Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why the Pirates Will be Successful in the Baseball Standings

By B. Crawford

I was in high school the last time the Pirates had a successful season in the baseball standings; I am currently pushing forty. Two decades ago they were a consistent challenger and were a tremendously talented team. And, of course, they had Jim Leyland as their manager in the dugout chain smoking like a chimney. They had Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla in the young part of their respective careers, to mention just a couple. Needless to say the financial aspects of the game caught up with them and all of their talent walked and they went through a rebuilding phase. That cycle was expected to be a short term plan, not twenty plus years, but here we are with no winning seasons in between then and now.

Over the years they have done a great job of drafting skilled players. Unfortunately, it never paid off in the baseball standings. In recent years they have shown bursts of success and winning through the first half of the season only to have it tumble late in the season. Generally this has been due to the starting pitching, really all of the pitching, faltering as season enters the late summer months. The end result has always been a hard slide in the baseball standings.

They truly have the team in place to be elite and remain relevant in the baseball standings this season. They also have a great manager in Clint Hurdle; on a side note, the greatest blunder the Colorado Rockies ever made was to fire him. The Pirates have a very intelligent front office staff that has done a fine job of adapting to what is needed to assemble a winning team. There are few teams with the raw talent that the Pirates have on the roster. Now all they need to do is to turn that into a winning season in the baseball standings. Sounds easy enough.

The Pirates have some of the premier fans in baseball and those fans are ready to win. Finishing in the bottom half of the baseball standings year after year has to be getting old; they are entitled to better results. After all, this might be a business that is totally based on results. If you don't win, nothing else matters. This isn't little league where everyone gets a nice shiny ribbon and a cool little plastic trophy; this might be a business where your results in the baseball standings is all that matters in the end.

On paper they are more than capable of accomplishing any goal that they set. Without doubt their goal is to win a World Series ring and they are as capable as anyone else to pull that off by the end of the season. It is doubtful that either wildcard position will come out of the central division so they will have to finish first in the baseball standings in their division. There is no cop out anymore; win or go home. The management has done their job, now it's time for the players to generate the results that everyone knows that they are capable of.

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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Future of PED Use In Baseball

By B. Crawford

This may end up being the most talked about theme in baseball over the past few seasons. A lot of individuals don't fully grasp that the amount of drugs that are being tested for under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Players have a lot of information at their disposal to find out whether or not what they are putting into their health is acceptable. There ought to be no excuses for failing a test and claiming that they thought what they were taking was okay.

Baseball happens to be very severe in their punishments for a positive test and probably will grow those punishments as time goes by. A fifty game suspension without pay for a first offense ought to be enough, but when you can come out of that suspension but still make millions then something should definitely be changed. Players are searching at the potential pot of gold inside the form of a huge contract and seem more than willing to take their chances. Certainly this doesn't apply to all players but there continue to be a percentage that have not seen the risk as a reason to stop. Again, ignorance is not an excuse.

Baseball players are creatures of habit, maybe more than any other sport, and taking this away can affect them mentally as well as physically. It is widely believed that performance enhancing drugs are as much a mental edge as they are a physical advantage. Baseball is a game of focus and attention to detail, anything that helps your focus is an advantage over someone who is simply using the talents they were given at birth.

Players that are spotless and have nothing to hide are growing more and more frustrated with those that decide to cheat. After all, we have to assume they know they are cheating. With each positive test the game is tarnished a little more and that causes the game of baseball to move in the wrong direction. I don't think there is much doubt that the game is cleaner than it was just a few years ago and that can be nothing but positive; however, there is still a long ways to go. The game will never be completely clean, like any segment of the population there will always be some individuals that try to take shortcuts. With that said, when the punishments increase the number of violators will go down.

Unfortunately there is no one solution that can make this go away. The penalties for an optimistic test in baseball will become much more severe within the near future. If baseball makes the first positive test a ban for a full calendar year and the second offense for years and years ban, you will notice a colossal drop in positive tests. On the top of this, if baseball allowed teams to provide a clause that allowed for a contract to be voided after the first test players would definitely think twice before putting a banned substance in their health.

There is an extended how to go in this process and fans will need to be patient. I do believe that they game ten years in the future will likely to be much cleaner than it is today, in large part because of increased penalties and player awareness. On the top of this, the culture that has been developed through the years going all of the way all the down to the twelfth grade level will need to change as well; this is certainly going to take time. Baseball is still a great sport and the rich history is definitely worth preserving. I expect each year will be a little cleaner than the previous year until the the wide range of cheaters becomes something close to zero.

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Why the Atlanta Braves can win the east

By B. Crawford

A lot has been written about the moves Atlanta Braves have made this winter to reinforce the team. Their top competition, the Washington Nationals, also made some moves and also got better. The east is going to be a tough division with the apparent exception of the Florida Marlins; every other team will at least play competitive ball within the division.

In the end, the division will very likely come down to two teams; the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals. Both teams will most likely push the hundred win mark and the division could eventually be won by the winner of the season series between the two teams. This is where I think the Atlanta Braves have an advantage.

On some level, I think that the Washington Nationals played better last season than they probably should have. They are an incredibly blessed team but I think that last season was somewhat of a perfect storm of multiple players having seasons better than their ordinary performance. Both teams are good enough that they should be able to coast to a division title in any other division in the National League. That is in no way meant to slight any of the other divisions or teams, it is a message that the east is the toughest division hands down.

The Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals will play eighteen times this season and could simply split the season series right down the middle. In recent seasons the Nationals have given the Braves fits, even in seasons when they were not all that superior of a team. I think that started to swing over in the Braves favor last season and will continue to favor the Braves this year. I have also have seen an intensity with the Braves the past couple of years when it comes to guarding their home field and this will be the difference this year. I predict will win six out of nine at Turner Field and only four out of nine at Nationals Park. That is equal to a two game advantage.

That two game advantage will be the difference in the division. This is why I see the Braves pulling this division out and not having to play that pathetic one game playoff this season. Both teams will more than likely have equal success with the other teams in the division. Looking over the interleague schedule for both teams I give the edge to the Braves, a very slim edge. Every little bit helps in the long run.

After a longer than usual spring training, every team is ready to get the season started. The wait is harsh for both the fans and even the players, but the start is only a week away. Next Monday will get here, all of us will call in sick to work and head to the ballpark to take in the experience. The Braves will start the season with three games against the Philadelphia Phillies while the Nationals will play three against the Florida Marlins, advantage Nationals.

The Atlanta Braves will play a fast paced brand of baseball that has not been seen in a long time. That is going to make for a very thrilling season so let's get to next Monday and let the games get started.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Youth Baseball Equipment Provides Many Benefits

By Tamera Keith

In any game, it is important that people who play use defensive gear to safeguard them from injuries. This is the reason that so many mothers and fathers immediately arm their offspring with youth baseball equipment in the hopes of keeping them protected. The kit they get permits them to use the maximum effort in every sport they play without the worry of what could go wrong.

One of the most common sports that require specialized gear is baseball. With a game that involves so much physical activity, it naturally makes sense that certain protective goods should be purchased, in order to keep your child as safe as possible. While some of these goods are probably not mandatory for the game, many work well for their intended purpose.

An instance of common kit that youngsters use in these games will use is the specialized helmet. This is used in batting practice as a typical part of the defensive apparatus that should be placed correctly on the head when participants are batting. Using the eye safeguard, a helmet will protect the facial composition of the participant from possible injury.

Catchers often make use of helmets, but will use protectors for their chests, amongst other elements such as facemasks, guards for the legs and even cups to prevent any damage to selected body parts. As they are located in the direct path of the ball's movement, these essentials are necessary to certify that the player is shielded from the clout of this moving object. These contestants usually use gear during practices and in their games.

For those competitors who round the plates as they play the field, plastic cleats permit them to sprint and skate into the plates without hurting the ligaments in their forelegs. Players are ordinarily encouraged to don supportive cups as well, and some even wear mouth protectors to keep their teeth safe. Even their trousers and shirts may make use of protective cushions in the joints to protect against scrapes.

One of the most common safety guidelines in the sport relates to the use of the bat. Players should check the regulations of their sporting authority to determine not just the type of bat to be used, but also how hard they are allowed to swing it. The bat is a potential source of harm to players, and thus it should be standardized to ensure minimum damage.

Some players may wear gloves to protect their hands and fingers, though for youth leagues, most go without. Though the potential damage to these appendages is high, most players find that these elements impede their technique. This is the reason they refuse to wear them.

When considering the topic of youth baseball equipment, it is vital that parents ensure that their kids are correctly equipped to engage in the game. If they are not using the correct equipment, or that of the correct quality, parents may notice how much more money they must spend on injuries and broken bones. To guarantee that these youngsters enjoy their playing experiences to the full, it makes good sense for their parents to outfit them with the correct gear.

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