Last August the Battistoni Diesel MUNY AAA baseball team from Western New York won the National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF) World Series. With the unprecedented victory the Diesel earned an automatic berth in this year’s tournament.

The boys will head back to Battle Creek, MI early next week to defend their title. We will have more coverage in the coming days.

Here is a recent Press Release from the tournament directors:

NABF World Series Returns to Battle Creek August 3-7

Battle Creek, MI- Bailey Park Complex                                                                                                                                     August 3-7, 2016

The National Amateur Baseball Federation (NABF) Charles Blackburn Major Division World Series returns to Bailey Park August 3rd through the 7th. The 103rd World Series will see twelve of the best amateur teams in the United States battle for the title over the 5-day, 25 game contest. This year’s contest includes teams from New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland and Michigan, including Battle Creek’s City Champion and host team, HBC-Behnke. NABF World Series teams are comprised of established college players with a sprinkling of former professional athletes, making for a high-caliber competition.

In recognition of the hard-work in hosting, and the economic impact for the City that the NABF World Series has, Mayor David A. Walters, has proclaimed August 3-7, 2016 “National Amateur Baseball Week” in the City of Battle Creek, and has further named the Manager and Members of the Buffalo, NY Battistoni Diesel, the 2015 Champions, honorary citizens of the City. To celebrate this proclamation, Mayor Walters will be on-hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on opening night of the World Series, prior to the 7:00 pm game between the Diesel and Battle Creek HBC-Behnke.

In addition to the City’s proclamation, the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners has issued their own proclamation proclaiming August 3-7, 2016 Charles M. Blackburn Jr. Week to thank Mr. Blackburn for his contributions to amateur baseball in Calhoun County. Charles Blackburn is the Executive Director of the NABF, who has served the organization for over 50 years. County Commissioner Derek King will be on hand to present the proclamation and participate in the first-pitch ceremony.

Every game of the 103rd World Series will be streamed live on the internet via GameAction360. You can find a link to stream the games on the World Series homepage at www.battlecreekworldseries.com or on the NABF World Series Facebook page.

This year the NABF World Series will play host to Senior Day at the Park on Friday, August 5th. Senior Day will include free admission for all Seniors’ and their Caretakers, as well as giveaways, vendors and lunch for up to the first 500 people. Gates will open at 10:30 am. Senior Day is made possible through a variety of local sponsors.

To add some fun to our fans experience, we have added Baseball Bingo. Each evening of the competition fans that participate will have an opportunity to win up to $200 in prizes.

The 103rd NABF Major Division World Series will be played Wednesday through Sunday, August 3rd -7th. The entry fee for the entire tournament is $5, and is good for all 25 games on three fields. Children 10 and under are free.

Recognized as the amateur baseball capital of the United States, Battle Creek has a storied history when it comes to America’s pastime. The City first hosted an Amateur Adult Baseball World Series in 1937, affiliated with the American Baseball Congress (ABC) founded by C.O. Brown. The World Series remained in Battle Creek until 2004. As a result of these amateur baseball tournaments, Battle Creek has seen many famous faces roll through town, including the likes of Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, and many others.

It is estimated that the World Series has an economic impact of over $125,000 for the city of Battle Creek. The Bailey Park Complex holds over 30 tournaments each year, with an economic impact of 10 million dollars.

The NABF World Series is joint venture of the Battle Creek Parks and Rec Department and the Southern Michigan Amateur Baseball Associate (SMABA), a non-profit organization created by community members to facilitate the ongoing support of amateur baseball in Battle Creek, Michigan. For more information please visit www.battlecreekworldseries.com or the NABF World Series Facebook page.

Follow us on Twitter @fromthe300level

Baseball's Olympics return in the Spring.

Baseball’s Olympics return in the Spring.

In 2017 the World Baseball Classic returns. Standing back and taking a look at the possible players the United States could have on its 28 man roster is quite intriguing, mainly because it would be incredibly stacked. Here are my predictions on who should take the field wearing the red, white and blue. The team will be managed by former World Champion and 3x Manager of the Year Jim Leyland, and the skipper’s squad has the potential to be quite powerful. (Disclaimer: These are just predictions,  players have the right to decline an invitation to the team.)

OUTFIELD:

Right: Bryce Harper (WSN)

Center: Mike Trout (LAA)

Left: Ryan Braun (MIL)

Backup outfielders: Giancarlo Stanton (MIA), Andrew McCutchen (PIT)

Just missed the cut: Jackie Bradley Jr., Adam Jones, Jason Heyward

INFIELD:

Third: Josh Donaldson (TOR)

Shortstop: Corey Seager (LAD)

Second: Daniel Murphy (WSN)

First: Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)

Catcher: Buster Posey (SF)

Utility/Backups: Kris Bryant (CHC, 1B,3B, OF), Ben Zobrist (CHC, Just about everywhere), Brian McCann (NYY, C), Jonathan Lucroy (MIL,C), Eric Hosmer (KC, 1B)

Just missed the cut: Evan Longoria,  Dustin Pedroia, Jason Kipnis, Troy Tulowitzki

STARTING ROTATION:

  1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
  2. Madison Bumgarner (SF)
  3. Jake Arrieta (CHC)
  4. Stephen Strasburg (WSN)
  5. Max Scherzer (WSN)

Just missed the cut: Zack Greinke, Adam Wainwright, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Archer, Noah Syndergaard, Chris Sale

BULLPEN:

Closer: Andrew Miller (NYY)

Set-Up: Wade Davis (KC), Dellin Betances (NYY)

Middle Relief: David Robertson (CWS), Craig Kimbrel (BOS), Zach Britton (BAL), Tony Watson (PIT), Will Harris (HOU)

Possibilites: Will Smith (MIL), Jonathan Papelbon (WSN), Mark Melancon (PIT)

OFFICIAL LINEUP:

  1. Mike Trout CF
  2. Bryce Harper RF
  3. Buster Posey C
  4. Giancarlo Stanton DH
  5. Paul Goldschmidt 1B
  6. Josh Donaldson 3B
  7. Ryan Braun LF
  8. Daniel Murphy 2B
  9. Corey Seager SS

Just to reiterate, these are just predictions and it is possible that nothing remotely close to this lineup could be assembled. There’s no telling if Leyland will invite any of these players and even if he does, there’s no telling any of them will accept (though that seems unlikely). The tournament will begin just as MLB Spring Training gets underway, so players may opt to stick with their team rather than go to the tournament. Either way, baseball is baseball and the tournament will surely live up to its “classic” billing.

Let me know your picks!

David Yarger @YagaBomb24

David Yarger
@YagaBomb24

 

This past weekend, I witnessed two of the game’s greatest get inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame: Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza. This is the ninth year I trekked to Cooperstown, NY for the annual induction ceremony. I have only missed one since 2007 when Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn got in and I must say that this was the most crowded it’s been since then. This year I particularly enjoyed getting the chance to meet MLB Network’s Brian Kenny and hearing his take on the state of baseball and sabermetrics as they stand today. For anyone who missed, the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016 was:

Michael Joseph Piazza, C- New York Mets (4th Ballot)

Career: 1992-2007 (1998-2005 with New York)

Final Line: .308 AVG, 427 HRs, 1,335 RBI

Highlights: 10x Silver Slugger Award, 12x All-Star, 1992 NL Rookie of the Year, MLB record 396 HRs as a catcher.

George Kenneth Griffey Jr, CF- Seattle Mariners (1st Ballot)

Career: 1989-2010 (1989-1999, 2009-10 with Seattle)

Final Line: .284 AVG, 630 HRs, 1,836 RBI

Highlights: 7x Silver Slugger Award, 10x Gold Glove Award, 13x All-Star, 1997 American League MVP, 2005 National League Comeback Player of the Year, Seattle Mariners #24 retired, MLB All-Century Team

It’s during this iconic weekend in Cooperstown when baseball nerds, aficionados, and fans from across the country converge to relive and debate personal experiences and polarizing opinions of our national pastime all the while coming together to immortalize heroes as legends of baseball lore. This year’s induction class brought thousands of fans from across the U.S., especially from the Pacific Northwest and right here in the state of New York. Two of the most popular players of my generation, Griffey Jr. and Piazza, took two very different paths to the MLB, but both had very successful careers.

Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr hold up their plaques that will enshrine them in Baseball's ultimate honor.

Mike Piazza and Ken Griffey Jr hold up their plaques that will enshrine them in Baseball’s ultimate honor.

Junior became the first number one overall draft pick to be inducted into the Hall and certainly had the pedigree of a professional ballplayer. His dad, Ken Griffey Sr., had a solid playing career with the Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners. He had the honor of playing with his dad in Seattle after they drafted him, making them the first father and son to play together on the same team. The father-son duo even hit back-to-back homeruns once during their month or so of playing together in the Majors. Once his father retired, the Kid began a stellar playing career of his own. After bursting onto the MLB scene in 1989 at the age of 19, he played 22 seasons, mostly with the Mariners (13) and Reds (8), and one with the White Sox. Junior was a 13-time all-star, won 10 consecutive Gold Glove awards as a center fielder, and won the 1997 AL MVP award. Along with hitting 630 homeruns, Griffey became the third player in Major League history with at least 500 homeruns and 10 Gold Gloves (Willie Mays & Mike Schmidt). He reflected on his playing career and childhood with teary eyes during his induction speech. Specifically, he reflected on the impact his father had on his life and the early connections he made with many baseball greats because of him. I enjoyed hearing him talk about how he used to play (what seemed to be pretty competitive) games of “HORSE” with Rickey Henderson as a teenager as well as his countless memories of meeting Ozzie Smith, Eddie Murray, and many other ballplayers. He even told of his memories as a player in the MLB and how now-fellow Hall of Famer, Randy Johnson, was always the most intimidating pitcher he ever faced.

Mike Piazza wasn’t a #1 overall draft pick, like Griffey, by any means. The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted him in the 62nd round after having many early-childhood connections to then-Dodgers manager, Tommy Lasorda. Piazza spent a total of 16 years in the Majors: 7 with the Dodgers, 8 with the Mets, as well as short stints with the Padres and Athletics, and one very short stint with the Florida Marlins in 1998 before being traded to New York. The power-hitting catcher, who was not known for having the defensive prowess of Fisk or Bench, clubbed 427 dingers and a Major-League record 396 as a backstop. He was also a 12-time all-star, 10-time Silver Slugger award winner, and the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year. Mike’s induction speech was filled with stories of his childhood in a proud Italian-American home. He grew up admiring two of the greatest to ever play the game, Mike Schmidt and Johnny Bench. Piazza also reflected on the time he received private hitting lessons from the purest hitter of all time, Ted Williams, at the age of 15. He came a long way since then as a hitter and catcher and was eventually given the chance to start for the Dodgers by Tommy Lasorda, who had played a very important role early on in his playing career. I was particularly touched hearing an emotional Piazza tell of how honored he felt to be playing for the Mets when the City mourned the lives lost on 9/11.

The Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Class of 2016 featured two of the most popular players of the 1990’s and 2000’s. My early predictions for the Class of 2017 include Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines, who only has one more year remaining on the ballot. That being said, Cooperstown in 2017 may not be as packed as it was this year, but Induction Weekend is my favorite weekend on the baseball calendar and always one of the highlights of my summer. I highly recommend any of you who have never been to the National Baseball Hall of Fame to make the trip for next year’s Induction from July 28-31.

Alex Kazmierczak @AlexJKaz

Alex Kazmierczak
@AlexJKaz

Flamethrower Aroldis Chapman is back in the National League Central, but this time he’s heading to the Friendly Confines. The Chicago Cubs pulled the trigger on a multi-player blockbuster on Monday to acquire the 105-MPH throwing closer from the New York Yankees. In return, the Yankees received SS Gleyber Torres (Chicago’s no.1 prospect), OFs Billy McKinney and Rashad Crawford and reliever Adam Warren (returning to the Bronx after going to Chicago in the Starlin Castro trade).

The motives of both teams are clear. Theo Epstein and the Cubs want to win this year after making it to last year’s NLCS. Brian Cashman, on the other hand, is trying to change from the Yankees’ classic “spend spend spend” mantra and develop a future for a team that needs youth in a bad way.

While the move certainly gives the Yankees two talented young prospects in Torres and McKinney, the addition of Chapman has the 2016 Cubs suddenly looking terrifying. All the Cubs have lacked this season is a dominant late-inning specialist who can come in and slam the door when his team has a lead. Chapman will have no trouble returning to the NL after recording 20 saves in 21 opportunities with the Yankees this season. The move gives Joe Maddon even more depth in the bullpen. Current closer Hector Rondon can now be moved to a set-up role and other relievers like Travis Wood and Pedro Strop can be used more leniently.

The Cubs have had one of the most lethal offenses in all of the MLB this season, with Kris Bryant leading the way with 25 HRs and Anthony Rizzo right behind him with 24. Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist round out a lineup that has supported its talented rotation mightily. Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester cooled slightly heading into the All-Star break, but there is still no reason to believe that the duo and John Lackey will not carry the Cubs to the NL Central title and October. They came close last time,  but this could very well be the Cub’s year, especially with a lights out closer like Chapman on board.

By Matt Morris @Flat_Manigen74

By Matt Morris
@Flat_Manigen74

 hr4

Have you ever wanted to participate in a HR Derby? Now is your chance. On Saturday August 13th fromthe300level is sponsoring the first ever HR Derby at Sheridan Park in the Town of Tonawanda. Open to all ages, boys and girls, men and women. For $10 you are invited to take 20 swings to see how many times you can crack a baseball over the fences.

Trophies for all divisions will be handed out after the final rounds for each age bracket. There will also be an Open Men’s Division where the big hitters from WNY, Southern Ontario and Rochester, NY will be looking to win a $250 cash prize.

In addition to the competition we will have MEntertainment on the Emcee and playing music. The Men’s Open Division will be held “Under the Lights”.

We will also have Food trucks!!!

Divisions and Start Times

Boys/Girls 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U, High School Varsity, Open Men’s Division

10U –  10:30am – On Sheridan Diamond 2

12U  – 12:30pm – On Sheridan Diamond 2

14U  – 4:30pm – On Sheridan Diamond 2

16U – 6:30pm – On Sheridan Diamond 2

High School Varsity  5:00pm on Sheridan Diamond 1

Open Mens Division 8:00pm on Sheridan Diamond 1

Entrants can bring their own pitchers!

Baseballs and “L” Screens Available

All Entrants MUST Sign a Waiver.

***Times Subject to Change***

Bring a lawn chair or a blanket and come out and enjoy a great night that will help support local baseball teams.

Register here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/300level-hr-derby-tickets-26379220960

In a year where King James and the Cavaliers brought Cleveland its first major sports championship since 1964, another Believeland team is writing some history of its own. Just a couple of days prior to the Cavs’ winning the NBA title, Terry Francona’s Cleveland Indians began a winning streak that no one saw coming. The streak started on June 17 and Progressive Field wouldn’t see its Indians lose again until July 2, spanning a total of 14 games. Before winning 14 in a row, the Indians were sitting tied atop the AL Central with a 35-30 record. However, after winning a franchise-record 14th straight in a wild 19-inning showdown against the Blue Jays, the Tribe earned sole possession of the AL Central lead along with a stunning .620 winning percentage. It has dipped since, but the Indians are still 52-36 and hold first place by 6.5 games over Detroit.

What exactly can be attributed to Cleveland’s sudden mid-year success? Solid run production is one major factor. Second-year player Francisco Lindor is no exception to this. Widely considered to be the spark plug of the Indians offense, the 22-year old shortstop is hitting .306 with 10 homers, 45 RBI, and 60 runs, as well as an eye-opening 103 hits at the All-Star break. His modest power numbers and above-average base-running abilities were enough to earn him a Mid-Summer Classic nod this year in San Diego.

The team’s consistent run production can also be attributed to the surge in power from the heart of the order. As of the July 12 All-Star game, Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, and Jason Kipnis accounted for a total of 52 round-trippers, each with 20, 18, and 14, respectively. Napoli is in the midst of a solid comeback season and Kipnis, not normally known for his power, has provided welcomed offense in a season where star Michael Brantley has been out injured.

However, despite their strong offensive production, Cleveland’s pitching is arguably the biggest reason for their success. It’s tough to lose when your rotation features pitchers like Corey Kluber (9-8, 3.61 ERA, 9.0 K/9 IP), Danny Salazar (10-3, 2.75 ERA, 10.2 K/9 IP), Trevor Bauer (7-3, 3.30 ERA, 8.1 K/9 IP), Josh Tomlin (9-2, 3.51 ERA, 6.1 K/9 IP), and the occasional Carlos Carrasco (5-3, 2.47 ERA, 8.9 K/9 IP). This is especially true when any of the latter four could’ve arguably gotten the all-star nod over Kluber for the injured Marco Estrada. The bullpen has been equally effective. Dan Otero, perhaps the Tribe’s most consistently good reliever, has held down the lead in many games this year. He’s pitched to a 1.27 ERA and 34 Ks in 35.1 IP at the All-Star break. Closer Cody Allen is quietly having a good year as well. At the break, he’s pitched to a 2.79 ERA and 46 Ks in 38.2 IP with 18 saves in 20 opportunities. Solid starting pitching and a stable bullpen is exactly what every major league team needs to win.

Will the Indians follow the Cavaliers’ winning ways and bring Cleveland its first World Series title since 1948? It’s certainly possible when Kluber, Salazar, and Lindor show flashes of baseball excellence that is reminiscent of the Hall of Fame careers of Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Joe Gordon, as they have recently. If this year’s Indians do indeed have a fairy tale ending in store, manager Terry Francona can hold a lot of the accountability. He has steered the team in the right direction since taking over three years ago and is definitely a candidate for his second Manager of the Year award with the team. With a skipper like him, I know I like the chances of this small-market team in 2016. Do you?

Alex Kazmierczak @AlexJKaz

Alex Kazmierczak
@AlexJKaz

Mlb-asg-2016.svg87th Major League Baseball All-Star Game

Tuesday, July 12, 2016, 8 PM ET

Petco Park, San Diego, CA

TV: Fox

Tonight it’s the Home Run Derby, tomorrow it’s the All-Star Game. Every baseball fan’s favorite week of the season is here and tonight the All-Star festivities will continue with the T-Mobile Home Run Derby at 8 PM ET. Continuing the new format that was introduced last season, the Derby will be bracket style and feature four one-on-one match-ups, each competing All-Star will have a set number of minutes to slug as many moonshots as he can as averse to the old system of making 10 outs. The winner of each match-up will advance until a winner is ultimately crowned. The match-ups are:

tmobileBaltimore’s Mark Trumbo (28) vs the Dodgers’ Corey Seager (17), Seattle’s Robinson Cano (21) vs Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton (20), Cincinnati’s Adam Duvall (23) vs San Diego’s Wil Myers (19) and the White Sox’ Todd Frazier (25) vs Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez (19).

The House that Gwynn built is considered to be one of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in the game, it will be interesting to see how the sluggers fair tonight. To participate in MLB.com’s Home Run Derby Bracket Challenge, go here: https://securea.mlb.com/mlb/events/all_star/y2016/home_run_derby/challenge/


Tuesday’s game will be an interesting one in one particular sense. The National League also hosted last year’s event, meaning this year is the AL’s turn to host. Baltimore’s Camden Yards was originally tabbed to receive the event, but since Petco Park has never hosted the game, the MLB owners group awarded San Diego the game. It is the first time since 2006-2007 that one league has hosted the Midsummer Classic two consecutive years (Pittsburgh and San Francisco). Since this year is the AL’s turn, the Junior Circuit will be the home team and don white jerseys in the game despite it being a National League ballpark. The starting lineups for both leagues are as follows.

AL: Manager- Ned Yost- Royals

  1. Jose Altuve- Astros- 2B
  2. Mike Trout- Angels- CF
  3. Manny Machado- Orioles- 3B
  4. David Ortiz- Red Sox- DH
  5. Xander Bogaerts- Red Sox- SS
  6. Eric Hosmer- Royals- 1B
  7. Mookie Betts- Red Sox- RF
  8. Salvador Perez- Royals- C
  9. Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox- CF

index

NL: Manager- Terry Collins- Mets

  1. Ben Zobrist- Cubs- 2B
  2. Bryce Harper- Nationals- RF
  3. Kris Bryant- Cubs- 3B
  4. Wil Myers- Padres- DH
  5. Buster Posey- Giants- C
  6. Anthony Rizzo- Cubs- 1B
  7. Marcel Ozuna- Marlins- CF (replacing Yoenis Cespedes)
  8. Carlos Gonzalez- Rockies- LF (replacing Dexter Fowler)
  9. Addison Russell- Cubs- SS

The starting pitchers for the game have also been announced. Ned Yost has given the nod to White Sox ace southpaw Chris Sale (14-3, 3.38 ERA), Terry Collins will counter with San Francisco’s Johnny Cueto (13-1, 2.47 ERA). Both pitchers are very deserving of the honor. Also, props to Collins for making Wil Myers his starting DH and giving the San Diego crowd something to cheer for.

34 first time All-Stars will compete tomorrow. The game is sure to be a good one, don’t miss it!

Matthew Morris

@Flat_Manigen74

Unbelievably so, but the 2016 MLB season is already at the halfway point! It’s been a crazy season so far and Tuesday is the game every fan looks forward too all year, the All-Star game. With the season now half done, here’s our annual post of our picks for the awards for each half if they were given out today, something to hold you over until the Derbt tomorrow night. The Senior Circuit is up first (it’s a long one, we hope you’re in a comfy chair!)

National League

Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers:

With an average at .297, 17 home runs and 42 RBI,  Seager gets the nod for this one. With the Dodgers holding a 48-38 record, five games behind the Giants in the West, Seager has carried the offensive load for Dave Roberts’ squad, currently holding an 18 game hitting streak. This is definitely a tough decision with the National League rookie class being as stacked as it is with Aledmys Diaz of the Cardinals who leads all rookies with a .315 average, and then Trevor Story of the Rockies whose 21 home runs are first among all shortstops in the game. I can see Diaz giving Seager a run for his money if the Cards heat up but Seager’s ceiling is just so ridiculously high that I can’t see anyone taking this award from him.

Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs

This decision was ridiculous. The Cubs look destined to make a deep October run and like they’re the best team in baseball. The reason this is so ridiculous is because Bruce Bochy and the Giants have been right with the Cubs step by step. Then there’s the underdog, Don Mattingly of the Marlins. Here’s a team that on paper has about 5 bright spots, those being Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez, Dee Gordon, Ichiro (because everyone loves Ichiro), and Mattingly himself. Well, cross off Gordon because he got suspended 80 games, Stanton hasn’t been the same hitter this year and the team is still 44-40 and in the wildcard hunt. Shows what a great a move it was to bring Mattingly over from the Dodgers. I will go with Maddon though because it’s impressive to see him make mediocre teams into good teams. This Cubs team was originally good and he’s making it a powerhouse. Anywhere Maddon goes, he wins. Watching him manage a lineup before, during and after a game is the funnest thing to notice as a baseball fan. Ben Zobrist one game will be playing second base one day and then left field the next. Seeing Maddon use pitchers as outfielders in an extra inning game and then bring them in from the outfield to pitch was one of the coolest and maybe funniest things I’ve seen as a baseball fan. The award, for the second straight year, goes to Maddon for the creativity, expertise and brilliance he’s brought to the Cubs.

Comeback Player of the Year: Wil Myers, 1B, San Diego Padres

After having two horrendous seasons, mostly derailed by injuries, Myers has lived up to the “top prospect” hype he’s had on his back since he came into the league in 2013. Myers is currently in the top 10 in the National League with 19 home runs as well as 60 RBI. The outfielder turned first baseman has also been a surprise defensively, not making an error halfway through the season. Unfortunately, he’s been one of very few bright spots for the Padres, as they find themselves dead last in the West. With the trade deadline looming, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Myers finish his strong season with another team, more than likely a contender that could use his offense.

Cy Young Award: Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers

Come on… Do I really have to elaborate on this? Yes, there has been other pitchers in the NL that have had incredible seasons so far (Johnny Cueto, Jose Fernandez, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester), but do they really compare to what Kershaw is doing to hitters right now? The herky-jerky southpaw finished the first half on the DL but he possesses a 1.79 ERA (no. 1 in the MLB) and hitters are batting a putrid .185 against him. To put the average in perspective, Kershaw at the plate possesses a .167 batting average which is not far behind the batters he faces. It will be interesting to see how he finishes up the year, and if the Dodgers want to make the playoffs he’s going to have a heavy load on his back to carry the team to October, but for right now let’s just hope the electrifying ace returns soon from his back injury.

Most Valuable Player: Kris Bryant, 3B, Chicago Cubs

It’s very tough to go against Bryant in this case. You can make a case for Kershaw, Nolan Arenado or even Matt Carpenter, but Bryant came in with a high bar to reach and he has gone above and beyond that bar. With an NL leading 25 home runs and 65 RBI to go with it, Bryant has been the anchor in what is a very good Cubs lineup. Bryant will be a starter for the National League All-Star team, rightfully so. The thing that makes Bryant such a unique player is his versatility. Bryant has played six different positions this year (3B, SS, 1B, LF, CF, RF) and in 189 chances only has seven errors. He’s been great for this team that has had to go through some injuries and with a manager like Joe Maddon, if you can prove your versatile you’re going to be used like you’re versatile. It also shows the trust he’s gained from the coaches in only two years that they can feel safe putting him out in right field even though he’s normally at third. He’s proved to everyone that he’s the real deal and in only his second year I believe he takes home the hardware (which would make him the first player since Dustin Pedroia to be Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive seasons). Bryant is looking to lead this super-talented young Cubs squad into a deep run where they’ll be looking for some team accolades as well.


American League

Rookie of the Year: Michael Fulmer, RHP, Detroit Tigers

In stark contrast to the 2016 NL rookie class that has been electrified by the likes of Aledyms Diaz, Corey Seager and Trevor Story, the AL hasn’t had many standout rookie performances at all. Nomar Mazara has been very consistent in Texas, but first year starter Michael Fulmer, who may look more like a lumberjack than a baseball player, has been one of the few bright spots for the Titanic of a team that is Detroit and the AL’s best rookie so far. With the MLB network oscillating Brad Ausmus on and off the hot seat more than a Lasko fan and its stars not playing to ability, it’s been a tough year for the Tigers and a rebuild for the aging team may be on the way. However, the one force for the future they have is Fulmer, who finishes the first half of his rookie campaign 11-2 with a 2.11 ERA, 72 Ks and 76.2 IP. In a rotation where Justin Verlander just plain and simple isn’t what he used to be and Jordan Zimmermann has also struggled, Fulmer is a ray of hope for Motown baseball fans, probably the only one they’ve got.

Manager of the Year: Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians

Who expected the Tribe to do what they’ve been doing this season? For anyone who wasn’t paying attention to preseason predictions, the answer is nobody. Cleveland’s 2016 has been surprising but phenomenal. At the All-Star break the Indians are 52-36 and 6.5 games ahead of second place Detroit. Under the ever-cool and intelligent management of Terry Francona, Danny Salazar is emerging as an elite starter, Corey Kluber has regained his 2014 Cy Young form, Francisco Lindor is picking up where he left off last season, and Mike Napoli is once again becoming a consistent long ball threat. As a result, the Tribe is in the midst of what could become a run away with the AL Central and own the second-best record in the Junior Circuit. For getting results from the trust he puts in his players and turning a group of nobodies into a playoff threat, Tito takes the halfway MOY crown, his second with the Indians.

Comeback Player of the Year: Rick Porcello, RHP, Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox have returned to winning form in 2016, but Rick Porcello is the one guy on the team whom I think the media hasn’t given enough credit. Boston invested a fair amount in the sinkerballer when they traded Yoenis Cespedes for him in the winter of 2014. Porcello’s first season in Boston was disastrous, as he posted a 9-15 record with a career high-tying 4.92 ERA and only 97 Ks. He also gave up 25 home runs, another career high and pitched only 172.2 innings. However, Porcello clearly worked out whatever issues he was having as he has returned to form in a big way in 2016. At the All-Star break, Porcello has thrown 113 innings for the Sox and is 11-2. His ERA is 3.66, still somewhat high but still lower than it was at any point in 2015, and he has already tied his strikeouts total from last year. The reemergence of the 27-year-old has helped stabilize Boston’s rotation, something that was nothing less than nightmarish throughout all of 2015. Porcello’s return to form has helped Boston become competitive again and he has thrown his hat into Cy Young talks as well.

Most Valuable Player: David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox

Okay Manigen, get real. Porcello as Comeback Player is one thing but this one is just cause you’re a Red Sox fan, stop being so biased. While that is a little bit true, it would be very tough to deny how incredible of  a season Big Papi is having, even for his own high standards. At 40 years of age, Ortiz announced last Fall that he will retire after 2016, and his final season is on pace to be the best of his career. Thus far in 2016, Senor Octubre is near the top of the AL in almost every category, 22 HR (t-4th), 72 RBI (2nd), a .332 AVG (2nd) , a .426 OPB , a .682 SLG%,  a 1.107 OPS and 34 doubles (all 1st). It isn’t because of the sentimentality either. Ortiz is retiring after 2016, yes, but these are terrific numbers by anyone’s standards and Ortiz rightfully deserves to be in MVP talks. Jose Altuve is also putting together a phenomenal season and could be the MVP at season’s end. But, if the award was handed out right now, it would belong to Big Papi. If your argument against it is that designated hitters shouldn’t be MVP, I have only one question: then why do pitchers get it if that’s your logic?

Cy Young Award:

Sorry, I’m going to make you read this part because there are so many pitchers deserving. Of all the awards thus far, this is one of the most competitive categories. First, it could be Danny Salazar, the guy from Cleveland who has always been good but not good enough to be top dog, he is 10-3 with a 2.75 ERA. Then there is Steven Wright, the enigmatic knuckleballer who has emerged as Boston’s ace in a season where they acquired David Price, he leads the AL with a 2.68 ERA. But, despite the gallant performances of those two All-Stars, the 2016 AL Cy Young Award at this point has to go to Chris Sale of the Chicago White Sox.

Sale has been one of the AL’s best and most consistent hurlers since 2012, but no matter how much he improves, his performances have still often been overshadowed by pitchers on better teams (let’s face it, the White Sox are just plain bad). In 2016, Sale has stepped up his game to still another level. Despite his ERA jumping from 2.83 to 3.38 over his last two starts, Sale leads the MLB with a 14-3 record and has recorded 123 Ks, 3rd in the AL. In addition, he leads his league with 125 IP and 3 CG and is third and fourth in WHIP and BAA (1.04 and .225, respectively).  Though it seemed like Dallas Kuechel may usurp him as the AL’s top southpaw, Sale has reclaimed his throne this year and is currently the Junior Circuit’s best pitcher. His numbers make him more than deserving of the Cy Young Award.

Those are our picks! Agree/ Disagree? Let us both know on Twitter.

NL- Dave Yarger: @YagaBomb24

AL- Matthew Morris: @Flat_Manigen74

 

Bruce Wayne is down and out once again, and to make matters worse, Gotham has never needed him more than right now. Matt Harvey, the face of the New York Mets and a superhero to so many of the team’s beleaguered fans, will miss the remainder of 2016 due to surgery that will correct Thoracic Outlet syndrome in his upper body. The Mets have not officially confirmed this, but Harvey’s agent Scott Boras reported to ESPN on Friday that the operation is inevitable for the 27-year-old, as the only other remedy, Botox injections, will only help temporarily.

“The doctors clearly recommended that he have this done, mainly so that he can be ready for ’17,” Boras said to ESPN’s Adam Rubin.

Thoracic surgeon Dr. Robert Thompson is expected to operate on Harvey in St. Louis at some point next week.

The condition explains why Harvey has been so uncharacteristically terrible in 2016. After a 2015 when he led New York to the NL Pennant, Harvey is 4-10 with a 4.86 ERA in 2016. Though Terry Collins and the Mets are hoping that this operation will give them the old Matt Harvey back, it also leaves the team with an incredible void in their pitching staff. Noah Syndergaard has pitched out of his mind all season despite a bone spur in his elbow, Steven Matz has battled the same issue but has also been very effective. But, how long will the two young phenoms be able to keep it up when they both are not at 100%. With Jacob deGrom also somewhat struggling and Harvey now gone once again, the Mets contention in the air-tight NL East could be in serious jeopardy.

Harvey was on top of the baseball world in 2013 when it was revealed he needed Tommy John surgery. After a 2014 away, Harvey returned to top form and helped the Mets out of the wastelands. This whole situation begs one question: will the Dark Knight rise again?

Matthew Morris

@Flat_Manigen74

 

Prospect Development Camp for the Buffalo Sabres began Wednesday afternoon at HarborCenter. It is here that the hopes of making it to the big game are born for the various young players that are property of Sabres Hockey. It serves as a chance to blend with  fellow players, improve performance and, arguably the most important, catch the eyes of coaches and team executives. GM Tim Murray and HC Dan Bylsma were both in attendance for the opening day.

A majority of the camp’s participants are players that are still with their junior/college clubs. Some are members of the Rochester Americans, and a few even saw time with Buffalo this past season, among them Justin Bailey (Kitchner), Evan Rodrigues (Boston University) and Hudson Fasching (University of Minnesota). The trio of youngsters all had brief call-ups last season. In this camp, all three players are simply trying to prove they can be difference makers for the Sabres and play on a regular basis.

“(Proving) that I can play in the NHL … continuing to prove myself,” said Rodrigues when asked of his goals for the camp. “I’m here as a veteran and looking to be a leader to the younger guys.”

EvanRodriguesRodrigues was called up from Rochester at the tail end of last season and played in Buffalo’s final two games of the year. In the season closer at New York, the man dubbed E-Rod scored his first goal off a beautiful pass from Ryan O’Reilly and then set up Brian Gionta for the OT winner to end the season on a high note. Rodrigues says that his work ethic is what makes him valuable as a player.

“Over this summer I’ve working on my shooting and skating, something I’ll continue to do, and come September I’ll be coming full-force trying to make this team,” he said.

Bailey, on the other hand, reflected more on the struggles he had his first year in Rochester and how he had to work to improve himself. JustinBailey

“I started off a bit slow, I don’t think it was because of a lack of chances, it was execution,” said Bailey. “I saw myself at Christmas and as much as I thought I played well, the numbers weren’t there, I stuck with the plan and was fortunate enough to have a strong second half.”

After his debut in Philadelphia last February, Bylsma called Bailey the “best forward on the ice (in that game).”

Native to Williamsville, NY, Bailey is possibly the top contender among prospects to make the team this season.“Those 8 games last year gave (the Sabres) a chance to see what I can do at the NHL level, every single training camp is the biggest one for the rest of my life going forward,” he said.

Fasching, not unlike Rodrigues or Bailey, also wants to prove his abilities. The former Golden Gopher’s NHL debut this past March was a memorable one, as he got his first taste of the League alongside Minnesota State’s Casey Nelson. 8:27 into his first career NHL period,  Fasching took a pass from Mark Pysyk and charged down the left wing boards. He cut towards the net, completely out-muscled Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba and slammed the puck past Michael Hutchison for his first career NHL goal, and it electrified all of First Niagara Center.

“It’s always good when you feel comfortable where you are,” said Fasching. “Coming in with a couple games under my belt definitely makes me feel more confident in myself.”

At 6’2, 207 lbs, Fasching has the size and the strength to be a power forward in the NHL (as he demonstrated this past season), as well as the skating. HudsonFasching

“This time around it’s about showing that I can take the next step and take over a little bit … showing that I’ve gotten better and taken another step,” he said.

These three are merely the tip of the iceberg of all the prospects fighting for a spot with Buffalo this year. Two names that often fly under the radar, Brendan Guhle and Will Carrier, are looking for the spotlight. Carrier was a consistent contributor for the Americans last season, scoring 30 points in 56 games. Guhle definitely had the eye of Dan Bylsma early last season and seemed to be on the cusp of a call-up to start the year before a crushing hit from Dion Phanuef in preseason derailed his momentum. His star has not faded and his chance is still alive.

One thing is for sure, the Next Chapter is very bright for the Buffalo Sabres.

Matthew Morris

@Flat_Manigen74