I have Tennessee winning the SEC East. I’m picking against the favorites, Missouri and Georgia (entirely at my own risk) and betting on the returning talent of the Vols. Kentucky will also improve this season, making a bowl game for the first time since 2010.
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While the SEC West is one of the best single divisions in college football, it’s going to cannibalize itself. Auburn will survive and make the league title game, but it won’t contend for a spot in the Playoff. But there aren’t any bad teams here.
No really huge surprises here. USC brings back a lot of talent, and Cody Kessler may be one of the five best quarterbacks in the country. UCLA won’t settle its quarterback position, which will cost them. Arizona and Arizona State fight tooth and nail for the Territorial Cup, but both will be very solid.
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Stanford takes the crown here, amid the quarterback uncertainty of Oregon. Other than those two teams? Not much happening in the North. The South is stacked. The North is… not.
Ohio State is the clear favorite in the Big Ten this year, and their schedule will cooperate. Their toughest opponent, Penn State, will put it all together this season, while Michigan State disappoints.
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Three teams get wedged at the top of the West this year, but Minnesota wins the head-to-head tiebreaker over Nebraska and Wisconsin. Northwestern and Illinois pick up the rear and likely ax their head coaches in the process.
Last night, the New York Mets played a home game against the San Diego Padres. They came into the night one game back of the division-leading Washington Nationals, and a win coupled with a Washington loss would put the Amazins in a tie for first place (the Nationals won). However, the game would become so much more, as the result of a Mets trade attempt and its consequences.
Joel Sherman of the New York Postfirst reported the story, and later gave us the full details of the deal, pending medicals:
Wheeler is a highly touted pitcher who has only tossed the equivalent of a season and a half at the big league level. You may remember that he was acquired by the Mets in 2011 in a trade that sent Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants. Flores is in his ninth year in the Mets organization and his third year in the bigs. This season, he’s started at both shortstop and second base and hit .249 with ten home runs in the process He was also the starting shortstop in last night’s game. Both would have been heading to Milwaukee in the trade. Would have.
News of the trade broke around 9:00 Eastern Time last night. The Met-Padre game was going long, with starter Bartolo Colon getting shelled for six runs and ten hits in just 2.1 innings. As best I remember, the news must have broke in the fifth or sixth inning. (True story: I was at the game. It has nothing to do with this post, but it was a truly bizarre event to attend.) But back to the story.
For whatever reason, Flores was not pulled from the game when the trade became news. Common practice in a situation like this is to pull the player(s) involved. This is done to ensure that said player(s) do(es) not get injured, which would lead to a flunked physical and a called-off deal. In any event, Flores was left in the game and became visibly emotional in the field. Still, I feel the need to defend Flores here: the Mets have been the only organization he has ever known (he was drafted by them as a 16-year-old) and he’s been with them, and stayed loyal to them, through the ups and downs that being a player in the post-2006 Met organization brings.
However, he would get an at bat in the bottom of the 7th. Word of the deal had filtered through the ballpark by that point, and the thinned out gathering at Citi Field gave him an elongated standing ovation as he stepped to the dish.
At that point, it appeared as though Flores would be finally removed from the game. This would not be the case, however, as Wilmer would be sent back out to the field for the final two innings. He would have had the chance to bat in the bottom of the ninth, but then, and only then, was he taken out of the game. So far, you can guess that this story has been very weird. Warning: it’s about to get weirder.
First, we’ll go to Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal for an explanation as to why Flores was not pulled earlier:
Asked official involved with Gomez trade why Flores is still in game. Reply: “No deal is done. The entire world has jumped the gun.”
This would at least partially explain Flores’ staying in the game. But although he had not been traded, he somehow found out he was about to be. And in my view, even though he was still officially a New York Met through the entirety of the game, he should have been removed. There are two reasons for my having this train of thought. The first is that he was risking obvious injury by staying in the contest. Even though he hadn’t been traded yet, he could’ve sustained an injury in the game, which would have destroyed any hope for the trade. The other reason is that he could not have served the Mets any good in the emotional state he was in. While he wasn’t wrong for being emotional, he wasn’t helpful to the Mets, either.
Now the story is about to take another wild turn. After the game, word got around among reporters that the deal may be off. Sure enough, General Manager Sandy Alderson spoke with the assembled media after the game and said this:
Sandy Alderson says that the trade for Carlos Gomez “will not transpire.”
The general thought at this point was that the calling off of the trade had to do with Wheeler. He had Tommy John surgery on March 25 and is expected to be out until next July-August, at the earliest. Common sense told those who follow (and cover) the game that Wheeler had an issue with his physical, or that he did not perform well in his medical reports. This had to be the reason for the trade not happening, right? Wrong.
An explanation of the failure to complete the trade came from Rosenthal, just after midnight this morning:
Sources: #Mets backed out of trade due to concern over hip issue with #Brewers’ Gomez.
So, to recap: the Mets trade for a power bat in the middle of the lineup, give up their shortstop and one of their prized young pitchers, leave said shortstop in the game, and after all that? The deal falls through. Yikes.
Now, I don’t think the deal would have been overly beneficial to the Mets in the short or long term, but that was the article I would have written today if the trade was completed.
Here’s another opinion of mine: the reporters did almost nothing wrong. They reported what was essentially a done deal, and in a business where being the first to report something is critical, they wanted to be prompt with their information, too. However, the only mistake of theirs was not stressing that the deal still needed the blessing of medicals to be completed. Other than this, though, the only thing these reporters did was their job.
Not all reports included a reference to “pending medicals.” Even the ones that did left the impression that the deal was fait accompli. Many followers interpreted the deal as done, if only because such deals almost always get done.
The Mets looked heartless for allowing Flores to remain in the game; players involved in pending deals generally are removed to ensure that they avoid injury.
The media, too, looked heartless, at least in the view of some on Twitter; we reported a trade before it technically was completed, and created a mess.
But that was last night, and this was today.
With an early 12:10 start, the team looked to the consistent Jon Niese to right the ship. And it looked like he had, as they were leading 7-1 after six innings. However, reliever Bobby Parnell loaded the bases in the 7th, retiring but one batter. Hansel Robles was brought in to stop the bleeding, but what he did instead was allow a grand slam to Derek Norris. The score was 7-5, and it would stay that way until the 9th.
Closer Jeurys Familia entered the game to finish the deal and end the disastrous string of events that had befallen the Mets over, at that point, the past 18 hours. He got the first two outs of the inning, but in the ultimate twist of fate, a downpour came with no balls and one strike on Norris. When the game resumed, Familia was questionably left in, and allowed hits to Norris and Melvin Upton Jr. And then the dagger came; a three-run home run surrendered to Melvin’s brother Justin. The damage was done.
After a second delay pushed the conclusion of the game back to 6:25, the Mets went down 1-2-3 in the final frame. The nightmare continued, leaving the team looking for answers.
This is easily one of the worst 24 hour periods the franchise has ever endured. It’s no Midnight Massacre, but it’s still really bad. The issue? The schedule is not getting easier. The team has a crucial three-game set this weekend against the Nationals, who they are now three games behind in the divisional race, thanks to the results of the last two days.
Reports have linked the Mets to potential outfielders like the Tigers’ Yoenis Cespedes and the Reds’ Jay Bruce. However, neither of these can play center field, which is a need for the team at the moment. Even if they do acquire an outfielder, it will require the capitulation of significant assets, most likely prospects. These are assets that the Mets simply may not be willing to give up, especially after swinging and missing on the Gomez trade.
The #LOLMETS jokes are back. The organization, and in particular, manager Terry Collins, is under fire for their handling of the entire situation. “Meet the Mets” has sounded more like “Meet the Mess” over the past 24 hours.
The team may get Cespedes, Bruce, or other major league talent, but they are going to miss out on Gomez; he’s been traded to the Astros. And no deal can hide away the cold hard truth about the Mets.
Detroit Tigers Shortstop Jose Iglesias was elected to the first All-Star game of his career in 2015, and rightfully so. After missing all of 2014 after sustaining stress fractures to both of his shins, Iglesias is having the best season of his career, hitting .314. He is also on pace for the best figures of his career in hits and RBI, and he has already set career highs in stolen bases and walks. While this year is the first full year of his career, he may be the best all-around shortstop in the game already.
One of the reasons why I think so highly of Iglesias is his defense. While he may not be the best defensive shortstop in the game (he ranks eighth in the defense statistic on FanGraphs), he is certainly one of the top three. While Andrelton Simmons, Adieny Hechavarria and others could be considered better defensive shortstops, Iglesias deserves to be in the same conversation every bit as much as they do.
To demonstrate my point, Iglesias made a phenomenal play in the eighth inning of the All-Star Game that is eerily similar to a play you would’ve expected a recently retired shortstop that wore #2 to make (Spoiler Alert: it’s Derek Jeter). Anyway, here is the play, in which he guns down Yasmani Grandal of the Dodgers in plenty of time for the out:
Plays like that are why Iglesias is so good. The scary part for the rest of the league is that he makes them on a regular basis. Check out these highlights of his defensive wizardry from just the first half of this year:
These plays and others clearly show that Iglesias is at least the best defensive shortstop in the American League, and one of the best in baseball. Now, however, it’s time to delve into the dreaded statistical argument behind Iglesias’ claim to the Major League Baseball Shortstop throne.
Here is a not-so-obvious reason why I say that Iglesias is the best shortstop in the game: it’s the weakest defensive position in baseball. The leader in WAR (wins above replacement) at the position is the Giants’ Brandon Crawford (2.9), and he is only tied for 24th among hitters. In fact, among all the leaders in WAR at their positions, with the exception of DH, Crawford’s figure is lowest among them. That means that if you take all of the leaders in WAR at every fielding position and put them at their respective posts, the shortstop position would be the weakest, at least in terms of the good old WAR statistic.
Some may not put any value to defense at the position; as Billy Beane said in the 2011 movie “Moneyball”, “His fielding does not matter.” (Italics mine). However, this surely does not apply to the shortstop position. This is what an anonymous Senior Bleacher Report analyst wrote about the difficulty of the position back in 2008:
The question is whether shortstop is more difficult than third.
Both see a good amount of action. Both see grass-cutters on a regular basis. Both are expected to cover a serious amount of ground to be elite. Both have complicated rotational duties on specialty plays. Both must have cannons hanging from the right shoulder. Both must have velvety hands and nimble footwork.
It comes down to a matter of degree.
The shortstop sees a little more action. Third probably sees a higher number of vicious “chances” and the most dangerous ones. But short must cover more ground, rotate to cover both second and third routinely, have a better arm, have better hands, and have better feet. The difference is not extreme in any instance, but there is a difference.
And it can be seen, not in the best players at the positions, but in the average ones.
Your average shortstop could move to third. Your average third-sacker could certainly NOT move to short. They would either be too slow or to awkward or too, uh, mentally limited.
That is why most pro infielders (with the exception of the huge first basemen) were shortstops at some point in their careers. They started off as the best athlete and were put at SS. At a certain level, their defense became average for the spot, so they were moved to another position.
Check it out, even some catchers and pitchers used to be shortstops.
This is really very true. Defense is very important in baseball, but it is never as important as it is at the action-filled shortstop position. That’s what makes Iglesias so great, especially when you consider his hitting numbers; he plays all-world defense and is one of the best hitting players at his position, too. Not easy.
So how about his hitting, then? While you can make fun of his singles-hitting propensity (his ISO (Isolated Power) is .059, which is, err, low), his aforementioned batting average and on-base percentage (.364) are both tops at the position just to the left of second base. While he may not hit for power (he has one home run), he hits for average and gets on base, which are two things that have become increasingly difficult in the new golden age of pitching in professional baseball.
Here is another important thing: Jose Iglesias just does not strike out. His K% is 9.5%, and the only shortstop with a better K% is Andrelton Simmons. However, Simmons is but a .254 hitter, and his BB% (walk percentage) is lower than that of Mr. Iglesias. Also, Jose has a very solid BABIP of .343, third at his position. However, the two players ahead of him (Xander Bogaerts and Troy Tulowitzki) have K%s of 14.9% and 20.9%, respectively. If they struck out less, their BABIPs would be lower because they’d be putting the ball in play more often.
Another reason why the best shortstop in baseball debate has become a thing? It’s simple: we probably haven’t thought about it since 1996. Those who follow the game (and those who don’t) simply considered Derek Jeter the best all-around shortstop in baseball, and that was that. Even when Jeter neared the end of his career, broke his ankle, and slowed down as age took its toll on his body, we still gave him the benefit of the doubt because of his track record. There is no de facto #1 shortstop in baseball anymore; we have to find him ourselves.
That person is Iglesias. The combination of fielding and hitting is one that is rarely seen in the game of baseball, and it is especially difficult to pull off at the hardest position to play in the field, shortstop. There is only one person in the game that can say he does it better than anyone else at the spot, and his name is Jose Iglesias.
Jose Iglesias may not be the best hitting shortstop in baseball.
Jose Iglesias may not be the best defensive shortstop in baseball.
But Jose Iglesias is definitely the best all-around shortstop in baseball.