First successful replay challenge in Major League Baseball history.
Long before football, soccer, and basketball there was baseball, the national game.
Ralph Lauren is subconsciously ready for Braves baseball.
The Braves are consistent and there’s no pressure on them to win. That’s why I give them the edge over the Nationals. Even if the team struggles the Braves should be able to manage 90 wins. Last season, the Braves won 96 games despite suffering a ton of injuries and career worst seasons from B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla. The strength of team was good starting pitching and an outstanding bullpen. If Upton and Uggla bounce back the offense could be the best in MLB. That would take a lot of pressure off the pitching staff. Losing Medlen hurts, but adding Ervin Santana and Gavin Floyd to the rotation should be enough. If Julio Teheran and Mike Minor continue to improve the Braves rotation will be impressive.
Biggest Key: Staying healthy
Last season the Nationals were one of the best pitching teams in the league. The offense was never able to put it together. The injuries were a factor, but the Braves also battled injuries. If it was the pressure that bothered the team they’ll have it again this season. Pretty much, everyone expects this team to win the NL East. How will the Nationals play under a new manager? If they start slow the pressure will mount. Adding Fister should mean the Nats have the best rotation in baseball, but pitching wasn’t the problem last season. The Nats could be the best team in baseball, but they need to prove it before I’m ready to believe.
Biggest Key: Bryce Harper
The Marlins have some really good young players, but are probably a couple of years away.
The Mets are in rebuilding mode, but they have a ton of young talent. They’re not good enough to compete yet, but they’re not likely to fold in the second half.
The Phillies have some really good old players, but are probably a couple of years past their window. I expect the Phillies to play well until August at that point things should fall apart.
The rest of my picks…
AL: A’s, Red Sox, Tigers, Rays, and Yankees
NL: Braves, Cards, Dodgers, Nats, and Giants
World Series: Cards over the Tigers.
What would Major League Baseball do if they decided to expand? This is pure conjecture. Major League Baseball hasn’t really discussed expansion recently, but there are two cities that could support baseball. The first is Montreal. The Expos played in Montreal for 25 years and if wasn’t for Jeffrey Loria the Nationals probably wouldn’t exist. It’s a great town and it supported the Expos well until the end.
Identifying a second team isn’t quite so easy. There isn’t a clear choice in the United States. Two options would be Portland or San Antonio, but MLB might be wise to have a team in Mexico City. Salt Lake City is another option, but I don’t think it’s a large enough metro area to support a baseball team.
Adding two more teams would create some division problems. The current system of five team divisions would be changed. In order to keeps the same number of teams in each division each league would move to two, eight team divisions or four, four team divisions.
Here’s how I would do it.
Biggest change here is I’ve moved the Rockies into the American League. Some realignment would be necessary to make this work and I’ve chosen to move a couple of the newer franchises.
My biggest reservation about this entire realignment in the NL East. The Braves have rivalries with the Mets and Philles over the last 20 years, but it’s difficult to create a four team divisions and keep the Braves with the Phillies and Mets. The Pirates were long time members of the Eastern division so it’s fitting they’re paired again with the Expos, Mets, and Phillies.
The Rays would move to the National League were they would have a natural rivalry with the Marlins.
Major League Baseball currently sends five teams to the playoffs. Moving to four, four team divisions would make a five team playoff more complicated.
The solution to the playoff issue is to remove inter-league play and move to a single division in each league. No need to move the Rockies or Rays. Add the Expos to the National League and Mexico City to the American league. Play each team in the league an equal amount and take the top five teams for the playoffs. The 4 and 5 seeds would play a one game playoffs.
At some point MLB will expand again and it will be interesting to see how they handle the current divisional alignment.
A couple of years ago the Sarasota Herald Tribune published an article about the real history of Hank Aaron’s first Spring Training home run. Today marks the 60th anniversary of Hank Aaron’s first home run in Spring training. Thanks to research by Matt Tavares for a book he published in 2010, we have a clearer picture of Hank Aaron’s first home run.
Hank Aaron’s home run did happen in Sarasota, but it didn’t happen on March 14. It happened four days earlier on March 10. That is three days before Bobby Thomson broke his ankle. It’s possible that Thomson’s injury helped Aaron’s progress, but Aaron was in the lineup on the 10th. Also, it’s impossible for Ted Williams to have come running out of the clubhouse that day. Williams had broken his collarbone on March 1, and was in a Boston hospital on March 10.
In 1954, the Milwaukee Braves played their Spring training games at Braves Field (now known as McKechnie Field) in Bradenton, Florida. It’s a short trip South to Sarasota. Payne Park was destroyed in 1990 and replaced with a city park. Sarasota is still home to Spring training baseball, but the new park (Ed Smith Stadium) is no longer located downtown.
I walked to Payne Park today to take some pictures from around the grounds. The spot where home plate used to sit is inaccessible by the public. A tennis club now exists where the infield existed, but I was able to get into the club to get this picture from the spot where Hank Aaron hit his first home run.
The picture above is where home plate would have been looking towards center field. This is the spot Hank Aaron stood 60 years ago today when he hit his first home run in Spring training.
Outside of the tennis club there is a history marker with information about Payne Park.
Over the 66 year history of Payne Park, it was the Spring training home of the New York Giants, Boston Red Sox, and the Chicago White Sox.
This pond sits where left field existed.
Great view from Payne Park.
Hank Aaron’s first home run in Spring training is a huge piece of baseball’s history, but the 60th anniversary has passed largely unnoticed. The old park doesn’t exist anymore and most people have forgotten Payne Park and Hank Aaron’s first home run.