s fantasy. He won a World Series in four of his first five seasons. Not only was he on some of the best teams of the 90s, he was the centerpiece of them and the spark that made their engine go.

Jeter won Rookie of the Year in 1996 and would go on to hit .361 in his first postseason with a very memorable home run (thanks Jeffrey Maier). He would “digress” in ’97, but comeback with two of his best seasons in ’98 and ’99. Jeter would make history in his fifth season by being the first player to win All Star Game MVP and World Series MVP honors in the same season.

Is his trophy case filled with shiny MVP Awards or fancy bats commemorating other honors? No, no it isn’t. But his hand is certainly too heavy to point that out to you with all those damn rings on it.

Albert Pujols

Talk about an unreal start to a career? Pujols was amazing. If you were a baseball fan at the turn of the millennium, when you watched Albert Pujols play, you thought you were watching a kid rewriting history.

He won Rookie of the Year (notice the trend?) and would start his career by going 12 — TWELVE — straight seasons before hitting less than 30 home runs. He wouldn’t win an NL MVP Award in his first four years, but he did win the 2003 Major League Player of the Year Award as well as the 2004 NLCS MVP.

Pujols quickly became the heart of the St. Louis lineup, known for his monster power and uncanny ability to hit over .330. People often forget that he led the league in runs scored three years in a row.

Now Trout’s team mate and possibly his stiffest competition for the 2015 MVP Award, Pujols’s first four seasons ended with the following stat line: .333, 500 runs scored, 160 home runs and 504 RBI. That’s not just good, that’s video game good.

(ESPN.com)

(ESPN.com)

Buster Posey

People either love him or hate him, but Buster Posey has been Jeter-esque to start his career.

Guess what? Posey won Rookie of the Year in 2010 and would pretty much instantly become the centerpiece of baseball’s current dynasty. Posey would hit .300 with a home run as a 23-year old rookie in the World Series and start a run of winning three rings in his first five years.

Posey was mangled in a play at the plate in his second season and the Giants would miss the playoffs in their title defense. He would return in 2012, win the NL batting title, NL Comeback Player of the Year Award, the NL MVP and his second World Series title. Posey would belt yet another home run in that World Series victory against the Tigers.

Jay: Buster’s start has been pretty damn good and I hate Buster. If Trout gets another MVP, Buster could trade him one of his World Series rings for it… and still have more rings than Trout.

If hardware is what matters, I’ll take an MVP Award and three World Series rings over consecutive All Star Game MVPs and back-to-back AL MVPs. Trout is an absolute stud. I can’t argue that he isn’t the best player in the game right now, because that he is. But to say with such confidence that his will be the greatest start to a career — especially when Pujols put up better numbers, Jeter won more rings, and Posey became immortal — is a bit unfair.

Boston Red Sox's David Ortiz watches his three-run home run off Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer during the third inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 27, 2014, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Red Sox's Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia also scored. Catching for the Rays is Curt Casali. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

To DH or not to DH, there is no question

It’s poked its ugly head again. That age old question — well not age old, just 42-years old — of should both leagues use the designated hitter in Major League baseball?

Marquee_RonBlomberg

Last night, saw yet another abnormality in the rule as the MLB All Star Game was played in a National League park, with the National League owning home field privileges behind the San Francisco Giants World Series championship and yet the DH was used.

Should the DH be used? Let’s find out, shall we?

och

The British Open: Tiger’s last stand

The great and mighty Dunton is back with yet another golf Major preview. Will he nail the victor? Sit back and take a look at his Top 5 golfers to watch in this weekend’s Open Championship.

There are some special places in the world of sports: Lambeau Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium — the old one, not this new abomination — center court at Wimbledon, and St. Andrews.

The Open Championship — it’s the British Open people, but whatever —  at St. Andrews will be the center of the golf universe this week and many golf fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Called the birthplace of golf, the Olde Course at St. Andrews had rounds of golf dating back to the 1400s, and this week could see some of the most important rounds ever played here.

Jordan Spieth is going for 3 majors in a row. Tiger is trying to prove that he is still relevant. Phil is trying to have us all forget the gambling and money laundering scandal. Dustin is trying to shake off two of the worst putts we have ever seen. And Rory — oh wait no Rory this week. Stick to golf pal, soccer is clearly not your game.

So as we look to the week ahead we remember all the nuisances that is the Old Course: The Road Hole, Double Greens, Hell Bunker, and the ever present ghost of Old Tom Morris that seems to walk the course and push some to victory while forcing others to run in fear. Here are my golfers to keep an eye on this week as we look to wake up to live golf early here on the east coast.

Dunton’s British Open Preview continues

markcuban

Larceny in Lob City

Someone needs to explain to me the DeAndre Jordan eerily creepy re-signing by the Los Angeles Clippers. Don’t get me wrong, I like watching DeAndre 3000 just as much as the next guy, he’s a beast who runs the floor in one of the more exciting offenses to watch in the NBA. But the way the Clippers went after him, man, I thought that was an episode of NBC Dateline: To Catch a Predator.

Here’s why I think DJ just pulled off larceny in Lob City

10/31/01- Derek Jeter wins the game. (Photo red: NY Post)

Sports, Lies and Video Tape Vol. 1

What if I told you everything you ever knew about sports was a complete lie?morpheusDon’t be so dramatic, Morpheus. But seriously, folks. What if some of the biggest truths you have been force fed by the media and disenchanted fans turned out to be a total lie?

Lies, I tell you, lies!!!

Photo Cred: AP

The Peyton Manning Story starring LeBron James

Another NBA season has come to an end. It’s pretty much the same story every year. LeBron James takes a poorly put together team to the Finals and, more often than not, he loses. This year, it was at the hands of the Golden State Warriors, who was simply the better team.

You know, a team? It’s one of those things that has 8 or 9 solid players that contribute 100 percent of the time. One of those things LeBron James has never really had, because they focus on surrounding him with only two other “superstars”, but have been burned by the depth of other teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Warriors because that equation simply does not work. But I digress.

spurs-starting5

Once again, with his fifth consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, King James is under scrutiny for where he stands in NBA lore. More specifically, it comes down to, yet again, Michael Jordan versus LeBron. MJ vs. LBJ. Well, I already explained my stance over a year ago. You can take a trip down memory lane with Space Jammin’ on the King if you forgot.

Defining greatness in each of the four major sports is unique. Baseball is based on stats, but stats that are measured differently in each person’s eyes. That started with Roger Maris and that pesky asterisk because people wanted longer seasons, but they didn’t want people to do so well that they broke records with those longer seasons. It hasn’t ended over 50 years later, as now stats that were accumulated during the Steroid Era are thrown by the wayside. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Unless you want to dump everyone under the steroid umbrella — even those like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jim Thome who’s names seemingly never came up — then the stats matter. Is Barry Bonds the biggest d-bag of his era? Probably, but he was also one sick player.

In hockey, well, quite honestly, I have no idea what defines greatness. Part of being my age is the fact that in the NFL, NBA and NHL, my generation witnessed the greatest era of each of those sports. Were there greater players before Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri and Paul Coffey upended the NHL? Of course, but there hadn’t been a dynamic like that until then, and there really hasn’t been one since. Maybe Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr, but even Sid the Kid hasn’t come close to that kind of greatness.

The NBA? It’s all about Eras. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain — on paper — were pretty much then two greatest players to put on those legendary short shorts. But we have all heard the argument that they wouldn’t hold a candle to the big men of the 80s and 90s, like Shaquille O’Neal for example. The Dream Team Era (i.e. the era of the Showtime Lakers and the coming of the MJ Age) was the best of all time, so correspondingly they showcased the most of the greatest players to ever suit up. It doesn’t matter how many championships you won, because in the NBA, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Isaiah Thomas and Tim Duncan had made it nearly impossible for anyone to do so for the past 30 years.

In football, it’s all about the titles. Seriously, the fact that Peyton Manning is not widely and unanimously considered the best quarterback ever is the prime example of that. Who is? Tom Brady? He is a very good quarterback, but he is also the face of the biggest powerhouse of this millennium, and that certainly helps his reputation. Joe Montana? He’s not in the Top 10 of all time in any stat but passer rating. He took the helms of a team that was full off All Pros and Hall of Famers, manning an offense that had never been seen before, while throwing to a guy who had the best hands and pass running routes in the history of the game. I’m not taking anything away from either of these two, but Peyton Manning is in a league of his own, and he always has been.

(Photo credit: CBS Sports)

(Photo credit: CBS Sports)

King James and Peyton are the same person. They are surrounded by immense talent, but their teams are not built for success. LeBron’s teams have struggled, as I have said, from poorly put together teams. Both in Miami and Cleveland, a bulk of the money was spent on signing a Big Three combo, with little attention paid to the rest of the team. In both cities, LeBron was burned by injuries to those star sidekicks and lacked anyone else to step up. You know who the reigning NBA Finals MVP is? That’s right, the guy who started the Finals as a sixth man. You don’t have depth, you don’t have rings, it’s that simple.

Manning had the same problems. He was always surrounded by top wide receivers and tight ends, but there was very little focus on the running game or defense. When he finally had those defensive pieces in place in Denver, they got smoked in the Super Bowl. Why? They weren’t as deeply rounded as a team like the Seahawks, or teams like the Patriots who don’t have many superstars, but at least solid players everywhere around the field.

They both put up numbers that most athletes can only dream of, but at the end of the day successful role players like Robert Horry and lucky quarterbacks like Peyton’s baby brother Eli have more rings.

Look deeper into the comparison. Both started their professional careers in the midwest. Both moved on to bigger markets who had at least one championship underneath their belts. Both lost their first chance at a title with their new teams to teams that everyone viewed as inferior. And both may very well never win a title again.

Like Peyton Manning, Bron is going to eclipse the most heralded records in his respective sport’s history. If he keeps up his current pace, he’ll shatter the scoring record and also like Peyton, he will probably have the most MVP Awards in his sport’s history by the time he hangs up the ol’ basketball sneakers.

And unfortunately for King James, LeBron is always going to have to live in the shadows of, yes MJ, but even some of his contemporaries. Is Kobe Bryant better? Is Russell Westbrook set to become the best player in the NBA? If that guy can finally get back to staying healthy, he very well could.

Manning and James are both Hall of Famers. They will both be remembered for eternity for their accomplishments, both on and off the playing field/court, because for the most part, they are both pretty standup guys. But both will be haunted by the fact that they couldn’t nail down more titles. If they each had two or three more titles under their belts, this conversation would never be happening. But until they do, I’ll keep on writing away!